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.

 

The Fastest Year of Life

Last year a lot of my friends had graduated and the one thing every single one of them told me as I went into my last year of college was this: “it’s going to go by fast; enjoy it while you can.” Not only were they right, in my opinion it was a severe understatement. The fall semester felt like it was over as soon as it begun and the spring semester feels almost as if everything over the past several months happened in a matter of week.

People ranging from younger students and faculty to friends and family are all asking me if I’m excited to graduate. The answer is “yes and no.” People ask why and I say it’s a bittersweet situation. As my roommate and I had discussed just last week, we are ready to graduate, start great careers and start earning real salary and commissions. However, we are nowhere near ready to let go of the college life-style. The huge house parties, the cheap prices at the college bars, always having Fridays off (if you’re a marketing/business major), the freedom of minimal responsibility, staying up until all hours of the night and being able to push through the next day; all is going to be, for the most part, gone.

My roommate and I both said if we could rewind life back to freshman year and start over, we would. Not because we have any regrets (though everyone has some) it would be entirely for the purpose of going through the entire experience again. 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, where a small group of students act as consultants to a business on a real business issue. 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. I also would like to have had one more chance to scrape together enough funds to study abroad since I couldn’t afford to go this past year.  That’s academically, but on the personal side of life, it is tough to say what things I would do that I’ve yet to accomplish. I wouldn’t do anything differently, I would continue trying to take advantage of every moment and seize every opportunity from going out to forming new relationships. I can only hope that if incoming college students stumble across this post that they go to school with the notion that it will go by quick and they need to take advantage of everything as early as possible.

I’ve come to a point in life where I have to make a huge transition that I’m kind of ready for but kind of sad for it to be over.  College has certainly been one of the best chapters of my life and I’ve accumulated a great deal of stories and memories. So much so that I’ve been told more than once my life should have been a reality show during my tenure at NIU. It’s part of growing up though; you can’t be in college forever (unless you’re Van Wilder and take seven years to complete you’re undergrad). However, I still plan on maintaining the relationships I’ve established here to the best of my ability. That includes not only friends, but the professionals I’ve met and the faculty I’ve come to know and love.

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.

Getting Involved: Part 4 of 6

Getting Involved

This is post four 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 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 4: Leadership Experience

The final factor of importance that I want to stress about getting involved is leadership. The leadership experience gained through organizations is invaluable. Not only does it give you a learning opportunity of what it’s like to organize, plan and pull everything together for an organization to operate but it also illustrates a ton of skills to prospective employers. When you develop your leadership skills you learn various styles of leadership such as coaching, directing and delegating. You learn when to explicitly lay out instruction or put your faith in someone and empower them to let their skills develop in accomplishing tasks.

Going a little deeper, holding a leadership position obviously forces you to become efficient at working with others on a hierarchical level and also as members of an equal team unit. You improve your organizational skills, communication skills as well as time management skills when you run an organization and balance school at the same time.

Now you may be thinking, “You’re talking about being at the top of the ladder. I won’t be starting there or I may not even get there!” That is true, the opportunity and the fit has to be just right, sometimes accompanied by a stroke of luck on timing. Not all those top positions will necessarily be available during your tenure in an organization (which means you should join early!) However, any position on the executive board of an organization will hone the aforementioned skills of good communication, time management, teamwork, and to an extent, some of those leadership skills if you have tasks that require you to assemble a team for to help you complete those objectives.

Not every company looks to hire someone from college and place them straight into a management role but sometimes that is the absolutely the case. However, when companies look to invest in their future by investing in you, it makes you that much more valuable to their company by possessing those skills and experiences.

In part five of this series I elaborate on how to get involved with organizations on campus.

World Collegiate Sales Open: Part 2

Part 2: Thoughts Afterward

(This part was written around 1 p.m. on Monday, February 27, 2012. The Monday following the competition.)

The World Collegiate Sales Open is finally over and I feel as though a weight has been lifted and that I have all sorts of free time that is no longer dedicated to preparation! My friend Corey placed third overall giving the NIU College of Business its only podium spot in the competition. Akron won first, Michigan State second and UW-Whitewater took fourth.

Once the competition started all the nerves I had going in were not there the rest of the weekend. I felt good, I felt confident and I had a phenomenal performance. It was fun going through an entire sales cycle all in two days. While I didn’t place amongst the final four, I’m still considered one of the best in the world (somewhere in the top 10 according to my results in each category of competition). The competition began with 192 students from 7 different countries that got trimmed down to 20 students from the United States, Austria and United Kingdom. While it is disappointing I went in looking to take first and ultimately fell short, I certainly learned a lot through it all. I received great pointers and advice from judges or buyers throughout the weekend, and I also met a lot of great people.

Considering this was the championship round for a world competition, everyone I met from all around the world were great people. There were only four people from overseas in the top 20, three from Austria’s University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt and one from the University of Portsmouth in the UK, as well as schools from east to west in the United States to round out the rest of the 20 finalists. Everyone was nice and friendly despite being there competing with each other. I can certainly say I made some new friends.

So much time, energy and effort was put into this weekend but it was definitely a blast. I told the College of Business’ Dean, Dr. Denise Schoenbachler, this morning that I wish I could come back and compete one more time because I loved every minute of it. Her suggestion was that I come back and participate as a judge. I absolutely plan on trying to come back next year and be involved on the other end of the competition.

I’m excited to start building the NIU Sales team for next year’s competition. There are certainly a lot of talented individuals that are in the early stages of our program. The important thing is, the talent is there and the NIU College of Business will continue to be amongst the best in the world with its sales program. I can certainly say I’m proud to have represented NIU and hope that all future NIU College of Business competitors bring that same pride and passion next year.

WCSO 2011 2012 384 300x200 World Collegiate Sales Open: Part 2

World Collegiate Sales Open: Part 1

Part 1: Thoughts Beforehand

(This part was written around 4 p.m. Thursday, February 23, 2012, the day before competition started. I just had a delay in posting it.)

It is the evening before the competition and I am extremely stressed. My nerves are running wild and I’m struggling to keep it under control. The NIU sales team has been told numerous times that this is the most intense sales competition there is, not just because it is a worldwide competition but because of the amount of events there are and having to complete them all back to back.

Additionally, the competition is hosted at the NIU College of Business and was founded by the head of our sales program. I feel like this adds more pressure because we want to excel in the name of our school and our program. At this point anything short of winning will feel like failure.

Professors, teachers, co-workers, friends and family all know how I’m feeling. Several of them have said no matter what happens, the marketing department is fully behind us and is proud of all we’ve accomplished in just making it to the finals. Another teacher, as well as my dad, said this should be a no pressure situation for me since I’ve already secured a job and my career isn’t riding on this competition. While the job aspect is true, I can’t shake the self-pressure. I know I shouldn’t be nervous, but the drive to do extraordinary in competition is what’s causing it.

Hopefully when the competition starts the jitters will go away and I can go into each event calm and relaxed like I need to be.

My final thought is how much I appreciate the support from all my professors and friends. I appreciate the recognition we’ve been given in the classroom this week, the wishes of luck thrown our way anytime we see someone, as well as any other words of advice and encouragement I’ve received. It’s very rewarding by itself seeing the pride others have in us as we go forward representing NIU in this international sales competition.