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    I’m excited to welcome Angeline Evans back to the blog! She guest posted a while back, and she’s made a few changes since her last feature. Angeline Evans is a freelance writer, nonprofit communications consultant and career and style blogger at The New Professional. She believes that business casual doesn’t have to be boring and strives to help the everywoman find balance and success in the office lifestyle and in their careers. Prior to striking out on her own, Evans spent over five years in magazine publishing and public sector and nonprofit communications. Follow her on Twitter at @angelineevans.

     

    There is a blog just about everything out there, from the mainstream to the mundane. Some are well-oiled machines; others obviously haven’t been touched in years. You probably follow a few for fun and a few professionally. But have you considered starting your own blog?

    Blogging can be a fun personal hobby, yes, but it can also be a great professional move. This blog (Consciously Corporate) is a great example: Ashley shares great insight that demonstrates her marketing expertise and adds to the online chatter in her field, exposing her to a much greater audience than just those in her office.

    There are many ways that a blog can benefit your career: it could open up new opportunities, expand your network, and establish you as an expert in your field. A blog also fills in the gap between resume and results for potential employers—you can demonstrate deeper understanding and showcase your best assets without being limited to one page.

    Here are some ideas for how to use a blog to help grow your career.

     

    Sound off on timely topics

    As consumers of media, we each have our own reaction to new developments or hot button issues. You can sound off in a blog post’s comments, sure, but if you have more than a few sentences to say, why not elaborate in your own post and link to that instead? Try to provide some new information or draw a connection that hasn’t yet been made. It also contributes to the literature on the topic.

     

    Share resources

    Think about the most valuable people in your network: they’re probably the connectors. They know who to call for anything, where to find reliable information and where to get the best brunch. Online connectors are just as important as blood-and-flesh ones, and a blog that is on the pulse of an industry and connects its readers to valuable information and people is just as crucial as the former coworker who referred you for your job.

     

    Build your network

    Whether you’re already settled in your “forever” city or you’re looking to pick up your roots and relocate, a widespread network can be extremely valuable. Blogging and social media are a great way to expand beyond the typical workplace, geographic, or educational networks.

     

    Engage experts on your way to becoming one

    On the surface, an entry-level professional may not have much in common with their industry’s leading voices, but blogging can bridge the gap (though it may still be a slope, rather than a flat bridge). Social media has also made it easier to connect with others we may not run into otherwise. Try tweeting your favorite blog post to an industry expert and asking for their opinion, or contribute to an established industry news sites (use your blog as your resume when pitching).

    Certainly there are some precautions to take before you take the plunge. If you’re currently employed and blogging about your work, use discretion in talking about the workplace or clients and be honest and upfront with your employer if the topic comes up (even better: tell them about it from the get go. They might even help come up with ideas). Even though it is relevant professionally, don’t blog on company time or let it interfere with your work.

    So where do you start? Blogging consistently will help you most—you don’t have to commit to daily, but once a week is a good start—so think about general topics or “features” you want to include. Hop on Blogger or WordPress to get a feel for the technology (you can always purchase a URL and redirect it later), and jump in! When you’re ready to launch, send your link out to anyone you know in your industry (it won’t help you if no one reads it).

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    I’d like to welcome Joe Kiszka back for a guest post today! You may remember him from the “My Corporate Life” series. Joe runs his own food blog, “Dine at Joe’s” , where he takes pictures of all of the meals he eats out. He can be reached by e-mail at jkiszka@gmail.com.

     

    In some way, shape, or form, we are all salespeople. However, while my “Business Development Manager” title at my job sounds like a “salesman,” I don’t really see myself as a “salesman.” In fact, I don’t really look at my job at all like a salesman. I’m more of a support guy. As a support guy, my job is to act as kind of an internal resource for my customers. This requires me to build lasting, consultative relationships at my customers. Therefore, we’re ultimately “selling.”

    There’s multiple ways this is achieved amongst different types of business, some more clever than others. Golf is one of the most popular. Depending on your type of customer, succeeding here may consist of a better score, or how many cigars you can smoke and Bloody Marys you can drink while driving the golf cart. I’ll do this, but I’m more of a comedy golfer. (“Comedy” in that it’s awful funny when I tally up my golf score and I end up with the high score every time. This is why you should look for scramble tournaments, fellow comedy golfers!)

    Of course, I’ve hosted other events to help build relationships with customers. This has included regional training seminars with continuing education credits attached to them, movies, fantasy football leagues, and heck—we’ve even done Whirlyball. All these are great. However, in my opinion, the best one is “eating out.”

