Success

Over the past two years I’ve had my share of experiences.  I’ve had some success and a fair amount of failure as well.  With graduation quickly approaching I wanted to take some time to reflect on what contributed most to not only my successes but my failures as well.  This has been a great form of meditation and I encourage anyone reading this to do it as well!  I’ve learned a little bit more about myself in the process and want to share my thoughts with you in a short series of posts that will highlight my contributing factors to success, which you’ll read below, and my failures will follow in time.  Disclaimer: by no means am I saying that I always do these items below…but when I have, I’ve felt that I’ve achieved success in doing them.  Hope you enjoy!

When something hits your desk it doesn’t matter what level of importance it is.  What matters most is to recognize that if it affects somebody else, do it immediately.  You can wait till the last minute on a 10 page paper if you are solely affected by the grade on the assignment.  However, if somebody needs an email forwarded, help on a team assignment or a favor, do it.  You will be held in high regard if you can exhibit this behavior.  An old saying rings true “You can have everything you want, if you will just help everyone get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar

Keep in contact with people.  Send little texts, stay in touch through social media, or send a card once in a while.  Do this whenever you see something that reminds you of them.  Or if that’s too much out of your day just be personable and say hi to people you know (or don’t know) in your daily lives.  Nurture your friendships and keep your network open, one day these people you kept in contact with could hold the keys to open doors that you don’t even know exist yet.

Opportunities present themselves often at NIU, take advantage of them.  You get in-class presentations on the Experiential Learning Center, study abroad programs, student organizations, etc., but many people simply forget what they’ve been exposed to only minutes after it’s shown.  Write those opportunities down and research them further when you have a minute to yourself.  Pursue challenges and you’ll be amazed at how far you’ll go, not only at NIU, but in life itself.

Keep moving.  I learned this on distance bike rides and a backpacking adventure in the Smokey Mountains.  Even trying to ride my bike from my hometown to Wisconsin, every pedal I took, no matter how small, brought me closer to finishing my goal.  When backpacking we spent a few days going uphill for stints of 12 miles or more.  With each step in that cold and wet weather, we were that much closer to reaching camp. For those of you who want to give up and are overwhelmed by work that is seemingly insurmountable, take a second and remember how to eat an elephant…do it one bite at a time.

I encourage you to add your own keys to success in the comments below.  As I said, keep an eye out to read a little bit more about my failures and how can you avoid making the same mistakes I’ve made in my university career. 2.0out

Experiential Learning Center

When I was a prospective student I went from website to website and toured many colleges.  When I took my tour of the NIU College of Business I saw the campus, I saw Barsema Hall, and I spoke with faculty but the thing that stood out most to me was undoubtedly the Experiential Learning Center.  As defined by the college, the Experiential Learning Center connects teams of NIU students with organizations to tackle real-world business issues. From software evaluation to emerging market analysis projects, students serve as consultants addressing non-mission critical, cross functional business issues.  The program is also competitive entry, which was highly attractive to me as well.  When they say they only take the best of the best students from the undergraduate and graduate level, that is a program that I definitely want to involved with.

Each project lasts 16 weeks and spans across an entire semester.  Students are given the chance to apply for projects of their choice and they may apply for as many projects as they are interested in, there is no limit!  Once they’ve submitted their applications, the faculty coaches will select who they want to interview for their respective projects.  If all goes well and the student is a fit for the project, they will be invited to join an Experiential Learning Center Team.

I applied for every single project in the fall of 2011.  I was so anxious and wanted nothing more than the opportunity to get involved.  I interviewed with 5 of the 8 project leaders and thankfully, after a few days of nail biting, I was selected to join a project for spring 2012.

I got so much out of my experience.  Over the 16 week period I earned real world experience.  I felt as though I was an employee of my client company and I communicated on almost a daily basis with executives at said company which was the 15th largest private U.S. company at the time.  Every week I would manage conference calls with my client by making agendas, working through action items and project planning schedules.  I created a professional survey from scratch with the assistance of faculty advisors and marketed the survey to earn intelligible data for our final recommendations.  I learned how to be a leader since we were asked to lead student meetings in a rotation.  With over 15 hours of work going into the project each week, I was forced to manage my time and learn how to delegate and prioritize to meet deadlines.  At the close of our project, we compiled a final report which led to the eventual acceptance and implementation of our 7 step recommendation.  I learned how to control and leverage time in a meeting, and I learned more about business communications than I did in some classes!  I honed my presentation skills and built confidence after presenting to countless VP’s, Presidents, and other C-level executives at our final client meeting.

