Must-Haves for New Pros


So, you are embarking on your journey as a PR or marketing professional. You have your education and business attire, but there are a few other things that every new professional must have. While none of these things are particularly expensive, if you don’t have the extra cash, tell mom and dad you’d like a new pro starter kit for Christmas. It’s one gift they’d probably be happy to give!

My handy dandy padfolio containing my generic business cards!

  1. Business cards. When you are first starting your career, there is a good chance you will move from internship to internship for a while. During this time, the organizations you work for probably won’t make business cards for you and if they do, they will be outdated as soon as you are on to your next position. Until you are settled with a company that you know you will stay with for a while, I suggest having some generic business cards made with your name, industry and contact information. There are plenty of online printers that make it cheap and easy like Vistaprint.
  2. A padfolio. These things are great for conferences, interviews and on the job. Great for keeping your resume, business cards, a pen and whatever else you may need all in one spot. Mine is similar to this one at Staples and it has had a ton of use in the last few years.
  3. Thank-you cards and stamps. Never under-estimate the power of a handwritten thank you. Always send a thank you note after an interview, informational interview, the end of an internship, or sometime someone just helps you out. Don’t wait until after one of these events to go buy thank you cards and stamps, keep them on hand (perhaps in your padfolio)! For interviews it is especially important to get your thank you delivered as soon as possible. Write that note in that in the car, stamp it and stick it in the mail before even going home. For the actual cards, you don’t have to spend a lot on them, it’s about the content, not how fancy the card is. I’ve even bought some at the Dollar Tree. My one suggestion is to buy ones that look professional and appropriate regardless of gender.

I’m sure there are other things, but I think these three are biggies. What is your favorite career accessory?

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Random Business Acronyms


So, out and about in our semi-professional lives we have heard people spewing out random letters. We believe that most of these acronyms are made up by professionals in order to sound cool and important, rather than to actually serve a purpose. Regardless, when those around you are speaking what seems to be a different language, it can cause some confusion or the feeling that you are being left out.

Initially, when we heard or saw these random letters, our faces looked something like this:

Curiosity rather than necessity has driven us to look up some of these silly acronyms and others we figured out on our own. Here are some we’ve heard over the last few years that may help you out:

  • MOU – We’ve looked this up 5 times to remember while writing this blog…short and sweet it stands for Memorandum of Understanding. Still lost? So are we. Let’s dumb it down further. Wikipedia enlightens us with this description: “a document describing a bilateral or multilateral agreement between parties.” Glad we cleared that up.
  • EOD – “The delivery is expected by EOD.” Hhmmm, does this indicate a time or location? Not to worry, we’re here to help, your package will get to you by the End of Day.
  • COB – Kind of like EOD, you can tell this is a point in time because when you see COB, it is usually in an email that says, “I need this by COB” (yummmm, corn?). Those context clues should help you out, but just in case, COB=close of business.
  • Random “J” in emails – Oh yes, finally, that perfect employee made a typo on their email! Nope, yet again she’s perfect and sending you a smiley-face to “emphasize” her point (some email systems would turn the smileys into this awkward J so many people have simply reverted to inserting the letter)…damn her 🙂   J
  • TB – Oh, here’s one that sounds familiar! I’ve definitely heard TB before… Oh wait, they couldn’t possibly mean tuberculosis. Nope, TB is not the disease. So, if your manager says she wants to “TB” you have nothing to fear. She just means she wants to have a chat or get an update on something, but likes to say it in a cooler biz jargon way therefore she uses “touch base”.
  • KPI – “Let’s get those KPIs up or we may lose that client!” WTF?!?!? I’m going to lose a client based on something I don’t even understand! Well, they’re Key Performance Indicators, so get those metrics up and keep your new-professional job!
  • OOO – You will see this in an email or automatic reply that says something like, “I’ll be OOO Friday.” Sounds like a good time right? It could be, but it just means out of office.
  • V/R – This one is a formal email signature meaning “very respectfully”. They may respect you, but you aren’t tight enough to get a “thanks”, “take care” or even the semi-stuffy, “best”. They couldn’t at least write it out?

Now that we’re all on the same page we’ll TTYL!

Not Writing a Thesis


So, last week in my blog post I talked about the decision to go back to get my MBA, in this post I’m going to write about how I FINISHED the process!

