Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Reducing the Breakeven


Congratulations! You are about to start your new career - either with a full time job or an internship. What are the key things you should be thinking about now and during your first few months (or weeks in terms of an internship) on the job?


Starting off, you want to try to reduce the breakeven. Companies generally assume that it will take a person about 6 months before they will begin to add value to a firm (break even point). You want to reach this point faster and thus build your professional brand as a quick learner and strategic thinker. So, how do you do this?



1. First, tap into all of the data and documentation that you can find on the firm. Get analyst reports, read websites and articles, and any internal information that you have received. Know as much as you can before you get there, as this will help you significantly.



2. Connect, connect, connect. Talk with people who understand the culture and the politics of your new company. Talk to current employees, retirees, people who have left. All will provide good insight into the firm. You will learn about the philosophy and politics of the company - how are things done? What are the core values? Who makes decisions and who has the actual power? What is your new boss's working style? How can you best reflect this and make yourself invaluable? Which senior people in the firm do you need to build relationships with? How do they operate?



3. Figure out what your job entails. What are the main objectives of your role and what defines success? This is different at every organization, so it is important to figure out early. Also, think about what you have done in the past. Can you improve on this? In what ways?



4. Make sure to match your strategy to the situation. What kind of company are you going to work for? Is it a start-up, status quo, in transition, sustaining success? Each kind requires a different type of approach by you as a new leader.



No matter what you do, make sure that you are ready to jump right in the day you walk in the door. What are you doing to get ready to wow them at your new job?

Monday, May 16, 2011

If you don't design your career, someone else will


When is the last time you took an honest look at what you do and asked yourself – do I love what I do? I bet many of you can say you at least like what you do, but what would it take for you to love what you do? Well, it’s tough to find that out without doing a little self-assessment.

Today was a day inspired by Ted, not my friend Ted, rather TED – those ideas worth spreading. Nigel Marsh, the author of “Fat, Forty and Fired,” rode the exercise bike with me this morning, fitting as the topic was the elusiveness of work-life balance. His comment “I found it quite easy to balance work and life, when I didn’t have any work” says a lot...

Why is it that so many people wait for some major life event – missing that promotion, getting fired, having a child, losing a loved one - before they take the time to assess whether what they are doing is fulfilling? The reasons for this are many and varied. The one that pops to mind most easily is this – things are just so busy that there’s “no time” to take a breath. I’m here to remind you of this fact: if you don’t stop to take the breath, no one else is going to do it for you.

If you don’t stop for a moment to ask yourself: “what is it that I love (or even like) about what I’m doing?” you might find yourself doing more of what they want you to do versus what you want you to do. This is a signal that our work and life balance is out of alignment. But, if you never stop to look, you may never notice…

There are many great tools out there to help you make this assessment. One of my favorite tools is the Mojo Scorecard, introduced and designed by Marshall Goldsmith. This tool gives you a quantitative way to measure what you bring to your job and what your job brings to you – two key ingredients in success and happiness at work. For most people, doing a job for which they don’t bring much is generally not very rewarding, but at the same time doing a job for which you are incredibly skilled, but lack the interest to use those skills can be equally or even more dissatisfying.

Once you can get handle on what’s important for you, you can start to craft your role (or find a new one) so that you are doing more of what you love and less of what you don’t.Use this tool, or any tool you like, to start taking control of your work – otherwise someone else will.

Have you found the job that allows you to have your ideal balanced day or maximize your Mojo? Share it with us!

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Final Entry

I have officially completed my first year as an MBA student at the Kelley School of Business.Peru Jump I’ve brought you along every step of the way; and not only have we survived, but we are also now stronger, bolder, more confident and better at our core.

But what did I learn?

You’ve heard it ever since you were young – but always say “yes” to opportunities you’re not sure you can accomplish. Under pressure and in the chance to prove ourselves, we can accomplish great things. I said “yes” to GLOBASE, and thus helped lead a company-changing project for a Peruvian company, climbed to the top of Machu Picchu with five peers and the head of the program, and took myself to the shores of the Amazon River.

By also taking on an insurmountable challenge, I assembled and guided a prospective slate to victory as becoming the heads of student government for one of the top ranked mba colleges in the nation. I also recognized my limitations; and when I realized I didn’t mesh well with certain political aspects of the process, I recognized the appropriate leadership to promote to our president – and he has done an outstanding job.

It goes without saying that I’ve learned an incredible amount about business – from my eight core classes and the eight electives I’ve taken then forward. I have a great understanding of emotional intelligence, management and office politics – but the actual gears of war of the business world I didn’t know. Now I can talk of accounting, managing transnational firms, marketing strategy, stock risk assessment, business law and much, much more. I actually can’t believe, or fathom, how much I’ve absorbed from the classroom, faculty and peers. I may only recognize it once I have to apply it – but I feel as if I’ve had to grow another head to hold all the new knowledge I've gained in the first half of this two year MBA program.

I’ve also had some great, personal insight on things to work on, as Kelley is very strong on constructive feedback to help us grow. First, I know that I am a generally very happy, very optimistic person – and that sometimes, my peers view that as insincere and off-putting – so I will work on being more “real.” Second, I’ve learned that I sometimes come off too polished in presentations (it’s hard to shake the theater background and TV personality experience), so again I need to work on being more real and connecting with my audience. Lastly, I need to become more patient when working on projects with others – I used to be very patient in another life as a camp counselor, but I guess it’s become a little rusty being in the professional working world.

My year has been an incredible one, and I do not regret for one second my decision to come to one of the best masters of business administration programs and the challenges I took on while here. So much has happened in one year as I scroll down and back through this blog, and I can’t wait to see what sort of adventures and surprises my second year will hold. Wish me the best of luck, and I will keep my fingers crossed that YOU make the decision to come to the Kelley School of Business and join in this incredible adventure.

