Category Archives: Education
Career Advice for My 21 Year-Old Self.
A few weeks back Scott Stratton penned a LinkedIn post entitled “New Grad Advice I Wish I Was Given”. It was an insightful piece that was dead on and something worthy of sharing with any recent grad you know – although I must admit I thought he was way off-base on the sushi advice.
It got me thinking about the advice I would have given myself as a newly minted graduate. In a literal stream of consciousness I jotted down, quite haphazardly, things that came to mind in a list that came together in just a few minutes. No rhyme, no reason.
It also made me wonder why University don’t offer this as a capstone course for all graduating seniors. As much as you learn in college, you really learn nothing on how it applies to the “real world”.
So, consider this a companion piece to Scott’s sage advice.
New Grad Advice I wish I was Given
1. Your performance review will have little bearing on your raise, bonus, promotability – those things are determined by a formula in HR. Your effort, however, will have an enormous bearing on your long term career. Keep grinding.
2. Your degree is like a new car – it loses half its value after you leave campus. The last time your degree will mean anything is after you get your first job. After that nobody cares where you went or what your GPA was. They want to know what you’ve done.
3. The most important part of your education are the relationships you formed with your classmates and faculty. Keep nurturing those relationships.
4. A Harvard degree will start your career on second base. Most colleges will start you at first. No degree will hit you a home run. That’s your responsibility.
5. Put your phone/laptop away during meetings. If other things are more important than that meeting then you shouldn’t be in that meeting.
6. If two people in a meeting agree on everything, one of them shouldn’t be there.
7. Don’t be the last one in the office or the first to leave. Don’t be the first one in the office AND the last to leave.
8. You’re smarter than you think, speak up if you have something to contribute.
9. The boss that hired you will like you more than anyone else will. Make him/her glad he/she brought you on board.
10. Make sure that every piece of work you do includes something extra that wasn’t asked for.
11. Calibri, Times New Roman, Courier. Period. Nothing destroys a reputation more quickly than a serious document written in comic sans….unless you’re a bad comic, or a face painter, or making fun of bad comics or face painters.
12. A pie chart is worthless. A well thought out analysis and recommendation on what the pie chart is telling you is invaluable.
13. A word cloud is just plain worthless.
14. Don’t be the guy that gets sloppy drunk at corporate social events. It’s how you will always be remembered.
15. Your LinkedIn Profile (or resume) should always be up to date. You don’t know when that next opportunity will be looking for you. If you haven’t got any updates to make to your resume in a year then you’re not trying hard enough.
16. Avoid the red-eye flight at all costs.
17. Your place on the totem pole is less about talent and more built on relationships, effort, luck, timing, and asking for the job you think you’re not qualified to do.
18. If you are in the same position for 3 years, you need to find a new job. You are either not good at that job or at a place that doesn’t reward good work. Either way, get out*
19. Your boss only remembers what you did for them yesterday, so be sure to remind them of your past experience and accomplishments.
20. When you leave work for the day, be done with work. 24/7 availability to the company is a fool’s game.
21. Keep a running tally of your achievements as you go. Trust me, you’ll forget a lot at the end of the year during your review.
22. Be your boss’ biggest ally, (I didn’t say biggest suck-up). Support them publicly, critique them privately.
23. When you get to be boss, be your team’s biggest ally. Support them publicly, critique them privately.
24. Once in your life, start your own business.
25. Don’t be an asshole.
26. You’ll learn more at a start-up in 6 months than you’ll learn at a Fortune 500 in 10 years.
27. A car is a necessary evil and no one is impressed as you think they are with your BMW.
28. The receptionist is the most important person at the company.
29. You’re young, you don’t have a pot to piss in. You have a small window of time to take some risks and it closes quickly.
30. Save 10% of everything you earn in a retirement fund.
31. Travel light.
32. Very few people ever find their dream job. Find a job that doesn’t suck, that will challenge, inspire, and reward you.
33. Every once in a while look around your work space and ask “Could I gather all my things and be out in 30 minutes.” You just might have to do that one day.
