Studying Abroad

This past summer, I had the opportunity to travel abroad.  I heard about all of the benefits from friends, professors, family, and colleagues but never really understood the importance of such an experience until I actually went through it myself.  Upon returning, I made it my goal to inspire and educate people to go.  I learned and saw so much in such a short amount of time.  I earned an international perspective, new business knowledge, and a boatload of memories and friends that I will never forget!  I wanted to take a moment to let you all know why I feel it is so important to involve yourself in an international program!

Globalization and cultural diversity in the workplace is here to stay.  The world is all connected, economically, politically, and socially.  Studying abroad gives students the opportunity to view the world in a different context.  It allows them to use all five senses to explore unfamiliar surroundings in the international community.  Not only will participants learn about cultures, but they will typically glean an understanding of the business and academic practices that are in place for the region they explore.  Furthermore, if they ask the right questions and look in the right places, they could earn an understanding of the political climate in their host country as well. Ray and I Euronext1 e1348674599385 291x300 Studying AbroadWhen overseas, you can look beyond the veil of arrogance that often prevents us from seeing the big picture.  As much as some people would like to believe that we are the only country that calls this earth home, we are not.  When abroad, I read international newspapers and watched the foreign media speak about the United States and the world in general.  I had the ability to analyze my culture from a distance. Doing so gave me a lot of insight because it is often difficult to analyze oneself and ones culture unless viewing it from afar.  Studying abroad allows for this process to take place, and in doing so, I believe that students will come back with an awareness and sensitivity to other cultures that simply wouldn’t be possible without the experience of international travel. Mona Lisa e1348673817743 Studying AbroadOne key takeaway I’ve learned over the past few years is that there is no substitute for experience.  You can read about cultures, hear about them from others, and watch programs about them on discovery channel as many times as you’d like, but until you’ve spent time in the environment and interacted with the culture on a personal level, you will never truly understand the nature of it.  Like many Americans, I lived with stereotypes of the world beyond my borders.  The people of the world around us are just as we think they are…until we speak with them and ask questions.  Only then is our mind opened to the possibility that they are not the way we thought they were at all.  The French are NOT rude as many people have told me.  Instead, they are like mirrors, projecting back the attitudes that they receive.  This is just one of many examples that I may save for a future blog but I hope that the point I’m making remains clear.

The College of Business is very supportive of students looking to earn this international perspective.  They partner with companies to help students journey overseas and explore aspects of business, academia, and culture overseas.   http://www.cob.niu.edu/studyabroad/index.asp  The programs run over summer and winter, so you don’t need to worry about missing classes.  Also, scholarship options are highly available; you just have to look in the right places! Happy abroad Studying Abroad

A final point, completely unrelated to academics or business, is the personal touch of it all.  Not only do you meet people from different countries but in many programs, you get to travel with students from different schools from across the United States.  So not only are you experiencing different cultures from other countries, but you are able to exchange ideas and understand lifestyles from different areas of our own country.  Because you experience so much with these folks you really do become like a family.  I feel like I earned brothers and sisters from my trip.  I’ve even visited friends from the program who live as far away as Los Angeles, California.  This is after spending only three weeks with them in Europe.

I urge all of you to look into the opportunities that the College of Business provides.  My only regret is not doing it sooner.  If you are a freshman, sophomore, or even high school student reading this blog, I hope that you will take the plunge early and understand what an amazing and rewarding adventure it is to study abroad! 2.0out

Hidden Treasures

Figuratively, there are dozens of hidden treasures sprinkled into the NIU experience.  These “hidden treasures” are the opportunities that you have to seek out.  They are the opportunities that aren’t always announced in your classes or sent to your zmail.  They are some of the most rewarding activities you can do, but they are often overlooked or unknown to many students.  I will describe a few of my own “treasures” and welcome all of you to share more of your own.  After all, we’re not just here for the classes are we?!  College is an experience.  Make it one!

All my life I always loved exploring.  Biking, hiking, and venturing off into nature preserves was always my thing.  Unfortunately, I could never really find a place where students like me could get together to do these activities.  It was by sheer luck that one day while working out at the recreation center, I walked out the wrong door.  Unbeknownst to me, this door led straight to the NIU Outdoor Adventures office.  Upon entering the room my eye caught the bulletin boards with listings for rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking trips and more!  Only a few weeks later I was signed up to go backpacking for a week in the Smoky Mountain National Forest in Tennessee.  The trip was a defining point of my college experience, if not my life in general.

