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Using Self-Knowledge to Improve Your Leadership Skills: Team Player Style

By Jordan Perras

November 9, 2016

One of the best ways to become a better leader is to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your tendencies in various situations. You can understand your strengths and weaknesses and learn how to improve them. In the first part of this series, you’ll learn about how you interact with others on teams and how to combine different styles to make a more effective team.

Parker Team Player Styles

The Parker Team Player Styles are helpful to understand how you (and others) behave in a team setting. We are all thrown into group projects or sports teams or club executive boards, and it is important to remember that everyone brings something different to the table. Check out my summary below or take the assessment yourself to gain a deeper understanding of your style(s).

The four styles are:

Contributor

  • Strengths: You are task oriented, dependable, reliable, and organized.
  • Weaknesses: You may come across as shortsighted, perfectionistic or uncreative.

Collaborator

  • Strengths: You are goal-directed, flexible, imaginative, and forward-looking,
  • Weaknesses: You may come across as insensitive, overinvolved, or over-ambitious.

Communicator

  • Strengths: You are process-oriented, supportive, relaxed and tactful.
  • Weaknesses: You may come across as placating, impractical or manipulative.

Challenger

  • Strengths: You question the goals and methods of the team. You’re honest, principled, ethical and thorough.
  • Weaknesses: You may come across as rigid, contentious or nit-picky.

Do any of these styles (or a combination of them) sound like you? Does reading about the other styles make you rethink how you interact or come across in groups? Think about what how the strengths of one style can make up for the weaknesses of another.

Jordan Perras will graduate in 2018 from Northeastern University and she is majoring in Math and Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and a minor in Economics.  She has a wide variety of interests that include history, art and literature and plans to pursue an MBA after college. She is especially interested in the role of social entrepreneurship in sustainable business.

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Stand Out on Social (In a Good Way)

By Danni Ondraskova

November 8, 2016

You’re likely considering multiple career paths. Maybe you’re hoping to start a tech company that makes graphene easily available for suppliers. Maybe you’re an entrepreneur hoping to make the a Snapchat website for pets. Or maybe you’re just hoping to scale the ranks at Goldman Sachs.

Regardless of whether you want to enter business, the nonprofit sector, or even pursue public service, there are some good baseline rules for managing your social media accounts in a professional manner. If you follow these rules, you will put yourself in a good position to improve your reputation in your field and won’t eliminate yourself from any new jobs you may wish to pursue.

If it’s political, you probably want to drop it.

There is an old joke that if you want to remain friends with the other people seated around the table, don’t discuss politics, sports, or religion. This is a pretty good rule that can also be applied to social media, which if you think about it is just the world’s dinner table.

Politics is already a contentious enough subject, and for good reason: the government often makes decisions that have real impacts on our everyday lives. Even in the best of times, there are hot-button political issues that sometimes end friendships, especially if discussed over a medium as impersonal and prone to misunderstanding as the Internet. Furthermore, this year’s U.S. presidential election is one rife with emotions on both sides of the aisle.

Unless you are in a political job, you will probably wish to avoid making politically loaded statements. To truly stay on the safe side, check out your company’s manual to make sure it is permissible to make political statements.

You may want to consider creating separate accounts for different types of activity.

Many people, especially millennials, already have multiple social media accounts. However, people don’t always do a good job of reflecting on what functions each social media platform should have in their lives. Especially as you move forward in your career and get published, you may want to ask yourself whether it is pertinent to have one more private account (e.g. Facebook) for updates about your personal life and another (e.g. Twitter account or Facebook page) to promote your professional activities.

Dividing these aspects of your life also gives your friends and family the choice of following your professional page, or not if they only want to hear about how you are doing personally.

It’s more permanent than you think, so be careful!

That embarrassing photo you took at your college party that your friend tagged you in may seem easy to get rid of. Just delete it or change the settings to “only me” and the problem is solved, right? Not exactly. As technology and privacy settings grow more sophisticated, so too does the powers of hackers and web scrapers.

These past few years have been instrumental in showing how even public figures have had their accounts hacked and private information displayed for the world to see. Web scrapers are often employed as freelancers for companies to gather information on users throughout the Internet and are quite skilled in doing so. With that, there is always the potential for them and even bored data collectors to gather compromising information on you before you delete it.

Avoid gossip if possible.

This may be the hardest piece of advice to follow. Gossiping about others can be a good way to blow off steam about others and can even feel fun with friends. But gossiping in public can often backfire.

There are legendary stories on the Internet about professionals complaining about their bosses and later being fired. Gossiping about your coworkers can strain your relationship with them even more and give others a negative impression of you. 