    Today, I’m going to explain to you how to be good at eating out while selling yourself. How does this article apply to you, no matter who you are? At some point, you’re going to need to sell yourself to someone else. Whether it’s dating a potential future spouse or closing a big business deal, one of the easiest ways in our culture to gain rapport, interest, and build any relationship, is to eat out.

    There are two sets of rules here that I can offer when dining out. There’s the extremely serious “business dining guidelines” and the seemingly less serious list from my father: “Dad’s rules of life for eating out.” (Both lists—dining guidelines and rules of life—actually were taught to me by my father.) I’m going to outline them all, starting with the business dining guidelines, as you should certainly master them before doing anything else. The guidelines will “get you to the table”, and the rules of life will help you master the art.

    Before I delve into these guidelines, I offer one important caveat: These guidelines assume that you are in the United States and are within our local culture. Some of the things on this list would NOT apply in other cultures.

    BASIC BUSINESS DINING GUIDELINES:

    Prior to arriving to their office, do your homework. Have a few restaurants in mind where you can hear your customer speak, you won’t have to wait an hour for a table, you won’t offend anyone, and of course, the food is awesome. If it’s a steakhouse or something very nice (especially for dinner), confirm the number attending with your customer, and make a reservation. Err on the side of caution—if you think the venue might make your customer uncomfortable, don’t bring them there. I recommend looking up restaurants on Yelp prior to going to them to ensure a positive experience.

    Arrive early, and always take the seat facing the door. This will allow you (hopefully) to view the door while waiting for your customer. If you can’t see the door, ask to be seated (if possible) at a table where you can see the door, or give the customer’s first name to the host or hostess. When you see your customer walk in (if you know them), you’ll be able to see them and wave at them.

    If you’ve never met them before, call to confirm your appointment and then let them know what you will be wearing. This makes for less “are you here” awkward cell phone calls.

    Shake hands APPROPRIATELY. When shaking their hand, don’t try to squeeze their hand as hard as you can. However, don’t go for the cold fish handshake as well. Find a happy median. And, of course, it should be common sense to know that you ALWAYS shake with your RIGHT hand.

    Don’t order alcohol until your customer does. Try your best not to order your drink or meal first. Let them order alcoholic beverages first, and then follow suit accordingly. If you absolutely must go first, order a non-alcoholic beverage, and if they order one, then follow suit by saying “On second thought, go ahead and give me an (INSERT ALCHOLIC DRINK NAME HERE) instead.” You can’t un-order a beer without looking like a moron. Don’t forget—not everyone believes in drinking. Ordering alcohol can make them feel uncomfortable.

    The company party is NOT really a party. This isn’t a frat party. Keep it under control. Don’t drink to excess.

    Don’t order the most expensive thing on the menu. This isn’t such a huge deal, but you don’t want to look wasteful or too excessive. Keep this under control. If you really want the most expensive thing on the menu, order it, but don’t be excessive about it.

    Be nice to your server. If the server hasn’t been around for a while, don’t be a jerk about it. Also, if your food didn’t come exactly as you ordered it, don’t send it back. This makes you look like a jerk in front of your customer and makes them uncomfortable. Also (unless there’s some extremely compelling reason not to), leave AT LEAST 20% when dining on an expense account. Not doing this could make you look cheap.

    Know some basic information about wines. Know what you like, know what you don’t like, know how to pronounce the different types of wines. (Wikipedia can help with this.) Know that a red wine glass is bigger than a white wine glass. Know that when drinking red wine, you generally hold the glass by the cup, whereas when drinking white wine, you hold the glass by the stem. Most importantly, know how to DRINK wine. The smell is important. The taste is important. (We’re not doing shots here. Think “art meets food.”) Don’t be ashamed to ask about pairings (“Will the Merlot go with my ____?”). Google this as well—there’s many pages about this topic around the internet.

    Use good table manners. Also, know which utensil is the correct utensil. (Generally speaking, you start with the silverware farthest away from your plate and work your way in.) Cut a chunk of butter off and put it on your butter plate—use this as your master. When eating bread, after buttering it, tear it apart into bite size chunks. Don’t take a bite out of it. (Don’t take huge bites, as this can be awkward to finish the bite of food in your mouth when a customer asks you a question.) As you finish a bowl of soup, tilt the bowl away from you while you scoop to get to the last of the soup. Enough said—there’s entire books, websites, YouTube videos, and other forms of media dedicated to this subject. For manners, the onus is on YOU.

