Posts Tagged 'time management'

Interview Prep

I know that preparing for interviews can seem like a waste of time sometimes.  In the basic sense, it is just having a conversation, so why not just go in with the attitude of: “I’m just gonna go in there, be myself, answer their questions with great stories, and knock the interviewer’s socks off.”  And the answer is, because that probably isn’t how it will go at all if you don’t do any prep work, like having answers for common questions prepared.

When I was up in Chicago for the MBA Veteran’s conference, I participated in a conversation with some fellow combat arms vets that probably could have been titled:  The greatest hits of terrible interview question answers.   The questions that were asked in the interviews were generally along the lines of:

“Tell me about a time you were in a seemingly impossible situation, how did you find an innovative solution?”

“Tell me about a time when you were under a lot of stress and had to make a difficult decision?”

“Describe a time when you worked as part of a team to meet a seemingly impossible goal?”

“Describe a time when you used your leadership skills in order to resolve a conflict?”

As a former infantryman who went on multiple overseas deployments, I have a fair amount of experience working in adverse situations, making difficult decisions, working as a part of a team, and using leadership skills.  But, as the mental Rolodex clicks through my life’s story, the first experience that comes to mind for any of those questions is not one that I am going to use in a job interview.  The reason I say that isn’t because I lack pride in my time as a Marine, or am ashamed of what I did overseas or anything like that.  The reason is that the interviewer is not going to be able to understand how to translate those answers into potential value for the company.   During a job/internship interview, the potential employee has to show that it would add value to the company to bring them on board.   If your answer takes the interviewer to a situation and place that they will never understand, full of acronyms and jargon that sounds like a foreign language, they are not going to be able to grasp the value that you can add to their company through your past experiences.  Instead of stories appropriate for the VFW hall, focus on positive stories, that showcase skills like the ability to work as part of a team, be a leader, use time management efficiently, make timely decisions, ect…

So, in my humble opinion, if you are in a situation where you are going to be going to interviews, taking the time to think through some answers to typical behavioral interviewing questions.  That is what I have done, and now I have alternative experiences to draw on, and don’t need to rely on the first experience that comes to mind when someone asks me about a time when everything was going wrong, and success seemed impossible.

I know this post seems rather veteran-centric, but I think it applies to everyone.  It is a good idea to think before you speak in an interview, and make sure that your story conveys a sense of added value to the company that they will be able to understand.  That generally isn’t something that is going to happen without some prep work ahead of time.


The Heart of it All

Time has still been flying by around here, and there has been lots of excitement.  Notably the end of our first terms, and our first round of exams.   Each semester at Fisher is divided into two 7 week terms, which means a new set of courses every 7 weeks, just to keep us on the bounce.  In addition to new classes, the internship search seems to be coming along, with people attending conferences out of state, second round interviews, and some starting to receive offers.  I had the chance to go to the MBA veterans conference in Chicago last week, which was a great opportunity to talk with companies specifically looking to recruit talent from top schools who are also veterans.

So, needless to say, life as an MBA student is still very busy, and requires proper time management.  That being said, life balance is still important, and students need to take time to enjoy life whenever possible.  As someone who is interested in supply chain management and operations, it hasn’t escaped my notice that there are a significant number of companies who have headquarters or distribution centers in the Columbus area, as well as Ohio in general.  Part of the reason for this is that a significant portion of the American population lives within a day’s drive of Ohio.  So while the state is not the geographic center of the country, it is in a strategic location for getting goods to customers.  In fact, I think one of the iterations of license plates the state used to have said “Ohio – the heart of it all.”

In keeping with the need for a healthy work-life balance, especially for people who haven’t traveled much within the U.S., Columbus is in a good spot for those who want to take weekend trips.  I consider about 6 hours (approx 350-400 miles) to be the most I would drive for a 2-3 day weekend trip and within that radius of Columbus are the following cities:

Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, OH

Pittsburgh, PA

Indianapolis, IN

Chicago, IL

St Louis, MO

Detroit, MI

Buffalo, NY

Washington, DC

Lexington, Louisville, KY

Knoxville, Nashville, TN

And those are just some of the bigger cities that I can think of off the top of my head, there are many more smaller cities, national/state parks, lakes and other attractions worth visiting within that radius as well.  As you can see, Columbus, Ohio really is rather well situated to serve as a base of operations for someone who wants to have access to a large portion of the U.S., which is another attractive attribute of the Fisher MBA program.

