1. Study what you love, do well, and get involved.
2. Create a personal brand and tell your story. Share whatever makes you unique with the world. Even if nobody’s listening, a falling tree most definitely makes a sound.
3. Trim down your résumé. Keep only the highest quality content.
4. Customize your cover letters, or at least parts of them, to demonstrate the unique value you’d provide to each company.
5. Network frequently. When you find yourself bored on Facebook, log out and log into LinkedIn. Focus on establishing meaningful, knowledge-sharing relationships. Invest in yourself by building your professional network one connection at a time.
6. Network effectively. On LinkedIn, connect with alumni in your industry. If you graduated from Temple and want a consulting job in Philadelphia, conduct an advanced LinkedIn search for “Temple University,” “Consulting,” and “Philadelphia.” Now, once you’ve identified Temple alumni in your industry, don’t blow your chances by trying to impress them. Rather, introduce yourself, tell your story, and inquire about theirs.
7. Avoid energy drink-peddling, multi-level marketing schemes at all costs. If you’re dedicated to becoming a caffeine pusher, do it because you love energy drinks. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I envy you.
8. Diversify your career options. Never put all your eggs in one basket. The job market is one big numbers game. Apply to positions early and often. You’re far more likely to miss out on your dream job if you don’t know that it exists. Find it before someone else does.
9. Take control of the situation. Seek out attractive companies, startups, non-profits, etc., even if they’re not hiring, and inquire about future openings.
10. Practice interviewing. In preparation for behavioral interviews, learn the S.T.A.R. Method. This effective formatting technique helps structure your interview answers in terms of a Situation, Task, Action, and Result (S.T.A.R.). Reflect on a time when you overcame a challenge. What specific actions did you take? Now, articulate how those actions influenced the outcome in your or your team’s favor.
11. Prepare thoroughly for interviews, but never too much. Research the company and the position. Develop a clear narrative that your résumé supports. Rehearse that narrative and incorporate the S.T.A.R. Method to validate your qualifications with specific examples.
12. Handle behavioral interviews no differently than you do conversations. Listen to understand, not to reply. You have one mouth and two ears. Consider speaking half as often as you listen. That being said, always prepare what you’re going to do and say moments before actually committing.
13. Embrace failure. If you don’t land your dream job initially, try to find out why. Accept that your dream job might take years to secure. In the meantime, treasure every opportunity that life brings your way.
14. Be honest. Be yourself. You shouldn’t feel pressured to fake anything. You’re the person who was invited to this interview. You’re the person who’s qualified for this job. You’re capable of achieving whatever you believe you’re capable of achieving. Follow your passion and perseverance to the doors that will open just for you at the perfect time. You belong where you’re appreciated.
Perhaps, in 2013, you didn’t finish a novel, due, not to your short attention span, but rather, the bombardment of literary choices at your disposal. Perhaps, in 2013, you didn’t commit to a relationship either, overwhelmed with the sheer number of bicep bearing or sideboob sporting singles available in your social networks. Perhaps, even while reading this, you’re simultaneously checking emails and notifications, wondering anxiously, is another blog really worth 60 seconds of my life?
The fact is, in 2014, with the world becoming hotter, flatter, and rapidly more crowded, we’re caught inescapably in a crippling blizzard of choices. And the problem is, we don’t even know what we want anymore. We only know what we don’t want. Counterintuitive indeed, we find ourselves paralyzed by too much of a good thing.
Choice overload coupled with our insatiable desire for excess raises our expectations to insurmountable heights. Since satisfaction is the difference between reality and our expectations of it, we tend to remain dissatisfied with the reality of our decisions. Our freedom of choice proves ultimately paradoxical in that it inevitably results in regret.
To help cope with choice overload and subsequent regret, consider these tips:
1. Lower your expectations to the point at which you’re satisfied with reality.For example, don’t expect to finish every bestselling novel, but read often for pleasure.
2. Forget the number of fish in your sea of social networks. Treasure anyone and everyone who life brings your way. If you’re perpetually busy and convinced you can always do better, you’re just another victim of choice paralysis.
3. Stop competing with and comparing yourself to those around you. The grass appears forever greener on the other side.
4. Avoid regret. Appreciate, rather, what already is. Put last year’s Patrón provoked make out session with your ex behind you. Be grateful for the family and friends who support you despite your imperfections. Not everyone is so fortunate.
