Foliotek Blog

How to Take Initiative

Another email flies into my inbox from a colleague who always seems to come up with awesome ideas to improve our workflow. I'm in awe at how many side projects she seems to be completing and wonder how she comes up with some of them. She has a level of initiative that I just wasn't quite grasping in my own work-life. Fast forward a month, and I'm the one sending out emails filled with tips for new ways to decrease steps in a current process. Because I recognized a quality I admired in a colleague, I was able to implement opportunities for initiative in my own work.

Initiative: The ability to assess and initiate things independently; the power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do

Initiative is a word that isn't thrown around lightly. In an office setting, it demonstrates one's ability to think outside the box and come up with ideas and solutions to problems or situations. For example: Finding a more efficient way to accomplish a goal that benefits the entire team.

Each of us could find several ways to improve ourselves in a particular area at work, but instead of getting bogged down with the idea of overall improvement, focus on one characteristic at a time.


  • Look for a quality you admire in a colleague (or just one you want to work on for yourself!) then focus on this quality and think about it in the tasks you complete each work day.

  • Focus on the process you're taking to complete a task instead of simply going through your typical workflow. This will help you see parts of your current process that could go even smoother or quicker. Once you start recognizing this in your own workflow, you find ways to improve it both for yourself and your colleagues, and therefore; you improve your company.

  • Implement a change each day, whether big or small, that demonstrates your ability to excel in the quality you chose. These changes will begin to add up.

  • Don't get discouraged if your efforts aren't noticed by others for awhile. Change can take time, and even though your colleagues or employer may not notice a change, take encouragement in knowing that you are working behind-the-scenes to improve yourself!

Today I challenge you to pick a quality you admire in someone that you wished you could improve upon in your own life and start actively looking for ways to implement change! Comment below what quality you want to work on first!

The Power of Body Language

The moments leading up to my year-end review were like what most other people experience: nerves building deep within the gut, clammy hands, heart beating out of my chest. All the nervousness was making me feel sick. I knew I was a good employee and really didn't have anything to worry about, but I just couldn't calm my mind or body to be confident and comfortable. Then I remembered a bit of knowledge my colleague had previously dropped on me, and I ran to the bathroom. The two minutes I spent locked in the stall were silent; filled only with my wonder woman power pose and a growing confidence in my bones. You see, there is an untapped power that people either don't know they have or they forget to use. A power that with just two minutes before a possibly stressful situation, can not only raise your testosterone levels (build confidence), but lower your cortisol levels (reduce stress). What is this magic potion, you ask? The power of body language.

Body language doesn't only refer to the awkward lack of a handshake on the news, the slouching student in class who doesn't know the answer, or the nervous Nelly grimly looking over their resume again before an interview. As Amy Cuddy explained in her 2012 TED Talk, it's the ability to configure your brain to cope the best way possible in whatever situation you're in.

Cuddy explains, "We tend to forget, though, the other audience that's influenced by our non-verbals, and that's ourselves. We are also influenced by our non-verbals, our thoughts, and our feelings, and our physiology." Think about the last time you felt judged. I bet it probably made you feel pretty crummy. What we don't always realize is that we do this very thing to ourselves on a daily basis! We are consistently putting ourselves down, not feeling good enough or not meeting certain expectations of ourselves. But what if we were to take this approach of using body language to not only impress others, but to impress ourselves? Even if you're not feeling impressive or empowered, take the time to make yourself feel like you are.

Fake it 'til you make become it - Amy Cuddy

We could, quite possibly, get ourselves out of the never-ending cycle of disappointment and defeat, and instead be confident, authentic, and passionate individuals. So, do yourself a favor. Sometime today, head to a bathroom stall, a quiet room, or a field in the middle of nowhere, and do a power pose for two whole minutes. Feel the stress drain and the confidence invigorate your mind.

Tell us in the comments what you think about power-poses and their ability to change the way you feel! Do you do anything to calm your nerves or invigorate yourself before particularly stressful situations?

Imani Steele: Building My Personal Brand

alt When we see a student get this excited about building her brand, we knew we had to get an interview to learn more. Imani Steele is a sophomore marketing major with a minor in business analytics and is a Fellow at the Center for Business Leadership (CBL) in Miami University's Farmer School of Business. One of the CBL's top priorities is creating improvement initiatives that are organized and run entirely by the Fellows (students) in the program.

In last week's post, we spoke with the Fellows responsible for implementing the Foliotek Initiative. Below is our interview with Imani which provides a student's perspective.

Foliotek: You are working on a separate initiative with your team. What did you learn from that experience?

Imani Steele: When you're on a team with phenomenal leaders that create a very diverse environment, you learn a lot. I've learned how to be an effective, inclusive leader and make sure that everyone's input is utilized. You can't get away from teamwork, collaboration, and diversity (some of my core values) in society.

F: At some point, you were told that you would be using Foliotek to showcase your own initiative. What was your first impression?

IS: The advisors informed us during our individual leadership lab in September that we would be using Foliotek to record our experience and how it relates to CBL's main values. I thought it [Foliotek] was really cool, and obviously there are many ways to promote your personal brand, but Foliotek can really showcase your individual and team projects, which I love.

F: What was the impact of using Foliotek to showcase your projects?

IS: Foliotek lets you go more in-depth when it comes to explaining and showcasing your projects. I was able to take time to reflect on what I actually did. The way the project templates were structured helped me not only talk about what I did on the surface level, but I was able to dig in deeper and talk about how it shaped me in my leadership and teamwork skills.

F: What value did you get from reflecting on your work?

