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Get Career Ready: Learn How To Tell A Story

By Angela Guido

May 29, 2016

What do all of these things have in common: campfires, job interviews, networking events, and public speeches? If you guessed they are all a chance to tell a great story about yourself, you’re right! If you want people to appreciate your abilities and understand your accomplishments, you’ve got to tell them.

If you think of a job interview like a campfire chat, then you’re on the right track. The key to talking about your accomplishments in an engaging and humble way is including details about the challenges you faced.

Go to a Toastmaster’s meeting, take a screenwriting class, or write a short story for the school paper. Take time now to learn the art form of narrative because it will serve you throughout the rest of your career.

Our career tips are brought to you by Angela Guido. For more timeless wisdom and bright ideas for your career, check out her website, Career Protocol.

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Driving Forces: The Total Package

May 29, 2016

Shazi Visram ’04 knew what she wanted to do before she knew how she would do it. The daughter of immigrants who became successful business owners, she was determined not only to launch a company but to use it to drive social change. In 2003, while pursuing her MBA at Columbia Business School, she discovered an opportunity that would allow her to pursue both ambitions.

“I decided I would go to Columbia to create a toolbox so that when I had that big idea of how I was going to change the world, I would be able to execute,” says Visram, founder and CEO of Happy Family, which makes organic foods for babies, toddlers, and children. “While I was there, I was having a conversation with a friend where she talked about how she didn’t feel like a good mom because she wasn’t giving her baby homemade baby food, as recommended by her pediatrician. She was really taking a lot of guilt out on herself. I suddenly had that ‘lightbulb moment’ that revealed to me what would become my passion: improving children’s nutrition.”

As she listened to her friend, Visram saw an opportunity not only “to address the pain in the marketplace” but also to “change the way children are fed in our country.” She founded Happy Family in 2003, a year ahead of her graduation, and used the remainder of her time at Columbia to work on the launch.

A course called “Launching New Ventures” was especially helpful, as was a program called the Entrepreneurial Greenhouse, which she cites as “the cornerstone of what has now become Happy Family.” As Visram explains, “The Greenhouse is truly like an incubator. We were starting businesses and using some of the best minds in New York to give us direction and act as sounding boards in the early stages of development.”  Access to that collective wisdom helped Visram not only launch a business but make it a game-changer.

“My dream was to create something that was disruptive, not just another jar of baby food,” she says. She quickly ticks off a list of the product differentiators that guided the company’s development: “Number one, we would source from organic, sustainable farms, so we’d be supporting sustainable agriculture; second, for the baby we’d be making a product that is going to be super premium and delicious and set the stage for a lifetime of health and wellness; third, we’d be meeting the needs of a mom who’s crying out for something more premium but doesn’t have the time to make her own baby food; and fourth, we would meet the needs of retailers who want to appeal to that mom and make more than a 16 percent margin on the products.”

That added up to what Visram considered “a super solid business case.” Yet Happy Family progressed, at best, in baby steps in its early years and faced its share of struggles, including working capital shortfalls and failure to meet its initial sales projections. “Being able to stay in business while you’re innovating and trying to figure out what is going to work, even as you manage everything that’s not working, that was really hard,” Visram says.

But in 2009, a packaging innovation reversed the company’s fortunes. “We launched baby food in pouches, and within two weeks I knew we had a home run. It was the first time in four or five years where it felt like my convictions were fully affirmed,” she says. “These pouches are a new kind of packaging that allow for really high-quality food but are also very convenient, and that has proven to be a turning point.” Indeed: In just one year Happy Family’s sales growth more than doubled, from $6 million in 2009 to $13.3 million in 2010. This year the company projects sales will reach $130 million.

That financial success has given Visram the resources necessary to complete the other part of Happy Family’s mission: social entrepreneurship. Its “Happy to Help” initiative supports a variety of social programs related to children’s health, food policy, and sustainable organic agriculture. “You exist on this planet not just to work and make a profit,” Visram says. “I decided to profit a little bit less so I could do something bigger with that money. I don’t care if consumers choose us because we do that or not. It’s just important to me as an owner. That’s why I’m here — to do something that feels meaningful.”

Content courtesy of Columbia Business School.

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Get Career Ready: Life is Long; Be Kind

By Angela Guido

May 22, 2016

You just never know which relationships will turn out to be the most important. You can’t tell which strangers will become close friends, associates, or career helpers. When in doubt, be kind. If you treat everyone with respect and generosity, you will have more resources to support you in everything you plan to do in your career. Try these three daily actions:

  1. Ask people how they are and genuinely listen to their answer. Be there.
  2. Say yes to someone who asks for help or a favor, even if your schedule is already jam packed.
  3. Take every chance to help your classmates with classes where you excel. Finished that problem set early? See if a friend or two want to meet you to review it. Aced that midterm? Help a friend who is lagging behind by explaining the concepts to her in terms she can understand.

Action number three will not only create good will, it will also start to hone your mentorship skills, which will come in very handy soon!!

Our career tips are brought to you by Angela Guido. For more timeless wisdom and bright ideas for your career, check out her website, Career Protocol.

