New grads and finding a career

I came across this article today on  In gist, a recently graduated student is suing her alma mater for tuition costs – $70,000 as well as $2,000 for stress related reasons. She claims her school’s career office did not try their best in finding her a job and gave preferential treatment to those students with more stellar grades. Her GPA was a 2.7 although she had a solid attendance record.

I can see how she would be upset. Working your butt off in college (I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt on this), believing in the education system, and then to have it all culminate in  an exciting career of selling discounted shoes at the local Payless. I am not saying I agree with her actions, but this is an exaggerated case of what new grads feel when they first enter the real world.  So, why does this happen? And who is to blame (if anyone)?

One argument as to why new grads are unable to find work after graduation and float around career-less, at times jobless, for the next couple of years is that the school’s do not aim for their students to get jobs. In fact, the school is yet another money-making institution which wants its students to re-enroll in grad school. This is a more cynical view.

Another argument is that it is the student’s job  to make the most of their own education. A college provides a wealth of resources: professors, advisors, libraries, and peers. If you pose the question, there is bound to be someone who can knowledgably answer it. At the same time, being able to utilize resources and being able to see viable solutions to your problems is often related to the circumstances you were raised. It also comes down to the role models you had and the “pictures” you were shown of attitudes on life.  Should a school be responsible in filling this gap?

What are your opinions on this article? And how much responsibility, if any, should the school take? Why do you think that new grads face such difficulties in entering the real world?

Behind the scenes of being an entrepreneur

I recently interviewed April Braswell – Dating Expert and Online Dating Coach – as well as lost my IPOD. These may seem like 2 unrelated events, but with the loss of my IPOD I’ve been consequently listening to music less. I really do miss having a soundtrack to my life, but with less music blaring in my ears, my brain has made room for more thoughts. Substantial thoughts -thoughts that I had previously pushed to the back of my mind so I could blast more CSS in my ears and work out.

The main thought has been planting seeds.

Not the farming kind, but the figurative kind. Seeds that you plant today (mini-wealth building projects, acquiring new skills, building relationships with others, etc..) that will one day lead to bear fruit or not. In my interview with April, I aimed to pick the mind of an entrepreneur and see how she viewed herself as well her path to success. Her humble and warm nature made her easy to relate to, and she really showed that the word “CEO” or “President” are just words for people who’ve failed constantly but kept going.

She also emphasized the benefits of sowing many seeds. Plenty of seeds give you more chance of bearing more fruit, and like farming, not all seeds will turnout worth while. The ones that do will be the wealth builders, and the ones that don’t will be the learning experiences.

I love this philosophy, but applying it is a different thing. Her words definitely gave me some lingering thoughts. For instance, after I’ve chosen my “seeds” and planted them, how do I know when to keep going and when to see that the seed just won’t produce? I can be too persistent at times, but I guess that is part of the learning process.

I think I may just wait a bit longer to get a new IPOD. One because I am allowing myself a proper mourning  for my music. And two so that I can keep these thoughts growing and come up with a formula to success which will work for me. In the meantime, keep a look out for April’s interview and her advice on how to be an entrepreneur and her path to success – coming Tuesday, October 6th!

Do you need a Personal Financial Advisor?

Maybe you are coming back after a year of success with your plan or perhaps you are further along with your investment portfolio and need assistance in that area. This is the “step” for you. In Wealth Building Tip #5, you can read my recommendations for asset selection and how to interview financial advisors who have your interests at heart.

Building wealth over the long term means hiring experts as necessary. You will pay for expertise. Understand how to maximize your investment IN your investment.

Can you handle the truth?

So in the vein of Jack Nicholson’s famous rant, “…You can’t handle the truth!” I share the following:

“The cost of failure, successful people know from experience, is very modest compared to the cost of inaction. Failure means you are smarter the next time. Inaction means there is no next time. There is only a lifetime of unhappiness – first of worry and then of regret.” – Michael Masterson
Don’t make a life of regret. Take action.

I recently had an Aunt chide me for not having a “real job.” I suppose she meant working for someone else, but the reality is, I have 3 employees who depend on me not having a “real job.” For what it’s worth, my family can’t understand that I am actually really enjoying self employment – one of the perils of an academic and professional (i.e. lawyers and doctors) family.

So if you are considering a blast into your own entrepreneurial adventure, I whole-heartedly support you. Do make the proper preparations, but once you have, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! Get to it!

Want to read more of Masterson’s work? Try his ezine Early to Rise or one of his books on Amazon.

Cubicle Zoo

Do you wonder who your coworkers most resemble? Have you considered that you sit in a cubicle zoo, not an office space?

