Monday, July 29, 2013

The Life of a Young Professional

Balancing classes, a part-time job, an internship, homework and social activities can be tough. So when the topic of finding a mentor comes up, many collegiates shrug off the idea because there just aren't enough hours in the day.  While having a mentor won't make-or-break your chance at career success, having a good mentor can be extremely helpful when you're looking for career advice, job opportunities or even just a role model who's already succeeded at something you'd like to do. 

I met my mentor my freshman year of college. Not only was he a person I could go to for help, advice and guidance, he became a great friend and significantly helped (and is still helping) me through the post graduate transition into the “real world.” Learning from his experiences, even if they were different from my own, has proven invaluable as I settle in to my new life as a young professional.

My interview features my mentor and friend Kevin Fallon. He graduated from Fordham University in 2011 and currently works for KPMG. I conducted my interview with Kevin in hopes to shed some light on what life is like for young professionals, and the changes (the good, the bad and the ugly) that one may go through after graduation.

Q. Tell me about your current position (what you're doing, what your day to day is like, what excites you about your job).
A. In my current position as a Transactions and Restructuring associate at KPMG advisory I help my clients evaluate the financial risks and opportunities of company's they are considering acquiring. My daily responsibilities include analyzing financial data, maintaining our requests for information for our clients and summarizing our findings into PowerPoint presentation reports. In my job I get to learn a great deal about a company in a very short period of time. Understanding the unique challenges companies face in different industries is an exciting and constantly changing challenge.  

Q. How did you get to where you are today?
A. KPMG is a signature Partner of Fordham Career Services. I was fortunate enough to interview with them on campus. I started as an intern my sophomore year of college, I began interning at KPMG within their audit department. Toward the end of my internship I expressed interest in KPMG's mergers and acquisitions business. After networking within the company and interviewing internally I was given the opportunity to start my career in the transactions and restructuring division. 

Q. What advice do you have for a post-grad going through the job search?
A. I would encourage post-grads to push forward and not get frustrated. Also try to use the search as an opportunity to continue learning. Each position you apply to is an opportunity to learn about a company or profession. Take each of those opportunities and you will continue to build a valuable knowledge base which you can use going forward. Finally get creative!!! Everyone knows the basic job search tactics but the person who gets creative and goes above and beyond is the person who will get the job. 

Q. Would you say this was a dream job for you?
A. One day I would really like to own my own business and this has always been a dream of mine.  I believe my current job will give me the skills I need to get to that point in the future so from  that perspective it is a dream job. (Or at least a building-to-a-dream job.)

Q. What has been the toughest part of your post-grad life thus far?
A. Balancing the demands of work against my personal life and being with my girlfriend is the most difficult part of post-grad life. While a career is important, at the end of the day it is your family and friends who make you happy and it is important to never forget that.

Q. What obligations does your employer expect of you outside of the work week? Are there organizations you are expected to join? Are there social commitments? How has your job affected your lifestyle?
A. At times my group can require a decent amount of weekend and late-night work. The work week takes on a slightly different definition in this line of work. In addition to the demands of work there are also social demands including client networking, business travel and internal networking. While these events can be fun, in time the fun turns into a burden, which is one of the reasons it is difficult if not impossible to remain in the field long term. 

Q. What advice do you have for others who may want a career like yours?
A. My advice is a little less specific to my career focus, but more to my path; always be open minded, but be focused on what you want. This sounds conflicting, but being open minded allows you to see more things as potential opportunities. By focusing on what you want to accomplish, you can filter these opportunities and chase the ones you feel will get you closer to your goal.

Goals will always change and evolve, but always keep focused on what you want to achieve. A great way to find these opportunities is by getting out and talking to people. Take every chance you can to learn as much as you can about someone else. You can never accomplish anything all alone.

Q. What do you think has been your greatest professional accomplishment so far?
A. During a slow patch at work I wrote a proposal for a new internal protocol and platform which affects how we send work requests to our overnight/offshore India team.  The proposal was taken up by our management and is currently planned for FY14 development. This project was a rewarding accomplishment for me because it solved a problem we faced on a regular basis and earned recognition across the organization. 

Q. What do you like to do in your spare time, outside of work?
A. I love to go on adventures and try new things with my girlfriend and friends. I also love finding and searching for old collectibles.

Q. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
A. I see myself focusing more in my personal life and less on my professional development. I also expect to be wrapping up any corporate career and beginning to look for opportunities to start a small business and work for myself.

I hope this post provided a bit of insight into the life of a young professional. Having a mentor will help you learn what to expect during this time, and help ease the new and challenging process!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Me No Speak Interview: Real Interview Translations

Four Common Interview Questions and What They Really Mean...

