Archive for 2010
Passion. Storytelling. Leadership. Those are a few of the adjectives that were brought up today when the panels, guests, and speakers talked about changing the game for latino professionals in America today. And they quickly caught everyone’s attention, not only to keep us engaged in the panels today but also to help Latino Legacy Weekend pull off its second act this weekend.
Just minutes ago, we finished our second and final full day here for Latino Legacy Weekend. And as I suggested above, the event was very well executed. Similar to yesterday, the panels were exciting, engaging, and full of great and highly accomplished speakers. Unlike yesterday, though, the panels today were more panel-like, where they were more interactive and also left a more time for Q&A after the presentations, which I personally enjoyed.
In the first panel about political activism, we had a highly accomplished list of legal and political heavyweights, who chimed in on things like passion, leadership and accountability. The topic of storytelling also came up, and a Chicago Super Lawyer, Christine Martini, discussed the importance of a compelling message and telling a good story, especially for someone who may want to take on a political leadership role. In another panel, the speakers talked about the role of Latinos in society today. A current BCG consultant mentioned that it’s not enough to lead by example today, and that we all have to go beyond our comfort zones. They also talked about mobility and sharing information.
I personally liked the panel on children and youth, where we had a highly diverse panel, including a health service professional and DMD, as well as a couple of professors, including one from Stanford who discussed a 15 year test about high school graduation rates. My favorite panel, though, might have been the one on media in a panel later in the day, namely because media is one of my biggest interests, given I maintain my website and contribute to a few others. In some ways, the media panel did a good job summing up the weekend, as they gave a lot of ideas about being vocal and sharing information, learning how to mobilize a campaign, reaching out to more people, and building connections with other leaders in the community. And they talked about all of this in the context of working together as a team, using the example of becoming a “chorus of voices.”
In the end, my experiences at the conference reinforced my belief that teamwork is absolutely critical. That a team working together can accomplish more than the sum of its parts and that to achieve our highest potential it’s critical that we leverage everyone’s diverse skills and talents to achieve common objectives. So I’m glad that everyone’s still fired up about the great weekend. I hope that we’ll all stay in touch after the event. And after chatting with a few of my new friends, it sounds like everyone plans to collaborate together on some of the world’s most important issues in the future.
Thanks for reading everyone. And stay tuned for LLW 2011.
Many people have good ideas, but few are willing to put themselves on the line for them. Often times they’re afraid of rejection or they fear the hard work it takes to achieve success. And other times, they’re simply afraid of failure, especially when other people are watching. On the other hand, there are also leaders who create extraordinary results because they are deeply passionate about their cause. These leaders work tirelessly to bring others together and connect them with their mission and to steer their organizations to new heights. And that passion was not only evident, but also contagious on the first day of Latino Legacy Weekend.
Despite long exhausting travel schedules and work schedules, not to mention sentiments during the current economic crisis, a sense of excitement filled the room from the very first minute at Latino Legacy Weekend. Leaders from every industry filled the room – law, business, finance, public policy, politics, academia, government, and education. It was good to see so many like-minded people together with the mission of “transforming power of ideas and building bridges across professions, ideologies, and regions.” And that certainly happened today across a series of panels, speeches, and collaborative discussions.
In one panel, professionals from California, Texas, and New York talked about challenges in the education space. In another, a Northwestern Professor collaborated with an employee from Goldman Sachs and another professional from Municipal government to talk about immigration. This was especially compelling considering we were at a Latino Conference, and considering that I am originally from Arizona, where immigration is the big issue of the day.
I was on the Business and Finance panel, which came next. Ironically this session was lot less technical than some of the others, despite being the finance section. One former BCG consultant talked about how important it is to following your passion, while a fellow Stanford grad that I met there talked about finance and public policy. As for me, I gave my pitch about why it’s so important to share information not only with each other but also with the next generation behind us. At the last minutes, I decided to divert quite a bit from the presentation I prepared, not only because my prepared one was a bit long but also because I wanted to talk more from my gut and discuss a topic that I’m passionate about. And in the end, a few of the participants told me that they liked my talk, so I’m glad I decided to change things up.
We also had a panel on Politics and on Corporate America, both of which went well. The common theme between these two is that we need more Latino Leadership in these areas – at the executive level, the board level, and high level political roles. As part of that we talked about the low number of CEOs and about the prospects of a Latino president in America’s future. But we also discussed how that transition will not be easy, and we talked about leadership strategies that we need to keep in mind as we navigate the business and political spheres.
In my view, that’s because public issues are inherently ambiguous. Leaders must weigh tangible issues against intangible principles, account for diverse views and beliefs in the community, anticipate skepticism from just about everyone, and balance all of that to eventually take a stand. Leadership is less about command and control than it is about bringing people together and building consensus. To do that, leaders must not only understand the complex issues but they must also have a compelling message.
And in the end, day one of the conference was filled with compelling messages and was inspiring. And the night was also fun. We had dinner at Star of Siam, a Thai restaurant in Chicago, and after that had a fun night out. I look forward to day two of the conference.
Stay tuned !
Have you ever had the task of hiring someone? Sometimes it can feel impossible right? On your worst day, your dream hire can turn out to have just been a good marketer. Weak problem solving skills, no sense of urgency, and not the leader he or she touted being on their resume. On the other hand, sometimes you just hit the jackpot, and the person quickly engages in the role, quickly gets plugged into everything at the office, and is poised to be a good leader from day one. But the question is, how can you really know from a resume screen exactly which one you are choosing? And how can you tell if they are going to be a good leader?
The reality is that sometimes you can do everything perfectly, and things will still turn out for the worst. This happens all the time in But assuming a little correlation between the resume and the hiring decision, there’s a typical process that recruiters tend to go through, which is usually pretty effective. And in a recent question I responded to a question on GottaMentor one of the members asked about putting the word leadership on your resume. They specifically wanted to know what the implication were of changing the bottom section of their resumes from “Extracurricular Activities” to “Leadership And Extracurricular.”
I thought it was a good question, not only because it involves putting resumes in the context of pre-MBA or post-MBA jobs but also because it involves a little bit of philosophy on leadership. In any event, I’ve provided my response below. I’ll also note that lots of interesting questions, just like this one, are asked and responded to every single day. So as I mentioned in a recent post, you might considering taking a look at GottaMentor when you get the chance. For now, though, here’s a sneak peak at one of my responses from the site.
First off, you hit the nail on the head that leadership is an important consideration in any career you pursue, and as a result any application you submit. As such, you’re right to think that a good company or firm will want to hear more about your past leadership experiences. After all, conventional wisdom suggests that past performance is indicative of future performance.
On one hand, this means that during the recruiting process, companies will want to know as much about your past leadership experiences as possible. On the other hand, though, you may want to be careful about your strategy. While showing leadership on your resume is important, putting the word leadership on your resume – calling out that you have been a leader – may also come off as pretentious, as you suggested. Why? Perhaps here are a few reasons.
1. Because leadership is not a typical section that goes on a resume. If it were, then you would have seen it multiple times on the professional experience section.
2. Also because the word “leadership” is completely overused and misused by just about everyone today. It’s often confused with titles and not sufficiently correlated to influence and results.
3. Also because conventional wisdom suggests that leadership is not about taking credit for the work you’ve done. One of my favorite sayings in the world defines a leader as “One who can motivate his colleagues and get things done without making his teammates feel that it was the leader who had actually got the work done.”
So in my view, the best approach to your resume is not to tell but to demonstrate that you’ve led – that you’ve done some important things in the past, and you have important, specific plans for the future. If you can do that in a way that’s direct and avoids generalities, then during your interview they’ll probably ask you about it. That will give you the real chance to provide them with the real details of your experience, and as such prove that you had a leadership experience.
And so in the end, I would encourage you to shift your thinking from describing what your titles were and telling what you’ve done to describing who you are and what you bring to the table, as evidenced by what you’ve done. Does this distinction make sense?
Ultimately, it’s your decision if you want to make a new title for the section. It’s quite possible that an employer wouldn’t even notice the difference. And in some circumstances, an employer might be drawn in by the word and take a more close look at what you write. But, from my experience, I suspect that most of the top employers, wouldn’t be impressed by the wording change, not only because it’s easy for anyone to put “leadership” on a resume, but also because they probably interview a lot of people with leadership experiences.
I personally, live by Robin Sharma’s motto – you don’t need a title to be a leader. Because of that and because of traditional resume protocol, I don’t use the world leadership on my resume, but chances are that it will not make a difference no matter what you decide, so long as you have substance.
Have you ever walked into a room that was full of hundreds of people you didn’t know, and despite being energized on the way there, had absolutely nothing to say when you walked in. What about a room with only dozens of people, where drinks were available, and the event was dubbed a networking event, but you still couldn’t conjure up the words or find the energy to be effective? The truth is, all of us have. We’ve all had the experience of being wallflowers and mimes, both at parties and professional events, because negotiating new crowds is hard. And with few upcoming conferences ahead, I thought I’d share a few things I like to think about as I prepare for events.