Appalachian Trail 300x175 Hidden Treasures

An experience unlike any other.

I highly recommend that students look into the opportunities that the Outdoor Adventures office provides.  http://www.niu.edu/campusrec/outdoor_adventures/index.shtml

Another experience that is more academic in nature was my involvement with the College of Business Experiential Learning Center.  Don’t let the title fool you!  You do not have to be a student of the College of Business to participate.  In fact, during my own ELC project, I worked with students from the visual arts program as well as special education.  What the ELC does is quite special.  Students go through an application process and are handpicked by faculty advisors to work on a team.  This team of students will then be presented with a non mission critical issue for a real world company.  After working for an entire semester, teams will present their findings to their client company where  C-level executives will be present.  Many times students will receive job offers from their client company.  Even without an offer, the ELC provides students with a valuable talking point in interview conversations and more importantly, a taste of the real world.  http://www.cob.niu.edu/elc/index.asp

ELC 300x224 Hidden Treasures

I shared the experience with exceptional students and networked with high level executives of my client company.

What are some “hidden treasures” that you’ve found in your NIU experience? Post to our Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/NIUCollegeofBusiness or write a guest post for the Student Voices blog at http://www.cob.niu.edu/studentvoices/index.php/guest-posts/. 2.0out

Getting Involved: Part 3 of 6

Nick graduated in Spring 2012 and within a couple of days, we’ll hand over the reins to our new student bloggers for the Fall 2012 semester. Until then, here’s one of the top posts from last semester.  This is Part 3 of 6 of the “Getting Involved” series of posts.  Whether you’ve read this particular post or not, we hope you will find it helpful and useful. We’re excited to share it with you again!  And be on the look out for a flurry of new posts from our new bloggers!

 

Getting Involved

This is post three of a six part series about involvement on campus. Part one discussed why I got involved, part two explained why I didn’t get involved sooner, part three touches on the opportunities available through being involved, part four talks about leadership experience, part five explains how to go about getting involved and briefly what it takes up front and part six are my thoughts going forward for post graduation involvement.

Getting Involved; Part 3: New Opportunities

The context in which I’m drawing on my experience is in reference to business organizations, versus overall general involvement. Although the principles I’m going to touch upon can be applicable to things such as athletics or fraternities in some instances and not just limited to academic organizations.

Through joining AMA and CSAB it provided me with great opportunities to easily make new friends built on a foundation of common interest. Some of the friendships I’ve developed in these organizations carry on even though lots of my friends graduated in May 2011. I still keep in contact, still see these people in a social setting, and see them in professional settings as well. The connections I’ve developed extend beyond the walls of this college or any graduation date.

Another essential opportunity is one for professional networking. Anyone in business will tell you that networking is extremely important to anyone at any point in their career, especially college students. Aside from networking with your peers you have the opportunity to meet professionals from various industries. You can learn about marketing in the social media realm, the retail sector, the insurance world, etc. With today’s technology it makes it even easier to keep these people as contacts through platforms like LinkedIn. Because of my involvement with these organizations there are recruiters, sales managers, or sales representatives from various companies that now know my face and name. They don’t hesitate to stop me and chat if they see me at College of Business or marketing department functions.

This wouldn’t be possible had I not been involved and networked to the best of my ability with whom I’ve had access to. Down the line you never know if you’ll end up working for this individual, using the people you’ve met as referrals or doing business with them in the future. I’ve learned that people hire or do business with someone they know and like. It sort of pays homage to the saying “It’s not what you know it’s who you know.” Pair great networking abilities/opportunities with the tools and skills learned at the NIU College of Business and you have two huge components in setting yourself up for success down the road.

To conclude this section I’d like to share a story that perfectly illustrates everything I’ve discussed so far. As President of the Collegiate Sales Advisory Board it is one of my responsibilities to meet once a semester with the sales faculty, marketing department chair, occasionally the Dean of the College of Business and anywhere from 20 – 30 representatives from different national and worldwide companies that make up the Sales Advisory Board. The purpose of the Sales Advisory Board is for companies and faculty to collaborate on improving the sales program and making sure the curriculum being taught and certifications earned, are directly applicable in the real world.