Be careful about who you promote.

Before you write that glowing post about Barclays being the best bank of all time, please make sure you aren’t applying to J.P. Morgan or another competitor. This may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but unfortunately, the Internet often shows us that common sense doesn’t seem common.

Many potential employees have been rejected from their jobs because of their actions on social media, and not filtering who they promote is one example of such a red flag.

Danni Ondraskova will graduate in 2018 from Wellesley College. Danni plans on earning a dual degree in law and business and dreams of working for JP Morgan’s Global Investment Management division.

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How to Develop Your Personal Brand

By Sameera Polavarapu

November 7, 2016

Coming into my freshman year of college, many of my friends and I were overwhelmed by our transition into the business world. Strong resumes, flawless interviews, and professionalism were all just distant words to me, concepts that I believed were as easy to master as they seemed in theory. I quickly learned that some of the easiest skills are the most difficult to perfect, especially in a competitive environment.

I realized that when you are going through the recruitment process, whether on a small or large scale, everyone has mastered these initial concepts through practice, and all that remains to differentiate you is just that—you.

How to present and develop a personal brand is irrefutably the most crucial skill a person of any major can gain. Being yourself, and having your own identity come across crystal clear to an employer is so much easier said than done.

And with this said, here are a few tips I have found most useful in helping me develop my own personal brand:

Define your interests

When you think of who you are, and how you want to be perceived, remember what your morals and interests are. In the end, these initial values are what often drive people throughout their lives. Do you care about animals? Maybe this has influenced you to volunteer or become vegetarian. Do you prioritize organization? Maybe this is the reason you have impeccable time management skills. Your values are the base of your brand; to build yourself up, you must recognize the foundation of who are.

Represent these interests through the activities you pursue

If someone states, “I really like to give back”, it is much less convincing than saying “I really like to give back. I am part of an organization that has raised nearly a million dollars to support children with cancer”. Your activities are a direct reflection of your interests and values.

Many may not see joining clubs as developing their brand but, many times, people around you will associate who you are with the organizations and activities you support. Unknowingly, through doing activities you love by nature, you are building a brand for yourself.

Pull from your experiences

Remember that you can shape your brand around everything and anything that you experience. If you volunteered at a shelter and forged relationships with people who had difficult life experiences, you may have heightened your skills for empathy and communication. If you worked a summer job with an awful manager, you may have a penchant for patience.

Taking an experience and identifying the skills it has allowed you develop will help you show others how you can apply what you have learned, as well as how the skills have made you a more qualified candidate for anything you pursue.

Bring it all together

Building a brand is achieved through a conscious, logical flow of thinking. Your interests and values define who you are at your core. The activities and organizations you support can depict these values and give you credibility. Through your experiences, you can show how you have grown and developed. Finally, take the skills you have mastered and show where they will take you in the future.

Here is an example of how this four step process can come together to help you succeed:

“I really value having respect for others. I have done various projects and cases at my university where I worked on a team that did not get along. The experiences have made me learn how to give and take in situations where people disagree. I believe that my collaborative nature will help me succeed on teams and be a leader in the work force”.

Developing a brand is all about portraying your values and skills and leveraging these factors towards your own success. I wholeheartedly believe that through the continued practice of these four simple steps, you’ll be all set.

Sameera Polavarapu will graduate in 2019 from the University of Maryland at College Park with a major in international business and marketing. Her dream job is to do marketing for a global organization such as the United Nations.

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Market Trends 101: Mergers and Acquisitions, So What?

By Siyu Wu

November 4, 2016

In this new series, I will introduce a wide variety of trends in the financial markets and provide some analysis of impacts of the trend. If you’re interested in learning more about finance, are preparing for interviews and want to gain some market knowledge, or want to know what’s going on in today’s business world, these articles will provide some insight! This month, we’ll introduce mergers and acquisitions (M&A), and discuss them in the context of the agricultural industry.

What are mergers and acquisitions?

Simply put, a merger is when two companies combine to form a new company, and an acquisition is when one company buys another company. These processes take at least six months, often many more months, from start to finish. At the beginning, the two companies’ boards will have many informal discussion to determine whether their intentions align. Following these discussion, there will be a formal negotiation, a letter of intent, due diligence, an agreement, and ultimately, the execution of a deal and transfer of payment. Because mergers and acquisitions are very complex, especially from the legal and accounting perspectives, companies will typically use advisory services from an investment bank to conduct the transaction.

Ultimately, the goal of mergers or acquisitions is to create synergy. Synergy refers to the idea that the whole is greater than the parts - so that when two companies combine their operations, the resulting company will be more profitable and efficient. When such transactions are successful, companies may take advantage of economies of scales, expand their market presence, and gain a competitive advantage.