In my view, having the chance to meet new people can be very rewarding. It’s my opinion that you can learn something from just about any person you talk to, not to mention from someone in a different industry than you or in a senior role in your organization. As such, these events can be a great opportunity to connect with interesting people, share your ideas with others, position yourself at your company, inform yourself to make good professional decisions in the future, and most importantly provide others with insight and information they might have been looking for. As I’ve said before, my theory is that sharing information and giving is the best approach to connecting with new people.
But easier said than done right? It takes courage to walk up to the CEO of your company, or to the well-dressed business man in the corner with ten people anxiously waiting to get fifteen seconds with him. In fact, sometimes doing that is harder than walking up to the girl or guy you’ve been waiting to talk to all year long. Well, here are a few things I like to do to prepare for some of my “networking” interactions.
1. Research. In my view, the more research you do before chatting with someone, the better off you are. If it’s a work event or an industry event, then that’s easy. Find out what the executive’s interests and business needs are. Research what’s going on in the industry. And try to find what previous companies they worked at. And then distill that information to think about the top three or four points are that he or she might care about. If not, then you just have to be creative, using both online and also interpersonal resources.
2. Find Commonalities. I also strongly believe that everyone has something in common with everyone else. And the sooner you can find what you have in common the more quickly you can connect with someone, especially if these commonalities are substantive. So it’s often good to connect on the things you’ve researched and the things that most people might not have caught. In the end, it will show that you really cared about meeting them, which will be a very nice compliment.
3. Have A Good Delivery. No matter what you know or have in common with them, the best way to get them to pay attention is by having the right delivery. For example, if you go up to someone using slang language, speaking far too much or too quickly, or cutting other people off, then your delivery may not be readily accepted. On the other hand, if you’re brief, interesting, and have good timing, you will likely be better off, especially for the more senior people you interact with. If you have trouble making that happen, then it’s usually the case that the more conservative you are the better.
4. Assess The Situation. If the person you meet with has limited time, then you should be careful to see the signals and respect that. Thank them and allow them to use their time as they see fit. Similarly, if the person isn’t interested in your idea, you should take the same approach. Because it may not even be about you but instead he or she may have competing priorities at work or home. And in the end, you have more to lose than gain by sticking around, not to mention coming off as someone who isn’t aware with what’s going on.
5. Be Sincere. Above all, though, my view is that sincerity is king. And I think that your level of sincerity shines through in all the stages I referenced above. Whether you did real research or instead looked up a few peripheral things on the internet. Whether your commonalities are something you actually care about or if they’re just a ploy to get you a seat at the table. Whether you delivered your message with the zeal of a car salesman or whether you were compelling and had real passion behind your message. And then of course, whether you sincerely cared about how they reacted to you, no matter whether that was with excitement or frustration.
I write about this because it’s definitely happened to me a few times before. In fact, it happened just the other week. Where at a networking event, someone came up to me, thinking I’d be a good person to know. And they tried connecting with me, while I was taking part in another conversation. Because I’d made the same mistake many times before with the hope of meeting people. I understood the way of thinking, so I turned and said hello. But it definitely felt disconnected, and the person hung around for a bit longer than was comfortable.
On the other hand, I also had a recent example just about a week ago where I used the tactics above when I went up to someone I recognized. After a flight into O’hare airport, I somehow managed to spot John Haley, the new CEO of Towers Watson (Fortune 500 consulting firm). I’d never met him before, but nonetheless, I’d researched CEOs of firms before and knew a lot of key people at my old firm before they were acquired. Using that information, I recognized him in the airport, went up, delivered a brief introduction – my exact words were “John? Hi my name is Jeremy. I recognized you ….. and thought I’d come say hello” – and sparked up conversation. And fortunately we had a lot in common. I talked about the fact that we’ve both been a part of Watson Wyatt, that we both knew two or three senior leaders who were at the firm, and that I was aware of some of the integration challenges happening at the firm. Assessing the situation, though, I decided I wouldn’t take up too much of his time. After all, he was about to hop on a flight and it’s likely that he had some emailing and calling to do before the flight took off for the east coast. We traded business cards and later a couple of emails. And not only was I sincere in our conversation by focusing more on things like school and family than on work, but also because when I followed up, I provided him with the name of a up-and-coming consultant at Towers Watson that he might want to learn about, rather than asking for any favors myself.
This isn’t to say I relied on the framework above when in the airport. In fact I didn’t. My interaction was more organic in nature, and using the framework above is something pretty natural to me. And further, the interaction could have easily gone much worse had Mr. Haley been busy, or not been interested in meeting or if I had messed up my delivery. Fortunately, timing and energy were on my side that day. And hopefully I’ll run into Mr. Haley again.
Good luck at your next networking event !
Hey Everyone! As a follow-up to my recent post on networking and finding mentors, I also wanted to pass mentorship resource that helps connect you with peers, coaches, and mentors in the business and other professional communities. The company name is GottaMentor and the up-and-coming internet company is a great resource for finding career information. As some of you may know, I happen to be a new contributor to the site. And while it was hard to start contributing as regularly as I would’ve like during 1L of law school, I’ve picked up the pace recently and plan to contribute much more heavily this summer and after.
If you have not heard of the company yet, you should definitely take a minute to browse the website. For one, I’m a contributor to the site and would love for all of you to join. Additionally, if you do take a look, you’ll see that the site really does have a lot of pretty interesting career-related information, and also a great platform to ask questions and get new information. Perhaps more important than all of this, though, is that the GottaMentor leadership team is very highly accomplished. And as such, I suspect the company will be around for some time to come, and it’s also poised to really take off in the upcoming months and years.
To see some of the information, you’ll have to register with a user name and password. But that’s an easy process, and I highly recommend signing up. And the good news is that the site works well for almost everyone. Not only is it relevant for students but it’s also useful for professionals at all stages of their careers and also for those in both business and law. Have a look when you get the chance.
What if I told you I had the one secret that could help you achieve a world-class level of success. What if I said that Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods became the athletes they are today because they did it. And that without it, Barack would not be our current president. And that every single Fortune 500 CEO today did the same thing. Well, the truth is that most highly successful people – athletes, musicians, professionals, speakers, and thinkers – are doing it. Nowadays, skill and passion can only get you so far. The most successful people also reach out and find mentors.
It’s no mistake that I said the word “find” in my introduction. While some world-class performers and leaders did stumble upon their mentors, most people don’t. That’s because the good mentors can be really hard to find. After all, the most successful people in the world work long hours and have limited time, dozens of competing priorities, and goals that they can’t let go by the wayside to help someone who may not even respect their time.
But from experience, I know that great mentors definitely do exist. And because I was lucky enough to find a SUPER-mentor in my very first job, I wanted to share a few words here on my site that I also shared with a friend – a current MLT fellow seeking out a little advice on networking.
See below for that person’s question, and below that for my response. I’ll note that I only included selected parts of the conversation, as some of the information might have revealed too much about their identity, and as other parts were less relevant to the content of the message. I’ll also note that this post turned out to be longer than expected.
(Skipped part of question)
1) I’m glad you enjoyed Leading Matters. (And I applaud your participation in the middle of your exams!! you are a rockstar!) It sounds like your Chicago event was really engaging … (deleted part of message)
2) You are awesome for thinking about MLT in your blog. Myself and my fellow b-school prospectives are juggling a few things that you might find relevant to write about:
(Actual list of things deleted)
The biggest thing on my agenda right now is networking. I am nervous about cold calling people in my industry (i.e. social investing). But I know that I have to get over that initial fright if I want to get anything out of this. (I actually just got back from dinner with someone … who a Kellogg alum put me in touch with!) I also wonder how do I extend those relationships beyond just a one-time informational interview? How do I stay in contact without being bothersome? Should I make myself helpful to them?
Good luck with the rest of your finals!
MY RESPONSE TO QUESTION
Good to hear from you and thanks for your message. This is a really good set of questions, and now is the perfect time for you to start thinking about them as you go through the MLT process and start to think about new career options, most of which are challenging to break into. But the good news is that once you get used to reaching out and become more skilled at it, it actually becomes a lot of fun, especially for outgoing and high potential professionals like yourself. Here are a few of my initial thoughts:
As I said above, I was lucky enough to find a phenomenal professional mentor early in my professional career. I concede, though, that most people don’t have that experience. And for reference, when I say I found a mentor, I don’t take that word lightly. In my case, mentor means someone that I valued highly enough 1. to turn down a job that paid 20%-25% more in salary right out of school and 2. to subsequently turn down a chance to work at a bulge bracket bank to work him at a mid-sized consulting firm that didn’t carry half the level of prestige as the bank, only carried a percentage of the salary, and had me move across the entire US as a result.
That’s because in my view, these types of strong relationships are critical to your career success – my general motto is “it’s better to learn in your 20s and earn in your 30s.” But most people still don’t invest the time, and they would never consider the idea of foregoing resources to find these strong relationships. In today’s age where internet is king, Google searching tends to be most people’s first option. And others look for answers in self-help business books on weekends, rely on opinions of friends and family, and give too much credibility to formalized mentoring programs at work.
Sure, these sources can all be useful, but they’re certainly not perfect. At my old firms, I often saw how people were given “buddy” roles and mentor titles without an ability to perform in the role. Similarly, I’ve seen how many people rely on friends and family members because they tend to give a lot of positive reinforcement, which is not always what you need. But people still tend to default here.
