Featured on The Daily Muse

I’m contributing to the Daily Muse today, with an article about some interesting additions to your resume. I’ve contributed to the Daily Muse several times, on topics about business school and office dilemmas. You can see all of my articles here.

The Daily Muse is an excellent site aimed at young professional women (there’s some great articles for men, too!) They’ve assembled a wonderful team of talented writers, so make sure you browse through the rest of the site!

Transfer of Power

Well, readers, last week was just crazy, with 12 hour days for work, and homework and class after hours! I’m back to a slightly less hectic schedule this week!

My husband and I had a discussion recently about the transfer of power, inspired by his reading of “The History of Western Philosophy” by Bertrand Russell. He posed the question, “If a Senator dies while in office, who should get to replace the Senator?” I responded that we’ve got a process for that, but ultimately, it’s whoever the public elects. Then he asked, “If a man dies, who should get his estate?” I responded, his wife and children, or whoever he wills it to. We started talking about how monarchies used to transfer political power through blood, but now, political power is transferred through votes. However, we still transfer economic power through blood.

However, in today’s society, the golden rule is more true than ever: He who holds the gold makes the rules. Wealthy people wield significant power over the political arena and everyday lives of common people. Take a look at the housing crisis and the economic recession, and you’ll see that the government can’t change fortunes as effectively as the wealthy. Rich people contribute to PACs, lobbyists, and individual campaigns, their stock holdings can make or break a corporation, and their disposable income can fund entire cities! Why, then, do we still allow this type of power to be transferred through blood?

I posited that a wife and children had to make sacrifices for the man to become so rich, and that there are a lot more checks and balances in place to ensure that the heirs don’t hurt others with their wealth. My husband commented that the owner of a nuclear power plant shouldn’t just automatically pass that ownership down to a child. What if the child was evil or incompetent? Wouldn’t that be as bad as a king leaving the kingdom to his inept eldest son? To me, there’s a board of directors, a managerial team, and shareholders (or, in the case of nuclear power, government regulations) to ensure that the heir can’t inflict harm via their inheritance of such a company.

We talked about some pros and cons of the transfer of economic power through blood, and I’ve presented a few of the points we discussed. In short, will economic transfer of power eventually go the way of political power?

Uniforms and Symbols

The uniform of business.

Dress: JC Penney

Blazer: NY & Co.

Boots: Ross

Necklace: Claire’s

Like the outfit? See more details here!

I spent some time with a friend and her military buddies this past weekend, and they started talking about the new uniform requirements for new members in the squadron. This conversation, combined with discussions about power and influence during my Organizational Behavior classes, made me think about how clothes help you be “in” the group.

The military members commented that there wasn’t much to be exicted about when they first joined a squardron, but they were really excited to wear the orange shirt. To them, the orange shirt signified that they were part of the squadron, and everyone knew what an orange shirt meant. I feel this way about my badge to enter the building, particularly when I’m out in the world. People may not know my role in the company, but when they see that badge during the workday, they know I’m employed at a place that is doing something important enough to identify and screen outsiders. It makes me feel important to wear my badge, and makes me feel like I’m part of something special.

Having something to make your employees feel “in” is a huge motivator, and contributors to overall work satisfaction. And, it can be something as simple as a company shirt! We talk a lot about group dynamics in my OB classes, and the fact that feeling “out” makes people look for other opportunities. Companies need to make their employees feel like they belong, like they’re valued, and like they have some skin in the game. I know some people dislike dress codes, but I think having a high standard of dress or uniform makes people feel like the company cares. It also demonstrates to customers that you care about all the details of professionalism, not just selling your product. What uniforms or symbols make you feel like part of the team? Like the outfit? See more details here!

Will Power

We all have aspirations, and for some, those include being a model or celebrity. For me, those aspirations included being a professional singer, so I was willing to sacrifice a lot of time, money, and tears to achieve that dream. I started thinking about will power, and wondering if it takes more power to say, “no”, or more power to keep pressing on when everyone else is saying, “no”.

