Archive for September 2010

Guest Post: You are NOT There for the Food

September 27, 2010

Dr WoodyWhen presented with a flavorful array of tasty options it’s hard to resist the temptation to indulge, particularly when you are a starving student. There is something strangely enticing about the novelty of that daily special or those wonderful little bite-sized items perched on little white doilies. However, when it comes to the art of the lunch interview or the science of working the room at a networking event, remember, you aren’t there for the food! You are there for the meeting… and you are being watched.

A Lesson Learned

When it comes to navigating the business lunch, I’ll never forget a lunch meeting I had a number of years ago with a former student of mine. She was my star student from an organizational psychology class I taught during my time as a doctoral student. I was very excited to see her as she had recently started her first professional job for a Fortune 500 company. She was just learning the ropes and wanted to get some advice from me on how to best deal with operating in the business world. She was about to teach herself a valuable lesson.

Just a few minutes into the meeting I was quickly reminded of how new she was to this game. When the server came over she promptly ordered the restaurant’s signature “monster” burger. My immediate thought was “oh boy, this should be interesting.” As she was somewhat of a dainty young woman, I knew this would present a unique impediment to good conversation. Needless to say, when this half-slab of a cow showed up oozing at all sides, her face was overcome with concern. For the remainder of the lunch the poor girl struggled though it, desperately trying to protect her white silk blouse. It wasn’t a pretty sight and needless to say, she learned a good lesson.

Remember, it’s not about the food, it’s about the conversation. If you really are looking to make a meaningful connection, the food should be secondary. Sometimes going with the conservative no-mess choice can help keep you focused on the task at hand.

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a coach and author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy. Dr. Woody is president of the consulting firm HCI, sits on the Academic Advisory Board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership, and holds a PhD in organizational psychology.


How to understand the corporate culture at your internship

September 27, 2010

You’re off to a great start at your new internship—you complete your assignments on time, you like your co-workers, and your supervisor seems pleased with your work. But to be truly successful at your new internship, you have to understand and “fit in” to the corporate culture. Corporate culture is the personality of an organization or “how things are done around here.” It guides how employees think, act, and feel. The culture of an organization is based on the values of senior management.

Here are our top 5 tips on how to understand corporate culture:

  1. Assess the values, standards, and behaviors of the corporate leadership. Start by reading the company history and the biographies of the corporate leaders. Annual reports are also an excellent source of information on the company’s achievements, challenges, or changing values. The corporate mission statement and the slogan also reveal company values.
  2. Evaluate the company standards. Does it sponsor charitable events or champion local sports teams? Employee newsletters will also reveal company standards in terms of how employees are treated. Look for articles on employee award, bonus, or incentive programs as well as company holiday events and number of vacation days.
  3. Explore company behaviors, including dress and language. The age of employees is also another guidepost to behavior. Study the dress code, office space, and onsite perks, such as a cafeteria or fitness center. Does your company take a parental approach to its employees or does it encourage independence?
  4. Analyze your supervisor’s leadership style. Many leaders possess a combination of styles, including mentor, advocate, voyager (introduces change), inventor (forecasts futures), sculptor (takes action), curator (clarifies goals), orchestrator (organizes), or detective (compares situations).
  5. Model company values. Your ability to fit in to the culture will determine whether or not you enjoy your internship. During your internship, the company is your community, and your happiness in that community affects your job performance. Companies hire people who fit in, so model your professional appearance and behavior to reflect the corporate culture, ensuring your success.

How to set goals at your internship

September 24, 2010

How you set your goals often determines if you reach your goals and if you receive credit for your achievement.  Remember that goals change quickly in many companies, so clarify, and clarify, and then clarify again.

Here are our top 4 tips for goal-setting at your internship:

  1. Get organized. Your internship may not be clearly defined, and you may think the best strategy is to keep your options open and see what happens. But unfortunately you’ll end up with too many choices or goals, which will slow you down from reaching any of them.  Sit down with your supervisor to map your goals early in your internship. Trust your supervisor to give you accurate directions. And always recheck your supervisor’s expectations and goals with him. Emphasize that your goal is to contribute your skills in a way that generates value and substance for the employer.
  2. Be proactive and take part in shaping your assignments and goals, so you’ll be viewed as a key player, who produces quality work. If you’re part of a team, initiate good relationships with the other members, soliciting their advice and opinions. Let them know that you expect to contribute to their success. Adjust your ego to the group, acknowledging that the success achieved will be a collective endeavor, not an individual one. Ask good questions, such as what form of communication do you prefer? How often? How can I be helpful? What else can I do?
  3. Under promise and over deliver. Protect yourself in your new internship by under promising and over delivering. It’s always better to say that the project will take a week and then deliver it in one day. If you feel overwhelmed by your supervisor’s goals or the schedule is unrealistic to you, it’s better to ask your supervisor to prioritize the goals, allowing you to complete them in order. If necessary, reach fewer goals but exceed expectations each time.
  4. Research the goals. Before you rush into setting and meeting goals, spend some time researching them. Collect and evaluate information on the goals. Explore implications and then implement the best solutions to reaching the goals in a timely manner. When you identify problems, clarify them and consider solutions. Then, talk with your team and supervisor on how to proceed. Demonstrating your ability to solve problems makes you a valuable member of a team that reaches its set goals.