That’s because but finding real connections, let alone mentors, is hard. For some people, it takes months, even years to find someone who understands you and cares for you and your goals. And so going through the “networking” process you asked about tends to be the best way to do that. That means continually engaging with new people, getting and giving new information, and over time connecting with others.
Unfortunately, this kind of reaching is no easy feat and there’s a lot of grunt work involved. It takes a lot of thoughtfulness, as you write emails, make calls, and navigate your way to finding new connections. Similarly, you have to know more about your target industries and have a better sense of who you are as you go out to meet with these people, so you’re sure not to waste their time. And as a result of that, it takes time, energy, and perseverance. But so do all relationships right? Staying in close touch with friends and family during 1L was almost impossibly hard for every single person I knew. Similarly working toward any dating relationship often takes a lot of time and effort. In my opinion, there’s not much difference. Nonetheless, the grunt work involved in networking tends to keep people from really engaging in the reaching out process.
I do realize, though, that everyone is different, and that one person’s propensity to reach out people may be different than mine or than yours. So in some respects, you have to do what you’re comfortable with, so you can be effective when you do meet new people. On the other hand, I’d also strongly recommend pushing yourself out of your comfort zone just a bit and reaching out more than you might otherwise get in touch with, especially now as you seek information on business school and careers. After all, if you don’t get comfortable with it now, you’ll be forced to on the first day of business school a year from now, not to mention for years to come afterward.
Now I’ll respond more practically to a few of the things you mentioned. First, my opinion is that there’s absolutely no need to have any initial fright, because there’s a pretty large many people who would be willing help someone in your shoes. Most people that you’d be reaching out to tend to be proud of their institutions, school, and employers. And even if they’re not, they tend to be proud of the advice they can offer. Similarly, a lot of people are looking for ways to give back to their communities and to those who may want to follow in their footsteps.
I mean, consider the reverse. What if someone came up to you and said, hey (name), I’d love to be just like you someday, and I want to go to (name) University and work at (name) Company. Personally, I’d be really flattered, and I think a lot of people would feel similarly. And as a result, some of them might really take the time to give the information you’re looking for. And if you’re thankful, keep the modes of communication open, update them on your progress, and then be sure to reciprocate when you can, then you’ve got potential to make a real connection. And here’s my pitch – that in the end, the process becomes something that’s not even networking. Instead it’s seeking out new ways of connecting forging strong relationships, and becoming mutually beneficial. And personally, I always strive to be more beneficial when I can.
Next, to directly respond to your last question about how to stay relevant. That’s a tough one because no two people or circumstances are the same. Because of that, my first thought is to focus on the relationship, not on using fancy tactics. Because when you forge those strong relationships, you don’t have to worry about staying relevant. That’s why you always get back to your best friends and to family members when they get in touch with you. Because those relationships tend to be strong.
But from a tactical perspective, here a couple of things that may help. None of them are rocket science. In fact you could have come up with all of them on your own. Also, none of them are they my original ideas. Instead, they tend to be things that lots of people do and also things I tend to do when I remember.
1. Try Different Methods. You might try using different methods to connect with people, such as email, phone, in person, LinkedIn, etc. In my experience, relying on a single source can be less effective in some circumstances, especially if your new contact decided to avoid using that source for a short period of time.
2. Return the Favor. If you have managed to somehow stay on a person’s radar, then you might help return the favor by sharing information to them, on relevant topics. In these cases, I tend to default mostly to things that are HIGHLY relevant, sometimes sending news, connecting them with people in their industries, giving referrals, or passing along hello messages from mutual connections. But you should be careful of overdoing it and be sure that you’re not forcing your way in. I tend to only do this in very authentic ways, because otherwise it’ll likely feel too forced.
3. Don’t Replace Face To Face. I also think face to face encounters tend to be more effective when you’re in the establishing stage. For example grabbing drinks, coffee, lunch, or meeting up at the office all tend to work pretty well, depending on what you’re chatting about. Not only is it a more intimate environment that allows you to discuss real issues and be more open and vulnerable but it’s also more of a mutual investment of time which naturally tends to create a bond.
4. Get Out To More Events. Sometimes the best way to bump into someone, and to actually get the face to face encounters you need, is to go to different types of events where people are out and about. Not only networking-themed events, but also cultural, academic, and volunteer events, where you’ll tend to find people who you have things in common with.
In the end, though, making real strong relationships, is the goal, not finding tactics to stay in touch. Often times for me, I just try to feel it out, since in most cases no two relationships are the same and because time is so limited. But fortunately, there are a lot of smart and successful professional seeking the same thing you are. So once you make a connection, it should be pretty easy to build those relationship. If only dating were this easy too, right
Thanks for writing. And good luck!
By almost any account, you can’t call my schedule balanced. Most of it’s self-imposed I admit, waking up at 5am every day, not heading to sleep until the wee hours of the night, and getting involved in a large variety of different activities, both at the law school and outside of the law school, not to mention at business school, despite not stepping foot on campus as a student yet. But recently, after the insanely difficult 1L finals period of law school, I’ve found myself less effective at balancing my unbalanced schedule, and recently it’s a lot more difficult to get things done.
Nowadays, it feels like it takes a herculean effort to manage my Gmail list, write newsletters for my organizations, makes trips to Kellogg from the city to attend meetings, manage my website, network with employers, maintain connections with my close friends and family, and keep an eye on my longer term goals. And I haven’t even begun working yet, which will be a significant time commitment. What I’m learning is that when you have so much to do, it takes a different type of focus, and you have to have to learn how to actually finish things, which in law school is not something we practice.
In law school, your final grade in a class is the result of your cumulative work from the entire semester. You read legal cases, meet in study teams, go to office hours, and outline over the course of a four month semester, all of which comes to an end, in a three hour final exam. So you’re always building toward a final product. And so in that environment, you work to build stamina, learn to focus on things for hours and hours at a time, become adept at cutting through information, and learn to work in a way that is cumulative. On the other hand, it’s not always the best setting for those who need to manage chaotic and overbooked schedules.
For many people, this means that you have to be more aware – being sure to finish uncompleted tasks, understanding how much time to allocate to competing priorities, crossing things off your to-do lists, and then moving on to the next ones. This is especially important for people like me, who always default to focusing on the bigger picture, have a high number of seemingly disconnected interests, and overbook their schedules with zeal and optimism of changing the world, often leaving lots of work to finish during the midnight hours and limited time to finish it.
The good news for me, though, is that my jam-packed schedule isn’t for lack of focus and most of my activities are part of organizations and activities that I want to be part of, not only for career or networking opportunities but also for the skill building and because I want to have impact n those arenas. Also, because some activities are similar, there are some economies of scale which I can take advantage of. So I don’t mind burning the midnight oil in most cases, because I’ve got a few very specific things I’m doing, and very specific goals in mind.
In my view, the more specific you are about what you want to do, the more likely it is that you’ll accomplish it. Sure, part of that is establishing relationships with people and with organizations, both of which I love doing. On the other hand, though, it is also about achieving results and getting things done. And striking that balance, when you have a lot of things on your plate and a lot of things at stake is hard. So for me, I’ve recently learned that to be successful, sometimes you have to think small, quickly move from the macro to the micro-level, have a laser-like focus on the results, and cross as many things off your list as possible.
Because modern leaders know that in an age of increased global complexity and too much information, that identifying your priorities and consistently achieving results is vital. And those who can both identify where and how (thinking small) to do that will be better poised to lead people, teams, and organizations in the future.
Have you ever seen a presentation where the audience didn’t pay very close attention, or where they pulled out their Blackberries instead of listening? I have, and I suspect you have too. That’s because delivering good presentations can be tough. They often lack direction, don’t evoke emotion, and don’t truly connect to the audience. Well, just the other day, I found out that I have the challenge to do all those things at an upcoming conference next week here in Chicago.
Just days ago, I chatted with the organizer of the inaugural Latino Legacy Weekend Seminar. The seminar is hosted by my good friend, former congressional candidate, and current US Department of Treasury team member Emanuel Pleitez. Emanuel is a great guy, and like a lot of the folks I know, he’s definitely making things happen, and keeping me on my toes to try to do the same.
The event will host students and leaders from all backgrounds and professions – law, business, finance, policy, arts – and bring them together to think about their passions, ideals and biggest concerns. “The Weekend’s driving question is: What legacy will we leave? It’s an opportunity to step outside of our fields and pause our lives to challenge one another to think big.”
And in my view, this event will not only be a good opportunity to talk about this question but also to share critical information and personal stories with each other. Discuss our passions, goals, and dreams, and connections. And then stay connected so we can help each other as we’re in pursuit.
I haven’t finished my presentation yet, but I’ve decided that I’ll be presenting on Labor Economics and the state of the labor force in the Latino community. There’s a lot of good stuff out there. But more importantly, as I continue to say here on my website, I believe that the labor force is the big issue of our time.
I think the key to giving a good presentation will be engaging the audience. And compelling them with interesting information. Fortunately my topic lends itself well to that. But I plan to spend the next week or so figuring out how to be effective.
