Foliotek Blog

Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt. Yeah, I said it. It's a hot topic. Everyone talks about it. Well, almost everybody. I'd wager that the people who are most impacted by that debt don't talk about it. At least not until it's too late. High school seniors get the magical money and head off to school. Only the magical money doesn't come from Mickey Mouse, it's Uncle Sam.

A few months back, I ran across this ridiculously amazing, and frightening, infographic from www.creditsesame.com. I've seen it pop up on a few blogs over the year and thought it would be good to share here as well.

alt

I'm sharing because I think this image does an excellent job of conveying the problem in visuals. The more ways we can look at the issue, maybe we can find a solution. And since it isn't good to just talk about the problem without offering up a solution, I thought I'd throw out one possible way to attack the problem. It's using an existing system called ... wait for it ... "education."

Wouldn't it be great if every high school college prep senior had to take an eight week course focused on understanding and managing their anticipated college debt (mic drop).

Would it be effective? I have no idea. But I do know that this country can't sustain a debt crisis greater than its current national debt. Something's gotta change. Just check out the graphic for yourself.

alt


What is Your Brand?

Whether we like it or not, every decision we make affects our brand. From the words we use, or the clothes we wear, to the content we publish in social media, all of it speaks to your personal identity. Your Brand.

So what is your brand? You can find out by asking this question:

"What is the word or phrase people think of when they think of you?"

That can be a pretty scary question to answer. But that, in essence, is your brand. Let’s look at a more comprehensive definition from Tim O’Brien.

alt

BREAKING IT DOWN

PART 01 -

“Stimulates a meaningful emotional response in your target audience.”

This means that your actions, on and off the web, are going to affect other people. In many cases, people will decide what your brand is within 15 seconds of meeting you. Obviously 15 seconds is not enough time for them to draw a logical conclusion about what makes you tick without having any tangible evidence, but sadly, this is the case. People are going to have an emotional response to … "You." This meaningful, emotional response could be positive or negative; regardless, it will mean something to them and in turn have an effect on you.

The second part of this statement, "Target Audience," adds a layer of intentionality. Who is your target audience? Interestingly, your brand is going to impact both your "target audience" and your non-target audience. The difference is that your brand cares about, or is more focused on, a defined group of people. While everyone is going to make their own decision about what your brand is, your focus should be on the group of people whose opinions you care most about. How do you want to be perceived?

For example, if I wear a suit every day (HA), no matter the temperature, and you always see me in my suit, it conveys a certain message. That would be a part of my brand. Some might see me and think, "That's guys got swag" others might see me and think, "what a pompous jerk." My attire is a part of my brand, and it can conveys both a positive and negative message. You just need to be certain the message you are conveying is the right message for the right audience.

PART 02 -

“About the values and qualities for which you stand”

Clearly your brand is focused on soliciting an emotional response from a group of people. Now you need to decide what values and qualities you want your brand to state. My colleague has a post about How to Create a Personal Brand. It's a great post. If you have a few minutes, give it a read. However, whether you read it or not, remember this:

You have already built your brand.

CONCLUSION

That bit of truth is about as scary as answering the question that defines your brand. But there is good news, you can still shape your brand and refine it to be more intentional and focused on the values and qualities for which you stand. Just because you may have a brand that means “x” today doesn’t mean you can’t begin the process of refining that brand to be more intentional tomorrow.

So start to work out your plan and make the necessary changes for “stimulating the meaningful emotional responses” you have purposefully defined.

If you have some time, check out this Personal Brand video by Tim O'Brien. It will make you think more carefully about the emotional impact of your brand.

Related Posts:
How to Create a Personal Brand
Your Virtual Handshake
First Impressions


Show Your Work!

If I had a nickel for every time my primary and secondary grade level math teacher said "Geoff, you need to show your work," I'm pretty sure that today, I'd still be living off the interest from the money I'd accumulated from 12+ years of education. These days, it’s not me hearing those words from my teacher, it's my kids who are hearing it (BAHAHAHA … evil laughter). Funny thing is, now that I am "older and wiser" (said while smirking), I am 100% on the side of the teacher. I suppose that the "older" me has learned there are tremendous benefits to being able to demonstrate your knowledge.
alt For example, recently I was reading an article in Forbes about the top 10 skills employers most want. They were things like "ability to work in a team structure" (number 1)" and "ability to make decisions and solve problems" (also number 1 … guess it was a tie). If these are the types of "skills" employers want to see from job candidates, how do you demonstrate those on a resume? Sure, you can write "lead an engineering team to develop web-based product X" but that's like giving the answer to a complex math problem without telling your teacher how you got there.

Teacher (Old lady, sounds fragile): "Geoffrey, what's the value of x in this equation: 2x + 4 = 8"

Geoffrey (Young and arrogant): "x = 2, Mrs. Ward"

Teacher (not so fragile sounding anymore): "Show your work!"

Geoffrey (fear and frustration): "AHHHH"

However, truth be told, that is exactly what employers want from job candidates. When a human resources hiring agent sits behind their big, intimidating desk and asks questions like: "Tell me about a time when you were a member of a team." They don't want to hear you say: "I was on a capstone project team in college," they want to hear the story around your team experience. They want you to "show your work."

So why not get a leg up on the interview before you even step foot into a hiring manager’s office? Why not "show your work" before you even "show up"? Wouldn't this drastically change the hiring manager’s ability to ask questions during the interview as well as allow them to see the entire picture of your skill set?

Foliotek is all about providing people with a way to "show their work." The emphasis is on helping people tell their stories around their learning experiences in a way that is visually appealing and easy for a hiring manager to consume.

