June 24, 2011


I accepted that job offer that I got -- EXCITING!!! -- but also means that I have about a million and one things to take care of. So this blog, loathe as I am to do so, is on hiatus for 2-3 weeks, until I can get my feet planted more firmly.

Good News!

No post tonight -- well, or a party post, whichever! -- because I have good news.

I have an offer!

So, off to enjoy my evening. I will blather on about webcam interviews in the future.

June 22, 2011

On Writing

Aside from shamelessly stealing the title of Stephen King's how-to and memoir, the title is appropriate for something I'd like to come back to in the future: voice in writing.

Tamora Pierce, an author whom I've loved for nigh on a decade, has a really fantastic bio (linked prior) that really showcases how one can write with voice. I can almost hear her in her writing, and it's important to be able to see good examples like this, with verve and wit and sparkle.

June 21, 2011

Grey Hairs

I'm way too stressed out to blog tonight. =/ Sorry, everyone.

June 20, 2011

The, Um, Post for, Uh, Today

Today's video is about eliminating "um" from your vocabulary. It takes work, but it can be done!

Fear is Fear Itself

So today's entry was going to be about vocal fillers (it was also going to be an audiocast, as I'm sure you've figured out) but since it's quarter-til tomorrow, and since I obviously am typing and not doing some sound recording magic, let's talk about fear.

(As an aside, my spellchecker is keyed to Spanish and it's driving me a little bananas. Forgive any typos; I am lacking the patience to properly spellcheck in this condition.)

I've found, more often than not, that I thrive under pressure. This is good; this is what, I daresay, recruiters are looking for, what companies (especially big single-digit firms -- big three, big four, whatever) seek. And yet, I think what people always forget to mention is the other side of it, the fear that can freeze and cloy and claw at you.

Mind, I've never frozen in an interview. I've stumbled, and I've certainly made some boo-boos, but never froze. I'm fortunate in that regard; I've known people who get the deer-in-the-headlights thing that just is all-consumingly bad.

I honestly don't have the remedy for that. It's something that requires therapy and concentrated work to overcome. It also becomes a very good story for your internet responses.

I will say this: I've always (well, often at any rate) used my fear to motivate me. I have to ask myself three major questions:

1. Why am I afraid?

This question is totally useless if it's an irrational fear. But, generally speaking, working to determine why you are afraid of something can be strangely illuminating. And this doesn't have to be a solo endeavor; find a close friend whom you trust and discuss this with them. Even if s/he cannot offer any real insight, your friendship with that person may strengthen thanks to your confidence.

That said, understanding the underlying reasons for your fear can help you overcome them, or at least face the source of your terror head-on.

For myself, I have a near-crippling fear of failure. It's had net positives in my life; it keeps me determined and I have a great deal of follow-through. If I set my mind to something, I can and will do so. But it also has other drawbacks: failure is part of the learning process, and failing (especially in a public way) can be extremely costly. I asked myself "Why?" on occasion over the years. I think the reason is twofold: (1) I like attention, and succeeding is positive attention, and (2) failure means that something was wrong -- a decision, an action, a choice. As someone who is careful and determined, realizing that you had a serious misstep can (and sometimes is) devastating.

2. What can I do about it?

Fear is only half the problem. Knowing why you fear is a step in the right direction. The next step is to ascertain how you can use the information you have from your introspection. Basically, we're making it "extrospection" which isn't really a word but sounds pretty cool.

Fear cannot rule your life; you can't let fear guide you. You can mitigate the occurrence of fears by choosing low-risk activities and maintaining a certain amount of self-determined security. But low-risk is also low-reward, and I firmly believe that we learn more about ourself when we challenge ourselves and push our personal boundaries. Doing those things requires risk.

For myself, fearing failure, and understanding that a part of that had to do with seeking attention meant that I needed to be ready to take risks in environments where I wasn't necessarily comfortable. So I started ceding the power in groups, and I began taking on project roles that weren't what I was necessarily accustomed to. In my interviews and job searches, I loosened up and broadened my focus to companies that I wouldn't have thought to look at before, in sectors I hadn't realized I would fit into. You've got to fail so that you can learn. I've gotten more rejection letters than acceptance ones; the boilerplate never stops hurting, but the mourning has gotten shorter.

3. Where do I go from here?

The most important question you can ask yourself is: where do I go from here? Because, at the end of the day, it's about continuous improvement, constant forward motion. That's kind of my motto in life, to be frank. Treat every experience -- good or bad -- as a learning experience.

I am quick to point out that not every experience is a teachable moment. That's not true and can be actively harmful, in my humble opinion. However, you should always be learning, from everything that you do. The best advice I got last summer in all of my networking was from a guy who started at Kohl's and ended up at McKinsey: take a job with your eyes on the next job. Learn as much as you can, put that learning on your resume, and be prepared to always be learning.

For myself, every interview (and every rejection letter) has been a reflection and learning experience. The point of failure -- and, by extension, fear -- is to indicate to us that something is awry. Whether it's the decisions we've made or the paths that we've taken, figurative and literal, the experiences in my life that have elicited these emotions have made me a better person and a better candidate for the company that I will eventually join. The endless optimism is cloying, and my parents' peppy words feel stifling, and the reassurances may eventually feel empty, but the moments between - that is where the value is added.

June 19, 2011


Ah, blast, I forgot to update today. Well, I guess I'll chat a little bit about foreign languages.

