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

By Jordan Perras

March 20, 2017

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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Changing Course, Following Your Passion

By Katie Wooliver

March 16, 2017

At four years old, the choice was settled: I would become a professional basketball player.  A few months later, however, and I had come to my senses and rationalized a more attainable career goal - the front desk girl for the pool.  After a brief conviction to one day be Sporty Spice of the Spice girls, I decided I wanted to be a doctor (much to the relief of my parents).  This time, the vision stuck. Fueled by a love of math and science and the desire to help others, I worked toward my goal. When I entered college at Northwestern, I elected to study Biomedical Engineering, which fulfilled my math and science requirements, and hopefully would give me an edge over other medical school applicants.  Although school was often challenging, I pushed myself to stick with it and grind it out –with each passing year, I was getting closer and closer to my childhood goal. 

The beginning of my senior year, however, taught me the value of thinking outside and allowing myself to chart another course.  A last minute pivot can be difficult, but keeping your passions at the forefront of your decision making will allow you to be confident in the choices you make. 

I had organized my class schedule to complete the remaining pre-med courses and take the MCAT in the spring.  I was set.  Yet, something didn’t feel right.  I began to have serious reservations about the path I had laid out for myself.  When I spoke to my friends that were on the same course as me, they were all gung ho about applying to medical school and committing the next four years to school, a few more years to residency, and topping it off with a couple years for a specialty.  At one point in life, being a doctor was all I saw myself doing, but for the first time since grade school I was questioning my dream. 

For a few weeks I wrestled with this in my mind.  Why was I feeling this way now?  What would my parents and peers think if I changed my mind in the eleventh hour?  What would I do with my life if I did not become a doctor?  I know now that these questions are common for seniors preparing to leave college and enter the real world.  But at the time, these questions really daunted me.  For so many years I had a one-track mind about what I would do with my future.  I hadn’t explored anything else.  I think at the core, it was the fact that I didn’t really know what else was out there for me that made me nervous about throwing myself full force into medical school.  I needed to start exploring. 

It was a difficult decision to steer away from the goal to become a doctor, but ultimately the right path for me became clear when I found DaVita.  My work on integrated care with DaVita allows me to fulfill my childhood passion of providing care to others while providing me the opportunity to explore healthcare from another angle and exercise my talents in a way I hadn’t thought of before.  I learned that when I pushed myself to look beyond, my passion still lied with healthcare, but my end goal took a different shape. 

It is okay to change course, but keep your passion as your North Star. 

As you think about making the transition from college to the real world, keep your mind open to the possibilities that are out there, but stay true to what drives you.  At the end of the day, if you enter a field you are passionate about, your work will be stronger, your days will be more fulfilling, and ‘adulting’ will be better than you ever imagined. 

Katie WooliverKatie is an Analyst on the Pioneer Team at DaVita, an operations and innovation team that operates similar to an internal consultancy. Katie earned her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern University, Class of 2015.

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How to Make the Most of Your Non-Major Electives

By Jordan Perras

March 13, 2017

Most degree plans have space for electives, classes that have nothing to do with your declared major. It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking pointless classes to get an easy A, but that mindset won’t help you achieve your long-term goals. Instead, check out these tips to pick classes that will complement your degree plan, without stressing you out.

  • Think about what your degree plan is lacking. For example, are you a business major who hasn’t been required to learn Excel or Access? Those are necessary skills that you’ll need for internships and full-time work. I’m willing to bet your school has an intro class in that material. Use that same logic to think about what you’re going to want to know on the first day of your next new job and then sign up for an intro level course in that area. Some ideas include: statistics, economics, public speaking, computer skills, communications or writing.
  • Make yourself well-rounded. Having a specialization in your major is awesome, but it means that you’re missing out on the other subjects your school offers. Are you a business major who hasn’t taken a science or writing class since high school? Are you a biology major who doesn’t know what GAAP stands for? While you may not end up using the information in this type of elective later, it will help you practice thinking and learning in a new way.
  • Think about what excites you. If you were absolutely required to pick up a non-fiction book TOMORROW and start teaching yourself something, what would it be? It is absolutely fine to pick classes that interest you, even if there is no other reason to take it! Be honest with yourself about the difference between a class that excites you and a class you’re taking simply because it sounds easy.

