Archive | October, 2011

Let’s Chat

31 Oct

I am a chatter. From small talk to heart-to-hearts, you can always count on me for a conversation. I can thank my parents for that. My tendency to banter was instilled at an early age as I watched my parents devote what felt like days to swapping stories with new friends like Marco, our concierge in Italy. Being a talker is not always considered a strength—in sixth grade Willie signed my yearbook, “Hey, you talk a lot,” and I don’t think he said that because he “like-liked” me. Despite these norms, being a talker has always worked out for me. At the risk of sounding antiquated in a time when value is measured by time and words saved, I’d like to talk about talking. Why?

Because opportunities hide in weird places.

Some of the most valuable stories, friendships, and opportunities I have in my arsenal have resulted from impromptu conversations with strangers. Case in point—the most wonderful and life changing internship I’ve had came out of a conversation started on a college campus when I was lost.

The summer class I had enrolled in was dropped due to low enrollment. My efforts to get reimbursed for this class turned into a misdirected three-hour voyage where I zigzagged unnecessarily across a very large campus. In this time, I caught the curiosity of a professor who came to my rescue after having spotted me on four separate occasions. Our conversation started with simple directions, naturally flowed to the class I was supposed to take (Calc 2), why I was taking it (prerequisites) and then took us all the way to my passion for music. Coincidentally, he happened to know a well-respected music supervisor looking for an intern.

What some may call fate, I attribute to small talk.

Through these moments I have learned to effectively verbalize my interests and skill sets and to tailor them to resonate with my audience. The ability to hold a conversation with those we do not have an established relationship with can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, the beauty of small talk is that these conversations are often insignificant, so even a bad one results in little losses.  The worst case scenario of opening up to these random conversations is an awkward, but fleeting conversation.  Such momentary discomfort is comically trivial when stacked against the endless benefits these interactions can provide—in my case an enriching employment experience.

by Carrie West


I’m the Guy Who Writes the Best Blogs

29 Oct

“I’m the guy who can make the hardest math problem seem easy.”

“We are the most trusted bank in the east coast.”

“I’m the best-looking guy in my entire management class.”

Taglines are a useful way to say a lot about oneself in very few words. A good tagline can make a candidate stick out for an available job. A good tagline can make customers remember a certain company. A good tagline can create a memorable image for a person or business of any kind.

But a bad tagline can be a Public Relations disaster.

The Danger of Taglines 

Marsha Friedman discusses in her article What Should Your ‘Promotional Tagline’ Be? how taglines can backfire and create the opposite image of what was intended. If someone describes him or herself as a “genius,” what is your first impression of that person? A genius? Probably not. A cocky narcissist? Most likely.

If you’re trying to make a name for yourself, calling yourself “the best” or “the most trusted” doesn’t do much for you. What reason does somebody else have to believe you? If you’re trying to make a name or image for yourself, the best way to do it is through somebody else. If my friend tells me that he is the smartest guy in his math class, I probably wouldn’t think much of it. If somebody in my friend’s class tells me “Wow! Gerald is so good at math!” I would be more likely to ask him to help me with my homework.

Likewise, if Citibank sends me an email describing how they are the best bank, I would not be more likely to trust it with my money. I might even become more hesitant to use Citibank. However, if my colleague tells me how helpful Citibank has been for her, I would probably think twice before opening a new account with Bank of America.

The Way to Use Taglines Efficiently 

Despite the bad that can come of trying to create your own label, creating taglines should definitely not be avoided. As long as cockiness and arrogance are absent from this tagline, it can be one of the most useful tools for a business or potential employee. A tagline can be one of the best ways to become memorable. A tagline can make you stand out from the crowd or competition. A tagline could be both your biggest strength or your biggest weakness, depending on what you make of it.

by Ross Taube

From “Stupid Phone” to “SmartPhone”–More Accessibility Or Less?

29 Oct

After witnessing my friends surfing the Internet and using Google map to direct us to different locations on their smartphones, I decided to get rid of my three-year-old cracked mirror phone and pursue the more up-to-date technology: iPhone 4S.

The first thing I did after getting my iPhone was to download apps especially the social networking apps like Facebook, Chinese Facebook, Skype, Trillian, Whatsapp and Talkbox. The various apps make me instantly accessible by my friends in different parts of the world for free. By using these apps, I can contact my friends on a regular basis as well as reconnect with past schoolmates. Compared to the time when I could only call or text my friends on my old “stupid phone,” the smartphone seems to make my life more convenient and myself more reachable.

Due to Internet access on my iPhone, I’m always shown as “online” for these apps and as a result, my friends have started contacting me through all these different ways. One time my friend asked me to lend her a book for a really urgent test via Chinese Facebook message. However, I don’t check Chinese Facebook as often as I use the other apps. I found out about the message a few days before her test, and I felt really bad that I could’ve saved her so much time searching the book online and waiting for it to arrive.

