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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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Top Tips: How to Ace Your Interview, Part 2

By Siyu Wu

February 16, 2017

Earlier this week, I gave a general overview of different types of interview formats and questions. This time around, we’ll go into more detail about interviews – how to set yourself apart from other candidates before, during, and even after the interview. Here are ten key tips to keep in mind for acing your interview.

1. Do your research

Doing research and studying in advance of an interview not only ensures that you’ll know how to answer any question you get, but also will make you feel and seem more confident! So, what exactly should you research? You want to feel comfortable answering basic technical questions specific to the position and industry. This not only encompasses equations or models relevant to the field, but also recent trends in the industry. You also should be able to speak to your own experiences and know how to talk about them in the context of behavioral and qualitative questions that may be asked. In addition, be familiar with the firm and have a clear, personable pitch that demonstrates a genuine interest in the position and company.

2. Anticipate likely interview questions and know how you would answer them.

Though some interview questions will be specific to the firm and/or position, many questions are the same regardless of the application. By speaking with people who have interviewed in similar positions before and by looking at online reviews (see: GlassDoor), you can get a better idea of what type of questions you may be asked to answer. Here are some questions to keep in mind as you prepare:

  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • Why should the company hire you over all other candidates?
  • What value can you (and only you) add to the team?

3. Practice aloud (and in front of others)

Doing preparation by yourself and just thinking about how you would answer different questions is a great start, but practicing aloud and in front of others can help sure you’re presenting your answers in an effective manner. Also, getting feedback from peers or mentors can be incredibly beneficial. Through mock interviews, you’ll get a sense of how to best word your answers, practice eye contact and body language, and become aware of any potential nervous tics (i.e. using “um”, “like”, “so” or fidgeting). 

4. Use the STAR approach.

The STAR (situation, task, action, result) approach is a great way to make sure you concisely yet completely answer interview questions, especially those that have you discuss your past experiences. When phrasing your answer to a question such as “Tell me about a time you worked on a team,” use a sentence or two to hit each of the components of STAR. This helps organize and structure your answer, preventing any potential rambling.

5. Answer thoughtfully and honestly

You may face some incredibly nerve-wracking questions – some that may be technically difficult and others that refer to tough situations and experiences. In these cases, be sure to stay calm and take a few moments to think before answering. It is totally fine to ask the interviewer for a little time to think! In line with this, always be honest with your answer, be it about your past experiences or something you don’t know. Being willing to admit you don’t know something and following up with an answer after the interview is much better than making up something on the spot and potentially digging yourself into a hole.

6. Be aware of body language

Some people say that you leave a lasting impression on someone within the first few minutes you meet. This means that before you even begin the interview, the interviewer likely has already formed some opinion of you. Make sure to stand tall and hold yourself confidently (fake it until you make it!). Eye contact is very important, and don’t forget to smile.

7. Prepare questions to ask the interviewer

At the end of an interview, most interviewers will turn the tables and give you some time to ask them any questions. When an interviewer asks “do you have any questions?” your answer should never be no. Always have some questions prepared in advance, but also jot down questions during your interview. You can ask questions about the position, team dynamic, and the interviewer’s experiences. Asking questions further demonstrates your interest.

8. Be yourself

This tip may seem cliché, but it is incredibly important to be aware that you are presenting your best and genuine self throughout the interview. When you’ve done so much to prepare for an interview, it is easy to focus too much on your preparation and forget to let your personality show. At the end of the day, it is your personality that sets you apart from other candidates.

9. Remember that the interview goes both ways

On the surface, an interview seems only as a way for the company to get to know you as an applicant. But, the interview is also a unique opportunity for you to learn more about the company and figure out whether it is a good fit. Try to treat the interview as a conversation between two people who want to find mutual compatibility rather than a one-sided interrogation.

10. Say thank you

Interviews don’t end when you leave the interview room. To make a lasting impression, be sure to follow up with a brief thank you email within 24 hours with everyone you meet – including interviewers, HR managers, and more. Personalize each note by referring to a memorable moment during your conversation, and thank them for their time and consideration of your application. (For more guidance, check out this article.). If you want to take it a step further, consider sending handwritten thank you notes within a few days.

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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Top Tips: How to Ace Your Interview

By Siyu Wu

February 13, 2017

Say you’ve submitted an outstanding application and wrote an amazing cover letter. What’s next? Even if you haven’t received notification to interview, it’s important to get a head start in preparing, so that you can be one step ahead when you do receive invitations to interview for an internship or job. Here are some things to keep in mind as you begin preparing for those interviews.

