Until the Day Comes when a Confident Woman is the Norm

Are you a confident woman? I read an article the other day about women in the workplace lack confidence to be a leader.  To me, that is a very interesting concept because I consider myself a confident woman and I struggle with why others don’t seem themselves that way!sheryl-sandberg-time-magazine-cover

I am sure there are men that struggle with confidence in the workforce too but because there are so many more male leaders out there that these confidence concerns are over shadowed.  I long for the day when I am just concerned a leader in the workforce rather than a female leader.  When meeting me they will just see a confident, smart employee not a confident, smart female employee.

I am all for diversity in the workforce but when will a diverse workforce just become the normal?  Sadly, I don’t see that happening for several more years, if that.  I hope that before I retire regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. that we can all just be one workforce.

Companies are Evolving

As more and more companies hire Chief Diversity Officer and adopt football’s Rooney rule there is more of a focus on diversity than ever.  But why not just be picked as a candidate for being confident and smart and qualified?  Nowhere on my resume does it say she; however, my name automatically puts me into that category.  My experiences do not imply that I am a woman; although stereotypes and statistics may state that because I have a New Media Marketing and Mass Communications background that I am a female.  But why does it matter?

I am fortunate and I am lucky because I have a confident personality.  I am comfortable with who I am and am proud to be a woman in the Financial Services Industry and working in Technology.  But as a confident woman, I long for the day that I am just a strong, confident person working in banking and technology.

strong leadership

The Interviewing Game

As I look back over the last few posts I have written, I realized I have been headlining these posts as games.  I want to be clear, recruiting and interviewing are not games to me but if you remember during my first post in this series, I compared these new role reversals to basketball and that to me is a game and a huge part of my past and present and future.

Now, as we have been actively recruiting for positions on my team it has been exciting because I have been involved in the interviewing piece both as a former MDP and one of the members of the team.  Our group works so closely together – it important to make the right hiring decision for the team whether it is for an intern, MDP, or any other position.

interviewingWhat I find exciting about interviewing MDPs in particular is that I was just in their shoes a few years ago so the process is still fresh.  I remember the challenges, the struggles, things that were going through my head, and the highs and lows which I think really helps in the interview process.  M&T tries to be really good with the onsite MDPs by having an alumni of the program take you out to lunch (this is not an interview).  This is the time that the candidate can ask the questions they want to know about the program.  If they are smart, they are also asking questions regarding things that can be used in later interviews.  During the program, I took several candidates out to lunch or coffee to give them this time.  Now, I am on the actual interview side which is even more fun in my opinion because I get to learn about the candidate in a more formal setting.  Any interview I give I like to see how comfortable people are with the Innovation Center, the space I choose, the questions I ask which aren’t always traditional, and overall what they know about the program.

I really like getting an interview put on my calendar, because I know that the candidate is going to walk into our Center and see something totally different than what they have been seeing all day.  I also like making sure my interviews are more conversational than formal interviews like what you would see in the movies.  We have a space in the Center that is perfect for this type of interview and I use it every time.

Whenever I am interviewing someone I like to learn about them, what they know about the company and the program.  There isn’t a lot of information out there on the MDP program, except for my blog and a few articles put out by the Buffalo News, a few postings on Glassdoor.  If you are going to interview for this program, I would at least do a google search about it or find an alumni to talk to from your college.  If you are reading this, you have already done that so congratulations.  I decided when I accepted my MDP offer that I would write about my experience through the program to help others who were considering joining the company know more.  interviewing checklist

The candidate who I am so excited to have start in our area of the bank for the 2016 class told me she had learned about the program through my blog, and that made me realize that what I am writing helps.  She isn’t the first one either, companies are learning now that organic blogs, if you can find a champion to write them, can go a long way.  I am not paid to write my experience, I am not paid to write good things, I purely write my opinion about my life in Buffalo, my experience in my first full time role (that I wasn’t also attending school during but I have also been transparent with the company that I would be writing this blog. The tone I use in my blog, is the same tone and word choice I would use if you asked me a question on the street.

Interviewing candidates is not about the number of people you talk to or the background that they come from. It is not about filling a quota or filling a spot just to have a body in it.  I look at interviewing as a challenge to find the best person who can meet/exceed my expectations and I have high ones because I know what I accomplished during the program.  That is why I am so excited about our candidate who is coming in – because I know she will be amazing!  When the candidate was weighing her decisions between offers, I told her I was happy to talk with her again and be honest, after all I was in her shoes 2 years ago.

individual-interviewIf you constantly put on the face of sunshine and rainbows, your company will get the reputation of being fake and people will leave extremely early especially people who are experiencing their first job.  We had an honest conversation about the pros and cons, the good and bad, the challenges and rewards. No job is going to be perfect and I think it is important to find the candidate who thinks the challenges are worth it and exciting to overcome, who feels the pros far outweigh the cons, and the good days will out weigh the rough ones – because at the end of the day you have to find a job that you are like and an experience that is exciting to you.  Not everyone invests that much time into a candidate but to me it is important, especially when you find one who is worth it.

My interview style plays right into my mentor, leadership and managerial style. I want anyone who is a part of my team to succeed but I want to make sure that we have the right people in place to make us successful.  It is just like my coaching philosophy, I would rather have 7 active and dedicated players, than seven girls who are engaged and 2 who are just distracting the rest of the team (but that is a whole different post that is coming very soon).