IS: There is always room for growth. Being able to reflect on what you've done and document your growth, see your growth, and show your growth is really effective in crafting your professional and personal brand. Every application I fill out for internships, I always put a link to my Foliotek ID page. Foliotek has helped me with this because I can tell anyone to 'go to this website to see what I've done,' and [my projects] are right there with a click of a button. I don't think I could have thought of a better way of showcasing everything I've done while building my own authentic brand.

alt F: Do you think you'll continue to build your brand in Foliotek?

IS: Absolutely! I've even had to pull stuff from freshman year! I'm currently working on a project in one of my business classes and I will put it in there; any other project I complete from here on out will be going into Foliotek. When it [my ID Page] was done, I had to send it to my dad. Every time I talk to him, he wants to know what I'm doing in school. He thought it was really cool and was impressed! I now have a way to keep my parents up to date and show them that everything they are putting into my education really is an investment!

F: So, what are your next steps in the CBL?

IS: One thing I love about being a part of the CBL is that it's student-run. I'm excited to continue to be part of the CBL and come up with ideas for how the center can really be effective and continue to do things for the Farmer School of Business and Miami University as a whole. I have a few plans [for future initiatives] that would be really cool for inclusion and diversity within the CBL, and hopefully that could trickle down to the Business School as a whole.

F: We've really enjoyed being a part of this improvement initiative at your school. Fellows are creating strong, professional brands that reflect highly on the values of the CBL and Miami University. Thanks so much for taking the time to meet with us today.

IS: Thank you for letting me have this opportunity!

Four Tips for Public Speaking

alt "Nervous about public speaking? Picture the audience in their underwear." I don't know about you, but this little tidbit of information has never helped me calm down before a public speaking event. Why would I want to picture a crowd of people sitting and staring at me ... in their underwear? That does not make me laugh or calm my nerves! Let's talk about a few realistic public speaking tips that can help you rather than making you feel more awkward.


"Make eye contact with audience members one by one." WHAT? Literally look this crowd of eager and unfamiliar faces in the eye when I'm talking? No way! One of the top TED Talk Presenters, Simon Sinek, told Entrepreneur "If you can, give each person that you intently look at an entire sentence or thought, without breaking your gaze. When you finish a sentence, move on to another person and keep connecting with individual people until you're done speaking." Not only is Simon one of the top-watched presenters, but he's probably one of the most shy. It is mentioned in the article that he would rather not be at a social event, but if he is, he would like to just hide out in the corner. So if Sinek recommends looking people in the eye when you talk, he isn't messing around. Check out his TED Talk below to see how well he does this.

It's like you're having a conversation with your audience ... you're not speaking at them, you're speaking with them - Simon Sinek


Another tip from Sinek: turn nervousness into excitement. Transform these anxious symptoms into an excited energy instead. Oh, your palms are sweaty? That's because you can't wait to get out on that stage and start talking one-on-one with all these awesome people! Give yourself a pep-talk and rationalize all of your nerves as enthusiastic reactions to being ready for your presentation.


Believe that people are rooting for you. "They want a great experience. No one likes to see someone bomb. They really do want you to win" says Danielle LaPorte. People don't choose to go to a speaking event hoping to be bored, waste their time, or leave wishing they had seen a different presenter. They genuinely want to be intrigued, learn, and walk away from a speaker who has taught them a little something about themselves.


"Know your strengths and weaknesses as a speaker, and accentuate the positive." No one is perfect. Understand how you excel and what you're still working on, and play on those traits as you speak. If you aren't a natural comedian, don't try to be; the audience will pick up on this. Instead, play on your intelligence and genuine care of the subject material. People appreciate true passion just as much as a joke or two. Plus, being true to yourself will make you feel more comfortable and in your element than trying to be someone you're not (especially in front of all those people just sitting around in their underwear).

The next time you're asked to speak or present and you start to get nervous, remember these tips and breathe a little easier knowing that you will present like a pro.

What is Your Brand?
Tell Me About Yourself
First Impressions

How to Format a Resume

altPreviously, we discussed what to include in your resume. Now that we know the content that belongs in a resume, how do we put it all together? That depends on what type of job you are applying for and how you want to come across to that employer. While design-oriented and infographic resumes are really creative and have eye-catching layouts, we are going to focus on the original, clean resume today. This is the route most people take as the Applicant Tracking System industry is growing. By keeping things simple, the system has a better chance of scanning your resume and passing it on to those responsible for hiring.

You already know what you're including on your resume, and you've decided on keeping it clean and simple. So what's next? Let's take a look at the biggest factors in the layout:

  • One Page Maximum
  • Professional Font
  • Clean Layout

One page is plenty of room to give potential employers a snapshot of who you are and why you’re the best candidate. Type up all of your information on one page and see how much space it takes up. If you’re overflowing onto page two without even formatting any of the text, go through and cut out extra verbiage. Overly-talkative babies are cute, but a rambling resume is not.

Next, choose a professional font. If you use a font that has ‘added embellishments’ to its letters, you run the risk of looking unprofessional or childish. Not only that, but the Applicant Tracking Systems that bigger companies use to scan thousands of resumes could cause your resume to be looked over due to an unfamiliar font. Stick with Calibri, Times New Roman, Arial, or any of the other seven fonts on’s top ten resume-friendly fonts list. The number one font to stay away from? Comic Sans. If you don't know why, check out this article by

Finally, keep a clean layout. This means that everything should be organized cohesively and not spaced out randomly throughout the page. Stick with one alignment. So if you align the first bit of information on the left, continue this alignment with the rest of your information. Use headers to differentiate the types of information that you’re including (Work Experience, School History, etc.) so that it’s easier for the employer to quickly find what they’re looking for on the page. Hungry for more? Check out Jeff & Mike: The Interview Guys' Resume Format Guide for 2016.

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