I interviewed during the fall with a company that sits on the Sales Advisory Board. Going a step further, I interviewed with the actual representative himself, not of the companies recruiters. Somewhere along the line whether it was my interview or my online personality test results, they decided not to invite me in for a second interview. Nearly a month later, this individual and I are at the Sales Advisory Board meeting and I’m on the agenda to discuss CSAB’s activities as well as providing insight on discussion of where our sales program is headed for the future. After a couple of hours we break for lunch and the individual I previously interviewed with asked me to step outside with him. He then told me that he was extremely impressed with how I handled myself in front of a room full of sales executives and faculty from my school. He then told me that they have people going to final interviews a week or two later and he’d like me to be there. He even arranged (minutes after talking to me) the second interview for me to complete which was clearly just a formality. I interviewed well at their final interview event and a day later he called me himself with my job offer. I can firmly say that had I not been president with the responsibility to represent the students of my program, I would have been just another person viewed as not being a good fit for that company. My involvement directly correlated to me getting a job six months prior to my graduation date.

What opportunities have come your way through being involved?? Share below!

In my next post, part 4, I talk about the leadership experience gained through being involved. Stay tuned!

Getting Involved: Part 2 of 6

Nick graduated in Spring 2012 so now we’re lining up more student bloggers who will start in the Fall 2012 semester. Until then, Student Voices is sharing with you the top posts from last semester…the “Getting Involved” series of posts.  Here’s Part 2 of 6.  Whether you have read this particular post or not, we hope you will find it helpful and useful. We’re excited to share it with you again!

 

Getting Involved

This post will be a several part series about involvement on campus. Part one discussed why I got involved, part two discusses why I didn’t get involved sooner, part three touches on the opportunities available through being involved, part four talks about leadership experience, part five explains how to go about getting involved and briefly what it takes up front and part six are my thoughts going forward for post graduation involvement.

***Spring break gets in the way of the succession of posts but this series will continue when classes resume on March 19. The blog will be quiet for the duration of break.***

Getting Involved; Part 2: Why Not Sooner

I always tell younger students or anyone I run into that I wish I had gotten involved sooner than my last two years here. In retrospect my reasons for holding off for so long seem sort of ridiculous but they were very real concerns at the time. My first thought was what if I join a marketing organization and then realize in my first year or two that I’m not cut out for the College of Business? I’d feel stupid joining only to drop out because I didn’t make it into my major. My next concern was joining without having had any marketing classes. I’d also feel stupid attending meetings and listening to speakers talk about concepts of which I have no prior knowledge.

Having been extremely active for two years now I realized those concerns were very wrong reasons to keep me from involvement. I should have pushed myself out of my comfort zone. Had I looked at it differently I would have realized that joining could provide extra motivation to get into the College of Business. It also would have provided me with extra insight into what I’d really be getting myself into with an education in marketing. I let my concerns inhibit my involvement instead of letting my involvement address my concerns.

Now that I’m nearing graduation I know I’ve made the right educational and career choice and my only regret was not joining sooner. I would love to have that time back to really make the most of the opportunities I missed.

What are some of the things that might be holding you back from getting involved? Feel free to let me know in the comments!

Also, please keep an eye out for the next post; the opportunities available through being involved coming on March 19th!

Getting Involved: Part 1 of 6

Nick graduated in Spring 2012, but we’re lining up more student bloggers who will start in the Fall 2012 semester. Until then, Student Voices is sharing with you the top posts from last semester. Whether you have read this particular post or not, we hope you will find it helpful and useful. We’re excited to share it with you again!

Getting Involved

This post will be a several part series about involvement on campus. Part one will discuss why I got involved, part two discusses why I didn’t get involved sooner, part three touches on the opportunities available through being involved, part four talks about leadership experience, part five explains how to go about getting involved and briefly what it takes up front and part six are my thoughts going forward for post graduation involvement.

Spring break gets in the way of the succession of posts but this series will continue when classes resume after Spring break. The blog will be quiet for the duration of break.