Stay tuned for my last post about leading an MDP Project team!

Four Ways to Make your Internship Payoff

courtesy of ABC

Movies have often given high school and college students the impression that internships are all ground level employees.  You know what I am talking about, the idea that you will be making coffee, no one will remember your name and delivering the office’s daily mail.  Even in shows like Grey’s Anatomy “the interns” are seen carrying coffee to their residents and superiors.  Of course, they are working hands-on in surgeries but the same stereotypes apply, you are the “bottom” of the pool.

When you are looking for an internship it is important to find one that suits your needs, your requirements and your interests.  Remember, you want to be able to grow during the time period you are on the job.  It is important to gain the most from your internship and add value to the company as well, after all the ultimate goal is to walk away with a full-time job offer or walk away with a skill set that will get your to your ultimate job.

I have had two internships in the last two years.  And as I approach graduation next month, I have two offers to continue my positions over the summer and into my graduate school year.  As I get my MBA over the course of the next year, I will be still be able to make money and enhance my real world skills.  This is crucial.

Over this summer, I will continue to work at the digital marketing agency I have been working at since last summer.  The second opportunity is at RIT (which is still in development) is a slight spin off from my first internship which has been on-going since March of 2012.

Now, my position with RIT has been extremely important to my confidence and has taken many turns that I never expected.  I have served full-time for six months (my required internship for my major and college), then I took the community manager role of that job and turned it into a part-time job for the next school year.  From my community manager experience, I was able to network within the RIT community and earn a new position as a community manager for another social media campaign at RIT.  After winter, the new campaign was no longer necessary; however, I have made that connection with my boss for life.  As this school term comes to a close, my initial community manager role will once again shift to a new campaign but they gave me the chance to accept the position before it was offered to someone else because of my work ethic and my understanding of the team and the product.

Tipping Point Media created their own list of “four signs you’re in a good internship” here is my variation on what makes a good intern and internship.

  1. Go Above and Beyond
    • Whether you are paid or unpaid, it is important to never do the minimum.  Find ways to help improve the company you are working for.  This will ultimately lead to the company giving you more responsibility.  Remember, you are looking to gain something from the internship experience. Whether it is a job offer, another internship, new skills or a recommendation letter, you should want to do your best.
    • In my case, there was a prior intern who did not really enjoy the agency lifestyle and had no interest in marketing and his work ethic really showed.  Strive to not be the person that the company talks about and gets laughs out of long after they have gone.  Push to be that person that the company talks about to the next intern and explains that the bar was set so high in regards to the level of expectations for their interns.
  2. Find a Mentor
    • At the agency I work at I was able to work with an alumni from my college and learn a lot from her.  I considered her a mentor while she was my boss and now we are great friends and will be getting our MBAs together in a unique program designed for the skills we need in our field.
    • You do not have to be best friends with your boss or superior at work and even the rest of your co-workers but it does help finding someone you can relate too and learn from them.
    • I was able to ask questions from my mentor and really learn from the job.  She got excited because I actually wanted to learn from the experience and not just collect a paycheck and a job “experience”.
    • If you do not feel comfortable with your direct supervisor, look to find someone else in the office that you can talk to and ask questions about the culture, the workload, the clients and the projects.  Not every supervisor is going to be as open as mine was at helping people.
  3. Enhance your Resume
    • Having an internship is about building skills you never thought you would acquire until you landed your official job.  It is about beefing up that resume so that when you are ready for a full-time job (if it is not at the place you interned at) than the recruiter will stop and actually read your resume.
    • Two years ago, I really did not have any applicable marketing experience and now I have experience in exactly the career I plan to go into after getting my MBA.  This will be a differentiating factor among the other applicants.
    • When you find that internship you really want make sure it is in the right field for you, not just at a company that you want to work for.  If you do not meet the qualifications for the job than recruiters will take one glance at your resume and move on to the next candidate.
  4. Do Not Wait Until After Graduation
    • There are many schools that do not encourage students to seek out internships during their academic careers; however, RIT (my college) is not one of them, they actually require them.  I am so grateful to have gone to a school that offers and encourages this participation because of the experiences it has offered me.
    • Sadly, I now see my friends graduating and applying for jobs and getting rejected because of their lack of experience. This rejection is forcing them to go out and look for internships. In my case, I have already achieved over 6 months full-time work experience and a full-year of applicable part-time experience.
    • I was never worried about giving up my summer because it meant I was setting myself apart from the competition.  In this day and age the job market is so competitive, differentiating yourself is so crucial.  I worked full-time last summer while taking full-time classes online and at night.  It was important for me to apply what I was learning in the classroom to the real-world experiences and vice versa.

the internship

There is a new movie coming out on June 7 called The Internship and it features Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, two hilarious actors in my opinion.  The two characters end up landing high profile internships at Google and it highlights their experience.  I am actually really excited to see this movie.

I hope that anyone reading this can learn from my experiences and my feelings on internships.  I believe that they can take you far and prepare you for that real world dream job you really want.  Feel free to contact me if you want to know more about my experiences with internships, jobs or handling being a student and a real job at the same time.