Mostly I'll say this much: I just changed my Facebook, Gmail, and Chrome browser to display everything in Spanish. 'Course, now, the problem is that my spellchecker is keyed to Spanish, meaning all of my English typing keeps having the red squiggly line of universal spelled-wrong-ness underneath it, even though I can type 80wpm without errors. (Just saying' -- I learned how to do that while balancing seven AIM chat windows, way back in 2003. Yeah I'm Old School.)

Anyway, the biggest tip I can offer about keeping up with your foreign language skills long-term is this: practice. Allowing your skills to languish unused is the greatest wrong you can do to them. Respect your mind and your language enough to at least pretend to use them from time to time; load up CNN in Spanish, go check out a Quebecois newspaper, or hunt down some Faust in Deutche. Whatever it takes, even keeping the reading comprehension part going is valuable.

Mostly, I stress this because being unilingual -- that is, only knowing English -- is quickly becoming a luxury that only Americans can afford, and even we are finding ourselves laughed out of a world where most people grow up bilingual at least, if not petralingual or something equally astonishing. Keep at least fuzzy with your foreign language; three years of high school French must have taught you something.

Hey, at the very least, you know enough to be dangerous, and that's a very fun place to be.

June 17, 2011

Team Awesomesauce

The title is a shout-out to a group of friends of mine from my alma mater. What can I say? I love 'em.

Speaking of things I loved, did everyone see Scott's amazing posts about macroeconomics? 'Cause that final exam is totally going on your permanent record.

For those of you who were curious, Scott and I have been friends since elementary school. We go pretty far back, and we bonded during the Great Turkey-Pigeon War. It was tough times, and bonds forged then were thicker than blood.

I feel I ought to explain my absence a little bit. Mind, I'm not anyone Exceptionally Important, but perhaps the (four) of you reading this care. I had an interview in New York City. I feel good about it, and there's a big reason why.

...But that's tomorrow's entry. For now, I'm going to enjoy the 200 page views this week, the giant glass of wine at my elbow, and the satisfaction of knowing that this has been a Good Week.

June 16, 2011

Final Exam a la Scott Stutzman

Alright guys and men, here it is... the final exam. If you want to look over the course outline one last time before jumping in, you can follow this incredibly useless link. Do not start the test until the proctor has told you to begin if you are a brain dead sheep. Otherwise START NOW.

Directions: You have an unlimited amount of time to answer the following questions. It is suggested that you spend the first half of an undeterminant part of time on the first question, and divide an undeterminant amount of time equally between questions 3 and 5 and then take a rest to focus your chakras (or 'turning lotus') and then you can leave but not before answering the remaining questions spending an equal amount of time on each question except for question 7 which requires at least 9 extra percentage points from the totality of the time spent in the schedule that you have set for yourself. In answering the questions, it is important to include the path of reasoning you followed, as well as how the answer makes you feel deep down inside. Include correctly labeled diagrams, if useful, relevant, or really complicated looking so that you appear smarter. You must use a pen with black or dark blue ink for some reason.

1. Which of the following is not an economic goal?
     a. Full Employment
     b. Price Level Stability
     c. Kill 2 Undead Bears, 5 Undead Wolves, and 3 Undead Cougars using a torch
     d. Something about, like, equitable distribution

2. Using the above graph, can you explain how a decrease in aggregate expenditures would be used to remedy an inflationary situation in terms of aggregate demand and price level?
     a. Yes I can.
     b. No I can't.

3. Which of the following types of unemployment is incorrectly defined?
     a. Frictional - Workers who are unemployed because they rub people the wrong way
     b. Cyclical - Workers who ride their bikes all the time and no one will hire because they ALL feel  like they have to dress like freaking Lance Armstrong in those weird outfits with the tight shirt and shorts and ride around in ridiculous gangs taking up the entire right lane or, God forbid, the right side of the road on a two lane street.
     c. Structural - A genus of flies in the family Tachinidae

8. Using the above graph, calculate an equitable rate of trade between the two economies that will be beneficial to both, and quench both their insatiable thirsts for consumption.
     a. No.
     b. Impossible, as the US thirst for foreign oil will never be quenched, and blood will soak the sands of the banks of the Tigris until the final moon sets beyond the dunes.
     c. George W. Bush is a war criminal.
     d. 1/3?

4. Using the data below, calcuate the gross domestic product to the nearest thousandth for some reason.

Compensation of employees                            = 6933.213 bil.
Proprietor's income                                         = 832.667 bil.
Corporate profits                                             = 798.174 bil.
Net interest                                                      = 633.541 bil.
Rental income                                                  = 209.342 bil.
Depreciation                                                    = 1923.766 bil.
Indirect taxes minus subsidies                         = 867.903 bil.
Net factor payments to the rest of the world    = 10.452 bil.
Other                                                               = -140.377 bil.

     a. 10,446.265 bil.
     b. 13,398.106 bil.
     c. 12,068.681 bil.
     d. I can't answer because I've suddenly discovered something that I hate more than myself.

12. Which economic concept makes the best sounding title for a hit song?
     a. "Rule of 70"
     b. "Rational Expectations"
     c. "Crowding Out Effect"
     d. "Inflationary Situation (I Got One For You)"

5. To subscribe to Supply-Side Economics, which of the following must be assumed?
          I. A lower marginal tax rate incentivises investment.
          II. Aggregate supply is receptive to change in the short run.
          III. Air traffic controllers get what they deserve.

     a. I and II
     b. III and II
     c. Air traffic controllers get what they deserve.

