Archive for December 2009
I had been intending to write about joining professional organizations this week, but something happened to me that changed my mind: I attended my first on-the-job meeting as an actual participant.
I don’t mean to say that I’ve never been in meetings, before. I’ve presented marketing plans, worked in teams, the whole nine yards. But this time was different: I was a key player explaining situations to leaders from a different department. I am no longer a student, someone’s meager assistant whose main purpose is to tote bags. I wasn’t dealing with volunteers, either. We were all there to accomplish a purpose and I was on relatively equal footing.
I remember sitting there, looking at my boss explaining the main points of the process, thinking, “Oh my God, how do I behave?” After all, I actually had the right to participate in this discussion. It was a novel experience for me since as a student I was rarely invited to participate. How much talking was too much? How much exitement was too much? I’m very interested in the topic we were discussing, so how would I show that?
So here’s a bit of how the meeting went. We were discussing future plans, and I thought I saw a snag. However, I didn’t want to derail the idea exchange, so I didn’t say anything. Besides, there would be time to hammer out the snags later. There always is. But one of the others in the meeting asked me what I thought. I was on the spot. I wasn’t explaining anything, and I was still dealing with people who had more experience with the company, if not with the subject matter. But I had been asked what I thought, so I said it. As a student, I would have been hesitant. But as a professional, I was confident, and that got approval.
Yes, it is a difficult and weird transition. But it’s a bit of fun, too. There’s more at stake, of course. When you put yourself out there, you put yourself more at risk. But as any finance professor would say, the more risk, the higher the available returns.
This week’s post is short. It’s not really an explanation of anything so much as an observation this week. When I originally thought of creating a blog about what it meant to be a “professional” I thought I would be dealing with professionalism and finding a job. But there’s also a personal, self-identity conundrum. Psychology shows us that we are what other people see us as. Individuals take how they believe others perceive them and interweave these perceptions into how the individuals view themselves. So as others see me as someone who has something to say, a valued and informed opinion that should be heared, my self-perception changes as well. This is part of the reason why job searches are difficult. A lot of people saying “no” gives the impression that they perceive you as worthless, which affects how you perceive yourself.
*Sorry I’m a day late! Not the most professional of me, huh? Still working on it myself*
This week’s post is on time management. Rephrased, it’s on how you can find a job, get your work done, do some self-improvement projects or hobbies, and still have a social life.
I’m a bit of an expert on this. I have ADHD. When I was younger, I couldn’t keep my mind on anything for an extended period of time. Now that I’m “grown up” I am much better at this, but the habbits I developed to get me through my childhood have stuck.
I keep a dayplanner, lists, and I prioritize like a madwoman. You might have got some of that from my last post Gadgets for the Pros, but now I’ll walk you through the process.
I get a lot of stuff done in a day, as long as I follow these steps. Granted, some days my schedule goes to the birds. I call those “Wasted Days” and love them dearly. Every mind needs some down time. Still, on other days I follow this process and manage to work on my blog, my novel, my personal reading (all three books), job and grad school applications, and some other tasks aside (like cleaning those dishes).
The steps in this process are:
- List out all events in a calendar, like taking an exam. Highlight them or otherwise make them stand out. I advise getting a dayplanner so you’ll have enough room to write all of your daily tasks.
- Go through those events and see which ones you’ll need to prep for, like studying for exams or working on a project before its due at work. Plan out how far in advance you have to start working on those things and what needs to happen each day. In the end, your days in your calendar should look like individual lists with highlighted event items (like actually taking the exam).
- Prioritize the tasks. Be sure to note not only which ones are important but which have to get done that day and which can happen tomorrow. This will let you adapt to things that come up during the day. Like if you have a friend call who is sick and needs a ride to the doctor. Or if your friends call and want to see a movie.
- Look at what you have to do each day. Any meetings? Have to be at a job interview on the other side of town? How about birthday parties? Plan out your day. How much time will you have to work on your to-do list? Figure out when you will be able to do that work.
Something else to note: Be sure that if you’re going to have to be mobile, you bring the tools you need with you. For instance, this week I had a job interview and exam on the other side of town, so I knew I wouldn’t be home between 9 am and 8 pm. I brought everything I could with me, including my current reading projects, so I could go to my favorite cafe and still be productive.
