Why the “lame duck” Congress needs to act on the “fiscal cliff”

I am tired of hearing about the “fiscal cliff” – let’s spend less time talking and more time doing. Everyone needs to get off his or her high horse and come to an agreement. Compromise means that not everyone is going to get everything that he wants. Realize this. Understand it. Accept it. You don’t have to like it. It isn’t actually about you and your next election. It is about what needs to be done for the betterment of our country. Sometimes we all have to give up a little something so we can get to where we need to be.

The “lame duck congress” is not an excuse for inaction. Every time I hear someone in the media say something along the lines of “nothing will be accomplished until January” or “the lame duck congress may just come up with a temporary solution” I get so frustrated. Nowhere, anywhere, else would this be acceptable. Certainly not in business. Or in one’s personal life. I cannot say, “Well, I guess I will wait until I get a promotion (or bonus, etc.) before I’ll tackle that big project.” I wouldn’t be around long enough to ever do the project. The same should be true for Congress. Their terms are not over yet. If you cannot finish one term by actually doing your job, you should not be hired for the next.

The world will not end if an agreement on the budget is not reached. The county will, however, likely be in a worse condition. While politicians would likely fault the other party, they would only truly have themselves to blame.

Lame Duck Congress

Advertisements

What We Really Think About Jobs, The Economy, And Politics

To those who care about the United States,

Much has been said lately about how college students and recent graduates won’t stand for Obama to be reelected because the economy has not improved and job prospects are bleak. Instead of finding our dream jobs, we are moving back into our parents’ homes. While some of that may be true, here is another truth: we are smarter than you think – and we realize that Obama is not solely responsible for the economy.

I am employed and I am enjoying my job. Is it my dream job? Maybe, maybe not: but it is certainly putting me on the right path, whatever that is. Many of my friends who graduated in the past two years are employed across the country in just about every industry. And many other friends are still looking for jobs. Some had jobs, but left to look for other work or get another degree – because we aren’t here to settle.

Maybe it’s a generational thing, but we don’t want just any old job. We want to be happy and feel like we are contributing something to society. Many of us are willing to remain unemployed longer if it gives us the chance to end up where we want to be. Sure it sucks, and we wish the economy was better, but we also know that we have a lot to offer and we know that our turn will come.

Conversation about the economy has been hijacked to become a referendum on President Obama. Some say that Obama must not be reelected so anything he tries to do must be stopped. Therefore, any efforts Obama attempts to improve the economy are doomed to failure, or at least limited success. It is Congress and the states that prevent improvements to the economy when they refuse to participate in Obama’s plans if said plans could help Obama in the election. This isn’t solely Obama’s fault. It is those who refuse to work together. And this is not a pro-Democrat or anti-Republican analysis. It is the facts. Research them. We did and we will continue to do so.

Our generation is not content to sit back and be told what to think and who to blame. We have too much information at our fingertips. We will use it. And we want to pursue more and more opportunities. We believe in our future and in the future of the United States of America. What we do not believe in is the partisan attacks that prevent useful governance and which prevent our country from actually solving its problems. We demand that politicians work together, compromise, and understand that they are here to do something. Represent us – the future. We have voted and we will vote for or against you because this is how the economy affects us.

Sincerely,

College students and recent graduates

Recommendations for Job Seekers and Recruiters

As I mentioned when I wrote about the job offer I accepted, I have some thoughts on the recruiting/hiring process that I want to share.  I certainly am not a licensed expert, but these are recommendations based on multiple articles I’ve read and my personal experiences.

For Job Seekers

  • Make a list.  Keep track of what you applied for, you status for the position(s), and when you applied.  Keep each record up to date.
  • Do your research.  Know about where you are applying.  Be sure you can explain why you are applying there and for the specific position.
  • Send a thank you note.
  • Follow-up.  Maybe follow-up again.  But don’t be pushy and be sure to feel out the customs of the company and the recruiter.  This is especially applicable for smaller companies.
  • Network, network, network.  Meet people.  Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.  Use your connections, your friends’ connections, etc.  This is incredibly important.
  • Use LinkedIn.
  • Know your resume.
  • Everyone exaggerates.  Make sure you know your limits.  Don’t lie.