    Don’t season your food before you try it. Think about it—pouring salt / pepper / whatever your condiment of choice all over your meal before trying it can show that you don’t have an open mind or are not easily satisfied. (I’ve worked for an employer before where if an applicant did this, they were eliminated from contention for the job.) Kind of silly, I know, but be careful.

    Ask for the next meeting. More specifically, if it went well, you’re talking to the right folks, and it’s a relationship worth maintaining, make sure to ask for the next meeting. Don’t be pushy about this. “Let’s do this again! How about we get you on the calendar for _____?”

    Skip the doggie bag. When you get done with your meal, if you haven’t finished, DO NOT get a doggie bag. This makes you look extraordinarily tacky and cheap.

    Now that we’ve got the basics, here’s the fun part…

    DAD’S RULES OF LIFE FOR EATING OUT:

    When I was a child, my father instilled upon my sister and I these basic rules of life for eating out. Some are funny, some are graphic. They are all true. Sure, exceptions exist—but generally speaking, these should all be heeded. (Example: If you look at Rule #2, I’m sure there’s very good steakhouses in Boston. However, if you’re visiting, you’d likely have better experiences ordering seafood—like lobster, shrimp, etc—as it is appropriate to the region.)

    I’m not going to explain these, as I find them rather self-explanatory. If I need to be more specific, feel free to e-mail me.

    Rule #1 – Never ask a skinny person where to eat.

    Rule #2 – Don’t eat at regionally inappropriate restaurants. (i.e. – Don’t eat at a Taco Bell in San Antonio. Or–don’t go to Boston and order beef.)

    Rule #3 – Never eat seafood at a place that has an inflatable crab on the roof.

    Rule #4 -Don’t order cuisine-inappropriate dishes. (i.e. – don’t go to a Mexican restaurant and order a cheeseburger.)

    Rule #5 – Don’t ever go to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day. Rule #6 – Don’t ever eat hot peppers (like habaneros), and then go to the restroom. Rule #7 – Life is too short to drink cheap beer.

    Rule #8 – Don’t ever eat Kimchee prior to boarding an airplane.

    Rule #8.5 – Better yet, don’t ever eat Kimchee period.

    Rule #9 – Don’t ever eat at a restaurant called “Mom’s”, or anywhere that advertises “just like home”, or “home-cooked”.

    Rule #10 – Only eat sushi if the sushi chef is Japanese. Rule #11 – Never eat sushi or raw seafood in a country where you cannot drink the water. Rule #12 – Only eat in Mexican restaurants that display a crucifix and a likeness of “our Lady of Guadalupe”. Rule #13 – Only eat in BBQ restaurants where the silverware does not match. Rule #14 – Never eat sushi in a restaurant that advertises Korean, Chinese, or Thai cuisine in addition to sushi.

    Rule #15 – Generally speaking, the larger a pepper grinder used in a restaurant, the worse the food.

    Rule #16 – The price of a meal is directly proportional to how high the restaurant’s location is with relation to the ground.

    Rule #17 – The quality of a meal is inversely proportional to how high the restaurant’s location is with relation to the ground.

    Rule #18 – Don’t eat at restaurants that rotate.

    Rule #19 – Don’t ever eat at a restaurant that also sells bait.

     

    If you keep this advice in mind when eating out, your customers will appreciate it, and a better experience will be had by all… good luck out there. Until next time, fellow business diners—Ciao!

     

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    I’m excited to continue the “My Corporate Life” series on the blog. My goal is to bring in some other corporate perspectives and career paths, so that we can all learn from some other corporate areas and environments. If you would like to be featured in the “My Corporate Life” series, please contact me for the details. I’ll be featuring the guest posts as time permits in my regular posting schedule, and I would love to hear from you!

    Today’s post is written by Dustin “Dusty” Baker, a licensed real estate agent with Coldwell Bankers in Santa Barbara, CA. If you’re looking for a great realtor, or for any questions, you can reach Dusty here!

     

    Why Real Estate?