What classes have you taken as electives? Are there any tips I missed? Tweet at @fortefoundation or @perras_jordan

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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How to Write Your Elevator Pitch to Include College and Work Life

By Danni Ondraskova

March 9, 2017

I have spent the last few days working on short essays and cover letters, which I will refer to here synonymously as elevator pitches, for my various summer applications. During that time, I learned a lot about systematic mistakes I had been making in my writing, gleaned some great tips from mentors on how to avoid these pitfalls, and applied them to my work, seeing great improvements in just a few drafts. Through the course of this blog post, I hope to be able to pass some of them to you, enable you to write better elevator pitches, and help you get closer to the career outcomes you desire.

For many who are applying for jobs and internships for the first time, the “elevator pitch” is an oft-heard dreaded phrase that elicits feelings of anxiety, fear, and general unhappiness. Many people wonder how you can possibly describe your background and particularly your academic achievements and career experience in as little as thirty spoken seconds or two written paragraphs. The task can be even more daunting if you are sure you have found that dream job or internship and know that the written portion of your applications marks the thin line between an offer and a rejection. Some reasonably point to low admissions rates in the single digits and ask how much they can actually do in their application to distinguish themselves from others in the crowd. While these blog post does not promise to be a panacea, I think you will be able to be able to better strategize how to approach the college and work life elements of your elevator pitch if you read the next few paragraphs. 

First, I encourage you to sit down somewhere quiet with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper. Spend five minutes writing down everything you know about yourself: where you come from, what fascinates you, your most formative academic and career experiences, and so on. When those five minutes are up, you will hopefully have a lot to work with.

My mentor gave me a funny metaphor for me to visualize the next step.

He asked me, “What are your favorite fruits?”

“Apples, oranges, and bananas,” I replied.

His point (and your next step!) is that you need to organize your arguments and sub arguments in threes because the human mind is best at processing items in that quantity. Try to have one paragraph dealing with your background and initial interest, another on your academic achievements, and a third on your career achievements, for example. Think about how to best categorize your different kinds of “fruit” and then think about the order of the paragraphs themselves (or, if you are like me, do these steps in the opposite order).

Finally, I encourage you to imagine yourself sitting on the other side of the table as the recruiter. Look through your internship job description. Formulate a series of criteria about the kind of applicant you want and write them down. I did something similar for a policy internship below.

Criteria for policy internship:

1. Is she likable?
2. Will she do a great job?
3. Does she have a good, clear rationale for wanting the job?
4. Will she be professional and does she demonstrate a good writing ability?
5. Is she reliable?
6. Does she demonstrate attention to detail?

Once you come up with your 5-10 questions, reread your elevator pitch and go through each question one by one. Strive to answer every question; you will have your final draft done when you have done so. Before you send an important application or make that elevator pitch in person, be sure to practice with your mentor and have him or her offer you tips.


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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Managers vs. Leaders: Are They the Same?

By Jordan Perras

March 6, 2017

It is easy to use “manager” and “leader” interchangeably, especially when you’re thinking about work. However, managers and leaders fulfill different roles in organizations. Of course they share some basic characteristics, but they are separate and distinct roles that are both necessary on effective teams. 

What does a manager do?

Managers focus on the quantitative work of a team. They help plan, budget, organize and staff a team. They control what the team does and help problem solve when things go wrong.

Have you ever acted as a manager in a team project? Typical manager behavior would be assigning tasks to other group members, booking meeting rooms in the library or emailing due date reminders.

What does a leader do?

