30 November 2009

Writing, Editing, and Rewriting

The holiday season is now officially underway. I have been sluggish in my attempts to search for a job as it took a good deal of time to write my business plan for my MBA and studying for the FSOT. It's the time to buckle down and start researching more opportunities. Perhaps the cold weather will inspire me to look harder.

Thus, I find myself needing to write essays and cover letters, editing my CV, and rewriting much more. I have the added benefit of several people wanting to help me with my edits and even perhaps building me a website. (Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!! And if anyone else wants to help, I would be grateful.) Essentially, I'm trying to find a job in a city where I'll actually like what I'm doing and where I'm at. That's not necessarily the easiest match for me, but it is important. It takes time.

In Minneapolis recently, I found myself with an unexpected mentor to help me think about the strategy of my job search. His suggestion included a CV rewrite along with arming myself with different CV's for different jobs. I have therefore been working on editing and rewriting my CV as to inspire future employers to interview me. And eventually get hired.

Time to research. Time to edit. Time to apply.

With a better job-hunting strategy in mind thanks to my mentor, I expect to be writing more in the near future. Wish me luck!

07 November 2009

Down Time

I'm currently sitting in an airport waiting for a replacement plane to land, 3 hours after we were to take off. Down time. We all know that life can often be boiled down to those "Waiting for Godot" moments. As such, I thought I'd take advantage of the free wi-fi and blog.

During my stint in Japan, there was always ample opportunity to read a book or magazine, to play DS games, to listen to tunes, or to text your friends. Public transportation gave an interesting luxury. I had 1 hour every week day to accomplish something. Whether it was catching up on zzz's at the back of the bus or studying Japanese, there was always an ample amount of down time.

Life is full of chances to capitalize on these moments. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Here's to taking the opportunity to utilize what would otherwise be an irritating experience and making it into productive time. Second by second, minute by minute. It all adds up.

05 November 2009

Choices and Traps

I feel that many of us elude ourselves into "satisificing" choices, especially in this down-turned economy. The word satisfice is the invention of Herbert Simon combining the words satisfy and suffice. The concept of making a satisficing choice is when a set of criteria are met and thus (as the criteria has been met) a decision is made. That is not to say that this is the best solution.

Example: You have a job offer for your minimum required amount in a location that fits your commuting needs. It also has the 3 weeks of vacation time that you desire. Do you take the offer? As far as the model goes, your criteria have been met. But, is it the best solution? Does it maximize your earning potential? Will this be a good fit for you?

In my situation, I feel that it will be difficult to meet my criteria. I will, therefore, be more likely to be at the mercy of the satisficing choice. To some extent, this is why I chose to take the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT), but I did not pass. The good news is that I was not caught in the "obscure trap" where I may have been strung along for months and then not make it to a job offer. This may have resulted in months of wasted time. (As a side note, I wasn't planning to only pursue the Foreign Service as a career option. That would be ridiculous.)

What about you? Do you take the "easy way"?

I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm in the midst of making my list of priorities. I am stepping back, deciding what I really want, strategizing, and executing my plan.

I am reading What Next? The Complete Guide to Taking Control of Your Working Life by Barbara Moses, PhD. The exercises are helpful in uncovering where I should be looking and how I should be prioritize my needs and desires. I thought I knew what I wanted in the MBA, but perhaps didn't take enough time to really understand my wishes.

Now, I'm taking my time because I can and the job market is less than desirable. I have endless choices and need to avoid those persnickety pitfalls. When I know what I want, I'll be targeting for it, and it will be mine.

13 October 2009

The Johari Window

When others know me better than I know myself, I often wonder why I cannot see the obvious as well. For this, I find the Johari Window to be a useful tool benefiting my understanding of why I seem to be missing vital information about myself. The Johari Window allows me to close the gaps between how I see myself, how others perceive me, and how I can connect the dots.

Like most MBA concepts, the Johari Window uses the 4 square method to illustrate the concept.

I know what I think I am portraying to people around me. But, is that how they view me? This can be painstaking to uncover. Yet, the rewards for delving into this issue can be extraordinary. Suddenly, perhaps, you may realize that people like you for characteristics you never realized you possessed.

I am not suggesting that people are always correct in their perceptions, but perhaps you are exuding something which you did not realize. For example, I chose to apply for the Foreign Service recently. Several people (who did not know one another) suggested that I think about diplomatic relations as a career path. Frankly, I had never thought of it, but 3 different people from different backgrounds thought that it would be a perfect match for me. They saw something inside of me which I missed, a desire to use my communication and diplomacy skills in an ever-changing environment. I did not even know that people viewed me as "diplomatic" and yet several people have said it to me throughout the past year.