    In writing from the perspective of a real estate agent in Santa Barbara, CA, I feel that I should first explain why I chose this career. If you are not familiar with Santa Barbara, it is a very desirable, beautiful coastal town in southern California – and the prices reflect it. Since I want to live in Santa Barbara and survive the over-inflated prices, I knew I had to work in something “Santa Barbara” specific. Why take a run-of-the-mill corporate position that pays the exact same here as it does in Dallas, TX (where the cost of living is significantly lower)? I wanted a career where pay was directly correlated to Santa Barbara’s expensive lifestyle – in comes real estate. The exact same home that would sell for $200,000 in Dallas sells for over $1,000,000 here. It takes roughly $5,000,000 in sales to obtain a 6-figure salary. In Santa Barbara, that is about 3-5 deals a year. You do the math.

    How To Get Here

    Another great plus about real estate: incredibly low cost of entry. You simply need a high school diploma and a state-specific real estate license (which can be obtained in less than 2 months for only a few hundred dollars). That is all you need, however generally the most successful agents in town come with a college degree and a lot of experience. Once you are an agent, you can become qualified in many other areas such as a foreclosure specialist, short sale specialist, “green” agent specialist (selling homes that are eco-friendly), etc.

    Be Your Own Boss

    To me, the greatest part of real estate is being my own boss. That entails two very important things to me: 1) making my own hours and 2) getting out what you put in. Making your own hours is priceless; when I speak to friends and family members that have set lunch breaks and times they HAVE to be at work, it makes me sick. I refuse to be treated like a child and told what to do and when to do it. The funny thing about making your own hours and working for yourself is that you actually end up working harder and longer, which brings me to my second point: getting out what you put in. When your paycheck is directly related to how hard you work and how good you are, you better believe you get to work early and stay late. Working harder doesn’t even bother me, because I know I am fully compensated for every bit of overtime. I’ve seen employees that are fantastic at their job and true assets to their company, but unless their boss chooses to see it and reward it, they are simply spinning their wheels. I, on the other hand, get larger and more frequent commission checks the harder I work.

    Day-to-Day

    At its core, real estate is sales. It does not matter how knowledgeable you are in the field, or how great of a job you would do if you do not have clients. The day-to-day of a real estate agent involves a lot of sales: phone calls, meeting people, getting your name out there, etc. All the stuff people dread in a sales position. Because it is sales driven, and also very relational, your day never really ends. If my clients can’t see property until they get off work at 5… well it looks like I’m working past 5. If an offer needs to be submitted immediately… well it doesn’t matter if the Lakers game is on. With that is incredible freedom as well, so don’t think you are signing your life away becoming an agent. It is a lot of fun working with people, getting out of the office frequently throughout the day, and choosing when and where to do your work.

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    I’d like to welcome a new person to the blog in today’s guest post! Angela has nearly 10 years of human resources and non-profit administration.  She has guided organizations in establishing policies that promote healthy and effective workplaces, which has included policy and by-laws writing, facilitating organizational mergers, and assisting with some start-up nonprofits.  To back it all up, she has been a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR) since 2008.  A seasoned recruiter, she has led and served on several executive-level search committees and advises college students on job searching techniques.  You can find her writing at A Working Evolution, DailyMuse.com, and Forbes.com.  In her spare time, she dreams of running away to Paris to study pastry-making.

     

    Click on the picture to see Angela's final version of my resume.

    Sometimes, no matter how many blogs you read or how much thought you put into it, you still need a tangible example to really get a sense for something. With that in mind, Ashley let me use her resume as a guinea pig. We are hoping to use this as an opportunity to give you some insight into how a recruiter looks at a resume and what impressions are left.

     

    My initial reaction from the resume was that Ashley is a professional. The resume was simple, clean and organized, and that in itself speaks volumes. The body of her resume used bullet points to highlight her accomplishments, as opposed to writing a paragraph. This makes it easier to read, easier to process and looks cleaner.

    To break down my thoughts a bit more specifically:

    Formatting. Because of Ashley’s extensive experience, I found the formatting to be a bit too simple. Some of her accomplishments were getting lost in a world of text. So I highlighted her most impressive accomplishments by drawing them out on their own.

    Summary Statement. My problem with summary statements is that they are relied upon too often to convey skills that belong within the body of your resume. It’s not as bad as a functional resume, but the end result is the same: a vague set of skills without context. In Ashley’s case, there is also redundancy – she refers to public speaking, presentations, brand management and several other things in her summary statement, and they are also sprinkled throughout the body of the resume. I’d rather see these things strongly conveyed within the resume as opposed to skimmed over in a summary statement.

    Employment. As I said above, this section confused me. It felt redundant and unnecessary. Ashley has already listed where she worked, and when she worked for them, so there is no use to having this all listed again.

