Posts tagged #career prep

Monday Inspiration...

Dreading Monday morning?  Here are a few ideas to inspire you at the beginning of this fresh, new week. 

  1. A great book recommendation: Startup Nation, The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle (Dan Señor and Saul Singer)
  2. A fantastic article about 12 of the brightest millennial entrepreneurs. 
  3. It's the trillion dollar question...the correlation between R&D and corporate value via market cap.  Original HBR article from my favorite strategy professor, Anne Marie Knott, here and her latest research here.
  4. Some inspiration for up-and-coming leaders: Harvard Business Review's "A 10-Year Study Reveals What Great Executives Know and Do" 
  5. A career spotlight with the event planner at Benchmarc restaurants with celebrity chef Marc Murphy
Posted on January 31, 2016 and filed under Career Insights.

New Year's Resolutions, Savvy Young Professional Style

Happy 2016! In preparation for a fantastic year of professional growth I spent some time developing my work resolutions and wanted to share those with you.  

Build Relationships.  Successful people surround themselves with other trustworthy people.  As I have invested more time in developing relationships, I’ve experienced far greater tangible and intrinsic rewards than I ever expected.  Whether I’m “in the trenches” working with others to solve a problem or take on a challenging project, or learning about new opportunities, the benefits have come from relationships that I have invested and cultivated over time.  I’ve come to realize that relationships are the foundation of business and challenge myself every year to find five or six people that I want to get to know better.  I write them down on a list where I will see it, and am intentional about how I interact with them, meaning I follow up quickly, figure out what is important to them, and try to help them accomplish their goals.

Mentor.  As a young professional, I was always told to find a mentor.  While this is great advice and I’ve learned so much from mentor figures, I never thought about the importance of paying it forward and mentoring someone else.  Mentoring is not only personally rewarding, but it helps you as much as the other person as you co-navigate their problems and issues.  The great thing about mentoring is that it doesn’t have to involve setting up weekly meetings; effective mentoring can be as informal and unstructured as you want, because it’s about establishing trust and giving sound advice to someone.  This might occur during one conversation or through hundreds of meetings over the course of many years.   

Learn.  A new year is a great time to take a fresh perspective on your educational goals and think about certifications or additional learning you want to pursue.  Whether it’s pursuing an advanced degree, studying for a certification, or learning about something you find interesting, advancing your knowledge post-college is an intentional and individual pursuit.  What you pursue will depend on your interests and goals; for those interested in supply chain or process improvement, a Six Sigma certification is a great option.  If your field requires advanced degrees for advancement, focus on preparing to start a graduate or PhD program this year.  Learning can also mean taking time for yourself to pursue a hobby you’ve always enjoyed; maybe learning another language or playing the piano.

Stretch Assignment.  This year, I’m taking on a couple huge projects that will challenge me in a number of ways; from learning new competencies to improving my effectiveness as a leader.  I love these types of projects, because I get the opportunity to learn about a new topic and create something from scratch.  This year, take on a project that you do not feel qualified to lead yet.  Ask your manager for support in doing so, and find someone who can coach you and help navigate challenges and questions.  

Re-prioritize.  Take a couple hours and brainstorm what you want to accomplish during 2016.  Include work goals, learning/education goals, and anything else you want to experience, perhaps traveling to another country or learning how to golf.  Give yourself deadlines for each goal and milestones to hold yourself accountable to accomplish them.  Finally, outline how you are going to accomplish the goal; every great success started with a clear plan and time to achieve the goals you’ve set.

Posted on January 3, 2016 and filed under Career Insights.

7 Behavioral Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them)

Behavioral interview questions have gained popularity in recent years as interviewers realized the ability to predict future performance based on a candidate's behavior in specific past experiences.  These questions typically start with the phrase “tell me about a time you,” followed by a question about skills and competencies that are relevant to the job.  Recently, interviewers have started to also ask the corollary of the question as a follow up to your answer.  For example, after answering the question “tell me about a time you accomplished a goal”, the interviewer may ask you about a time that you did not accomplish a goal and what you learned from it.

Behavioral questions are easiest answered in the “Context, Action, Result” structure.  This structure keeps you organized and helps to ensure that you cover all the relevant points in your answer.  The Context, Action, Result structure breaks down as follows:

  • Context: Introduce and describe the situation.  This is like the exposition of a book, where you introduce people, identify the location (university, employer, etc) and describe the problem or situation.  
  • Action: How you addressed the situation.  This part should be specific and detailed, as it is the opportunity to articulate how you handled the situation.
  • Result: The end result or solution to the initial problem, perhaps a grade on a project, revenue generated from sales efforts, or an improved relationship.  The more a result can be quantified, the easier it is to help your interviewer understand the magnitude and impact you had on the situation.

