Archive | March, 2012

Rejecting Job Seekers Can Be a Double-Edged Sword

29 Mar

As one of the many college students actively seeking a summer internship, I often wonder how many others are applying for the same position. The number is likely in the hundreds, if not thousands. With corporations receiving large numbers of applications from students like myself, it is often very hard for them to communicate with every applicant. About twenty percent of companies notified me personally that they received my application, and all of these companies treated me cordially and with respect.

While I feel companies treated me well, many applicants feel a little ticked-off after completing the application process.  A recent article published in the Wall Street Journal argues that when companies treat applicants poorly, they are indeed hurting their business. The author, Lauren Weber, suggests that people who apply to companies are likely doing so because they like the company. This fact is especially true for retailers. Companies like Wal-Mart, Target, Gap, or Nordstrom have tens of thousands of people apply for positions every year. These applicants are likely already customers. If applicants are not treated well in the application process, they may feel that the company isn’t run well or that they are being considered, “Good enough to shop, but not good enough to work.”

So what can companies do to make applicants feel valued and keep potential customers happy?

1.    Personally get in touch with every applicant who is rejected. Whether by email, letter, or phone, companies need to make an effort to personally communicate with applicants.

2.    Make every applicant feel valued. Companies can make applicants feel valued by picking out one specific item off a person’s resume that stands out and mentioning it in the rejection email.

3.    Cap the number of applicants. Some companies such as Boeing set caps for applications. HR departments should realize that it is impossible to be personal when there are 5000 applicants for one job.

The application process is a part of business communication that many companies overlook as integral to their profitability and success. However, I believe Lauren Weber has a valid argument. I witnessed first-hand a friend who stopped shopping at a store because she felt that the company treated her poorly in the application process.  If companies and applicants follow the three rules above, there would be much less potential for hostility between company and applicant. Companies must step up their games, make applicants feel wanted, and realize that a ticked-off applicant could mean a former customer.

by DJD



Leaving a Job With Tact

28 Mar

College students seem to focus more on successfully finding a job than successfully leaving one; however, understanding how to best leave a current employer for an alternative job is an important skill for an employee to acquire.  For example, last summer, I worked as a tennis coach for a small tennis club.  Due to the necessity for business majors to find a summer internship to gain valuable work experience, I had to shift my focus and obtain a job in the corporate world.  When I finally found an internship in the financial industry, I had to reluctantly tell my former employer I could no longer work for him.  If you have to leave a job for any reason, here are five steps you can take to quit your current job in a courteous and respectful manner while maintaining a good relationship with the company.

Keep fellow employees in the dark: We all know how fast rumors can spread in any group.  By not discussing your future plans with fellow employees, even your good friends in the office, you reduce the risk of your boss discovering your plans through the gossip chain, before you are ready to tell him or her yourself.

Do not criticize your boss:  Once you commit to leave your current job, you might be tempted to discuss your personal feelings toward your boss with others in the office.  Not only do such actions make you look foolish, but also, could ruin relationships you have built with your boss and coworkers.  With current access to social media, you have the ability to reach a large number of people with your thoughts, including your boss.  Be wary of posting reasons for your decision online, unless they are not incrementing to any party.  This choice maintains your integrity and positive image.

Quit in person: If you are about to break up with a significant boyfriend or girlfriend, I certainly hope you would give him or her the courtesy of conveying your opinions in person.  Receiving information of this sort via email or text comes off as disrespectful and inappropriate.  Quitting a job is not any different.  You owe your boss the courtesy of telling him or her in person and explaining why you are making your decision.  Just because you have a new opportunity to work someplace else, does not mean that you want to dissolve relationships you built during your time at the office.  As I mentioned with my personal experience with this summer’s employment, I really enjoyed the people I worked with and have full intentions of continuing my relationship with them.  Though I am leaving for a new opportunity, I still want to maintain my past connections for possible future employment.

Keep emotions out of the office: Once you decide to leave a job, many emotions can run through your mind.  You can feel angry and frustrated with the way things are run in your current workplace, or a deep resentment for leaving, if you have forged great relationships.  According to Amber Mac, a blogger on Fast Company, “Remove the words ‘I feel’ from either verbal conversations or written conversations in the workplace.”  By focusing on the facts and not the emotions you will have an easier time avoiding conflict.