In my MBA program at SDSU we had the option of writing a thesis or partaking in a business consulting project coupled with an exam. Affectionately known as BA795, I chose to participate in the business consulting capstone project. My decision was partially based on:

  1. Unless you plan on going into academia, a thesis is seen as somewhat worthless to many in the business community.
  2. Hiring managers like to see “results,” a project was more likely to give me that over a theoretical research paper.
  3. I like to give my opinions (one reason a blog is a fantastic option for me) – I like it even better when people listen!
  4. I one day would love to pursue a career as a marketing consultant and this was a nice mini-start.

For BA795 all participants were given a list of participating companies and the help they needed. The companies and projects ranged from huge hotel corporations needing a diversified marketing strategy to start-ups needing to know if their idea would pan out in the marketplace.  Each member of the upcoming graduating class ranked which project they would like to participate in, we were then assigned a group and a company to consult with.

So, here lies the crux of the situation. As groups were announced we all sat around like elementary school kids getting picked for dodge ball, “Will I getting picked for the ‘cool’ project?” “Will my group be a bunch of slackers?”

Typical

It’s the risk you take when you opt in for a group project rather than a solo thesis!

I ended up being assigned to a client that needed help with developing a branding/rebranding analysis along with three other MBA candidates. I knew one of the girls, Kari, personally and as much as I hate to admit this to her I knew she would make a fantastic group member 😉 (I have to keep up the teasing relationship we developed – Kari is actually one of the most dedicated and hardworking people I have had the pleasure of working with).  I had not had the pleasure of working with Adam and Melissa in my MBA career but I am SOOOOO glad they were my other group members! The four of us never had any issues with each other and everyone produced spectacular work ON TIME!

Once we jumped through some hoops and touchy issues with our two assigned advisers (who I still refuse to accept we needed) we were on a roll. Unlike other groups that had issues with difficult clients, our client was FANTASTIC! We met with a representative for our client’s organization who was understanding, compassionate of our time restrictions, incredibly accessible to any questions that arose, and warned us up front that even if our suggestions were not acted upon they were appreciated – dare I say it, they were the perfect client we’ll probably never see again in our consulting careers.

On the client side, I believe most of the companies came out of the experience with applicable real-world direction and information they could use to enhance their business – at a great cost! I reached out to our client representative to see why they considered coming to SDSU MBA’s for help: “I went with the SDSU MBA student consultant group not only because I was familiar with the program as a past participant, but also because I would get a fresh perspective and analysis based on techniques and applications the group had learned during their time in the MBA program. I’ve found the group’s final product to be a great road map and guideline to what the tribal development can be.”

Basically, our group was able to help our client with a fresh perspective and apply the education we had received. Along with our 200+ page report (that cost about $100,000,000,000 to print at Kinkos) we left this experience with applied knowledge and a group bond that we still have (even if these guys blew me off for happy hour this week 😉 ).

Getting Your MBA


My cap (and yes, I’m still available for hire)!

Some of the first feedback I recieved when I started telling people that I was trying to go back to school to get my MBA was: “You won’t get in”… “You need real-world experience”… “Without work experience more schooling is pointless”… “That’ll be a lot of money.”

When first trying to put pen to paper (or keys to online medium) regarding the topic “why go back to business school” I couldn’t think of anything. I knew my reasons but I know people have different reasons for going back to get their MBA at different points in their lives. So, to ensure I got the full spectrum I decided to ask a few of my fellow classmates.

Our reasons span the following for pursuing our MBAs

  • Hiding out from the recession
  • Networking
  • Opening up employment opportunities
  • Because we intrinsically wanted it

Below is some of the feedback I received from my fellow MBAers:

“I had finished my degree in psychology and realized I did not want to go into counseling or research. I decided that the best way to apply the skills from psychology to the real world was to go into business and that an MBA would be the best way to break into the field.” – Jason Hebert

Bret Fredrickson was the victim of company downsizing and had found himself unemployed. He saw his options as, “Spend[ing] my time writing countless cover letters or study for a test that to this day still makes me nauseous to think about (the GMAT).” Asking Bret about how he felt about his SDSU MBA program, he responded that it has, “opened a lot of doors that otherwise would have been shut… I met a lot of great people and heard a lot of inspiring stories that lit a fire under me. I gained a deeper understanding of the gray areas in business, and acquired the confidence needed to be direct, open, and to lead successfully. An MBA isn’t for everyone, and in no way is it more advantageous than actually running a business, but for me, it was a segue that launched an array of opportunities.” Bret gained an entrepreneurial attitude and Co-Founded SoftSkate a skateboard grip tape alternative company. Follow Bret’s upcoming endeavors on Twitter!