Easy, right? If only. None of this is probably completely new to you. We’ve all heard of dayplanners. My middle school actually gave me one at the beginning of each year, and I know ASU hands them out to Freshmen, at the very least. No, the tough part isn’t getting the tools and memorizing this four step process. The tough part is actually doing it. You have to have discipline. And not just in the doing part, either. The planning part is equally, if not more, important.
Most problems with this process that I’ve seen when coaching my friends, is that the daytimer just isn’t filled out right. The priorities are set, the free time is marked, and the due dates are all noted in red ink and highlighted in annoying yellow. But that doesn’t help you much. You have to plan out what needs to happen each day. Otherwise, you might foreget that essay and have to write the whole thing the day before it’s due, even though you’ve had plenty of time to work on it. I would rather get one paragraph done a day by stretching out my writing time to 6 days on the project than work like a madwoman the day before the paper’s due just because I only noted a due date in my daytimer. A paragraph a day means I’m fresh when I tackle the project (any project) and can even get some free time in to watch Bones (my favorite television show currently running).
Now I’m not tooting my horn for nothing. I’ve got the grades to make me a minor authority on study habits, and they transfer pretty nicely into professional development. Just pretend that instead of just being a hobby all of your personal development projects (like reading that book on hard sales) is for a class and has a due date. Tada.
So, in the end, time management isn’t really that hard. It’s not mystifying, and it certainly isn’t rocket science. It just has two components: Planning and doing. If you have the planning bit down, then it’s just the discipline to do it. And hopefully it all becomes habit, so you’ll not even have to think about it.
Oh, and if you read this, leave a message. I love comments, and yes, I’m begging. I won’t get better if I get no feedback! And if you have a topic you want to hear more about, I’ll be happy to do all the research for you. I take requests.
I have been dreaming of a BlackBerry ever since I went and worked for Disney on the Walt Disney World College Program last year. Managers in the parks carry clunky BlackBerries with them wherever they go as a combo radio/phone. Not pretty, not glamerous, but my managers looked so cool whipping those BlackBerries out of those holsters (also known as belt clips). I had Phone Envy.
I finally got my very own BlackBerry Tour after my old cell phone company gave me a hard time replacing my dead phone. (It fell in water. Not the smartest thing I’d ever done with my phone.) So I went over to Sprint and signed up. I took my phone home, ripped open the packaging, and began messing with it. I knew what I wanted it for: the ability to check my e-mail and read attachments. I’m convinced this tool will let me run both my life and work in a smoother, more productive fashion. But looking at the newly minted phone, I was left with one large problem: I didn’t even know my phone number by heart yet, much less how to work the dang thing.
Which at last brings me to today’s topic: How to make the BlackBerry (or any smartphone) work for you. I have a BlackBerry Tour, and as a notable non-expert on the things, I cannot speak about any other type of BlackBerry, but hopefully this will show you how you, dear reader, could use a smartphone to make yourself more professional/productive.
First off: E-mail with Attachments! At last you can get your report revisions, group presentations, and PDFs on your phone as soon as they are sent. My BlackBerry Tour even lets me modify them. So here’s an example: I was sitting in a class when I received an e-mail via my phone. I checked it and discovered it was from my group whose presentation was the very next class. The presentation was done, but no one had yet agreed to present. I’m a fairly decent public speaker, so I decided to give it a go. With the PowerPoint on my phone, I was able to familiarize myself with the material before the class so that when I actually got to the presentation, I sounded pretty good (if I do say so myself). Now, this is a classroom example, but we all know how flexible you have to be for business life. This could have easily been a last minute presentation for my company’s CEO or a client, and with this phone, I would be able to nail any presentation.
GPS Directions: Don’t get lost going to an appointment. I’ve stressed before how important it is to arrive early to meetings and job interviews. With this, you can garauntee it.
Tasks in your Calendar: Control your meeting schedule and your to-do list by putting them together. This is a bit tricky, and it took me a lot of searching to figure out how to do this on the BlackBerry, so I’ll put the directions here for anyone else who needs it:
- Go to your Tasks menu and add in your task. Set a Due Date (if you want it continuous, like my Work on Blog, there’s a space for that. There’s also a Recurrence option to say Daily and an End option–mine is Never for this since I always want to blog)
- Go to the Calendar Application and get the Menu screen, go to Options, General Options, and enable Show Tasks. Now all tasks with Due Dates will appear on those Due Dates. As you Mark them Complete they will appear on the next day, or the next Reoccurence.