Slowly, I am painting a picture of the difference between how others see me and how I thought I projected myself. Between listening to others' opinions on me and understanding myself, I am minimizing those blind spots. I can see myself more clearly.

The Johari Window is a great personal tool. the better I know myself via curtailing the blind spots and decreasing the unknown, I will be a happier, more productive person.

28 September 2009

Book Review: "Emotional Intelligence"

Daniel Goleman has an apt and easy to understand explanation as to why emotional intelligence is perhaps more important than IQ in his bestselling book Emotional Intelligence. Overall, this a great book for understanding one's own emotions, why it is important to manage one's own feelings, and using that knowledge in one's life and relationships. This is important information for both personal and professional use; however, I will focus mainly on the business aspects which with the book deals.

In our society and at the workplace, cognition takes precedence as thee intelligence standard. Many would like to think of the human mind as a computer; however "in reality, the brain's wetware is awash in a messy, pulsating puddle of neurochemicals, nothing like the sanitized, orderly silicon that has spawned the guiding metaphor for mind," (page 40-41). Certainly human emotions are a part of us, and yet our society would like to think otherwise despite the fact that emotions are what makes us human. "...Every feeling has its value and significance. A life without passion would be a dull wasteland of neutrality, cut off and isolated from the richness of life itself," (page 56). We are not robots, even if we try to be at work.

I feel that the heart of the book lies within parts III to V where Goleman illustrates why emotional intelligence is such a key ingredient in both society and private life, and how emotional literacy is founded. Our most intimate relationships are impacted by how much emotional intelligence each of us brings to the relationship. Whether it be husband and wife or parent and child, empathy in particular is critical in these and other relationships. If one cannot understand the other person's point of view and has little to no self-control, then fights can more readily occur. "...A person's emotions are so intense, their perspective so narrow, and their thinking so confused that there is no hope of taking the other's viewpoint or settling things in a reasonable way," (page 139). Empathy is the gateway to understanding and communication in any relationship.

The 5 main branches of emotional intelligence are:
  1. Knowing one's emotions: one must understand his/her own feelings before managing them
  2. Managing emotions: taking control of one's emotions rather than having them rule one's life
  3. Motivating oneself: understanding what interests a person and how to be productive
  4. Recognizing emotions in others: recognition leads to greater understanding of people and therefore empathy
  5. Handling relationships: being able to manage one's own emotions and that of someone else is a necessary life skill

Business Implications

From a business perspective, a manager needs to understand delegate tasks based not just on the IQ variety of intelligence, but also on emotional intelligence as well. As many of us know from experience, it is not necessarily the best tactic to assign a highly intelligent person to a task where a great deal of people skills is essential if that person is lacking in the so-called soft skills. Emotionally intelligent people are generally the easiest to work with in teams. "...Teams become the work unit rather than the individual himself," (page 159). "The single most important element in group intelligence, it turns out, is not the average IQ in the academic sense, but rather in terms of emotional intelligence. The key to a high group IQ is social harmony," (page 160).

Building informal networks are also essential, especially when dealing with unexpected problems within a project. In order to achieve being a "node" in the informal network, emotional intelligence is required. Of course, most people will not turn to a co-worker that is unreliable or not trustworthy in a time of need. Nor will a co-worker respond to a crisis situation when there is no obligation either from the organization or the social web. "When unexpected problems arise, the informal organization kicks in. Its complex web of social ties form every time colleagues communicate, and solidify over time into surprisingly stable networks. Highly adaptive, informal networks move diagonally and elliptically, skipping entire functions to get things done," (page 162).

Using emotional intelligence for managers is extremely important in dealing with subordinates, peers, and superiors alike. For example, when giving a critique it helps to:
  • Be specific. Don't use vague examples, but rather provide clear, concise examples that the other party will understand.
  • Offer a solution. Feedback should be useful and pertinent.
  • Be present. Both critiques and praise should be done in private and done in person.
  • Be sensitive. Be empathic and try to understand the other person's viewpoint when giving feedback.
There are other uses for business applications within the book as well, but those I have highlighted seem to have the most obvious impact in the workplace. I feel that this is an important issue that Goleman tackles well. I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking to better his/her own life either professionally or personally.

    20 September 2009

    Foreign Service Officers Test: FSOT

    Upon submission of my final project to graduate, I have decided to apply for the Foreign Service Officers Test (FSOT). Essentially, this would be a position working for the U.S. State Department working (most likely) overseas in an American Embassy. There are five careers tracks to chose from, and I have decided that the management trajectory is the best for me. Essentially, I am trying to prepare as best as I can in the limited amount of time I have available.

    As this idea came to me about a week or so ago, I feel that I may be inadequately prepared as I have scheduled for Friday October 9. (The test is only offered 3 times a year. The next available time is in October, so clearly I wanted to capitalize upon this opportunity.) As I have less than 3 weeks to prepare, I am in a position of trying to both gather what I need to learn and learn it quickly.