Nick LoVetere, our previous student blogger wrote the following in one of his final posts from the spring 2012 semester.

“If I had even just one more year in college there are some things I would do that I wasn’t able. I was recruited to be part of the Experiential Learning Center but due to scheduling and the academic path I chose, far too many people said it was too much work to handle (and I’m the kind of person who takes on everything, so it says a lot when you’re told more than once not to do it). One more year, and I would be the first to apply and tell every faculty coach why I should be on their consulting project.”

Don’t miss this opportunity!  The deadline to apply is only days away!  You may browse projects at http://www.cob.niu.edu/elc/projects.asp and once you’re ready to dive in and take the plunge visit https://applyelc.niu.edu/login/?next=/menu/ to apply.

Keys to Success: Defined by Students

A few weeks ago I got to thinking about what makes someone successful at the NIU College of Business.  I wanted to seek out someone to ask how they achieved their success.  Then it dawned on me…no one person alone can answer this question because there are so many unique experiences that can be had here at the college of business.  Instead of asking one person, I decided to take my question to the streets of Facebook.  I asked fans of the NIU College of Business for their input and requested that they complete the following sentence: I’ve achieved success by_______.

I want to thank students who shared their input.  You may view their responses by following this link http://on.fb.me/ZKSyXO.  Take a moment to reflect on the meaning of their answers, although they are brief there really is a lot of insight when you look a little deeper!

Suiting up

Getting “suited-up” has numbered benefits.  For one, it clearly and immediately communicates to an audience the goals, mindset, and personality of the the person that’s dressed to impress.  Annika Shelly, writer, stylist, and lecturer at the Wall Street Journal adds, “It’s about trust and credibility. The reptilian part of our brain tells us to trust what we see more than any other sense. And trust what the person is wearing.”  It also proves a personal level of respect for the occasion.  Taking extra steps to dress up for your date or cleaning up nice before going to work will show others that you’re taking your role seriously.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/85broads/2011/04/13/dressing-the-part-job-personal-branding/

Indeed, dressing the part can absolutely make you not only look more professional but it can boost your confidence as well.  Heavy influencers in the corporate world agree.  Take Neil Patel for example.  By the age of 21 he was named one of the top influencers on the web according to the Wall Street Journal.  In a reflective blog post he states, “A friend of mine kindly suggested that I spend a bit more money on my wardrobe, pay more than 10 bucks for a haircut, and get a decent pair of shoes…With my new clothes, a somewhat decent haircut, and nice pair of black shoes I made a break through. At first I noticed that people were more willing to talk to me when I went to conferences. I also noticed that during my business meetings people took me more serious.

http://www.quicksprout.com/2011/09/12/why-you-should-dress-to-impress-%E2%80%93-the-roi-of-fashion/

Not missing a single day of class

It may seem silly to remind you to go to class. But it won’t be quite so obvious as you settle into college life.  Although it may seem difficult at times to forego your beauty sleep for academic discussion, you must realize that you have access to some of the most accomplished experts in their field, and moreover, you are paying a large amount of money to have their attention and support. Don’t waste it.

By not taking shortcuts

Put in the hours, it will pay dividends down the road.  Actually learn your material.  Realize that you need to invest yourself fully in your education.  One respondent to our poll even said that they studied on Friday nights!  Now that’s dedication!

By getting involved in organizations

Becoming a part of the community is of the utmost importance.  It is important not only to your mental and social health, but it also helps you achieve academic and career related success. Your relationships add value to you and can help you get your homework done, they can help you in developing team skills.  You could even step up to lead a group project, and activities in organizations give you something to focus on even if other academic stresses get you discouraged.  Best of all, joining organizations can help you earn valuable skills that you’ll need in your future career.

By asking the right questions

Heck, they don’t even have to be the right ones.  Each question that is asked is relative to the person asking the question so how can you identify which question is “right” and which one is “wrong” anyway?  For example, if you are a marketing major like I am, you may have a question if a problem involving physics is given.  Others with that background may find the questions I ask to be silly or unnecessary but because I have yet to earn that knowledge, the question I asked was justified.  So going along with what this student mentioned, simply reach out to someone for help and advice, especially as a student.  Professors, professionals and others are often times more than willing to lend you a hand or offer wisdom from their own experiences and knowledge banks.