In a recent article I read that the human body is capable of experiencing over 5,000 emotions. But in the course a single work week, most people only experience a dozen of them. To me, means there’s a lot of opportunity to evoke emotions that people tend not to have because they spend so much time on work, family, and other day-to-day things. Emotions like fears, vulnerabilities, concerns, and motivations. And that’s what the current economy has done to a lot of people. Made them fear being of out work. Become vulnerable to admit and discuss their fears and perceived failures. Feel concern for friends and family who struggle with those fears. And then find motivation to overcome their circumstances. So there’s a lot to work with, and I hope I’ll be able to come up with something good.
Overall, it should be an interesting event. The variety of presentations should be interesting, the rewards of the conference should be manyfold, and it will be a great way to meet a lot of new people.
As always … stay tuned to hear how things turn out!
PS I’ll also note, that not only do I have this conference next weekend, but I also have another professional conference in New York City in early June. As such, I’ve decided to dedicate a my posts over the next two weeks to the conferences. Before the conferences, I’ll discuss networking tactics and preparation for speaking to attendees and employers. And afterward, I’ll do my best to journal the nuances of the events. I hope that you’ll check back to read. A lot of people have been writing in recently with networking questions. So I look forward to posting over the next few weeks.
As a current MBA student, I’ve read a number of management and leadership books. In one example, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, the Master Sun says that “every battle is won before it is ever fought.” Well, if that’s true, then perhaps JDs and MBAs need to think more about that today. The economic crisis has made markets more competitive and as a result made it almost impossible to land a top job. And so the person who starts early and orchestrates the whens, wheres, whos, and hows of the battle before it is ever fought will have a better chance at ultimate success. And in my view, that it not only true in on campus recruiting but also includes internal promotions and moving companies after graduation.
I recently received a question from a reader who was thinking about just that. We’ve traded a few emails in the past, and this questions happens to be a follow-up to a previous conversation. He’s a recent graduate from college and he has been working in the finance industry for a little under two years. As a “smart” guy with a few years of experience, he’s hoping do some networking and move his way into a new job role that’s more competitive and perhaps a bit more higher level. The dilemma, though, is that he just moved into a new job due to restructuring at his old company and wants to know, not only if it’s too early to start networking but also if he can network with the intent to get a job as soon as possible.
I responded with a few words, which I’ve shared below. As always, I’ll also note, that the real answer is ‘it depends’ and that my answer only scratches the surface because networking is a big topic, and a topic that I have a lot of ideas on. On the other hand, there are a few rules that I live by and follow deeply when I talk about networking, so I thought I’d share some of those broad ideas. Hopefully this post will be helpful.
THE READER’S QUESTION
Since I asked my last question, I did end up taking the position, and as I anticipated, I am a little unhappy with it (specifically, the level and intensity of work). I have also started to network with alumni from my university.
I have a question though – now that the economy is getting better, companies are hiring left and right (at least compared to 2009), and I think that this is the perfect time to try to network into a junior-level position in trading, investment management, etc. Do you still think that it would be wise for me to show that I want these types of jobs when I’m networking (as opposed to coming off as somewhat passive about it)?
People have told me that it’s best to cultivate these networks over months, or even years, until you want to ‘strike’. But I feel that the time is now (with the influx of hiring), and I don’t want to miss out on any opportunities because I wasn’t being aggressive enough. What do you think?
MY RESPONSE TO THE READER’S QUESTION
Thanks so much for reaching back out. And I’m sorry it’s taken me a few days to reply. Ironically, I’ve just as busy, if not busier after school has ended, so have been doing the best I can not only to stay up with my schedule now but also catch up on some of the things I put to the side while I was in the “battle” of final exams. But I’m almost back above water now and suspect that in a week or so, I’ll be just as caught up as ever. And the good news is that 1L is done!
In regards to your question, a couple of things come to mind. As always, though, most of this depends on context, and the answer is probably best articulated orally, because in that mode, I could give the full context of what I’m thinking without have a post that’s too long. But I’ll do my best to lay out a few ideas here, for now.
1. Sincerity. My first rule of networking is that sincerity is king. By that, I mean that sincere connections are always the best connections, no matter how fast you make them and urgent you might need help. For me, they are the only type of connections I make. And the good news is that if can manage that part of connecting with others, than the timing may not make a difference in the end. On the other hand, the more urgent you need the help, the more likely it is that you may come off as desperate and less sincere. And if that’s the case, I suspect that those characteristics will probably be evident to those you’re speaking to. And so if it is the case that you have greater urgency, than I’d say that be transparent about it. Because that way, you’re still being sincere, and you can still build a relationship based on trust and honesty, and as a result maximize its impact.
2. Find the right people. To that end, it might also make sense to ensure that you connect with the most appropriate people up front in order to maximize your chance to get sincere connections. Because your questions will be related to the things they know best and your interests will be highly correlated with their passions. I’ve read a few books by Keith Ferrazzi [he and I share a uniquely similar background in almost every respect] and one of the main things he emphasizes is that to really connect with people, you have to “find a way to become part of the things that are most interesting to them” or most important. And relating back to point number one, I personally would be careful not to manufacture that process. Because in the end sincere connections – those built on trust and on honesty – are the ones that will last, but conversely those manufactured for personal gain often don’t. And this may be especially important when you’re networking with the “right” crowd because that crowd may be in your target industry and it’s best not to hurt those relationships in the long run.
3. Channel your aggression. To points one and two, there’s nothing at all wrong with being aggressive. Being aggressive in your career journey is important. In fact, critical. Being aggressive at a conference or at a networking session is also important. After all, almost everyone who’s made it to the top has been aggressive at some point. In the end though, you have to balance being aggressive in your career search, which includes networking, along with being respectful, showing class, showing respect for other people’s time, and having a real genuine interest not only in the careers you seek but also in the people you meet, speak to, and who take the time out of their day to help you. Because in the end, many of them are busy and are being generous by helping, so you don’t want to simply take up their time without showing patience and appreciation. So from that angle, I don’t necessarily like the words “passive” or “aggressive” when it comes to networking. I similarly don’t like the word “strike” (I understand you used it as more a symbol than reality but thought I’d bring up here) On the other hand, to be aggressive in your actual search or in your pursuit of knowledge and uncovering of information is the right approach. And this way, your personality – instead of an aggressive person who is self-serving – will truly shine through.
4. Always in context. In context, you have to figure out this balance of timing and aggression depending on your needs. And that includes the need to find a new challenge professionally or the your need to get an opportunity while they are abundant. Similarly, economics are always an important factor in our decision making, and in today’s complex ever-changing society, making moves often hinges on doing things at the right time – sometimes you have to “strike while the iron is hot.” And in the right context, I think quick networking can be okay, though not ideal. If you do go this way, just be sure to maximize your time by doing a few basic things. Be sure to have your resume and cover letter ready. You should also be ready to present yourself to these networking events and most importantly have your story down stone cold. And be ready to convince anyone that you have not only the experience but also the skills that a company seeks. And trust me, that’s easier said than done if you want to be effective.
5. Wrap-Up. In sum, I agree with much of what you’ve heard before. That it’s best to cultivate relationships over time, which takes months, even years. That way, you can build them on a foundation of trust. both of you realize the benefit of the relationship, and according to the Master Sun, both of you will win the battle before you ever step foot on the battle field. On the other hand, context can’t be ignored, and if context is that you have a sense of urgency in getting a new job, because of the economy (that the market is good as it may ever be) and that you have a real shot at landing a role, then it may make sense to consider transitioning. If you decide to go that direction, then from the 30,000 foot view, just be sure of three things. 1. Understand the implications that too many job changes can have on you as a early career professional. 2. Be sure you are up front about your motives and desires to find a new job. 3. Be sure to respect those you’re networking with, by demonstrate that you did your research about them and their industry (don’t want to waste their time) and also to be genuinely interested in connecting with them, perhaps making a real effort to return the help if you can.
Because in the end, the best networkers aren’t those who can walk into a room, meet everyone, pass out their business cards, and walk out with a job. Instead, the best networkers are those who are connectors. And not only do they connect themselves with lots of people and enhance their own professional prospects, but they also bring everyone else together and connect them together. And when they effectively do that, they facilitate the flow of information and usually benefit as a result.
I hope this helps. Good luck!
PS If you don’t know my reference to The Art of War then watch the Investment Banking movie Wall Street – 1987 with Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas.
For many people, choosing a college major is one of the most feared parts of undergrad. Some students fear the prospects of enraging their parents. Others fear sacrificing their future job prospects and salary potential upon graduation. And another group, they fear losing the one chance to do something they love. Conventional wisdom says that students who major in finance and economics are best positioned to land top paying jobs out of school, and as a result, students have long flocked to these majors. On the other hand, one of my readers sent me an article yesterday, that suggests that if you want to become CEO – or any top position in your target industry – you may not want to rush into choosing a major. In fact, you may even want to study something different. His email was a response to my recent post about the the Path to become CEO.
As a follow-up to my post yesterday – where I wrote a post that responded to a careers question about college major – one of my readers sent along a great article about the college majors of CEOs.The premise of the article is that there are a number of top CEOs that did not study business in undergrad. Instead these business leaders and entrepreneurial tycoons took more unconventional academics paths. They studied philosophy, medicine, psychology, medieval studies, and English. The article also suggests that philosophy might just give them the exact skill set they needed in order to lead at these big companies.