8. Which of the following is considered a factor that is able to shift aggregate demand?
     a. Beaver dams

7. Oh no! John Maynard Keynes is lost! Can you help him find his way to totalitarian, socialist upheaval?

8. When you are dealt twin 9's, and the dealer is showing anything lower than a 7, do you...
     a. Hit
     b. Double Down
     c. Split
     d. Stand

9. Which of the following statements about national income are true?
          I. It includes all income accrued by US companies at home and internationally.
          II. It does not include net foreign factor income accrued within US borders.
          III. It does include indirect business taxes.

     a. I as well as II
     b. I, but neither II, nor III
     c. II can be safely assumed, but I is not not true in addition
     d. I is accurate, however III is true. It is also true that II is false.
     e. II and I and III are not true, unless they are, in which case a safe assumption can be made that all three (I, II, and III) are not not true, which is to say not false.
     f. IV

6. Can you calculate the nominal GDP using the data given below?


     a. 12,098.14 bil.
     b. Not enough information provided
     c. 27

13. How does the above graph make you feel?
     a. Anxious
     b. Slightly aroused
     c. Smug
     d. Extremely aroused

14. An economy is facing a shrinking GDP as well as a rising price level. Assuming that suicide is not an option, what would you do?
     a. Pardon Nixon
     b. Kill yourself
     c. Enact policy to return aggregate supply in the short run to its initial position in relation to aggregate demand
     d. Trip on something


Why do I hate you?
     a. You always ask questions in class right before we're supposed to leave, but you never ask questions when the professor asks if there's any questions and there's this incredibly awkward silence because we all know he wants someone to ask a question.
     b. I can hear you humming along to your iPod during lectures.
     c. We always pass each other in empty hallways which forces me to awkwardly acknowledge you even though I hate you.
     d. You made more friends in Intro to Business Writing than I did in 4 years of college.

So how did you do? If you think you did well, then I promise you did poorly. If you think you did poorly, then you probably did poorly. But if, instead of taking the test, you cast the computer to the floor, threw your window open, and simply breathed the fresh air of another summer day, then I am certain you did poorly. Fortunately, we're all young, attractive college students or recent graduates, so anything we do wrong is cute and funny until we're 30. Truly, if there was one piece of advice I would love to impart on all of you before I take my leave from the blog, it would be that Taco Bell may not be food technically. It is, however, cheap. And they dress everything up in so much sour cream their menu items can't help but be delicious. If you valued your life (and I mean really valued your life) you would never eat there. But on a similar note, if you really valued your life, would you ever have gone to college in the first place? Much like Taco Bell is for the poor and the self-destructive, college is for nerds. Why would you actively give thousands of dollars to a company just to read books that you also have to pay for and use scantrons that you also have to pay for. What I'm trying to say, my friends, is eat at Taco Bell. They try, gosh-darnit, and I'm pretty sure everything on the menu qualifies as vegetarian.

Good night, sweet cricket babies. Keep on chirpin'!


Scott Stutzman is a functional alcoholic and author of the books My Love, My Belgium and The Belgians: Why They Must Be Put Down. He invented mini golf and is the creator and lead contributor to the owl related greeting card related blog My Owls Are Better.

June 15, 2011

Macroeconomics a la Scott Stutzman

For those of you that are wondering, I am not Aarthi. Aarthi is a friend of mine who I met in the first grade when we were sharing the same boxcar shanty in San Cristobal. She has since recruited me to contribute to her blog today and tomorrow as she is presently in Thackerville, Oklahoma getting her teeth sharpened.

Be aware that a substitute being present is no excuse for any of you to slack off or murder anyone. I will be taking attendance, I will be providing a lecture, and I do issue spankings to miscreants and volunteers.

I feel that Aarthi's advice to business students, while being both insightful and abundant, is rendered almost useless without a brief refresher of what got all of us to this dark, dark place in our lives in the first place. I speak, of course, of macroeconomics. It is a subject that I pursued in mine own college days, and therefore am qualified to teach. (As an extra indication of legitimacy, here's a picture of me wearing a tie.)

Let's just dive right in, shall we?

The most important thing to know about macroeconomics, for some reason, is that it is not microeconomics. Macroeconomics is the study of resource allocation, supplies and demands, and every other imaginable concept through the examples of nation sized economies. Microeconomics is the study of similar concepts, but only as they apply to microscopic organisms. It, admittedly, is a rather asinine field of inquiry, yet it is still required subject matter for most degrees in microeconomics. One only has to look at the currency studied in both to notice the difference between the macro and the micro.

In the figure above, a penny used by the United States is on the left, and a penny used by the Confederacy of Micro Machines is on the right. A stark contrast begins to appear. Also, microeconomics is for jerks.

Macroeconomics, and indeed, economics as a whole is based on the concept of the unending duel between finite resources and infinite wants. Of course, in 2007, it was discovered that a simple solution would be to have infinite resources. So that's what they do now.

There are three sectors of industry when looking at the world on a global scale. The first is primary, which is the industry sector that produces raw materials, like carrots and old Volkswagens that get turned into sculptures of dinosaurs. They also specialize in things with only one wheel (unicycles.) The secondary sector specializes in manufacturing as well as things with two wheels (tandem unicycles.) The tertiary sector is services and things with three wheels. (It is interesting to note that economists have theorized that a quaternary sector exists somewhere deep in the Congo, where diamond-hoarding warlords and bipedal apes specialize in consultation and business solutions and things with four wheels. But come on... things with FOUR wheels? Come on!) (It is also interesting to note that after the end of the Cold War, the United States decided that they only needed the tertiary sector, as well as a special sector that deals exclusively in ring tone harvesting.)