John McMillan, known lovingly as ‘Johnny Mac’ in our program (and as the kid that doesn’t wear shoes) thought that gaining an MBA would give his resume a competitive edge and land him a killer job. What he found was “the drive to start [his] own business, because who likes making money for someone else?” John also credits the program with expanding his professional network through his, “excessive involvement with competitions and business organizations that will truly help [him] succeed in the field of entrepreneurship. In the end it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that will make you successful!” – Seriously peeps, Johnny’s on the road to greatness with his enthusiasm so watch this kid!

Courtney Koscheka was also downsized out of a job and decided to seriously act on her lingering idea of heading back to get an MBA. When asked about how she felt about her situation she replied, “They seriously did me the biggest favor. I packed up my desk, called my mom on the way home, and went straight to the post office to get my application packets in the mail. Fast forward a few years later, and I’m now in a tremendous amount of debt and feel like I’m starting at square one in the work force, but I’ve made some of the most amazing friends a girl could ever ask for. In addition, not only have I made friends, I’ve added some amazingly talented and helpful people to my ‘network.'” Courtney is also a stellar blogger like Nicole and me, so make sure you check out her blog! To boot she has some interesting news about an emerging company!

Tara Taylor, Richa Saxena, Adrienne White, Meghann Reist Boyd, and Katie Lyons all indicated a mixture of a crappy economy, wanting to bolster their resumes, open new doors, explore new opportunities, and to meet new people as the reason they decided to get an MBA. (Be sure to follow what Meghann, Katie, and Courtney are collaborating on here!)

“I swore I’d never go back to school when I finished my undergrad. My 4 year undergrad degree was the most unguided 6 years of my life. I was fortunate to have good connections and landed a career building job and started working early, so I knew I could build on my work experience. . .Later on though I began to think differently. I realized I was fortunate enough to have good work experience, but it was difficult to “legitimize” that work experience. . . So I figured the MBA would help me meet new people, get exposure to other industries and skills, and add credibility to the skills I had already developed, plus work paid for some of it. So far I have been right; I have learned some stuff in classes, but the best value I have gotten out of my MBA is the people I have met and the exposure to new things that I would not have seen otherwise.” – Ross Bundy

“I did it…[for] the accomplishment of doing it for yourself. Everything else falls into place with determination, hard work and execution.” – Alex Henry 

“My mom got her master’s at SDSU when I was little; She had her diploma framed beautifully in her office and I always wanted the same thing. After working for about 5 years, I decided it was finally time to go back to school. It was a lot of long hours and hard work, but looking back it was a great experience and I now have the same beautiful diploma frame as my mom.” – Kari Evans

What we all got out of our experience was much of the same:

  • Meeting great and influential people. Not only each other (and we know we’ll all end up somewhere amazing) but incredible professors that inspired us.
  • Real world applications – our program was not just theoretical, and that’s essential for us trying to break into the different realms of businesses – we received a lot of applied instruction.
  • Finding our passion. Whether it be to create our own company (like Bret with SoftSkate or Courney, Katie , and Meghann with CKM Events) or discovering a facet in which you’re interested in (like me with marketing!).
  • Confidence. I tossed a post up on Facebook asking for help with this topic. I really expected some of these joksters to only write about the incredible debt we are in (which WAS mentioned) but the majority of the information was serious and EVERY.SINGLE.ONE. of them exuded the confidence that we will all become successful due to our obtaining our MBAs.

As a wrap-up. Every person I spoke with believes they received invaluable training in the 2 (often longer) years they spent (or are still spending) obtaining their MBAs. Besides the debt we are in, none of us would trade a second of our experience and education (well, I will say our capstone BA 795 was a bitch – more on that next week!).

Many of my classmates when we finally finished our MBAs! Obviously it was a tough road – illustrated by our glowing eyes.