For Recruiters/Hiring Managers

  • Treat people like people.  I know you have choices in who you hire, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be kind in your communication or your demeanor.
  • Send rejection or position closure emails.  As much as it sucks not to get a job, it sucks even more to be left in the dark.  Most recruitment software allows you to do this with the click of a button.  Please click that button.
  • Let interviewees know a timeline of when they can expect to hear back about next steps/an offer.  Stick to that timeline.  If you can’t, let the person know.
  • Give feedback.  Building a relationship with an unsuccessful candidate now can create a successful candidate later.

Basically, all of this can be summed up as follows: utilize common courtesy.  Keep people in the loop, follow-up – communicate.  It will make the whole process the stressful and more manageable.

This whole process is like a game.  Games are made to be won.  You just have to find the right way to the end of the board.  Everyone is looking for a best mutual fit.  Prove that you are.

11:11

It’s 11:11 and it’s time to make a wish.  Here it is: a future of happiness, health, prosperity, love, family, and friendship.

I am in an interesting place in life.  I’ve finished my undergraduate degree at the University of Denver.  Yet, I am still here.  I am here working on a Master of Business Administration degree.  I really enjoy what I am learning.  But it’s different.  Mostly good different, but in some ways, just different in that I miss the way it used to be.  I have to start looking at the rest of life.  Next year no longer implies the classes I will be taking.  Now it means the rest of my life.

My social circles are constantly evolving.  I have recently spent time with both old and new friends in Denver.  I have gotten to know so many people over the past few years that it is sometimes difficult to balance all of my friendship commitments, but I certainly try my best.  I have grown with many great people whose friendship I value strongly and with whom I hope to stay friends for a long time to come.  I have also connected/reconnected with some wonderful people this past year.  I have found people who encourage, challenge, and love me.  I have found people who share and listen and support – relationships in which I certainly reciprocate these activities/feelings.  These are people not only from Denver or the United States, but all over the world.

I also talk with many of my good friends from home (St. Louis) on a regular basis.  People who I grew up with.  People with whom I have relationships and inside jokes that sound outrageous to everyone else.  These are people who I cherish and whose support I have appreciated while not always being physically present.  I am incredibly blessed by the people in my life.

Scouting has been a huge piece of my becoming who I am.  Many of the values and skills I have learned and acquired have been developed through the Scouting program.  My summers at camp led me to some of my best experiences and best friends.  I miss camp.  I miss the experiences, the impact we had, and the friendships we built.  I hope that I can reenergize my involvement with Scouting after graduation that my future children and millions of other youth will have the same amazing experiences that I had.

I work part time on campus and collaborate with students, staff, faculty, and administrators from across campus.  I have been very fortunate in the relationships I have developed over the past five years.  I have learned a lot and grown immensely.  I am understanding the value of individuals and groups and connections between them all.  It has been awkward at times though when I’ve gone out and interacted socially with other students who I have supervised or met staff or faculty “off the clock” – especially when they think I work full time for DU.

My field of diversity/inclusion programming, training, strategy, project management, etc. is incredibly rewarding and at the forefront of social change, while remaining incredibly challenging at times.  I can see the positive impact of my work.  I was once told by a mentor to think about my work, my capabilities, and my opportunities and utilize them in shaping and creating a positive lasting legacy at the university.  I believe that I am being successful at doing that.  Hopefully, others will agree.

In the midst of this I am looking to the future: what are my options for long term employment post-graduation (June 2011)?  I am trying to do everything I can to best utilize all of my resources, network, explore opportunities at every turn.  In this process, I am trying to determine my personal worth (read: what type and quantity of compensation am I seeking) while determining my values and the weight to assign to each of them.  Among the plethora of things I am working to consider are: family, friends from home (St. Louis), friends from Denver, friends from everywhere else, job function, job duties, living location, company culture, long term impact of short term decisions, company/job prestige, opportunities for personal and professional growth, and much more.

I have had conversations recently about how to represent yourself online.  I have professional and personal profiles online, all of which offer accurate depictions of me and my life.  Nevertheless, I am constantly impressed when I find people who can write honestly about their feelings and beliefs without fear of how they might be interpreted or any potential future repercussions.  I’ve tried to be honest in sharing my feelings in this post.  I hope to challenge myself to continue to do so.