 


P&G Marketing Case Competition

This week I had the opportunity to participate in the first big case competition of the year on campus, which was sponsored by Proctor & Gamble (a consumer brand goods company based in Cincinnati, OH).  The case was marketing based, using a real P&G brand, and interacting with members of the brand management team that actually works on the product’s marketing strategy.  About 6 hours of time were devoted on Thursday for the teams of 4 to come up with a brand marketing strategy and develop a presentation, and then 5 hours on Friday were used to give each of the 10 teams involved a chance to present their ideas to marketing professors and professionals.  So, all in all, if you include the social events associated with the competition, it was about a 12 hour commitment.

Now, in case I haven’t mentioned this before, I do not intend to major in marketing for my MBA degree, so, some people might wonder why I wanted to dedicate that much time to a competition in a field that isn’t my primary interest.  The answer to that is really quite simple, and that is because there is much more to a competition than just the main functional area.  Case competitions give MBA candidates, like myself, the opportunity to work on things like time management, team skills, leadership skills, creating presentations, innovation, and presentation/communication skills.  All of those, to me, sound like skills that are crucial in order to be successful in the business world.  A case competition gives students the opportunity to work on all of those skills in a controlled environment, it really is a practical application training exercise.

In the military, we didn’t just go into a high risk activity without a degree of training in advance.  Before we went overseas, we would spend months or years training, refining our knowledge and skills, so that we would be more successful when we went downrange.  Training is never perfect, because all elements of real world scenarios can’t be included for a number of reasons, but training is still an important part of preparing for real world application.  Most of my colleagues and myself are getting MBA degrees in order to move into management, or leadership type roles after graduation.  And while the risks for an infantryman overseas and business executive clearly have some differences, both roles have inherent risks.  So it makes sense to work on the skills required to be successful at either in a training environment, which is something that case competitions provide.  Because people revert to their previous training and experiences in a high stress situation, I don’t want the first time I have to do something stressful, like need to sell an idea I have to a board of executives to be during my internship, or in my new career.

So, that is my rather long-winded answer, as to why I thought it made perfect sense for someone who wants to major in operations & logistics to be in a marketing case competition, and why I plan to be in several more competitions in various fields.

 

Here is my awesome team (from the left: Me, Lindsey, Jeff, and John) from the competition. In case anyone is wondering, we won.


Start early, start often

People, perhaps now more than ever, like instant gratification.  We want answers and results right now.  We don’t want to have to wait until 6 in the evening to catch the evening news, which is why we have multiple 24 hour cable news networks.  Most of us carry more computing power in our pockets than it took to get to the moon, so that we have everything, news, weather, banking info, contacts, and whatever else there is an app for, at our fingertips.

But, if you are looking at attending an MBA program, or utilizing the GI Bill, or even planning to use the GI Bill to attend an MBA program, then an important element to achieve success is to start both processes early.   And neither one is really going to give you that instant gratification that we all crave these days, but they are worth it in the long run.

If you are thinking that attending a top MBA program sounds like a good idea, then if you haven’t already, you should be studying for and scheduling a time to take the GMAT.  It was actually about this time last year that I took mine.  That way, you will have your score when you go to recruiting events, and if you don’t score as high as you would have liked, might even be able to re-take the test before it is time to apply.

After the GMAT is done, come all the other important things, like recruiting events, campus visits, and interviews, all of which you want to get done before application deadlines, so that you can make the best informed decision possible.   Sometimes there are also scholarships and fellowships that are available only to those who apply to the earlier deadlines a school may have.

And, if you are eligible to use the GI Bill, I assume you have dealt with the VA before, so start the process of verifying your eligibility early, because that process can involve a whole lot of hurry up and wait as well.   Time management and task prioritization will be of the utmost importance when pursuing an MBA, so it is best to build those skills early, if you don’t already possess them.

Finally, here is a more current picture of Ohio Stadium, taken last Saturday vs.  Buffalo.

I think my seats are not too shabby.

 


Time Management for Working Professionals in the Fisher WP-MBA Program

I guess I’m lucky that my 1st week at Fisher coincided with a long weekend for Labor Day holiday!  However, I know this is not always going to be the case, which means, I need to work better at time management to ensure that I am staying ahead with this rigorous program.

