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Get Career Ready: Say Yes

By Angela Guido

July 24, 2016

It was my first job out of college, and I was teaching English in small city outside of Seoul, South Korea. A friend of mine had a lawyer friend who wanted English lessons at his office in Seoul, a 90-minute bus ride from me. I didn’t really need more students, but I agreed to meet the lawyer and have a first lesson.

He insisted I teach not only him, but several of his colleagues too. After a few weeks, he shared my resume with the office head, who decided to hire me to manage English training and recruiting for the whole company of about 250 employees. Then that company merged with a major accounting firm, and I got the chance to lead training and hiring for a Big Four Accounting firm with nearly 800 local employees.

These experiences exposed me to the world of business, which eventually led me to business school.

I owe pretty much all of my career to date to the fact that I said yes to a task I wasn’t even sure I wanted. Opportunity doesn’t always ring bells or make itself known with streamers and fireworks. Opportunity appears after you say yes. You can’t possibly predict the exact path you will take to fulfilling your own dreams and potential.

The best path forward is to sometimes just say yes.

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: Showcasing Social Skills

July 24, 2016

Ainsley TeGrotenhuis 05MBA knows the power of social media and how it can impact the bottom line if used strategically.

She’s leveraged this analytical expertise to optimize campaign performance and marketing spend effectiveness to drive positive ROI to garner her new role as manager, media partnerships for Facebook.

The road to this coveted assignment was a series of strategic moves,  each of which helped her gain expertise in creating marketing strategies and implementing campaigns across channels including social media, display, email, video, SEM, print and television.

TeGrotenhuis spent seven years shaping and leading digital marketing at CNN, before leaving Atlanta in 2012 to share her social media marketing expertise with diverse clients at TSG Consumer Partners. The San Francisco firm invests in middle market branded consumer companies that range from fashion and beauty to food and beverage to restaurants and retail/franchised services.

Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, TeGrotenhuis grew up with dreams of becoming an astronaut or documentary filmmaker. Her interests eventually turned to marketing, journalism, and consulting, and with the help of a Goizueta Women in Business mentor, she landed at CNN. Her experiences there, along with her Goizueta MBA, built a strong foundation for her career. 

“At CNN we used social media to ensure that stories were reaching people wherever they wanted to consume news— TV, online, and mobile,” says TeGrotenhuis. “We started with Facebook, then Twitter, then others. Our currency was ‘eyeballs’ (how many people were viewing content) and building deeper relationships with our audiences.”

At TSG, sales and engagement were key metrics. The focus, she says, was tracking product sales. For example, Planet Fitness interest lay in memberships and new franchises.
Her biggest challenge was educating stakeholders that social media is not free.

“It takes considerable time and in-house resources to manage social media effectively—to create shareable, buzzworthy, and interesting content. Many middle-market brands don’t have the infrastructure and head count to do that, so we help them use their limited resources effectively.”

She’s learned that not all messages resonate across all platforms.

“If you don’t understand the nuances of the message and how the consumer will be exposed to it, the message can fall flat. Watching TV is passive, so you might not act on a message. But if you see an ad on your tablet, phone, or computer, you can take immediate action and be immersed in whatever experience the brand wants.”

Interestingly, TeGrotenhuis learned of her prior job at TSG through an inquiry on LinkedIn. Although she was skeptical of how her media and digital marketing experience could fit with a private equity firm, guidance from a Goizueta advisor and classmates resulted in her pursuing the job. She and husband, Christian Detlefsen 04MBA, remain in the San Francisco area and say the move has paid off.  “I would advise people to evaluate an opportunity even if it seems like it’s in left field,” she says. “You never know.”

Content courtesy of Emory University (Goizueta Business School).

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Get Career Ready: Seek Constructive Feedback

By Angela Guido

July 17, 2016

Mostly, when we seek the input and feedback of others, we secretly hope they will praise us and emphasize what a great job we are doing. So when constructive feedback comes our way – like a subpar score on a test, critical comments on a paper, lackluster performance in a competition, or the harsh words of a peer or mentor - it tends to feel like bad news. At first.

But if you look closely at what the feedback is telling you, you will soon discover it’s a great gift. As I said last week, the only way to achieve great success is to fail and learn from it. Constructive feedback gives you deeper insight into areas of growth. So pursue it actively and embrace it. Seek specific information about your performance and what you can do to improve. Ask questions like:

  • To your profs: What else could I have done to improve this paper?
  • To your teammates: If you had been running this club gathering, how would you have done it differently?
  • To your internship supervisors: What could I have done better on this analysis/ presentation/ meeting/call?

Then use that information to plan next steps and improve.

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 tips on career prep activities, taking the GMAT and cool on-the-job profiles.

 

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Driving Forces: In Her Own Words

July 17, 2016

When Chantel Adams (MBA ’14) arrived at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School to begin her studies, the last skill she expected to put to use was cheerleading.