The article is titled Accidental Moguls: College Majors of Top CEOs, and I put a short blurb on the article below. You can also click here to read the article now.
Thanks everyone for continuing to read my website. And a special thanks to those of you who send in positive and useful feedback, such as recommendations for posts. Please keep reading. And be well !
TITLE: Accidental Moguls: College Majors of Top CEOs
AUTHOR: Business Week (Bloomberg) – Lavelle Louis
BLURB: See below for article blurb:
“Not every corporate chieftain studies business in college. Many of them major in history, psychology, or even philosophy. It may be one reason why they succeed.
In this, the graduation season, the thoughts of college students naturally turn to the four years behind them, the lifetime ahead of them, and the connections between the two. For business students, especially those with the biggest of corporate ambitions, this is a particularly introspective time. Role models seem to be everywhere—whether it’s the rags-to-riches story, the brilliant entrepreneur, or the middle manager turned MBA turned corporate leader.
Becoming CEO of a top company is no easy feat. Most of them tout bachelors degrees and MBAs from world class schools, are on the board of multiple Fortune 500 and non-profit organizations, are over-networked both in and outside their industries, and have long lists of professional credentials and positions that would make just almost anyone envious. That’s because to get to the top in today’s global, hyper competitive world, it’s almost a prerequisite for executives to be on that path early — to gain significant training and exposure, experience at high performing corporations, strong mentor relationships, and also a quality business education, not only in terms of management but also in the realm of finance. And in a recent message from a reader, I received a question about just that.
I recently received a question from an undergraduate student who is currently thinking about what to study as he goes into his junior year of college. I responded with a few words, which I’ve shared below. But I’ll also note, that my answer only scratches the surface, as this question is complicated. Not only as there are an infinite number of factors that change over the course of a twenty year career but also because interests and career paths change too, not to mention ongoing changes in the economy. To that end, it’s impossible to talk about all of them in a single post. Hopefully this response will be a good starting point.
THE ORIGINAL MESSAGE
First of all, I love your blog! It’s very well written. It’s informative! And it really is relevant. Please continue posting, especially responses to reader questions. So here’s my question.
I’m an undergraduate student now at a top 20 school, and I eventually want to end up as a CEO or in a position that’s similar. But I’m having trouble figuring out exactly what to study. When I look at everyone going into consulting, I see people with finance, accounting, and engineering, degrees, and the same is true for investment banking. But I’m also interested in other classes that are less technical, like sociology and communications, and I’m not sure which to choose as I think about going into business.
At the end of the day, I really just want to prepare myself to have the best chances now and going forward. Do you have any insights?
Thank you in advance,
Thanks so much for writing and for taking the time to ready my blog. I’m glad you’re finding the website to be a good source of information. I’m also always glad to see when I’m able to use my experiences to help others in their careers. I suspect that many other MBAs and experiences professionals might also be able to chime in on the topic. That’s especially true in this case, where you didn’t provide very thorough information in regards to your career interests, classes already taken, or professional background. So for now, I’ll keep my answer a bit more generic.
So, as you know, you’ve asked me a pretty tough question. In all fairness, the answer will never be the same for anyone, not even for two people with really similar backgrounds or similar career goals. And frankly, there may not even be a right answer. Interestingly enough, I recently had a short phone conversation with a new friend from Chicago. Culture or strategy – which one is more important in business, we asked. In a sense, because we had pretty different experiences, we also had different ideas on how to answer the question.
She is a rising second year MBA at a peer school outside of Chicago. She was an accounting major at a local college in Chicago, got a CPA worked at an accounting firm after school, and really enjoyed, and thrived in, the field. As for me, I was an anthropology major, and while I did have some finance experience before coming back to school, my role was not a traditional finance job, but instead I worked in the consulting field which balanced finance with human capital in addition to other general management issues. So as you might suspect, our perspectives began in different places, which made for an interesting conversation.
Conventional wisdom suggests that finance is king. That company performance is tied to financial metrics and that understanding those is critical to communicate with investors and eventually move the company forward. And as you might guess, her perspective was more similar to conventional wisdom than mine was. She valued her accounting training in undergrad and her post-graduate experience and gave her view on the important of that knowledge in CFO level role. She was also happy that she didn’t get drilled too badly on technical questions in her MBA interviews. And that’s a a really nice advantage.
Similarly, I’ve heard the same story from a few high level leaders over the past few years in my career. In an old post last year comparing HBS and Kellogg, I wrote about a Bain recruiting event where I heard this from a Senior Manager at the firm. He said “That finance is the language of business,” and if you don’t know finance and accounting, you probably won’t get to the top. And even if you did, you wouldn’t survive for too long, because you can’t speak effectively to the CFO, can’t compel shareholders to invest, and may not understand some of the typical economics cycles of the company. My professional mentor, and Partner at another large consulting firm agreed, as he studied finance, accounting and engineering in college.
On the other hand, there is a viewpoint that differs from conventional wisdom. Business gurus like Peter Drucker suggest that “culture will eat strategy for breakfast” and at the same time, Political leaders like Colin Powell say that the best leaders know that communications values are most important to maximize your impact. I think the main idea is that cultural factors are important, because they have the potential to create divisions in a company and the potential to also create connections which form communities, and drive the actions the work in business. In a recent interview at a consulting firm, my interviewer referenced team culture and referenced the Pittsburgh airport test in choosing new hires at the firm. Similarly, in his exit interview from HBS a few years ago, Dean Kim Clark said the exact same thing. That “he wished he would have engaged in leadership in his role sooner.” And that HBS (and other schools) look for cross-cultural leaders first, before anything else. And that includes technical skills.
The main lesson I take away is that anthropology and accounting–culture and strategy–are both important. 1. Without culture, you won’t make people feel valued and enjoy their environment, and they’ll be naturally less productive and committed to their work. 2. On the other hand, without finance, you won’t always be able to understand the most important business issues, and won’t be able to execute a strategy that drives a company forward to operate in today’s complex finance-based business culture. And perhaps without both, companies will never be able to compete at the highest level.
But when a company does excel at both, they position themselves not only to grow, but also to beat the markets and have broader impact over time. To that end, maybe we shouldn’t have to decide. Maybe culture and strategy can [and should] work together to produce results. After all, isn’t this what the CEO does – focus on both? Similarly doesn’t the CEO work side by side with the CFO to understand the financial heath of the company and with HR to architect the organizational culture of the firm. Further, isn’t HR tasked with the interest role of balancing quantitative finance and compensation studies alongside culture and change implementations?
To relate this back to your question, for you this means, there may not be a single major that makes or breaks your path to the C seat. And in fact, for some people major may not prove to be very important at all depending on what field they go into. For some, the answer may be more dependant on context than anything else. The context of your current background, the classes you’ve already taken and will take, what your classmates decide to study, and what your target employers like and look for. And all of that needs to be taken into account in the context of the current economy and your propensity for risk, if you’re not sure how some employers might look at your profile.
In the short-run though, sometimes the major you choose CAN be very important for recruiting, especially in a sluggish economy, and especially if you really want to go into certain industries, where majors are prerequisites, such as accounting, computer engineering, etc. In these cases a major is not only a good way to show demonstrated interest, but also a way to show you have what it takes to do the work. On the other hand, I personally think that passion and interest are also important, because it’s likely you’ll study harder if you have a natural interest in the subject, and in the end, its also likely you’ll do better (see my recent post on passion). One thing some people like to do is hedge their bets study both. Majors today are more interdisciplinary than ever, and most schools allow double and even triple majors. So it might make sense to do something like that and get as much experience as possible. On the other hand, it’s likely that hedging will take away time from you to pursue your passion and interests. In the end, it’s a trade-off only you can make, and that only you should decide.
But also in the end, my view is that Culture and Strategy — Anthropology and Accounting — are both important and make a good team. I’m looking forward to my next discussion.
PS – By the way, the Kim Clark exit interview from HBS (former Dean of school) above is a great interview on leadership. I recommend that you make the time to watch it. Especially the final few minutes on what good leaders do.
When you hear the words “law school” or “1L” certain images probably spring into your mind: intense final exams, reading cases on global legal issues, heated competition, and probably a lot of stress. Well, generally speaking, I won’t argue with those assumptions. 1L has long been considered the toughest academic experience you face in any grad school. But after about nine months of going to class, reading cases, and taking exams, my first year of law school is finally over. And I starting doing some reflecting on how things have changed, as of this morning. The morning after my last final exam.
It feels good to finally finish my first year in law school – I took my last final exam yesterday. Like most graduate school experiences, the year was both more more work and more fun than I originally expected. While a number of my classmates were singularly focused on the academic portion of the 1L experience, I took a slightly different approach. My approach was not only to do as well as possible in school but also to participate in a really wide range of activities, in and outside of the law school.
I played an active role here in various clubs and in diverse organizations. I took on leading positions in numerous community organizations both here in Chicago and outside the city. I attended recruiting events and receptions and met with dozens of employers [fortunately I did well and will be working an amazing law firm here in Chicago this summer]. And I created, designed, and managed my blog, where I posted multiple times per week and communicated with a diverse group of students and professional all across the US on careers and admissions issues.