    Education. I love that Ashley included her current education on the resume, even though she hasn’t received her MBA yet. However, she highlighted the name of the school as more important than her degree by listing it first and making it bold. Where someone attended school is rarely of concern to me; what degree they received and what honors they earned while attending is always important, so make that stand out.

    Activities. This is where I may differ from some of my colleagues. I know that some people will recommend that you include an “Activities” or “Interests” section on your resume, because it will give it a personal touch. I’m not one of them. When I’m looking at a resume, it’s completely business. The personal part comes in when you’re sitting in my office for an interview. A good alternative is to have a section called “Skills” or “Professional Accomplishments,” which I did in Ashley’s case.

    Content. The actual body and substance of the resume was strong. Ashley used clear and compelling language. For the most part, she used strong action verbs to describe her experience and accomplishments. This is a great example of highlighting your accomplishments, as opposed to merely rehashing your job description. Instead of saying “Responsible for growing affiliate partnership,” Ashley wrote “Grew affiliate partnerships from 2 to over 50 within 8 months.” This tells the employer not only what Ashley was responsible for, but also that she was successful at it in a relatively short period of time.

    Overall, Ashley’s resume was quite strong, and well-executed. Despite that, however, there were still things that I found that could be enhanced. I want to be clear that these are my opinions only – obviously I don’t speak for all recruiters and hiring managers, and my recommendations for resumes may differ from what others will think.

    And that’s completely ok. The goal is to get you to start the conversation and look at your resume in a new light. You might conclude that your current resume is what works for you. But give it some thought, have someone else take a look at it, and make sure that it’s the best it can be.

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    This post doesn’t really apply to the majority of my readers, but after several conversations with fellow class mates, I figured I’d post up a list of recommended professors to point them to for summer/fall session planning. So, here’s my list of great professors in my program thus far:

    Prof. Richard Bowen (ACCT 6202): I had Prof. Bowen for Managerial Accounting, and I thought he did an excellent job with organization, time management, and applicability. He explained the concepts with clarity, and his examples and test questions seemed like reasonable situations for managers to face. He didn’t try to “trick” us, but gave us challenging problems to illustrate the material. He also has first-hand insight into the Sarbanes-Oxley ramifications and the whistle-blower laws, which he’ll share with the class if you ask him. And, for an accountant, he’s actually a pretty humorous fellow, so the 4 hour class doesn’t seem so ridiculously long and boring.

    Prof. Abhijit Biswas (MKT 6310): I took Consumer Behavior with Prof. Biswas during my first semester as an MBA student, and his class made me excited to be a grad student! He presents thought-provoking case studies and interesting statistics, and he makes everyone question their own behavior as a consumer. He reaches across a number of marketing fundamentals to show how each is relevant to consumer behavior, and he opens engaging class discussions. Every student that takes one of his classes recommends him and chooses to take him again. He teaches classes on all areas of marketing, and makes himself available to students for career advice, marketing ideas, and generally lending his wisdom to his students. He’s passionate about his subject, and his passion is contagious when he teaches. Most students find his exams to be pretty difficult, because he  requires you to remember a lot of details from the material.

    Dr. John Wiorkowski (OPRE 6301): Dr. Wiorkowski is a great statistics professor! He made stats applicable to a variety of functional business areas, and used applicable scenarios. I liked that he understood that we needed a managerial base for stats, not a theory or PhD approach. Sometimes stats professors get so caught up in their own expertise, they forget that we don’t know (and for most of us, don’t care) what they’re talking about! Dr. Wiorkowski makes the material approachable and relevant, and he explains each concept in a logical, understandable manner. He also has some hilarious quotes, and keeps class pretty entertaining for a stats professor. His bow tie is his signature, so if you can’t remember his name, just look for the guy with bow tie!

    Dr. Tracey Rockett (OB 6331): I took this Power and Politics class online, and I wish I’d had it in person. It’s a discussion-oriented class, so facilitation is much easier face to face. However, the information is sound, and Dr. Rockett presents some thought-provoking scenarios. The lectures, readings, and discussion boards were well-organized, and I enjoyed the articles and book requirements for this class.

    Dr. Laurie Ziegler (OB 6332): Dr. Z is a passionate professor with a lot of interesting perspectives to offer. Her Negotiation and Dispute Resolution class focuses heavily on role playing and discussion, so I would recommend taking it in person. Her class forces you to take a look at your own biases and strategies when negotiating, and she keeps class lively with her own stories and discussion questions.