    Most of the information which I have found on the internet is not too helpful in breaking down each section or how the questions are weighted. I would like to understand the mechanics of the test, but it is not readily obvious to me based on what I've read thus far. The expression that knowing is half the battle epitomizes my sentiments to optimize my strategy.

    I feel that some topics are obvious for my review: the structure and branches of the U.S. federal government, the Constitution, U.S. presidents, and U.S. history. Reading suggestions from the State Department also include: The Economist, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, Time Magazine, and any major newspaper (The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, etc.). As far as suggested books, it is quite a lengthy list which I will never get through in 3 weeks.

    My battle begins in researching the exam's structure. My next step is to understand what I do not know and learn it. I must continue in my quest to survey the situation and assess my tactics. Wish me luck!

    22 July 2009

    Status Update

    I do apologize for the lack of posts. I was traveling in Europe and moving back to the U.S. As such, I had to organize, pack, and plot out the logistics of my summer.

    Now that I am back, over my jet lag, more accustomed to the life and weather in L.A., and settled in a bit, I can re-focus on finishing my final project for my MBA, looking for a job, and studying Japanese.

    The process of "reverse" culture shock has been a bit time consuming for me, as I knew it would be. I've been living abroad for 4 years, 3 in Japan and 1 in France. This in conjunction with living in California, where I have never lived previously, has been a somewhat difficult transition for me.

    Onwards and upwards.

    I am, as I mentioned, trying to hammer out my final project for graduate school. I am writing a business plan, but the requirements that my professor wants versus what should be done in a usual plan seem to converge. As such, I am striving to do what is necessary to graduate and what needs to be done to make this a workable plan. The pieces are coming together, so I must continue to work diligently to finish.

    I'll post more soon.

    04 June 2009

    Start Small, Think Big

    改善 (kaizen) is a Japanese word that can be defined as "continuous improvement." If you prefer, it could be thought of as baby steps. Before the MBA program, I had not thought of this concept consciously, but had been doing it in some aspects of my life.

    As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day. Nor is anything else worth really doing in most cases.

    For me, a great example is Japanese. My progress of Japanese was a slow, sometimes grueling and laborious task. I cannot begin to calculate how many hours I actually studied, the frustration involved, or the miscommunications that arose. Yet at some point, I realized that my Japanese was decent. I could ramble on and on for hours at a time. There were even some people who were initially better than me, but I gradually overtook some of them as I put in so much more time and effort. I still have a long ways to go, in my opinion. Yet, sometimes I do know things that even some native Japanese speakers do not.

    I know kaizen to be powerful and effective, but lately I have felt that I was not making progress. I realize now this is due to my impatience. I am achieving a great deal. Mostly, a few small steps are made on one project continually whilst on others, leaps are being made from time to time. It depends on my energy and the project at hand. To understand my accomplishments, I have been trying to step back from it all and analyze the situation from a more objective stance. This allows me to see the progression and take the next necessary steps to get to my target.

    If one has passion, then anything is possible. According to Malcolm Gladwell, all it seems that enough of a minimum effort must be made (this would, in my opinion, differ with each person) in order to accomplish said goal. Scott H. Young has a great article on this concept.

    Slow and steady wins the race. I will accomplish my goals, bit-by-bit. 頑張りましょう。

    ***A complete side note. I'd like to wish my dad a happy 70th birthday! With 5 kids, it's amazing we never gave him a heart attack. I love you, Papa!!!!

    25 May 2009

    Book Review: "Meatball Sundae: How New Marketing is Transforming the Business World" By Seth Godin

    "Meatball Sundae: How New Marketing is Transforming the Business World" By Seth Godin

    Anyone in business is certainly facing a major paradigm shift in how to market. Seth Godin builds on Thomas McCraw's reasoning that there have been 3 major industrial revolutions. Godin goes onto to say that the 4th is the next one in which we are entering.

    What intrigues me is that the 4th revolution seems similar to what life was like previous to the 1st: people working for themselves, perhaps at home, in a community oriented fashion (althought the community is no longer defined by geography). The difference lies in who has the power, finally consumers can get whatever they like without having big corporations or the fuedal lord telling them what they want. Essentially, we are all getting what humans have always wanted: to be treated with respect and to be connected to other like-minded people.

    Godin gives 14 trends as tactical advice in the New Marketing. As he points out, "Successful organizations are built around successful marketing tactics. Without the tactics, there's nothing." Certainly marketing is essential to all business models, and marketing should be embraced at the core of every business.

