Archive for November, 2015

LinkedIn: Reaching Out and Taking Names

By Cassidy Rowe

I have a confession to make. I underestimated the power of LinkedIn.

Sure, I had a profile replete with detailed work experiences, extracurricular activities, skills, and a professional photo. My connections included friends, work colleagues, and acquaintances. LinkedIn even ranked my profile strength as “AllStar,” but I wasn’t truly utilizing all that LinkedIn has to offer.Rowe

LinkedIn is a wonderful resource for connecting with others in a desired industry, for learning more about someone’s experience at an internship you’re interested in, or for getting more connected with a favorite company. However, it can be easy to forget that LinkedIn is a feedback loop. It is not simply a space to showcase your resume; it is a platform on which to grow your professional network and maximize your career opportunities. In this blog, I am going to walk you through some steps that will help you do just that.

Lose the fear. If you’re like me, the idea of reaching out to total strangers can seem uncomfortable–daunting even. But isn’t that what LinkedIn is for? To connect business professionals and widen your professional circles? You must lose the misconception that your invitations to connect are unwanted or unwarranted. That being said, I advocate for strategic connections, not the mass adding of strangers just to up your number of connections. So take a deep breath and click.

Personalize your invitations. I have denied my fair share of invitations to connect from strangers because they didn’t add a personalized note to supplement their invite. With over 400 million users, you are bound to send and receive many invitations, which is why you must make yourself stand out. Add one or two sentences to personalize your invitation to connect when you do not know the requested individual. Doing so reflects well on you, and it increases your likelihood of forming a more substantial connection with that person.

Follow companies of interest. I want to work in the sport business industry. I followed companies I am interested in working for, which led to my finding a neat feature LinkedIn has: ‘People Also Viewed.” You can find this feature on the right-hand side of your screen when viewing a particular company’s profile. I’ve discovered several more companies that I have added to my list of internship possibilities through this feature. Additionally, companies often post interesting articles and job opportunities on their profiles. I cannot stress how incredible it is to connect with a preferred company on this levelwithout even talking to an employee.

Engage with groups. Another great aspect of LinkedIn is its ability to connect professionals through nonprofessional hobbies and interests. Have an affinity for paddle boarding? Join groups that discuss paddle boarding. Search through groups to find professionals that share similar interests. This helps you connect on a personal level and build a foundation on something more than work related items.

LinkedIn is an incredible platform. It is designed to help you succeed in your search for a dream job. All you have to do is reach out and take names.

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November 25, 2015 at 1:47 pm 11 comments

Enhancing Tomorrow’s Interview: Four Simple Ps

By Emma Williams

We’re all familiar with the anxiety that creeps over us the night before an interview.  Whether the interview is for a summer internship or a full-time job, the encounter can be a nerve-wracking experience – one that you don’t want to mess up.

I know when I walked into my first mock-interview with Kenan-Flagler I wasn’t properly prepared.  I couldn’t even give my interviewer a brief summary of who the overall company was and its purpose.  I was embarrassed and the interviewer could clearly tell that I hadn’t done my homework.  Since my awkward experience, I’ve made sure to plan for any upcoming interviews.

William Baker in Writing and Speaking for Business (2015) establishes both how to effectively prepare for and act during an interview.  Though he sections his advice into ten main points, I have compiled his suggestions into four simple Ps that will help ensure that you’re ready for the big day.

Prepared

Do your research. You want to walk into your interview with confidence, knowing exactly who the company is and what they do.  You should know your company and who its competitors are to answer any questions that an interviewer may ask.  I follow companies on social media accounts, such as Twitter, so that I’m up-to-date on any recent news.  You should try to figure out the company’s culture by talking to past interns and current employees.  While doing so, identify the role of the company’s intern(s) and his or her duties.  If possible, find out who your interviewer is and even look him or her up on LinkedIn beforehand.Emma

Before stepping into the room, determine what you can bring to the company and what sets you apart from others.  Companies want to see why you are different and why you would be a strong addition to their team.  I try to have a list of positive characteristics, skills, or experiences that I can bring to job to help better the company.  Be sure to bring a copy of your updated resume, as well as a pen and padfolio.  Know how to respond to opening questions, such as “Tell me about yourself” and “Walk me through your resume.”  Write down questions for your interviewer that you can refer to at the end – the written questions will show that you’ve thought thoroughly about the company or job and have done some preparation.