Below are some of the most common behavioral interview questions I’ve received or ask to young professionals, starting with the phrase, "tell me about a time you…"

…. accomplished a goal.

Purpose: An interviewer wants to know that you have a history of setting and achieving goals, because this will hopefully translate to their job.

Response: A story about achieving a quantifiable goal is best for this question.  Think of a situation when you had a specific, numerical goal; maybe it was saving a certain amount of money, completing a certain number of contracts, or selling a specific number of products or revenue. The interviewer will be interested in how you went about accomplishing the goal, so take time to explain how you planned and prepared in order to meet the number along with articulating the goal and the actual amount you accomplished.  

… persevered through adversity.

Purpose: The workplace is full of challenge and adversity, and an interviewer wants to know that you can effectively rise to the challenge and solve problems.

Response: This is a character question, so draw on your lifetime of experiences to find a situation where you were facing particular challenge or adversity and were successful.  

… navigated through conflict with someone.

Purpose: Competing interests, miscommunication, and personality rifts are among the many things that lead to conflict.  While conflict is inevitable, being a person that can confront conflict in a useful and thoughtful way is important in the work environment.

Response: Your example should show that you aren’t afraid to deal with conflict directly, while also being reasonable and collaborative in how you worked through the issue with the other person.

… led a team to complete a project.

Purpose: Good leadership means taking responsibility and holding others accountable to achieve a vision.  The interviewer wants to know about your past experience to see how you would lead at their organization.

Response: The best response will involve situations where you inspired a team to accomplish a greater vision, held people accountable if they did not meet their obligations, and took responsibility while giving credit to the team.

…were managing a lot of conflicting priorities.  How did you prioritize and accomplish them?

Purpose: The interviewer wants to see how you handle the stress that comes with having more to do than you can accomplish in a particular timeline.  

Response:  This is an opportunity to highlight your ability to delegate, align and complete priorities, and collaborate while not pawning work off on other people.  The best answers I’ve heard involve the interviewee confirming what tasks are really important and when they need to be completed, as well as elements of collaboration and teamwork by involving others to help them finish everything.  

…had to deliver bad news to a coworker or client.  How did you deliver the message?

Purpose: Effective communication is critical in any job.  The purpose of this question is to assess your ability to determine the best communication channel for bad news as well as ascertain how you delivered the information.

Response: Bad news is best delivered in person or, worst case, via phone.  A great response would demonstrate how you went above and beyond what is expected to deliver bad news in person, to provide alternative solutions, and to show empathy and ownership as it relates to the problem at hand.

…persuaded someone to agree with your viewpoint.

Purpose: People respond differently to ideas based on how they process information and how this information impacts the things that are important to them.  This question highlights your ability to identify what is important to another person and position an idea or viewpoint that resonates with them.

Response: It’s important to hit on the points in the “purpose” section; how you identified what was important to the other person and how you prepared for the conversation or communicated with them in a way that changed their viewpoint to one that agreed with yours.  

Job Search Toolkit: Résumés - Your Story on Paper (Part 3)

Fall.  It's my favorite time of the year.  The crisp cool air, memories of going back to school, and the feeling of being extra-motivated for the year ahead.  Now, I love going back to campus to recruit students.  The only memories I do not cherish are the years I was also job or internship-searching in the fall - it's much easier being on the other side of the interviewing table!  

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In  light of this time of year, today I want to start going through résumés step-by-step, starting with the header. Every piece of a résumé is important, and as the first thing the reader sees, your header must capture their attention and make them want to keep reading. 

So, what should you include in the header?

Your full name.

Your mailing address.

Your email address.

Your phone number.

Sounds simple, right?  It should be simple, but I've placed people in the "no" pile simply due to their header.  Here is why...

An unprofessional email address.  Be safe and use your name as your email address, with a gmail or yahoo - type account that will not expire after graduation.  Never place your work email address on your résumé.

Formatting errors within their header.  I've seen multiple fonts, center and left justification, and countless other formatting inconsistencies in headers.  If something so simple has errors, I have no interest in reading the rest of the document.

An objective statement about "seeking a challenging position in finance" or "an internship that leverages my analytical skills".  Objective statements are the worst uses of space on a résumé.  If you are applying to jobs, what is your objective other than to gain employment in that field?  What purpose does it serve to list it on your résumé?  The objective statement is a present-day shortcut to the well-crafted cover letter, which is a must to set yourself apart in the job market.

Your header can be as simple as the following:

Easy, right?  Let your accomplishments and the professionalism of your résumé differentiate you, not crazy fonts or unique formatting that requires the reader to search for information.

There are nuances to each part of a resume, even the header.  I've included guidance on frequently asked questions.