Check out some of our samples below (or my own) and build your own authentic online brand; you will certainly have a head start over the competition.


First Impressions

Do first impressions matter? Sounds like a "duh" kind of question. I'm sure you have heard a hundred times how "You need to make a good first impression." But seriously, does it matter? Can't you fumble the ball a few times and then make up for it with a touchdown later (sports, go sports!)? What if you are in an interview for a job? Can't you sway their negative first impression by overwhelming the hiring manager with content that blows their mind? If that were the case, it would be the exception to the rule, not the norm.

alt

15 Seconds or Less

Research has shown time and time again just how important the first impression is . In one side study done on a research project conducted by Frank Bernier, his graduate student, Tricia Prickett, decided to look at the first 15 seconds of video footage from people being interviewed by hiring managers. Tricia wanted to know if you could determine from the first 15 seconds of video whether or not the interviewing candidate would be offered the job.

We are talking about a knock on the door, a handshake, and a hello.

After studying almost 100 videos, Tricia discovered that after watching 15 seconds of video, people could predict with almost 90% accuracy the outcome of the interview. That's crazy. 15 seconds … game over.

Now I suppose you can look at it two ways, it's either crazy good, or crazy bad. I'll take the glass half full approach and say crazy good. And here's why.

Virtual Impressions

Because our world is currently focused on exposing our lives through visual content on the internet, think about how much time can be spent crafting your "virtual" first impression. You have an opportunity to plan and implement your first impression far more today than ever before. You can tweak your social profiles and various online projects to showcase who you are before you ever knock on the door and squeeze someone's hand. Imagine the feeling of going into an interview where someone has already formed their "first impression" and is now working internally to confirm their own opinion of you (we call this self-fulfilling prophecy … that's another post) based on your professional online presence.

It's time the world wide web starts to work for you.

If you are job hunting, make certain you are taking valuable time to tweak every place on the web where people could form a first impression of you. At Foliotek, we suggest you make use of our tools to help you build your online brand. This helps ensure that you are in control of your first 15 seconds.


Want a Job? Use Your Experiences

Getting a job isn't easy. Statistics show that half of all college graduates under the age of 25 are either unemployed or underemployed. You certainly don't want to be the person who owes Uncle Sam $100,000 big ones and is stuck selling sneakers at Shoe Carnival. You'll never move out of mom & dad's basement!!

So how do you find meaningful employment --- a career matching your passions and making use of your six figure education? It's not as hard as you think. You need two things. A digital brand (online identity) that acts as your virtual introduction and evidence that demonstrates your GRIT and Professional Skills as they pertain to your future employer.

Online Identity (virtual brand).

First, you need an online introduction. This is your opportunity to make that killer first impression. Sorry, but Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and even LinkedIn just don't cut it. I'm not going to spend time detailing how to do this...just go here and create a free account. You'll be done in 10 minutes. Step two is where we'll focus our attention today.

Quote by Dan Schawbel

Showcase GRIT & Professional Skills.

Today employers are more interested in hearing about your past experiences than grilling you with traditional interview questions. Why? Because research has shown that past experiences are a great predictor of future behaviors. Because of this, it behooves the interviewer to hear about your past experiences as they pertain to the skills they want their employees to possess. To do this, they ask questions about what you have done. This way, they learn what you can do. This style of interview questioning is called "Behavioral Based Interviewing." It looks like this:

Instead of asking you: "What would your best friend say is your greatest strength?"

You'd be asked: "Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership?"

You see, the employer already knows what skills they desire in a new hire (in this case, leadership). They want you to prove you possess those skills based on your previous experiences. This means you need to be ready with stories from your previous experiences that demonstrate the GRIT and Professional Skills the hiring manger is looking for. How do you do this? It's pretty simple, but it takes some focused time.

Preparation

Before you do anything, read through some job postings and think about what type of skills the job you want requires and make a list. We’ll call this "List A." If you're feeling lazy, just check out this Burning-Glass report or use the suggestions below.

  • Communication Skills
  • Organizational Skills
  • Writing Skills
  • Intuition
  • Customer Service Skills
  • Base Technology Skills (Microsoft Word, Excel)
  • Problem Solving
  • Resilience
  • Planning
  • Research
  • Being Detail Oriented
  • Ability to Grow

Now that you have List A, hit the pause button on your life (I know, this is the hardest part, but remember $65,000/year is way better than $9/hour). Take some time and think back on the substantial experiences in your life and make another list, "List B." For me, this means closing my eyes and forcing my mind to travel back-in-time and relive various aspects of my life. Try tapping into a few of these helpful categories:

  • Big school projects
  • Extracurricular school activities
  • Volunteer experiences
  • Previous job/internship experiences
  • Social experiences
  • Family interactions

Execution

With those experiences in mind (List B), try to connect some GRIT and Professional Skills (List A) with how you demonstrated those skills in that experience (List B).

(List A) x (List B) = New Job

Repeat that process a few more times (3 - 7 should suffice). Now you're locked, loaded, and ready to nail your next interview.

But wait… stop the presses… you have to get to the interview first! AHHHH!!!

Hopefully you've already taken care of Building you're Online Identity. If you have, then simply tie these stories to your Online Identity and put a link on your resume. This one two punch puts you a step ahead of everyone else. Hiring managers will be impressed by your virtual introduction and the stories demonstrating the GRIT and Professional Skills they need. You'll certainly land the interview and ultimately that great, better paying job.

Now, go by your last pair of shoes with your employee discount and move out of Mom and Dad's basement. Welcome to productive citizenship.