So I am giving you some advice on how to manage your time and stay ahead of the game, while still enjoying somewhat of a personal life.

1) Cook in bulk on Sundays so that you have enough food for the week.  Make sure you pack your meals so you are not wasting time and money on food

2) Keep up with your reading and homework assignments during the week (on the days that you DO NOT have class)  Trust me, if you keep up with the work during the week, you can enjoy some free and personal time on the weekends!

3)  Make time for the gym, either before or after work!  You will have more energy to combat those long sessions!  On days where I don’t have class, I go to the gym after work for about an hour.  On class days, I either skip the gym, or go in the morning before work.  Either way, make time for it and you will be HAPPY you did!

4) Use Saturday and Sunday mornings for catching up on reading and any remaining assignments you were not able to complete during the week.  This way, you have the rest of Sat/Sun to enjoy the football games, and other personal activities of your liking!

5)  Don’t stress!  If you manager your time efficiently and plan ahead, you will not need to worry about playing catch up or feeling stressed!  I had an amazing 1st week and I know that planning ahead will ensure me staying on track and enjoying this program!

Good Luck!


Treat it like it’s your job

I’m an outlier. The average age of the 2012-13 class of SMF students is around 23 years; I’m 33. The average work experience of the group is about 1.5 years; I’ve been out in “the real world” for 10 years. So maybe it’s just that I don’t know any other way to approach this SMF thing than this: I plan to treat it like it’s my job.

Some of you reading this post may not have ever had a real job before (you know, the kind that pays you well enough to support yourself, independent of your parents, and, in exchange, requires you to dedicate a significant portion of your time, brain power and effort). Here are just a few tips for treating something like it’s your job…

Be on time. By this I mean to include both showing up on time and completing your work on time (sounds simple, but most people have a hard time dealing with the planning fallacy)

Check email regularly. So much information gets shared through email. If you’re not checking yours regularly, what are you missing?

Calendar everything. When I was 23, I truly believed I could remember every appointment I had just because I was so darn smart. Ten years later I’ve learned that relying on your ability to remember everything isn’t so smart the first time you miss a meeting with someone you might have wanted to impress (client, boss, love interest). Forget gold; time is the most precious commodity on earth. For that reason, time management is really, really important. Check out this book if you want some guidance on the topic. (Side note: I got a new boss in March 2010. About a month later, I approached him to ask about his early thoughts on how I could improve my performance at work. All he said back was, “I don’t know how you organize your time.” Then he handed me a copy of Getting Things Done, the book I link to above.)

Dress for work. Sad but true: people will judge you based on how you look. Personally, I’d rather be pre-judged as competent and well-groomed than have to exert extra effort trying to change people’s first impressions to the contrary. Wear shorts and flip flops if you want… just don’t be surprised when people treat you like a person who wears shorts and flip flops.

Step up and lead. There are opportunities to lead all around us. And the beautiful thing is that we each get to choose our own level of involvement. So the next time a leadership opportunity presents itself, why not take it? Afraid of failure? Guess what, so is everyone else. To quote Mark Twain: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

To wrap my very first blog post up, and to show you, kind reader, that I am not just the miserly old man in the classroom, I will share with you a picture of something I love…

My dog, Captain, who turns 1 on Monday, August 27th

 

 


Multitasking considered harmful

I saw an interesting quote on a technology blog that I follow called Slashdot:

To do two things at once is to do neither. — Publilius Syrus

(As a nerdy aside, Slashdot always has some random quotation at the bottom of the page, mimicking a traditional program on Unix systems call “fortune” that does the same thing when you log in on the terminal.)

As a project manager, and as a student with a job and a family, the question of multitasking comes up often. Personally, I don’t believe you can do a good job on two things at once. You may be able to do an adequate job, but I would find it depressing to go through life merely being adequate. I want to be excellent. I want everything I produce to be excellent. I want the people around me to strive for excellence.

When I tell people that I go to school, have a job and have a family, they ask me, “how do you do it?” And my reply is, “I cheat.”

