Tuesday, September 23, 2014

First Impressions

I don't know when the last time was that I flew on JetBlue.  This may have been my first, but even if it was not, it was "like my first time."  I have to say that the airline made a positive impression on me.  Why?  I cannot recall the last time I was on a US domestic flight that lasted just over an hour on which I was served both soda and a choice of chips or cookies for free!

That made an impression on me.

In fact it made so much of an impression on me that I decided to put a comment on Twitter about it using my professional account.

What made an even bigger impression on me is their social media strategy.  Specifically, I had hashtagged JetBlue (i.e., #JetBlue) and before I was out of Terminal C at Boston Logan, someone at the airline had Tweeted a reply.

Customer service in two ways.

First impressions go a long way.

Not sure when the next time will be that I will fly somewhere that JetBlue goes--but when I do, I will definitely take that option.

That reminds me of three other things.  First, the AACSB (a voluntary accreditation organization for business schools) has had a conference in Baltimore since Sunday that that focused on the finer points of accreditation.  I went as I am continuing to familiarize myself with the process of accreditation that I am ultimately in charge of at the school.  Yesterday, we had a chance to host a hospitality event at the end of the day.  I am waiting on a final count, but we had a great turnout and I was the senior school representative there.  I had a chance to tell my colleagues about our school in a way that featured its strengths even more than just seeing it could do.  This was the school's first impression on a lot of colleagues.  They liked what they saw and they liked what they heard.  We made a positive impression on them and they made a positive impression on our staff who helped with the event.  While the smaller schools may or may not be the ones who eventually come for the site visit, the smaller schools do serve on the initial accreditation committee.  I am hoping that this was a great way to help build our social capital with our colleagues.

Next, while the staff representative to JHU at AACSB did not make it to the event, I had an opportunity to meet with her an a colleague over lunch.  Afterward, I asked if she would like to see our facilities.  That made a positive impression on her as well.

Finally, there are the impressions I make on colleagues.  Most first impressions are good because people want to seem to continue to work with me.  My concern is further impressions.  Those are not always perfect.  In fact, I have had some colleagues not want to work with me.  In a lesson on my own branding, I have to rethink some commitments to make sure that what I commit to can actually be completed.  Otherwise, all the positive first impressions in the world will mean nothing in the end.  I am only human.  I need to learn to admit that before starting a project rahter than when I cannot finish it.  

The ups and downs of first impressions are critical to consider in the business world. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Value of Education--and How to Measure It

A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal asks whether colleges are producing "career ready graduates".  

Some may debate whether this is the right question to be asking.  Form a traditional liberal arts point of view, the goal is (as the piece states at the end) to produce critical thinking adults.  In my mind, that translates into adults who can solve problems and think creatively and critically.  These individuals should be "ready for careers."  Or at least ready for the first job.

However, it is also reasonable to think that given what individuals are spending on college at this point in time that they might be prepared for careers and guided in important ways other than simply having a good liberal arts education and being critical and creative thinkers.

In business schools, students and administrators clearly recognize the value of the internship and how this can help to translate into job readiness.  Internships are just one way that individuals can help to prepare themselves besides rigorous coursework.  There are many other opportunities for work experiences while individuals are in an educational institutions.  

However, I believe that it is more than just an internship or a work experience.  

The article also discusses mentions mapping out a career plan.

If nothing else, colleges could present to their students a way to think about their careers in the long term.  Models for careers.  Models for transitioning to a first job or a next educational step with information on what the choices are, what they mean, and what the value propositions of the choices are?  Thinking ahead about next steps.  Thinking about what a lifetime of jobs and even careers might look like.  

Not to say that anyone can plan all of that out when he or she is an undergraduate.  But to expose students to the idea that there are opportunities to take multiple paths.  To take advantage of multiple directions in a career.  To change jobs.  To change careers.  To change directions.  And to do all of this with some sense of planning and some sense of where the person is going rather than simply being on a serendipitous random walk.  

Maybe a 22 year old can't even imagine all that can go on in a career and over a lifetime.  But I believe that even giving a hint of what a career might hold will make individuals better able to dream, plan, and consider how their careers and lives might evolve over time.  To position himself or herself to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves over time.  And to take hold of the opportunities and to run with them.  

That would make individuals ready for a career just as much having the skills for a first job.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Exercise is a Lot Like Work--or is the Other Way Around?

A recent Wall Street Journal article commented on how little things can make what should otherwise seem like an easy workout into a hard one.  The simple message from this article reminds me of the 20 mile race I ran two days ago.  My goal was under 2:30.  I did it, running a 2:29:57.  Couldn't cut it much closer.  And it is not the fastest I have ever run 20 miles but with 12 weeks to go until my next marathon and the temperature being 75 degrees with very high humidity at 8 AM (race start time), I did just what I planned.  

That is the key.  For a workout to go well, we must control what we can control.  How much rest?  How hard was the last workout?  Are we varying our workouts?  Are we getting enough sleep?  Are we concentrating too much on other things?  (See the picture below to find out what happens when I concentrate on too many other things while running and take a fall leading to four weeks in a wrist brace.)  Can we focus on the workout itself and not on other stresses?

In any case, there are some things that we can control and some things that we can't.  I meticuluously trained for eight weeks leading up to the 20 mile race.  And despite the uncontrollable--weather--I succeeded.  Do I always succeed?  No.  Earlier this year despite equally meticulous training for a 5K on a course with which I am very familiar I didn't get the PR I was hoping for.  But I did what I could and still had a good showing.

So it is with our careers and business.  There are things we have control over.  Our appearance.  Our sleep (just as important for work as for exercise).  Our effort level.  Our continuing to learn.  If we take what we can control and make sure that we maximize our effort and maximize our attention, then we maximize our chances of success.  There will always be events we cannot control.  What we must hope for is that by maximizing our attention to detail on the things we can control that we get as close to success as possible.

So, I'm not quite sure if this is a lesson from exericse for work or the other way around, but it is an important lesson for both for me and for anyone trying to succeed in life.