Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Using Social Media Networks to Enhance Your Career

I often blog about the need to be very careful what you put on social media networks such as Facebook and MySpace. You always want to be careful that you don’t post anything that can get you in hot water with your present employer or a potential future employer.

Yet after reading Business Week’s May 22nd “The Future of Tech” article “Beyond Blogs” by Stephen Baker and Heather Green, I realized I need to add advice on the other side of the coin:

If you are an employee of a company that has an internal social media network, be sure to post helpful comments and suggestions on the site. This is a way for new employees – even interns if given access to the internal social media network – to get recognition without coming on too strongly in their actual work assignment.

In referring to these internal company social media networks, the article says: “The new order favors those who network, create buzz, and promote their brand. Managers have to make sure that quieter employees don’t lose out.”

You may be uncomfortable going to company parties or company picnics. But there’s no need to be a wall flower or missing in action on a company’s internal social media network. Go ahead and add content to let your colleagues learn about you.

Of course, as always, make sure that what you add is appropriate. Remember, the most important brand to you is your own brand. Put it online respectfully and in appropriate networks.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Good Interview Techniques Cross Over to Good Essay and Speech Writing

I’ve been listening to a teleseminar led by Carole Martin – “The Interview Coach.” I particularly admire her motto for interviews: “Leave your modesty at the door and bring your heart to the interview.”

I listened to Carole Martin coach a woman – let’s call her Dorothy – who is a principal of a small K-12 school and is interviewing for a position of a principal of a large high school. Dorothy would give her answers to Martin’s questions, and then Martin would demonstrate better answers to the questions.

And here’s what I was struck with that I had never before considered: The rules of good interviewing are the same as good essay writing and good speech writing. SPECIFICS, SPECIFICS, SPECIFICS. Paint a word picture in the mind of the interviewer, reader or listener.

For example, Dorothy said she is a people person. Then Martin said at least two sentences that used specific words to describe how Dorothy was a people person. The words Martin used created in my mind concrete images rather than the generalizations that Dorothy had used.

Aha! I thought. When I go on and on in my blogs about painting pictures in your college application essays, for example, I’m actually teaching skills that will be very helpful in interviews, whether those interviews are for college admission, an internship or a job.

Here’s my suggestion: For the next week, when you ask people specific questions about themselves, note how they answer. Do they give generalized answers or very specific ones that you can actually visualize? See which answers hold your interest the most.

Then stand in front of a mirror and play both roles: Ask yourself questions and answer those questions. Try to use as concrete language as possible and give very specific examples to illustrate your meaning.

You can find Carole Martin at www.interviewfitnesstraining.com. And you should definitely check out her site if you have any interest in working for the FBI. She coaches candidates for the FBI, and in her teleseminar she gave an example of the generalizations FBI candidates give to the question “Why do you want to work for the FBI?” and then an example of a much more specific answer. I was definitely impressed.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Unexpected Email from College Freshman Praises FLIPPING BURGERS Advice

Yesterday I received an email from a college student just finishing his freshman year. I hadn’t heard from Alex M. in two years, since the spring of 2006 when he was a high school junior and I met with him in preparation for his applying to college in the fall.

The email was so thrilling to me that I asked Alex’s permission to use it for my blog. He graciously said yes. Here’s what Alex’s email to me said:

I just wanted to update you on my activities since we spoke last (which was quite a long time ago!). Overall I couldn't be happier with college and looking back I know this is the perfect place for me. There are a ton of opportunities to learn about business here, and I have tried to take advantage of them as much as possible.

I was selected among a competitive group of students to be a member of a student-run fund that manages $300,000 of our endowment, and I also started a business journal recently that has quickly grown to nearly 40 members.

I think just looking back on the year and how much I've progressed has really put the conversation we had our first meeting in perspective. I think the first thing you showed me was that a lot of my activities didn't really set me apart; I had a bunch of general things and while some were good, none were spectacular. At college, I have really strived to just find a few activities and pursue them as deeply as possible. I have found it to be much more rewarding.