Also, remember to expect the unexpected, such as difficult questions that are unique to the company. For example, a question that a company has asked in their interviews is “If you were stuck in a blender, how would you get out?” This question doesn’t necessarily have a correct answer and isn’t realistic at all.  The company only wants to know how you think on your feet and how you react under pressure.  Remember to take a deep breath and think about how you want to respond to these unexpected questions.  The last thing you want to do is fill your interview time with nervous “ums” and “likes.”

Punctual

Arrive on time.  Nothing is worse than walking into an interview late, flustered, and embarrassed – trust me, I’ve been late to an interview before and it’s difficult to erase someone’s first impression of you.  To avoid future tardiness, I now record the date and time that my interview is scheduled, where it will be held, and perhaps even the person who is interviewing me.  I believe applicants should arrive at their location at least 15 minutes before their interview starts.  I always make sure to have directions to the location (knowing how long it will take me to get there) to guarantee that I know how to get there and where I can park.  Before walking into your interview, make sure to turn off your cellular device.  You don’t want any distractions, such as alarms or phone calls that could disrupt your conversation.

Professional

Dress appropriately.  Before arriving, figure out what is acceptable to wear to your interview.  When in doubt, you should be over-dressed instead of under-dressed.  Most interviewers expect applicants to come in business professional attire.  For women, professional appearance means a blouse, a pair of pants or a skirt, a blazer, and heels.  For men, professional appearance requires a suit and tie.  Men should remember to shave their face, and women should wear minimal jewelry.  Both men and women should be aware of the amount of aftershave or perfume they wear, so as to not overpower the room with their scent.

Remember to speak clearly and confidently and to give your interviewer a firm handshake, while maintaining strong eye contact.  Be aware of your body language and know how your hand placement and facial expressions could be perceived.  If you don’t make eye contact during your meeting with your interviewer, he or she won’t think that you’re interested in the conversation.  I believe that an applicant should always smile while he or she speaks, unless the topic is serious.  Try to place one hand over the other and keep still – fidgeting and clenching signify that you’re nervous or anxious, rather than relaxed and confident.  After looking over videos of myself presenting in class, I’ve noticed how distracting my fidgeting is, and I’ve made an effort to keep still while speaking – less fidgeting has enabled me as well as my viewers to focus on what I’m actually saying.  Additionally, ask your interviewer for his or her contact information, such as an email, so that you can follow-up with a brief thank you note.  From experience I’ve noticed that interviewers appreciate the time taken to reach out to them for taking the time to meet with you, and they want to see that you’re actually interested in pursuing the position.

Passionate

Show that you want the position, and be yourself.  The interviewer and you are both trying to figure out whether or not you will be a good fit at this company.  Strengthen your chances of getting hired by being YOU and selling yourself as the perfect candidate.  Remember to be honest and engaged during the entire interview.   Express your interest in the industry and, more specifically, the company.  Tailor your responses to appeal to the interviewer and demonstrate how your abilities, experiences, and passion for this job will outshine other applicants.  In my experience interviewing, I have found that telling your story of how you became interested in business, a specific industry, and especially the company you’re interviewing for, will definitely help the interviewer get to know you even more and give him or her reason to remember you.

At the end of the interview make sure that you have a strong close.  You want to display how much you want the job, how much you’ve appreciated the time that your interviewer spent by meeting you that day, and how much you hope to have the opportunity to bring your abilities to the company. Also, give another confident handshake as you leave the meeting.  Don’t forget to send your interviewer an email afterwards!

By considering these four Ps (prepared, punctual, professional, and passionate), you’ll be ready for any interview that’s coming your way. Now go get ready to impress your next interviewer!