There are four AND ONLY FOUR types of resources. They are land (you may know it as dirt!) capital (where the president, or el president lives,) labor (the Indonesians that you're "paying,") and entrepreneurial ability (any special talent the entrepreneur has; juggling, tap dancing, etc.) THERE ARE ONLY FOUR. STOP ASKING QUESTIONS.

A rookie mistake every aspiring economist makes is titling their graphs. If you have a book, and that book mentions anything at all about having to title your graphs, rip it out now. (And remember, I can see you through the screen.) Here is an example of a perfect graph.

Titling every graph as "Untitled" is a great way to get people to think that you're deep and mysterious. It tells the world that you're a loose cannon, and that you are not afraid to go back to prison.

Speaking of graphs, here's the graph for an economy's production possibilities curve.

This graph is important for two reasons.
1. It has the word "Pee-Pee" in it.
2. It demonstrates that guns and butter are made from the same things.

Let's examine the graph for supply and demand.

Notice anything strange? Maybe if we add an extra line.

Nothing weird here, right? Maybe if we get rid of some of the details we'll see a strange pattern appear.



The Laffer Curve was named as such for two reasons.
1. The fact that it looks kind of like a boob is a real laugh riot.
2. Every economist is functionally illiterate.

Calculating GDP through expenditures is accomplished by the equation...
GDP = C + I + G + Xn
If this is too complicated, I created a mnemonic to help you remember.
GDP = Charlie Injoys Soccer XylophoNe

Real GDP is always adjusted to reflect inflation. Here is a graph showing aggregate supply in the long run charted against Real GDP and the price level.

Imaginary GDP is always adjusted to reflect wonderment. Here is a graph showing aggregate supply in the long run charted against Imaginary GDP and the price level.

Banks add money to the national supply through the process of loaning funds at interest. The main principle at work here is known as the Money Multiplier. It is a small device in the basement of every bank that, through ingredients unkonown, prints out free money. You and I call it a "color copier."
Extra Credit! Use the Money Multiplier in your office to create your own free money and use it to pay the kid that mows your lawn!

To fully understand Okun's Law, it helps to imagine it as if it were a big birthday cake. Just like your average birthday cake, it states that a GDP gap of 2% occurs for every one percentage point that actual unemployment exceeds the natural figure and happy birthday.

The concept of comparative advantage on the macroeconomic level is best done through exciting, pulse-pounding charts.

Assuming both Economy A and Economy Belgium are producing at maximum efficiency with all resources allocated, they can produce 28 Honey Bunches or 14 Oats, or 21 Honey Bunches or 24 Oats respectively. Of course, by calculating the opportunity costs associated with each product, it becomes clear that through specialization and trade both economies end up with more than they started with. This is very important to remember because there are only two economies on earth, and they can only make two perfectly exchangable products, and this is how the world works.

Speaking of international economics, it is vital to learn about how the US dollar acts in the global market. The trade balance between the United States and Brazil, for example, becomes less favorable as the US dollar appreciates in value and exports decrease. Conversely, the US dollar will never depreciate. NEVER. DO NOT ASK ANY MORE QUESTIONS.

I tried to find the Money Market once, but I got sidetracked by a sandwich.

The federal government has four tools they use to shape the state of the economy. They are open market operations, the reserve ratio, jewel heists, and the discount rate. And once they reach level twenty on multiplayer, they unlock a grenade launcher.

Well, that about wraps it up for today. Look over this outline for the rest of your life, because there will be an exam tomorrow. Remember, the exam will include topics covered here, topics covered in any lectures, and things I mumble to myself as everyone leaves the classroom.


Scott Stutzman is a functional alcoholic and frequent guest lecturer at Pepperdine University. He studied economics at Brown by going to the first and last lecture of every unit. He has sold millions of books under the pen name Stephenie Meyer and is the creator of the owl related greeting card related blog My Owls Are Better.

June 14, 2011

Signal in the Noise

I was sitting in a coffeeshop yesterday practicing interviewing with my best friend (*waves at her*) when she pointed out to me that I'm much more subdued in my "interview mode" than I am in Real Life, in my Normal Life. I hadn't even realized it, but when she pointed it out to me I started putting the cards together.

I realized that I was subdued in interviews because I've been told to be subdued in interviews. I've been told to keep my hand gestures to a minimum, to be pleasant and controlled and utterly bland. But, at the same time, I'm supposed to have verve, personality, a certain je ne sais quois that transcends the interviewer. My feedback has always been polarizing; be more, be less.

Be honest, but coach and prep your answers. Be cheerful, but not too excited. Be courteous, but not reserved. Playing the middle of the road of all of these simply makes one bland.

So, how do we separate the signal from the noise? What advice should we be following in an interview? I think maybe that the first rule -- the oldest rule -- is the best one to be following:

Know your audience.

It's that simple. Marketing firm? Be really funny and outgoing, talk and laugh and smile and gesture. Accounting firm? Cheerful but buttoned-down, with a touch of cool geekiness.

Consulting firm? This one's trickier; you want to sound practiced, but effortless, with the same kind of energy that a marketing firm wants but with the control of an investment banker. Consulting firms want you to always be thinking, just like investment bankers want you to always be closing. Finally, remember the clutch question of a consulting hire: would I want to be trapped in an airport with this person for a 4-hour layover? If the answer is yes, you're in.