In an effort to pursue my dream in high school, I joined a modeling and talent agency. A friend of mine had heard a commercial or received a flyer about an audition at a hotel ballroom, so I decided to go as well. Even then, I was incredibly skeptical of agencies, wary that they only wanted to scam me out of my money. This agency had a great hook: we don’t get paid until you get paid. Pretty classic pitch, actually. The problem was that, in order to even go to a call, you needed a book of headshots. As I was not trying to model, I thought this was stupid, but it’s what you had to have to see the casting directors. And, we had to use their photographer, because he knew EXACTLY what the directors were looking for in the photos. After over-paying for the photos, we had to pay for a weekend at a hotel for me to perform for the directors (along with thousands of others, scheduled to sing on stage one after the other). I was excited to get a few callbacks, until I realized that the callbacks were for a voice teacher and a stage teacher. Most of the performers got similar callbacks. In short, after nearly a grand spent with a “free” agency, I stopped returning their calls.

Timeshares are supposed to be a lucrative offer. You get to vacation in gorgeous locations, make tons of money back on your investment, and generally allow you to “get in on the ground floor of an amazing opportunity!” A lot of people fall prey to the free breakfast, offers for a cruise in exchange for just 30 minutes of your time, and the beautiful beach-front property that you have the ability to purchase before anyone else!

Both of these situations test your will power. They test your knowledge that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In the case of the agency, they had one shining success story, and for an ambitious high school girl, that’s all it took. Surely, I could be their next success! The timeshares have one or two outstanding ROIs to report, and once again, everyone thinks that surely, they’ll be the next big millionaire after making such a wise (and oh so unique) investment. These are examples of marketers (albeit, very clever and successful marketers) using their powers to fleece people. They push every emotional button, and use every social construct to pressure you into doing something that you know in your mind to be wrong, even though your heart really wants to believe in the “magic”. I’ll admit, I fell for it once! Maybe that’s why I want to use my will power to be an honest marketer, with customers who feel great about the solution I’ve described to them?

OB Student Observations

I attended my first week of classes for this semester, and I noticed some interesting patterns.

First, students in general are so much more open than people in the professional world. Maybe this is just the people I’ve met in the professional world, but I’m always struck by how quickly people show their hand and make assessments in an academic setting. Particularly in the Organizational Behavior class, all the students “get” each other pretty quickly. The ice breaker activity on the first day was to choose a partner that you didn’t know, and introduce them. The questions included asking about their biggest accomplishment or proudest moment, and their biggest failure or disappointment. Digging deep, right off the bat! I walked into that class without knowing anyone, and by the end of a 3 hour session, I’d formed a semester-long group that I already feel very comfortable with. This type comfort seems to take much longer in professional settings I’ve experienced.

Further, it was interesting that so many more people were comfortable speaking to the class than in my accounting class. It’s odd, because this OB class is required for most of the programs represented in the class, so there’s not a higher concentration of marketing nerds that just enjoy presenting. Maybe it’s the class setting, and the fact that the ice breaker was informal, as opposed to the accounting class with a formal presentation for a grade? Either way, most of the people in the class stood up to speak, made eye contact with the audience, and spoke loudly and clearly throughout their introduction. The accounting presentations involved reading a notecard in a soft voice, with heads buried behind the card or the computer screen. HUGE differences that made me feel more confidence in my peers after leaving class last Wendesday evening!

So, I feel this semester is going to get the gears turning in my head, and I’m excited for the synergy that I believe will happen between my classes and my work days. It’s good to be back in a class with people that are open and articulate, so we’ll see if my first impressions hold true as the semester progresses!

Happy Friday!

It’s been a great week of productivity at the office and mental stimulation for the fourth semester of my MBA, and I’m ready to kick off the weekend! Here’s what I’m reading:


For the cube dweller, via Daily Muse: Think Outside the Cube

For the internet generation, via Wikipedia: English Wikipedia SOPA Blackout (note that the blackout is over, but check out their standing on SOPA)

For those with New Year’s Resolutions, via Mr. Money Mustache: How To Be Slim

For the presenters, via Seth’s Blog: Your Voice Will Give You Away


Like the links? Follow me on Twitter for links and blog posts every day!