5. Realize that nothing is or ever could be lacking in your life. Everything you have, somebody out there wants. Everything you want, somebody out there has. But everything you need is right before your eyes.
6. I once met a Spanish man who lived so close to France that at night, he could smell the buttery croissants baking, yet he remained content to die of old age without ever having gone to taste one. Attach yourself neither to results nor destinations. You’re exactly where you need to be.
1. For the love of Steve Jobs, stop creating products and services from scratch. Instead, resourcefully seek out innovative combinations of existing solutions, much like a talented author creates new meaning from old words. The automobile didn’t arise from thin air. On the contrary, it resulted as an amalgamation of two existing forms of transportation: the horse carriage and steam engine.
2. Use your skills and passions to your advantage. Integrate three of your interests to see what inventive combinations you can generate. For example, I’m an entrepreneurial action sports and hip hop enthusiast who films skateboarding videos while rapping about entrepreneurship.
3. Look to the natural world for inspiration. George de Mestral invented Velcro after discovering that burrs of the burdock plant stuck to his dog’s fur. Moral of the story: de Mestral didn’t draw his inspiration from a blank slate. Conversely, he redesigned an existing technology that Mother Nature crafted meticulously, long before his own earthly arrival.
4. Develop commercially viable solutions that address specific pain points. Before haphazardly generating solutions to problems that nobody cares about, step back and ask yourself, what pain point am I remedying? To their peril, entrepreneurs often neglect to evaluate customer and user pains. As a result, they make costly business decisions based on untested assumptions.
5. Realize that less is more. Southwest Airlines saved $10 million in fuel expenses simply by installing lighter seats in its airliners. Southwest developed what product designers call a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which contains all of the components necessary for functionality, but nothing more.
Consider French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s advice: “You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.”
6. Observe how others achieve high performance levels and imitate them. At the risk of tooting Southwest’s horn, the airline also cut operating expenses — reducing the amount of time that its aircrafts spent grounded — when it adopted the same speedy refueling techniques employed by Formula One racers. Imagine how different technologies used in one field could be adapted to solve problems in another industry.
7. Dare to be different and others will remember you. Just think about the iPhone. Apple consigned Blackberry’s hardware keyboard to oblivion by doing exactly the opposite of its competitor: designing a touch screen with fewer buttons. Imagine a Blackberry, or any product for that matter, on Opposite Day. That’s one of the most effective ways to differentiate your products. Define the attributes of an existing solution and reverse them. Whatever the competition makes, make the opposite.
*8. Infiltrate untapped market space. In the 1980′s, confronted with declining attendance, Cirque du Soleil reinvented the circus. Rather than enticing waning crowds of children with taller giants and faster fire jugglers, Cirque targeted an entirely new market segment. In doing so, Cirque changed the circus game. It established uncontested market space by attracting affluent adults who were willing to pay a premium for performances of unrivaled proportions. Follow in Cirque’s freakishly acrobatic footsteps.
*As the bestselling authors of Blue Ocean Strategy advise, avoid highly contested market space. Ignore the urge to fight for market share. In fact, stop competing to outperform your rivals. Focus, instead, on exploiting untapped market niches, on making your rivals irrelevant, and on rendering their business models obsolete. Change the game and never look back.
2. Familiar with one-night stand protocol, you’re surprised, days later, to receive her friend request. To be polite, you accept it.
3. Over the weeks, she joins the chorus on your newsfeed. She posts a couple albums, likes a few statuses, and changes her profile picture twice. You can’t help but notice. It’s happening right before your eyes.
4. You can’t help but notice that she’s dating someone new. Now that you have an open window into her life, you can’t help but notice her every move.
5. Better judgment aside, you find yourself evaluating her new boyfriend. You compare yourself to him and imagine his relationship with her.
6. You find yourself reconfirming and reevaluating opinions of your once one-night stand. During the process, you also reframe and redefine your own self-image.
7. You neglect to notice that her cyber activity reflects but a fraction of her daily activity. You neglect to notice that this fraction results in a distortion of reality.
8. You forget that she, like everybody, engages in two types of behavior. You forget that her front stage behavior is directed towards you, the audience, while her back stage behavior is conducted behind the social curtain.
9. She controls, at least partially, the information that she shares. Only the information that she wants to share becomes public knowledge.
