Monday, March 29, 2010

My Service Learning Partner and Project

I am partnered with Cristo Rey Community Center in Lansing for my service learning project. Cristo Rey is a Catholic Charities Agency whose mission is “to care for the spiritual and social needs of individuals and families by offering services that encourage self-sufficiency and recognize the dignity of the human person.” The community center began in 1968, and has provided services to the community including: “a medical health clinic, prescription programs, senior and community kitchens, youth programs, diversion programs, employment and training programs, counseling programs, direct assistance, food bank, disability services, English and Spanish as a second language classes, and parenting programs.”

Patricia Welling, Administrative Manager at Cristo Rey, told me about a need for some kind of system to keep track of the food bank. They already have databases and entry systems for the actual cash flows, but not for the non-cash items such as food. Since Cristo Rey partially relies on grants from the government, as well as from individuals/companies, they have a need to document every transaction and every individual that they helped. Having these statistics will help maintain aid, as well as help to draw in additional donors. As you may have gathered, document creation that I will be assisting them with is an inventory/tracking database (using Excel/Google) for the food bank.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Service Learning

Service learning is a concept that incorporates community service and intern-like educational learning into a (hopefully) beneficial experience. I hope to apply what I have learned throughout my college career and help someone in the community, all while reaping the benefits of service learning. Many schools and universities are beginning to realize the importance of community service, as well as the educational benefits and real-world hands-on experience that students need to understand the education they are receiving. Service learning is almost like an internship, except that the organization that the student is working for is not for profit (which usually means their purpose is to help the community). Service learning is a wonderful idea that motivates students to become active members of their community, and if properly coordinated, helps students achieve the experience in their field that they will need for their future endeavors.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Workplace Culture and Effective Communication

To ensure effective communication in my future workplace I will employ these strategies:

• Learn and keep up on lingo used in the field of International Business (import, export, WTO, tariffs, embargo, etc.)
• Educate myself on the (business) culture of the country/region I will be doing business with before engaging in communication with prospective company.
• Maintain knowledge of different areas of the business world (accounting, finance, economics, trade law, etc.)
• Apply positive attitude/outlook throughout business dealings.
• Understand the diversity of ideals throughout the business world.

To an average person, the term import/export usually sparks images of a harbor with shipping containers being loaded and unloaded. The basic concept may relate to this idea, but understanding everything related to importing something from another country includes knowing what is being imported and how the laws of the country in question compare to those of the United States. For example, to import something from Cuba is currently (mostly) illegal because of the trade embargo. However, exporting is a completely different topic when it comes to Cuba and the trade embargo. In 2000, Congress allowed agricultural sales to the island on a cash basis (meaning you cannot trade $5 million of agricultural goods for $5 million of steel or computers because that would mean you were importing something). Every country is different and the knowledge required to import or export with another country varies depending on the country in question.

The business culture of the country/region you are doing business with is very important to understand so that you are not offended and so that you do not offend anyone. For example, in Middle Eastern countries, if you do not fluently speak the native language, it is frowned upon to even try as some people may think you are “murdering” the language. In some cases, if you are not a native (and even if you are fluent in the language), businessmen would rather conduct business in English (to some people, ethnicity and language are intertwined and a bias may also be present). In China, you are expected to be on time to a meeting, if not early; while in Spain, you may be on time or early but the Spanish culture does not put as much emphasis on punctuality (being at the meeting on time). This kind of knowledge is important even in English speaking countries like England. The traditional hand gesture in the U.S. for “peace” is the index and middle fingers up with the palm facing out, while if the same fingers are up but the palm is facing inward, it is a vulgarity equivalent to “giving someone the middle finger” in the U.S.

A degree in International Business usually means that a management position is yearned for. Being a manager in a corporate environment requires knowledge of many different fields such as accounting and finance. To produce reports for the company (or division), a manager must incorporate all of the information from accounting, finance, marketing, and production for facts and figures. This means that managers will have to be able to communicate with these departments, as well as to the board and stockholders.