Startup? This one's tricky, too. This is likely a fairly casual company, but you still want to come off as polished and pro. Have a sense of humor, and know their sandbox as well as one can. Have a good idea about their scope, and don't be afraid to ask tough financial questions.

The list goes on, but ultimately the most important thing is to be aware of your audience, and be who they want you to be, as mercenary as that sounds. Then again, this is exactly what you do on a cover letter: demonstrate why you are right for the position.

The other piece of advice I've received that trumps all the others is, likewise, direct:

Be yourself.

Trite as it may same, don't put on airs or misrepresent yourself. Be honest, be direct, and be loyal to yourself and your image of yourself. After all, if you aren't loyal to your own brand, how can anyone else be?

June 13, 2011

A Very Special Episode

Today's blog entry is the above video, but I'll recap its contents here a little bit. We're talking about phone interviews, and how to ace them. Below are the five tips I provide in my podcast:

  1. Smile!
  2. Keep your résumé in front of you.
  3. Have a charger handy.
  4. Practice a phone interview beforehand.
  5. Keep a glass/bottle of water handy.

June 12, 2011

Time Crunch

As I don't really have the time today to write up a full post about something businessy, I'm going to link to this article instead, about social media. As with most things, I don't agree 100%, but I think this is a valuable article nonetheless, and certainly applicable to more than a few people I know personally, ha.

For myself, I work to keep a pretty solid division between my personal life, my "real" life, and my online "life". In addition, I don't have a Smart Device of any kind, significantly hindering my ability to be connected 24/7 to social media outlets. That said, I've spent nearly ten years trawling through the blogosphere, various bulletin board systems, Xanga, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and back to blogs. There's a lot of noise out there, and a lot less...netiquette than there used to be.

June 11, 2011

30 Seconds and a Lot of Heart

There's basically three secrets to a good answer to "Tell me a little bit about yourself." Let's talk about them!

1. Follow your resume

The best advice I ever received about this came to me roundabout in a conversation about good interview responses. When I finally asked my coach how one should respond to this, she told me to follow my resume. Here's how you do that.

Origin - Mention briefly where you come from. If you went to university far from your point of origin, mention.

College - Mention your university program, why you chose it, and when you graduate(d).

How Valuable - Segue into your job search by discussing how well you've been able to apply your education to your work experience. Don't go into too much detail, but one concrete example is worth having just in case of a follow-up.

Relax - You're almost at the end of your resume! Here, talk about the Activities you have listed on your resume, and why you joined them. Marching band, volunteering, or Greek life are all worth name-dropping, as your interviewer's response may surprise you!

Ending - Finish out by not-so-subtly pointing out that your experience and education make you a prime candidate for the position. Don't be too forward here, as you could very well lose the interviewer's sympathy with arrogance. At the same time, lacking confidence at the end of this speech is the single best way to fully undercut yourself.

2. Practice!

Seriously, I cannot stress this enough: practice your blasted speech! I know far too many business majors who believe themselves to be above practicing, that they can just do it in the pressure cooker. If you're one of these people, awesome. But, frankly, I'm a very outgoing person myself, and this 30-second structured rundown feels so false as to be nerve-racking. So, I practice, and so should you!

Practice in front of a mirror, practice at your roommate, practice at your dog, practice at your best friend, practice at dinner, practice practice practice! It is absolutely imperative that you be able to deliver this entirely off the cuff, naturally, and without shame or self-consciousness.

That said, if you sound like an automaton delivering this speech, scrap it and write a new one. You need to sound natural and unforced without sounding rote. Find the balance; altering the pitches of your voice will help, but it's a bandaid for an arterial wound. That is, it's a small fix for a larger problem.

3. Eye Contact

Hold the recruiter's gaze for the entirety of your speech. I mean it. This is part of why you need to practice; the wall doesn't have a cornea or iris, but the interviewer does. You need to be able to look them in the eye without flinching, fidgeting, or flailing. Don't look away from them, even to think. If you must catch yourself, compose yourself by closing your eyes and taking a breath, rather than looking away.

But once you have this perfected, this most annoying first question will set the tenor of your entire interview. I can assure you; following the OCHRE format should help you deliver a pitch perfect response. (Your ability to produce puns, however, I cannot speak for.)

For some really good examples of 30-second pitches, check out these videos from the PWC Pitch Contest.

June 10, 2011

Wax On, Wax Off

Heaven knows I've been stressed out of my mind before. And the selfsame knows that I have dealt with this stress in positive and negative ways. Here are three positive ways of dealing with a stressed-out life that won't get you arrested, in the hospital, or both.

June 9, 2011

Why Buzzwords Are Meaningless

As I continue to feel lame, enjoy this awesome video satirizing the jargon-filled business world we often find ourselves in:

And, if you want further parody, check out Unsuck-It. Apparently, all jargon-inventors are sacks of-- well, you get the picture.

Misplaced, Misdirected

I have a hilariously bad habit of forgetting things.

Well, I suppose this makes me a touch scatterbrained, but I've learned to overcome this, and I shall teach you how, as well!

1. Make lists

I love lists, and I'm always heartened to know that I'm not the only one. An accounting professor of mine once declared his love for lists in-class, and even sheepishly mentioned that he loved putting things he'd already done on there, just so that he could cross them out. Made him feel accomplished, which (frankly) I can completely understand.

