Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Is your admin getting in the way of your offer or a promotion?

In a recent conversation with a colleague from a Fortune 500 company, he reminded me of an important aspect of being successful in the workplace, as an intern or a newbie (even as someone with seniority) – the power of the administrative staff (more importantly, the power of their network).

He was talking about the interns in his group, mentioning one in specific who stood out. What made her stand out, you ask (or maybe you didn’t…) – Here is what came top of mind:
  • Proactive and exceeds expectations: thought about what do I need to be working on next, instead of waiting for her manager. Not only is she proactive, she also always does more than her work plan, whereas the other interns who aren’t as proactive have managers who wonder: “what the heck has he/she being doing all this time?
  • Produces high quality results: Well, this one is tough to define in such a short period of time. At the very least, she is asking good questions to encourage discussion and debate; putting these insights to use in her analysis; and expecting to show the results in just a few short weeks at the end of the summer.
Now, what is it is that made the other interns standout, in a not so positive way? It’s pretty simple, they were essentially doing the opposite of the ‘standout.’ In particular, they:
  • Do what is assigned: these are the interns (or employees) who do what their manager assigns, but not an ounce more (yes, you’re out there and you know who you are). What happens is that you do the activity, you have time leftover and don’t use it. The worst part of this is that you think that no one else notices it. Rest assured they do – and what's worse, you might be saying to yourself: “I did what was asked of me, what else do you expect?”
  • Not making connections: by sticking close to the other interns and avoiding interactions with the larger group and offering your assistance (even for those activities that may be “below” your position) you are building a reputation – especially if you are not that busy.
And who is it that notices this – well the list is long, and one of the most important is the administrative staff. They are likely to be some of the most well connected people across the organization and incredibly influential (for good or bad). In fact, it was an admin who shared that the "non-standout interns" were telling the "standout" that she didn't need to work that hard...

Interestingly enough, for as much as we teach in the MBA program about networking and building relationships, we find that many newly minted MBAs check that knowledge at the door. They tend to be the least well connected in terms of perception…

Have you seen this in your workplace? We'd love to hear about it!

Off and running!!

Wow, it's hard to believe we're wrapping up another year of admissions and moving into a new recruiting cycle already. Our "travel season" started about six weeks earlier this year, as I was in New York for the Inside the MBA event last week. We have several events over the coming weeks, particularly the Road to Business School events across the U.S. I'll be covering much of the west coast while Jim Holmen, Director of Admissions, will be covering many of the other events. We look forward to meeting you!

As we move into a new recruiting year and admissions cycle, I'll try to post new information to help those that have just started following my blog. However, be sure to look back at old posts in case I miss anything. Some things may be repeated, but I'm going to try to work on posting a bit more frequently with some random thoughts and updates throughout the year. Don't worry, I'll also include several detailed posts about each part of the application process as we work through the year.

I hope everyone is enjoying summer (at least where it is summer)! It's been unusually HOT here in Bloomington. The incoming class will be on campus in just a few short weeks for orientation so hopefully relief is in sight! Until then, I'm off to a few more stops to start the year!

Message from the Admissions Committee: Our online application will be available in mid-August. Until then, plan to meet us on the road!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

INTERNATIONAL STUDENT U.S. JOB SEARCH #2 – Two Items Successful Students Exploit

This is the second of four blog compendiums covering international student U.S. job searches. It covers two key activities that you can exploit to better position you – networking and differentiating.

