Professional Organizations can have fun too!

Congratulations to Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity at the University of Central Florida for winning 1st Place in Homecoming for a smaller organization (and when I say small, they have over 100 members if you include pledges). They also placed 3rd for best dance in Skit Knight.

This just goes to show that even though you might be a professional, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun or get creative and crazy! AKPsi prides itself on professional development, but for the last three years at UCF they’ve taken 2nd (2009), 1st (2010), and 1st (2011) place finishes in Homecoming Week.

2011:
Homecoming Theme – Black & Gold Revolution
AKPsi Skit – Knightro’s Call of Duty: Black & Gold Ops

Click the link to see the past two videos as well!

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Comedy Monday: 10/31/2011

In an effort to keep this blog a little more upbeat and uplifting, I’ve decided to start a series calling, “Comedy Monday.” Every Monday I will post a humorous video, series of pictures, or what have you that deal with funny subjects regarding professionalism and work life.

First up? A Bud Light commercial revolving around a “swear jar” in a corporate office. Extremely funny, I would literally die laughing if I worked in this environment. Check it out.

Is A Cover Letter Necessary?

Every once in a while I hear this question and I always shake my head at it, not in agreement, but at the sheer disappointment that people would ever think it’s not necessary. Ok, so yea minimum wage jobs like cashiers at Subway or something might not need it. But once you’re going after internships, co-ops, or jobs that you are probably expected to wear a suit to the interview…WRITE A COVER LETTER.

People like to say, “in this digital age, cover letters are unnecessary. They get skimmed over and then tossed aside, if they get look at at all.” My question is this…why chance it? Why chance an employer going, “Ok these two individuals are both equally experienced and qualified…but this one wrote me a nice cover letter and made the effort. I bet he’s got a better work ethic. I’ll hire him.”

Not saying that’s how it goes down, but would you be surprised? Recruiters and those in Human Resources look for the tiniest hints into your character and abilities to determine whether to hire you over your competition. A well written cover letter is your first step to making a good impression.

And don’t just throw it together either. Put some effort into it. Your cover letter should be one full page, crammed full of great information about who you are, what you bring to the company, and why you would be a perfect fit within the company. Relate your personality and work ethic to the companies values and culture. If they’re a laid back company filled with creative individuals, you better explain to them in your cover letter how you fit into it!

If they make a point on their website to say how they think community involvment is critical, you should be saying how you’re involved in the community. And if you’re not maybe that company isn’t for you in the first place. But if you’re determined, write how you go to the homeless shelters to help out, and then after you send it go down to the homeless shelter.

Relate how their core values align with your own. Express why you’re not just a good candidate, you’re the right candidate. If you’re inexperienced, you need to be able to tell them in a clear and concise fashion why that won’t hinder your ability to get the job done. You do that by selling them on your character and who you are. Get your foot in the door with a great cover letter & resume. Then at the interview you’ll be able to explain to them exactly why you’re the right person for the job.

Over time I’ll post actual tips for writing cover letters and all that. But for now, just know that it’s necessary and worth doing. At the very worst you waste an hour. At the best, you get a job you might not have had you not written the cover letter. So write it. And write it well.

Eye Contact

Growing up I absolutely hated making prolonged eye contact with people. And by prolonged I mean anything more than a few seconds. For some reason it freaked me out, made me think they were looking through me or into my soul or some strange reason. Whatever it was, I couldn’t stand it. I think it also went along with my fear of public speaking. So when it came time for me to join other student organizations, especially ones that were professional and promoted eye contact, it was a challenge.

But through practice I perservered and now I’m perfectly ok with it. After having so many interviews where I had to make efforts to maintain eye contact, it became easier and easier until now it’s just natural. I no longer have those old thoughts of, “stop staring at me!”

Why is eye contact important though? Well to answer that we must first address the huge elephant in the room that most people are thinking about, especially anyone from another culture or country. Not all cultures like eye contact. I’m reminding of a story I heard once in which a Principal of a school had two teachers come to him and complain about their students. One teacher said, “He won’t look me in the eye! It’s a total lack of respect!” The other said, “He always stares at me! He looks right at my eyes! It’s completely unacceptable and rude!” The Principal had two teachers on two extremes. One demanded eye contact, the other shunned it. They were obviously from very different cultures and upbringing.

So is it important to make eye contact? Well it depends. But what is really important is that you are comfortable doing it and you know when to do so. Whether or not you find it offensive, rude, or what not…you should be able to look across the table during an interview and maintain eye contact when it’s necessary. Work on it if you have to, but you don’t want to go into an interview and be turned down because you couldn’t look him in the eye.