Résumé Header FAQs

Where does the header belong?

I prefer to see a header center-justified at the top of the page, with the name on the top line and in a noticeably larger font than the rest of the information.  This makes it easy to remember your name and tie it to your information.

What name should I use if I changed my last name (e.g. due to marriage, divorce, etc)?

Your name is a key piece of your brand.  If you have legally changed last names and are using a different last name than what is commonly known, I recommend using your new last name, followed by née [former last name] all in parenthesis.  "Née" means "formerly" in French and is common terminology to indicate a last name change.  For me, this looks like: KaLeena S. Thomas (née Weaver)

If I am in college, should I use my college address or my home address?

It depends.  From a simplicity standpoint, using one mailing address is easier for the reader to navigate and it keeps the top of your résumé from being too "busy".  Companies use your mailing address infrequently, usually only to send you an "official" offer letter (most are emailed) and to set up new hire paperwork.  

If you are applying to smaller companies in different areas of the country while in college, seeing a non-local address may deter them as they may not typically fly candidates in to interview.  In this case, if your permanent address is a local address for that organization, use both your permanent and current address.  This will indicate that you are familiar with the area, intend to move back after graduation, and available to travel (likely on your own dime) for an interview.  If you want to move somewhere else specifically and can move immediately, it's oftentimes easier to move first and then find a local job.  It frees you up to interview any time without a commute and solidifies your interest in and willingness to move for an opportunity.

Should I use my university email address?

No, unless you are positive your university will keep this email address "active" permanently and you want to manage this inbox into the future.  Many universities will disable accounts a year after graduation, meaning those with your university email will get a bounce back rather than reaching you.  Why risk missing out on an opportunity?  Set up a free email using a configuration of your name (see example above) and route everything through this email.

Posted on September 19, 2015 and filed under Job Search Toolkit, Resume.

Job Search Toolkit: Résumés - Your Story on Paper (Part 2)

I had the pleasure of attending lunch with our new undergraduate co-ops from Georgia Tech on Friday.  What an impressive group!  They asked great questions, behaved professionally, and gracefully accepted feedback.  The entire luncheon consisted of our CEO, a couple members from my team, the co-ops, and myself at a great restaurant in Atlanta. 

Our CEO loves reading and reviewing resumes from the perspective of using them to understand the person and their motivations.  My team provided him with copies of each co-op's résumé in advance of the lunch, and he proceeded to study the content and mark up the formatting.  Over lunch, he shared feedback with each co-op, gave them the redlined documents, and had a conversation about his initial observations of them based on the content in their résumé.  While some of the feedback consisted of cleaning up the formatting, the more interesting observations were about what their résumé said about their personality, motivations, and aspirations.

My favorite idea related to strengthening your résumé was to start by making a list of the attributes you want to convey and the things you aspire to, and to then create your content based on this list.  For example, if you want to show that you are a leader, your résumé should highlight leadership behaviors and experiences such as being selected by your classmates or a boss to lead a group project, a vote by a sports team to be the captain, or a time that you started a project, task force, or club and had to inspire others to join you in this new venture.  Leadership is not about forcing your will on someone else, it is about inspiring others to follow you.  Make sure the content on your resume matches who you are.

Make your list privately and be honest about what you want to convey and what you aspire to.  If you want to make a lot of money, write it down.  If you want power, write it down.  Your list might look something like this:


  • Leader
  • Giving
  • Strong Academics
  • Motivated
  • Determined
  • Team Player
  • Financial Acumen
  • Organized
  • Detail-Oriented


  • Become a VP at a Financial Services Firm
  • Live in Chicago
  • Gain Experience in Private Equity
  • Start my Own Wealth Management Company 

Look at your current résumé.  Does it tell the story of who you are and what you want to be, or is it a list of jobs, internships, and academics in chronological order?  In many cases, résumés are just a listing of information without a consistent theme or story pulling the information together about the person behind the résumé.  I also see many résumés that have inconsistent formatting or are so disorganized I cannot follow them, leading me to believe that the person who crafted this document lacks attention to detail and organizational skills.  It's kind of like dating, where your résumé is the equivalent of a first date.  It's common to be at the top of your game on a first date, so if you went out with someone for the first time and they were rude to people, late, and generally obnoxious, you probably would not want to see them again.  It is the same concept for your résumé.  If the first thing a potential employer sees about you is poor grammar or formatting, their confidence that you can perform will decrease and they probably will not call you in for an interview.

Using this methodology can help you create a consistent message about who you are and help you position yourself for opportunities that are in line with your aspirations.Once you make this list, you can use the information to match experiences and accomplishments with each attribute and develop the content for your résumé.  I'll share an example of this in Part 3.