September 3, 2008

It’s Not a Meritocracy

Posted in Careers, On the Job tagged , , at 8:56 pm by Katelyn

Hannah Seligson’s book “New Girl on the Job: Advice From the Trenches” has long been on my to-read list, but after reading her article in the New York Times on Sunday, it has moved to the top of the queue.   She very realistically presented her query into why females perform circles around their male counterparts in an academic environment, but can’t seem to do the same in the workplace.

Aside from the typical outside forces – men who can’t see past appearances, women who undermine other women instead of helping them, or women who continually take “assistant-like” positions – it is often women who are the ones getting in the way of our own successes.  Seligson realized that in order to match men in the workplace, she needed to “develop a thick skin, feel comfortable promoting [her]self, learn how to negotiate, stop being a perfectionist and create a professional network – abilities that men are just more likely to have already.”

I can relate to wanting improvement on 4 out of the 5 above.  Creating a professional network is something that I have been aware of and something that I try to think creatively about improving on.  Feeling comfortable promoting myself and learning how to negotiate are two traits that I have seen more now that I am in the business world and I would have to agree that males typically have these 2 down.  They love to talk about how well they are doing and they are not afraid to argue or stand up for a point of view and they are often recognized for it.  I definitely need to work on those in order to keep up and surpass.  But ‘stop being a perfectionist’ is not something that readily comes to mind when I think of skills needed to advance or do well at work.  I am somewhat of a perfectionist at work because my job requires me to be detail-oriented and juggle tons of balls at once.  When I actually think about it though, I am always saying that I feel like I am ready to move into a position where I can look at the bigger picture, make bigger decisions, and delegate work.  A person at that level does not have the time or energy to be a perfectionist…I think she has something here and it’s something that I want for my career.

Ultimately, the quote that really drove Seligson’s point home was:

“By and large women believe that the workplace is a meritocracy, and it isn’t,” said Myra Hart.

Meritocracy (noun):

1.) a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.  2.) leadership selected on the basis of intellectual criteria.

If that isn’t reality, I don’t know what is.  For me, this article was motivating and a heavy dose of reality.  I am ready to bring that good old academic environment, where females succeeded above and beyond, to the workplace.


August 6, 2008

Avoiding Snap Judgments

Posted in Careers tagged , at 1:08 am by Lindsay

Some time ago, I was at an evening social gathering (read: house party) with my roommates.  We knew very few people there, but made a point to make the rounds and acquaint ourselves with those in attendance.  One such person, let’s call him Steve, was very receptive to our introduction and quickly began a conversation with us.  We were about forty five seconds into our exchange with Steve when the first snap judgment popped out of his mouth.  When one roommate told him she was from Kansas his immediate reply was, “Are you a farmer?”

She explained that she was actually from Kansas City, and that no, she was not nor had ever been a farmer.  With that he was off on his next topic.  He told us he’d guess where each of us had gone to college, knowing that we were recent graduates.  He turned to me and said “Florida State, right?  You were the girl passed out next to the keg.”  (Count along with me – snap judgment tally: two and three)  Ignoring my roommates who were trying to explain that I was perhaps the girl least likely to be in that position, he turned to my other roommate, squinted and said, “Harvard?”  Oh, Steve. 

Snap judgments shape our interactions with others.  When meeting a client or business associate for the first, second, or even third time, the conclusions we piece together will dictate how we treat them, what words to use, which subjects we bring up, and our general mood and approach.  Most importantly, others will be able to infer how we view them by the way we act towards them.  Even if Steve hadn’t been so forthcoming with his opinions, I would have known he viewed me as “the party girl”.  The intellectual girl-next-door in me wouldn’t have responded positively.

Realistically, we’re all guilty of making snap judgments, even though we’re usually smart enough not to blurt them out the second they enter our minds like our good friend Steve.  And to a point, they can be efficiency tools, used to make quick decisions when the situation does not warrant careful consideration.  Many decisions have to be made on the fly, and snap judgments may be the only information we have. 