Your Best Self

Yesterday, I was exactly the person I want to be. You ever have those days? The days where you come home and you reflect on the day, and realize that you were the best version of yourself? I love those days! On the surface, you think those days are easy to come by, but when you dig down deep, you realize that you’re often settling for something less than your best self. So, how do you become your best self?

For me, I’m usually my best self on days that involve productivity and creativity at work, mental stimulation and challenge, and success in one of my hobbies. Again, on the surface, it sounds like an easy formula that everyone has. But for me, it’s not just about “getting work done”, it’s about the unique combination of creativity, variety, and project completion. It’s not just about “reading an intellectual book”, it’s about making the gears turn in my brain, and seeing connections explode across all my functional knowledge. It’s not about “attending rehearsal” or “going to the gym”, it’s about fine-tuning my talents and body, and making a break-through. Yesterday was that, the perfect storm of planning and execution to be my best self.

I arrived at the office by 7 am, to accommodate leaving early for class. I completed some website content updates, and then sat down to design a new ad… and the ideas were flowing. I finished 7 mock-ups in about an hour, and I would have been satisfied with any of them being approved! Then I headed to my first class session for my Negotiation and Dispute Resolution class, where I formed what I think will be an exceptional team for the group project. After checking out the requirements for the group project, I nerded out on the drive home about game theory, the science of lying, access to information, and all the intersections between those subjects. My mind was basically exploding with ideas by the time I reached my front door, and I’m still coming up with new facets this morning! When I arrived home, I changed clothes and headed to a kick-butt boot camp. After boot camp, I came home and hung out with my husband, telling him about all my ideas and projects and generally sharing my zest for life with the person I love most. I even ate healthy meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner yesterday!

I came into the office this morning completely invigorated and ready to take the day by storm. Already, I’ve received information for two new projects, and I’m a ball of energy as I start to work on them. I feel like I’m going to have another day of being exactly who I want to be. The difference between my best self and anything less than my best self is astounding. It may not even be noticeable to outsiders, but I can see, feel, and experience the intense focus, productivity, creativity, and satisfaction that comes from being my best self. This is what it’s all about. The career, the education, the opening night, the sore muscles… it’s all for those days when I’m the best version of myself.

Masks and Brand Authenticity

Your brand is captured in your clothes, actions, and words.

Blazer: NY & Co.

Pants: JC Penney

Boots: Ross

Like the outfit? See more details here!


Forbes had an article during the holiday season about drinking at the office holiday party, and a quick mention at the end of the article about cleaning up your Facebook profile. The author mentions the concept of a Work Identity and a Party Identity, and discusses how much those two intermingle when you’re in a professional setting. This got me thinking about masks and brand authenticity, particularly as it relates to our personal brands.

We’re whole humans, with whole lives, not just corporate drones with a “professional” persona. During my Organizational Behavior class, we had to take surveys about stress, life satisfaction, and behavior, and nearly every student wanted to clarify if we were to take the assessment based on how we would act in a professional setting or a personal setting. I wear different clothes to work than I wear on the weekends, and I behave differently on weekends (waking up at 6:30 am on a Saturday? I don’t think so!). So, am I two-faced, or multi-faceted? Is my professional brand just a facade that I drop when I’m at home?

I think there’s a strong distinction between wearing different clothes and sleeping in on Saturday, and “character flaws” that could creep into my workday. Being a hard worker is one aspect of my professional brand that I think is highly important, and I feel like my behavior outside the office affects this brand perception inside the office. Would you believe that I’m really a hard worker if I lounged around in my PJs on the evenings and weekends, or would you assume that I’m just going through the daily grind for a paycheck? Many people view private actions as a reflection of your commitment to your public actions, and that if the two don’t match, eventually, the truth of your private actions will permeate your professional life. This brings me back to the holiday party mentioned earlier in this post. If you are a loud, rude, embarrassing drunk at the office party (which, in theory, is a perfect place to “mix” personal and professional), what’s the likelihood that you will eventually show such characteristics during the workday? Most of the time, these concerns aren’t necessarily about the actual behavior at the party, but rather about the lack of judgement in getting into a situation to behave inappropriately (ie: drinking too much). Going beyond acceptable boundaries in one area of your life indicates a possibility that you may do the same thing in another area of your life.