Acing the interview isn’t just about having the perfect canned speeches. Yes, you need to show off your experience, talents, and personality, but before answering each question, you also have to figure out what the interviewer is actually asking you.

Those seemingly innocuous questions, like “tell me about yourself” and “where do you see yourself in a few years?” aren't just get-to-know-you conversation starters. They’re one of the key ways an interviewer will seek to uncover whether you’re the right fit for the job. So, before you start to share your life story—or recite the same answer you gave at the last interview—it’s important to figure out what the interviewer really wants to know.

Question: Tell me about yourself.
Translation: Tell me why you’re the right fit for this job.

The interviewer already has your resume and cover letter, so she’s not looking for a rundown of your employment history. Nor does she care that you grew up in Westchester county and love to jog on the weekends. She’s looking for a concise, compelling pitch that keeps her attention, and tells her exactly why you’re the right fit for the job. So, while this is a good time to paint a broad picture of who you are, it’s most important that you include a couple of key facts that will sell you as the right candidate.

Think about the 2-3 specific accomplishments or experiences that you most want the interviewer to know about, and share them during this opportunity. You can frame your stories or tie them together using a theme or a quote, if appropriate, such as “My boss at xyz told me that fundraising is really building relationships, and that’s the approach I've taken throughout my career. For example…”

It’s also a good idea to practice your answer aloud, record it, then listen to your pitch. Are you engaging? Are you rambling? Are you getting your most important points across loud and clear? (Pssst: this is good advice for any interview question!)

Question: How would you explain our organization’s mission?
Translation: Can you be an ambassador for our organization?

Any candidate can read and regurgitate the company’s “About” page. So, when an interviewer asks you this, she isn’t necessarily trying to gauge whether you understand the mission, she wants to know whether you care about it, and she’s looking for the person in the applicant pool who can most effectively discuss the organization’s work and its impact. So, in addition to doing your research on the company’s work, think about concrete ways it relates to your passions and experiences, and weave them into your answer.

Start with a sentence or two that shows you understand the mission, using a couple key words and phrases from the website, but then go on to make it personal. Say, “I’m personally drawn to this mission because…” or “I really believe in this approach because…” and share a personal example or two. For example, if you’re interviewing at a school that stresses character, share some specific character-building education activities you’ve led for students at your last job. If you’re interviewing for a position at a hospital, talk about the 5K you recently ran to raise money for leukemia, or your passion for volunteering your time to help children with terminal illness.

Question: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Translation: Do you care about our work?

Hiring someone is an investment, and interviewers believe (as you would expect) that someone genuinely interested in the organization’s work will be the better hire. So, what she really wants to know is whether this particular job and company is part of your career path, or whether you’ll be jumping ship in a year once you land your “real” dream job.

So how should you answer? If the position you’re interviewing for is on the track to your goals, share that, plus give some specifics. For example, if you’re interviewing for an account executive position an advertising firm, and you know your goal is to become an account supervisor, say that. And then add specifics about the sort of clients you hope to work with, which will help your answer sound genuine, not canned and again show why this particular company will be a good fit.

If the position isn't necessarily a one-way ticket to your goals, the best approach is to be genuine, but to follow your answer up by connecting the dots between the specific duties in this role and your future goals. Discuss how you see this experience playing an important role in helping you make that decision, or that you’re excited about the management or communications skills you’ll gain.

Question: Do you have any questions for us?
Translation: Have you really been listening?

It’s easy to go into an interview with a list of questions about the position. But the tougher part and what the interviewer really wants to see is whether you can roll with the punches, engage in the conversation, and ask questions that weren't already answered over the course of the interview.

This will require some thinking on your feet. As you’re going along in the interview, be thinking which key areas haven’t been covered yet, so you can target your questions there. You can also prepare ahead of time by thinking of more non-traditional questions, or ask questions targeted to the interviewer herself, which probably won’t be covered in the interview. Try things like: What you like most about working here? What drew you to work for this organization? What do you think are the current strategic challenges facing the organization? What advice would you give to someone in this role?

5 Books to Read For Career Success

If you're anything like me, after four years of intense reading and writing, the last thing you want to do is pick up a book. In fact, many of us never pick up a book again, which can be pretty detrimental to our post-grad career. 

I'm not suggesting you read the type of book about cosmopolitanism you were dreadfully assigned in Composition II, half read but still managed to write a killer report on. Nor am I suggesting you pick up a history book. Instead, there are plenty of books written about career advancement and how to survive after college, many of which offer advice and inspiration to us college graduates trying to find their way in the real world.

 Here are 5 books new grads should read for career success. ( Okay, okay, I admit I did not read them all, but a few of them I did, and the ones I didn't were recommended to me by close friends and they are just as great.)