Keep your options open: No matter how you feel, do not dissolve connections you have worked hard to build.  You never know when those connections may come in handy for a referral or a future job opening.  Networking is imperative in business, and one way to maintain your network is to respectfully and professionally quit your job by following these five simple hints.

by Max Franklin


Making Your Communication More Effective

27 Mar

Our world is rapidly changing. The conventional way of communication is not enough anymore to be successful. We need more than that. We need creativity! Creativity leads people to communicate more effectively and to be successful. Take Steve Jobs, for instance. He brought success to Apple by creating designs and technology that we only dreamed of – iPods, iPhones and iPads, to name a few. For him, creativity was “connecting things”. And indeed, he revolutionized the world of gadgetry, as we know it.

But Jobs was not alone in this field. Many applied their creativity to gain success or fame. We have the Wright brothers. They used their knowledge of bicycles to create an amazing thing – the airplane. In addition, Arthur Fly’s failure in making sticky glue led him to invent the Post-it note. And there are many more success stories in history.

Tips on How to be Creative

Jonah Lehrer, an American author who specialized in psychology and neuroscience, suggested ten tips to be creative:

1. The color blue – your environment leads you to a more relaxed thinking

2. Grogginess – helps you to perform better on creative puzzles.

3. Daydream – leads you to score higher on creativity tests.

4. Children’s mind – stimulates you to think divergently.

5. Laughter – increases your skills to solve insight puzzles.

6. Unfamiliarity – makes you think outside the box.

7. Generic word – allows you to think in a wider range.

8. Open air – helps you to perform better on creativity tests.

9. Global experience – allows you to obtain open-mindedness.

10. Metropolis – offers you more creative environment than a small city.

by Yunhyouk Choi


Telling An Effective Story

27 Mar

Many of today’s most successful leaders today share one common characteristic – the ability to communicate effectively through storytelling. Storytelling proves to be fundamental in leadership communication because it is quick, moving, memorable, and refreshing.

When telling a story, professional communicators must always be intentional about what they are communicating, why they are communicating, and how they are communicating. The foundation of successful storytelling is its ability to connect the leader with his or her audience to share the experience from the story. The following three strategies will help any leader ably relate to the audience.

  1. Have A Purpose For Telling The Story – Many leaders tell a personal story simply because they like the story and want to see how their audience will react to it. Since all professional communication must have a specific goal, any story being told must clearly connect to the story’s goal. Once a leader sets the goal for his story and decides how he would like to audience to react, he can strategically select a story.
  2. Make It Relatable – A leader’s story will never succeed in communicating a message if it fails to focus on the audience. Leaders must be cognizant of selecting stories that the audience will feel close to and that matches its culture and attitude. Accurately evaluating the audience and its perspectives then becomes crucial before a leader selects a story.
  3. Craft and Practice – Leaders need to shape their stories to deliver the exact message they desire and influence the audience. The best storytellers plan specific words to use, include vivid details, use sensory language, and appropriately tweak the truth if need be. Practicing pace and timing is also critical, as they contribute to the story’s fluidity and natural feel. Good delivery will certainly enhance the message within the story.

Storytelling inspires people to act in ways that numbers, charts, and PowerPoint slides simply cannot. By following the steps listed above, leaders can become more effective in evoking powerful feelings from their audiences and encourage the change they want to see in their organizations.

by Peter Friedman


What Goes Into Going Viral?

26 Mar

By now, I’m sure that most (if not all) of us have heard of the Kony 2012 campaign by Invisible Children.  Regardless of your personal opinion on the effectiveness of the campaign, Invisible Children’s credibility, or its founder’s behavior, one thing is undeniable; the campaign was astonishingly successful.  The goal of the campaign was to make Joseph Kony famous and now pretty much anyone with an Internet connection has heard of Kony and is aware of what he has done.

A viral video is the holy grail of marketing.  If successful, a viral video can reach 100 million viewers.  Companies pay an average of 3.5 million dollars for a 30-second Super Bowl ad to reach roughly the same number of viewers while a viral video’s cost will typically range from nothing to a couple of thousand dollars.  The issue is that viral videos are not easy to make; viral status on the Internet is usually reserved for embarrassment or cat-related videos.  However, some companies—mostly non-profits like Invisible Children—have managed to be successful in viral marketing. There are also examples of successful viral marketing in the for-profit realm within the film industry, beginning with the Blair Witch Project and most recently, with the Paranormal Activity movies.