But Adams – who had volunteered as a cheerleading coach from the age of 15 – found that years of cartwheels and jumps prepared her for the team-building exercises during orientation. Coaching a team of new MBA students through a net obstacle course was a cinch after handling entire cheer squads.

“You never know which skills you’ll put to use,” she said. “Who ever thought my cheerleading would come in handy?”

It also taught her the art of communicating, socializing and networking with senior colleagues. She called on those experiences when she worked in finance as an associate analyst at Moody’s Investors Service and an accountant at Geller & Company.

“At age 22, I was sitting across the table from CEOs of global companies and being taken seriously,” she said. “The ability to confidently present myself as a mature, professional woman in a male-dominated industry is something that definitely came from cheerleading.”

While her quantitative abilities impressed her supervisors, they encouraged Adams to consider a career that used her strong interpersonal communication skills, too. An MBA was the perfect opportunity for Adams to change her career course and find a more fulfilling path.

“Business school was a way for me to figure out how best to package myself, leverage all of my skills and assets, and find a career that I really enjoyed,” she says.

When Adams was choosing where to pursue her MBA, the culture at UNC Kenan-Flagler attracted her. Students act like teammates instead of competitors. Small classes and the close-knit environment foster engaging class discussions and forge strong social bonds between students. Even when vying for the same positions, she and her classmates prep for interviews together and cheer each other on.

“Going into business school, I thought it was going to be much more of a shark tank,” she said. “The collaborative culture is something that is very unique to UNC Kenan-Flagler.”

And that collaboration extends to tapping into the talents and perspectives of the diverse student body. “Everyone’s so receptive to the diversity that you bring to the table – be it gender, ability, interests, age, sexual orientation or race – people are so open to that,” said Adams. “UNC Kenan-Flagler is about tolerance and inclusion.”

Building on her passion for encouraging youth, which she discovered as a cheerleading coach, she served as a Nonprofit Board Fellow for the Youth Enrichment Series, Inc. (YesICan), a local faith-based, pre-college enrichment program for students in grades 3-12 and their families. She spent six months as a non-voting member of its board and helped increase its revenue and implement more efficient ways to use funds.

She also completed the Nonprofit Leadership Certificate Program at UNC Kenan-Flagler, which prepares MBA students for leadership positions in the nonprofit world through coursework in fundraising, media relations and nonprofit financial management.

Adams is eager to encourage women to pursue careers in business. She served as president of Carolina Women in Business and changed the timing of its annual conference so that prospective students could attend before they applied to UNC Kenan-Flagler. To continue this advocacy, Adams stays aligned with organizations that promote women in business, such the Forté Foundation and Ellevate Network.

“UNC Kenan-Flagler definitely lives its mission of creating leaders for the greater good,” she said. “We have a number of opportunities to put not only our business knowledge and skills to work, but also give back to the community around us.”

Content courtesy of University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler Business School).

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Get Career Ready: Get Good at Failing

By Angela Guido

July 10, 2016

I teach a class called Failure Training because it turns out the only way to succeed in life is to fail. Before Thomas Edison had a successful working lightbulb, he failed 1,000 times, to which he famously claimed: “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

If you want to achieve great things – and I know you do because you’re reading this – then you need to get good at failure. Here is how:

  • Cultivate resilience – it’s a mindset whereby you don’t take failure personally, but instead – like Edison – view it as a necessary waypoint on your journey.
  • Milk your failures – once the emotional sting that accompanies failure passes, debrief with yourself (and others if appropriate) and seek to learn all you can from the setback.
  • Try to fail bigger and faster – once you have learned to bounce back from failure and use it to grow, seek more, bigger, and more important failures and then repeat the process. Because “only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” - Robert F. Kennedy

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 tips on career prep activities, taking the GMAT and cool on-the-job profiles.

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Driving Forces: Career Switcher and Diversity Advocate

See how Chicago native and Howard University graduate Colleen Thomas, MBA ‘17, is thriving as a career switcher and an advocate for diversity on her campus. In this video, she reflects on why she chose to pursue an MBA, her transition into consulting and how she helps to promote an open, inclusive environment.

Content courtesy of UCLA Anderson School of Management.

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Get Career Ready: Leverage Your Strengths

By Angela Guido

July 3, 2016

There are the things that matter to you, such as contributing to others, being honest, or championing a cause. There are ways you prefer to operate, such as collaborating with like-minded peers, working alone on the challenging problems, or starting your day after 9AM.

And there are things you are good at – like understanding complex systems, communicating across cultures, manipulating spreadsheets, or thinking on your feet. If you want a truly love your work, you need a little bit of all three of these things.

Find out what you’re really good at:

  • Look at your grades - which classes do you excel in and why?
  • Talk to peers and professors – where do they see you outshining?
  • Do a gut check – what do you think you’re really great at?
  • Consider doing a Strengths test, such as this one.