I have also implemented the other skills you taught me - from saying thank you properly to bringing a pen and pad to every meeting. Every time I do one of those things, it reminds me of our meeting. I have also really worked to develop my network, which is something I know needs a lot of work going forward. However, I have already seen the rewards: I received a great internship at a mutual fund this summer through a professional I had only met once.

In summary, I just wanted to thank you again for the life lessons you taught me. I know I have progressed since our meeting, but I also know I have a lot of work to do. Thank you for helping me get on the right path.

Wow! See why I wanted to put this email on my blog? It’s terrific encouragement for other young people. And, also, it was because of meeting with Alex that I started down the path of writing advice for teens and young adults. I had complained to my older daughter that I had just met with a high school student (Alex) who had so much potential yet wasn’t at all prepared to maximize that potential. She said, “So write a book to help other kids.”

Two years later the FLIPPING BURGERS AND BEYOND book is written but not published; I am blogging about the advice; and I’m currently working on a way to bring the book’s material directly to those who could most benefit from the advice. Thanks, Alex, for having an open mind and being willing to learn and grow. I’m so proud of what you’ve accomplished in your first year of college. Keep up the great work!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How to Deal With a Verbal Attack

In Philadelphia sometime in the mid-1970s I took an assertiveness training course based on the principles in Manuel J. Smith’s book WHEN I SAY NO I FEEL GUILTY. To this day, more than 30 years later, those concepts I learned have been of tremendous value to me.

When you are assertive, you stand up for yourself without getting aggressive. And the following technique I’m going to share with you is a great technique whether you are 15 or 50. (If you want to get this information from the horse’s mouth, you can go on Amazon and find the book.)

The most important point to remember in the following technique is that sometimes a person is angry at you and NOTHING you say will change that person’s mind. The more excuses (even if true) that you make, the more opportunities you have given the other person to attack you solely because that person WANTS to attack you.

Here’s the exercise we did in the assertiveness training class in order to de-sensitize ourselves from feeling compelled to make excuses. First I will give you the “script” the way most of us do it. Then I’ll give you the “assertiveness training script.”

PHYLLIS: Sally, your hair really looks bad today.
SALLY: I didn’t have time to blow dry it this morning because I got up late.
PHYLLIS: You should have set your alarm clock so you wouldn’t oversleep.
SALLY: I did set my alarm clock. But my cat knocked it off the table in the middle of the night and the clock broke.
PHYLLIS: You shouldn’t let your cat sleep in your bedroom.
SALLY: I don’t usually but …
PHYLLIS: Face it, you’re just inept.

Got the idea? Every “excuse” that Sally says just gives Phyllis more ammunition to attack Sally. Here’s the alternative:

PHYLLIS: Sally, your hair really looks bad today.
SALLY: You’re right, it does.
(Phyllis is shocked that Sally agreed with her, but Phyllis is in the mood to attack Sally so Phyllis keeps going.)
PHYLLIS: You should have blown it dry this morning.
SALLY: You’re right, I should have.
(Now Phyllis is really thrown off her stride. It’s no fun attacking someone who doesn’t get upset when attacked. So Phyllis has to find an exit line.)
PHYLLIS: I hope you’ll blow dry your hair tomorrow.
Sally nods and Phyllis walks off.

Try this technique the next time someone verbally attacks you for seemingly no reason except to attack you. Then let me know how this technique worked for you.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Getting Feedback at a New Job Often Requires a Balancing Act

Cathy Goodwin of www.copy-cat-copywriting.com read her copy of the May 20th Wall Street Journal earlier in the day than I got to my copy. And then in an email to her ezine subscribers about three tips for blog topics, she mentioned Sarah E. Needleman’s WSJ article “It Pays to Plan Ahead When Taking a New Job.”