    Prof. Scott Sanderson (FIN 6301): Prof. Sanderson is an excellent finance professor. He’s an adjunct, currently working in the real world, so he brings practical knowledge and scenarios into his examples. He does an excellent job explaining the historical and cultural significance of many of the concepts, so you understand why things are done, not just how. He uses several different types of examples to demonstrate the use of equations and logic, and he clearly explains a lot of complex ideas. His exams are straight-forward, and he keeps you until the end of class. He makes himself available to answer questions, and he genuinely wants his students to succeed.

    Though some of the subject matter is not my favorite, I appreciate professors that use examples and test questions that we might actually face in a managerial situation. If you have the opportunity to take a class with any of the above professors, you won’t be disappointed!

     

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    I wrote a post on “Perpetuating the In Group”, and a classmate of mine picked up on a particular line that highlighted my bias. I stated in the post that I have more in common with young professionals than I do with stay-at-home-moms, and she noted that she has several SAHM acquaintances with MBAs from fancy schools, or former VPs of Fortune 500 companies. However, these women have left the workforce to care for their kids.

    This is interesting, because there’s a lot of articles that talk about the cost of childcare vs. a salary, and women making a choice to stay home. My gut reaction to my classmate’s anecdote is that it’s a perfect example of how perpetuating the in group can cause you to miss out on knowledge, perspective, and connections. Upon further reflection, my reaction was that we don’t have much in common, because I would never leave the workforce. But, peeling back another layer, I can’t say how I would react to having children, since I don’t have any children at the moment. How do I know I would never leave the workforce? How do I know that just because these women left formal, paid positions at large companies, they aren’t keeping their skills sharp by volunteering, freelancing, or working on higher degrees? The answer is, I don’t. I don’t know their motivation for leaving the workforce… maybe that was their plan all along. And if that was their plan, maybe we’re more similar than I thought. I’m a planner, and I’ve taken strategic steps to set my life on a certain path. Just because that path doesn’t lead to the same destination as these women doesn’t mean that we’re all that different in terms of intelligence, ambition, and earning power.

    It’s really interesting to dig into what you personally think makes someone “like you”. But, once you realize that you’ve still got a lot of underlying assumptions, you’ve got to figure out a way to overcome the bias. I’d say a few probing questions would be a great first step… you might realize you have more in common than you think!

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    Well, readers, it’s that time of year… the end of the semester countdown! Although, I’ll be completing 9 hours of class this summer, so my countdown-to-summer also doubles as my countdown-to-school-starting :) However, I will be taking a vacation on my “summer break”, so my posting schedule will be pretty sporadic through the end of May. I’ve scheduled a few wonderful guest posters, but if you have a topic you’d like to share, send me a note, and we can try to set something up!

    I took 9 hours of class this semester, including two OB classes and a finance class. I’ve got a final in my Negotiation and Dispute Resolution class, and a finance final. I started studying for the finance final last night, and it’s going to be a brutal few days of prep work. I just don’t. like. finance. at. all. I’m literally trying to find any excuse to procrastinate on my study time, including cleaning! You know it’s bad when I’d rather clean than study. However, I buckled down and started working my way through practice problems, and I feel confident that I can solidify my B in that class.

    Now for the fun part: VACATION! A friend from college is getting married in El Paso at the end of May, so my husband and I decided to turn the drive into a road trip around Texas. We’ll be hiking, camping, and staying in remote hotels for about 10 days. My husband has been itching to go to Big Bend National Park, but the ~14 hour drive has been a huge deterrent. However, we’ll be spending a few days there during this road trip. The plan is to spend a night or two at Pedernales Falls, San Antonio, Big Bend, and Monahans. I’m pretty excited to get away for a while, as I think I’m starting to approach the burn-out point!

    So, please pardon the odd posting schedule while I conquer finals and attempt to conquer relaxation (note that I’m not a failure at many things, but relaxation is on the list of perpetual failures!). Get excited for a few new voices through the end of May, and I’ll be back in action regularly in June.

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    How does a "real" business person dress? Do I look like a "real" marketer?

    Skirt: JC Penney

    Tank top: NY & Co.

    Cardigan: Target

    Heels: Sam & Libby via DSW

    Like the outfit? Click here for more details!