Leaders focus on the qualitative part of the team, especially the ‘people’ element. They are more likely to set a direction for the team, get people on board, and then motivate the team to follow through. They probably advocate for change and new approaches to tasks.

Have you ever acted as a leader in a team project? Typical leader behavior would be exciting the team to do well, supporting the team vision vocally, and inspiring people to do better work.

Can you be both?

The short answer is YES, you can be both! How?

  • Take smart risks.
  • Gain self-knowledge (check out my self-knowledge leadership series!). 
  • Involve others in your decision making. 
  • Think about how one part of a project impacts the others. 
  • Think about the long term impact of decisions – on people, on efficiency, on morale.

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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Active Versus Passive Investing

By Siyu Wu

March 2, 2017

The debate between active and passive investing has existed for decades, but has recently come again to the center of attention as many passive funds post high returns and evidence show capital flowing from active into passive funds. But what exactly is the difference between active and passive investing? Here, we’ll discuss a general overview of what defines active versus passive investing, and common arguments in favor of and against each investment strategy.

What is passive investing?

Passive investing, otherwise known as index investing, occurs when the investment portfolio mirrors a market index, such as S&P 500. This strategy is commonly employed by mutual funds (such as Vanguard) and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), though in recent years some active ETFs have been established.

The key philosophy behind passive investing is the efficient market hypothesis. Simply put, this hypothesis argues that stock prices always correctly reflect the fundamental value of a stock, incorporating and reflecting all relevant information. Under this argument, it is impossible to outperform the market in the long run. Therefore, it is more profitable to create a portfolio that mimics an index. 

What is active investing?

In contrast, active portfolio managers (such as Fidelity) choose to purchase stocks and other investments and continuously monitor the activity of these investments to take advantage of profitable conditions. These investors use financial models, fundamental research, market forecasts, and personal experiences to make decisions regarding which securities to buy, hold, and sell. Active managers watch the markets very closely – even the smallest variations in market prices can result in an opportunity to profit!

The goal of active managers is to exploit these short-term variations in the markets to produce returns better than those of passive funds that mark to an index. This is also known as “outperforming the market,” which goes against the basis of the efficient markets hypothesis discussed earlier. Active investors believe that stock prices do not always accurately incorporate all relevant information and reflect the fundamental value of that security. These price discrepancies from the fundamental price are exactly the source of return for active managers.

Passive vs active investing: the debate

The debate between passive and active investing has existed for a long time, and stems from arguments regarding the viability of the efficient markets hypothesis. Those in favor of active management argue that active investing, when done well, does indeed outperform the indices. In addition, active investors have increased flexibility in choosing which stocks to hold, can manage risks through hedging and selling stocks when risks increase, and allows for elite portfolio managers to exploit informational advantages to maximize returns.

On the other hand, in recent years, arguments for passive investing have become increasingly prevalent as empirical data suggests that active investing on average has not outperformed the market. For the typical individual investor, passive investing is advantageous in its minimal fee structure, since there is no need to pay a portfolio manager to research and select which stocks to buy. In addition, the composition of a passively-invested portfolio is very transparent – investors always know which securities are an index. Given these advantages, many argue that the after-tax and post-fee returns in passively-managed portfolios actually surpass the returns seen in active management.

With this understanding of the two broad categories of investing strategies, you can better understand which strategy better fits your personal preferences. When choosing to invest your own money, make sure to do your research before deciding what type of fund you want.


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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Three Personal Development Books to Spring You into Action This Year

By Hafsah Lakhany

February 27, 2017

As the New Year begins to unfold and the momentum for the realization of many of our loftiest goals declines, I often look to self-help non-fiction books as sources of information, inspiration, and most importantly motivation, to continue in an upward trajectory in an effort to constantly attain growth, progression, and success. So without further ado, here are three works that have profoundly impacted my approach to my academic, social and professional life:

1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie’s world renowned classic delves into the process of cultivating personal practices which drive success such as mechanisms for transforming individuals’ perspectives to parallel your own, methods for increasing your affability, and altering the opinions of others without inciting animosity.  He acknowledges the inevitability of interacting with others, and leveraging the social component of success rather than allowing it to emerge as a hurdle in your progression.