 

November 23, 2015 at 7:40 am 8 comments

Persuasion: The Art of Selling

By Lucas Grabbe

Do you believe you are an effective salesperson?  No matter the area of business, everyone will have to sell, whether it is a product or service or a pitch to your boss. The ability to sell is one of the most important business skills. Ben Carlson of Business Insider argues that it is also one of the most overlooked skills in today’s business schools.

When you speak to an audience, your purpose can be to perform, persuade, or build a relationship of trust. This past year, I sold Carolina Hurricanes tickets for one of my classes. For those of you who don’t know, the Carolina Hurricanes are one of the worst teams in the National Hockey League, making selling tickets extremely difficult. I found that the best way to sell was to persuade. In sales, persuasion is necessary and accomplishable in a number of ways. Learning how to effectively persuade will help you become a better salesperson.

What is Persuasion?

The goal of persuasion is to change what others believe or to entice them to take action. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. The Greek philosopher Aristotle defined rhetoric as three different appeals:

  • Ethos – appeal to ethics, image, or credibility
  • Logos – appeal to logic
  • Pathos – appeal to passion or emotion

Depending on the situation, you may want to use one or a combination of these appeals. Say you are pitching a stock to your boss, you could use logos to show past trends in the market and ethos to show the credibility of the company. Or if you are advertising a product, you may want to appeal to someone’s emotions.

Seven Tools of Persuasion

The following are seven different tools the Kenan-Flagler Business Communication Center provides for making persuasive appeals. Here’s how you can adapt them for selling:Seven Persuasive Tools

  • Statistics – providing numbers works well because 70 percent of people value quantifiable information to understand their environment
  • History – giving past examples provides the buyer a basis for making a more informed decision
  • Analogy – comparing  products, services, or pitches to a known idea can be very effective for making a sale
  • Example – persuading through illustration enables the seller to portray that his or her product or service is superior to another
  • Comparison and Contrast – comparing and/or contrasting what is sold or pitched to a similar product, service, or idea strengthens the argument to purchase or accept
  • Consequences – demonstrating what will occur if you do or do not buy or sell an item provides reasoning to make the purchase or accept the idea
  • Authority – supporting with a credible source of authority can make the task of selling easier

You can use these tactics in a variety of ways depending on the situation. To make your sales pitch even stronger, you may consider using many of these techniques. Many of these tools are fantastic ways to hook the buyer as well. For instance, if you are trying to obtain funds for a start-up company, an endorsement from leaders in the industry would help convince people to invest. Personally, I found that history was extremely effective in my sales experience because the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup less than 10 years ago.

To conclude, business students don’t always receive formal teaching of how to sell. At Kenan-Flagler, we are fortunate that our professors provide us with strategies to make our next sale. Therefore, I am happy to share a few tips that I have learned along the way. When making your next sale, try utilizing one or more of these seven persuasive tools in accordance with Aristotle’s appeals.

Happy selling!

November 22, 2015 at 9:30 pm 2 comments

Setting Goals and Achieving Your True Potential

By Blake Messerly

I’m an ambitious person, and I have been for the most of my life. Because of that, I’ve been setting goals for myself since a young age so I always had something to work towards. My goals gave me a reason to work harder, especially during those times when I wanted to give up.

Admittedly, over the years I’ve done a better job at achieving some of my goals compared to others, but I did manage to achieve what I would consider the biggest, and perhaps toughest, goal of my life: Gaining acceptance into UNC-Chapel Hill as an out-of-state student. And since achieving that goal, I haven’t slowed down in working hard to try to set the mark even higher and do all I can to reach it.

I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned through my successes and failures in setting and achieving goals by covering the importance of goals, the S.M.A.R.T. goal method, as well as a couple other useful tips.

Why Goals Are Important 

By setting a goal, you help give yourself a future trajectory on which you can work. As a point of reference, a goal enables you to effectively track where you stand and compare that to where you want to go. You must first determine with yourself what you want – once you do that you can then effectively communicate that goal with others and position yourself so you can best achieve it.