1. What Color is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles

It’s not a book about jumping out of an airplane (the appropriate title for that would be God, I Hope I Have My Parachute), but instead it’s about developing goals and learning about what your strengths and weaknesses are. It’s almost like a career journal. The best part is that it’s time-tested: It’s been helping college graduates for more than 40 years, coming out with new editions annually.

I was actually assigned this book in a class I took titled "Leadership Concepts and Cases". The book boosted my confidence significantly as it relates to starting a career path. I highly recommend it.

2. What Should I Do With My Life by Po Bronson

Whoa. Kind of a heavy question for a book title. But the cool thing about this book is that, through individual stories, it helps readers understand that not everyone knows exactly what they want to do fresh out of college or high school. Sometimes, it’s just life experience that shapes people and how they get to where they are.

3. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

One thing your college or university might not teach you is how to network. They educate you in the ways of book-smarts and facts, but when it comes to having relationships with people, that’s not always on the agenda. This book is out to supplement that education. I spoke about this book a bit in a previous post.

4. Do What You Are by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger

If you like taking personality tests and quizzes, then this is the book for you. Do What You Are’s aim is to help people identify their personality types and from there discover what jobs for which they may be suited.

I just recently finished this book. A mentor of mine sent this with a card on behalf of my graduation. (I wish it was a check... but hey, you can't win em' all) I already had in my mind what jobs I'm suited for but the book helped me reflect on myself and my personality as it relates to my strengths and weaknesses.

5. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

Sure, it’s a children’s book, but it offers a lot of amazing adult advice (plus, it’s short!). What’s written can be applied to most any career situation, and it also helps post-grads get out of the “college bubble” their university often unintentionally puts them in.

Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

Me and a BUNCH of my other friends got this book as Grad-gifts. ( I guess its a go-to?) My aunt almost had me fooled in believing it was a one of a kind gift.

Post Grad Time Mangement Challenged: How To Maintain a Work-life Balance

When I made the transition from classroom to cubeland, the biggest bear I faced was time management. Students usually have the luxury of having at least a few days before turning in an assignment, whereas professionals schedules are never constant, and often have tasks that were due 10 minutes ago.

Instead of becoming overwhelmed, be prepared for these moments by practicing good time management.

Use these tips as a reference:

1. Find A System That Works For You
There are countless ways to systematically organize your time and responsibilities. Choosing the system that works best with your personality will  make adding agenda items easy to maintain, ensuring follow-through of tasks. Checklists and calendars are two common examples, but even the components within these systems are complex (e.g. digital vs. notebook, color coding vs. separate pages). For me, Outlook’s built-in checklist feature makes it easy to link specific emails to tasks, which I can assign a priority and deadline. For my more personal tasks I keep a little notebook where I list my "to do" for the day. As I finish a task I cross it off. Any task I don't complete I carry on to the "to do" list for the next day. I write the list the night before, right before going to bed. Keeping it visual allows me to set short term goals and long term goals.

2. Get It Right The First Time
So much of your day can be wasted if your work requires heavy revisions. Successfully completing tasks the first time will not only allow you to keep your other deadlines, it also helps your colleagues keep theirs. Ask your supervisor questions before you begin an assignment to clarify what the end product should look like. If you feel a task is taking longer than necessary to complete, ask another staffer if they know a shortcut. Discovering efficient methods rewards you with more time in your day to accomplish other tasks. Don't do work just to get it done, do it in terms of efficiency. 

3. Prioritize And Manage Expectations
Working on multiple accounts or having multiple supervisors is a recipe for miscommunication. Managers rarely discuss the things on your plate, so it’s your job to raise flags when you have competing deadlines. Talking through assignments will sometimes uncover some flexibility in deadlines; maybe your supervisor has a long meeting at the time you were originally tasked to turn something in for review. I don’t recommend you challenge every assignment, but do speak up when it is necessary.

Renting 101: Look for an Affordable City That Matches Your Interests and Personality

For many recent grads, the first year after college is an exciting, but fraught time: you've achieved your educational goals, you’re at the top of the heap… and now you’re expected to join the so-called real world, doing entry-level work. The point is, you need to decide where you are going to start building a life. One option is to first find a job and go where that takes you. Another way is to choose a city that will offer you a lifestyle, not just a job and affordable rent.
What city will you choose? After all, if you’re still figuring out how to become a financial powerhouse, living in New York or San Francisco will be difficult. You’ll likely be living in cramped quarters in a mediocre (or worse) neighborhood. Sure, if you ride the train for half an hour, there will be a lot of cool bars, and tons of cultural opportunities, but if you can barely make your rent, how could you justify springing for $80 Knicks tickets, $12 mixed drinks, or a $40 cab ride? You probably can’tand seeing others being able to enjoy a city, while you’re stuck on the sidelines can be frustrating.
Also, remember this: very, very cheap rental rates can be a sign that the place has little else to offer.  Even worse for a new grad,  places with extremely low rent usually also have an extremely depressed economywhich means it will be difficult to find a job there, and when you do, you won’t get paid much.
So, where should you look? Mid-size cities are a good place to start. Generally speaking, the Midwest, or the South is cheaper, and you don’t necessarily sacrifice on the culture front. That said, be careful. There are lots of lists of “most affordable cities,” and they don’t necessarily reflect what you want. 

