Monthly Archives

January 2013

Career Tools

Success In A Card

thankyoucaligMany occasions warrant a “Thank you.”  A stranger who holds the door open, a neighbor shovels your driveway, a friend picks up the tab, these all  qualify for a quick “Thank you.” There are many other occasions that deserve a much more meaningful exchange than these two simple words, and should be done in ink or email.  Crafting the perfect thank you letter takes time, but also requires being specific and meaningful.

Less than 10% of all job applicants send thank you letters following an interview.  For many hiring managers, that can mean the difference between rejection and a pay check.  Thank you letters allow the interviewer or hiring manager to review the applicants’ writing style and abilities as well as their mindfulness of etiquette, desire for the job and dedication.  While interviews should be a top priority for sending a thank you letter, informational interviews, job shadow opportunities, networking lunches and referrals all deserve the same act of expressing gratitude.

Here are a few tips to writing a succinct and successful thank you letter:

1. Send it Now – Thank you letters should be sent with in 24 hours of the event, interview or occasion.

2. One for everyone – send a specific letter or message directed towards each person and what was discussed.  Citing specifics of what was discussed with each person will also assist the contact with remembering who you are.

3. Be genuine – state your appreciation and make sure it is from the heart.  Being authentic about the experience and/or help provided displays the gratitude felt for the provided opportunity.

4. Continue to sell – The thank you letter is another opportunity to elaborate on skills already mentioned or additional skills that were not discussed.  State how your abilities meet the needs of the position, or why you would be a good fit for the role and/or company.

5. Address weaknesses or misunderstandings – If questions were raised about qualifications or experience, address them there, but do so briefly.  Mention that you are a quick learner or have completed similar projects with great success.

For the format of the thank you letter, follow below:

Paragraph 1:  This explains why you are writing…thank you.

Paragraph 2: This explains how your specific skills are a match for the job and how you will add value to their organization.
This might also be an opportunity to address any of your areas of weakness during the interview or to improve upon an answer you gave during the interview.

Paragraph 3: This emphasizes your gratitude for the opportunity and states when YOU will be following up.

Keep in mind, thank you letters should be concise and to the point.  If hand writing a letter, practice on scratch paper first.  Be sure to proof read and limit yourself on length, gratitude is the most important factor and should be the main message.

 

For more tips view the following resources:

Quintessential Careers

About.com

 

Career Tools

UST Shadow Day Preparation

JobShadow2

Many University of Saint Thomas MBA candidates will be embarking on an engaging experience tomorrow.  The Graduate Business Career Services Department organized Shadow Day experiences with UST MBA Students and 40 professionals from General Mills, Target, UnitedHealth Group and many other local organizations.  The Job Shadow experience provides MBA students an opportunity to interact as well as see the world of a leading professional.

This experience provides ample opportunity to network, gain insight as well as hands on experience in a professional setting.  Although the scheduling and matching has already been completed, much more leg work is still required by the students.  To ensure the Job Shadow experience is a success, a few suggestions and questions are prepared to fully engage the “Shadower” as well as the “Shadowee.”

Self Assessment

Understanding your interests in a company, position, or industry are key factors when discussing your passion and displaying enthusiasm for a future professional career.  Be prepared with information about yourself, including STAR statements (Situation, Task, Action, Result), and a personal commercial.  Consider sharing classes or projects of interest, volunteering and professional experiences, any additional career exploration that has been completed and information about your work values, skills/abilities, work environment preferences, and/or work style.  Sharing this information allows the shadow professional to act as a guidepost during your education, career search as well as a referral after graduation.

Research the Organization/Position

Obtaining information on the organization as well as the position allows you to be properly prepared as well as knowledgeable.  Be aware of the company’s values, mission statement, competitors and goals.  Properly preparing and researching prior to a Job Shadow will allow you to sound knowledgeable and feel much more confident about the experience in general.  An additional benefit is learning more about the company and position beforehand to provide perspective before and after the experience.

Suggested questions to ask when completing a Shadow

Use your Shadow visit wisely to get all of your questions answered. It’s important that you prepare in advance a list of questions to ask during your visit. Some commonly asked questions are listed here:

  • What are your job responsibilities? Describe a typical day.
  • When and in what position did you start?
  • What do you like about your job? What are the pressures, problems and frustrations of your work? Is this typical of the field/organization?
  • What recommendations do you have for someone who would like to enter this field?
  • How competitive is entry into this field? What is the outlook for future openings?
  • What characteristics, skills and education does a person need to effectively do the job? What qualities make a person successful here?
  • What advice can you give someone who wishes to enter this field?
  • Describe some of your work values. How are those realized in your work?
  • What are the personal rewards of the job?
  • What challenges might a new employee encounter in adjusting to this job/organization?
  • What professional publications are read by people in this field?
  • What professional organizations do people in this field belong to?
  • Are there any internship opportunities offered through your organization?
  • Who else might you suggest I talk to for additional information? May I use your name to introduce myself?
  • For a soon to be MBA Graduate, what advice do you have in regards to my professional goals?
Career Tools

5 Key Traits of Successful Leaders

characteristicsOfALeaderLeadership, the ability to inspire others to take action, take responsibility and action for the sake of a common goal. Many characteristics assist in creating a powerful and respected leader.  While some leaders are born, those striving to reach the top of the food chain can do so by following the five key traits of successful leaders from CEO Patty Vogan.