Lists are a great way to have a full view of everything you need to do. Once you have a list -- of the most pressing concerns, or of all your concerns -- you can prioritize and map out a course of action. As with project plans, it's important to understand the full scope of a task before embarking on it.

And, just as important, when a task is complete, mark it through and let it be. If you've done your homework and if you are as good at your job/school/work/life as you believe yourself to be, then let a completed task remain untouched for a little while. Once you have distance, you will have perspective; it behooves you to give yourself time away.

2. Color Code

In addition to lists, I love colors. I know more than a few people who color-code large wall and desk calendars by task category.

Why bother with this? Well, for one, it makes it easy to see, at a glance, what kinds of activities dominate (or will dominate) your time in the present/near future. It's also an easy way to help you manage your time; if you have a lot of personal commitments set to happen, then you know that you'll need to work out your professional commitments ahead of time.

In a similar vein, color-coding is a key way to know where things belong, and it makes a search for a specific item -- email, engagement, document, notes -- that much easier to find.

3. Be consistent

The last tip that helps me keep from forgetting things involves being consistent in my life. When I still lived on-campus, I would always hang my keys on a hook by the door, my glasses belonged on the desk or in their case on my nightstand, and I kept library books on the sill lest I rack up overdue charges. Similarly, I would tack up the to-do lists on the corkboard above my desk, and papers went into folders that matched up with their notebooks: game theory in the red folder and red notebook, whereas international economics was all blues. I don't think I lost a single paper my entire college career -- until I purged at the end of each semester, of course.

Consistency is, however, a double-edged sword. When one develops a habit of keeping Item A in Location X, placing Item A absentmindedly in, say, the fridge (how many times have I found the TV remote control in the fridge? My gosh, too many) means that when we remember that we need Item A, we scramble desperately to find it. It's why stuff is always in the last place we look. (Of course, that's also because the last place we look is where we find things; we don't need to look anymore once an item is located! #ThisIsAPun)

That said, forcing yourself to keep to deeply rutted patterns is important, as it keeps you from losing things. And that, above all, is the goal. It might make you a bit boring, being so predictable, but if it means you never lose a page of notes from a client interview, or from an expert witnesses's trial prep, or your instructions from an account-holder of your fund, then perhaps a little boring is worthwhile. After all, consider how much value would be lost if you misplaced something!

June 7, 2011

Maximizing Synergy!

I thought about having a real entry, and then I just decided that I'd share this video about case interview from a Wharton-affiliated group. I love this video; it encapsulates so much about the case interview process that I can't help but adore it.

June 6, 2011

Browser Cache

Today we're going to talk about the top five internet sites that every business major should know about, and know how to use.

1. Google News

This might seem like a waste of a listing, but Google News is invaluable in staying up-to-the-minute with news, reports, and the general goings-on of the world we live in. Google News will often let you access exclusive content for free (free!) by clicking into a news article via Google. Combine with Google Reader, a feed aggregator, and you can read news, blogs updates, web comics, and even buzzes/tweets all on one handy page.

2. Alumni Network

Your school's alumni network is an invaluable resource for you to use. I spent much of last summer calling and emailing alumni, asking them for 20-30 minutes of their time to ask them about their jobs and career trajectories. It was a pretty fun project, actually, and really convinced me that I wanted to go into consulting. It also definitely convinced me to not do investment banking, ha. But in all seriousness, tapping your alumni network can be pretty amazing. Some students get case interview prep help, others a better and deeper understanding of just what it is they're getting themselves into. Either way, it's a time investment worth making -- and the earlier, the better!

3. Indeed.com

This is my favorite online job board. As someone whose major was woefully underrepresented on the business school's career services site, Indeed.com helped me find a bunch of positions that I was qualified for after I graduated and started to lose access to my school's career site. It's been a blessing.

4. Taleo

I'll be honest, I hate the Taleo hiring systems that more and more sites are using. For one, it's not as browser-compatible as a straight, HTML-based interface. For another, Taleo invariably makes my browser crash, and I lose a ton of tabs.

That said, it's the go-to software/database management tool that companies are using lately to manage resume drops. It's also not that complicated once you mess with it a little bit. Be sure to take your time with Taleo-based resumes, especially early on. Unfortunately, you can't make a Master Taleo Account (though oh, how I wish one could) so you'll have to register with every individual site. Also, be sure to use Internet Explorer with Taleo; the software, I've found, works best in that browser and is likely "native" to it.

Finally, before going into Taleo, make sure your documents are saved in .doc and .pdf. Every site, I fear, is a little different in what it allows, but .doc is still near-universal, and .pdf is as well. PDF files have the added bonus of being unalterable.

5. Investopedia

The Wikipedia of finance and economic types, Investopedia is your tool for understanding the vernacular of the business world at large. Plus, the site has extensive articles about economics and finance topics covering a broad range of subjects. Spend some time clicking through articles and learn a little bit more about your concentration. Marketing and strategy topics receive reasonably good coverage as well. The site has a really robust database and is generally well laid-out.

Of course, if it's just buzzwords you're after, you may wish to consider Unsuck-It.

June 5, 2011

The Red/Green

Last night I went out with some friends of mine. In the morning, when I tallied up my expenditures, I realized that I had spent more than I had intended. Which led me to this conclusion: peer pressure is a total pain! So here's some tips on How to Scrounge By Without Getting Your Wallet Busted.