For example, Time magazine rated Des Moines, Iowa, as the most affordable city for renters. Now, I’ve been to Des Moines (as a pit stop driving to Oregon). There’s certainly nothing wrong with it, but when your number one things-to-do talking point is a minor league baseball team, it might not be a good place for an artistic post-grad. You get where I'm going with this...
Some other cities from the list: Harrisburg, PA (#2), Ogden, UT (#3), Wichita, KS (#5), Seattle, WA (#9), and Pittsburgh, PA (#10). As you can see, there’s a wide range of city sizes and personalities. The problem with these lists is they don’t factor in what you wantthey’re going very strongly by prices relative to the city’s overall cost of living. You don’t just want a good deal–you want a good deal in a place you’ll enjoy living.
So here’s my pick of  a few good first apartment cities that are both affordable and a good match to various types of personalities and interests:


Santa Fe, New Mexico: Georgia O’Keefe (famous painter of American landscapes) moved to New Mexico because she was struck by the landscape, in addition to the striking natural beauty, you’ll find tons of art galleries and museums, as well as artists honing their craft.

Minneapolis, Minnesota: For those who've not been there, the Twin Cities have a lot of artistic charm: The Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, and the Frank-Geary-designed Weisman Art Gallery are all top-notch institutions. Throw in a handful of galleries scattered about the cities and a great literary scene, and you’ll have plenty to keep you busy.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How To: Write an Effective Cover Letter

Well the time has come... I have been neglecting writing a post about Cover Letters, and today it is finally here. For me, writing a cover letter is the HARDEST part of the job search process. I am sure I am not alone in this, and as a result I have decided to provide my readers with a "how to" guide for writing a cover letter. 

Writing a compelling cover letter is a critical component of an effective job search for college students and recent graduates. A well thought out cover letter will show employers that you are a motivated candidate and place high value on their employment opportunity.

A quality letter will convey to employers both why you are interested in the job or internship and how your background will enable you to excel in the position. Lastly the cover letter serves as a writing sample and will demonstrate to employers that you can communicate logically and effectively.

Many times in the job description, the employer will mention specific things they want the job applicant to include in the cover letter, so be sure to read the description closely.  Unless the description says specifically not to, do not send a resume without a cover letter. The cover letter is an opportunity for you to market yourself in a way your resume does not. 

Step #1: Get In, Get Noticed, Get Out
The goal of a cover letter is to give a hiring manager enough information to consider you as an interesting candidate.  A common pitfall of cover letters is giving too much or irrelevant information.  A good cover letter is economical at three sections, usually one paragraph each, and includes the following:

First Section–Introduction and connection to organization’s mission
Second Section–Summary of your skills/background as they pertain to the position
Third Section–Thank you, contact instructions, and closing

Sticking to this format ensures that you are providing all of the key information sought by the hiring manager, while keeping it to a length that is accessible and easy to read.

Step #2: Personalize Your Opening
The golden rule of cover letters is simple: create a personal and unique cover letter for every job application.  A one-size-fits-all approach to a cover letter is sure to land your application at the bottom of a hiring manager’s pile.

Personalizing your letter begins with the greeting.  If a specific contact name is not provided in the job description, do not open your cover letter with “To Whom It May Concern” or, even worse, “Dear Sir.” Do research on the organization’s web site to find the right contact.  You may find the name of the director of the department in which your desired job is located or you may find someone in human resources.  As a last resort, address your application to the Executive Director of the organization. This shows that you took the time to research the organization and will always be viewed more favorably than an impersonal greeting.

From there, explain why you are passionate about the mission of the organization.  Communicate the substance behind your passion; instead of stating, “I always wanted to help people,” try “Because I was raised with amazing educational opportunities, it’s personally very important to me to make sure that other people have access to those opportunities as well.” The more personal and compelling your connection to the organization’s mission is, the more likely your cover letter will be read in its entirety.

Step #3: Connect the Dots
In the second section, create a connection between your skills and background and the job requirements.  Remember that your cover letter accompanies your resume, so do not simply re-state all of the information already listed on the resume. Use your critical thinking skills to really analyze the job description.  Beyond the specific qualifications listed, what can you determine about what this organization is really looking for in this role?  Use your cover letter to demonstrate how your skills and experience match with what they want.