The same thing happened to me when I sent a Facebook message to someone and that person never got back to me. I started questioning whether we really become more accessible as technology brings us more convenience.

As Frank Bruni discusses in his article “Sorry, wrong inbox,” “we’ve become so accessible we’re often inaccessible.” Technology has expanded these ways to communicate to each other, however, we don’t know what other people’s preferences of communication are, and they don’t know our preferences either.

Thus when we choose a way to communicate, we run the risk of not getting access to a particular person right away. Before when we were limited to a few ways of communication, we didn’t have to guess other people’s preferences and could get to a person easily. Smartphones do bring us more ways of communication, but they don’t guarantee the accessibility that “stupid phones” do.

by Da Zhang

Bringing Everyone Down: How Bad Attitudes Destroy Teams

28 Oct

Have you ever walked into a room and felt your entire mood change? Like that great day you were having suddenly seemed a little less happy? If you haven’t experienced this phenomenon, let me give you an example. I recently went to work after having one of those “everything went my way” days, excited to share my happiness with a coworkers. But, the minute we started talking, I knew something was wrong. The mood was different. And while I couldn’t figure out what changed, I realized my entire attitude deflated, and I had no desire to share. I left feeling like I had not accomplished anything and had just wasted a workday. Why did this happen? It happened because the mood of my coworker unconsciously affected my own.

The Unavoidable Effect of Moods

According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal entitled, How a Few Bad Apples Ruin Everything, people in bad moods “distract and drag down everyone.” When I first read this article, I immediately thought to myself, “Someone in a bad mood can’t affect me that much. I control my own emotions. This must be an exaggeration.” But, the more I thought about it, the more situations I remembered in which I, in a great mood, suddenly felt less excited because of the people around me. As the article says, bad moods are contagious and have more of an effect on people than good ones. When working in a team, this nonverbal communication has a negative effect on everyone. Basically, one person can ruin everything.

The Effects on a Team

That sounds like a bit of a stretch, right? One person in a team of four or five should not be able to have that great of an impact. Unfortunately, a person can. An experiment[1] performed by Professor William Felps found that “having just one slacker or jerk in a group can bring down performance by 30% to 40%.” What’s worse, “teams whose leaders engaged in [negative] behavior…made less daily progress, did less creative work and were ultimately less successful than teams with persistently positive leaders.” Employees also remembered those negative actions more readily than any positive ones. What does this mean for teams then? Should we just get rid of every Debby Downer and Negative Ned? No. However, at the end of the day, in order for a team to work best, we need to make sure we notice our own emotions and realize the profound effects that they have on other people. If we can do that, we can create a much more efficient and positive environment for our team and ourselves.

[1] The hyperlink leads to the written report of How, When, and Why Bad Apples Spoil the Barrel by William Felps, an Organizational Behavior professor at Rotterdam School of Management.

by Rae Lerner

Three Ways to Present Like a Star Reporter

28 Oct

Every day, I have a morning routine: I grab a coffee in my favorite mug, a cozy chair, and I read news sites: Politico, Huffington Post, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. For me, reading the news is like digging through a box of mysteries: the more I know, the more my interest is piqued. Take, for instance, a current headline on the Huffington Post that reads, “Surprising Twist in Elizabeth Warren’s Past Revealed.” A successful headline like this one prompts a flood of internal questions, such as, “What is the ‘surprising twist’? How did someone find out about it? Will it impact Warren’s senatorial run against Scott Brown?”

Business communication, especially presentations, can benefit from looking toward reporters for important lessons about enhancing messages through simplicity. Here are three key take-away lessons that can make your next presentation more ‘newsworthy’:

1) Build a Mystery

A polished presenter, like a great reporter, knows how to attract interest through mysteries. The authors of Made to Stick know tell us that good stories start by telling the reader that you possess certain information they want to know and then by slowly revealing that information. Mysteries play on our desire to figure out solutions and fill in gaps in our knowledge. The same needs and emotions that drive our actions determine what we find interesting, such as love, fear, hatred, betrayal and deception, hopes and aspirations. Therefore, use stories and anecdotes that appeal to universal human themes. Start by, for instance, by posing a question that has no clear answer. Then, over time, reveal what that answer is or why that problem has no solution. Be sure never to let a mystery completely resolve itself, but instead, continue to build on its major themes throughout your presentation.

2) Be Straightforward and Logical

Once you’ve outlined what information you’re going to say, say it in the most precise way possible. Journalistic writing is known for how succinct it is. With newspaper columns measured by the inch, words are viewed as precious commodities. The lesson here is that any word that isn’t strengthening an argument or which feels unnecessary should be left out (see Hemingway). Thoroughness has a place, but it must be balanced by certain restrictions, such as time. Weigh what information is most important. More words rarely equal stronger impact.