Needleman writes: “In the first month, ask for your boss’s opinion of how you’re doing on a weekly basis. Then scale back to once every two to three weeks.”

Cathy Goodwin commented: “Gimme a break. Can you imagine a new employee hounding the boss with that infamous ‘How am I doing’ question?”

The gist of what Needleman and Goodwin each said has relevance for young people at their first internship or job. It requires walking a fine line between making sure you’re doing what is expected of you and not bothering your boss so much that he/she wishes to have never hired you.

Different situations call for different tactics. One tactic is to listen carefully to what someone says to you. Frequently it’s the subtext – what he or she doesn’t say – that is the real comment on how you’re doing.

Another tactic is to check with a colleague for feedback. In fact, if you asked a different colleague for help with each different part of your job, you might have found a way to establish connections for yourself with your co-workers without burdening any one person with excessive feedback questions.

Another tactic is to ask at the time you are offered a position: What kind of feedback will I get on how I’m doing? Will I only get formal feedback after three months? Or will you let me know whenever you have a concern about what I’m doing?

If the person to whom you’re asking these questions is an effective manager, he/she should pick up on your subtext – and understand you are giving permission, if warranted, to correct your actions before they can get you fired.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

All Social Media Networks Are Not the Same Regarding Privacy Settings

When giving career advice on safeguarding a positive image on the internet, I often warn that you must be very careful what you post on social media networks such as MySpace and Facebook. More and more potential employers are checking out these sites and others such as LinkedIn before offering interviews to potential employees.

From an employer’s point of view this makes good sense. If an employer finds a compromising picture of you that you have posted on the web, he/she will think twice about entrusting you with company knowledge. What might you post about the company – photos and all?

The grey area that probably many high school students and college students wonder about is not compromising pictures (such as scantily clad photos) but photos that show you having “fun” (okay, drinking and partying) with your friends.

Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to learn from the book I’m currently reading -- “Facebook for Dummies” by Carolyn Abram and Leah Pearlman -- that there are different privacy settings available on Facebook. You can even block an official friend on Facebook from seeing all of your profile by using a privacy option called “limited profile.” (This means you can be a friend with your boss and still block her from seeing certain things on your profile.)

This seems a great middle ground solution for young people who don’t want to forgo putting any “fun” pictures on the internet. There are still some risks – for example, if you decide to change certain settings on Facebook you can unknowingly automatically reveal this blocked info.

As I’m now learning, there are major differences between the top social media networking sites. As I understand it, on MySpace you can see anyone’s profile by doing a search for that person. On Facebook you can only see someone’s profile after that someone has accepted you as a friend.

The “Facebook for Dummies” book emphasizes that your profile can only ever be seen by a very small percentage of people on Facebook. This statement is not true for all social media networks.

Before putting “fun” photos of yourself on the internet, the first rule of thumb should be to find out which sites prevent anyone (such as a potential employer) from looking at your profile without your knowledge. That should be the number one criteria for where you put your photos.

The second rule of thumb should be – if you do put “fun” photos on a social media network that allows you to block unwanted views of your profile, be sure you read all the instructions for this blocking feature carefully. You don’t want to accidentally remove the blocks just when you’re up for an interview for a job you really want. And, oh no! – the potential employer has just seen that photo of you dressed as a Martian and chugging a beer.

I still stand by my warning that, for complete positive identity protection, you should put nothing on the internet you wouldn’t want a potential employer to view. Yet, if you really, really want to post some “fun” photos, do this on a safe site with individual privacy controls – and set those controls!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Second Life Offers Alternative Teen Summer Jobs to Flipping Burgers

“While his friends scramble for jobs flipping burgers or bagging groceries this summer …” These opening words of the May 16th Wall Street Journal article “My Virtual Summer Job” by Alexandra Alter caught my attention even though, at 8 a.m. this morning at the car wash and with no decaf coffee (I don’t drink caffeinated), in hand I was barely awake.