Avoid general statements like, “I know I am the best person for the job.” It is more effective to let your skills and experience demonstrate the strength of your qualifications.

Remember to also address any cultural or personality attributes sought by the hiring organization.  Include examples that illustrate personal traits such as leadership, teamwork, flexibility, or other qualities valued by the organization.

As many hiring organizations value diversity, freely identify yourself as a person of color, having multicultural experience, and/or possessing attributes that could add to the overall diversity of the organization.  In many cases, illustrating your fit with an organization's culture is just as important as your skills and experience.

Step #4: Close with Style
The third section is all about wrapping up your cover letter neatly and elegantly. Use this opportunity to thank the organization for considering your application and to reiterate your enthusiasm for the position, organization, and mission. This is also where you can provide instructions on how and when to contact you, generally a phone number and email address.

Remember that you must ensure that you have a professional email account.  You can create a free account on Gmail.  Generally, your first and last name or initials (or some combination of both) are acceptable.  This is the contact email address you should include in both your cover letter and resume.

Step #5: Do a Test Run
Before you send your cover letter to a potential employer, check the job description for any specific instructions.  At the bottom of most postings, there are generally instructions for how the organization would like to receive applications.  For example, do they want to receive cover letters as attachments or in the body of the email?  Do they want you to include a list of references with your application?  Or do they want you to answer a specific question in your cover letter?  Be sure to follow the specific instructions for how to submit your application and what to include in your cover letter. This demonstrates your attention to detail, another very important characteristic for most hiring organizations.

Now comes the time to employ your “editor”— ask the best writer you know to proofread your cover letter for typos, grammatical errors, and any inappropriate wording such as humor, slang, or emoticons (happy faces have no place in a cover letter or any other professional communication!).  Also check for adequate variation in sentence structure. Do not begin every sentence with “I have” Remember, this is a real-life example of your writing ability, a skill that is highly valued by almost every nonprofit position.

Finally, test sending the cover letter in the format desired by the organization to your own email account.  This will allow you to make any adjustments in formatting before sending your application to the actual organization.  As a general rule, keep formatting to a minimum so that it will be preserved across different email or word processing programs.

Example of Cover Letter Structure

Your Address


Contact Person’s Name
City, State Zip Code
Dear Dr. Mr./Ms.__________________________:

Section 1
[one paragraph long]

Section 2
[one paragraph long]

Section 3
[one paragraph long]

Your signature
Your full name (typed)

I hope my how-to helps you write a rock star cover letter. It takes practice but once you get the technique, down your cover letter will serve as a huge asset to your resume.

Hot Off The Press! The Best Blog On The Internet!

The first blog I started to follow (and still to this day is my favorite) is a blog titled "The Daily Love" The Blogs creator Mastin Kipp, started writing while going through personal issues as a form of therapy, and it turned into something much larger. It began as a feed of quotes sent to Mastin’s friends, and shot to fame after receiving an approval tweet from Kim Kardashian. (WOW KIM, he must be a big deal.) Further, Mr. Kipp has been hosted on Oprah's weekly show "Super Soul Sunday" titling him as an “up and coming thought leader in the next generation of spiritual thinkers.” 

Mastin’s mission is to "Connect people back to what makes them happy. Happy people make better choices, and better choices make for a better world." The blog features guest writers and weekly contributors that touch on the topic of self love, self development, relationships, self help, finding inner peace, as well as personal and mental growth. Every post is perfectly crafted and forces the reader think and reflect.

In reading through the daily postings, I came across a post titled "TWENTY-SOMETHING DOES NOT HAVE TO BE TWENTY-EVERYTHING!"  The content of the post is extremely relevant to the topics I touch upon in Destination Happiness. 

The post writer, Christine Hassler is writing to remind the "twenty-somethings" that even though during our twenties, or as she puts it: "our quarter-life crisis", we experience an incredible amount of pressure, expectations, confusion, and anxiety while embarking on the decade where we think we need to "figure it all out." But if you take step back and look at the bigger picture, we actually don't have to figure it all out. Life is a constant journey, and if you are willing to remove societal and self expectations about figuring everything out on a certain timeline or according to a certain check list; that your twenties will be a time of great discovery, freedom and exhilaration. 

The post goes on to discuss different interviews she held with a bunch of over 30 thought leaders and experts. During the interview she asked them "What do you wish you knew then, that you know now?" A few themes seemed to arise again and again, including: learning from your mistakes, being true to yourself, getting in touch with yourself and your emotions and developing your personal brand.