Okay, so those are my top 3 reasons for having a BlackBerry for professionalism/productivity. I have other reasons, of course. The Facebook app is very nice. But those are my top three reasons. What do you think? Is a smartphone worth it, or is it just a waste of money? Leave me a comment. I really do want to know.
I got back a few days ago from a long interview day at a large food company. I am applying for a sales position. If I get the job, I’ll let you all know who it is. Before going, I was very, very nervous. After a bit, my goal was just to survive the experience and getting the job would be an extra. I had to calm myself down somehow so I started looking for tips. I went online to find tips and I asked my ASU Career Coach for some advice.
My interview was in another state, so I had to fly there. The company made my travel arrangements, though this is not always the case. I think that companies like to leave you mostly on your own in order to see how you’ll cope. Especially if you’re a college hire, they will want to know how mature and self-sufficient you are. Of course, I may be wrong, but it sounds right. In my case, they got me the car, hotel, and flight. I had to handle all the in-betweens. This would have been easy had I been provided really good directions. While not a deliberate sabotage, no one had told me my destination was in the middle of nowhere. I suppose that was my test. I passed due to a GPS I borrowed from my father. Others may just look it all up on Map Quest first.
I will make a side note about renting a car here. I do not like to drive. I hate it, in fact, but it’s a necessary evil. If you know you will have to rent a car and dislike driving like me, do a bit of research into which type of car you want to rent. If possible, drive one first. Getting used to a new city and a new car at once was nerve-wracking, and I was already plenty nervous. It did not help my mood.
When the interview day began, I came face to face with perhaps the biggest difference between the final interview and the ones before it: the interviewers. The final interview is a lot like the ones before it, of course. The position hadn’t changed, and the questions I was asked were all very similar. Still, before, I had generally been talking to an HR professional. While very nice, she probably did not know much about the specifics of the position and what it’s like day to day. From what I’ve been told, HR interviewers tend to have a list of questions and are listening for key phrases in the answers. They don’t have to work with you. In the final interview, the interviewers are the people who may become your managers and coworkers. In my case, I spoke to the VP of Sales, a trainer, a product manager, a product designer, and other people involved with the sales department. They’re looking for not only if you have the skills but if you have a personality they want to work with.
You may have noticed I’m speaking about interviewers. The final interview tends to be long; mine was a whole day. A meal is often included in the process. I like to think that even if I don’t get the job, I got a good lunch. And it was very good. I ate at the town country club while being interviewed by a gentleman high up in the company hierarchy. I was very nervous leading up to this. After all, it was not just lunch, it was a critical interview. I wondered, should I eat? What should I order? So I asked my career coach at ASU. She told me to eat. We’re human beings, and expected to eat, so go ahead. But she warned me not be engrossed in my food. I had to stay alert and active in the conversation over the meal. Some places do an informal lunch, others are more formal. Mine was a formal interview. In either case, it’s still an interview. Still, I had a very nice lunch of raviolis. As I said, if I don’t get the position, I’ll have had a nice meal.
Other than that, I had 6 interviews very similar to the first interview. They were back to back and stressful, but moreso because of the pace than the questions. Below are some tips I think would help. You may think they are similar to my tips for first round interviews. You’re right.
Review what happened in the previous interviews. From all my reading, it seems that previous experience is a guide to the future. Interview styles are very similar due to the corporate culture and approach to the job. And I can tell you, after completing my interview, this is true. If you first interview was very unstructured and free-flow, that’s likely how the others will be, too. Now, I can always be wrong, but it’s a tip that might help you feel less nervous as you continue in the process.
Relate your abilities to the job. Try and help the interviewer see you in the position by always pointing out how you have the qualities they are looking for. I find that writing cover letters helps me do this. After all, a cover letter is all about showing how your abilities are what they are looking for so they will interview you. An interview is the exact same thing to get them to hire you.
Dress and act formally. Just like in the previous interviews, you need to look the part. Dress nicely in business professional. Behave well, too. Especially if you are going to be in their corporate headquarters, pretend you are always being watched. It might not be all that far off. My Career Coach at the WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State told me to wear a suit on the plane to my interview. After all, she said, you never know who else will be on that plane.
Get business cards. Now I am terrible at this one, but it is very, very important. It shows you care, and it lets them know you will be sending them thank you notes, which leads us to…
Send thank you notes. This is extraordinarily important. Apparently most people don’t do this. So if you do, imagine who is going to stick out in their minds come decision time? And when it’s the last interview, this is even more important.