The article goes on to describe how teens are using their skills to make real money on virtual world websites. One teen expects to make $4,000 a month this summer on Teen Second Life by using the site’s graphic-design tools to build homes, offices and schools. A set of twins who are inventors on Second Life and sell their gadgets expect to each make about $2,500 a month this summer.

In the Journal’s Independent Street blog by Wendy Bounds in connection with this article she wrote: “Yet as the next generation of builders, metalsmiths, designers and architects increasingly use pixels instead of penny nails and pencils to create, will there by enough talented craftsmen and women to put solid roofs over our heads and well-made clothes on our backs?” And she then added: “Do we value that kind of bricks-and-mortar work properly anymore?”

Here’s the comment I posted in response to Bounds’ blog: “This trend can be looked at in a positive light – these virtual experiences can be internships for the real versions of these jobs. And these virtual jobs can be great to write about for college application essays. These kids are following their passion at an early age, which is what I blog about at www.flippingburgersandbeyond.blogspot.com."

While – disclaimer coming – I have never played Second Life or Teen Second Life, I have frequently stated that high school and college graduates have very little knowledge about the basics of life – such as balancing their checkbooks, hiring a plumber, paying the utilities bill. If these virtual universes with their own real currency can help teach teens and young adults about these basics, I think this could be a very good thing. (As long as these virtual worlds don’t take over the real words of teens and young people.)

I’ve read numerous articles about how the mind doesn’t know the difference between the real thing and a simulation. When professional golfers, for example, stand at a tee and visualize their next swing, their mind can’t distinguish between the visual swing and the subsequent actual swing. And virtual simulations are used for training airplane pilots, among others.

It seems to me that there can be considerable good coming out of teens and young people earning real money in virtual worlds, including the encouragement of entrepreneurship and the concept of working hard without adult prodding. Let’s not bemoan the end of the real world yet.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Keeping Organized as You Find Your Own Path

I wish I had a magic wand that anyone could use to organize himself or herself. No such luck.

The truth is that, thanks to the internet, we have access to so much more information than was available only a few short years ago. And added to the information available on the internet at any one moment are the teleseminars that I could listen to every day of the week.

I constantly find myself trying to decide whether to listen to a teleseminar discussing how to blog better – or actually write a post for my blog.

Having just listened to the BlogSquad mavens being interviewed by Cathy Goodwin, I’m totally conflicted about, first, how to keep track of all the new info I’m learning and, second, how to find the time to implement the information.

And this got me thinking about young people starting to apply for colleges or internships or first jobs. How to keep track of all the available information and then use it?

If you are a very organized person you probably have answers to these questions – and if you do, please share in the comments below. If you’re not an organized person, there are calendars and reminders and all kinds of gadgets to help. But these gadgets can’t actually do the implementing – for example, gadgets can’t write an email to someone who might write a recommendation letter for you.

I’m very good at creating physical file folders for different aspects of my projects and then adding new emails to the appropriate file folders. But then I need to find time to act on the information I’ve filed.

Here’s a technique I used today for the first time: As I listened to the Blogsquad make suggestions about a blog’s design, I made changes in www.mrslieutenant.blogspot.com.

Sure enough, I had apparently made a common error – not having my name near the top of the blog. Now the teleseminar is over and I have to make similar changes in www.flippingburgersandbeyond.blogspot.com

Therefore, I have to sign off now and implement these changes. Because if I take my notes from the teleseminar and file these notes in the appropriate file folder, I probably won’t find the time to implement the terrific suggestions.

college applications, jobs,
internships, careers

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Follow Your Passion – and Then Build on That Passion

Whenever I talk to young people about applying to college or internships, I encourage them to follow their passion – something they truly love doing or learning. I urge them not to be concerned at this early stage of their path through life as to how they will be able to earn a living from their passion.