I'm going to share with you a few points I found particularly helpful:

  • There is huge value in “oh no!” moments. The things that don’t go according to plan are often the biggest blessings in your life–sometimes it just takes time to clearly understand what the blessing is.
  • Youth does not make you invincible but it does give you the amazing opportunity to create habits for healthy living NOW.
  • Answering the question, “What do I want to do with my life” is more often a process of elimination rather than a lighting bolt of inspiration.
  • Write down what you want to be known for.  Make a list of your professional and character values and never sell out. Develop your personal brand–remember your passion makes you unique!!
  • Your thoughts are creating your reality so you are either attracting things to you or repelling them from you.  Be mindful of your thoughts!
  • Adopt a “what can I give” versus “what can I get” mindset.  That is how you truly make an impact on the world.
  • ALL relationships teach us valuable things about ourselves and are a catalyst for growth.  Even if they end, they are a success if you are willing to look at what you learned about yourself.
Christine closes by reminding the reader that "In order to create a life of meaning, you have to live it."

The advice Christine shares sparks a sense of initiative and makes me, an anxious "twenty-something", feel normal. The post reminds me that although putting an extraneous amount of pressure on myself will create external results, it could potentially cost me a lot of joy, peace, play and presence during this time of exploration. It reminds me to allow curiosity to lead me, and not be so hard on myself. (We are all our own worst critics.) 

I recommend the blog to everyone, no matter your interests. I guarantee you will find something that touches you, or helps you reflect on your inner most thoughts.

Remember: Each step is moving you forward, even if you feel like you are moving backward.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Going Up! Elevator Pitch 101

Undeniably, one of the most helpful classes I took during my college career was Business Communications. During the first few weeks of class the professor insisted I develop an Elevator Pitch.

What exactly is an Elevator Pitch?

An "elevator pitch" in regards to internship and job searching includes a 30 second overview of an individual's knowledge, skills, and accomplishments. The term comes from the time it takes to complete a normal (emphasis on normal, I can't tell you how many times I've unfortunately been stuck in elevators) elevator ride from the top to the bottom floor. It's an opportunity to get your point across in a timely manner; namely, who you are, what you've accomplished, and where you hope to go in the future.

Whether or not the origin of the term actually came from running into important people in elevators and delivering a short and clear sales pitch in the time it takes to ride the elevator, one thing is certain–-it’s important instrument to have in your tool kit.

In looking to define  "elevator pitch" for you all I stumbled onto Wikipedia to see what they had to say (which isn't much at all)...

An elevator pitchelevator speech, or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a person, profession, product, service, organization or event and its value proposition.[1]
The name "elevator pitch" reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.[2][3] The term itself comes from a scenario of an accidental meeting with someone important in the elevator. If the conversation inside the elevator in those few seconds is interesting and value adding, the conversation will continue after the elevator ride or end in exchange of business card or a scheduled meeting.[4]
A variety of people, including project managerssalespeopleevangelists, and policy-makers, commonly rehearse and use elevator pitches to get their point across quickly. An example is pitching an idea to a venture capitalist or angel investor to receive funding. Venture capitalists often judge the quality of an idea by the quality of its elevator pitch and will ask entrepreneurs for their elevator pitches in order to quickly weed out bad ideas and weak teams. Elevator pitches are also used in many other situations. Personal uses include job interviewing, dating, and summarizing professional services.
What this entry does not emphasize is the importance of the elevator pitch, for EVERYONE especially beginning professionals and college students. It also fails to mention just how often the pitch can be utilized, how to build one, and that a pitch is not a one size fits all model.

I decided to tack on information discussing why an elevator speech is important and what an elevator pitch should include:

The uses of an Elevator Pitch go beyond giving a brief introduction in an elevator. There are many more likely uses such as cover letters, email introductions, mentor requests, introductions at career fairs, introductions in interviews, casual networking encounters and leaving voice mails.  The elevator pitch is so important because it is the first thing that people ever hear or read about you.  Even before your resume, or proposal gets in their hands, your elevator pitch sets the stage for why they would spend the time to look at your resume, proposal or presentation, which leads to an interview or meeting, which leads to the job offer or grant.
The key to using your elevator pitch for the variety of settings listed above is to get the foundation right. 
- First, the pitch should be short. The base of your pitch should take no more than one 1 minute to recite or 200 words to write. It  should include who you are plus a credential, you should think of your credential as either something that differentiates you from you peers or something that establishes a relationship or similarity between you and your audience. 
The speech should contain a specific objective. Get to the point quickly about what you are looking for or how that person can help. Your objective should be something that the person can directly facilitate either by making the decision him or herself or connecting you to someone that can get you closer to that objective.
Your Elevator pitch needs to show how you have demonstrated your interest. Give examples of things that you have ALREADY completed or committed to that illustrate this interest.  E.g) Don`t just say that "I have always want to be an doctor". You should be able to say, "I have taken pre-med courses."
Briefly discuss why you are qualified. This is your chance to communicate what makes you someone that your audience should consider helping.  People typically like to help those that they feel will be successful in the process.  There are a couple of things you should think about when highlighting your qualifications: Include your industry relevance, leadership, expertise, pedigree and impact
 - Lastly, give the audience two options on how they can assist. This is an old sales trick.  Always give two options.  A person will often flatly turn you down if you give them one option, but if you give them two options, then they often commit to one of them.  This is different than communicating your objective.  As I mentioned above, the objective is the end goal; here you want to communicate how the person can help you in the process that leads to that end goal.
This strategy is transferable whether you are looking to market yourself, a product or a company. No elevator pitch is "one size fits all" and often need to be moderated depending on the purpose or audience of your elevator pitch.