So, here’s to the future!  While the future may be uncertain, I can always reflect on where I am, where I came from, where I am going, and the people and experiences that have supported me along the way.  If you are a part of my life, thank you!  I am who I am because of you.  There is so much more to say, but who yet knows what those things will be…

In the meantime, perhaps the following song will offer some insight into this path we call life:

How the time passed away? All the trouble that we gave
And all those days we spent out by the lake
Has it all gone to waste? All the promises we made
One by one they vanish just the same

Of all the things I still remember
Summer’s never looked the same
The years go by and time just seems to fly
But the memories remain

In the middle of September we’d still play out in the rain
Nothing to lose but everything to gain
Reflecting now on how things could’ve been
It was worth it in the end

Now it all seems so clear, there’s nothing left to fear
So we made our way by finding what was real
Now the days are so long that summer’s moving on
We reach for something that’s already gone

Of all the things I still remember
Summer’s never looked the same
The years go by and time just seems to fly
But the memories remain

In the middle of September we’d still play out in the rain
Nothing to lose but everything to gain
Reflecting now on how things could’ve been
It was worth it in the end

We knew we had to leave this town
But we never knew when and we never knew how
We would end up here the way we are
Yeah we knew we had to leave this town
But we never knew when and we never knew how

Of all the things I still remember
Summer’s never looked the same
The years go by and time just seems to fly
But the memories remain

In the middle of September we’d still play out in the rain
Nothing to lose but everything to gain
Reflecting now on how things could’ve been
It was worth it in the end

 

End of Winter Break, Beginning of a New Year

[This post was written while on board a plane from St. Louis to Denver]

I am sitting on a plane again.  This time for domestic travel.  I’m on the way back to Denver from St. Louis for the beginning of Winter Quarter.  I’m also heading back to Denver at the end of my last winter break – and I have to say, I’m not a big fan of that one.  I cannot believe that winter break is over.  Simultaneously, I feel like winter break just began and has been going on for quite some time.  Of course, winter break has been about six weeks long and I have been to the other side of the world and back again – literally.

I have no regrets about this winter break.  While I would have liked to have had more time in St. Louis to spend with people, I had some amazing experiences that I would not have wanted to pass up.  In my time at home, I spent a lot of time with family – something I am very happy about.  As well, I got to catch up with friends all over St. Louis.  I traveled to Israel where I saw new and old sights, reconnected with old friends and made some new ones, and attended an amazing wedding.  I traveled to England where I traveled the country with a friend and saw some of the most amazing (and old) places I have ever been to.  I was able to experience England and what it has to offer.  I spent time looking for and Interviewing for jobs (hopefully with some results soon).  I did a bit of reading and time to reflect and prepare for the new quarter.

The past few weeks have taught my several things.  I can rely on my instincts.  I know more that I realize sometimes.  It can be okay to go with the flow.  While planning is necessary, some adjustments may be necessary.  Change is okay and can be a good thing.  Relationships may change and morph.  We have to be okay with this.  Friends and family are important.  Treat them as such.

I graduate from the University of Denver with a BA and a MBA at the beginning of June.  This June.  With two degrees.  Wow!  I cannot believe that 2011 is here; 2010 just flew by!  The first half of this year will be filled with what promise to be the most difficult classes I have taken in college.  This new challenge should prove to be of benefit to me and I plan to rise to the challenge and exceed all goals and expectations.

This year will also contain a major decision that will likely affect the rest of my life (the next few years, at a minimum): what job to take and what city to live in – the two are linked.  Everything I have done these past 23 years was effectively preparing me for this moment.  This year I will need to make a decision based on my past education and work experiences that will set me up for my future – work, friends, family, etc.  I do not take this situation lightly and I hope to make the right/best decision possible.  I pray that will indeed be the case.

Other than what I have written here, I do not really have any new resolutions for 2011.   I generally have the same goals for each year that will hopefully lead me to being a better person:

  • Try my best to understand people – i.e. increase my empathy and open-mindedness
  • Rely on my values
  • Do my best
  • Learn
  • Talk less about people behind their backs
  • Do what I can to make the world a better place
  • Be the best friend and family member that I can be and trust my friends and family
  • Be happy and healthy

I have no doubt that 2011 will be my best year yet.  They each get better and better.  Every year also seems to go by faster.  I hope that I will be able to create new memories and relationships and value and retain them all.