Getting Involved; Part 1: Why I Got Involved

I got involved in student organizations my second to last year in college. A major influence in getting involved in a student organization was of course, my father. He has always been a strong advocate of me being involved in something growing up and it certainly didn’t stop when I came to college. I too realized the need for involvement to have something on my resume to help me stand apart from all the college kids who attend school but who do nothing beyond class work.

When I finally made the decision to join, I also made the decision to become actively involved, not just sit back and relax. After my first American Marketing Association meeting the current board illustrated a need for someone with web maintenance skills (which I had) and I jumped on the opportunity. My first two weeks in AMA I got myself on the executive board. From there I went on to decline presidency and became Vice President for the 2011 – 2012 academic year. After absolutely loving my first semester in AMA, I joined the Collegiate Sales Advisory Board. After learning that the entire board of that organization would be graduating in May 2011 I took strides to become President for the 2011 – 2012 academic year.  Joining and becoming active in both of these organizations has paid of immensely for me in so many ways.

Stay tuned for Part 2; why I didn’t get involved sooner.

Words of Advice

Last week I did a question and answer session with a College of Business (CoB) student named Rod. He is a very active individual in the CoB. He is a senior finance major and currently the VP of Community Service for his business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi (DSP).

I wanted him to share his thoughts and give words of advice to younger students/incoming students. The only thing I want to add is that I share the same opinions as Rod and think that what he has to offer in this Q&A is very helpful and valuable.

Nick: What lead you to be involved on campus?

Rod: One of the biggest things growing up is to give back to the community. Growing up in impoverished neighborhood I appreciated people coming in to tutor or give time to help someone else develop.

Nick: As a senior; why are you still staying actively involved even though graduation is three weeks away?

Rod: I have a passion to stay involved. Seeing the look on someone’s face when you help them and the big difference it makes to someone to spend a little bit of your time with them. It isn’t a right but an obligation or a duty to give back to our communities. It’s like sucking up crops without fertilizing the ground anymore for the future. I want to build on the legacy for others to further build upon in the future.

Nick: What makes you want to leave the College of Business better when you leave versus when you started here?

Rod: For us to continually be ranked atop the nation, we need to bring in better teachers and better resources for students to be the best that they can be. Personally, for people to become better people you must reinvest time in them.  We need to show people how to be a better person so they can do it on their own, similar to movie Paying It Forward.

Nick: What would you have done differently with your time here?

Rod: Academically, I no regrets, I leveraged every opportunity that came. I networked in events, and through my business fraternity (Delta Sigma Pi). The biggest downfall of underclassman is that they do not utilize all the resources around them. An unseen downfall is that they try to become members of so many things and they don’t focus on a handful and become over stretched. You can’t exert your full potential in any one organization. You don’t just join an organization to say you are part of it; you need to be able to devote time and resources in it to make it a great organization. Personally, as VP of Community Service for DSP I wouldn’t be able to hold the position because time would be pulled into other areas.

Nick: What advice can you give to current students and prospective students?

Rod: One of the Biggest pieces of advice I can give without touching on prior information, and is something I give to family friends and my girlfriend is this; step outside your comfort zone, put yourself in uncomfortable situations. It is the only way you can grow. Don’t be afraid to fail because through failure you learn from your mistakes and you become better at what you do. My Mother told me ‘if you’re going to fall, fall fast, so you can get up quick.’ You can apply the same principle for life not just academics. Go in full force and don’t be timid. If you try something and don’t like it, at least you know it’s not for you. But you won’t know until you try.

A big question prospective students get asked is what’s your major, what are you going to be? It is essential to know what you DON’T want to be. If you know what you don’t want to do you know not to go down that path and you can venture down other paths you haven’t been before to explore, grow and find what fits you.

I was an accounting intern at Deloitte for three summers and realized I don’t want to spend all this time out of my life per week for this particular career path. That’s how I ended up going into finance which is similar to accounting. It was a tough choice to switch paths and walk away from great earning potential in an accounting career. But it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Nick: Any final thoughts?

Rod: Meeting new people has been a big breakthrough in college/academic career. A Lot of people generally tend to stay grounded in their high school niche of friends. You never grow if you stay stagnant. I went from predominantly black grammar school to very diverse high school. I learned quickly to adapt to different cultures and ethnicities. When you go into work force you won’t be working strictly with one nationality or ethnicity. Meeting a variety of people in different settings enables you to learn to identify with each culture and what makes each one uniqueme 293x300 Words of Advice and different from its own.