10. As far as you’re concerned, that information defines her character. And she might very well confuse herself with that information. Her good performance fools you and her both.
11. But the person whose profile you see isn’t the same person who you slept with weeks ago. It isn’t even the same person who’s posting the content. It’s an actress who doesn’t shit, shower, or shave.
12. You don’t see her getting ready. You don’t see her struggling to look and feel a certain way. You don’t see the process of her identity. You see only the result.
13. It’s not irrational that you, over the past few weeks, have become attached and increasingly attracted to her. You see her face every day and she looks perfect.
14. But your relationship with her is entirely pornographic. You think that a connection exists, a special bond, due to the frequent exchange of personal information.
15. This distortion of reality ultimately prevents you from seeking out and working for real connections and developing real relationships.
16. You’re paralyzed by your false perception, connected to nobody but a cyber-identity, intimate with nothing but a cold computer screen.
17. You have a few different options.
*To learn to let go, consider these lessons:
a) Let go of your self-image. Let go of your perception of her. Let go of your social media obsession. Let go and live your life.
b) Spend your days, not scrolling through life, but fighting for it.
c) Find someone to love, if you’re ready to find someone to love. I guarantee they won’t be perfect, but neither are you.
d) Spend more time on interactions than the Internet.
e) Invest more in your relationships than you do in yourself.
f) Don’t forgo your identity altogether, but be anonymous when granted the opportunity.
g) There is something profoundly human about the one-night stand, and something profoundly wrong with its current state of imperilment.
My Assignment: ”You are required to read Making It: Manufacturing Techniques for Product Design, by Chris Lefteri and Manufacturing Processes for Design Professionals, by Rob Thompson. The purpose of having you read these books is to give you some insight into the various manufacturing techniques used in product design and development process. Now it’s your chance to really be creative. Think of a product and how you might use one of these techniques to manufacture it in a new an innovative way. Have fun.” (Professor Marc de Vinck).
My Approach: Rather than applying a manufacturing technique to prototype a tangible product , I created a music video. Though certainly unorthodox, my video suffices, according to the assignment’s constraints. In addition to capturing the industrial spirit of Bethlehem’s SteelStacks (formerly the heart of American manufacturing), I articulate precisely how I’m employing various metal cutting techniques to develop leaner, more cost effective bottle caps.
“Entrepreneurs cannot be afraid of failure. The lessons learned from past mistakes strengthen your skill set, broaden your experience base and position you to avoid those same mistakes in the future” - Dr. Michael Lehman, Professor of Practice, Lehigh University
I created a failure résumé to demonstrate how specific failures (academic, professional, and personal) have strengthened my skill set and fortified my experience base. However, unlike your traditional résumé, this one is rapped while I longboard at potentially dangerous speeds.
Trading is an art and practice that every entrepreneur should attempt, and ideally, master.
How to Trade? Easy. Choose a paperclip. Make a trade with someone, exchanging the paperclip for something you perceive to be of greater value. Continue to make trades and see what treasures you can acquire.
By utilizing my social networks and exercising systematic innovation methods along the way, I traded a Paperclip -> Mountainboard -> Nintendo DS -> Microwave & Clarinet. This is how it happened.
Packed like sardines in my cream colored freezer were pre-cooked dinners. With no microwave to thaw them, I remained doomed to watch the calendar supersede their expiration dates. My ultimate goal for Trade Up was to acquire a microwave and thereby salvage the abundance of icy, rotting food in my freezer. A strange journey loomed in my future.
The Internet is a vibrant marketplace for new and pre-owned automobiles, but not necessarily for used paperclips. During Trade Up, Tony and I sought to capitalize on our market’s strengths. We created a webpage (www.greenpaperclipswap.com) and applied bisocation to force associations between our paperclip and an automobile, hoping to garner customer attention and boost the marketability of our product. Much like a car dealer, we advertised the paperclip’s convenience and entertainment features, which were practically none. Still, the paperclip failed to entice an online customer base. Potential customers remained unimpressed by our attempt at humor, disinterested in a product as commonplace as a green paperclip.
Graduation season upon us, I encountered a young Lehigh alumnus, a mutual friend of my mutual friend, hauling a heap of garbage down Hillside Avenue. Noticing treasure among his trash, I introduced myself and proposed a trade. “Hey, I’m Brian. I’m friends with some of your fraternity brothers. I’m in Lehigh’s Technical Entrepreneurship program. If you’re throwing out that mountainboard…I’ll trade you a paperclip for it… One of my assignments for class…” Long story short, he accepted the terms. We exchanged items and that was that.