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Driving Forces: Crusader for Justice

May 22, 2016

Former Justice Department attorney Nadine Payne had a different reaction than most people when she saw the destruction of the 2008 financial crisis. She started preparing for business school, so she could help reform the banking industry from the inside out.

“I realized that I could learn how to deploy financial resources to make a difference,” says Payne, a 2015 MBA graduate from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Now, instead of doing pre-complaint analysis and discovery as a Justice Department contractor, she helps manage governance, regulatory and external affairs for Citi in New York. She says other opportunities will come as she develops her business skills.

“Long-term, I want to actively work to deploy capital to empower women and girls in the developing world,” she says, “either through my own company or working with larger multinational financial institutions.”

Smith School Senior Associate Dean of Learning Joyce Russell says Payne already made an impact on campus through her leadership roles in organizations such as Black MBA, Net Impact and the Finance Association. She also focused on girls’ education and community development in Sri Lanka as a student consultant for a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, the Malini Foundation. “Nadine is quite simply a rock star,” Russell says.

Payne says the transition from law to business was harder than she anticipated, but she learned to rely on her professors and classmates for support. “I most enjoyed learning the importance of teamwork as the cornerstone of effective leadership,” she says. “Coming from a background in law, individual excellence was the light that guided my way and that of many lawyers.”

One lesson in teamwork came at the Great Wall during a business case competition in China. “Upon descending from the wall, I found myself ensconced in a toboggan, listening to safety instructions from the guide and surrounded by my classmates,” Payne says. “I savored those minutes sledding down the wall with my classmates.”

Content courtesy of University of Maryland - The Robert H. Smith School of Business..

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Wise Words: Oprah Winfrey

“There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.” - Oprah Winfrey

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Get Career Ready: Interview 20 People

By Angela Guido

May 15, 2016

You’re willing to work hard, you want to add value, but you also want to enjoy your work and be inspired. Right now, you probably have no idea how to do that. If you followed Tip 1, you’ve started considering your preferences. The next step is to figure out which jobs might match those preferences while also advancing your career in the direction you want to go.

Check out Forté’s Virtual Campus to see the paths others have followed. But internet research is not enough. Talk to people (at least 20!) and find out what their jobs are actually like. Target people in fields that interest you, and ask what they do on a daily basis, what impact they see from their efforts, and how they are evaluated at the company. For more guidance on Informational Interviews, check out my complete guide to doing a great one.

And keep in touch with the people you meet. They just might help you get a job one day!

Our career tips are brought to you by Angela Guido. For more timeless wisdom and bright ideas for your career, check out her website, Career Protocol.

Subscribe to Forté Driving Forces and get weekly career prep activities, Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) tips, and cool MBAs-on-the-job profiles.

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Driving Forces: From Musician to Consultant

May 15, 2016

Musician to consultant. It’s a path not often traveled by MBA students, but it was a life-changing journey for Ellen Gartner-Phillips. Ellen chose the top-ranked Kelley Full-Time MBA Program to help her translate skills as an artist and performer into a successful business career. Watch the video for more of Ellen’s story.

Ellen was changed in ways she didn’t expect. How could an MBA program change you?

Subscribe to Forté Driving Forces and get weekly career prep activities, Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) tips, and cool MBAs-on-the-job profiles.

 

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Before You Start Your Summer Internship…

By Siyu Wu

May 9, 2016

Summer is almost here, which means those internships you worked so hard to get are also about to start. But before you walk in the door on the first day of your internship, here are some things to keep in mind.

Know your role

It may have been a while since you applied and interviewed for your internship position, so make sure you know what’s in the job description before you start the internship. Take a look back at the position you applied for and get an idea of what to expect. Talk to your boss or mentor about resources you can use to prepare for what you’ll be doing on the job and ask about what skills – like Excel – you should brush up on. This way, you can hit the ground running from the very start of your internship, and you can make the most of every day!

Know your firm and division

This may seem a bit obvious, but take just a few moments to look up the firm where you’ll be spending your summer in the news. Perhaps there was a recent change in executive roles, or an exciting new project was just announced. This type of information can be great for first day conversation with new coworkers, or just so you have a better sense of what the firm will be doing over the summer.

Confirm first day logistics

Make sure you have a clear idea of where you’ll be reporting the first day – and how to get there – and what your work hours are like! What do you need to bring (notebooks, pens, laptop, etc.)? Coming prepared and early on the first day will give you the chance to feel more comfortable in the new work environment.

Clarify the dress code

Some businesses will expect you to wear business formal every day, other firms only expect business casual. Make sure to connect with someone at your internship – HR, your boss, or a mentor – to confirm what type of dress they expect you to wear. If all else fails, it’s safer to err on the side of dressing more professional on day one, and dress down if you notice others doing so. Regardless, remember that first impressions are key!

Ask questions

If you have any questions or concerns heading into your internship, reach out to someone you know at the firm. The firm most likely has made a lot of preparations for the summer intern class and will be more than happy to answer any questions so you feel prepared for the first day.

These are just a few tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your summer internship. Regardless of where you’ll be this summer, remember to keep an open mind, be ready to be challenged, learn as much as you can, and have fun!

Siyu Wu is from Colorado and is currently a sophomore at Princeton University, pursuing a degree in Economics and certificates in Finance and East Asian Studies. 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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