But they can also be harmful, especially in the business world where it’s essential to build trust and create relationships.  A hasty judgment will put others on the defense.  They’ll perceive a lack of effort to get to know them and their needs.  It will make them resistant to everything you say and do, getting you nowhere.

Take time to get to know people.  Be hesitant to form an idea of a person with only a few details to work with.  And that ever popular adage, don’t assume.

I think a viewing of The Philadelphia Story, one of my favorite films, is in order for Steve.  I’d tell him to pay special attention when Katherine Hepburn declares,

“The time to make up your mind about people is never.”    

April 22, 2008

In a World with Google – No Excuse

Posted in Careers, Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:13 pm by Katelyn

Read With The Lobsters! – Every weekend, Katelyn and Lindsay discuss the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi in an effort to sharpen networking skills.

Never Eat Alone was really my saving grace last week. In an effort to put into practice what I’ve been learning from Ferrazzi, I scheduled a lunch with someone my former boss recommended I meet. I received his contact information from my boss and knew nothing about him other than that he had also interned for her some 10 years earlier. The night before we were scheduled to have lunch, I opened Never Eat Alone to read the next chapter titled “Do Your Homework.” Coincidence? I think not. The opening quote sums it up:

“Spectacular achievement is always preceded by spectacular preparation” – Robert H. Schuler (p. 67)

Ferrazzi continued on to contradict my entire thought process on researching someone. Normally I would assume you would research future acquaintances to have the upper hand, the inside scoop, the dirt, but Ferrazzi learns personal details so he can uncover a similarity that might exist. Similarities lead to interesting conversation which can lead to genuine connections and friendships, which is what we are learning networking is all about. Besides, he is also correct in that people are flattered when you show you’ve taken the time to do your homework on them.

Needless to say, I immediately googled and researched as much as I could about my lunch partner for the following day. It turned out that we had a lot more in common than a previous boss and our lunch was so much fun as a result!

April 20, 2008

A New Approach

Posted in Careers, Life tagged , , at 8:33 pm by Lindsay

Read With The Lobsters! – Every weekend, Katelyn and Lindsay discuss the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi in an effort to sharpen networking skills.

Networking is no longer a dirty word. 

Until now, I’ve always felt that networking was just a nice way of saying “using people” and I’m sure to some people, that’s all it is.  But Ferrazzi explains that in reality, networking is all about helping people.  He says,

“The more people you help, the more help you’ll have and the more help you’ll have helping others.  It’s like the Internet.  The more people who have access, and use it, the more valuable the Internet becomes.” Page 16

When you think of networking in this light, it becomes easier and more fun.  View networking as a way of contributing value to the whole group, and know that you are not the only beneficient.  The more people you help, the greater your network of connections become.  No matter what level of your career you’re at, there are always people you can help.  Keep your eyes open for situations where you can be of service to a friend or colleague. 

Ferrazzi says that another way to make networking more positive is to involve your passions in the process.  He suggests ideas like bringing someone along to participate in a shared hobby or a mid-day coffee break at a cafe – something other than a standing meeting in an office.  I think this is a great way to shift the focus onto making a friend, instead of just making a business connection.  It’ll make the relationship more personal and more beneficial for all involved. 

What are your views about networking?  What are the best ways you’ve found to connect with people?

April 17, 2008

Following Your Bliss

Posted in Careers, Life tagged , , at 11:03 pm by Lindsay

Read With The Lobsters! – Every weekend, Katelyn and Lindsay discuss the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi in an effort to sharpen networking skills.

Okay, so I’m a little late with this post, but that’s what I get for waiting until the last minute to do my taxes.