Because I know I’ll never do my best at any of them. I constantly have to make decisions about who to shortchange and who to put off. Last quarter I skipped my youngest daughter’s kindergarten graduation and took a final exam instead. Several times I’ve handed in papers I knew weren’t my best because I chose to spend the extra time playing with my kids. My long-time business partner and friend has put up with me and my reduced workload, but has at times been frustrated by my decision to return to school for a master’s degree. My wife has picked up pretty much all of the kid’s doctor’s appointments, social occasions, laundry, dishes, etc.

As a project manager I wear several different hats on several different projects, constantly switching between them. And the other people staffing those projects are also working on multiple projects, perhaps wearing their own sets of different hats. More often than not, this causes the schedule to slip and the quality to suffer as we spend more time trying to pick back up where they were than we spend doing quality, productive work.

I fondly remember the days when I only had one job. I could lose myself for hours at a time perfecting a system build script, testing various storage configurations or planning the procedures for a big migration. I did good work and felt good about it. It got done quickly, and I could move on to the next challenge.

I’ve been studying a software development methodology known as “Agile”. Once of its core principles is focus: the team working on a particular product works only on that product for a certain length of time. They are immersed in that product and able to do a better job of it faster. I’m trying to apply this technique, but it will take a cultural shift within the whole organization for it to work.

Anyway, I have to get back to what I was doing.


My Study Time Wasters

I’ve found out there are lots of ways to spend your time in graduate school.  It’s possible you could be devoting your time to studying for exams, quizzes and group projects.  Right now, you may be spending your time preparing your body for a tropical spring break trip.  You could even spend some time working at a job or hanging out with friends.  Yet, what I’ve discovered as a graduate student is that I spend a lot of my time on ‘things’ that waste my time, especially when it comes to studying.

So instead of wistfully writing about how one can improve their study habits by eliminating procrastination or using planning and organization skills, I decided to list my all-time TOP 5 study time wasters.

1.  House Hunters International.  The Office.  CSI: Miami. When it comes to TV, these are my top shows.  And when it comes time for me to study, there always seems to be someone who is buying a $1.3 million family vacation home in the Bahamas on House Hunters International.  Who would pass up watching that?  Answer:  not me.

2.  Napping. I’ve come to a stage in my life where I need “at least” a one hour nap per day.  And if I have to chose between studying and napping, I’ll always chose napping.

3.  Pokerstars.net. I decided to see how fast I could accumulate a million in “fake” poker chips.  Well, it took me about 3 weeks to accumulate $750,000, but I lost half my stack on a big hand.  Needless to say, it took me a couple more weeks to make up that difference PLUS what I needed reach my goal.  From time to time, I’ll play for fun.  But playing that can sure burn the time.

4.  Playing Guitar. Ah, music.  I lot it.  But sometimes I don’t love the fact that I will play the guitar for 2-3 hours in a row.  I’ve definitely moved past the ‘guilt’ stage and have accepted the fact that I will always play no matter the circumstances.  Out of every time waster on my list, THIS ONE gets me every time.  All I can say is that at least my 6-string doesn’t feel neglected.

and

5.  The Daily Commuter. I have this bad habit of solving ’The Daily Commuter’ crossword puzzle Monday – Saturday.  I got hooked on this about 3-4 years ago and I have never been able to stop since.  I like that fact that it warms up my brain and keeps me sharp.  Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes to solve and sometimes it takes about an hour+ to solve.  It depends on who wrote the crossword puzzle for that particular week.  It’s nerdy, but I like it.

I thought about listing “doing nothing” as a time waster, but I just wasn’t sure if that counts.  I know the character, Peter Gibbons, from the movie, Office Space, coined that phrase.  But if there was a 6th time waster, it would be sitting around and doing absolutely nothing except the basic essentials of living.

All in all, I am sure we all have our “pet” time waster.  Whatever they are, I am sure they are all well reasoned and well just justified.


Stay the Course

It’s hard to believe that the month of October 2010 is more than half-way over.   Eerily enough, it seems like yesterday when I started orientation at OSU.  But, in all actuality, it’s been well over 30+ days.  Now, I am definitely “not” going to be cliche’ and blurb, “oh time sure does fly when you are having fun!” because that would just be completely inaccurate – and that’s just not me.  In the wise words of fellow MLHR’er, Shawn Henderson, the more appropriate – and timeless – quip would be:

Get Ready to Live, People.