One of the key take aways: Get out, meet new people, have fun, and take a chance. Like I said earlier don’t be afraid to try new things, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Take a risk; be it a calculated risk, but take one. Big gains come from big risk. If you see cute girl in the hall way, can’t get a date if you don’t talk to her! Take rejection as a form of constructive criticism; a checklist of what you need to work on to be a better person.

The final piece of advice: No matter what, stay true to who you are and your values. I walk to the beat of my own drum but I still get along with everyone. Be comfortable in your own skin and with who you are. If you don’t like it, do something about it. Never settle for a situation you aren’t comfortable with. Don’t fit in the box, make the box fit around you.

 

2012 Ethics Case Competition

Last week on Friday I participated in an Ethics Case Competition sponsored by the student organization LEAD. The fictional case we were given was about a salesman who was sent overseas in someone’s place in order to win a $50 million contract. The client then told the salesman to bring $6,000 – $7,000 worth of whiskey to the contract signing. The salesman knew there was a company gifting policy and guidelines on what constitutes bribery. However, he could not remember what the guidelines were, nor could he get hold of anyone from his company. It was up to us to do an analysis of the situation and make a recommendation in a ten minute presentation to a panel of judges.

I’m a competitive person just like my competition partner, Abbey Vanderwoude. That’s what drove us to spend a ton of time doing research, preparing our analysis, arguments and presentation. (Don’t be fooled, it requires a lot of effort to deliver a worthy presentation in this competition. You should devote quite a bit of time and energy to it).

Even though we ultimately fell short of victory it was still a good experience to participate in. Sure it was a fictional case, but in listening to Dennis Barsema‘s keynote that day and in talking with my father who also is in sales, situations like this occur in the real world.

It is no surprise that the NIU College of Business truly prepares you for ethical dilemmas and how to best approach them. The College of Business truly stands by its brand statement of “Where the Classroom Meets the Business World” and its philosophy of “Thinking & Doing.” Even though it isn’t really possible to teach someone how to be ethical; this college does do its share in teaching the concept of ethics and provides tools for people to take steps in the right direction. This college is after all, recognized for how it incorporates ethics in its curriculum (ranked 3rd in the nation in 2011 according to Businessweek).

Through an experience such as this and listening to other people’s experiences you can learn to guide yourself in the proper direction. In Mr. Barsema’s words, you need to understand yourself and your values to let your moral compass lead you down the right path in deciding between “doing things right and doing the right thing.”

I encourage everyone to participate in the Ethics Case next year if you have the opportunity to do it. It truly is a wonderful experience.

Appreciation and Mentoring

The other day I had someone hand me a thank you card with a long-winded verbal thanks for all the help I gave them in prepping them for their Advanced Professional Selling (MKTG 450) interview in order to be accepted into the course.

Now, I worked with several people, all for several hours in going over their cover letter, resume and the actual interview process. I wanted to make absolutely sure that they would be overly prepared in order to get accepted into the course. They were all appreciative of my efforts in helping them but one person stood out the most. The handwritten thank you note along with the sincere verbal thanks was fantastic.

I get nothing out of spending time with these people, it doesn’t help my grade, I don’t get any sort of extra credit or recognition. I do it because I enjoy mentoring someone and sharing my knowledge and experiences to help them achieve their own goals. I’ve always been taught how far a thank you letter or note goes but I had never actually received one for myself from someone. I can see why recruiters or managers enjoy getting thank you cards from applicants or employees. It does mean a great deal to an individual when its recognized by others that their time or resources are appreciated.

I do look forward to continuing my involvement with the College of Business after I graduate and specifically my programs/department. I’ll certainly get a lot of intrinsic satisfaction knowing I can influence, motivate, inspire or mentor someone along their journey through school and into a career path they’ll enjoy.

This is just the thought of the day for me, but to turn it into a lesson learned/passed along:

1) Show appreciation to others for their time, their help or other non-obligatory efforts. It certainly goes a long way.

2) Whether you’re in school or you graduated; take time to help others achieve their goals because whether you realize it or not, a lot of people took their time to help you achieve yours.