M&A in the agricultural industry

Most recently, news broke regarding German drug and crop chemical producer Bayer’s takeover bid for US seeds company Monsanto. This transaction, which combines two large agribusinesses, may have surprised some. However, this was only one of many M&A transactions in the agricultural industry. Why is this case? As mentioned before, M&A deals can be profitable for the companies involved. In the case of agribusiness, there are many factors at play that make these transactions increasingly necessary for success. Here are some key points relevant to the Bayer-Monsanto deal, and to the rising trend of agricultural mergers and acquisitions.

Consolidations are frequent in shrinking industries. When the size of an industry gets smaller, demand for the industry’s products decrease and cause companies to be less profitable. To overcome these challenges, companies aim make deals that will allow them to create synergies, decreasing operating costs and increasing production efficiency. For companies in the agricultural industry, M&A transactions are increasingly present because of the shifting weather patterns and declining global farm economy. Prices for wheat and corn have fallen in the last four years, hurting seed and other farm-related companies.

Synergies not only benefit companies involved; they can also benefit customers. Another benefit of consolidation is often new innovation - when two companies are able to combine their research and development teams to create new, better products, the customers also benefit. However, if consolidation does not result in innovation, the benefits of a deal will only be short-term. Though you can grow profit in the short run without the creation of new products, it would be impossible to sustain profit growth over the long run. Therefore, unless Monsanto and Bayer can work together to produce innovative changes in an aging and shrinking agricultural industry, they may not be able to capture longer lasting profit gains. 

Just because the deal was announced, doesn’t mean that the transaction will be completed. Mergers, especially ones as large as this one, come under intense scrutiny from regulatory bodies. Mostly, authorities are concerned that such a deal will significantly reduce competition in the industry, thus negatively impacting customers. For example, should Bayer and Monsanto consolidate, it would control over 25% of total market share for seeds and pesticides in the farm supplies industry. Should one company control too large of a market share, they can take advantage of customers by setting prices at a higher-than-desired level.

Though in this article, the agricultural industry was used as a key example, you’ll find M&A transactions in many other industries. Take the key lessons from this example and apply it to another industry to better understand why companies are making the choice to merge or consolidate. Mergers and acquisition transactions are an important component of capital markets, and having at least a fundamental understanding of these deals is helpful, especially when making conversation with an investment banker!

Siyu Wu is from Colorado and attends Princeton University, pursuing a degree in Economics and certificates in Finance and East Asian Studies. Siyu will graduate in 2018. She hopes to synthesize her interest in China and East Asia with her passion for finance to eventually work in a career related to international finance and Asian capital markets.

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5 Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking

By Sameera Polavarapu

October 11, 2016

For many, public speaking conjures up impossible fear, pieces of advice to imagine the audience in their underwear, and imagining feigning a sudden sickness that makes it impossible to attend a speaking engagement.

While public speaking can be intimidating, learning how to present yourself in front of others and convey your message is an essential skill in every career path.

Over time, I have found five methods that make me stand up just a little straighter and help me slowly remove the stammer from my diction:

Consider why you’re nervous in the first place.

When presenting, it is so easy to get caught up in nerves and anxiousness that I find myself forgetting why standing in front of others and speaking is scary in the first place.

Am I nervous that people won’t like me? Am I horrified that people will think I’m stupid? Do I hate the idea of being judged?

Stepping back and thinking about the reasons that you don’t want to speak in front of others ultimately helps you look forward and tackle the specific issues you have head on.

Remember that speaking confidently will make the audience WANT to listen to you.

When answering the questions running through my head, I often come to the consensus that people will likely dislike me, find me stupid, or judge me much more if I appear unconfident.

I have seen that when I speak loudly and stop shuffling around, the audience seems more tuned in to what I have to say. In return, I grow more confident in what I am saying because people seem to care about what I am speaking about.

Be enthusiastic and believe in what you are saying.

If you don’t sound enthusiastic about what you are talking about, how can you expect others to?

Working on a presentation is a task in itself and its important to show your audience that you are proud and excited to show them all you have done. Although it sounds extremely cliché, I’ve found that believing in what you are saying will ultimately help you believe in yourself.

Know your audience: Find three points to guide your eyes.

Let’s be honest, the content of a presentation is only half the battle; it is just as important to have great eye contact and body language. In the past, I have had countless critiques about seeming unhappy, looking into space, and talking unnaturally fast or slow.