     

    I talked about motivation in yesterday’s post, and I’ve been thinking about another topic that coincides with motivation, “being” vs. “acting”. Remember when you were little, and you played house, played teenager (don’t lie, you know you pretended to be in high school when you were 6!), or played cops? When I was younger, my CPA father had to work on Saturdays during tax season, and he’d take us to his office sometimes. He’d give us pens and post-it notes, and, no kidding, we’d play business (yes, I was that nerdy). I played business at my grandmother’s house too, with a box of blank payroll checks for a defunct business and her fancy clip-on earrings and purses. My brother and I would take turns owning the business, and I’d stuff a bunch of checks into my Granny’s purse, clip on those earrings like I was ready for the office, and strut down the hall to the back bedroom, where I’d wave my hands around telling everyone to get to work. Man, I was AWESOME at imaginary business!

    The funny thing is, I really do business now. I really slip on my high heels, really go to an office, and really approve invoices. And yet, sometimes it still feels like I’m playing business, like everyone will eventually find out that I’m just a little kid in my grandmother’s clip-on earrings, or scribbling on post-it notes on the floor of my dad’s office. There’s a frequently-used name for this phenomenon, imposter syndrome. Essentially, you feel like you’re lying about your skills or intelligence, being the ultimate pretender in your professional abilities, and eventually, the truth will come out that in fact, you have no idea what you’re doing. It’s not just early career people that feel this, it’s high-powered lawyers, doctors, and professors.

    This concept of “playing” at something goes back to my initial thoughts of “being” vs. “acting”, and the motivation for actors. Are you ACTING like a business person would act, or are you BEING a business person? Are you imitating what you think business people should do, or are you taking actions that a business person would take because they make strategic sense? What makes it a “real” business look, decision, or action anyways? I have this vision of an actual business person in a black, pinstripe suit, briefcase in hand, clicking along a marble hallway with large glass windows, on their way to an important presentation to the board. Does this mean that I’m not a real business person in the outfit with color? Am I just pretending to be a marketer if I don’t carry a briefcase? What, exactly, indicates that I’m being a business person, and not just acting like a business person? I think it’s the motivation. I don’t want to imitate business behavior simply because I think that’s what business looks like. It’s part of the reason that Silicon Valley start-ups have non-existent dress codes: they believe business is about DOING business, not playing the part of a business person by dressing up in fancy clothes and waving around worthless checks.

    Are you playing business, or doing business? Are you acting like a business person, or being a business person? Are you an imposter, or a smart, driven, no-holds-barred force in the business world? Like the outfit? Click here for more details!

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    Today’s post is the result of a psychological rabbit hole, inspired by my recent director-ish stint for the children’s musical at my church. The head director asked me to come in and work with the small cast of kids that had speaking parts during the show, and I learned a lot about motivation while working with the kids.

    First, working with non-experts really makes you think about your own skill set. I’ve been doing stage work for most of my life, and studied it formally for a year in college, so I know a thing or two about acting. But, 3rd-5th grade kids are a different ballgame. They require detailed direction for any movement (called “blocking” in the theater world) or interaction on stage (usually something like “character development” in the theater world). Thus, when I am about to move toward another actor, extend my hand to an actor, or walk across the stage, I usually try to think of a good reason why I’m doing that. Kids do these same actions “because I said so”. But in reality, “because I said so” is a terrible reason to do something on stage! Kinda similar to life and business, eh?

    Take, for example, the motivation behind having one of the kids bend down to tie his shoe. It’s pretty obvious on the surface, because there’s a line that states, “Hey kid, stand up” in the script. Thus, for the kid to stand up, he must be doing something other than standing immediately prior to that line. Ah, we’ll have him bend down! Ok, why is he bending down… we can’t just tell him to bend down for no good reason (the line isn’t a strong enough reason, it’s akin to “because I said so”). AH, we’ll make him tie his shoe, it’s a perfect reason for a kid to be bending down! So, we tell the child actor to pretend to tie his shoe, so that the next line makes sense. He then proceeds to mime tying his shoe, which looks silly, because there’s no motivation for him to take this action, as his shoe is not untied. So, down the rabbit hole, why would he bend down to tie his shoe if it’s not untied? By this stage, I’ve made up a whole scenario about how his shoe frequently comes untied, he looks down and notices that it is about to come untied, so he bends down to preempt the untied shoelace by knotting it firmly, and now he’s bending down to knot his shoelace when he’s asked to stand up. Now, it makes sense, falls into place, and looks natural, right?  I’ve drilled down to the motivation behind the motivation.

    This same logic applies to our academic pursuits and corporate ascent. Think about it: what’s your motivation for doing well in school? Getting a good job. What’s your motivation for getting a good job? Making lots of money. And your motivation for making lots of money? Financial security and material goods. And the motivation for those two things? Freedom and happiness. There it is! So, if freedom and happiness are the motivation for the motivation, how do we know that the actions resulting from the motivation are correct?