2. Outliers: The Stories of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell’s avant garde book emerges as one of my most cherished non-fiction work to this date. Outliers methodically and objectively approaches the ostensibly subjective and organic idea of success.  Rather than emerging as instructive in nature, it explores inspiring anecdotes which reflect the overarching notion that success is not accomplished by serendipity, competence, or rare talents; Gladwell claims that the most meaningful metric for measuring success remains the time devoted to cultivating skills.  By substantiating his claims with anecdotal examples, he argues that people who succeed in attaining elevated levels of success dedicate more time cultivating the skills required for their success.

3. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

This final gem is rooted in multiple years of Carol Dweck’s research regarding the concept of mindsets.The central notion underlying the work claims that our own mindsets regarding our capabilities and talents largely influence our abilities to the goals we aim to achieve. Her work claims that individuals with fixed mindsets who believe their predetermined traits determine their success fail to perform at the level of individuals who foster growth mindsets who maintain the belief that any skill may be enhanced through devotion and diligence.

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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Five Reasons You Should Join a Writing Organization This Spring

By Danni Ondraskova

February 23, 2017

This website is geared towards college underclasswomen who are considering entering business, finance, management, and related professions. In such number-oriented fields, it can be easy to underestimate the influence of good writing skills and the value you gain in cultivating them. After all, a large part of your job involves being able to financially capitalize on market fluctuations. However, the other key part of the equation is people. Whether you are an applicant, freshly-minted employee, or seasoned employer, interpersonal communication will be a key part of your job. And no matter what position you are in on your career trajectory, writing will be a crucial part of getting you where you want to go.

If you are in college, you can take a pivotal first step towards succeeding in your business-related career by joining a writing club, on-campus publication, online outlet, or similar organization. The key criteria that you need to meet are that you need to find a mentor within the organization who will help you hone your writing abilities and be able to write on a regular basis. Ideally, you will be able to write on a variety of issues that interest you but would also be assigned to topics you did not previously know about to push you outside your comfort zone and teach you something new.

You may desire a more specific description of what a writing organization will enable you to do for your future. Here are some reasons:

1. Joining a writing organization will help you deepen your knowledge of topics you know already and introduce you to subjects you didn’t know existed. In my publications, I learned an incredible amount about religion, history, and other subjects that proved to be very useful, even though I did not formally study those subjects in college.

2. Joining a writing organization will give you the satisfaction of creating a product and seeing others respond to it, critique it, and ultimately benefit from it. Some people, particularly kinesthetic learners, derive benefits from knitting a scarf or carving a chair. Writing often elicits that same kind of meaning in us.

3. Joining a writing organization will enable you to create an easily accessible portfolio, which you can share with friends, family, followers, and employers through files, LinkedIn, and social media outlets. Being able to add a publications section to your resume is invaluable because it shows a concrete example of how you are contributing to important dialogues about the issues of our day and give back to the community.

4. Joining a writing organization will hopefully give you a community of like-minded individuals on campus who are interested in helping each other improve their work to benefit the campus or wider community.

5. Joining a writing organization and especially writing opinions articles (“op-eds”) will teach you to be a better critical thinker and form better arguments. This will greatly help you in your quest to attend business school since many institutions like Harvard Business School rely on case studies, which help you derive business insights from real-world examples. Writing opinions pieces will help you do the same.

There are many more benefits to joining a writing organization that I have not touched on here. If anyone on this website is also interested in earning a PhD, attending law school, or getting some other postgraduate degree, writing organizations will similarly help you in both writing your applications and will be typically be viewed very favorably by the admissions team, particularly if you have moved up to a columnist or editor position on your executive boards. As you decide what kind of writing organization to join, think about your interests and subjects you have wanted to explore but have lacked the time to.

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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