34. Save examples of your best work and important files on a thumb drive.
35. Don’t wear shorts to the office. Ever.
36. Don’t collect things. Collect memories.
37. Wine, liquor, beer. Pick one.
38. Don’t let your email determine your schedule. It’s a time sucking tool of generally meaningless work and possibly the worst tool business has ever created.
39. ALWAYS talk with someone who approaches you about a new opportunity. You can always decline it and you never know where it will lead.
40. Become comfortable presenting to an audience. Its an essential skill.
41. Layoffs suck. Be prepared for when its your turn and empathetic to others when it theirs.
42. Stay in touch with former coworkers, associates, customers, colleagues. It’s easy to send birthday greetings, congratulations, and have get togethers once in a while.
43. Give, give, give, give, give, give, take.
44. Thanking someone for their work or help is great. Sending that thanks to their boss is greater.
45. Every 3 months, send a note to someone’s boss telling them how valuable that person has been in making your job easier. Don’t tell them you did it.
46. Research the company and boss that just gave you that nice job offer. No job is worth it if you’re working in a hell-hole or for a jackass.
47. Ask “why” a lot. “Because it how we’ve always done it” is always the wrong answer.
48. Work happens in the office between 9-5. Careers happen outside the office 24-7.
49. Learn to say “No”.
50. Learn how to dress and always dress a smidge better than what your expected to wear.
51. Be on time for meetings. 5 minutes early is on-time.
52. Date a co-worker at your own peril.
53. Don’t just share content on social media. Create it.
54. Buy a pair of “money shoes” that only touch carpet and are only worn when it matters. I’m partial to Johnston & Murphy’s Hyde Park II Cap-Toe.
55. Do your work with a pencil.
56. A handwritten note is worth a thousand emails.
57. Don’t take somebody else’s stuff from the company fridge.
58. When traveling on company business:
- Don’t max out on the per diem just because you have one.
- Don’t scrimp on the per diem either. Eating at McDonald’s and staying at the $79 Howard Johnson’s across from Newark Airport doesn’t make you a hero.
- If someone else is paying the tab, don’t order the most expensive thing on the menu.
- Don’t post pics of all the fun you are having on your company trip. You have co-workers back at the office working their assess off that don’t have the privilege that you do.
- Be nice to security people, gate people, airline employees, hotel employees, bag check people, taxi people….you’re no better than any of them, and they can do a lot of nice things for you. They can also do a lot of horrible things to you.
59. We all know what you’re saying on social media.
60. Be visible. Join the softball team. Volunteer for task forces. Don’t eat lunch at your desk everyday.
61. Always follow-up.
62. Keep your word.
63. Don’t let work consume you…find a hobby. Bonus points if that hobby can provide a second income.
64. Every 6 months stop and assess where you are at. Are you happy? Are you reaching your goals? If not stop what you are doing and readjust your plan or look for a new opportunity.
65. Have a plan. A written plan. With goals and milestones. That you can share. You will never get where you want to go without a roadmap.
66. Every office has a bully. Don’t let them intimidate you.
67. Look for public speaking opportunities. That can be small meetings at work or big conferences. Become the expert at what you do and share your expertise with others.
68. Don’t take credit for someone else’s work. Don’t let someone else take credit for your work.
69. Assume that anything you say privately will be communicated publicly.
70. It’s ok not to “hustle” all the time
71. Fantasy Football is a must.
72. Your belt must match your shoes.
73. Find a good cologne. Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Pour Homme has always worked for me. Ditch the Polo and Drakkar Noir or anything sold in the same aisle as Axe Body Wash.
74. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, order spaghetti at an important business meal.
75. Send your Mom your business card.
76. Find a reliable source of current events and stay informed. Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC are not reliable sources. Go for NPR, or the BBC.
77. Remember that half your co-workers voted for the other guy.
78. Vacations are a time to disconnect from work, not a different place to do work. Put down the email, spreadsheets, office updates and enjoy the little time you’ve been given. You owe yourself that. The office will be fine without you. Seriously.
79. Four things to never discuss in the office: sex, politics, religion, and the designated hitter rule. You will never change anybody’s opinion on these things.