As the weeks passed, I grew emotionally attached to the mountainboard. Tony became apprehensive that our inventory was gathering dust. He suggested applying Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats to stir-up our thinking and help mobilize our idle business activities. This particular innovation method led to a creative breakthrough. During the caution step, de Bono’s black hat, we predicted the negative consequences of trading versus maintaining the mountainboard. I was content with keeping it. The mountainboard was unique and a product I deemed valuable for recreational use. According to Google, a mountainboard’s retail cost ranges from roughly $88 to $649. Considering that the paperclip was free, I felt extremely fortunate about our first and only acquisition. On the other hand, several individuals expressed interest in trading for the mountainboard. Apparently they also recognized value in the product and were willing to trade, perhaps, for items of superior value.
Before bringing the mountainboard to market however, we applied painstorming to help determine which, if any, customers’ pains our product might remedy. We aimed to fill a customer need rather than create one—to maximize the perceived value of our product—and thereby facilitate more favorable trades. With that in mind, we concentrated on solving environmental pains from which customers needed relief. Lehigh’s campus, notorious for its mountainous terrain, poses numerous environmental problems that a functional mountainboard helps alleviate. The mountainboard, therefore, was well suited for Lehigh students and staff looking to navigate the campus more quickly, with greater ease, and who feel comfortable riding similar, four-wheel apparatuses. Painstorming allowed us to successfully identify the niche market to which we would ultimately target our product.
Both in person and online, we began promoting the mountainboard. We targeted members of Lehigh’s longboarding community and received positive responses almost immediately. A young man named Fungshuie seemed particularly interested. Fungshuie offered to trade a Nintendo DS (videogame console) for the mountainboard. In my opinion, the mountainboard was far more desirable than the console. However, Fran Puente (a third party member) thought otherwise. Fran was willing to trade almost anything for a Nintendo DS, but he had nothing that interested Fungshuie. To appease Fran, Tony and I accepted Fungshuie’s trade. We recognized the two-pronged opportunity in satisfying both Fungshuie and Fran’s needs in one transaction. We received the Nintendo for the mountainboard and then traded the Nintendo to Fran for a used microwave and clarinet. I secured the microwave I needed, Fungshuie the mountainboard, and Fran the Nintendo. The deal was advantageous for all parties involved. The experience reinforced that it is often valuable to accept a present “down” trade for a future “up” trade—to deliberately take a loss for the sake of moving on. I lost a mountainboard that I wanted but gained a microwave that I absolutely needed.
The application of creativity and innovation methods was necessary but not sufficient in the trading process. Applying bisocation, for example, we took a car dealer’s approach to marketing our paperclip. In the end though, our application of bisocation proved feeble. We ended up trading the paperclip in person to a mutual friend. On the other hand, the combination of De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats and painstorming helped tremendously to mobilize us during times of stagnation, allowing us to indentify new trading opportunities. Overall, it would be simplistic to attribute the entirety of our trading success to the application of innovation methods. Imperative to our success was the combination of creativity techniques and the maintenance and utilization of strong social networks.
For the purpose of continually incorporating innovation methods into my development of new products and services, I have created a creativity chart. Listed in the chart are: False facts, Bisocation, Kano, Trimming, Scamper, Melting Pot, Biomimicry, Blue ocean, Fishbone, Lotus, Painstorming, Six hats, Lateral benchmarking, Learn by discovery, Roger’s five factors, and Circle of opportunity. Imagine, for instance, that I decide to develop new mountainboard designs. I can systematically run each design through the chart, apply all of the aforementioned innovation methods, and generate a creative storm of ideas. Charting the creativity techniques allows for a systematic approach to and application of each innovation method. A more comprehensive, systematic approach to innovation methods results, on average, in richer, more diverse product conceptualization. In both my entrepreneurial studies and entrepreneurial career, I plan to cultivate a concerted approach to innovation through the systematic methods previously discussed.