For me, I set my goal of gaining acceptance to UNC early – in the sixth grade after I drove through Chapel Hill for the first time. By setting this goal early, I motivated myself to work hard throughout middle and high school. My parents knew what I was working towards and helped support me in all of my endeavors. More importantly, my goal helped keep things in perspective. As soon as I became a junior in high school, my mailbox became flooded with emails and brochures from other colleges and university. Even as this happened though, I kept my focus on UNC and ultimately gained acceptance my senior year of high school.

While colleges likely will not be recruiting you in the business setting, you will likely face several other distractions such as phone calls from headhunters or an inbox full of emails with pressing needs. Having set a concrete goal related to your career or even the current task at hand will help you remain focused, even if you do have to divert your attention for a little while to handle other issues.

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

By making sure you set S.M.A.R.T. goals, you set yourself up for greater chances of actually achieving that goal.Messerly%2c Blake 401 Final Blog Visual (1) This method of goal setting has proven successful and has been used in various settings such as organizational behavior or health and fitness. Each letter of this acronym stands for:

Specific: Your goal needs to clearly define what you are trying to achieve. Specificity helps prevent you from bailing out later on your original goal to say that you “more or less” achieved it when it really wasn’t what you aimed to achieve initially.

Example: I want to maintain 100% accuracy in all of the financial figures I present to the client.

Measurable: Make your goals concrete so you can both measure your progress as you go and know when you fully achieve it. If you set a vague goal, you have no way of knowing when you achieve it.

Example: I want to receive a grade of “Above Average” on at least three of the five categories on our next performance review.

Attainable: You need to be able to realistically achieve the goal that you set. If the goal isn’t realistic, then why did you set that goal in the first place?

Example: I want to arrive to work on time every day this week, leaving early if necessary to account for traffic.

Relevant: Your goal needs to be pertinent to what you want to achieve. The goal should focus on measuring outcomes as opposed to activities.

Example: I want to implement our new employee expense tracking system by Sunday so we can better track how much money our employees are spending.

Time-Bound: By connecting your goal to a timeframe, you give yourself a hard deadline by which you can achieve your goal. This provides a sense of urgency and helps give you an understanding of how much time lies between now and when you hope to achieve that goal so you can budget your time appropriately. You can even set up a couple smaller dates before the larger deadline to help hold yourself accountable and make sure you stay on track.

Example: I will set up a meeting with my manager by this Thursday to discuss my performance on the current project and to find out how I can further improve.

Other Tips

Setting the goal is just the first step – you must effectively follow through if you hope to achieve it. Communication becomes a key part in this, both communicating with others to help hold you accountable as well as communicating with yourself so you can honestly appraise your progress. Several related factors that contribute to success in achieving those goals. Some of these include:

  • Have an Accountability Partner – A recent study by Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University showed that those who gave weekly updates to a friend on their progress towards achieving a goal were much more likely to achieve their goals as opposed to those who did not. If you can effectively communicate your goals and your motivations for achieving those specific goals with someone else, he or she will be able to hold you more accountable to achieving them. Perhaps you can even convince them to become a stakeholder in the goal themselves and further increase your motivation to achieve it.
  • Write Your Goals Down – By writing something down, you’re more likely to commit that idea to memory. More importantly, writing your goal down gives you something tangible to look at. As a high school freshman I created a list of five goals I wanted to achieve by the time I had graduated. I wrote them on a piece of paper which I folded and kept in my wallet so I’d have it on me at all times to remind me over the course of my four years. Whatever method you choose to use, make sure you clearly articulate your goals so you leave no room for interpretation.
  • Have Consequences – Have a contingency plan in case you don’t achieve your goal. By creating this plan, you can potentially motivate yourself even more to achieve it on time. For example, if you don’t finish your part for the final client deliverable, you will likely face severe consequences from your manager.
  • Break Larger Goals into Smaller Ones – Putting a large final deliverable on your to-do list as your goal isn’t effective, as you likely won’t complete it for several weeks. While that may be the final goal, breaking that down into smaller segments such as financial analysis and operations implications can help you better manage your time.
  • Revisit and Revise – Revisit your goal frequently – daily, weekly, or as often as necessary. More importantly, revise it as necessary. Just like good communication skills change based on the situation, goals can change sometimes to better fit the current situation so they remain pertinent and attainable. Just make sure not to change it too much to where you sell yourself short and don’t leave yourself with an actual goal to achieve!