    Now we’ve gone down the rabbit hole of factors for life satisfaction, and what we’ve been primed to believe. For most people, a solid day’s work with measurable results will bring a feeling of accomplishment, and a hearty meal will complete the feeling of satisfaction. The definition of a”solid day’s work” and “measurable results” are points of debate, but the underlying desire for success is pretty concrete. I guess I’m just in the mood to contemplate the meta motivation today. Are you just getting more credentials because someone told you to? Are you going in to work everyday because there’s a line in some imaginary life script that says, “Ashley went into work at 8:03 am”, and you need to make that line make sense? Just like the kids, we sometimes start doing exactly what we’re told, when in fact, it makes no sense until we drill down to the very bottom.

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    We  recently discussed personal branding in one of my OB classes, and ways that your online presence can add or detract from your personal brand. There were a lot of questions about blogging, from how to get started, to the benefits or headaches of having a blog. I had one in-depth conversation about starting a blog, and I figured it would be helpful for anyone else that is considering a blog. So, here’s a few questions and tips to consider if you wanna start a blog:

     

    What’s your goal? First, what are you trying to accomplish by starting a blog? Are you trying to position yourself as an expert in your field? Catalog your thoughts, phases of a specific project, or stages in life? Are you trying to help people with your expertise? The goal of the blog will drive the content, posting schedule, and tone, so you want the goal to be fairly broad. You also want to make sure it’s adaptable to different platforms and styles. This part of the principle comes from the book, “Built to Last”, which discusses how great companies use a flexible goal to keep pace with changing times. Google’s goal wasn’t “control the internet”, it was “compile and deliver information”, which means that if search engines become obsolete, Google won’t stray from its mission about information by moving to a new platform. Similarly, “position myself as an expert” is a much better goal than “write 800 words per day about the subject of pricing in retail markets”.

    What kind of format? Sometimes a traditional “blog” format is not the best way to deliver your content. If you’re looking to help people by sharing your expertise, “how-to” archives might be a better fit than a daily or weekly blog post. If you’re looking to exchange ideas with people in your industry, a forum might best meet the needs. It’s wise to consider whether you intend to post regularly on an ever-changing topic, post static information on standard best practices, or respond to reader questions and comments. Many of these methods co-mingle, so you don’t have to pick just one. However, you need to consider each format and plan your approach for content delivery.

    What’s the perspective? Are you planning to post anonymously, under a pseudonym, or under your real name? Do you plan to discuss personal, professional, or mixed topics? These questions are directly linked to the goal and format of the blog, but the answers can change over time. Many bloggers have started out as anonymous posters discussing professional topics, but eventually outed themselves as the owner of the blog. Others started posting professional topics, but later wove in personal stories. There’s no right or wrong answer, but you need to decide on the tone of the blog before you get started.

    What’s the posting schedule? One of my biggest mistakes when I started my blog, was not considering a posting schedule. I figured I would just post whenever something popped into my head, and as a result, sometimes I had 1 post per month, and sometimes I had 20 posts per month. Your goal and the type of content you choose will drive your posting schedule. If you’re posting on a subject matter with very little change or new information, it will be pretty difficult to come up with new material for daily or weekly posts. Again, there’s no “correct” posting schedule, but it’s best to set expectations for your readers. Should they plan to stop by every day? Can they ignore you for 3 months and then show up to one new article?

    Prepare for launch. I also made the mistake of launching my blog with no material! I hit the “go live” button, and then let it sit for a few days with no articles, no links, nothing besides my “hello world” post. This is a bad idea, particularly if you start publicizing your blog immediately. I highly recommend creating at least a month’s worth of content, and posting a few days’ worth of content before telling the world that you have a blog. Also, how are you planning to tell the world you have a blog? Are you intending to link to on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter? Is it going to become a line on your resume? Are you planning to use word-of-mouth for publicity? The amount of content and type of publicity prior to launch will be driven by your goal, format, and posting schedule, as determined above.

     

    I jumped into the deep end when I started my blog, and I didn’t really consider ANY of the questions or tips that I presented above. Because I was wandering aimlessly, it took about a year for me to gain any traction in readership and brand-building. There’s no right or wrong way to answer any of these questions, but if you wanna start a blog, I highly recommend taking the time to consider each question in detail!

     

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