Thus I was pleasantly surprised to meet a young woman who has an unusual career. She’s a personal chef with a twist: she goes into different people’s homes and prepares a week of meals for the family and freezes the meals. She brings the ingredients for the meals with her, and she takes into consideration the food preferences of the family.

For example, on Monday she cooks several meals at one person’s house, and on Tuesday she moves on to the next client’s house. It’s a great business for her!

I asked her how she got into this career. She said that she always liked to cook. Then I asked how she got her first client. Her reply was through her church – a family that had special food needs and whom she thought she could help.

This is such a good example of following one’s passion and seeing where it leads. And you never know what spark can ignite someone.

I, for one, applied to graduate business school on a “dare” from my younger sister. I had been talking about a friend attending graduate business school, and my sister said to me, “The reason you’re mad at her is you think you could do it better.” And I replied, “You’re right – I can.”

Of course, I had an interest in business as our father had his own CPA practice and we spent dinners discussing his clients. But once I decided to apply, I had to undertake a marketing campaign to get accepted at Wharton because at that point I didn’t have enough going for me to make me an interesting candidate unless I improved my resume. And I set off to do just that – starting with taking pre-calculus at the college level. (I was 29 and hadn’t had math since junior year of high school.)

Having a passion is only a starting point. Then you have to go on to build on that passion. But what you do to build on the passion can be very enjoyable (unless it’s pre-calculus).

If you have any personal stories of unusual careers or unusual sparks for a career, share them here by leaving a comment.

personal chef, jobs,
internships, careers

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Percentage of Women Attending Top MBA Schools

I earned an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1980. Last night here in Los Angeles I attended a reception for the new dean of Wharton. Dean Thomas S. Robertson has been on the job for eight months, and he gave us a delightful overview of Wharton on the home campus and Wharton in the international arena.

At the end of his talk he asked for questions. I raised my hand. “What is the percentage of women in the incoming Wharton MBA class for next year?”

Thirty-nine percent was the answer. And the dean assured us that this was a good number – a high average. He went on to explain what I already knew – that top business schools have a hard time getting 50% of qualified women in a class because of the work requirement before getting an MBA. This is not a requirement for law school or medical school, where top schools in both fields routinely have classes of 50% women.

I always find this answer amusing because, when I entered Wharton in the fall of 1978 at the age of 30, I was almost the oldest person there except for the military men attending Wharton. In those days work experience was not the holy grail requirement that it is today. But I don’t disagree with the current work experience requirement.

What bothers me is that I haven’t heard of any large-scale top business schools initiatives in the same vein as what engineering companies and engineering schools undertake: Offer programs in elementary and secondary schools that introduce engineering concepts to young people and get them excited about such careers. The same could be done about business concepts and careers.

There is a tiny ray of hope in the recently announced special MBA program at Harvard, known as Harvard’s 2+2, in which liberal arts majors who are juniors at colleges throughout the U.S. apply to Harvard Business School. If accepted, these students are assigned a mentor to help them obtain a job in the business world for two years before enrolling at Harvard. But this is only at Harvard.

While I was pleased to hear Dean Robertson announce a Wharton initiative to train 10,000 women in Third World countries about micro-business, I would have been more pleased to hear that Wharton planned an initiative to disseminate information throughout the U.S. on what a business career can mean. Because even with Harvard’s 2+2 program, if you don’t truly understand the endless possibilities offered by a graduate business degree, you won’t apply for that special program.

Today I’m offering a challenge to Dean Robertson and The Wharton School: While you are engaged in setting up a new interactive media center at Wharton and helping Third World countries, consider what you can do here at home to promote graduate business school education to young women (and young men).

Wharton, graduate business school for women

Sunday, May 11, 2008

In Honor of Mother’s Day – Showing Appreciation and Gratitude

In my last post I spoke about Harvey Mackay’s classic networking book DIG YOUR WELL BEFORE YOU’RE THIRSTY. One recommendation of his I always try to do – if I see an article that might interest someone or an article about that person I send it off to the person.