80. Using a sick day for a “mental health” day is totally acceptable.
81. Give the bartender a big tip on your first round of drinks. You won’t wait for any round of drinks the rest of the night.
82. Make exercise a priority.
83. Learn how to cook one good meal.
84. Always get it in writing.
* Unless you’re the lead singer of The Rolling Stones or Aerosmith, or the Founder of the company.
Are Conferences Obsolete?
When I first entered the work force one of the best perks around was being able to attend trade shows and conferences. What was not to love? You got away from the drudgery of the 9-5 grind, got to go to strange and exotic places (like Cleveland for example), and were generally given meals and accommodations well beyond what you were used to in real life. There were no sweeter words than “per diem”, which I think is Latin for “eat whatever you want, the company is paying for it” (SIDE NOTE: Have you ever noticed how fancy some people get when they are spending someone else’s money?).
I can’t say I’ve done a lot of work related travel, after all, I am waaaaaay too important to leave the office for any length of time, but I have been able to travel to some parts of this world that I wouldn’t have never seen otherwise. (Quick Disclaimer: For those that envy business travelers, while it seems like a paid vacation from the outside, I can tell you that traveling on the company dime isn’t nearly as fun or as glamorous as it often appears).
But that was then and this is now: Then, was pre-internet where communication was done primarily by phone, mail, and in person. Al Gore had not invented the Internets yet and conferences and trade shows were by default a location-based activity. Oh how the world has changed since then.
Today, I am barraged with emails inviting me to download whitepapers (98% appear to talk about how important it is to have a social media presence), sign up for webinars (98% appear to talk about how important it is to have a social media presence), or view live coverage of events (98% appear to talk about how important it is to have a social media presence). If I never felt like working, I could easily fill my brain with enough information to, well, fill my brain, all from the comfort of my desk. There is literally nothing you can’t learn with a few well-booleaned Google searches. Seriously, I did brain surgery on my dog this afternoon after Googling “How to do brain surgery on my dog”. (Mental Note: Google “where can I bury my dead dog” later).
This leads me to my point; Has digital media evolved to a point where business travel is becoming obsolete? Other than to enrich the industries that profit from business travelers (I’m looking at you mini-bar manufacturers), why do I really need to go to Orlando to learn about the latest social media techniques? What’s the value of venturing to Seattle to discover new advances in web analytics? Tell me the ROI of going to the junket, drunk-fest, douchebag convention, think tank that is South By Southwest. The truth is, you don’t need to go beyond your comfy little cube to be the smartest man on the planet on almost any subject you want. Yet these conferences continue to thrive, grow, and be well-attended.
Now, liars proponents will tell you, “Being face to face is the most effective way to learn and interact” (Translation: Dude, how am I gonna figure out who’s hiring so I can angle for a new and better job at a different company). They might tell you “rubbing shoulders with the customer is the best way to get deals done” (translated: Dude, sure I know the customer is going to renew, but I love free Ruth Chris Steaks, so a little business dinner on the road is a win-win). You will often hear “By removing yourself from the distraction of the office, you are able to focus on activities that will enhance your development and benefit the company” (Translation: Dude, when you’re on the road, it’s harder for the boss to see what a slack you are and if the strip joint restaurant is smart, they know how to
write a receipt that will not only pay for your filet mignon but also allow you to over-expense the company and profit from the trip). Another popular argument is “by going out into the field you are better able to understand the market and its needs and demands” (translated: Dude, Cirque de Soleil can only be truly appreciated in Vegas). Finally, an oldie but goodie is “I’ll be able to bring back knowledge that I can share with the team (translated: “fuck the team, they already loathe me because I got to go to London and they didn’t, and by the time the boss remembers that I didn’t do a knowledge transfer, whatever I learned will be outdated, and I’ll have to go to the next conference for a refresher”).
The dirty little secret is that most of these trips aren’t necessary. The company will probably do just fine if you miss that “Mobile Marketing: Your Roadway to Success” conference in Tempe. You can probably find 14 webcasts on ‘YouTube Channel best practices’ that will teach you more than that “Leveraging Video Content for Sales Success” event in New York. And I know for Goddamn sure that whatever the fuck they talk about at South By Southwest Interactive isn’t something that can’t be learned at some loud noisy bar on a Friday night at your local college campus (I mean that’s pretty much what happens at SXSW right?).