Legal or not? Why you need to look beyond paid vs. unpaid to assess your internship

September 24, 2010

This past spring and summer, there was a lot of debate over paid vs. unpaid internships as well as the Department of Labor’s internship guidelines without much resolution. What about reframing the question so that salary is taken out of the discussion?

Heather Huhman, an experienced hiring manager and career expert, does a great job of highlighting five other factors to consider when evaluating whether an internship is legal or not, including opportunities for mentorship, networking, and recognition. Whether you’re considering a fall, winter, or spring internship or are just starting to think about your summer intern options, this is a great post to check out to help guide your thinking.

3 steps to: Jumpstart your internship search

September 23, 2010

It’s September (almost October…) and hopefully you’ve gotten adjusted to the new school year, new dorm, new roommate, and new classes. The one other thing this year you’re going to need to figure out is the new internship search schedule. In past years, you could have safely started looking in January, maybe February, and probably even March and been fairly confident you’d find a good internship. These days, employers and students are starting earlier. Like now.

To make this manageable and ensure that it doesn’t cut into your school, sports, social, or nap time, here are three easy ways to start your internship search now and make sure you’re not falling behind on the new hiring schedule.

  1. Register with your career service office

This is one of the best things you can do for your search. While the process differs from campus to campus, most of the time you can sign up for daily or weekly emails with relevant internship and job opportunities, targeted intern and career fairs, and events and workshops on campus. You’ll also have the chance to talk with someone who knows how to help you find what you’re looking for. This is the easiest thing you can do right now and one of the most effective!

  1. Take the Internship Predictor (

Not sure what type of internship you’re interested in? Maybe you have an idea but need some more guidance on the specifics such as type of manager, office culture, size of company, etc.? The Internship Predictor is a quick (10 minutes!) way to assess your interests, aptitudes, and ideals in order to hone in on what you’re looking for in your next internship opportunity. Plus, you can take this and then use it to guide your conversation about what you’re looking for with your career advisor (see above) or professors (see below).

  1. Introduce yourself to your professors

You already know that relationships are integral to the internship and job search. Your professors are ideal people to connect with as they not only know you and your work, but also people working in different fields, industries, companies, and organizations. But don’t wait to approach your professors until the end of the term! You need to cultivate these relationships over the next few months. A few easy ways to do this:

    • Introduce yourself after class one day
    • Drop by for office hours to ask questions about an assignment or reading
    • Actively participate in class whenever you can

By the time you ask your professor for people you can talk with about internship opportunities, she’ll not only know you but will want to connect you with people she knows.

In Defense of 20-Somethings

September 22, 2010

Did you see the New York Times Magazine’s cover article, “What is it about 20-somethings?”.

The author, Robin Marantz Henig, poses the question:

“Why are so many people in their 20s taking so long to grow up?”

Henig states that “The traditional cycle [where kids finish school, grow up, start careers, make a family and eventually retire to live on pensions supported by the next crop of kids who finish school, grow up, start careers, make a family and so on] seems to have gone off course, as young people remain untethered to romantic partners or to permanent homes, going back to school for lack of better options, traveling, avoiding commitments, competing ferociously for unpaid internships or temporary (and often grueling) Teach for America jobs, forestalling the beginning of adult life.”

There were plenty of responses to this article, but one of my favorite ones was by Lindsey Pollak, author of College to Career and the LinkedIn Global Spokesperson. Pollak points out that “There is no “one size fits all” adulthood” and that today’s “20-somethings just want what we all want: the opportunity to live life on our own terms and in our own time frames.”

The initial article in the NYT Magazine is long, but offers a fascinating glimpse into the ongoing discussion about “the changing timetable for adulthood” and what is up with the millennials.

Work here: highlighting awesome office culture everywhere

September 21, 2010

Chances are good that you’ve bought a t-shirt or two from Threadless, an open-submission shirt company located in Chicago and Boulder. But have you seen their offices? Imagine working in their customer service “Crafty Lounge”, complete with fireplace with stockings and fuzzy stuffed animal heads over it. Somehow, I bet that makes angry customer calls seem much more manageable. Want to do this in your dorm room or apartment? The great folks at Threadless have a tutorial on how to create your own “Stuffed Animal Mounted Trophy” wall.