When my May-June 2008 issue of the University of Pennsylvania magazine The Pennsylvania Gazette arrived in my mailbox, I read some of the articles, including the one on actor Kal Penn teaching a course at the University of Pennsylvania. Near the end of the article Penn praises a specific professor of his when he was a student at UCLA. It was a lovely tribute and I thought it unlikely the professor, who I know, would see the article.

I went online to the Gazette’s website and emailed the article to the professor. A couple of days later this is the email response I got:

Phyllis, thanks. That was very nice of you to send this to me. I thoroughly appreciated it, and our kids were exceptionally pleased. Without you, I would never have seen it. Steve

This is a wonderful example of showing appreciation and gratitude when someone does something nice for you. Obviously, if I ever see something else about him, I’ll be happy to send that to him also. On the other hand, if I hadn’t heard back from him, I’d be much less likely to ever send him anything again.

The moral of this story? Besides taking Mackay’s advice on sending people articles they might find of interest (and now with email it’s so much easier than when Mackay wrote the book), be sure to always thank people for thinking of you and doing nice little things for you. A good saying to live by: A little bit of thank you means a lot (especially to your mother).

college applications, jobs,
internships, manners

Friday, May 9, 2008

Harvey Mackay and the Importance of a Smile

I’ve admired Harvey Mackay for a long time -- ever since the first time I read his book DIG YOUR WELL BEFORE YOU’RE THIRSTY with the subtitle “The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need.” (I’ve read the book more than once.)

In truth, Mackay wrote his book before the internet took off, so you’ll probably need at least one other more “current” networking book. And he wrote his book mostly for people further along in their careers than high school and college students, although everyone can benefit from his words of wisdom.

In my opinion, Mackay’s DIG YOUR WELL BEFORE YOU’RE THIRSTY is still the best networking advice book I’ve ever read – and I’ve read several newer ones.

Every Thursday I get an email of Mackay’s weekly newsletter. And no matter how busy I am, I find the few minutes to read it. (Check out his website at www.harveymackay.com.)

Yesterday’s column was about the importance of smiles. And what particularly got my attention was Mackay’s Moral – a pithy statement that always ends his column. This week’s Mackay’s Moral: “The most powerful single thing you can do to influence others is to smile at them.”

I had this thought in mind today when I stopped in at a Westside LA Coffee Bean (competitor to Starbucks in our part of the country). Yes, the young people behind the counter are getting minimum pay (as they were discussing animatedly as I waited and waited for two teas), yet they could promote the “brand.” They could smile and appear to care about my order.

And that’s when I thought of the application of Mackay’s Moral to the young people who work at Coffee Bean and Starbucks: Smile at each and every customer – and treat even this “low-rung” job as if it were truly important. Because that kind of positive attitude can help you go a long way.

college applications, jobs,

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Finding a Strong Motivator for Your Child

At lunch today a friend told me about the motivation “scheme” her husband had devised for their son in his senior year of high school. The son had a D average in physics although he really understood physics concepts. He just didn’t study.

The parents hired a tutor, a young man who needed money. The son worked with the tutor two or three times a week for a few months, and he raised his physics grade to a B+ by getting As on all his remaining tests. What made the student actually try so hard to accomplish such a difficult task?

The parents told their son that, if he raised his grade to a B, the tutor would get a bonus of $1,000. Liking the tutor and knowing how much he could use the bonus, the student was invested in working hard – and he pulled off the deal. (I’m pretty sure the student also got a bonus.)

Finding a reason that can truly motivate someone can be very important. Long ago a newspaper reporter colleague of mine smoked. His young daughter asked him to quit smoking for his health, but he didn’t. Then one day his four-year-old son said, “When I grow up, I’m going to smoke just like my daddy.” My friend stubbed out his cigarette – and never smoked again. His own health wasn’t enough of a motivator, but the health of his young son was a very strong motivator.