“In the book, Lessons From the Top: The Search for America’s Best Business Leaders, Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, made the following observation:

“I think it’s very difficult to lead today when people are not really truly participating in the decision. You won’t be able to attract and retain great people if they don’t feel like they are part of the authorship of the strategy and the authorship of the really critical issues. If you don’t give people an opportunity to really be engaged, they won’t stay.”

 

As an entrepreneur with employees, one of your primary goals is most likely to attract and keep motivated workers. So let’s explore the five key traits that will help you become the kind of leader people love working for.

Key Trait #1: You must have a vision. We’ve all heard the saying “You must stand for something, or you’ll fall for everything.” But what does that really mean? Standing firm when it comes to your company’s policies and procedures is all well and good, but it doesn’t speak to having a vision. As a leader, you have to learn to communicate your vision or the vision of your company to the people you want to follow you. But how can you do that?

  • Learn to paint a picture with words. Speak it, write it, draw it, touch it. Whatever methods you can use to create a picture, do it. As they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
  • Ask each of the other managers in your company to tell you, in their own words, about the vision of the company. How close is it to what you thought they understood? Is your team on the same page as you?
  • As you work, your company’s vision should be in your mind every day, and you should reevaluate it occasionally so that it stays current with the changing times in which we live. And remember, your staff needs to be just as involved as you in keeping it up to date if you truly want them to buy in on the vision. Be sure to keep your key players involved.

Key Trait #2: You must have passion. Your employees want passion; in fact, they’ll go to the ends of earth because of it, live and die for it. Think of the sailors who traveled with Christopher Columbus or Leif Ericsson to explore uncharted territory. Their leaders’ passion inspired them to take on new and very dangerous challenges.

To build an extraordinary management team, you’ve got to light the “fire in their bellies,” to get them to feel passion about the company and connect to the leader’s vision. Passion is such a key part of being a great leader that if you don’t have it, you simply can’t be a great leader. Think of all the great leaders throughout the ages and try to name one that did not have passion.

And passion is infectious: When you talk about your vision for the company, let your passion for your vision shine through. Others will feel it and want to get on board with you. If you don’t have passion for your vision, you need to recreate your vision or reframe your description of your vision so it’s connected to your passion.

Key Trait #3: You must learn to be a great decision maker. How are major decisions made in your company? What is your process for making them? For instance, do you talk to your management team and create a list of pros and cons to help you make the best decision? Maybe you conduct a cost analysis. Or do you create a timeline for the implementation strategy, process and timing?

Some leaders have a set process, and others fly by the seat of their pants. But you don’t want to be one of those leaders who consults no one before making a decision, announces the change the next day and then gets frustrated when no one follows it. If you’re one of those, I urge you to implement a set process.

In fact, here’s a system you can use to become a better decision maker. It’s called the Q-CAT:

  • Q = Quick. Be quick but not hasty.
  • C = Committed. Be committed to your decision but not rigid.
  • A = Analytical. Be analytical, but don’t over-analyze (Too much analysis can cause paralysis.)
  • T = Thoughtful. Be thoughtful about all concerned, but don’t be obsessive.

When you use the Q-CAT, it’ll help you to decide when to bring others into the process and what steps need to be taken to help you make better decisions.

Key Trait #4: You must be a team builder. To become a great leader, you must develop a great team or, one might say, a well-oiled machine. But how do you do that? You can start by handing off responsibility to your team and letting your team to run with it. Don’t breathe down their necks and don’t micromanage, but make yourself available if questions or problems come up. Teach your team to use the Q-CAT decision-making system and give them the freedom to work through their own decisions.

When projects aren’t on track or your team is falling behind on deadline, it serves no one if you start pointing fingers. This is when you need to rise to the occasion and inspire confidence in your employees, to let them know you support them and ready to help. Be ready to alter plans and make new ones. Don’t forget to use humor to keep your team’s spirits up during a crisis. When an emergency hits, your team will look to you to be a tower of strength and endurance.

Key Trait #5: You must have character. Without character, all the other “keys” are for naught. That’s because your innate character strengths and limitations play a critical role in your leadership style. The real question is, are you aware of just what role they play? All great leaders have taken steps to learn about their individual personality and what part it plays in their leadership style.

So what’s your leadership style? If you don’t know, there are many leadership style assessments available on the market. Two popular ones that have been around for many years are the Myers-Briggs assessmentand the “360-Degree Feedback” model. There are dozens of other to choose from–the important part is that you “Just do it,” as the Nike ad would say, and see how you rate. It’s a good way to do a “character check” on yourself and your leadership skills.

Then, once you’ve done the assessment, the question to ask yourself is, do you feel your character matches what the assessments are pointing out to you?