I cannot emphasize just how much  an elevator pitch can help round out your job hunting arsenal. I'm sure many of my readers aren't as lucky (for lack of a better word, I mean really, how lucky can you be about getting assigned homework!?) to be forced into writing a speech for class and getting it reviewed by a professor who worked in the business sector for over 30 years prior to teaching.

If you need help getting started on your pitch, or getting your pitch reviewed, utilize your career service office! Also, here is a cool tool you can use: The Harvard Business School (ooooooh Harvard) created an Elevator Pitch Builder to begin your "pitchcraft" as they put it, definitely worth checking it out!
Harvard Business School Elevator Pitch Builder

So get to writing! And always remember...

 Be authentic. Be brief. And above all: Be Ready!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

How To Survive The Interview From Hell

The Interview from Hell.... 2 words: Brainteaser. Interview.

Have you ever heard of them, or even worse, have you ever sat through one of them?

I join a huge majority of the world in not understanding why any company would adopt such a horrible hiring practice, but they in fact do.

Brain teaser or puzzle interview questions first began popping up in high tech interviews. Since then they have become increasingly common, emerging in interviews for jobs in a wide variety of fields. They are almost guaranteed, and most commonly used when interviewing candidates for engineering and other analytic type positions.

The kind of brain teasing questions a company might ask is far spread. They range from complex, multi layered math questions, to intricate logic problems to bizarre questions that have no real answer.

If you've heard of this interview practice, you may or may not have heard of super companies such as Google being one of the toughest places to interview for a job, because their interviewers asked potential candidates a bunch of brain teasing questions. 

Like.....Seriously...? ... But wait, here's another

To get an even better idea, of the questions asked, I found this article on Business Insider titled 15 Google Interview Questions That Made Geniuses Feel Dumb listing the questions Google would ask during their interviews.

So, You may be asking yourself, what is the purpose of these questions? Super companies like Google, Microsoft and Amazon (just to provide a few examples) claim to use puzzles or brain teaser questions to determine the prospective employee's ability to solve problems, think creatively, communicate complex information in a non-technical way and to better gauge the candidate's ability to make educated guesses. In other words, it's supposed to reveal the candidates way of thinking and whether or not you freak out easy. (siiiick)

So what do you do when your resume overloaded with accomplishments, a detailed plan on how you can raise the company's profit margin and your stellar interview style isn't enough? Here, I provide a brain teaser interview how-to video, as well as a few pointers I've come across researching the topic.
How to:


  • Show up to the interview with pens, paper, markers, calculator, ruler, whatever, to work out a possible brain teaser. It's unlikely that you'll be asked, point blank, how many times heavier an elephant is than a mouse and be expected to answer it on the spot. You'll have time. And depending on the job and the field, what you do on your scratch paper is more important than the conclusion you reach.
  • Don't be shocked or offended. A question might surprise you or seem silly given the job for which you're interviewing. Don't let it throw you. Again, the answer is usually not the destination. Sometimes the wackiest question deserves an equally wacky process to reach a conclusion. But do take the questions seriously. Don't assume that it's being asked to tick you off or make you the butt of a human resources joke.
  • Question the question. Show your ability to think through a problem by asking a clarifying question regarding the brain teaser. Further, asking follow up questions will give your mind a break and buy you time to help you fully understand what is being asked so you don't solve the wrong problem.
  • Speak out your logic. Listen to what you are thinking. "Sounding out" the process of reaching an answer can help you think through the process in a different way.
  • Draw out your logic. Just like sounding out a problem can give your brain a productive push, drawing it out can help you edit and improve your approach. 
  • Practice. You can't prepare for the exact question unless you're sure you know what they'll ask. But you can exercise your mind by playing mental games, doing crossword puzzles and thinking about big problems. There are lists available on the internet that provide examples of brain teasing questions you can use to prep.