Networking

College is probably one of the most diverse populations of people that you will live and work with during your entire life.  There are countless majors, backgrounds, and creeds that attend our beautiful college and to not make connections with them and keep in touch would simply be foolish.  Not only do you have access to a vast number of students but we are also granted access to numerous professionals through networking events, class visits, and recruiting fairs.  Actively seek out people to build your network.  Whether it be fellow students, or professionals, the people you know should be treated as valuable assets in the professional world.

 

Career & Internship Fair Advice

The Internship and Job fairs have reached their end.  The stress of getting your suit pressed and polishing your shoes till you can eat off of them are gone.  You can finally rest because the hard part is finally behind you…..or is it?

You may think that now is a time to breathe easy but the time following these fairs is where the real leg work begins.  If you were well prepared, had a good pitch, and dressed the part, you should be seeing a steady stream of emails and calls starting to flow through your inbox from the employers you spoke with.  Other times, they may be waiting on you to initiate the first contact …sort of like that girl you met at the bar last weekend.

 Career & Internship Fair Advice

"The three day rule doesn’t apply in business"

This brings us to our first point.

Follow Up: It is important to follow up with any company you speak with.  Get representatives business cards!  Those little pieces of paper are your golden ticket.  You no longer have to throw arrows in the dark to move on in the application/interview process because you have a living, breathing person to guide you through it!  Write a handwritten thank you card or email thanking them for their time at the fairs.  It sounds like something my mother used to nag me about but I’ve heard this advice validated time and time again from recruiters.  Remember also to concisely restate your pitch in this note and close by asking what the next step in the process is.  Your attention to detail IS what grabs their attention and it really is the “little things” like this that can make a difference.

Stay Focused:  Don’t throw your suit in a pile on your bedroom floor just because the fairs are over.  Many companies have reserved time on campus for interviews that can take place just weeks after the fairs.  Stay in the mindset you had before/during the fairs and keep that momentum moving you forward.  Take advantage of these opportunities that are given to you.  Even if you’re uncertain of your future with a certain company use your time with them as an opportunity to learn more about the positions they have to offer.  Who knows, that company may have your dream job that you didn’t even know existed yet.  Even if nothing comes of your interview with a certain company, the practice you’ll receive along the way is priceless!

Prepare:  When you begin to schedule interviews with various companies, dig deeper on your research for each one.  They already like what you have to offer but now they want to see if you match their unique brand.  Look into their company culture as well as the descriptions of the positions they offer.  Understand how your skills  match those parameters then prepare and show the employer why YOU ARE the right fit for the job!

Use the STAR approach to sell why you are the best person.  The STAR approach is described in further detail below:

  • Situation- think of a situation that you were faced with that will be relevant in your interview.  An issue at work/school or a project.
  • Task- what did you have to do to find a solution to the situation?  Did you have to work with a team or step into a new role?
  • Action- What things did you personally do to achieve success?  Did you take a leadership role in that team or did you overcome a challenging obstacle?
  • Result- Are there any metrics related to your success?  What good came from you overcoming the situation?  Did your team meet its goals?  Do you have numbers to quantify your result? 2.0out

ITS Helpdesk: Another Hidden Treasure

My computer is getting older, it’s four years old to be exact, and with age comes inevitable problems.  Programs crash, blue report screens  plague my existence, and slow, buggy processes make finishing assignments a massive undertaking.

slowcomputer ITS Helpdesk: Another Hidden Treasure

"Contrary to popular belief, screaming at the computer DOES NOT make it faster"

People have suggested taking my over-sized paperweight to major tech companies or local computer shops but who wants to pay $100 or more to fix a computer when you could buy a decent NEW one for south of $500?!  Unfortunately I can’t justify purchasing either at the moment because I have other priorities.

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"Priorities? He must mean Toppers and Keystone." -Nick's dog Baci

I thought my situation was hopeless.  My computer bugged out, I couldn’t get wi-fi in my own apartment for indefinite patches of time, the internet was slow, and moderately sized programs would crash all the time.  I even had problems with Internet Explorer!

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"...then again, who doesn't have problems with IE?"

I had used every  “10 ways to fix your computer” article and video that YouTube and Google had to offer.  I was reaching the end of my rope, until a good friend of mine opened my eyes to the NIU Information Technology Services (ITS) Helpdesk.