If you’re a parent reading this post, consider what you may have offered in the past as incentives (maybe an iPod) or punishments (maybe grounded for two weeks). These things may not be strong enough motivators, especially as both options are in the future. Then consider what you could offer to, say, help your child reach his/her potential in a particular high school subject. Something that would be a very strong motivator – something in which your child would be invested in achieving.

Each person is different. Yet, by considering what could be a strong motivator for your child, you may have a better chance of helping your child on the way to finding his/her path in life.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Having the Courage to Seek Help When You Need It

After my all-time favorite topic for young people of PASSION, my second all-time favorite topic for young people is SEEK HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT. So, yes, this topic will be visited and re-visited in this blog.

I know a young man in his 20s today who has a slight speech impediment. As a young teen he had speech lessons but stopped because he didn’t want his older brother to find out about the lessons. I have never understood why his mother allowed him to be embarrassed about the lessons and therefore continue to have the speech impediment.

This young man didn’t cause the impediment, so there was no reason to be embarrassed in front of his brother. And if the young man had continued with his speech lessons, he probably wouldn’t still have the speech impediment today.

Perhaps it is a natural human tendency to be embarrassed about things we don’t like in ourselves. Yet it should be a stronger natural human tendency to take steps to correct those things if those steps are within our power.

If, for example, you’re a young teen and are having a problem at school, do not ignore the problem. If you don’t want to talk to your parents or teachers, find someone with whom you are comfortable talking.

The anonymity of the internet can be a great place to get information that can help with your problem without the fear of being labeled. Just be careful that you are getting information from a reputable source – getting the same advice from two or more sources would be a good idea.

Whether the problem is teen drinking or problems with reading your textbooks or peer pressure, do yourself a big favor and spend the time to find the help you need. It’s your own life that will benefit.

Monday, May 5, 2008

College Freshmen Experience the Reality of Their Imagined “Paradise”

I had lunch today with a friend who caught me up on how various college freshmen we both know are doing in their first year in college.

As I listened to the reports, I started thinking that perhaps part of the problem with college freshmen is that their expectations are too high. They are so happy to have left behind high school -- and in many cases, their families and hometowns, that they expect a kind of paradise.

Unfortunately this paradise often comes with such “hardships” as doing your own laundry for the first time, having to set your own alarm clock because Mom doesn’t wake you up, and dealing with a filthy bathroom if you have a messy roommate or suitemates.

Even the college freshmen who aren’t homesick often find that their imagined paradise is simply a different island. And this new island has a new set of rules and a new set of “pleasures” and “tortures.”

The moral of this post? If you don’t have unrealistic expectations of college life and that freedom of which you’ve been dreaming, you’ll be less likely to feel disappointed in your freshmen year.

As colleges start to let out this week for the summer, college freshmen would do well to keep in mind that college is what you make of it. If you want to look back at four years of wild parties and very little classroom effort, that’s your decision. On the other hand, if you’re interested in finding your own path, consider how you can maximize these four transitional years into the adult world.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Independent Shakespeare Company and Finding Your Own Path

This afternoon in Los Angeles I saw a production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” by the Independent Shakespeare Company (ISC). It was the third of three performances this weekend as a sort of “try out” for the ISC’s upcoming summer schedule of free Shakespeare in the Park.

The ISC’s website www.independentshakespeare.com states: ISC was founded in 1998 by a group of actors who shared a passion for classical works. Intent on rendering vivid productions of Shakespeare’s plays, our focus was stripping back the conventions of contemporary theater and placing attention onto the spoken word. Shakespeare, we reasoned, produced his plays without lighting, without recorded sound, and without elaborate scenery and costumes. Surely we could as well.

You’ll find my name listed under the board of advisors. This connection to the ISC happened because I sent a fan email after seeing the ISC’s performance of “Henry V.” That amazing performance was done with eight actors playing tons of parts on a bare stage with a trunk and some tidbits of “costumes.”