Type of interview formats

Depending on the company and type of role you’ve applied for, the interview format may vary widely. Typically speaking, many companies offer several rounds of interviews. The first interview is often conducted over the phone. At some schools, however, companies may come on campus to conduct in-person first round interviews. Aside from phone interviews and on-campus interviews, there are also the traditional in-person interviews at a firm. Some more unique interview formats include panel interviews (multiple interviewers speaking with one applicant) and case study interviews. Each type of interview will require slightly different types of

Types of interview questions

There are many types of interview questions, but the different types may be put into a few general categories:

  • Introductions: To start out an interview, you’ll often get a “walk me through your resume” or “tell me about yourself” type question. Having a good answer to this type of question is incredibly important because it sets the tone of the rest of the interview and gives you a chance to talk about what you think is most important. Even though this question doesn’t seem to be relevant to a specific company, it is still important to tailor your answer depending on the role and company.
  • Fit questions: Fit questions help the interviewer determine whether your personality and working style are a cultural fit with the organization. During these questions, it is important for your to demonstrate that you’ve done your research and you know exactly why you want to work for this company over all other companies in the same industry.
  • Behavioral questions: Interviewers use behavioral questions to gauge your soft skills. Questions often start with “Tell me about a time…” and ask you to talk about past work, academic, extracurricular stories that allow the interviewer to extrapolate to how you’ll perform on the job. You’ll likely be asked to talk about experiences relevant to teamwork, overcoming challenges, managing priorities, and more. 
  • Technical questions: These questions are often the most intimidating, as they’re designed to test you on your technical knowledge required for the role.  For example, if you’re interviewing for an investment banking position, you’ll likely asked about valuation methods and the financial statements. This is not only to see what you know on the subject, but also to confirm whether you’re actually interested in the job.
  • Brainteasers: Not every interview will include a brainteaser question, but some interviewers like asking some tricky questions. This isn’t because they want to trip you up or make you nervous, and it actually doesn’t matter whether you get the right answer. Instead of trying to think about the right answer, focus on explaining your thought process and how you arrive at a certain answer. Brainteasers are used to test how you think - all you need to do is answer in a logical, well-justified manner.

This article makes some broad strokes in regards to interview and their format. Understanding what an interview will look like is the first step to having a successful interview. With this understanding of interview formats and questions, we can move to more specific interview tips in my next article!

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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How to Create a Holistic Internship Application

By Danni Ondraskova

February 9, 2017

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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The Art of Prioritizing: How to Manage Your Hectic Schedule

By Sameera Polavarapu

February 6, 2017

As a student, it’s easy to become quickly overwhelmed by the enormity of the college experience. As I have mentioned before, everyone has a different balance at school between their education, friends, and activities. While this balance can be subjective, I have found three tips that have helped me prioritize most efficiently.

1. Be honest with yourself

When dealing with a packed schedule, it’s important to keep things in perspective. It can be easy to brush off your school work, to save it for later, to convince yourself that you have plenty of time. But everyone has their own version of ‘plenty of time’ and it’s important to set aside a sufficient study period for any assignment or exam that comes your way. If you think a paper will take you an hour to write, delegate 3 hours in your schedule—it’ll be much more relieving when you finish early.

2. Ask yourself, “How will I feel when I sit down for my exam?”

If you are contemplating whether it’s the right time to go out for the night with friends the weekend before an exam, picture a test being handed to you the next morning and gauge where you’re at with your preparedness for it. If you’re honest with yourself, and the thought of the exam genuinely does not phase you, then go enjoy yourself! But more often than not, an upcoming exam requires repetitive, concentrated studying; picturing an exam in the immediate future is a good way to understand where you are on the spectrum of readiness.

3. Remember to weigh your options

It is always important to know how to differentiate between present and future. Binge-watching an entire season of your favorite show can be tempting, especially in the thick of procrastination. However, that show will be waiting for you after an exam is over, whereas an ‘A’ will not be in your future if you don’t study now. Cause and effect is one of the simplest concepts of all; by reminding yourself of how present actions can affect future results, you can stay on track to achieve your goals.

By following these three tricks, you’ll be sure to start next semester off strong, stay focused, and have fun!

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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Using Self-Knowledge to Improve Your Leadership Skills: Behavioral Tendencies

By Jordan Perras

February 2, 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 second part of this series, you’ll learn about your behavioral style(s). This is helpful to understand so that you can learn how to adjust your behavior to suit different circumstances.

DiSC Behavioral Style

Dominant – You care about results and place a heavy emphasis on achievement, goals and the big picture.

  • Strengths – You are good at directing, taking action and getting results. You are motivated by challenge, power and freedom from being controlled by others.
  • Weaknesses – You can come across as impatient or insensitive.

Influencing – You like to form relationships, be optimistic and collaborate with others.

  • Strengths – You are sociable, charming and talkative. You energize and affirm others.
  • Weaknesses – You may come across as impulsive or disorganized.

Steadiness – You are calm, dependable and sincere.

  • Strengths – You are patience and calm. You are a team player and a good listener.
  • Weaknesses – You may be overly accommodating, indecisive and uncomfortable with change.

Conscientious – You are objective, enjoy independence and place an emphasis on accuracy and competence.

  • Strengths – You are precise, reserved and quiet. You are motivated by quality work and opportunities to use your expertise or gain knowledge.
  • Weaknesses – You can be overly critical and overanalyze your work.