The concept that jumped out at me the most was Ferrazzi’s idea of the “blue flame”.  He says,

“We all have our own loves, insecurities, strengths, weaknesses, and unique capabilities.  And we have to take those into account in figuring where our talents and desires intersect.  That intersection is what I call your ‘blue flame’ – where passion and ability come together.  When that blue flame is ignited within a person, it is a powerful force in getting you where you want to go.” Page 26

 So often the question of what we’re meant to do in life or what career will make us happiest is overwhelming.  This “blue flame” idea is a great way to go about answering those questions.  You make a list of your greatest joys and another list of your greatest strengths, and wherever those criss-cross can lead you to a career you’ll be passionate about.  This can also be a great red flag as to your fufillment in your current job.  If you make a list of the things you’re passionate about and your current career isn’t related to any of those passions, chances are you’re not as fulfilled from work as you could be. 

The hardest part for me is not discovering what I’m passionate about, but discovering what I’m most passionate about.  I’m the type of person that when I like things, I like them a lot.  (Any Journey fans out there??)  So when I think about my passions, I end up with a longer list than I know what to do with.  I suppose this is a good problem to have, but I really can never decide what my ultimate passion is.  In a previous post called “Question My Sanity“, Katelyn and others made lists of daring career and life choices that could replace their current plans.  I believe I would be truly happy doing any of those things I listed.  I also am quite happy in my current field.  Which one of these is my truest passion?  How do I decide? 

Maybe I don’t have to.  It would be no use to me to put pressure on myself to decide which path I should pursue if that means not taking the time to enjoy the one I’m on.  It’d kind of be like worrying about how to be happy instead of just being happy.  I like my field.  It’s exciting and interesting and I have a steady income.  So for now, I’ll just enjoy it.  If there ever comes a time when I’m not as thrilled, I have those other fields to try my hand at.  In the meantime, I’ll work in those other passions as extra-curriculars.   

How about you guys?  Is anyone else torn between more than one passion?  Do you wonder whether there’s a career that you would like more or be more suited to?


April 13, 2008

Friends Remain

Posted in Careers, Life tagged , at 8:28 pm by Katelyn

Read With The Lobsters! – Every weekend, Katelyn and Lindsay discuss the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi in an effort to sharpen networking skills.

This weekend I finished reading Section One (The Mind Set) of Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone. These are great introductory chapters that outline the need for a network and motivate you to alter your mindset and go out there to make lasting relationships & friends.  The summary points at the end of chapter 2: “Don’t Keep Score” are what really stuck with me from this section.

“Business cycles ebb and flow; your friends and trusted associates remain” (p. 21).

“Job security?  Experience will not save you in hard times, nor will hard work or talent” (p. 21).

Both of these statements really hit home for me in our current economic times.  I feel increasing uncertainty for not only what my personal career holds for me, but how the economy will effect my ability to find my dream job.   What I am learning when it comes to finding or landing the job you want is the importance of having contacts rather than an impressive resume.  And wouldn’t it be great if those contacts were not simply a friend of a friend, but someone you have a relationship with who can really vouch for you?

For now, I feel grateful to have a job I feel secure in, where I am learning and growing professionally.  I know though, that this will not be my last job, and I know that when I am ready to move on, I will need the help of those within my network.  Without knowing exactly where I want to go next, I am going to make it a point to meet and build relationships with people from all different areas of business and service, because you never know where they may be able to help you in the future.  So I plan on using this time while my job is good and steady to meet people and network as much as possible, so that when the timing is right, my relationships will be in place.

Speaking of building our careers and changing jobs – Ferazzi mentions a branding idea that I have heard before, but would like to mention here.

“Each of us is now a brand.  Gone are the days where your value as an employee was linked to your loyalty and seniority.  Companies use branding to develop strong, enduring relationships with customers.  In today’s fluid economy, you must do the same with your network.”

I plan on creating lasting impressions and really looking for relationships rather than simply a collection of business cards.  I plan on giving/helping before receiving.

I’ll keep you posted on my continued reading of this great-so-far book and also of my own networking experiences now that I am motivated and reminded of their importance.

April 8, 2008

Never Eat Alone

Posted in Careers, Literature at 9:15 pm by Katelyn

I wanted to let everyone know that over the next few weeks Lindsay and I will be reading and discussing the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.  Our conversations will take place in our weekend posts.  So if you’d like to grab a copy and join in the reading and/or discussion we’ll be making our first post this weekend.