Then make an effort to use those strengths in creative ways. Seek class, club, and work opportunities that let you flex those abilities and grow even more.

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 tips on career prep activities, taking the GMAT and cool on-the-job profiles.

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Driving Forces: Funny Business

July 3, 2016

You might expect to see stressed-out students seek relief from the rigors of Illinois’ MBA program at the gym or a favorite campus watering hole. And then there is Lisa Linke.

“I needed a break from studying for my MBA,” recalls Linke, a 1999 graduate. “I read in the Daily Illini about an improv group – I auditioned and I just loved it.”

This perhaps comes as no great revelation to those who know her. After all, Linke’s flair for the dramatic earned her the nickname “Sarah Bernhardt” early in life. “I performed at home all the time and did all the school plays,” says Linke. “I always felt at home on stage.” 

And thanks to her father Charles, emeritus professor of finance, she felt equally at home on the Illinois campus as a child. “I was always around the School of Business,” she recalls. “I loved growing up on a Big 10 campus. I have very fond memories of the U of I.”

After earning a sociology degree from Indiana University, she returned to her old stomping grounds in 1997 to pursue an advanced degree in human resources, followed by an MBA.

With all due respect to those hard-earned degrees, it may well have been that ad in the Daily Illini that led to the unique career Linke enjoys today.

MBA in hand, Linke joined Deloitte & Touche as a human resources strategy consultant. In the evenings, she began training at The Second City, Chicago’s legendary improv theatre, where the likes of John Belushi and Tina Fey got their start.
“Like a lot of people in improv, I was living a dual life,” says Linke, who soon noticed an overlap between the seemingly disparate worlds she lived in. “When I started performing improv, I became a better consultant almost overnight. I had more meaningful conversations with clients because I was being authentic and in the moment.”

After leaving Deloitte & Touche to more actively pursue performing, Linke soon found herself delivering improv-based corporate workshops through Second City Communications. “Business and improv might seem very far apart, but they’re not,” says Linke. “Excellent communication is the root of all improvisation.” And, one could argue, the root of organizational effectiveness. 

“Yes, And”

Fourteen years later, her work as a corporate trainer and executive presence coach has taken Linke to five continents and countless meeting rooms. Heavy-hitters like Pepsi, General Mills, and Goldman Sachs have turned to Linke to learn how the fine art of improvisation can fine-tune corporate communications.

Her popular workshops share practical skills and philosophies from the world of improvisational comedy. But fear not: participants need not be as funny as their trainer.

“We do exercises in small groups just to loosen them up. They don’t have to give their tight five on airline food,” says Linke, referring to the traditional five-minute sets stand-up comics have at the ready.

Instead, she teaches concepts like “Yes, And,” a basic improvisational tool where you acknowledge what your partner says and then add something new to keep the conversation alive.

“In improv, you recognize an idea and share an idea. It’s an excellent tool to keep focus on the other person—and in the corporate world, to keep from saying ‘no’ too soon,” says Linke.

Another improvisational saying—“bring a brick, not a cathedral”—reminds us that the best solutions are built together.

“In improv, there are no sets, no props, no agreed-upon story—everything is discovered together in a collaborative environment,” says Linke.

At the end of the day, it’s all about listening – a lesson that improvisers often learn the hard way.

“If you are not listening on stage, it’s very uncomfortable,” says Linke. “It’s a very palpable feeling when the entire audience—and you—realize you were not listening.”

The Best Things Are Unscripted

Along with the Second City brand name, Linke has found that her Illinois degrees serve her well when working in corporate environments. “I love having my MBA – I get a lot of credibility in the room with the introduction,” she says.

That’s not to say she “feels the love” at every corporate gig. One of her more memorable “heckling” experiences took place at a prestigious university when an MBA student stood up and shouted: “This is dogma—I will not stand for this!” and stormed out of the workshop. Not missing a beat, Linke lightened the mood—and engaged the audience—by cheekily asking: “So, is this a great example of ‘yes, and’…?”

As an L.A.-based actor, Linke embraces it all. She says her experiences have honed her ability to work a room and maintain presence under the critical eye of casting agents – precious skills for any performer. 

“As an actor, the best part of having my MBA and working as a facilitator is that I’ve never had a cold room—it just doesn’t bother me,” says Linke, who continues to act and perform with improv groups when she’s not training. (You may have seen her in the 2015 season premiere of ABC’s hit comedy, Black-ish.)

The stage – and life itself – have taught Linke that some of the best things in life are unscripted.

With a chuckle, she recalls the prophetic words of Professor Larry DeBrock following her final MBA presentation, where she used some of her improv skills: “You’re very good at this—you could do this for a living.”

She recalls thinking: “Who actually does that for a living?”

Content courtesy of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (College of Business).

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