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 leadership roles? Think about what how the strengths of one style can make up for the weaknesses of another. How can you incorporate another style’s strengths into your own leadership style?

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 Optimize Your Workflow in 2017

By Hafsah Lakhany

January 30, 2017

In the midst of an oh-so-multifaceted, multi-sensory digital age in which multi-tasking and “getting everything done” emerge as societally constructed virtues, we often find it difficult to establish a consistent, effective, and timely workflow without constantly becoming bombarded and overwhelmed with notifications, reminders, and distractors to divert our focus and efficiency.  In order to combat this roadblock and optimize workflow, I’ve shared a few of my favorite methods for most efficiently and meaningfully tackling your most daunting tasks with finesse, ease, and satisfaction.

1. Formulate Your Goals

As intuitive as it may sound, no process remains more crucial for the realization of your goals than identifying them.  I’m always a huge proponent for to-do list apps in terms of managing your tasks.  Likewise, I also like to define my overarching goals pertaining to my work such as the skills, expertise, and knowledge gained from the completion of my tasks as both a motivating factor as well as a clarifying component to optimize workflow. 

2. Say “No”

The formulation of goals really intuitively ties into the elimination of goals.  As students or new employees the temptation to seek every opportunity offered to us often becomes tempting for both personal development and perhaps even social validation, but pursuits often have diminishing marginal returns if the sheer volume of minute tasks impedes your ability to more effectively tackle your primary tasks.Despite its difficulty, try your best to prioritize your responsibilities, as producing high quality work emerges as far more imperative and conducive to cultivating your own success than generating a large volume of mediocre work or tasks. 

3. Purge Yourself of Distractions

When in the process of completing a critical task, try your best to actively turn off notifications, set your phone on airplane mode, minimize tabs, and free yourself of unnecessary distractors which possess the potential to diminish your productivity and impede your workflow. Working on a singular task at a time emerges as far more effective and time efficient than absolutely destroying your productivity by multitasking.

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 Prepare for Behavioral Interviews

By Danni Ondraskova

January 26, 2017

Before I was in college, I had no interview experience. It took me a while to figure out how to present my best self during the interview. Only during the second year in college did I start to notice a real change in my success regarding whether interviews led to offers. As a junior, I feel more confident going into interviews because of my experience and advice I learned from people on the way. Here are some tips from my own experience about what I’ve done to succeed.

1. Take mental (if not physical) notes during your interview and record them afterward

During phone interviews, it is of course easiest to take notes without being seen. I’ve personally never taken notes during a physical or video interview because that breaks eye contact too often for me to be doable. Depending on your circumstances and if your interviewer gives you permission, you may want to do it. What I typically do in a face-to-face interview is remember the questions that stick out the most to me in terms of whether my response was particularly excellent or inadequate and record everything I recall later. Then at subsequent interviews, I read over my notes and think about how to improve my responses.

2. Understand who you’re interviewing for

A lot of the interviews I have done are for governments and nonprofits. These organizations will have a different set of questions and answers than companies, and that’s how it should be. These institutions have different missions and approaches to the world and each other.

I learned about a technique called imaging in a leadership book once. It talked about the difference between imagining, or abstractly desiring something, and imaging, or concretely seeing yourself having the thing you desire. The best way to image yourself in your dream job is to read the description of duties that comes with the application. Look at the daily duties and long-term projects and think through what a day at the company would be like for you. Ask yourself whether you can see yourself doing these tasks every day and can derive meaning from them.

3. Don’t undercut yourself

This is a tough one for anyone who has the high standards of a Type A individual or self-deprecating personality. Negativity leaches energy from both you and the interviewer. If you didn’t like how you did some task, reframe the issue and say that after some thought, you could make the result even better by doing something specific. This shows that you’ve been thinking about the issue, want to improve, and can have a positive outlook on even your failures.

4. Understand the different demands that come with each interview medium

I have had interviews on Skype, in person, and on the telephone. If you are at a face-to-face interview, you have your biggest asset and Achilles heel at hand: body movements. The single most useful piece of advice I have heard is to have your feet face the interviewer in a little V. It seems like a small adjustment, but it has the effect of having you fully face and physically engage the interviewer. It shows your desire to be there! If you want to read more about other kinds of body language, read this link. As the article says, your interview makes a hiring decision mentally within the first 10 seconds they see you, so be sure to put your best foot forward!

5. Dress like you’re going to an interview, even if they can’t see you

Clothes exert a powerful influence on our lives. It’s amazing how even the shoes you pick can either cause you blistering pain that makes you wince with every step or make you feel on top of the world and smiling at everybody. Obviously, you want to dress professionally if you’re seeing your interviewer in person. But what happens if you can’t see each other?

I didn’t really think it mattered what I wore. But then I wore my favorite suit to a phone interview in which we couldn’t see each other. The psychological impact was immense for me: because I was dressing in a way the agency would expect me to at work, I was able to envision myself doing work in those clothes and approached the interview as someone already working there. Needless to say, I got the offer and the interview went very well.

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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