Happy Reading and Happy Networking!

March 18, 2008

Organizing your networking

Posted in Careers, Life, Uncategorized tagged , , at 9:01 pm by Katelyn

Whether it’s an old-fashioned Rolodex, a nifty binder of business cards, an extensiveRolodex Outlook address book, or a self-made spreadsheet, keeping a running list of contacts is essential for any career-oriented person, especially Millenials who are just starting out and will change jobs frequently.  Networking, in my opinion, is the best and most successful way to find a job.  Most employers would rather hire someone who comes with a recommendation from one of their contacts than someone they don’t know.  That means, every business card or person you meet should be entered into some sort of database.

Right now my personal contact database is in a variety of locations.  I have a personal address book, an old-fashioned Rolodex, and my Outlook address book for work.  I’m looking to stream-line my office space and am undecided as to the best way to organize all the contact information I’ve gathered.  I am leaning toward keeping my Rolodex as a place to store the business cards I collect and creating a spreadsheet where I can easily search for information.  It should include how I met each contact, their field of work, and the date at which I last spoke or met with them.

Do you have a set system for keeping track of all your contacts?

March 13, 2008

Bring Your Son Or Daughter To Work Day – Not Just For Kids

Posted in Careers tagged , , at 12:41 pm by Lindsay

As a kid, I looked forward to Bring Your Daughter To Work Day – a day when I got to skip school to hang out with Mom and Dad at their workplaces.  Dad’s office included a huge collection of art supplies and Mom had a co-worker with a seemingly bottomless drawer full of candy bars.  Candy and coloring aside, the day was designed to introduce young girls to the world of work and careers – presenting future opportunities while fostering ambition and interest in work. 

Lately I’ve reinstated the tradition, spending a day with my mom at her work whenever I travel home for a visit.  I’ve found that it’s much more interesting and beneficial now that I’ve studied business and can understand what she does and how the company operates.  It’s sort of like a one day internship.  For example, last time I spent a day with her, she introduced me to a co-worker who was trained in the practices of Six Sigma.  I had only studied the program in the context of manufacturing, so I asked about its application to a service-providing corporation.  She explained its uses and presto! – I had learned a real-world business lesson. 

Spending a day with a parent (or uncle, or godmother, etc.) as an adult can be a very valuable experience and a chance to apply concepts learned in college outside of the classroom.  Of course, it’s helpful if your parent works in a field somewhat related to your chosen career path, but even if they don’t, I’m sure there are plenty of lessons to be learned.  It’s also an opportunity to see another aspect of your parent’s life.  So next time you’re home, see if there’s time to squeeze in a day with dad or mom at work.  You never know what benefits it might bring you.  If you’re lucky, you’ll pick up some new knowledge and find a co-worker with a candy drawer. 

March 10, 2008

Who to advise?

Posted in Careers, Life tagged , , at 8:05 pm by Katelyn

One of Marci Alboher’s recent guest-bloggers on Shifting Careers was Michael Melcher, a career coach, who wrote about the idea of creating and maintaining a personal board of directors. All organizations or programs that are looking to grow and advance have a board of directors with various backgrounds and areas of expertise to evaluate and lead the group successfully forward. As young professionals looking to advance our careers and grow both personally and professionally, a board of directors would be a great asset.

The article is well presented with tips for finding the right group of people for your board and keeping in touch with everyone. My only question regarding a personal board of directors is — Is it more suited to people with a few more years of experience in work and life?

Let me explain…right now I rely heavily on my family and a small, select group of friends for advice on my career and life. My career is still young enough that I have not yet made many strong professional contacts and the majority of the friends I make or already have are as young and inexperienced in major life/career decisions as I am.  In addition, a handful of them have taken the graduate school route and have yet to experience the real world.  Who do I have outside of my biased family and friends to ask for unbiased, challenging advice?

If the whole idea of a board of directors is to have a diverse group of people, am I at the stage to be able to assemble one that will truly be beneficial? Who is the target demographic for something like this?

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