Posts Tagged 'veteran'

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.


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.


Keeping Pace

There was a saying that we used in the Marine Corps: “It is easier to keep up than catch up.”

This phrase mostly applied to things like running or forced marches in that context, but it seems to me that is is quite applicable to an MBA program as well.   Time management is a crucial skill that is needed in order to thrive in this sort of environment.  In the Marines they begin training in stress inoculation and time management almost immediately.  It is not uncommon in boot camp for something simple, like making a rack (bed), to be given an impossible, or nearly impossible time restriction, and it progresses from there to more complex issues with seemingly impossible time constraints.

Important life decisions.

Time management and the ability to work under duress are two of the many valuable skills (along with leadership), that the Marines helped instill in me.   So, back to the MBA program, during the program, there are a lot of priorities that need to be balanced.  Some of the main ones are:

  • School:  Not just going to all of my classes, but doing homework assignments, studying, and working on projects.
  • Future Careers:  Especially for people like myself looking to switch careers, I need to actively work on building my professional network, attend company info sessions and events, job fairs, apply for jobs, hopefully interview for jobs, work on my resume, and meet with my career counselor.

    First Career Fair as a graduate student today!

  • Student organizations:  There are a myriad of student organizations at Fisher, and they all offer valuable opportunities to students.  There is certainly not time to join all of them, but I have joined several, but each additional one requires an additional time commitment.
  • Personal:  This is possibly the easiest to neglect, but humans need sleep, and to eat, and every once and a while to relax.  Things like going to the gym take time, but it is something that should not be neglected.  Also, having a social life within the program is important.  A big part of business school seems to be networking, so doing things like going to happy hours, and football games are important to building strong relationships with classmates.

All of these areas need to be kept in balance, and maintained, sometimes one is going to be more in focus than the rest, but that doesn’t mean the rest can be neglected.  If I neglect an area, then I am going to fall behind in it, which means that in the future, I will need to expend the same amount of energy needed for it now, plus the energy needed for it in the future, in order to catch up.  That is in addition to meeting all of the other requirements from the other sections of my life.  So, a short term sacrifice now, causes long term harm if I decide to slack in one or more areas.  So, even though it might seem overwhelming sometimes, keeping up with it all is easier than trying to catch up with it all in the future.  I should thank my Drill Instructor for the life lesson.

 

Four simultaneous Script Ohio’s is an amazing thing.


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.

 


A student once again

Saying that I am a student once again may not be completely accurate, because really, we are all constantly students in life, expanding our horizons and our knowledge.  Perhaps “back to being a professional student” is a more accurate description.  It has been a little over six years since I received my Bachelor’s degree in Ohio Stadium (a.k.a. the Horseshoe), and in those six years I learned a lot about myself and the world.  I am sure I will talk more about the journey in future posts, but here is a picture to serve as a primer.

Seeing the world, one muddy field at a time. Yes, all that stuff was quite heavy.

But coming back to Ohio State, and going to the Fisher College of Business for my MBA was the kind of offer that I just could not turn down in good conscience.  The reasons to come here at this point in my life are varied, but things like Fisher being a top rated MBA program (including in Operations, Logistics and Supply Chain Management), a world class faculty, beautiful campus in a vibrant city, and small class size for more exposure to faulty and staff certainly didn’t hurt.  But, I also get to go to one of the happiest places in the world, on a regular basis for the happiest time of year:  Ohio Stadium for Football Season.

A slightly dated, but beautiful, Horseshoe picture, I will need to take some new ones this Saturday.


HUG a Veteran on Veteran’s Day, Novemer 11, 2010

It’s been over seven years since I’ve returned home from my tour of duty in Iraq.  I will definitely tell you, it was a long 18-month stint in Iraq and I came away from that experience with a lot of positive memories.

Over the years, I have had time to reflect on my military service.  I am extremely grateful that I commited to serving my country for eight years of life.  I am not going to say it was ‘easy’ all of the time, that I enjoyed every every minute of it or even, at times, questioned my reasoning for doing it.  I have come to realize that the military is not for everyone just as everyone is not cut out for the military.  All in all, I am glad to have fought for our freedom in the capacity that I did.  Every day I am thankful that I live in a free country.  I do believe there is a price tag to enjoy the freedoms that we do in the United States and I am glad that I was a part of paying that price for all of us to enjoy.

Now, Thursday, November 11, 2010, is Veteran’s Day.

I know that throughout The Ohio State University, Fisher College of Business, there are numerous veterans that span through all the programs offered (i.e. FT MBA, MLHR, MBLE, MACC, Working Profesional MBA).

I offer the following challenge:  if you know someone who is currently serving, has served or has been out of the military for a LONG time, let them know how much you appreciate them and the sacrifices and service they have given to this great nation we call America.

Some of my personal favorite ‘thank you’s' are:  “High-Five” a Veteran…or… ”Hug” A Veteran.  Whatever you do to show you care and appreciate them and their service, do it.  I feel it is our patriotic duty to reach out and honor those who served in any of our armed forces branches.

What I have taken away from my whole miliary experience is this:  Its not about equal giving, its about equal sacrifice.

Below I have included some pictures from Iraq!  ENJOY!

Happy Veteran’s Day!



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