Equally important is knowing how to figure out when to or when not to make eye contact. This takes just a small degree of conscious attention. When you talk to someone, especially a potential employer or an interviewer, gauge their actions. If they seem to be making eye contact, make sure that when you talk you do so as well. If they tend to stray from eye contact, don’t make them feel uncomfortable by staring at them. Find other ways to keep your eyes busy while keeping the flow of the conversation going. For example take notes, or show them examples of your work and explain while drawing their attention to it.

And please don’t make the mistake of being a creeper. Don’t STARE. There’s a difference between maintaining eye contact and staring. Staring is when you look at the person, barely blink (if at all), and just look right into their eyes the entire time without flinching. You should never do this. It’s highly uncofmortable. Instead, you should be treating it like you would a conversation with a friend, you make eye contact when making key points, but from time to time look over your notes, check out your surroundings, glance away, etc. Always come back and maintain eye contact, but don’t do so for too long. A lot of it is intuition and going with your gut feelings. Only through practice and experience will this really flush itself out and become natural though.

Just remember to make the conscious effort and it’ll work itself out. Not paying attention to what you’re doing though can really hurt your chances in an interview.

Book Review – The Little Book That Beats The Market (Week 4 of 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge)

The Little Book That Beats The Market by Joel Greenblatt

This week I read Joel Greenblatt’s The Little Book That Beats The Market. This is a great book for those that don’t anything about financial markets or investing. It’s also great for college students who have taken those basic financial courses but haven’t really thought about how they could apply those lessons they learned in Investment Analysis and Business Finance to their own lives.

Greenblatt does a fantastic job of taking complex topics and relating them in very simple terms so that anyone could understand. He uses simple stories involving himself teaching his children simple concepts in finance as a way of showing that even children can understand certain concepts involved in valuing companies and buying stocks.

And the best part? This book is ridiculously fast and easy to read. I read it in one afternoon. No reason you can’t finish this one in a week!

So what does Greenblatt cover really? Well basically everything. He gives you a broad overview of stocks, bonds, valuations, and his own “Magic Formula” for picking the best stocks to invest in. Wait a second, Greenblatt gives you a Magic Formula to beat out professionals at investing? It’s actually true. So why do professionals and hedge fund managers not use this strategy? Professionals and hedge fund managers often have certain marks they must maintain and meet on a monthly basis, so they can’t plan for super long growth portfolios. They need to ensure their portfolios will be more stable. Greenblatt’s strategy can have several down months in a row and when this happens, many investors question it and get out. If they would stick it for years, Greenblatt’s strategy suggests that they would turn things around and see better growth than ever.

And his formula isn’t complicated to understand. In fact most if it is down online at Greenblatt’s own website (or at least it provides an excellent starting point).

Considered “one of the best investment books of the last 50 years” by legendary investor Michael Price. Definitely pick it up.

5 Quick Tips for Resume Building

Quick Tips for Resume Building

Here are 5 Quick Tips to help with resume building. These views are my own personal opinion and should be viewed as such. I encourage you to incorporate them ONLY if you find yourself in agreement. Never change your resume just because someone tells you to, do it because you understand the reasoning behind it and agree with the logic involved.

1. Lose the Objective
There’s a lot of differing opinions on the “Objective” portion of a resume these days. Career services at the local university might take one look at your resume, and if they don’t see one, they’ll most likely tell you to add one. Don’t. They’re unnecessary and take up valuable space you could be using to bolster your resume and garner the attention of the person reading it. After all, your objective is obvious! Of course you want to get a job while growing and making a valuable contribution to the company and yada, yada, yada. Boring!

Instead, I suggest a summary. A summary should be 2-3 sentences long, packed full of detail about yourself. List off character traits and skill sets that will indicate to the employer, “Hey, this guy sounds like he has the tools we need in this position.” If somebody were to ask you in 30 seconds to sell yourself…this should be what you say.

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Book Review – The Checklist Manifesto (Week 3 of 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge)

The Checklist Manifesto

Week 3 of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge is in the bag! This past week I read Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto. For those not big on reading, this one is short and sweet. Honestly if you sat down with the intentions to do so, you could read it in one day no problem. I read it in about three days spaced over the week.

 
It’s important to note that this book is chalk full of medical terminology and stories from the operating table. But Gawande does a good job of relating everything in a manner that is easy to follow and understand. You don’t have to be a doctor to know what he’s talking about. But it’s not just the medical field where he advocates checklists, he also uses examples from airliners and the financial industry to support his claims.
 
Not a fan of checklists? Read this book and tell me you don’t want to start using them immediately.
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