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Start the Semester Off Right

By Sameera Polavarapu

April 17, 2017

The start of a semester is a time that many students take for granted. People often brush off responsibilities at the beginning of the semester because there are fewer assignments and grades hanging over their heads. However, the avalanche of work that may fill their schedules in the months following can be prevented if students are careful from the get-go. Here are my three tips to start the semester off right:

Understand Your Schedule Has Changed

A huge part of each semester is readjusting to a new set of classes, a new daily routine, and a new set of people that fill your days. The unfamiliarity of a new schedule can be overwhelming, but taking the time to patiently adjust to a new set of priorities goes a long way—simple as that! 

Plan Your Days Accordingly

A new schedule means a new time table! Take a look at the various syllabi for your classes and get a stronger feel for the amount of work each class may require. Based on each schedule, carve out times in your week that you can study or do reoccurring assignments for specific classes. Finally, to prevent tasks from piling up at the last minute, make checklists of assignments to complete each day. 

Know That Your Time is Valuable

Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re going to do something, do it well. College is a time of finding your passions and bringing them to life. Do not join clubs because you feel like you have to, and leave activities that don’t fulfill you behind. It’s definitely easier said than done, but spending all of your time doing things that gratify you rather than merely wear you down will have endless payoff.

As you get further and further into the semester, it can be hard to keep up with the running cycle of homework and exams. However, by setting yourself up for success, you can take just a little more weight off your shoulders this year. 

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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Professional Email-Writing

By Siyu Wu

April 3, 2017

Many argue that a major gap in communication style between job-seeking millennials and typically more conservative recruiters has formed. In this age where email is typically the main form of communication, especially between firms and potential hires, email etiquette has become increasingly important. To bridge this gap, it is necessary for students to be aware of common pitfalls when it comes to writing emails to professionals at firms. To help overcome such pitfalls, here are six tips for writing the perfect email: 

Do your research

Yes, even for an email, you need to do your research! If it’ s a cold email to someone you’ve never emailed, make sure to check out the person’ s LinkedIn – knowing a bit about their background can help you craft a more personal email. If it’ s a follow up email to someone you’ve spoken with before, take time to refer back to your previous conversations – this can help connect the dots and strengthen the individual’s impression of you. 

Construct a strong subject line

The subject line is essentially a “first impression” in email-writing, making it one of the most important components of your email! It needs to be specific: a subject line that’s too long or too vague will be easily overlooked. The subject line also should be actionable: if possible, give the person some idea of what you’re requesting in the email. At the most fundamental level, ensure the subject line is correctly capitalized and spelled. A poorly written subject line is an easy reason for the recipient to delete the email without even opening it!

Be concise and to the point

Recruiters and other people at firms are very busy and often receive hundreds of emails a day. The chances that someone will read an essay-length email, then, is very unlikely. Follow-up emails typically should be 3-4 sentences while introduction emails can be a few sentences longer. Use these few sentences wisely – briefly introduce yourself (school, major, year), clearly state your connection to the person (if applicable), and explain what you are looking for. 

Soften your tone

Remember that you’ re asking someone else to take time out of their busy day to respond to your email, and be gracious with how you word your requests. Rather than using direct language or imperative statements, use phrases such as “I would greatly appreciate…”.

Double check and check again

You should proofread your email at least twice to ensure there are no grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, or poorly worded sentences. Even the smallest typo appears unprofessional – it suggests that you lack attention to detail, which is a characteristic many recruiters value when finding the ideal job candidate. 

Have a consistent email signature

Having an email signature may not seem like a big deal, but it is in fact an important source of contact information for the person receiving your email. Be sure to include: your full name, major, university, class year, email address, and phone number. Formatting should be simple and straightforward – bells and whistles not only seem unprofessional but also distract from the main message! 

For example:
Siyu Wu
Department of Economics Princeton University ‘18
Email Address
Phone Number

Though many of the above tips may seem obvious or overly simple, it is these small differences that set some job candidates apart from the crowd. Conveying a professional feel through both personal and email interactions leaves a lasting positive impression that can take you far as you begin your career.

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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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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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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Using Self-Knowledge to Improve Your Leadership Skills: Personality

By Jordan Perras

February 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 last part of this series, you’ll learn about some major types of personality traits and how they impact your behavior and your leadership abilities.

The “Big 5” Personality Traits

These are the five major ways that personalities differ. Each one is a scale and is not concrete – by this I mean that you may display different degrees of each trait based on the situation. For example, when you are at home with your family, you may have high emotional stability whereas you may have low emotional stability during the first few weeks of a new job.

Openness – You are creative, curious, cultured.
Low Openness – You are practical with narrow interests.

Conscientiousness – You are hardworking, organized and dependable.
Low Conscientiousness – You may be disorganized and unreliable.

Extraversion – You are gregarious, assertive, and sociable.
Low Extraversion – You are reserved, timid or quiet.

Agreeableness – You are cooperative, warm and agreeable.
Low Agreeableness – You are disagreeable or antagonistic.

Emotional Stability – You are calm, self-confident and cool.
Low Emotional Stability – You may be insecure or anxious.

Read through the list again and think about whether you display “high” or “low” degrees of the five traits. Do your results surprise you? Why or why not?

Core Self Evaluation

The Core Self Evaluation is a way to understand your own conception of yourself and your behavior, especially at work.

Locus of Control – Your belief about internal versus external control.

  • If you have an internal locus of control, you believe that you control what happens to you. For example, success is a result of hard work.
  • If you have an external locus of control, you believe that people and circumstances control what happens to you. For example, success is a result of luck.

Self-Esteem – Your general feeling of self-worth.

  • When you have high self-esteem, you believe that you have strengths and weaknesses, but the strengths are more important.
  • When you have low self-esteem, you are easily affected by what other people think about you and you tend to view yourself negatively.

Self-Efficacy – This is your overall view of yourself as being able to complete tasks effectively in a wide variety of situations.

  • When you have high self-efficacy, you trust yourself to attempt difficult tasks and persist in overcoming obstacles.
  • When you have low self-efficacy, you often feel anxious when faced with adversity and doubt your ability to complete new tasks.

Self-Monitoring – This is the extent to which you change your behavior based on the situation and the people you are with.

  • High self-monitors adjust their behavior according to the situation and are more effective at work because they respond to changes in the environment.
  • Low self-monitors show behavioral consistency in all situations and are less likely to respond to supervisory feedback.

Were your traits obvious to you as you read through the list? Were you happy with your results? Surprised? Think about how each of your traits impact your professional success. 

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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