Don’t get me wrong, if you can convince the company that you need to attend every conference in the country like some weed-smokin’ Phish fan, more power to you. Just be on notice that the day will come when the gravy train ends and we’ll look back and say “remember the days when we traveled the country for free to learn stuff we already knew?” Until then enjoy your free travel perks while you can, rack up those frequent flyer miles and 5 Stars restaurants because someday soon that pinhead Lionel in finance (who never travels) is gonna take a hard look at the books and ask “Why do we send Phil to San Francisco every year for MacWorld? Aren’t we in the semi-conductor business?”
* Disclaimer: While Dean talks a big game about his disdain for business travel and its uselessness, he is generally full of shit and disingenuous on the subject. He is more than happy to help you spend your per diem at a fine restaurant that has fresh cut chops, a wide selection of Brandy, and well-stocked humidor. Give him a call as he is available most evenings
Rutgers, Mini-MBA, and the Death of the Real College Degree
I ran across this Certification Program…err….I mean “Mini-MBA” program offered by Rutgers and for some reason that escapes me it rubbed me the wrong way…oh wait I know why….because its bullshit. I don’t want to come off as some intellectual elitist or anything, but as someone who completed an MBA program (I guess Rutgers would call that a “Maxi-MBA”), I am just a tad put off at the “flavoring” they have added to the degree.
For anyone who has toiled through Grad School, they know the dedication, sacrifice, and grind that’s required to complete the program. Especially for those coming to an MBA program from a non-business background, the rigors of tackling subjects like Finance, Accounting, and Marketing are not for the unmotivated. My recollections bring back memories of grueling coursework, endless reading, arduous group work, all-night study sessions, nerve-racking presentations, and a course-ending thesis (Corporate Crisis Communication).
As someone who jumped off the 9-5 treadmill and re-entered College after 6 years of ‘real-life’ experience, the challenge was daunting but at the same time enormously gratifying and rewarding. It made me realize just how much I didn’t learn as an undergrad. In the end, I got my sheepskin and have ever since been proud of the blood, sweat, and tears that piece of paper represents. I am an MBA dammit and have accomplished something only a small fraction of my peers could claim. That ‘MBA’ means something.
So let’s get back to Rutgers. They are now peddling a variety of these “Mini-MBAs” in subjects like “Business Essentials”, “Going Digital – The New Rules of PR”, and “Pay Per Click (PPC)”. Are you fucking kidding me? Your going to subtly equate a session in “Conversion Optimization” with an MBA???
Note to Rutgers, what you have here are “Training Sessions” or “Certifications”, you know, the kind of things you do that get you a photocopied “Certificate of Achievement” that no one gives a shit about. Hell, its not really of any more value than any of the 400 free webinars you can ingest daily if you aren’t busy actually doing something. And its certainly nowhere near the education you get actually applying knowledge in real life as opposed to learning about how people apply things in real life.
As I said, I don’t know why this tweaked me so much… it’s just semantics right? After all, I am a huge proponent of life-long learning as a means of professional survival. But I guess where I start to seethe with rage is knowing how this will play out with some (I said ‘some’) of their students. All of a sudden there will be a population of people professing their “mumblemumbleminimumble MBA” degree. Trust me, I have seen enough fabricated resumes to know that the practice of outright fictional representation of one’s experience and achievements would make J.K. Rowling proud. Throwing a faux MBA to these professional career hucksters is almost begging them to “mistakenly” drop the “mini” part of their educational acumen.
At minimum, Rutgers is marginalizing what an MBA is and the work necessary to achieve it. It’s academic malpractice and they should be embarrased to having added MBAs to the list of products like “Vitamin Enriched” Pop Tarts, “Low-Fat” Ice Cream, and “Anti-Aging” Wrinkle Cream that have been misrepresented by overzealous marketing people .
I’m sure I am blowing this way out of proportion, but go get yourself a “real” degree and tell me if it doesn’t feel cheapened by Rutgers “Mini-MBAers” Class of October 2011.