The most important thing to remember is to be positive, even when things are looking negative. If there is evidence of lower than normal third quarter profits, emphasize the possibilities of the fourth quarter or the new developments from the R & D department that might help improve all parties’ attitudes.

Nobody wants to do business with a negative person.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Do's and Don'ts of Social and Professional Networking


If you want your Facebook page to be viewable by potential employers, or you just want to separate your friends, you can make a list specifically for professional colleagues and limit their access. This will help keep your personal and professional image separate.

Make sure you only put appropriate pictures on your profile. Before you put a personal photo on a webpage that professionals may be viewing, ask yourself: “Would I hang this picture on the wall of my office?”

Find people that you worked with at previous jobs and add them to your connections/friends list. These people can be prospective references who can help you get a job.

Use LinkedIn for more than just putting yourself out there. If someone contacts you for an interview, look them up. It will never hurt to know a little something about the person who is going to be interviewing you. If anything, it could help ease the tension by giving you something to talk about before or after the interview.

Talk, ask questions, browse, invite. You are networking, so network!


If you do not have anything personal on your Facebook page, you can make it public (as long as you keep everything on it professional). This is rare, as Facebook is not designed for professional but social networking. So… Do not make your profile on Facebook viewable to “anyone” or “friends of friends”.

Do not add people to your friends/connections list who you do not know. You never know if someone wants to dig further into your personality and see what your friends are like. You do not want professionals to see your professional webpage, only to click on one of your “friend’s” pictures of… (use your imagination). Remember, guilt by association.

Do not add any posts or comments that you might regret in the future. The internet is forever. Even if you only add something, then delete it the next day, someone could have downloaded it or saved your page to their computer. Just be careful.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Your Online Identity

Even if you do not think so, somebody other than yourself has more than likely typed your name into the Google search box. When people want to know something about you without speaking to you directly, they search the internet to find out about your online identity. Anything they find will add to your online identity, and can sometimes taint your reputation. An online identity does not just cover stuff that you put on the internet, but anything anybody has said or posted about you (including pictures) can be on the internet without you even knowing. When people search for information about you on the internet, they are trying to find out what kind of person you are. This could be a possible employer, a possible date (online dating), or even somebody just who knows about your work and wants to find a little more about you. Now this is not to say, “Do not post any personal information on the net,” but you do need to be aware of all personal information that is out there from your address to pictures of you falling on yourself at a New Year’s party. If there is such information available about you, make sure it is private and can only be seen by approved parties.

Make your Facebook and MySpace accounts private, and make sure you “un-tag” yourself from any unwanted photos on a friend’s page. You can test to see if this works by logging out of any social networking site, then try to look at your page(s) as a visitor. If you can see anything that you do not want potential employers (or say…your grandmother) to see, you have some more clicking to do before your online identity is acceptable for the world of business.

Once this is done, there are a number of sites that can get your online identity out in the employment arena so that your résumé catches someone’s eye. Creating a virtual business card will help you improve your identity, as well as creating profiles on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn or Spoke. This is actually the most important step; making your social networking accounts private is just to separate your personal life from your professional life.

After that, just polish up your résumé and make sure it is available for prospective employers. Here is one last tip for having a magnificent online identity: keep it current. Anything that you have out there for professionals to see needs to be kept up to date. If you change jobs, move, or complete a degree, make sure that your professional profiles say so. Also, if you are working on notable projects at work, add them to your online identity by listing them on your profiles (LinkedIn/Spoke).

If you follow this guide, you should have a good looking online identity that you can be proud of.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Some Common Job Interview Questions and Strategies for Answering Them

Here are 5 Questions that you will likely hear at a job interview. Some of them can be difficult to come up with a 'spur of the moment' response, so be sure to think about a general idea of the answer you might give and be prepared.