Happy 2011!

End of Internship & Final Project List

Well, today was the last day of my internship at Build-A-Bear Workshop.  I cannot believe how quickly it went.  While I was a bit unsure about leaving summer camp, I have had an amazing experience and learned, contributed, and grew more than I ever could have expected.  I am very happy to have had this experience.

Today I had the ability to sit down with Tim and Karen and talk for a bit, get to know Darlene better (she is the head of HR), complete projects, clean up, and say my goodbyes.  Although, I hope they are really just “see you laters”.  That would be wonderful.  I plan on keeping up with the progress of the company and related news.  I will certainly be back to visit BearQuarters and stay in touch with those I worked with this summer.  Who knows – if I am lucky, I will have the opportunity to do so again.

Below is the final list of the projects I completed in my internship this summer:

Project List

  • Updated Merchandising Assortment Guide (MAG)
  • Updated and branded prospective franchisee materials
  • Partnered in the preparation of a PowerPoint presentation on International for a Board of Directors meeting
  • Compiled international store profit/loss analysis
  • Analyzed seasonal global sales by country and product for the 2010 FIFA World Cup
    • Developed tools for an international assessment of the World Cup program
    • Created reports for the FIFA licensor towards evaluation of a contract for the 2014 World Cup
  • Created a “toolkit” to assist franchisees in driving sales during Quarter 4 / 2010 Holidays that involved compilation and creation of resources from across the company
  • Helped plan the 2010 International Operations Summit
    • Developed presentation materials for presenters
  • Organized international store pictures
  • Updated international store layout/blueprint records for store fixture assessment
  • Researched 2011 International Licensing Opportunities
  • Analyzed international supply chain/inventory flow and product loads by country as a tool for assessing the international franchise model
  • Assisted franchisees in developing inventory forecasts and turnover/ordering projections
  • Reviewed new store proposal/design and real estate opportunities
  • Offered feedback on business plans submitted by prospective franchisees
  • Conducted merchandise reviews for seasonal and core product planning, ordering, and delivery
  • Developed tools for end-of-season program evaluation and product analysis
  • Assisted in the development of strategy and promotional plans for complimentary business products
  • Acted on behalf of franchisees in resolving disputed invoices
  • Assisted with headquarters training of franchisees
  • Filled out a Franchise Offering Circular for new franchise development
  • Forecasted yearly revenue from royalties and development fee amortization in developing the FY2011 International Department budget
  • Communicated regularly with franchisees worldwide

Through these projects I have been able to:

  • Analyze and evaluate product sales
  • Assist in franchise development
  • Help franchisees become more profitable while increasing royalties to Build-A-Bear Workshop®
Countries with Build-A-Bear Franchises (as of 13 August 2010)

Australia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Thailand, Japan, South Africa, Germany, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Russia, Singapore

It may seem unrealistic to have done all of this in just ten weeks, but that is the reality of Build-A-Bear Workshop – surpassing expectations. 🙂

The Second To Last Day

Today was amazing.  I really do not want this internship to end.  I hate goodbyes – although hopefully this will not be goodbye.  I would love the opportunity to come back to work for Build-A-Bear Workshop after graduation and it seems as though that may be a possibility if a position becomes available.  I’ve got my fingers crossed.

When I got to work today, I had an email from Maxine (the CEO) that she had sent to all of the interns with the subject “You guys rock!!!”.  That’s pretty awesome.  She wanted to thank us for our work this summer and asked us to be in touch.  That seems to be a theme with most people in the company and they genuinely seem to mean it.  I will definitely be in touch.

Laurie, who coordinates our internship program, shared with me a message that Maxine had sent out to Tina (CFO), Eric (General Counsel), Darlene (Chief of HR), and Laurie early this morning.  She had seen my blog post from yesterday and sent it to them to “enjoy”.  How nice!

Today I worked on finishing a few projects, went to lunch with the international team, met with several people, and went to the Bon Voyage Paw-ty for the interns.