And nearly nine months later, the morning after my last exam, many of us feel like it all finally paid off, because 1L is finally over. Most people I see now are finally smiling again. Others have a skip in their step and are stopping to talk and shake hands more often than they were last week. And many people have taken off for vacations or begun the writing competition for the law school journal. Personally, I’ve spent the last few days catching up on my blog posts, scheduling a couple of upcoming business trips, reconnecting with old friends at Kellogg and at the law school, and also hanging out with an awesome old friend from MLT (and her friends from Chicago) who came to town for the week.
But more important than many of these great activities, is that now I also have time to reflect and think about the world again, something that’s hard to do in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of 1L, or any year in law school for that matter. This morning I’ve read a few articles and looked at a few pictures about the earthquake that hit Haiti in January, the volcano that erupted in Iceland, the oil spill that approached Louisiana, the Goldman Sachs corporate governance fiasco, and the hot button immigration issue in Arizona, that’s taking the world by storm. I’m taking the time to think about these events and how I can better understand them, and maybe even make a difference. After all, that’s why all of us came here to law school and to business school, right? To gain new opportunities all over the world. And to learn how to understand these global issues and also how to effectively analyze them in a way that’s meaningful and deliver a message about them in a way that’s compelling.
And upon reflection, all the complaints I’ve heard (and made) about 1L struggles have begun to fade. And they’ve been replaced with thinking about how we can leverage our new experiences and skills to increase the odds of having impact. Some of us by making a lot of money and giving back to organizations. Others by pushing the agenda as change agents in public service or government agencies. And another group of future entrepreneurs or politicians, who want to roll up their sleeves and drive change from the ground floor.
So I look forward to continuing to catch up on the issues, to learning more about them and maybe even discussing a few here on my site over the summer. And in the end, at graduation, I also look forward to using my new experiences and skills from the JD-MBA program to figure out how to help, and how to create change, not only through written posts and articles but also by giving back and by being on the ground floor. I’m sure I’ll be thinking about this quite a bit on the morning after graduation. But for now, I’m going to enjoy being done with 1L and I also need decide if I plan to participate in the writing competition. It looks like a majority of my law school classmates will be writing.
In any event, thanks for reading everyone. And best of luck to those still finishing up the year.
With just one final exam to go [in employment law] I find myself changing things up a bit from last semester, and even from earlier in this exam period. For many of my other exams, I was a bit more worried, felt a little more pressure, and did a lot more cramming than I’m doing for this one. Hard to say exactly why that’s the case, though I suspect it’s the result of a number of factors …
For one the class is not curved, so there’s less pressure to perform on a relative basis. In addition to that, I think a lot of the material is a bit more intuitive than some of my other courses, especially since I already have a good grasp of employment issues, so perhaps I’m hoping to rely on that a bit in order to do well. And finally, while the content of the class is especially interesting, the day-to-day classroom dynamic this semester may have been a bit less than hoped for, though I’ll note that this dynamic is likely the result of a combination of factors (number of 1Ls in the class, number of 3Ls in the class, professor style, being second semester, bad classroom, etc) not just the professor.
More importantly however may be the fact that I’ve got a few big picture things on my mind which seem to be taking precedent over any singular class. I’ve got a few business ideas that I’m working on. I’ve got some improvements to my website in the works. I’m in the process of making some important partnerships. I have a few plans I’m trying to finalize for summer 2010. And I also have a interesting opportunities in the works for summer 2011. So for me, the year, or even the week doesn’t end with finals. I’ve got to keep moving things along for a few weeks after finals and in reality will be just as busy up until I start work on June 1. In essence, I’m running past the finals “Finish Line.”
In any event, I do have to get back to studying, so I’ll keep this post short. I suspect this is going to be a pretty long night of studying, especially if I decide to head to a Cinco De Mayo get together later this afternoon, as I’m currently planning to do. Fortunately employment law is interesting.
Hey everyone, I hope you’re all doing well. So I think that the title of this post says it all. This has been a long year for everyone here at Northwestern Law, but the good news is that it’s almost finished. That means that everyone here is hiding away studying, reading, outlining, and thinking… a lot. Of course we all still fall prey to the internet a bit. In fact, I like to take strolls around the school every now and then, and I always see a lot of people surfing Facebook. But now that we’re almost done, people are doing that less than before.
There is one thing to look forward to, though. A large number of students will be going on a boat cruise on Thursday, after the last final exam is over, including me. Then there is the final Bar Review of the year that evening, which I also plan to attend. After that some will be taking off to head home or travel before working this summer. I’ll be taking part in all the festivities for sure, but unlike my classmates, I, on the other hand, will still have to do a bit of work to do after that, as I have a final paper that’s due Monday. But the paper is short and the class is really interesting so I’m looking forward to it.
After Thursday though, I plan to put up a few more posts than I have been, including a few events from the past few weeks. It’s definitely been an interesting past couple of weeks but school, job prep, and summer planning have kept me from having enough time to write as much as I’d like. But thanks everyone for sticking with me, not only the past few weeks but also throughout the year. It was great to meet some of you at Day at Kellogg (DAK) and Day at Northwestern Law (DANL) and to hear you’ve been following my website. I especially appreciate those of you who bought me free drinks and gave me uplifting words about my site when we met at DANL and at DAK. And best of all, I’m glad that you’ll be joining us in the windy city next year.
It’s funny how I felt much busier during finals period last semester but still managed to post more on my site. I suspect it’s because I’m more tired now than I was last semester. I think both law school and business school have that in common. The first year is hard because it’s more core classes. More substantive learning required. More time and energy expended meeting people. More important to get good grades. More critical to get out and meet employers. And everything generally more foreign.
But in the end, we all walk away smarter, stronger, better. And fortunately at Northwestern Law and at Kellogg, we also walk out with great jobs, great careers, and great potential to create real change in the future. So it’s worth it.
In any event, check back for more thoughts in the next few days. I’ll try to put up a short post tomorrow morning and then perhaps on Thursday after my last final exam. Wish me luck! And as always … stay tuned!
Have you ever wondered what it takes to be accepted into a top MBA program? Or what about just seeing what one of these programs has to offer? Maybe meet a few professors, drop by for a class or two, and chat with a few current students. Well if you have dreamed about doing any of this, now is your chance. And no matter which category you fit in, on Friday May 14 you can come to Kellogg and get a “Sneak Peek” at the Kellogg experience.
In my view, events like these are almost always worthwhile. Not only did I attend a number of admit weekends last year, but I also made a good number of visits before applying and went to as many formal events and receptions as possible. I sat in on dozens of classes. I met hundreds of applicants and current students. And I spoke extensively with admissions team members, faculty, and community members. In the end, I think these events can help you validate final school decisions, and they also provide a natural and easy venue to really meet a lot of other applicants and future applicants. Like I’ve said many times before, the MBA world can be very small sometimes.
My good friend [and fellow Kellogg blogger] Orlando, shares some of the same sentiments, and last week he also share a blog post about the event. I haven’t spoken to him today yet, but I suspect he’ll be there. Also if you do decide to come, please keep an eye out for me and be sure to say hello if you see me.
For reference, here is the official Kellogg blurb about the event. And below that is a link where you can register.
“The admissions office of the Kellogg School of Management in partnership with the Africa Business Club (ABC), Black Management Association (BMA) and Hispanic Business Students Association (HBSA) are excited to host minority prospective students for a special campus visit event. We know that you will be very busy over the coming months with various campus visits, prospective student events, GMAT and business school applications so we’d like to give you an early opportunity to learn about Kellogg. At this event, you will have an opportunity to visit campus, meet Kellogg students and professors, sit in on a class, tour the Jacobs Center and learn about the application process.”
In terms of logistics, the time of the event is from 9am to 7pm and will be held on May 14th, 2010. See the links below for specific information. We look forward to seeing you there.
So you’ve got the perfect long-term career plan. Graduate from a good school. Get a good GPA. Move into a relevant business role after graduation. And then eventually land the job of your dreams. Well the good news is that having a career road map means you’re far more likely to get there. But there’s also bad news. The bad news is that vast majority of these plans tend to get disrupted pretty early. And so while career road maps are one of the most critical pieces of long-term success, in my opinion, there one thing that’s a bit more important.
In today’s society, the ability to adapt is critical. Information changes by the second, competitors consistently enter the markets, and business plans are disrupted causing changes and conflict in the workplace. And so the ability to adapt to change has become a necessity, not only true in your day to day activities at the workplace but also more broadly, as you consider your longer term path to career success.
In a recent question, one of my readers was recently let go from his job and so he was balancing a new job prospect on the horizon and also thinking about business school. So he wrote me and asked me for a bit of advice. Below is his question and then below that my response.
First off, you have a fantastic website. You seem to have a knack for connecting a lot of people, sharing good information, and then connecting people with that information. Thanks for that.