Tell me about yourself.
This is a common request by an interviewer, but if you do not prepare, you may end up looking like a rambling fool. Do not turn this into a story of your life. Keep your response specific, impressive, humble, and brief (no more than a minute or two). This is usually one of the first questions, so make a good first impression. Your answer to this may set the mood for the rest of the interview. State your title, your work ethic, your education (and something it taught you), and if you have any notable accomplishments, be sure to note them. You really want to say something interesting about yourself, preferably pertaining to work, so you get their attention. It might be beneficial to leave room for them to ask questions, remember: be brief.
What are your future intentions with this company?
Make sure that you do not give them any feeling that you only want this job until you can find a better one, even if it is true. That is not saying to lie, but training a new employee takes time and money; so ensure them they are not wasting either. Who knows? You may even end up liking the job and staying. Tell them that you are interested in advancement opportunities, and it will tell them that you strive to achieve. Let the interviewer see that you know a little bit about their company by ‘hoping’ to be some part of a program they are involved with. It shows that you are motivated to join the company. …And again, do not make them feel you are only looking for a temporary position (unless it is what they are offering).
What are some of the problems you have encountered in your past jobs?
Think of a situation (with a positive outcome) that you found stressful or difficult to make a decision, and explain the steps that you took to solve the problem. Whether it is dealing with a subordinate, a superior, a customer, or with something you had to overcome, make sure you are descriptive with your story. This question is designed to analyze your ability to deal with uncomfortable situations, so show them you can with a good example.
What are some of you greatest accomplishments?
The key to answering this question is to link one of your achievements to an aspect of the job you are interviewing for. If you cannot think of anything related to the job, make sure you have a notable accomplishment that you can be proud of (preferably work-related). If you somehow made or saved your previous employer money, let them know. All companies want to cut costs, and efficiency is a good trait to have. Make sure they know if you have achieved awards from jobs or your education (including degrees earned). (Quitting smoking or having kids are good accomplishments, but not usable for an interview).
Have you ever had to fire someone? If so, how did you handle it? If not, how would you handle it?
If you are interviewing for a management or human resources position, this question will probably (and/or should) be asked. If you have had to fire somebody, it probably was not easy. I hope that you have somehow learned that “you’re fired” is not a very good phrase to use. It sparks animosity and can lead to a violent incident. Also, never fire somebody publicly. Losing your job can be humiliating, and having people watching only makes it worse. Do it in private. If the termination is because of a violent incident, it may be a good idea to call the police before you fire the disgruntled employee. What the interviewer(s) want to know is if you have the capacity to fire someone and if so, they want to know if you can also do it without causing a scene. Make sure that you think about what it would be like to be fired, and let the interviewer know you can be firm and sympathetic.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Personal/Professional Mission Statement

I am a very respectable and respectful person. In my work environment, I strive to complete my tasks to the best of my abilities. My promptness and workmanship shows in every task I do. I always do what is asked of me, even when it may be beyond my job’s description. One of the most significant things ever taught to me was the golden rule. “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” I try my best to follow this motto in everything I do, from personal relationships, to business relationships. I respect my surrounding coworkers and their workplaces. If I need to use anyone’s area or equipment, I make it a point to return them how I found them, if not in better condition. I am always kind and helpful, and quick to lend a helping hand to someone in need. My work, no matter what I do, is taken as a great responsibility because I acknowledge the fact that my work and actions directly affect others. Since I have been in management positions before, I know how hard it is to efficiently run a smooth business. Because of this, I try to get along with my coworkers to ensure a conflict-free environment for the administrative personnel. I am always open to constructive criticism to better the efficiency and quality of my work. Theft is never an option. Any stealing can directly and indirectly affect my job, as well as others’. I have also learned that lying can cause nothing but trouble. I always speak truthfully, and strive to be as honest as possible. I am not one to gossip, for I have been the center of gossip before and know that it can cause problems. Talking behind people’s backs is very disrespectful. If I have something to say about another person, I either say it to them personally, or keep my comments to myself. I believe I am a decent person to be around socially and work-related. I live in the moment, while keeping past and future responsibilities in mind. It is important to be mindful of what is to come, but more important to focus on the “here and now”. However, the past is a powerful tool to utilize as it teaches us from our mistakes. Failure is not always a bad thing; one can turn it into a learning experience so that one does not make the same mistakes in the future. Of all the principles and values that I have, honesty and learning from my failures are by far the most important to me.