Upon completing Trade Up, I learned that my negotiations were more effective when dealing with the three F’s (friends, family, and fools) rather than complete strangers. I also learned that my networks were strong in certain sectors and relatively weaker in others. When it came time to marketing the mountainboard, for example, I knew personally 20 to 30 potential customers. When we acquired the clarinet, on the other hand, I knew practically no dabbling musicians. Not surprisingly, I traded the mountainboard effortlessly. The clarinet, however, remains in my possession. The lesson learned is clear. There are major advantageous to trading with and selling to customers in markets with which you are personally familiar. I know hundreds of skateboarders but few clarinetists. Going forward in my entrepreneurial career, I will be more inclined to develop products that I enjoy personally—and more likely to target customers whose problems I understand thoroughly.
Taken alone, creativity and innovation methods are critical to but insufficient in defining successful entrepreneurship. Such methods inspire businesspeople to challenge uniformity, question norms, and tackle complex problems with outside-of-the-box solutions. For those reasons, I plan to incorporate innovation methods, not only in my entrepreneurial endeavors, but also in my everyday life. When, last week, my neighbors complained about excessively loud music, applying false facts, I discovered that lowering my volume was but one potential solution. I decided instead to soundproof my room’s ceiling and walls. My apartment is now practically impenetrable by sound.
Trade Up taught me both to loathe and appreciate the everyday hustle that entrepreneurship demands. Trades and sales do not just happen. People make them happen. When I became emotionally invested in the mountainboard, complacency overtook me. I had to learn to separate the product’s sentimental from its monetary value. Once Tony and I liquefied our assets, we received bigger and better acquisitions. Going forward, by charting and systematically applying innovation methods to problems that I encounter, I can remain multiple steps ahead of my competition.
My father starts his day long before the sun rises. He lets his coffee brew while the bath water runs. He dresses and then drinks his coffee black, hurrying to consume a full newspaper column before the birds begin chirping. Although he has no boss to check in with and no deadlines to meet, punctuality defines the structure of his professional life.
As a nineteen-year-old, my father trash-picked a set of old wicker furniture and turned his findings into a profit. Virtually from thin air, he started what would evolve into a bustling antique business. Growing up immersed in that business, it seemed inevitable that I would learn the trade. I learned early that the key to a successful antique dealer is twofold. First, profit depends on the dealer’s ability to scrutinize furniture with a keen eye in order to most accurately predict its auction value. Second, a consistent income requires that the dealer accumulate product diversity. Wooden chairs, for example, are more lucrative in the dead of winter than outside benches, which tend to fare better in the summer months. Considering the market’s seemingly seasonal appetite, to be successful, the dealer must diversify his or her inventory.
As a child, it beleaguered me that my father’s business had no place for innovative products. Because antiques, by most definitions, were created at least one century ago, an antique dealer is responsible, not for product development, but for bringing preexisting products to market. I felt compelled nonetheless to make manifest my creative spirit.
When I turned eight, I took initiative, launching a “trash week” service that would save my neighbors invaluable time and energy. My business model was simple. Every Wednesday, I dragged my neighbors’ trashcans from their side yards to their curb for pickup. Every Thursday, I returned to slide the empty cans back to the side yards and collected my dues: $5.00 a house. By the time I was nine, thirteen households employed my service, bringing my weekly earnings to $65.00 and making me undoubtedly the richest nine-year-old on the block.
An education from Lehigh University was, aside from life itself, my father’s proudest and most important gift to me. It ensured that my professional future would rest on a more stable foundation than my entrepreneurial spirit alone. My father’s formal education ended when he graduated from high school. It never ceases to amuse him: talking about the careers he could have led, the companies he could have founded, had he gone to college. In covering my Lehigh tuition, my father afforded me the opportunity that evaded him too early in life—the costly education that his own father could not provide.
Lehigh’s Professional Master’s of Engineering Degree in Technical Entrepreneurship offers the sort of educational opportunity that my father values most. The program trains business savvy students in the art and practice of launching new companies. The program does not mold students into conformity. On the contrary, it builds upon their individual strengths. It promotes intellectual curiosity while fostering a creative culture. It kindles the sparks that ignite the human genius.
Like my father’s, my dream is to establish my own company. A Master’s Degree in Technical Entrepreneurship is the springboard that will launch that dream forward. My mind races with ideas for new products, business models, and branding strategies. A Master’s Degree in Technical Entrepreneurship is the gateway to actualizing those ideas. What I seek above all else is the chance to give tangible expression to the entrepreneurial spirit that has haunted me since birth.