What’s the ITS Helpdesk you ask?!  Well I’ll tell you.  It’s a magical place where students like you can bring your computers and phones to get them worked on and optimized.   Oh, and did I mention that it’s free!  What the literal…?! O.o  Why did nobody tell me about this earlier!  As soon as I learned about the Helpdesk I brought my computer in the same day.  I dropped it off, got a ticket, and went on my merry way.  It took no more than a day before one of the workers called me back and told me the “operation” was done.  They cleaned it up, added some software, and even uploaded an intranet package so I could access my work emails from home!  So many headaches from the past year and a half could’ve been avoided if only I knew.  So many paper rewrites, system restores, and file backups could be erased from my memory.

the truth about men in black 3 ITS Helpdesk: Another Hidden Treasure

"Now if only I could erase MIB II from memory too"

So now I’m sharing this knowledge with you.  This hidden treasure on NIU’s campus should be shouted from the rooftops because if it can revive my computer, who knows what they can do for you.  Check them out at http://www.its.niu.edu/its/helpdesk/index.shtml and don’t let your computer problems stand between you and a good grade again!  2.0out

Life Lessons Abroad

The following is written by Mike Cahill, an Accounting Graduate Student at the NIU College of Business.

The Social Entrepreneurship Program at NIU is the perfect fit for any business student with aspirations to help make the world a better place. The mission of the Program is to show students how they can apply their business skillset to solve the world’s problems. Participating in the Social Entrepreneurship Program was one of the best choices I made as an Undergraduate in the College of Business because it really helped broaden my horizons. Learning from real world examples is what I like most about the classes in the Program

This past November I enrolled in MGMT 411 – Microfinance as part of the Social Entrepreneurship Program.  The class was very unique in that it was a small group (only about 10 students) and very discussion based. In class we were assigned case studies to develop our knowledge of the topic, and at the end of the semester we participated in a 4 day microfinance study abroad trip to Punta Mita, Mexico.

The trip to Mexico, led by NIU College of Business Instructor Dennis Barsema, was a tremendous experience. As a class, we met over a dozen micro entrepreneurs who were clients of a local Microfinance Institution (MFI) in Punta Mita. An MFI provides loans and other financial services (loans) to the poor, or people who would not otherwise have any access to such services. The loans enable micro entrepreneurs to start businesses in their villages, and the earnings from these businesses allow the entrepreneur to earn a sustainable wage. The experiences interacting with the MFI clients allowed us (the class) to see first-hand the powerful impact that access to capital can have on improving the lives of the poor.

Overall, the trip really brought the class to life. It was inspirational to hear the unique stories of each of the micro entrepreneurs. Every so often I stop to think about the micro entrepreneurs that I met, and about all of the hardships that they face on an everyday basis. It is really humbling and makes me thankful for all of the opportunities I am blessed with as an American. In the future, I hope to use what I have learned in my Social Entrepreneurship classes to help make the world a better place.

 

 

Hidden Treasures: Starved Rock

A lot of you have heard about a nice state park called Starved Rock but many people don’t know a lot of the hidden joys that the park or the surrounding area has to offer.  Starved Rock is mainly a summer hangout for people to visit.  There are miles of trails to hike, numerous canyons to discover and a atmosphere to think, picnic, and to enjoy the company of friends or a significant other in.  You could even take a day for yourself to melt into the colors, sounds and serene landscapes, away from the rush of college.

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"Yeah, kinda like that..."

After a nice summer rain, you will be fortunate enough to catch the water careening off the cliffs from above and your ears will be treated to the sounds of the bubbling brew below.  Once the summer months pass and the cold sets in, people tend to stray away from outdoor activity but some real beautiful scenes occur at the park once the deep freeze comes.  The waterfall becomes a living painting, a powerful rush of water frozen in time against the quiet backdrop of winter.  You may even catch a glimpse of climbers scaling the frozen waterfalls during your early year visit.

 Hidden Treasures: Starved Rock

"I have no words"

For  those that enjoy wildlife viewing as much as I do, Eagles are a common sight from the overlooks at Starved Rock. The bald eagles winter here because even when the river is encased in ice, the churn from the dam leaves a small portal open to the water below.  It is the only place for miles where they can catch a fish.  Because of that, you can see more eagles than you’ve seen in a lifetime in a single day with the right set of binoculars, some really warm clothes, and some good old fashioned patience.