I think this often stems from not having a solid understanding of my presence in front of a crowd. Not knowing where to look and direct my voice can easily make me forget my train of thought or what I have to say altogether.

To combat this, it’s a great idea to pick three specific points throughout the crowd and transition from each point in your presentation by guiding your eyes to a different point in the crowd. Knowing where to be speaking towards really helps the presentation feel more put together, in both your mind and the audience’s.

PRACTICE!

In the end, it all comes down to practice. There is no better way to feel great about presenting than to understand the logical flow of what you will be saying and how you will be saying it. Practice in front of your friends, practice in the mirror, practice in the room you’ll be presenting in—it will only make you better.

Most of all, practice being confident, telling yourself that it is just public speaking, and that you are going to do just fine.

Sameera Polavarapu will graduate in 2019 from the University of Maryland at College Park with a major in international business and marketing. Her dream job is to do marketing for a global organization such as the United Nations.

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Grow from Mentee to Mentor

By Jordan Perras

October 10, 2016

As a college woman, I am regularly told that I must find a mentor to help advance my career or collegiate experience. The perks are endless, from resume and interview tips to opinions on which professors are best. Having an older woman (or man!) to look up to is such a great way to get advice on college and the workplace.

The math major in me can’t help but wonder that if everyone is looking for a mentor, then who are the mentors?? If we are all looking to be the mentee, there have to be a shortage of mentors. Luckily, changing that is easy and it starts with us.

While you definitely shouldn’t stop looking for a mentor, start looking for how to be a mentor. And if you don’t know how, here are some helpful tips!

Ask open-ended questions and listen more than you talk.

To listen more than you talk, you’re going to have to avoid yes/no questions. The more you can have your mentee talk through achievements or challenges, the more she’ll get out of them. She’ll have to explain her thought process or what specifically is challenging/rewarding for her.

Try to avoid giving advice unless she specifically asks for it.

It’s totally understandable to jump to giving advice right away. You might have been in a similar situation, and it’s super easy to rush to tell her what she should do. However, try to let her work out what the next best steps are, but absolutely chime in if she asks your opinion (and she probably will!).

Draw from your experiences but don’t try to create a mini me.

When you’re giving advice, keep in mind that most situations don’t have a right and a wrong way to act. In most cases, there will be a spectrum of appropriate action, and her gut reaction might be different from yours. Absolutely feel free to share what you have/would do in a situation, but don’t be surprised or upset if she ends up choosing something different.

Don’t worry about making it formal.

This doesn’t have to be a super formal relationship – you don’t even have to use the words mentor/mentee. Coffee dates once a month for advice and chats about life are a great way to form a relationship without stressing about it.

Overall, my main tip is not to overthink things! This should be a fun and low-key way to get to pass on your advice and get to know a younger woman.

Jordan Perras will graduate in 2018 from Northeastern University and she is majoring in Math and Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and a minor in Economics.  She has a wide variety of interests that include history, art and literature and plans to pursue an MBA after college. She is especially interested in the role of social entrepreneurship in sustainable business.

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Maintain Focus and Become a Productivity Boss in College

By Hafsah Lakhany

October 7, 2016

As a freshman in college, my first year emerged as intense period of discovery, exploration, and profound personal and academic growth.  Throughout the progression of three challenging quarters, I found that I performed most effectively when I was focused. 

I’m sure many of you can either identify with or eventually discover that college is a strange place—college is a place where in one moment you may be having the time of your life with friends and without any warning the next moment you discover you have four finals, two presentations, three projects, and four extracurricular events and commitments all sandwiched into one grueling week. 

In fact, one of my professors even joked that one of the primary areas many students often ironically neglect in college is their academic course load. 

So amid all of the activities, involvements, and a desire to maintain some smidgen of a social life, how does one maintain laser sharp focus on their academic course load, arguably the most fundamental component of their college careers?

Environment

For many students, myself most definitely included, the environment in which you try to tackle schoolwork emerges as the most deterministic factor for the speed, quality, and focus of your studying and work.  If you’re not sure which environment you thrive in, experiment and go with whichever sticks, as everyone is inherently different. 

For many, quiet, structured libraries emerge as powerhouses for study, while other prefer the solitude or relaxing nature of their dorm rooms.  Personally, I find cafes and coffeehouses like Starbucks maintain the perfect balance between structure and background noise conducive to effective study habits and productivity for me.  Also, a little caffeine never hurts wink

Mental Prioritization and Pre-Planning

We’ve all been there: we plan on carving out a specific time frame for studying for that midterm or finally getting to that paper when one of your closest friends, or one of your favorite clubs on campus decides to host the event you’ve been dying to be a part of on what was going to be your most satisfying productivity day.  Do I want to have fun or maximize my score in Class X?