 

Getting Involved: Part 6 of 6

Getting Involved

This is the last post of the series about involvement on campus. Part one discussed why I got involved, part two explained why I didn’t get involved sooner, part three touched on the opportunities available through being involved, part four talked about leadership experience, part five elaborated on how to get involved, and part six are my thoughts going forward for post graduation involvement.

Getting Involved; Part 6: Involvement After Graduation

As graduation comes closer to me I’ve been challenged to think about getting involved after graduation. Being in a professional organization or two will benefit me in my career as it will give me opportunities to network and potentially meet new clients or referrals through these connections.

I’m going to practice exactly what I preach in these past several posts and I’m going to go about it the same way I would if I were in school. I’ll use the resources I have now to figure out what I need to do down the road. Professors in the College of Business all had a career before coming here to teach. They’ve got real world knowledge and experience, so they’ll know organizations I can get involved with professionally or at the very least, know the direction in which to send me.

AMA will be easy to continue involvement with since I’m a collegiate member. When they send my form via email and in the mail I just need to renew and upgrade my status. Simple.

AMA had a meeting dedicated to an individual from the Young Professionals Network which is focused on allowing young professionals the ability to network with others and give back to the College of Business. The Young Professionals Network also has a partnership with the NIU Executive Club. Both of which keep you connected to College of Business alumni of all business backgrounds while still giving back to the NIU community and its students.

My dad having had a long career in sales told me a lot of people will get involved in their local community whether it is a Lion’s club, a park district or some other volunteer work. My dad said when I was playing hockey he would network with all the other parents from not just my team, but within the whole hockey club.

I’ve experienced how getting involved as a student can pay off. In a few months it will be time to shift gears, become newly involved in other things, and see how that investment of my time will pay off in furthering my career as well as others lives.

What do you think about getting involved after school? How will you go about it?

Getting Involved: Part 5 of 6

Getting Involved

This is post five of a six part series about involvement on campus. Part one discussed why I got involved, part two explained why I didn’t get involved sooner, part three touched on the opportunities available through being involved, part four talked about leadership experience, part five explains how to go about getting involved and briefly what it takes up front and part six are my thoughts going forward for post graduation involvement.

Getting Involved; Part 5: How to Join

If you are curious how to get involved on campus just know that it’s easy as long as you take proper initiative.

The first step you need to take is deciding what interests you, will benefit you, and/or help you along your career path. Once that decision is made there are various methods for finding further information. One resource is the university’s Student Association. Most universities have one or something like it that lists all the organizations, programs and services your school offers. NIU’s Student Association, for example, even has a “How to get Involved” link on their page. If you pick an organization out of the full university listing it generally gives you the contact information for the top officers as well as academic advisors for that organization. You then can reach out to those individuals for more information or follow a direct link to the organizations website.

Another way to obtain information specifically for something that aligns with your major is by talking to your academic advisor. They know what is going on in your college and major as it is their job to help students with these things. For example, there was someone a few weeks ago who was looking to join the Collegiate Sales Advisory Board and she had stopped in to talk to the marketing advisor on how to join CSAB. What she then proceeded to do was walk the student over to the dean’s office (where I’m working when I’m not in class) and brought the student directly to me to answer any questions she had. Point of the story is your academic advisor can help you and if there is information they don’t have they certainly know the person to point you to.

Another option is to speak to professors. Professors are always part of professional organizations on a national level but are well aware of the collegiate chapters within their own departments. Management professors will know a bit about the management student organizations just like marketing professors and the marketing organizations and so on.

The last (and in my opinion least effective way) is flyers or notices posted around campus. Not every organization has the manpower to reach every part of campus so you may not see something that would pertain to you. All the previously mentioned methods are more likely to get you involved in something that’s meant for you.

After speaking with people and gathering information the last step is to actually join. Generally there will be some sort of application or application process, dues to be paid, and sometimes some sort of rush or initiation. Some organizations also have policies in place to maintain “active” status which goes beyond simply paying dues, but requires you to be part of so many activities or events. All those factors depend upon the organization and are different for each one. Time commitment needed for organization also ranges depending on the organization but it also depends upon the individual as well. Generally you will only get out of it what you put into it. In other words, the more you get involved and active; you’ll take away a lot more and have a much better experience.

In my final installment of the ‘Getting Involved’ series I will share my thoughts on involvement in organizations after graduation in part six.