If you feel the traits don’t match who you think you are, then look a little deeper and be honest with yourself. Sometimes our first response is defensive. You might want to assess yourself with a different type of profile and then compare the results. Within the 360 Degree Feedback model, there’s an opportunity to see how your employees and peers view you, too. In learning to be a great leader, the first step is to be open to feedback about yourself as a leader and separate it from you the person.

So are you a great leader? Or do you have the desire to become one? Remember, a great leader is someone who has a clear vision and can turn that vision into a vivid picture that others can see. When you speak about your vision, it should be with a passion you feel in your heart, a passion that creates so much enthusiasm that your team will want to jump on board. When major decisions need to be made, you should encourage everyone to use the Q-CAT system and be responsible for his or her own actions. And you should be continually assessing your own character and never stop growing, personally or professionally.

If you can apply the five keys to great leadership, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a great leader surrounded by great employees!”

Article supplied by Patty Vogan is owner of Victory Coaching, an executive coaching company for business and personal success, and a chairman for the largest CEO organization in the world, TEC International. She has over 15 years of experience in leadership management, team building, marketing and entrepreneurship, and is the author of two books. Her latest book,Waking Up in Tonga, will be available in December 2006.

Career Tools

Dare to Dream, In Honor of Martin Luther King, Junior

martin-luther-king-jrMartin Luther King Jr., a leader beyond measure, succeeded long after his tragic death in 1968.  This respected and beloved hero represented human faith, civil rights, and the desire to improve the lives of others.  On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a 17 minute public speech to over 200,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  This reverberating monologue placed the hopes and desires of one man into the minds of millions, that continues to transcend generations to this day.  This was a  defining moment in the American Civil Rights Movement, but also a defining moment continued in the hearts of those who dare to dream. 

Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have A Dream Speech:

“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
King_Jr_Martin_Luther_093.jpgI say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

Career Tools

Learning For Life

learn-something-new

Employers strive to hire the best and brightest, subject matter experts for each available position. Knowledge of industry trends, historical and geographical information and ideas for the future are key contributing factors to the success any employee.  While employers review candidate after candidate, what is missing most is a desire to be a student for life.  It is wise to continue to develop skills and knowledge in the industry an employee is currently in, but developing skills and knowledge outside of their market is invaluable.

Author Dustin Wax provides insight, “Most of us have one or two areas of knowledge that we strive to know very well — things related to our jobs, of course, and maybe a hobby or two. But while it’s important to develop a deep understanding of the things that matter most to us, it is just as important to develop a broad understanding of the world in general.”

Wax continues with five simple suggestions to continue to expand your extensive knowledge base:

With the entire world of knowledge just a few mouse-clicks away, it has never been easier than it is right now to learn something new and unexpected every day. Here are a few simple ways to make expanding your horizons a part of your daily routine:

  • Subscribe to Wikipedia’s “Featured Article” list. Every day, Wikipedia posts an article selected from its vast repository of entries to it’s Daily-article-l subscribers. If you were a subscriber today, you would have recently discovered that Daylight Saving Time was first proposed by William Willett in 1907 and adopted during World War I as a way to conserve coal. You might have also been interested to find out that Kazakhstan discontinued Daylight Saving Time in 2005 because of alleged health risks associated with changed sleep patterns.
  • Read The Free Dictionary’s homepage or subscribe to its feeds. The Free Dictionary has several daily features on its front page, including Article of the Day (RSS), In the News (RSS), This Day in History (RSS), and Today’s Birthday (RSS). One recent day’s stories told the history of the Hell’s Angels, the identity of the new “7 Wonders of the World”, the origin of the first cultured pearl, and the life story of one of the world’s most prominent tenors.
  • Subscribe to the feed at Your Daily Art (RSS). Every day you’ll be confronted with a classic work of art to contemplate, along with a few notes about the piece. If you were subscribed right now, you might have recently seen Man Ray’s intriguing and playful “Le Violin d’Ingres” and Frank Weston Benson’s luminous “Red and Gold”.
  • Subscribe to the feeds at Did You Know? and Tell Me Why?. These sites are both run by an R. Edmondson, who certainly knows a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff. Updates are slightly less than daily, but I like the two sites so much I couldn’t leave them off this list. If you were a subscriber to these sites, you’d have recently learned why clouds are white, what the European Union is, the French terms for the days of the week and the months of the year, and the history of the development of public health efforts in response to the hazards of the Industrial Revolution.
  • Listen to podcasts like In Our Time and Radio Open Source. Radio Open Source is a daily interview/panel show covering everything from politics to science to art and literature to the greatness of the movie Groundhog Day. (At the moment, Radio Open Source is on summer hiatus, but subscribe anyway — they’ll be back!) For a history of the events and ideas that shaped the present, In Our Time is ideal: a weekly gathering of scholars discussing subjects as diverse as the life of Joan of Arc, theories of gravity, and what we know about the Permian-Triassic boundary. Subscribe to a handful of good, literary podcasts and get smart while you drive.

Listed above are several quick and easy methods to increase your knowledge base and become a much more versatile employee and conversationalist.  Engaging in just one of the aforementioned strategies will open endless possibilities to increased productivity, idea generation and skill development.