So here’s my situation. I graduated from college in 2008, where I studies Business and Finance. Upon graduation, I worked at an investment firm as a client services analyst for about a year, but unfortunately got laid off when the economy went south. When I was hired, I had the goal to eventually become a wealth advisor, but at the time, there were no investment analyst spots open and they told me that this position was also a typical path to an advisor at their firm.
About six months after I was hired, the company did hire someone for the other position, instead of moving me to that role, and ironically that person still has a job today. I was bummed for a bit, but sent out a few resumes and recently got an offer for another client services position, which seems to be a bit less technical but pretty similar. The firm is similar but smaller and they manage a lower number of funds.
I am trying to decide if I should take the new position I was offered, or continue looking for something more quantitative and investment-oriented. Most positions at bigger firms seem to be looking for college grads, so I’m not certain how I can move into this role. I was also wondering if I should I considering getting my MBA? Or if I should try getting a CFA? Or again, I could just take the offer, and start all over again?
Also, do you think networking helps in the investment management world? I have not spent much time doing that, but after reading your site, it seems as though I should be. Please advise.
Thanks in advance for taking the time.
Thanks so much for your question and for reading my blog. I appreciate your kind words, and I hope you’re right about being able to connect with a wide range of people. Fortunately, I’m continuing to get more hits and responses as time goes on, and I hope you continue to keep reading, even after you find the perfect job!
So after reading your question, it sounds like you’ve got a lot of factors to consider: (1) the economy, (2) your short and long term career goals, (3) MBA or CFA qualifications, (4) and then the situation at your last job. Bringing all of these factors together and quickly make a decision now.
I remember having to make similar decisions over the past few years, and suspect I’ll be making them as I continue to progress in my own career. Often times it feels like a herculean task with a lot at stake if you make the wrong choice. The good news here is that there’s not a whole lot of pressure, given you’ve got a job waiting for you if you decide to take it. In any event, here’s how I like to think about the issues. In context, hopefully it’s relevant for you as well.
1. Nowadays, many people are making decisions based on the economy. In my view, that makes a lot of sense, especially for younger professionals like you who have not hit the “two years experience” threshold and that may not have quite as much cash in the bank so may not want to spend too much time off. In my personal experience, I know a couple of recent graduates who lost their jobs right after joining their companies and really struggled finding their next position, because they didn’t have the months/years of experience to bring to the table. In that sense, taking the job might be compelling. On the other hand, there’s definitely something to be said about taking your time, having a little patience, doing your research, and really finding the right company and the right role. One thing in your benefit is that it looks like you’ve gained some real technical experience in your last role (and in your academic career) so some companies will really value that if you decide to hold out.
2. Generally heading toward your dream jobis a multi-step process, including both the short-term (i.e. immediate next steps) and the longer-term (years down the line). The important thing here is to be sure that your ST goals align with your longer term vision. In this case, you have the option of hopping into another client services role at a different investment firm, and although it may not be a substantial step forward toward your dream job as an advisor, it is very related and seems to fit your story pretty well, while also providing you with a unique set of experiences to draw from once you do become an advisor. If I were in your position, I might do some more fact finding and see just how related this role is to your last role–degree of technical skill involved, contacts with advisors, actual client contact, how much of a sales role–and then reflect on how happy I’d be in that role.
3. (A) Many people choose to MBA when these sort of transitions don’t work out according to plan. But on average, folks in these positions tend to have closer to 4 or 5 years of experience as opposed to one year. And although some schools are taking early career candidates (CLICK HERE for my post on early career candidates) most still look for more than one year of experience and also a more compelling rationale for going early outside from being let go at work. (B) Further, it’s also important to do some research at some of your target schools to see how many MBAs actually go into wealth advisory field. In my experience, you certainly don’t NEED an MBA to be a wealth management professional. For example, when I worked at Morgan Stanley years ago, neither the 28 year old VP I worked not the Associate I worked with had MBAs, and at the time neither intended to go back and get one. On the other hand, some people still get an MBA before going into the field, including a Northwestern JD-MBA in my program who accepted an offer at a bulge bracket firm for after graduation. (C) And finally, your thoughts about the CFA make a lot of sense, especially for the investment industry, where at some firms the CFA can be a proxy, or even preferred over an MBA. I’d suggest doing a bit more research to see what you can find in regards to this firm.
4. Given all the competing considerations above, I wouldn’t lose to much sleep over what happened at your last company. Unless there’s a contract with the company that included a specific term for length, or an agreement to move you to the new position (pretty unlikely), companies often tend to have discretion with hiring and pay decisions, and in the end, I suspect that your energy may be better spent sending out resumes, meeting with employers, and networking with people in the industry … as you already suggested.
In sum, yes strongly consider the new role and start networking. I write about networking on my site a lot (CLICK HERE for recent post on networking), but in short, you can start by reaching out to those in your close circles. Speak with them. Get information. Then expand your circles and get more information. It’s constant and ongoing. The one thing people forget, though, is that the best time to reach out and expand your circles is when you don’t actually need to. So, if I were you now, I’d tread water carefully because you don’t want to come off as someone on the prowl, simply out for personal gain. And even if it did get you helpful information now, it likely won’t be useful in the longer run.
That’s because the best networkers are those who aren’t only out to build their own networks and find their own jobs, but they’re also out to help others get connected and find information as well. And in the end, they probably spend a lot more time helping others than they do themselves.
Constitutional Law has long been considered one of the hardest first year courses in law school. Not only because the material is hard or because the issues are ambiguous, but also because it requires learning a lot of of information. And so the people that start studying early and put in more time tend to perform better than the rest of the class, which is the goal for most law students. Last night, I reflected a bit on what that meant to me, what it takes to achieve success after graduate school.
Having met a lot of successful people over the past couple of years, I’ve seen how so many things factor into becoming successful—getting started early, putting yourself in the right position at the right time, putting in the hours, having perseverance and stamina, and perhaps most importantly having passion.
Why? Because success is hard and competition can be stiff. In law school, there are 65 students in each section competing on the same curve. And because of the law school culture most everyone puts in an inordinate number of hours studying and pulling all nighters, and so it becomes hard to differentiate yourself, especially in straightforward classes with less wiggle room for additional points on exams. In business school, everyone comes in with significant experience, some with pretty unique experiences and others from the typical “prestigious” jobs and industries. It’s even harder to differentiate yourself in that environment.
But school is a piece of cake when compared to becoming world class at the professional level—coming up with the next big internet start-up, making an argument in the leading supreme court case, winning a seat in congress, becoming a fortune 500 CEO, or being part of the banking team that takes the next Google public. In fact, statistically speaking, you have a better shot of becoming a professional athlete.
Because in the end, there are too many things to wrong along the way. Internally, many people experience burnout over time, get overloaded with too much information, or loose motivation. Externally, people often give in to more lucrative opportunities arise, they concede to the herd mentality and change careers, and organizations often get the wrong perception of you because of something they don’t like in your background (stay tuned for a post on this). And so like I’ve said before, Passion Is King! and it often times it becomes more important than anything else in your longer-term career success, especially when you’ve already found the activity that optimizes the mix of your passion and skill.
For example, if you don’t have the passion to study Constitutional Law, it’s likely you won’t get the top grade on the exam because it’s hard, maybe not even the median grade. And what about the other 29 classes you take during law school, especially the curved ones, or with the professor you don’t connect with. It becomes harder to stay focused, harder to turn down other opportunities, and harder to take risks because you have no skin in the game. And in the end, it becomes harder, perhaps impossible, to get other people to believe in your idea, even if it’s a really good one.
There are plenty of JDs from all the top schools that experience this. They get good grades in school (mediocre grades in good economies), and then work at firms or organizations but never become the Managing Partner, can’t land a coveted GC role or break into new industries, and can’t garner the support to fund their entrepreneurial ideas.
Don’t get me wrong. The majority of these folks go on to lead highly successful lives by almost every possible account. But for just for a minute, I’m talking about something a little more–like taking part in the Senate’s recent vote on health care (i.e. that also what our Con Law exam was about), leading the nation out of the current financial crisis, becoming the first diverse president, being the first woman elected to the supreme court, helping negotiate the rescue of imprisoned journalists by North Korea, or growing your high-tech computer start-up to become Silicon Valley’s most profitable and respected company and then being named CEO of the decade.
Northwestern Law and Kellogg are both great schools, and I suspect that most people here, if not everyone, will lead very successful careers. But I’m interested to see who will led by passion upon graduation, or at least a couple of years after graduation. This isn’t to say they won’t work at a firm or take a high-paying job. After all, most students here have to pay back loans and really benefit from those jobs for a couple of years. But it’s only to say that they’ll be ready to be decisive and make things happen when the time comes.
But for now, time to channel my passion to do a little studying for my Property Law exam on Friday. Good luck to everyone taking exams!
It’s that time of the year again. Just like in the NBA playoffs where last second shots and game winners that leave you on the edge of your seats become all too common in the spring time, in law school last second epiphanies, and changes in study techniques that result in pulling all-night’ers become common as final exams approach. And while I’d obviously prefer watching game winning shots on TNT with championships on the line, instead, I’ll be joining the rest of the school in the library as finals week is approaching far too quickly.