    As I am writing a business plan, of which I do not want to reveal at this junction, but the most pertiant points, in my opinion, are:
    • Trend 1: Direct Communciation Between Producers and Consumers
    • Trend 2: Amplifciation of the Voice of the Consumer and Independent Authorities
    • Trend 5: The Long Tail
    • Trend 12: The Shift from "How Many" to "Who"
    I recommend this book for anyone interested in marketing or the paradigm shift that we are experiencing. It was recommended to me by a professor at University of Stellenbosch Business School.

    What other business books would you recommend? I hope to read more of Godin's books after I get to a bookstore where English books are sold.

    18 May 2009

    A Myriad of Jobs

    I am the sort of person who enjoys variety. This is very reflective of my personality, the need to explore the world, and how I can contribute to it positively.

    When people read my CV or dig into my career history, some items seem to have some shock and/or awe value. In particular, I worked full-time at a fish market, part-time at a tea store, and full-time as an English teacher in Osaka, Japan.

    Working at Coastal Seafoods was a great experience. It was physically demanding and actually taught me a lot about haute cuisine. As Coastal offers many cooking classes, I was also able to gain a breadth of knowledge about general cooking techniques and fish specifics. I had not really learned to cook much before that; therefore, it was great to impress my friends and family with my fish culinary expertise.

    Working at The Tea Source was only a part-time gig whilst I toiled away full-time at my investments job. It was a nice change of pace from my posh cube as I chit-chatted with customers and tried an amazing variety of tea. I really enjoy the little things in life like that, so doing this part-time job was both fun and educational.

    While my 3 years in Japan was an incredible experience that I continue to expand upon, I really enjoyed my students. They were an inspiration to me in so many arenas. They also taught me valuable life lessons including: results are not as important as the process, always try your hardest, slow and steady wins the race, and do what you love. There is no way to measure what I learned, but I can assure you that I could write about it at some length.

    All-in-all, the plethora of jobs I've held down has enriched my life immensely. These 3 may be the "odd" jobs that stand out immediately, but certainly my other jobs also contributed greatly to the quality of my life. Thus, I am continuing to search for my next, big, life-changing career move.

    13 May 2009

    Theseus-EDHEC Class of 2009

    My EDHEC Class of 2009 , nicknamed T20, is a wonderfully diverse group of people in terms of nationality, professional background, and personality. There are 42 of us from 23 different countries. I have had the pleasure to work and interact with everyone in both group and individual situations. This has led to a steep learning curve in working with an international collection of professionals. My previous 3 years in Japan was still quite global, but there was more of an emphasis on Japan and English speaking countries in my network. Therefore, T20 has really had a positive impact on me personally and professionally. 

    My favorite aspect of T20 is our diversity. Between us, we know many languages and many of us have lived outside our home countries besides just France. T20 has been a catalyst for different perspectives, innovation, and information on a myriad of subjects and fields. For example, if I would like to gain insight on a Chinese point of view, I can ask 3 of my colleagues and a 4th if I want a more Hong Kong interpretation. It's very helpful and allows me to understand both each person better individually and culturally.

    T20 has granted me, and will continue to permit me, to understand international relations and business in-depth and on meaningful level. 

    I would like to thank my T20 cohorts, I really appreciate your continued support.

    10 May 2009

    Forecasting Time Management

    I find that I have many opportunities to upgrade my time management skills as I am currently scheduling 100% of my time by myself. I seem to underestimate the time that any one particular project may take, which makes predicting and scheduling difficult.

    As a result, I am taking the bull by the horns and laying out everything I can in the greatest amount of detail possible. Here is just an overview of my project list:

    • Writing a business plan for a start-up design company
    • Selecting a new job
    • Designing a professional website for myself
    • Creating a personal mood board
    • Studying for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 2
    • Becoming more fit and healthy
    • Traveling whilst in Europe before returning to the U.S.
    I will further break down each item into actionable items and milestones. I prefer to do this on paper and will translate this into something tangible in order to better forecast the necessary time to complete each step.

    09 May 2009

    Executive Summary

    Bonjour and bienvenue to my memoirs.

    I would like to introduce you to myself, the vision, and objective of my new blog. My memoirs is intended to be my opinion on professional matters in my life. I have several areas in which I would like to share and discuss with others.

    A brief background: I am finishing my MBA from Theseus-EDHEC (EDHEC for short) in Nice, France. I will write a business plan for an art company starting within the next month and am currently doing research to support it. I have a myriad of life and professional experience that spans 3 continents (specifically the U.S., Japan, and France), several industries (banking, life insurance, investments, education, and niche food markets), and differing roles (Customer Service Associate, Team Leader, Compliance Officer, and English Teacher).

    Vision: to create a niche for my unique skills and support others to do the same. 

    Purpose: to build a great community, and create a dymanic platform for contributing ideas, thoughts, and stories.

    Thank you for your time!

    Rebecca J. Faught