There are strategies and a framework that companies can use when attempting to create viral videos:

  • Use Emotion: What does a video featuring an awkward teenager playing Star Wars have in common with the Kony 2012 video? They both tap into our emotions, although in very different ways.  Effective use of emotion is the cornerstone of any successful viral video, but the emotion in question is less important.  The emotion can be humor, fear, sadness or love, as long as the video uses the emotion to sell its message; the video has a foundation for success.
  • Tell a Story: Story telling is as old as the human language.  As a species, we are hard wired to remember stories better than straight facts or statistics.  The Kony 2012 video could have listed off all the facts about Kony and the LRA, but that message would not have resonated like the story they told about Kony and the people he has affected.
  • Use “Culture Makers” to Spread the Video: This last piece may be the most important.  Plenty of well-made videos that tell an emotional story never gain viral status.  The Kony campaign made use of what it called “Culture Makers” to ensure the success of the video.  A “Culture Maker” is someone with a large online presence and social network like a celebrity or politician.  Invisible Children individually messaged around 30 celebrities and politicians the video and urged them to share it with their followers.  Many did and this played a huge role in the rapid explosion of the viral campaign.

by Bryan Duva


Fast-Food Wars

26 Mar

For as long as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s have been in business, they have been ranked one, two, and three in the nation’s fast-food economy. However, a recent study shows that this time-honored hierarchy is no more.

Despite having 1,300 fewer stores than fast-food giant, Burger King, Wendy’s finished this past year with more revenue, thereby catapulting it into second place. The reason behind this sudden change is quite simple, according to Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic, the research firm that conducted this study. While Burger King spent the past several years focusing on its ad campaigns, Wendy’s decided to focus on improving the quality of its food. The results show that Wendy’s business strategy was the better one.

The main fault of Burger King’s ad campaigns was the demographic it chose to target: young males, who were hit hard as a whole by the recession. Burger King’s ad campaigns not only failed to attract its target demographic thanks to the recession, but actively excluded other demographics due to an overly narrow focus. In addition, while churning out these poorly focused advertisements, Burger King was neglecting its menu, choosing instead to copy McDonald’s rather than come up with original fare.

Wendy’s, on the other hand, chose to strengthen its core image and brand. Touting its use of fresh ingredients, Wendy’s redesigned its square, processed-looking patties into a thicker, more natural shape that was reminiscent of better-burger chains such a Five Guys. Wendy’s also introduced a new breakfast menu that featured freshly cracked eggs rather than powder eggs or mix eggs. Both of these strategies appealed to consumers as they resonated with freshness and better health.

As evidenced by this particular case, good marketing begins with a good product. While McDonald’s and Wendy’s focused on communicating the quality of its products to consumers, Burger King believed that its humorous ads would make up for its lackluster menu. But when it comes down to business consumers truly care about the quality of the product that they’re buying.

by Jessica Hassett


Building Executive Presence

19 Mar

Janie Sharritt, a mid-level employee at Sara Lee & Co., decided when driving home from work that she would take steps to get promoted and make her ideas heard. She reflects on her lack of assertiveness, “The quick buy-in wasn’t something I was known for”. Ms. Sharritt attended a conference on the “Power of Image”, and dove into the idea of building an executive presence. She changed her hairstyle, dressed in classier clothes, and even wore more make-up. Soon enough, executives at Sara Lee noticed Ms. Sharritt’s presence and her ideas held more weight; she was promoted from mid-level management to an executive position.

A study by the Center of Work-Life Policy states that executives at Fortune 500 companies all have similar characteristics. For one, they possess a unique presence formed by years of polishing self-confidence and management strategies. Executives act with assertion and have the ability to make quick strategy decisions. Luckily for us and for Janie Sharritt, these characteristics are not innate, but built over a period of time. The following tips can be used for furthering your personal executive presence specially tailored to fit your personality.

  1. Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses. We often look past our own shortcomings that can hold us under a glass ceiling. To build a successful career, we must be introspective to find what works and what doesn’t.
  2. Ask a Friend. There’s no better way to identify your own weaknesses than through constructive criticism. You may ask a friend for their opinion on your executive presence and how you work in a team environment. You may also muster up the confidence to ask those whom you don’t consider friends, as they often analyze us most critically.
  3. Take Notes. Writing down what works for the executives in your office can help you understand what to improve upon. For college students not in an executive environment, take notes on the actions of professors or even your own peers that command a presence in the classroom.
  4. Act Natural. Your executive presence should be about you. Only note actions that you that feel comfortable and normal with. We’re taking steps to raise the executive presence within ourselves, not to change who we are.
  5. Get Advice. Major companies around the world offer workshops to their employees about “Command Presence”, “Constructive Confrontation”, and “The Power of Image” (Lublin, WSJ). Seek out professional help to get expert advice on action steps to take.

I firmly believe that all of us have an executive persona somewhere within. We must take action to bring this persona out into to the real world. Nowadays, companies contain less levels of management and our window of time to impress managers is small. One executive at Intel sums up taking advantage of this window by stating, “You have to have executive presence in ways that set you apart” (Lublin, WSJ).

by Mike McGovern