The Cheetah: Fast, sleek, but like the name says, a cheata. This is the just a touch too slick sales guy who slips in and out of the office in record time avoiding office time with the boss. He is likely to have a gym membership and use it . . . that’s where he picks up some of his “clients.” He does enough very well and covers up the rest with such charm you never know what hits you. If you are down-to-earth, you inherently distrust him when you first meet him, but somehow you walk away thinking that you may be wrong. Nope, he’s just that smooth.

The Penguin: Loyal, formal, rounded and grounded. Every office needs a Penguin. Penguins remember what happened in the company last year and 20 years ago like it was yesterday. They are excellent for institutional knowledge. They are also not likely to go anywhere until you push them out the door. They are NOT sales people. Stable people in stable positions – accounting back office, administrative assistants . . . they are also likely to have 10 pictures of their grandchildren on their desks. You may have to request they remove excessive crayon renderings of Sponge Bob. They are usually inexpensive, hold vast quantities of institutional knowledge and are easy to keep around. May or may not be particularly effective at their stated jobs.

The Ostrich: Curious creatures, the ostrich is a funny looking zoo member. Always on the go, flitting about as though there is a great rush to get something done, yet, doesn’t manage to produce much. The ostrich constantly looks busy and hides his head when trouble approaches. Perfectly content to maintain the status quo, ostriches can not comprehend what you tell them when you ask them to do something new. It is remarkable. How they ever learned how to drive a car is beyond me. . . . They probably didn’t learn it well so avoid parking near them.

The Crocodile: Lies in wait ready to chomp you. This is the best personality to guard the CEO’s door. The Croc feeds on mammals large and small if they get too close, but isn’t trying to cause any harm. They are testy, do not poke with a stick . . . ever. This is a lousy person to be near on a cube farm. Crocodiles should be in positions with enough importance that they are away from everyone else, mostly for the safety of everyone else. Crocs are there to guard not produce.

The Python: run, run fast if you have one of these. Pythons slither about indiscriminately sucking the life out of whomever, whenever. At first you think he’s a cheetah, but cheetah only kill those who are weaker and in their way. Pythons kill for pleasure. They are slick, slippery and very, very strong. Pythons end up in positions of power because they “kill” off those above them. Unrepentant about sabotage, nothing can impede a python’s path; he knows he can choke the life out of you eventually. If you think you have a python on your staff, get him transferred away from you asap.

Your corporate board? Probably Monkeys. Scared little monkeys flinging sh*t at each other.

Victor Kipling prefers Rat, Chameleon, Peacock, Bear, Rabbit, Lion and Lemur for his assorted cubicle zoo.

Office Etiquette – Making Introductions

A little old fashioned office etiquette for making introductions, particularly outside the office. Be careful in making introductions. It is easier to evade than to cause disagreeable complications. It is unpardonable to introduce one party to another after having been warned not to do so. Board Members can be particularly tricky about remaining anonymous with employees of the organization, be aware.

Forgetting a person’s name when about to introduce is awkward; when it does happen, apologize and ask for the name. It is also acceptable to request the other to, “Remind me of your full name.” In some circles this implies you remember the person’s name, but need help with the full name . . . few people are fooled by this, but it is polite. If you have had to ask the same person for his or her “full name” at more than one occasion in the past year, you have failed yourself with poor form. Get a course to remember names and study it. Daily. Until you get it.

If a person fails to hear the name, it is proper to inform the one to whom you are introduced and to say: “Pardon me, but I failed to hear your name.” In making introductions one should distinctly pronounce the names.

Men should always be introduced to women, the younger to an elder person, and if a purely social situation, unmarried persons to the married.

When an introduction occurs, future recognition is not warranted. For this reason great care should be exercised at entertainments that only those who are congenial to each other should be brought together. At small gatherings it is more appropriate to introduce. When many are present, it is not necessary to do so.

It is quite proper to introduce one group to another without formality at any sports function. Such introductions need not imply further acquaintance if undesirable.

I am a Rock Star . . .

Small diversion today: So you really want to be a rock star? If you’re a musician or know one, you’ll want to check this out:

Rock Star Training

Did you know that eMarketer predicts music download sales will surpass CD sales by 2010? Does anyone actually purchase CDs now?? I haven’t seen one in at least 8 years….
If you know any musicians, or if you want to be a rock star, this info could be exactly what you need to launch a career in music.

Here’s a double opportunity:

1. You submit your video and get immediate circulation of 250,000 people – this is not a YouTube “no one will see you” site. It’s this guy’s blog and that’s how many hits he had last month.

2. He is teaching a course. You have a chance to win the course and if you do not win, purchase the course. But you are not at all obligated to do that – you still get great traffic and attention for your video – no purchase necessary! Course price is under $100.