With Peace, Health, Happiness and Success,

Ben

Monday, May 2, 2011

New on the Job? Make the most of it!

For those of you setting off into your first full-time post-MBA job, or your MBA internship, you have an opportunity in front of you, many in fact. You have a newness that only comes once (well, twice) in a lifetime. You are either in the midst of pursuing your MBA or you have just finished – there aren’t many people who take on that challenge (or debt) more than once. Now is your chance to take advantage of it.

As a newbie to a job, you have the chance to ask questions – besides, “where’s the nearest restroom?”, that seasoned professionals are often afraid to ask. You come in with a level of credibility due to your recent academic prowess – a credibility that enamors some, while intimidating others. You also bring with you an amazing skill set that you are primed and ready to use. One of your challenges lies in figuring out how to put to use those concepts and theories you’ve spent the last several months studying, thinking about and discussing. Your other challenge is to figure out what it is about the job that motivates you, and you can leverage to make it your best possible job.

In Edward Hallowell’s book, Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best out of Your People, he speaks about what’s included in the “best job.” The best job incorporates:

  1. What a person likes to do
  2. What she is best at doing
  3. What adds value to the team, task, or organization
Wouldn't it be great if each of us could find that “best job.”

Spending the time now, to figure out what makes your “best job,” will set you on the path to finding great career success. Not only will you out perform those in similar positions, who just kind of like the work, but you’ll also be loving what you do – which means, you’ll put out an amazing amount of discretionary effort. That discretionary effort is what will take you to the next level, while enjoying your work.

Here are a few steps for you to consider as you embark on creating this best job (adapted from Marshall Goldsmith’s latest book, Mojo)…
  1. Identify: Take time to understand who you think you are.
  2. Achievement: Take stock of what you’ve done lately.
  3. Reputation: Understand and seek input on what people think of you.
  4. Acceptance: Determine what you can change and/or influence
It is easy to get excited about and consumed by the newness of what we are doing - take the time you need to step back and reflect. I hope you’ll find it to be a relaxing, and useful exercise that helps you find your “best job.”

And finally, ask yourself this question:What would you do differently?

Take a minute to let us know what you learn…whether it is within your upcoming change, or one in the past.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

En "Core"

There is just one more week left for graduation and I definitely want to share the final emotions and experiences through the MBA Program Blog. Starting earlier this week, there have been a number of events for the graduating MBA class of 2011. One of my awesome peers - JP Garcia had this great idea for a series of MBA Student Activities to make our last days as MBA students here at Bloomington a memorable experience. This is just yet another example of why Kelley is among the Top Ranked MBA Colleges in the country.

Tuesday evening was definitely special. It was like
reliving the Core experience all over again. We got together into our original Green, Blue and Red cohorts, back in the same seats we started two years ago. We had quick 15-minute lectures from our Core Professors (Professors Pratt and Albright could not make it and were definitely missed!). In this post, I share a few of their words of wisdom.


(Professors From Left to Right: Phil Powell, Rockney Walters, Richard Shockley, Matt Semadeni, Kyle Cattani, Mike Metzger)



Rockney Walters: Our ultra-popular Marketing Professor talked about the importance of branding and thinking of yourself as a brand. When you join a company, think about what your unique value proposition is. Always be open to new opportunities. Trying new things helps you extend your brand further.

Phil Powell: Our passionate Kelley MBA Program Chair talked about the latest macroeconomic trends. He talked about the importance of recognizing global trends specifically focusing on Africa and China. Tips for personal success included – think about whether you are doing something for honor or glory. It can never be both. He also stressed the critical role that innovation and creativity will play in the new economy.

Richard Shockley: Our Finance Professor started with three fundamental principles for financial success: Don’t chase yield. Diversify. Set goals and plan. He then reminded us of the keys to long-term success that he had first shared during the Core: Native intelligence accounts for a very small part. Do your best with the factors you can control such technical skills, professional skills and hard work. He was amazingly inspirational and sentimental at the same time. When big opportunities arise and when there is an intense spotlight on us during our working careers, he asked us to think about the incredible transformation over the past two years in the MBA Program and to believe that we can do it since we have successfully done it before!

Kyle Cattani: Our Operations Wiz opened with two simple but powerful principles: No decisions are irreversible. If you experience setbacks, hold your head high and figure out a new plan. He supported these principles with his own personal life story. I will definitely remember these and I feel that I can personally relate to them as well.

Mike Metzger: The great Metzger, who had taught us how to think critically, stressed the importance of living in the present moment. He shared personal stories about his family and talked about living 100% mindfully. In the school of life, the test comes first and the lesson later. Each moment is a gift!

Matt Semadeni: Our Strategy Guru (inspiration for those pursuing an MBA Management Degree) discussed a recent McKinsey study about recovering from information overload. He talked about the importance of unplugging – giving your brain the time to think, without the clutter of too much information. He also talked about Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen’s recent HBR article: “How will you measure your life?” What are the things that are important to you? If you do not think about this, life will give you measurements that may lead to dissatisfaction in the later years of your life. Lastly, he asked us all to give back to the community in whatever way we can and recognize that we are blessed to be in the position that we are.

I cannot tell you what an inspirational experience it was listening to our Professors speak to us. You had to be there to experience it fully! It is hard to believe that an incredible journey of two years will soon end and lead to a new phase in life. May 6 is Graduation Day for my awesome MBA Class of 2011 and it promises to be special. May 6 is also my birthday - making it doubly special for me! :)