At lunch, Cory and I were each given a Zakumi, the World Cup mascot, from Build-a-Bear Workshop International for our work on the World Cup as well as a Build-A-Bear Workshop International portfolio and highly sought after jacket.  I was pleasantly surprised and am happy to be able to take these with me to remember the international team.

At our Bon Voyage Paw-ty, a good chunk of BearQuarters showed up to say goodbye.  It was nice of them to come se us off and showed me, once again, how interconnected we all are.  The company gave each intern a bear with a shirt that had been embroidered with our university name on it, a signed copy (with a personal note) of Maxine’s book, The Bear Necessities of Business, among other gifts.  They are really very kind.

I met with Tina and Eric today.  It was my first chat with Tina and I got to find out her history and involvement in the company and a bit about her personally.  I was able to reflect on the summer and the company’s future with both of them.  Everyone here has such unique stories and perspectives that together give the company a lot of opportunities.

There will be a Bear Builder in town from Denmark the week after next.  Even though I will no longer be with the company, I have been invited to help show him around St. Louis and participate in events with him in the evening.  That should be a lot of fun.

One more day.  I know it will be good.

Thoughts On The Week & A Meaningful Song From Jason Mraz

I have not done so well at posting things this week.  Life has just been crazy busy – but in a good way.  Unfortunately, because I am so busy, I have to turn down opportunities to see friends and family (which I, of course, would rather not do).  I wish there was more time to see people.

It’s been an extremely busy week at work – and the work I am doing is certainly useful.  I have been helping to plan the fall Operations Summit, preparing my presentation on my internship that I will be giving to the Build-A-Bear Workshop Chiefs and Managing Directors, compiling sales data for license product contract renewal, completing filings with governments for new franchise business development, and much more.

I cannot believe that one week from tomorrow will be the last day of my internship!  This summer has gone so fast!

As I reflect on the summer, I find the words of “Details in the Fabric” by Jason Mraz meaningful.  The song was shared this week at BearQuarters:

Details in the Fabric
by: Jason Mraz

Calm down
Deep breaths
And get yourself dressed instead
Of running around
And pulling all your threads saying
Breaking yourself up

If it’s a broken part, replace it
But, if it’s a broken arm then brace it
If it’s a broken heart then face it

And hold your own
Know your name
And go your own way

And everything will be fine
Everything will be fine

Hang on
Help is on the way
Stay strong
I’m doing everything

Hold your own
Know your name
And go your own way

And everything, everything will be fine
Everything

Are the details in the fabric
Are the things that make you panic
Are your thoughts results of static cling?

Are the things that make you blow
No reason, go on and scream
If you’re shocked it’s just the fault
Of faulty manufacturing.

Yeah everything will be fine
Everything in no time at all
Everything

Hold your own
And know your name
And go your own way

Are the details in the fabric (Hold your own, know your name)
Are the things that make you panic
Are your thoughts results of static cling? (Go your own way)

Are the things that make you blow (Hold your own, know your name)
No reason go on and scream
If you’re shocked it’s just the fault (Go your own way)
Of faulty manufacturing

Everything will be fine
Everything in no time at all
Hearts will hold

Meeting the BearQuarters – Part 1

Today the interns had a three hour session during which different directors, managers, supervisors, etc. from around the BearQuarters (headquarters) shared what they do in their departments and in their roles.  It was interesting to see how it all fits together and how so few people do so much.

Below are a few notes that I took, some more serious than others ( 🙂 ):

  • International likes fun vocabulary words.  Today’s word: “pachanga” – Spanish for”a rowdy celebration”.
  • Build-A-Bear posts jobs/looks for applicants on Monster, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
  • Build-A-Bear has extremely low turnover and hires an even smaller percentage of applicants.  Besides the fact that the company is awesome, I’m sure that this has to do with the fact that it is one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.
  • Communication is never perfect – but what can we do better next time?
  • Who is our Guest?  Everything starts with our Guests – a.k.a. customer service is key!
  • Build-A-Bear has some pretty exciting licensing agreements – including fruit snacks!  There is also a new “craftshop” series of products coming to Michael’s in September.

We will continue the conversation with Meet the BQ Part 2 next week.