Rock Star Training Site

If you think you can shake it better than Sanjaya, go post your video. If you do post a video, let me know and I’ll go check it out and maybe even vote for you. Can’t promise you’re going to have groupies by February, but if this is up your alley, why not?

Job Interview Attire

Job Interview Etiquette tips for dressing with WSJ reader tips and a heavy hand from Miss Mentor.

1. Wear well made shoes, spend a bit more than you think you can afford. Women: closed toe and heel for women. Men: no tassels.

2. Suits: A fine suit will cost a little more. Do have it tailored. Gentlemen, choose a darker color though a tan suit can be appropriate. Opt for a blue shirt (not white) if tan suit is clearly appropriate. Ladies, avoid pastels and crimson. Choose a skirt suit over a pantsuit as a pantsuit inspires similar objections as men’s bow ties.

3. Make-up: no fake tans on either men or women. I stopped an interview once with a fellow who’s fake tan icked me out – his concern for appearing to be leisure class ultimately tipped him right out of contention. We have a serious work environment. The mentality of Fake Tanners is unacceptable. Being overly shiny: fake tan, high gloss lipstick, high polish fingernails, can send the message that you care about your appearance to the point of obsession. Look good, but let it be natural. Take out all visible piercings other than one in each ear lobe. Conceal obvious tattoos until you have the green light.

4. General: avoid fashion statements (unless interviewing with a fashion house in the design department – if in the Finance department, rules still apply), TURN OFF YOUR PHONE, discard your gum/mint/candy, roll your shoulders back and sit with pride. If you don’t know how to sit straight, go take a few Pilates classes and figure it out.

5. Your posture can seal your fate: stand and sit relaxed, strong, proud, but not boastful.

Last note: an ascot is not a tie. Ascots are much more informal than ties. Ascots are for hunting, lounging and other non-work activities. Bow ties are likewise not appropriate for interviews though can be appropriate in the office environment.

A personal note as an employer, interesting tattoos don’t bother me a bit, unless you are in certain forms of sales, but a fake tan sends me around the bend. There is nothing artful about a fake tan. It shows a lack of creativity on your part. If I want homogeneous employees, I’ll clone them myself. Same goes for “common” tattoos: butterfly or shamrock on the ankle, etc. The lame tattoos make it blindingly obvious that you have no creativity and are ultimately just as lame and insecure as the fake tan aficianados.

If you have a cool tattoo, keep it and tell me the story. Otherwise, get that thing zapped off before I see it.

How to Be an Entrepreneur – Angel Investors

YOU SPOKE! One of the clearest survey results that came was an interest in entrepreneurship. While I don’t believe one can teach another, “How to be an Entrepreneur,” I can share the interviews I have collected over the past few years and the information I use to refine my own approach. To that end, let’s start with a conversation about Angel Investing.

Angel Investors are the bridge between funding from your friends and family and the Venture Capital investors. Some Angel Investors will offer money for an equity stake while others will offer a loan that usually requires a smaller equity stake ultimately. For example, one deal I am considering right now (casual terms):

Choice A: I relinquish 20% of the equity for a 30% infusion, provide a preferred annual return of 10% and payback the original investment in 3 years. The 20% equity remains in the hands of the Angel Investors.

Choice B: The Angels receive 51% of the current equity today for an infusion of 30%, receive a 10% preferred annual return and principal payback over 3 years. As the principal is repaid, the equity stakes are reconfigured. Once all principal is repaid, the Angel Investors retain a 5% interest in the company with no preferred return – dividends only if we pay them.

That second one looks a little crazy, but this is an acquisition so the angels will be providing a guarantee on the bank note that covers the other 70% of the purchase price. Since the current owner is willing to finance the purchase and the company is very cash flow positive, I will probably do a multi-step Management Buyout instead. If you have other thoughts, please do share!

The point at which you consider seeking Angel Investors is when you are very serious about the growth of your company, you have studied thoroughly the capital needed to grow your company and you have exhausted your friends and family. For most, this is about the time you need $250,000 or more. It is also after you have developed the beta product/service to the point that you can show some kind of result.

If all you have is an idea, PLEASE, do not start pitching – save your energy, but do start meeting potential investors: angels and VCs. Get some proof of concept before you do any pitches. I prefer to see a customer list – people who have purchased or pre-purchased already. At the very least, a list of people willing to commit to a purchase when the product is done. If you can do that, you can sail through funding rounds.

Then again, if you are a serious Entrepreneur, you know that your number 1 task is to sell your product or service. Don’t wait to have sales staff or a sales force. Get out there and SELL!

Want a good, quick read from a serious Angel Investor? How to be an Entrepreneur – Angel Investors (this link takes you to another site). Who knew Twitter could be so useful! You can follow me on twitter: Miss Mentor .