In terms of finding your own path, I first want to share this thought: If you like a performance or a painting or concert, let the performer or artist or musician know. The giving of a simple compliment may end up offering you an association with something in which you believe.

The second thought I’d like to share concerns something that I saw on the stage today: The young woman playing the role of Viola was terrific. Later, in the “talk back,” the audience learned that she had actually rehearsed for the part of Maria, and only two weeks ago she had taken on the more demanding role of Viola when the woman playing Viola had left the production.

This willingness to take on a new role under a tight timeline is an example of a growth mindset. The young woman could have played it safe, staying within the comfort zone of the part she already knew. Instead, she’s been undertaking intensive rehearsals in order to play the larger role.

When someone offers you the opportunity to expand your role whether it be in a theater production or an internship or a job position have a growth mindset and take the opportunity. Then do whatever it takes to step up to the plate and do well in your new role.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Summer Jobs for Teens -- Opportunity to Think Outside the Box

According to Renee Ward, founder of www.Teens4Hire.org, “Teens seeking paying part-time and/or summer jobs will find it harder but not impossible to do this year. Overall hiring has slowed due to economic uncertainties and businesses are reluctant to hire minor teens. As a result, teens will have to work to find work.”

If you’re a teen, you can go to this website for advice on finding summer jobs.

Yet there’s another avenue for summer employment: You can think outside of the box, something that I always encourage young people to do whether they’re applying to college, looking for an internship, or job hunting.

First, assess how much you need or want to make this summer. This gives you a starting point in your planning as well as a definite target number.

Second, think about what else you’d like to accomplish this summer – learning how to play the guitar, an internship at a local newspaper, training for a marathon. And, of course, you realize there are only so many hours in the week if you also want to hang with friends, go to the beach, or whatever.

Third, write down (so your thoughts are clear) the number of hours you think you need for each activity. Then look at how you can re-arrange the pieces of the puzzle.

To understand what I mean, let’s take an example of Jane. She wants to earn at least $300 a week take-home pay this summer and also have an unpaid internship at a public relations company near where she lives. Here are two different possible scenarios:

Jane could work 40 hours a week at a fast-food restaurant and make perhaps $6 an hour after payroll deductions for a total of $240 a week. This will leave her very little time for the internship even if part of the 40 hours is over the weekend.

Or she can tutor young students in math, a subject at which she excels, and charge $20 an hour. If she signs up 12 hours of tutoring a week (maybe 6 students for two hours each a week), she can make $240 a week – the same as at the fast-food restaurant and with more flexibility of hours. And out of 40 hours of work a week, she has 28 hours a week free for the unpaid internship she wants.

Before you start getting desperate that you can’t get a teen paying job this summer, consider what your strengths are and how you might earn money legitimately by thinking outside the box. And, for an added bonus, you might even use this experience as the topic for one of the short college application essays. Now that’s a real good deal!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Rose by Any Other Name -- Using a “Professional” Email Address

Do you have a “cute” email address? Something such as sexyandsmart@domain? Your friends probably like this email address – and they can remember it’s yours. But for prospective college admission officer or employer these “cute” email addresses can be a major turn-off.

For “professional” emails get a “professional” email address. I like gmail accounts – they’re free and neutral-sounding (hotmail.com does NOT sound very professional).

I recommend using your full name so that you reinforce your “brand” in all email communications. For example, let’s say your name is Jonathan Blipman. Then get an email address for jonathan.blipman. If that address is taken, try your middle initial: jonathan.m.blipman. (I like using the period between names because it is easier to read than jonathanblipman or jonathanmblipman.)

You can still use your “cute” email with your friends as long as you remember to check your “professional” email at least twice a day. You want to reply to college application, internship and job emails promptly. See my previous post titled A Simple Email Offers the Opportunity for a Positive Impression for professional email etiquette.