1. Use Cash

Set a budget for yourself before you go out for the night/week. And then make sure you stick to it by using cash only all night. I know when I went out with friends while I was still on my college campus, this helped me avoid those hilariously awful stories of waking up and finding yourself out nearly $100 on drinks, dinner, midnight pizza, and all of the other miscellany expenses that seem to crop up during a night out.

A corollary to this is to hide some of your money from yourself. For example, I keep an "emergency twenty" behind my credit cards sometimes in case The Worst happens -- we have to call a cab, I have to bail someone out of jail, whatever. (While that's never happened, well. You never know.) I also don't bust out the debit card unless absolutely necessary; cash keeps me in the green. Plus, if I've spent $40 in a night, and drinks are $2, then I've definitely had enough to drink. Which brings us to the next point...

2. Seek Out Specials

This is, essentially, the coupon-clipper's night out. Find out if the bars around you have specials, and take advantage of them. Go for house instead of top shelf in your drinks, and 2-for-1 is your best friend. Unfortunately, this tip doesn't work as well in cities; where I went to college (in the Midwest) we had $2 Tuesday and $3 Thursdays. Plus $2 doubles on Mondays, not to mention the myriad other specials at the numerous bars, pubs, clubs, and miscellany watering holes. And restaurants. But I went to a less urban (but not less urbane!) university than most, and my friends who stayed in-city noted the higher prices in addition to the higher sales taxes.

3. Pregame at Home and Get in Early

If you're planning on going out to a club or a fairly popular bar, consider having a few drinks at home with your group prior to heading out. Much like you shouldn't go to a restaurant hungry, perhaps not being 100% sober isn't the best of ideas, either. Mind, don't go out sloppy, or else you won't be allowed in anywhere.

Similarly, you can oftentimes avoid being charged a cover by making sure you arrive somewhere before some threshold -- usually 11pm. Also, being female can sometimes be an advantage; Ladies' Nights are considered a "built in coupon" (rather than the price discrimination they really are) and mean your dollars can go farther.

Realizing that this has been over-21 specific for the last few tips, here's a couple more universal ones.

4. Split the Bill

If you go out with friends to a place with hilarious large portions (the Cheesecake Factory is a hilarious repeat offender for me, especially) skip the appetizer and the drink -- soda is marked up ounce for ounce, and water is better for you, as food is often over-salted in the U.S. anyway -- and split the entrée with a dining companion. Not only will you eat less (meaning more room for dessert, yum!) but you'll also halve the price of your dinner. For a plate that can run as much as $14, that's a pretty solid savings, for your waistline and your wallet.

5. Simply Abstain

It sucks to be the Debbie Downer, but hey someone's got to take the role from time to time. If you're on a pretty strict budget, limit yourself and stick to your guns. Can't afford lasertag? Go, but wait out the game elsewhere. Popcorn is, I've found, the best investment food-wise; it's not too filling, but provides a nice, salty contrast to the sweetness of most mixed drinks. Furthermore, it isn't as messy as peanuts or nearly so filling as they are.

Frankly, I kind of wish I had abstained more last night. But it was a good time, and I enjoyed being around the group that went. I hadn't seen them in ages, and it was a pleasant evening nonetheless. It's not something that I can do regularly whatsoever, but it was a good time regardless, and to me it was a worthwhile expenditure for people that I don't get to see very often.

That said, I will need to be more conscientious of my finances as I move forward. Lacking any real nest egg (for which I kick myself constantly!) I need to take on the initiative to be much more fiscally responsible. Food is my greatest weakness, and food prices are climbing ever high. Recognizing where my expenditures are highest -- clothes, food, shoes, DVDs, whatever -- is the first step to trimming the fat from your money. Consider tools like Mint or similar software on your bank's site to track your finances, and make sure you have your daily account summary being emailed to you. (And that you're checking it for mysterious expenditures!)

As a a wise fella once said, it isn't easy being green. But frankly, I think we'd all much rather be green than red.

June 4, 2011

You've Got (Embarrassing) Mail!

Have you ever been told to not judge a book by its cover? Well as trite as that advice is, most recruiters (sadly) don't abide by this. So today we're going to talk about How Not To Look Like a Fool on Your Resume. Aka: your email address is embarrassing.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I have an "embarrassing" email account. It's a non-professional address and I've had it since 2006. (I had another, less professional account before that, as well.) I love this email account. Gmail doesn't delete anything, meaning I can search for photos my friends emailed me in high school, chat logs dating back to when Google Chat launched, and my college application essays.

That said, when I made myself business cards (something we'll talk about in the future) I knew that putting this email address on the cards just wouldn't be appropriate. So I made a new address -- the address I blog with, no less! -- and put it on there. I honestly didn't use it for much else, but it existed.

Gmail (and, frankly, most email clients) has nifty features, like mail forwarding and linking accounts. This means that while I don't have to sign into three different email accounts constantly, I still have 100% access to my more professional account at all times. Furthermore, I can send emails from my less-professional account as my professional count. I even had my mail rigged to auto-reply as the professional account to emails sent to that address, complete with a custom signature specific to that account.

More than one recruiter/professional has gone on the record and said that your email address matters. It's right there at the top of your resume, it's how recruiters contact you about job opportunities and/or interviews, and it's your "face" in their inbox.

Which is why sports_and_ladykillah4418@hotmail.com (dear gods I hope this isn't a real account) is really not going to cut it. Aside from Hotmail pretty much being the worst online mail client ever (in my opinion), would you hire someone whose mail handle was that? I'm going with no.

