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.

GETTING STARTED

  • 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!


New Partnership Announced!

alt Our recent partnership with Pearson and the University of North Texas is taking our mission of 'growing competent, passionate professionals' to the next level! With the combination of Pearson's Career Success Program, the GRIT Gauge™ and Foliotek's digital portfolio platform, students are guided through a process of connecting their academic and co-curricular activities with marketable job skills.

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The content of Pearson's Career Success Program is delivered through Foliotek Activity Groups, where students can monitor their progress through the available modules while completing assignments, projects, and quizzes. As modules are completed, students develop their personal brand and gain an appealing way to showcase their skills to potential employers.

Click HERE to read Pearson's full press release.


Starting Strong

It's finally here … your first semester of college. Supposedly, the past four years of high school have been preparing you for this very moment. When it comes to starting college, chances are someone will say that you should start strong…maybe you're even telling yourself to start strong. Talk of 'strong starts' is everywhere: business, sports, diet, fitness, and education. For instance, when starting a new franchise or multi-level marketing business, there is almost always a 'strong start' program that encourages (and rewards) folks to build success quickly. Even sports teams talk about starting the season strong and how the first several games can set the tone for the rest of the season. Many people talk about starting strong, but is it really that important? Specifically, does the way we start our first semester of college really have an impact on the rest of our college career?

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Michigan State University dug into this exact question. It turns out that your academic performance during your first semester of college is a decent indicator of how likely you will graduate. Their research showed that students who have a GPA of 2.0 or lower their first semester of freshman year have a less than 40% graduation rate, compared to MSU's overall 80% graduation rate. That means if you do relatively well your first semester you are TWICE as likely to graduate than if you were to fall into academic probation. So, while you don't need a 4.0 your first semester to make it to graduation, there IS value in taking your first semester seriously.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

If starting strong is important after all, how do you have a strong first semester? In the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, "by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail". But don't only take his word for it (although you probably could … he was a pretty smart guy), a survey by Palo Alto Software found that companies were twice as likely to succeed if they had a business plan. The same concept can be applied to your college career. So, what should you include in your plan for the first semester of college? There is a lot of great information out there if you search for "Tips for college success". Here are several I found especially noteworthy that apply not only to college, but post-graduation as well:

1. Take Responsibility
You're not going to earn your diploma if you don't work for it. While other people do play vital roles and can influence your success, at the end of the day YOU have to put in the effort. This includes going to class, taking steps to build good study habits, and doing your homework. If you're struggling academically, take the initiative to seek out help. Reach out to other classmates, utilize online resources or campus resources like a writing center, and take advantage of professor's office hours.

2. Invest in Good Relationships
It's inevitable: you're going to face challenges. Surround yourself with people who will have your back and provide the encouragement needed to make it through the tough times, and do the same for them. When there is tension in your friendships, learn how to resolve conflict. You're not always going to agree with your friends and you will most likely hurt each other in some way. If they are a friend worth having, don't let pettiness win … address the situation and move forward. It's a good life skill to have.

3. Strike a Balance
While anything worth doing requires hard work, have some fun too. Prioritize your responsibilities so your academics don't suffer, but also carve out some time in your schedule for a little fun. Go to football games and social events, hang out with your friends and family, do something you like to do (walk, hike, read, watch movies, play music). Whatever you like to do for fun, just make sure it's balanced with your other responsibilities. If you can figure out how to find this balance in college, you will be well on your way to developing a good work-life balance for your future career as well.

Add a comment below to share your own tips for a successful first semester!


Lessons from My Part-Time Job

Warning: Lessons from a part-time job during college used to acquire a full-time “adult” job can lead to job advancement, insurance benefits, consistent scheduling, and stable income. Proceed with caution.

I used to dread telling my peers where I worked while I was getting my degree. There is something rather lackluster about being a part-time employee at an indoor playground while in college. It felt like everyone else had locked down internships in their fields, and there I was working what many people considered a “high school students” job. I’d spend my afternoons and weekends singing ‘Happy Birthday’ on repeat, cutting (eating) cake, locating lost parents, cleaning up various bodily fluids (too much info?), giving away prizes, and I couldn’t help but wonder ...

“How can I possibly turn this into relatable work experience in the future?”

Part-time jobs are generally temporary and should be used as a stepping stone to get from where you are now to where you want to be. Despite how “unprofessional” your job may seem to others, if you look hard enough, there are lessons for you to learn that any potential employer will recognize and identify with in their own experiences.

Lesson 1: Communication Skills

You’ll develop essential teamwork skills and invaluable communication experience with people from all different walks of life whether it be customers (or their kids!), fellow staff members, or managers. Many part-time jobs take place in fast-paced environments requiring individuals to step out of their shells and communicate effectively to get the task completed in a timely manner (or else face the consequences of unhappy customers).

Lesson 2: Time Management

This is one of the most valuable skills you can possess as a student and future working professional. This will come from a phase of trial and error. Some days, you’ll oversleep and run into work just barely on time without realizing your socks don’t match. Other days, you will have had time to make the bed, fix breakfast, enjoy a nice cup of coffee, walk the dog, and still get to work 15 minutes early. Despite those rough days, you’ll get a sense of how long your daily routine takes and learn to allot enough time in the future.

Lesson 3: Handling Stressful Situations

This will look different for everyone depending on what your part-time job entails. For me, this was the entire computer system shutting down on a rainy Saturday (prime weather for the indoor playground business). The computer system controls literally everything in the building from all monetary transactions to the arcade games. Now, I could have chosen to freak out. Instead, I handled the situation with grace and clarity. I provided the customers with necessary updates while using alternative methods for transactions which allowed us to avoid the potential uproar.

Regardless of how you earned your work experience, take solace in knowing that you learned valuable lessons in the process. And when the interviewer asks you to discuss your resume and job experience, answer with confidence because you got this!


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?