By adhering to some of these key principles, I’ve managed to find success in my college career and, hopefully, can continue to see that success in my professional career after graduation. Best of luck in setting and hopefully achieving all of your future goals!

November 21, 2015 at 6:08 pm 3 comments

Fearless Speeches: The Five-Step Guide to Public Speaking

By Josh Neal

Everyone is staring, waiting for you to speak. Your hands are sweaty, your mouth is dry and your mind is blank. Your nerves have gotten the best of you, and all you want to do is run and hide.

You wonder why public speaking causes you so much anxiety and cannot understand why you have been plagued with this irrational fear. However, you are not alone. In fact, the fear of public speaking is often ranked higher than death.

I remember my first professional presentation; I was so worried I couldn’t sleep the night before. Now I can give presentations without a sweat. How did I eradicate this fear? By following these five steps: knowing your audience, knowing your information, creating an outline, practicing and remaining calm. Follow these steps, and you will be able to give a fearless presentation as well.josh

Know your Audience

Understanding your audience and their expectations is the first step to successful public speaking. I have found that defining the audience helps with gauging how professional or relaxed the presentation should be. Having a definitive audience will also help you in creating a message directed specifically towards them. Additionally, knowing your audience beforehand will make you less nervous while presenting.

Next, define specific expectations of your audience. If you don’t understand what your audience hopes to gain from your presentation, you cannot gauge its success. Whether I am presenting in a classroom or a boardroom, I always reach out to get a grasp on what my audience is expecting. Reaching out to someone ahead of time and asking what an efficacious presentation would entail shows that you care and helps you understand your audience.

Know your Information

Having a well-rounded knowledge of the topic you are speaking about will help to ease your nerves. You don’t have to become an expert, but make sure that you know enough about the information to answer any questions your audience may throw at you.

The most impressive presentations I have ever given involved statistical insights that really drew my audience in. The audience was impressed that I knew the topic well enough to state real numbers, and it made the speech more memorable. Using statistics or pertinent examples will improve your presentation by adding credibility to what you are saying.

Create an Outline

One of the biggest mistakes people make when giving presentations is that they try to memorize everything they are going to say. A single slipup can throw you off for the rest of your presentation. That’s why creating an outline with cues is much more effective.

Include the main logical and structural components of your presentation in your outline. I typically create a bulleted list of everything I want to talk about and link these components together in a sequence to create the most effective outline. Following this outline will give you ease of mind and make your presentation flow smoothly.

Practice

Everyone has heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect;” well, in this situation it does. I always present to a group of friends or colleagues, and ask for feedback beforehand to polish my presentation. A polished presentation will really resonate with your audience.

However, I make sure not to over practice. Too much practice can make you seem robotic while presenting and make your presentation seem less authentic. Therefore, I typically practice my presentation about three to five times beforehand.

Remain Calm

As my professor once told me, “When you are swimming with sharks, don’t bleed.” Becoming flustered or nervous can lead you on a downward spiral and make your presentation flop. Before presenting, try using power poses or eating dark chocolate to lower your cortisol levels. Encourage yourself by thinking, “I can do this; I know the material and I am ready to present this information.”

Following these five steps will provide you with all of the tools necessary to have a successful and fearless presentation. Now go and conquer your fear!

November 20, 2015 at 1:30 pm 3 comments

In a World of Excess, Businesspeople Prefer Simple

By Emily Godwin

As students, we spend our academic career developing one skill just to find that most of society prefers a more basic version.  We progressively learn to write more elaborate, lengthier, and complex documents, when in reality, most people, especially in business, communicate through plain language.write

Plain language is “communication your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it.”  Writing in plain language helps the reader understand the concept more quickly and clearly. Sounds simple, right? Like we are traveling back to elementary or middle school? Well, think again. Going back to the simpler days may be harder than you think.

Think simpler. Think about what you want the reader to take away from your writing. Here are five tips from the Center for Plain Language that help people quickly read and clearly understand the message you are trying to convey.