I think brand authenticity is about consistency and congruency. Do you regularly act in accordance with your professional brand by displaying characteristics like hard work, loyalty, and creativity? Would your friends, family, and co-workers say similar things about you at your core (literally everyone I know would describe me as energetic and a talker!)? Eventually, the masks come off, and it’s what’s beneath the mask that counts. Like the outfit? See more details here!

Title Inflation

I recently read an article on Forbes about silly new titles, and how many organizations are making everyone a “chief” of something. I also had a discussion with a colleague recently about the importance of titles in organizations. So, what’s the big deal about the designation on your business card?

Credibility. I worked for an early-stage start-up (as in, they’d been incorporated for 3 months when they hired me!) when I first graduated college. One “perk” of this position, was the ability to choose my own title. My brother suggested “Supreme Chancellor of the Marketing Universe”, but I chose “Marketing Manager”. Giving myself an inflated or ridiculous title would make me lose all credibility, and would make the organization lose credibility. When I was freelancing, I could have given myself the title “Founder, President, and CEO” of Faus Consulting, but would you really believe that someone with about a year of experience was actually in such a high position? NO! People think that a lofty title makes them seem important, but when the title is obviously inflated, you and your organization seem silly, not respectable, trustworthy, and experienced.

Ambiguity. As mentioned in the Forbes article, all the silly titles make it difficult to determine what job a person is actually doing. My colleague mentioned that everyone in his previous company had a Vice President title. Thus, when dealing with other organizations, it was unclear who was able to sign legal documents and authorize transactions. Titles are given for clarity, and were previously somewhat standardized to ensure that all organizations knew what job a person had. This meant that when someone needed a signature, they knew who to call. When someone needed a specific functional area, they knew who to call. Now, with all the inflated titles and ridiculous titles, it’s often difficult to determine who can sign what, and who can answer what, and who does what!

Career trajectory. Because of the credibility and clarity that titles are supposed to provide, a title was also a good proxy for a career trajectory. You knew that you went from Associate, to Manager, to Vice President, to President, to CEO. You could look at a person’s resume, see the title progression and associated responsibilities, and generally approximate their career stage, and their fit for the position. These days, you can call yourself a number of things, so it’s difficult to tell whether or not you’re a fit for a higher position. If your title is too low, you might hurt your ability for promotions and pay increases, particularly if you move to another organization. If your title is too high, you might end up in a position that you are unprepared for, which increases the risk of failure. When your title is mismatched to your responsibilities, you suffer significant hold-ups in your career advancement.

So, how does your current title compare to your job duties, industry standards, and generally reasonable definitions? Were you ever tempted to inflate your title?

High Value Decisions

My husband I talk about making high value decisions pretty frequently. I was thinking about high value decisions recently, when the ultimate low value decision popped into my head.

At my office, we tend to keep the batteries “hidden”, since they are relatively expensive, and we don’t want people just taking batteries whenever they feel like it. One day, the president of the company was looking for some batteries. He spent 30 minutes walking around, asking if anyone had any batteries, digging through cabinets, and generally wasting time trying to find some batteries. Our CFO commented that it was completely stupid to hide the batteries and make the highest paid employee of the company use time to hunt for batteries. We gave the president his own box of batteries after that incident.

What about the people that drive 5 miles to save five cents per gallon on gas? They’ve probably spent their full fifty cents of savings driving to the other gas station! This is another one of those things that if you actually knew and considered the numbers, it would make much more sense to just stop at the gas station you’re closest to at the moment.

How often do you make the wrong sacrifice? Some people think that they’ll take a longer commute, but at least the rent is cheaper! But, did they calculate the increased cost for gas, and worse, the increased cost of their time?  How do you go about making high value decisions?