For me, the last 30+ days has been a test of sorts.  A test of my time management skills; a test of imposing my will over my fleeting emotions (i.e. watching “American Pickers” and “Pawn Stars” on the History Channel vs. studying for a BUS 863 quiz); a test of not eating my weight in Adriatico’s pizza at “every” employer informational meeting; a test of not hitting my “panic button” during statistics because it’s been ten years (yes, T-E-N) since I’ve calculated anything that’s even worth mentioning in this blog; a test of keeping a cool head in the midst of a hot storm; a test of how to take bad news and “still” keep a good attitude; a test to faithfully study all the reading material even when my hearts not in it.

For me, it’s easy to get caught up in every OSU social event, be a part of every clique-club-group or even ”activity myself to death”.  This past weekend, I had to have a sit-down with “me” and talk to “me” about staying the course.  Staying the course is paramount.  I know the commitments I made to Ohio State Unversity and the Fisher College of Business’s MLHR Program.  Literally and figuratively speaking, I know I am facing tests of all kinds and I fully intend on passing every one.  Will I do it with a smile on my face?  C’mon, I’m a realist…No.  But I’ll still pass them, nonetheless.

One of my favorite movies is the 1994 drama film, ”The Shawshank Redemption”.  The film portrays the story of Andy Dufresne, a banker who spends nearly two decades in Shawshank State Prison wrongly imprisoned for murdering his wife.  During his time in prison, he befriends a fellow inmate, Ellis “Red” Redding, who is a man who “knows how to get things”.  Towards the end of the movie, Andy is roaming the prison yard with Red just before he’s about to break out of prison.  With his head hung low, he depressingly states that he’s either going to… ”get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’”.

I plan on “gettin’ busy livin’” while I’m at OSU all the while remembering to stay the course and finishing what has been set before me.


Dear Time, We aren’t friends. Love Christina

3 midterms, 1 paper, several group projects, 2 speeches, various interviews, plus normal everyday coursework. Sound familiar? If your work load looks anything like mine, this pretty much sums up your next two weeks. Major yikes. That doesn’t even include other priorities like keeping up with email, checking the Hub, Fisher Connect, My Fisher, Carmen, and other websites, keeping tabs on internship opportunities, going to the gym, putting in hours at work, making time for a significant other, etc., etc. That reminds me… I should probably give my mom a call to let her know I am still alive.

Man, it can pile up fast, can’t it?! If I surveyed my classmates on the toughest part of grad school so far, I wonder how many would consider “time management” the biggest challenge. For me, that has been something I’ve really had to focus on. Without a clear schedule, daily to-do lists, and color coded binders and notes (no, I’m not kidding)… I’d be lost. Everyone has their own time management style, but the trick is, no matter what your system is, KEEP WITH IT.

If you haven’t yet mastered your own time management groove, then here are a few tips that might help you along the way:

1. Figure out where you are losing time. One of the best things you can do is keep a journal of your time allocation for a day. Literally log your activities and how much time you spend on them. Then, at the end of the day, go back and see how much time was devoted to non-priorities. This exercise was an eye opener for me. Now I know I shouldn’t check Facebook, ESPN, or MSNBC when I have other priorities. Sometimes I even turn my wireless router off when I have an assignment that doesn’t require the internet.

2. Get a calendar – any calendar! I prefer Outlook only because I’m comfortable with it, but many of my friends use G-Cal or other tools to help them stay organized. Every day I block off time to work on certain projects and set reminders to make sure I’m on task. At 7:45 this evening I had a reminder to write a blog post – and here I am! The trick with this is sticking to your schedule. If you fall behind, it is hard to make that time up!

3. Learn to say no. (Or at least to prioritize.) Some of my classmates have been commenting on my ghost-like tendencies over the past couple of weeks. While I’d love to socialize as often as possible, I’ve learned that I have to say “no” to going out sometimes. It’s a bummer, but it saves me freak out moments the night before a big assignment is due. If you have a hard time saying “no,” then the best thing to do is prioritize. For example, I promised myself I’d go with my classmates for $3 Brazenhead burgers on Wednesday nights, and I’ve gone every week! Remember to give yourself breaks and reward yourself for your hard work.

I hope this helps some of you who are stressing for time! When in doubt, just keep swimming!


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