Personally, I try to avoid being confronted by such dilemmas by trying to abide by my mental priority list.  I prioritize academics/personal well being, followed by work, leadership responsibilities, friends/family, and finally all other club involvements/downtime.  That way, if my friends invite me to hang out, if I feel like lost time will drastically compromise the quality of my work, I’ll opt out but if I believe that I can realistically enjoy their company for a few hours and still maximize the quality of my work, then I’ll be happy to oblige.

Calendars/Task Apps

I don’t think it’s possible to vouch enough for free apps like Calendar and To Do List Apps.  Out of every tool and hack I’ve utilized throughout my college career, those two types of apps in tandem have most considerably simplified and enhanced the quality of my life. 

Personally, I tried to stay fairly involved on campus, so every club meeting, work shift, class, lab, seminar, and even library session would be listed on my calendar app, along with each event/task’s designated location, description, and frequency.  As opposed to wasting energy trying to remind myself of my committed events, or struggling to carve out time, my calendar app handled the guesswork and reminded me of each event which enabled me to really maximize my time and tackle each task with a peace of mind. 

In terms of specific tasks, I used a to-do list app to organize all of my goals and tasks in terms of categories (work, subject areas, personal tasks, etc.), deadlines, and even priority level which not only simplified my life, but also emerged as a motivation tool, since I rewarded myself with a gummy bear or just plain satisfaction every time I crossed off an item from my to-do list. 

If you enjoy the feeling of carrying a physical agenda or planner, by all means go for it!  I can concede that there are few experiences more satisfying than crossing off a physical item on a written to-do list.

Despite popular opinion, anyone can maximize their productivity and focus in college by prioritizing, organizing, and planning to win at the game of college and life. 

Keep fighting the good fight my fellow college students—it’s our game to win. 

Hafsah Lakhany will graduate in 2019 from the University of California at Irvine with a major in business administration. After college, Hafsah plans on going into consulting, health care management, and career development coaching/consulting.

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How to Create a Holistic Internship Application

By Danni Ondraskova

October 6, 2016

Many companies ask for a resume, cover letter, and either essay response or writing sample when reviewing applicants for jobs and internships. These materials are like a first handshake for the HR office: if you come across as limp or artificial, chances are you will get passed up for an interview, but if you knock it out of the park, employers will be lining up around the block for you.

That’s why no matter how qualified you are, you can’t turn down the chance to look like a personable, qualified candidate that they would be mistaken not to hire.

The resume

This is the common denominator: most, if not every, job you apply for will ask for your resume. Typically shorter than a curriculum vitae, resumes include the academic and professional accomplishments of candidates.

Your resume should include raw facts and statistics resold in a compelling way. If you increased your company’s sales by 300% or made 30 presentations on discounted cash flow, put that down. Anything that is quantifiable is a good talking point.

Try to have two to four bullet points for each job you put under work experience. Make sure to keep in mind that private sector resumes are typically one page, while public sector and non profit can be longer.

The cover letter

Cover letters have become especially important as technology makes it easier for individuals to apply for multiple jobs and flood companies with requests. With even resumes seeming to blend together with all the qualified candidates out there, it really is a writer that makes a difference much of the time.

Try to let your personality shine through in this one-page letter. In your first paragraph, tell them what job you are applying to and why. In your next one, address what qualifications you have that they will find satisfactory. In your penultimate paragraph, discuss what you would like to get out of the job. Finally, add a polite thank you and any last words.

Remember above all to be formal but personable and have compelling reasons for your attributes and interest in the company.

The organization essay

Some organizations, particularly government organizations and think tanks, will give you a prompt of a few hundred words. Often, questions will either be technical ones related to the organization or something more personal about why you want to work for the organization.

Just be honest about your perspective and how the opportunity fits into your career path. Be sure not to be repetitive. Adding details or previous encounters you had with the company (even if virtual!) will personalize your essay and set it apart from those of other applicants.

The writing sample

If you’re applying for a research analyst, communications, or similar kind of job, chances are that you’ll be asked to submit an academic essay or journalistic publication. For me, as a student journalist who has written a lot, I had to think about the affiliation of the place I was applying to.

If your company has a certain political slant, take that into account when deciding whether to apply there and what article or essay to end. The same goes for academia. Don’t be afraid to recycle your best pieces for multiple companies if you are confident in their quality.

Danni Ondraskova will graduate in 2018 from Wellesley College. Danni plans on earning a dual degree in law and business and dreams of working for JP Morgan’s Global Investment Management division.

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