Networking for Effective Connections

  • Build and use a strong group of mutually beneficial professional and personal allies. It is the engine that an estimated 75% of American job seekers use. Networking is not necessarily done to find a job, but represents people you can approach about questions, ideas, and introductions. Think of it as “making friends” and establishing long-term business connections. An association with someone by telephone or in person fosters being remembered, versus being just a faceless piece of paper in a stack. You are in a business school, and networking represents a fundamental business skill.
  • Embrace American-style networking, even though it is awkward to many foreign cultures. If you want a job in the U.S., you don’t have to like networking, but must be willing to endure it. Jobs can come from most unlikely sources.
  • Focus more of your time on the higher percentage return, non-published job search arena by expanding contacts with people thinking enough about you to bring those to your attention. An estimated 80% of open positions are never published; the 20% published are visible to everyone and represent a “leftover” job market.
  • Ask for assistance from good network contacts regarding specific opportunities to increase your leverage in securing a job and negotiating. People want to help. If your contacts do not know your situation, they can’t help you. Referrals based on good information from trusted opinions of others are considered a best recruiter hiring solution
  • Seek out people with backgrounds similar to yours for a higher percentage return on time
  • Include those who are from other countries, speak other languages, married to those from other countries, went to school outside of their native country, have international business responsibilities, traveled frequently around the world, etc.
  • Identify these people by asking better questions of those you already know. Examples include: “Do you know of people at your company who are from my country? Speak my language? Attended my school? Conduct international business transactions? etc.? Then just express interest in saying hello or meeting them.
  • Research personnel at target companies to identify unique items which,when pursued,may offer higher percentage returns.
  • Take advantage of being a student.
  • Among possible Kelley networking opportunities: scheduled events, professors(regardless of whether you have them for class), guest speakers, campus recruiters, recent graduates and current students. Particularly, solicit advice from other international students (not just those from your home country!) who were successful in their job searches. First year students could have an objective to have a quality meeting with every second year in their academy – then when you become a second year, you have ready,successful resources.
  • Even if people are not linked to Kelley, when approached in the right way, many feel more comfortable interacting with students versus the general population.
  • Cultivate people who are not in hiring position, particularly those employed by companies with referral programs offering monetary awards to existing employees to recommend candidates who are hired. Effective networking and informational interviews might get people at these companies thinking enough about you to recommend you.
  • Dormant ties are as valuable, and often more valuable, than current ties
  • Insights from dormant ties tend to be more novel, and more efficient to get, than those from current ties
  • The pool of helpful dormant ties is surprisingly deep
  • Discipline yourself to systematically attend functions (social, club, and otherwise) outside your normal sphere of friends. “The more I practice, the luckier I get” -- Lee Trevino
  • Consider medium-sized, smaller companies
  • Build credibility by being yourself. Display positive energy.
A Differentiated Value Proposition
  • Remember: “It’s all about them.” Think like the employer! Position your unique business advantages to what the company needs and for the right decision maker before any visa sponsorship considerations surface. You are selling yourself. “Lead with need” is the traditional sales adage. “Features, Functions, and Benefits” are integral to any sales pitch, but the most effective focus on benefits.
  • Articulate your soft skill advantages by consulting your Keirsey Temperament Sorter® II Temperament Report for reality-based narratives on traits, motivations, and styles, without feeling culturally uncomfortable about being a braggart.
  • Capitalize on your unique hard skill advantages, including your international background.

  • Analyze position descriptions for required and preferred qualification keywords to include in your resume, cover letters and discussions. With these, you should be viewed favorably.

  • Identify keywords to supplement position descriptions, or if none exits, through connections and informational interviews. Use these to shape the position in your likeness.

  • Mirror company values, goals, and mission when articulating your motivations.

  • Research the decision maker(s) to foster points of congruity and authentic mutual interests

  • Practice an elevator pitch about your interests, experience (features), skills (functions), and value proposition (benefits), should a conversation go in that direction. Make it easy for any person to help you. Nothing looks worse than a student who appears not to know what they represent and/or want to do.

Please add any other Networking and Differentiating tips to the comments section for potential discussion in subsequent blogs. Next week, Article #3 in this series will cover: Two Items Successful Students Control. See you then.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Three Sights

I was recently at a conference and heard a wonderful speech by Dr. Christine Riordan, Dean and Professor of Management, Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. She highlighted what she called the three sights - hindsight, insight and foresight - and how powerful they can be when thought of together. This struck me as something that everyone should think about as it ties in very well to job performance.

Hindsight can be defined as "the recognition of the realities, possibilities or requirements of a situation, event or decision after it has occurred". Think of the saying "hindsight is 20/20" - we all think of what we would have done differently in a specific situation given different information, knowledge of the outcome or whatever. This often happens in situations at work where you feel that you could have done something better - such as reviewing a presentation that you gave, looking over a proposal that you wrote, analyzing your end of internship review. Make sure to use hindsight to your advantage and learn from your prior experiences to grow and do better the next time a similar situation comes along.

Next, insight is defined as "the capacity to discern the true nature of a situation". This is when you truly understand something - that moment of clarity when it all just clicks. Hopefully this happens during your time in school, but for many this happens while on their internship or at their full time job. All of a sudden concepts you studied tie in perfectly to something you are doing at work and it just makes sense. This might be in the form of a marketing tool that you used, a financial formula that you memorized or cool uses for Excel that you weren't sure were relevant for normal usage. These are the times to show off what you know and think of ways to continue using your knowledge and building off of it.

Finally, foresight, which is defined as being able to "predict or plan for the future". This is where you combine your hindsight and your insight and do a better job figuring out what is next. Think about how you can do better in your current job or how you can help your company do better in certain areas. Think about the world around you, the economy, global trends, industry trends, etc. and utilize this knowledge to your advantage in helping you plan. Your employer will appreciate your ability to take learnings from the past and build on them to make the future (both yours and the company's) better.

Think about a time that you utilized past experiences and your knowledge database to build your strategy for the future. How did it work? What can you learn from it?