Also, be sure to have a clear structure in your presentation. Journalists follow a strict, upside-down pyramid structure, with the most important points at the top of a story, and the lesser important details following in subsequent paragraphs. Your audience should not be left in suspense too long about what you’re saying. Sometimes a simple sentence is the best way to express an idea. Don’t be afraid to chop up a complex idea into a sequence or series of steps. Finally, avoid being “purple,” by choosing words for their precision.

3) Correctly Cite your Sources

Fumbling quotes and misstating facts are some of the worst mistakes a journalist can make; the same can be said about a business presenter. This type of error shows a lack of attention to detail and devalues the speaker’s credibility. After all, what a person says has little value if that person isn’t perceived to be credible. The same standard should exist for presenters in business. Statistics and quotes should always be explained within the context they were intended and never misconstrued or misappropriated for the presenter’s purpose. For example, President Obama recently said, “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.” Drawing the conclusion that the US is also leaving Afghanistan would be a false assumption on my part. Presenting “misinformation” as truth suggests the speaker doesn’t understand what he is saying or is being knowingly deceptive. Both situations are bad for a presenter, whose goals are simply to convey information and to persuade.

If you follow these three points, should be well on your way to developing bolder, better structured, and more engaging presentations.

by Jonathan Emden

The Art of the Profile Pic

28 Oct

We often hear that a picture is worth a thousand words. In the world of social media, a profile picture is everything in shaping people’s first impressions.

Our profile pics define the way people and companies form their first impression of us before ever physically meeting us. In some cases, this aspect of social media can cost you a job interview or job offer.

As a college student and soon-to-be job searcher, your Facebook profile becomes a medium where companies can evaluate if you are ready to enter the work force, even within the confines of cyberspace.

A defining feature of a profile that evokes a positive and professional image is the profile pic, and here are some simple tips to help create a strong first impression:

  • Have a profile pic.  Profiles that lack a corresponding picture give the impression that you are shutting yourself off from everyone. Do yourself a favor and show the world you have a face to go along with your name.
  • Non-professional pictures are sometime best.  Having your photo taken with a couple friends most likely puts you in a comfortable situation where you can be yourself. You want companies to see the person they would see everyday in the workplace.
  • Avoid large group photos.  Although these pics can show off the networks you affiliate with, people may be annoyed trying to figure out which person in the picture is you. Put the focus of the profile pic on yourself!
  • Ensure an appropriate setting.  You don’t want to show off pics that place you in situations that companies may find compromising to your professional image. You can have fun, but don’t allow yourself to get “tagged” in party settings, in particular.

Following these tips in no way guarantees you a job at your dream company, but selecting an effective profile pic also doesn’t give companies a reason to cut you from their application list.

by Joe Manavalan 

Follow the Green Dot

26 Oct

Let’s say you’ve never heard of Deloitte, or maybe you’ve heard the name but you’re not too sure what exactly they do. What stands out to you in their logo? If you’re like me, you’ve probably noticed the green dot.

Deloitte is one of the Big Four accountancy firms, but unlike the other three, Deloitte is the #1 market-leading professional services organization. Accounting doesn’t provide leeway for a whole lot of variation, so how does Deloitte consistently come out on top? The answer lies in an innovative brand strategy.

What’s with the Green Dot?

The Green Dot campaign is Deloitte’s first global ad campaign. Its purpose is to strengthen relationships with clients and employees by creating a global association between Deloitte and the Green Dot. The crux of the campaign is its visually simple yet striking style. Every Green Dot ad contrasts the green dot against a white or black background, which provides clarity and emphasizes Deloitte’s innovation. Rather than restricting the Green Dot to a concrete definition, it exists as an abstraction of a unique Deloitte solution. The Green Dot eliminates the ambiguity of words and effectively communicates to clients Deloitte’s presence and commitment to providing solutions in any situation.

Even Accountants Use YouTube

Green Dot ads have appeared in over 100 countries in newspapers, billboards, business magazines, finance websites, and even social media. Deloitte’s YouTube account has successfully attracted visitors with its 30 second Green Dot videos on specific topics like “Risk.” The initial Green Dot video campaign ad below is an almost entirely visual experience that depicts the Green Dot as a “hero” within a dull background.

Lessons Learned

Through the Green Dot, Deloitte has proven that even an accountancy firm can find value in marketing campaigns.  In the financial services industry, finding a concise way to communicate solutions is nearly impossible since clients often present unique problems that require tailored solutions. However, Deloitte’s Green Dot symbolizes that unique solution and enables clients to easily understand Deloitte’s message—that they can solve any problem.

by Stacey Luo