  1. Identify and describe the target audience

Define the purpose of your writing and the intended audience.  This strategy will enable you to decide on the format, document design, and language of the piece.  Knowing your target audience keeps your writing focused on exactly what you want the audience to do or learn.

  1. Structure the content

Organization and structure are crucial to plain language. The reader needs to understand the purpose of the writing quickly. The structure of the document may vary depending on the target audience. Three universal tips for writing more effectively include organizing content logically, keeping sections short, and including verb-led headings.  The reader can skim and find information quickly in the document.

  1. Write in plain language

Say exactly what you intend the audience to know. Make sentences short, logical, grammatically correct, and to the point.  Provide important information first in each section or paragraph and use a conversational tone, active voice, appropriate vocabulary, and parallel structure when listing words.  The reader should grasp the concept quickly and accurately.

  1. Use information design

Document design will vary for different audiences.  Create a neatly organized and visually appealing document the reader will understand quickly. Use headings and spacing to structure information and typography (font size, color, bold, etc.) to direct the reader’s attention.  If necessary, include art (graphs, pictures, charts, etc.) to help the reader understand the content more clearly.

  1. Revise document design and content with target user group

Working with the target user group to test the design and content ensures readability and effectiveness.  Look for the following when reviewing: grammatical errors, structural layout, and purpose.  Documents are successful when the target audience can quickly find information, effectively understand, and confidently act on it.

In conclusion, don’t overthink plain language. Write a visually appealing, to-the-point document that your target audience will easily understand.  That’s it.  Keep it simple.  People will thank you.

 

November 19, 2015 at 7:05 am 5 comments

Women in Business: Be Assertive and Get What You Want

By Alsey Davidson

According to Business Insider, only 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Why is that? Some people say it’s because of natural trait differences, varying educational opportunities, or general societal standards. However, one of my theories is that women are either too afraid to be assertive, or they are seen as “bossy” or “bitchy” if they are assertive.

Many articles show how women are treated unfairly in the workplace (gender inequality, workplace bias). This post is not another one of those articles. Instead, this post is about my personal experience in the business world and what I have learned about being assertive. My goal is to draw on my own experiences and help show other women that being assertive can lead to being successful.

This past summer, I worked with a team of 20 men and one other woman.alsey During this experience, I noticed that my actions were sometimes viewed differently because I am a woman. For example, oftentimes I felt that the men were caught off guard when I spoke up during meetings because I was a younger female. Another time, I requested a meeting with a senior executive, and my male coworkers told me I was being too forward. It bothered me a bit at first, but I learned to brush it off by the end of the summer.

assertive

One of the most important things that I learned is that you can get what you want by asserting yourself, but you certainly won’t get it if you don’t say anything. Please note that I am saying assertive, not aggressive — i.e. defending your own rights without hurting those of others.  There is a difference, and you should be sure to not cross over into aggressiveness.

Now, I will discuss one time when asserting myself led to a very positive outcome. An important takeaway from this experience is that I wasn’t afraid to be assertive because I truly felt I deserved what I was asking for. I hope that women can learn from my experience if they are in a similar situation.

When I first received my job offer, I was not happy with the initial salary. When considering whether or not I should negotiate, I was told by my (male) coworkers that it might make me “look bad” or “seem unprofessional and ungrateful.” At first, I worried they may be right. Will I seem rude and ungrateful if I ask for more money? Then, I spoke with my career advisor and, fortunately, my opinion changed.

My advisor told me, “You should 100% negotiate. Why wouldn’t you?” When I ended up negotiating, I was very straightforward and assertive with HR; I told them that believed I deserved a higher salary due to national averages and that I needed more money to account for the high cost of living. It was as simple as that: my negotiation efforts led to a $10,000 increase in salary. HR understood my argument and met my request.

From this experience, I learned that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for something. If you present your case professionally and rationally, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get what you want. So the next time you think you deserve something, go for it. Don’t worry about seeming bitchy, bossy, or aggressive. If your company respects the rights of women, and if you truly deserve what you’re asking for, you should receive it.

November 18, 2015 at 9:02 am Leave a comment

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