Hey, If I haven't said it enough or you need any reassurance the interview practice is stupid, Google, (in time) has come to agree. Google Says Tricky Interview Brainteasers Were "a waste of time"

Hope I could help! Good luck interviewing!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Back To Basics: The Resume—Tips To Make A Great First Impression

For both prospective college students, current college students and college alumnus,  there is a valuable resource often overlooked: Your University Career Service Office. The purpose of this office is to help its students navigate all aspects of the career development process providing up to date information on everything from resumes to the professional use of social media. The first step of the career development process, as emphasized in the Fordham Career Service Webpage is creating a Resume.

If you have ever been looking for a job, I’m sure you have asked yourself:  “What can I do to make my resume stand out and get an employer to seriously consider me for a job”?   If you Googled the term “resume”, you know that there’s a dizzying array of information and advice out there about what works best in putting something together that most effectively represents you.  How do you make sense of it all?

If you want your resume to have a good chance of being read by prospective employers, you must invest time and energy not only in its content, but also in its look. Whether you're creating your resume for the first time or in the process of revising it, keep the following tips that I learned during my time spent in the Fordham University Career Service office, on their website, and through their online services--that I now passing on to you to assure your resume is getting read:

1. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Particularly at the beginning of your career, it’s really hard to start your resume with a blank sheet of paper. So don’t. Check out examples at your university career center and borrow the best ideas for formatting, headings, wording and more. The Fordham Career Service Website offers easy to follow templates, and Resume Samples to help begin the process.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Seven Day Happiness Challenge Pt 2.

Hello! Welcome to part 2! In part one I provided a general synopsis on the key elements of happiness and began to briefly explained the steps  of the Happiness Challenge! [For your reference, here is a Link to Part 1] As promised in part one, I am going to provide a list of simple, yet over looked kind deeds one can do during the challenge in hopes to get your ideas flowing! I am also providing you with a Happiness Challenge Record Book I created for you to print out and use to track your progress for the duration of the challenge. (there's a preview at the bottom of the post)

How To Use This Record Book
Each day I have provided you with a quote that pertains to happiness, kindness or gratitude. How you chose to reflect is ultimately up to you, but I included these quotes that truly spoke to my heart  in hopes that you may spend some of your thinking time reflecting upon them. What do they mean to you in your life? What could you learn from them or put into practice in your everyday life? 

Mindful Reflection: Simply circle ‘yes’ or ‘no’ if you reflected that day. 

Act of Kindness: Be sure to record what kind deed or word you put out into the universe for the day!

Gratitude: List 3 things that you are grateful for that day. If it’s one of those days it can be as simple as ‘I’m grateful I woke up  today.’

Happiness Level: Circle a number from 0-10 that represents your overall happiness level for the day. Remember that circling ‘0’ does not necessarily mean you were depressed or sad, but maybe just devoid of any happiness. Think of ‘0’ as neutral and ’10’ as finding out you won the lottery. 

After downloading the Happiness Challenge Record Book, you can plot your numbers on the  scale and visually see your happiness increase each week!

Here is a list of kind deeds for you to implement:

  • Give up your seat 
  • Hold a door open for someone 
  • Give a (sincere) compliment 
  • Make someone laugh 
  • Give someone a hug 
  • Take time to really listen to someone 
  • Make someone new feel welcome 
  • Give directions to someone who's lost 
  • Have a conversation with a stranger 
  • Pick up litter as you walk 
  • Tell someone they mean a lot to you 
  • Let someone have your parking spot 
  • Read a story with a child 
  • Offer your change to someone struggling to find the right amount 
  • Treat a loved one to breakfast in bed 
  • Offer to help with someone's shopping 
  • Tell someone if you notice they're doing a good job 
  • Pass on a book you've enjoyed 
  • Say sorry (you know who to) 
  • Forgive someone for what they've done 
  • Visit a sick friend, relative or neighbor 
  • Buy an unexpected gift for someone 
  • Bake something for a neighbor 
  • Do a chore that you don't normally do 
  • Help out someone in need 
  • Offer to look after a friend's children 
  • Offer to mow your neighbor's lawn 
  • Donate your old things to charity 
  • Give food to a homeless person and  take time to talk with them 
  • Visit someone who may be lonely 
  • Give blood 
  • Get back in contact with someone you've lost touch with 
  • Organize a fundraising event 
  • Pay for the person behind you (toll, coffee, fast food,…)
  • Put a coin in an expired meter
  • Every time you buy a new clothing item, donate something
  • Send flowers to someone
  • While driving, let someone out/merge into your lane
  • Bake some healthy treats to bring in to work
  • Leave an extra generous tip
  • See what donations are needed at a local pet or women’s shelter
  • Invite someone over for dinner
  • Treat a friend to the movies or coffee
  •  Create motivational quote cards to leave in places
  • Sign up for a charity 5k
  • Ask for donations to your favorite charity instead of birthday/anniversary gifts
  • Text someone a motivational quote, funny joke, anything to show you are thinking of them
  • Call your parents and tell them you love them