It’s business as usual here at Northwestern Law School as we’re now in the last few weeks of the semester. 1LS are hiding away in their apartments or in corner library cubicles, 3Ls are finishing projects and papers in anticipation of graduation, and some of the first year JD-MBAs are deciding if they should take a break today to attend DAK’s final event in downtown Chicago. It’s a hard choice given our first final exam is in less than 48 hours.
Last semester I did a good job managing my time when it was crunch time. I read intensely. I wrote and edited multiple outlines. I pulled multiple all-nighters. And I marshalled the information in a way that was both effective and informative. I even used the book series named Crunch Time to help. But second semester is always a bit different.
This semester, I’ve personally spent more time on a variety of chores and activities and have spent more energy organizing more chaos around me. It’s been more of a balancing act. In some respects that’s because we all know what it feels like to take the exams and we’re more well-prepared than we were last semester. Nonetheless, now it’s crunch time, which means it’s time to stop balancing so much and time to continue to increase hours reading, studying, outlining, and then re-doing all of those things until we’re ready for the exam. I hope that things will work out the same as they did last semester.
The good news, though, like I said is that we all know what to expect. So people are less stressed, my classmates are going home a bit earlier, and as a result, everyone seems to be a bit happier, at least relative to last semester. I suspect that the three hour- exams will also feel like a piece of cake this go round, especially for those of us that took part in the seven hour marathon exam in our Criminal Law Final exam with Len Rubenowitz last semester.
In the end, the exams won’t catch us by surprise, that’s for sure. Whether everyone’s new strategies are effective or not, we’ll see. For me, the question now is whether what I did before will work again. Stay tuned to find out!
I remember the busy days of working at a consulting firm. While we did have some normal days, sometimes there was a real sense of urgency, a lot more beeps and buzzes from BlackBerrys in the offices, and often people ran around at a more frantic pace in, especially when the work involved our big clients. I’ve notice how many people who are this busy often like tell themselves, no big deal, this is just for today, tomorrow things will be better. But it’s funny how that pace often extends for days at a time. In fact for some it goes the full week, and for others, it becomes a lifestyle. Interestingly enough, something similar thing happens during your first year in law school.
Managing your time is very important both in business and in law school. In law school, we spent weeks upon weeks scrambling around trying to get through four or five classes. We read multiple textbooks, analyze hundreds of cases, we meet with study groups to try to figure out what’s going on, and we read supplemental materials to gain better understanding. During the semester everyone moves at their own pace and develops their own styles. But then at the end, we have what’s called Reading Week, and during reading week, everyone really starts to picks up the pace.
Law schools tell us they have reading week so we can have time to study thoroughly for exams. And at one point in the semester, when you’re all caught up, you start to think the extra time should be plenty of time to master the material. But from my perspective that’s not entirely true because most people get behind, get involved in other activities, and sometimes just get a bit tired. And so in my experience, reading week is also a time to make up for all the reading you didn’t do, to catch up on outlining, and to catch up on administrative things you have to finish (i.e. I just did financial aid last week). And as such, it also becomes a time where some people constantly remind themselves of how much they need to study before our final exams.
A lot of people stress out about reading week, although this semester seems much more lax than last. I suspect that is both because people are too tired to be relaxed and because with one semester under our belts, people are relying a bit more heaviliy on their legal analysis and analytical skills rather than pure work ethic to do well.
Most of us have our first final exam on Monday, in Constitutional Law. That should be the toughest one. Despite that, I’ve personally, I’ve still maintained a pretty balanced lifestyle though. Not only am I still writing posts on my website, but I’m also keeping active with other things. This past weekend I went to a full day leadership seminar and networking event for Stanford alumni, called Leading Matters (Click here to see my recap of the event) Last night I went to a talk by renowned economist, and Nobel Prize winner, Amartya Sen, and it was well worth the time. Today, I’ll be having lunch with a JD-MBA admit, who also happens to be a Stanford grad, and I hopes to show her how great the JD-MBA program here is. Tonight I’ll be headed out to Evanston for a kick-off event for Kellogg’s second Admit Weekend (DAK 2), which like last year, should be a lot of fun. And concurrently, I’m also gearing up for my role on the Executive Committee for BMA at Kellogg. Since most committee members are first year MBAs about to head into their second year, and not entering students, I have to play a little catch up before I can get started. And unfortunately, a lot of that happens now, in the final quarter at Kellogg, right in the middle of law school final exams.
So yes, I’m pretty busy, just like the old consulting days when we had to cater to a big client. Or perhaps a better analogy, just like the old consulting days when I was also applying to business and law schools, which was right in the middle of the economic recession, and where we had to bill every hour we could get. And no matter how busy I am today, I’m not sure I’ll ever be that busy again. But I guess we’ll see soon enough. Either way, I’m off to go do some reading. After all it is reading week.
As an anthropology major, I’ve read a lot of papers by the great anthropologist Margaret Mead. In one case she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” Well, if this is true, than we certainly need more of these groups today. The current economic crisis is still on everyone’s mind, in addition to other issues like clean energy, new Supreme Court justices, and failing investment banks and law firms. I’m not surprised that many of the law students and business students, not only at Northwestern but also across the nation, are feeling a little nervous in the midst of uncertainty. But in my opinion, times of uncertainty are good because they also create opportunity. And “we have to be willing to take chances, to push the boundaries, to work in collaborative new ways to try to make a difference in our world.” At least that’s what Stanford President John Hennesey told us at a leadership conference in Chicago this past weekend.
This past Saturday, I returned to Stanford to reconnect with hundreds of alumni and former classmates. No, not literally; it’s finals week here at Northwestern Law. Instead Stanford came here, to Chicago, as part of their Leading Matters tour to showcase how the school is playing a leading role in helping solve some of the world’s biggest problems. And the Cardinal crowd in Chicago was well represented—students and alumni from the GSB, alumni from the law school, and others from various departments and schools at Stanford–and there were over 500 alumni registered for the Chicago event.
Among others, Penny Pritzker, President Hennesey, and Helen and Peter Bing were there. And for all my law school readers, I also had a chance to hear and meet Constitutional Law expert, former Stanford Law School Dean, and current litigator at Quinn Emmanuel, Kathleen Sullivan. I found her talk to be especially compelling, given my first final exam is in Constitutional Law and given that all 65 of the rest of my section mates were in their apartments or at the school studying while I was at the event downtown. (Click here for my follow up post on the Constitutional Law exam).
The entire crowd was engaged and ready for an inspiring afternoon. After almost every remark for the first five minutes, a series of claps, and “wows” would ripple through the audience from front to back, and sometimes back to front, often ending with those around me, an entire row of Stanford MBAs. In his welcoming address, Mr. Hennesey ended with the remark I mentioned above … that “This is a university willing to take chances, to push the boundaries, to work in collaborative new ways to try to make a difference in our world.”
In that moment, right at the outset, I re-connected with Stanford, which unfortunately has been a rare experience given I’ve spent the past four years in Boston, Phoenix, and Chicago. And for the day, I didn’t think much about my upcoming finals here at law school. Instead, I took the day to engage in the event, connect with old friends, conjure up old memories and traditions, think about the broader vision that Stanford had, and finally to do what I enjoy most, meet lots of new people.
I attended the first few sessions with GSB alum Marquis Parker (MBA & M.Ed, Class of 2006, and Stanford MBA blogger). I also re-connected with fellow 05 Anthropology major, Andrea Lazazzera, who also happened to be the master-organizer of the Chicago event! I saw two of my good friends from my undergrad days, who I met during Stanford’s Engineering Academy. I had drinks with a good buddy who also lives in Chicago but who I don’t see often because of law school. And I even ran into a Stanford grad that graduated from Northwestern Law in 2009. It was great seeing everyone again.
But more than the great connections that I made at the event, the underlying purpose was to show that leadership matters and that Stanford is playing a leading role as the nation is facing real challenges ahead. And “in a series of panels, speeches, and seminar sessions, President Hennessy, deans and faculty shared their bold visions for Stanford in the 21st century.” They discussed the current financial crisis, foreign policy issues, clean energy, Obama’s appointment for the Supreme Court, and how Stanford leaders were leading in all the fields.
“It was pretty impressive. The entire event blew me away. I was inspired,” one of the guests said to me as the day concluded. Another alumni commented that “it was good to see everyone again in such an inspiring environment.” I agree with both of the comments. And what I found most interesting about the event was that topic of money or donations never came up, at least not to my knowledge. Instead, the focus of the event was on education and on leadership.
And in the end, I re-engaged with the idea that when we bring ourselves together around a common purpose and when we connect with others, with ideas, and with inspiring leaders, then we can effect change on a broader scale. Not only because we have more hands to help and minds to come up with ideas but also because you can connect with the hearts of the people, and inspire them to do more than they could have ever imagined on their own.
And after being capped off by a 15-20 minute video during dinner, the event did just that. The message was compelling and well worth the time, even in the middle of finals week. In fact, after the event, I’m now even considering heading to the one in Boston toward the end of the year (I spent a few years in Boston before Chicago) and maybe even to the one in the Bay next month, depending on how my summer work schedule plays out. The event in San Francisco already has nearly 900 registered attendees, and could turn out to be a huge reunion-type event.
Either way, Bravo Stanford! And best of luck the remaining events!