Look, setting up a secondary email account -- and for heavens sake, please check it regularly if you aren't going to sync it up with another account -- takes fifteen minutes, tops, and Gmail went into open beta years ago. Invest in a professional email address, and don't rely on your university email forever. Eventually, your school will shut it down, and you're better off having something for the long term. If not for your own personal edification, then to save yourself the expense of reprinting business cards.

Planning Ahead

So, for all of my highfalutin dreams of Keeping Ahead of the Curve, I find myself here with a little more than half an hour left in "today" and scrambling to type up a blog entry. This, after I've just spent the evening amongst friends I haven't seen in 1-3 years. So this seems as apt a time to talk about the merits of planning ahead!

So, I think we all know why we should plan ahead. It gives you wiggle room, it allows you to mitigate risk, it lets you have trump cards when your life is pelting lemons at you. And it lets you recognize when a metaphor is quickly unraveling even as it mixes, ha.

But planning ahead is so much more than just the anticipated. It's also the unanticipated. It's being asked, two weeks before your project plan indicated that you were to have your rough draft finished, that you need to take your research and outline back to square one. It's dealing with your grandmother's funeral even as you have to rush to finish a group business case worth 35% of your final grade. It's realizing that you've put two economics majors on a marketing plan and wondering why the ad looks, to your eyes, ugly as sin.

So how do we plan ahead adequately? The best planning ahead tool I've ever used is a critical path diagram, believe it or not. With its node-based plots, I was able to determine a critical path in my project, and focus my efforts in that.

Honestly, I think more business students need to take an operations class earlier on in their education. There's an adage that ruminates on how hard it is to break bad habits, but so very easy to learn them. When fresh-out-of-high-school students are thrown into multitudes of group projects -- as most business school curriculae are structured -- they quickly pick up bad habits and refine these to the best of their ability. We need to be teaching our business students that planning ahead also means being ready to focus the bulk of our attention on critical steps in the project process. Only recognizing these critical steps can we effectively manage project risk.

Huh, I guess I had a post after all.

June 2, 2011

Baskets and Chickens

Today we're going to talk about those two horrifying cliches of life: putting all of one's eggs in one basket, and counting chickens before they hatch.

Eggs in One Basket

This is so easy to do and absolutely potentially lethal. For those of you who aren't familiar with this phrase, it basically means you aren't distributing your risk; instead of diversifying, you (for example) invest all of your capital in one thing, manufacturing or something. Which is awesome when manufacturing is on the up-and-up, but say textiles or steel or cars or whatever see a huge setback. Maybe all of the cotton is plagued with fungus, or there's a steel shortage or a UAW strike. Something is happening and these industries are seeing a massive tumble. Congratulations, you're losing wealth -- wealth you wouldn't have lost if you had invested in, say, manufacturing and tech and banks, or whatever.

In a similar way, your job search is like an investment, and it's very easy to find that you're exposing yourself to a lot of unnecessary risk via your job search strategy. Say you're, oh, a business economics major with a co-degree in public policy analysis. Awesome! Congratulations, hypothetical student. You would be great in consulting, economic research, or perhaps even working for a lobbyist or federal agency. You're so awesome. But let's say that you really just want to do consulting. As in, it's your life passion, and the more you hear about it the more you feel like it's right for you. Awesome. So you apply for consulting and analyst-type positions only. Congratulations, you've basically opened yourself up to a ton of risk.

In this (admittedly convoluted) metaphor, you are the investment capital. If you choose to shop yourself to the consulting firms (and only the consulting firms) then you're limiting your opportunities considerably. There's a ton of industries that you could be working in to start with, and you could do a whole lot more at a startup or a smaller consultancy than you could realistically at a larger firm. Analyst positions are pretty comparable across the board, as well, so you could leverage former experience into a later position and demonstrate your real value.

Finally, this phrase could also mean that you're leaning on one job to pull through for you. We'll talk more about this in the next section.

Chickens Before They Hatch

Don't start making Epic Life Plans before you have the interview; I am, right now, doing my absolute best to not allow this to happen to me. For myself, this is partially not my fault. The company asked me some questions that have tracked my mind into starting on the road of Epic Life Plans. And that road just leads to serious disappointments.

Counting your chickens before they hatch means taking for granted some exceptionally risky thing. In this case, it's getting the interview, the offer, the job. In life, it's assuming that things are going to go your way even when the odds are not obviously in your favor.

So what do we do about this? Keep applying. Send your resume every day, even if the company is courting you hard, even if the job looks like a lock, just send it out every. single. day. Don't give up, don't hang your hat, just send out that resume even while you're juggling interview prep and company researching. Prevent counting chickens by getting it done.

(I'll be honest, I just watched my Dallas Mavericks win a tough game. I don't have the heart to blather on about expecting the impossible when I just saw something that seemed nigh impossible just happen. So hey. Perhaps, sometimes, a little hope and prayer and sweat equity will also get you what you want.)

June 1, 2011

Motivation, Motivation

School's out, it's warm and sunny (hopefully) outside, and you've just come off of a week (or two) of intensive testing and are ready to kick back for three months. Right?

Wrong! Welcome to the next stage of your life: job-hunting. I've mentioned before how job-hunting is a full-time job. While it was well and good for me to blather on about it, here's some tips for keeping you on the straight and narrow, focused on that big end goal: The Offer.

And We're Off!

So begins my 100 DAYS OF BLOGGING starting TODAY! :D Coming up in the next half hour: a post on how to stay motivated in your job search!