An Open Letter to Companies Who Recruit Based on Prestige

To Whom It May Concern:

I really like your product and check your job openings sometimes. I like to see what kinds of positions you need to fill to make your company tick.

However, one line in your job descriptions put a bitter taste in my mouth.

In Requirements, I see that you need “A self starter” and “Attentiveness to detail.” Cool. However, a worthy candidate also needs “a degree from a top tier university.”

To be honest, Ms. Recruiter, filtering out 99.6% of candidates who did not go to Ivy League schools in the job description makes you seem shallow and reflects poorly on you and your whole company.

It says to me, “I am too lazy to screen the candidate for unmeasurable traits like culture fit, relevant experience, and ability to do the job. I will instead make a formula to weed out candidates who did not fit my definition of success when they were 18 years old.” It says to me that you do not care what I did for my university, only what I did in the months before it.

I get why you do it, though. It doesn’t take a Harvard grad to realize that people from prestigious schools are desirable. According to a study by Kellogg School of Management professor Lauren Rivera, hiring managers at law firms, consultancies, and investment banks use a candidate’s ability to get into an elite school (Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Yale) for graduate or law school as a litmus test for intelligence. Here’s the kicker, though: the study found that it did not actually matter to the decision makers how the candidate performed at that school, just that they got in.

Quite frankly, I am mostly concerned for you. You are missing out on diversity, on recruiting a workforce that is representative of your user base. You are missing out on the person who learned valuable skills managing a drugstore while going to school full time or the person who did not do so hot in high school but found his niche planning alumni events for his fraternity.

But hey, at least you’re being transparent about your biases.


“I Will Teach You to Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi

I used to think that investing was only for people in suits who work at Goldman Sachs and that planning expenditures was only for traditional households with a mom, dad and two kids, who, as a family, plan out expenditure of every cent (“What’s the Cheerios budget like for this month, honey?”) After reading this book, however, I realized that my ~*SELF CENTERED MILLENNIAL GENERATION*~ can get huge returns just by doing what we do best: being “lazy” (automating payments) and entitled (negotiating prices and salaries).

I Will Teach You to Be Rich is a six-week plan that teaches millennials (and really anyone else) to manage their finances in a funny, not-scary way. Ramit Sethi, a personal finance blogger and entrepreneur of, delves into how we can save money and even invest without feeling guilty about spending on things we like.

The book covers:

  • How credit scores work + cool tips to raise your credit score fast with a few phone calls
  • Perks of credit cards and how to choose one (travel insurance, extended warranties, points programs)
  • Opening online savings accounts to earn up to 10x more interest than a big bank
  • Saving for a purpose (vacation, wedding, etc.)
  • Creating a budget based on fixed costs and investing that allows some wiggle room for ~*FUN*~
  • Automating deposits to your savings account so you don’t even miss the money
  • Budgeting without sacrificing things you love by giving up things you didn’t like that much anyway
  • Making the most of a 401(K) (company retirement account)
  • Opening a Roth IRA (another retirement account that is super easy to open and can just chill and roll with the punches of the market)
  • Why you shouldn’t be afraid of “investing” and how some “experts” are quacks
  • Practical nuggets like how to afford your wedding, whether home ownership is right for you, and how to earn more by negotiating your salary and/or starting a side business

I really enjoyed this book and made a lot of quick, free changes right off the bat. Little changes (“small wins”) such as increasing my credit limit (to lower my debt ratio) made me feel confident to make bigger changes, like paying off my car.

Every 20-something needs to read this book. It’s everything we didn’t learn in school. The $10 you will spend on it (or you can “cut costs mercilessly” by going to the library) turns out to be way less than you would spend on a financial advisor. In fact, it is probably less than the interest on your monthly student loan payment.

New Years Resolutions

Here is what I would like to accomplish in 2015. Because I usually forget my resolutions by February 1st, I resolve to give monthly updates on my progress.

1. Discover new music. My musical tastes are stuck in 2008, high school melancholy included, and I would like to learn about and possibly see some new artists live. I will ask my friends/Facebook for recommendations and listen to radio stations for my favorite genres. Anyone want to exchange Spotify playlists?

2. Run a half marathon. In 2014, I signed up for a half marathon but gave up when my training fell off track. This year I am taking it slowly with this program and not committing to an event until I am 1/2 or 3/4 of the way through training.

3. Eat healthier and spend less money on takeout. I will learn to make a few basic dishes. I also know that decisions are a weak point of mine, so I won’t be hard on myself if, in the beginning, I have to pack the same thing for lunch every day.

4. Volunteer. I want to consistently volunteer somewhere because, after sitting in front of a computer 40 hours a week, I want to do something hands-on that feeds my soul. This month, I will check VolunteerMatch for places in my area that need help and reach out if one piques my interest.

5. Make a presentation. I work for a company that teaches public speaking. This year, I would like to use the skills we teach to make a presentation to a group. By the end of February, I will work out at least the “who” and the “what”: to whom I will be presenting and the presentation topic.

See you on February 4th!

You Have to Put Down the Duckie…

In a skit on Sesame Street, every time Ernie tries to play the saxophone, it squeaks. Taking into account suspension of disbelief because he is a puppet, it does so because he is holding his rubber duck in his hand as a “security blanket.”

So, as the song goes…

I saw this graphic on Sesame Street‘s Twitter yesterday and it hit me in a weird way. I think we all have our “duckies”: things we hold on to that keep us from getting to the next level in our lives and careers.

Having supportive people around us helps us feel able to leave our comfort zones. Sometimes it just takes a simple, “Why do you feel that way?” to get us open to doing something new.

On the flip side, when it comes to making a major change, there is always an opportunity cost and potential for failure. What if Ernie had started playing his solo in the wrong key? How embarrassing!

But what I am learning is that these calculated risks make us stronger. When they go well, they inspire more smart risks. When they go badly, they help our pivoting and bouncing back skills (and make for some funny stories later on).

What “duckies” can you put down to play some figurative mean blues sax? 😉

This post was originally published on my LinkedIn page.

Marketing I Like: Be an Engineer

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Whether you agree that our country has a shortage of qualified STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) applicants per job available or not, it is a subject that is growing in popularity. ExxonMobil’s “Be an Engineer” campaign inspires people to be engineers in order to solve problems and make cool things.

We grew up learning about career goals like “doctor” and “lawyer” and even “construction worker” but not quite enough about the jobs behind the scenes. A child of 5 that says he wants to be a biomedical engineer would probably be looked at as a genius or crazy. This campaign, along with other guiding forces like GoldieBlox, puts engineering in human terms.

This campaign was a smart business move because it helps with positioning. Fuel is a mundane product, but this is the perfect way for ExxonMobil to stick in people’s minds. The website is informative and does not directly tout the benefits of ExxonMobil’s products at all.

As a bonus, it cannot hurt for employer branding. It shows that the company has an eye out for the larger labor market and does not just try to sell candidates on perks. Great engineers will (ideally) feel drawn to this campaign (or threatened by it, haha).

But how do you measure a campaign like this? It seems to be more about goodwill and PR than sales, and that’s okay.

Marketing I Like: Dollar Shave Club

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“Pink razor tax” copy paired with a simple repeating graphic is brilliant. Rides on the theme of questioning gendered products. Brings women into their last drugstore trip and has them asking themselves “How different is my razor really?”

Can You Name the Original Painting from these LEGO Versions?


Can you name the original painting just from looking at these ‘pixelated’ LEGO versions? In a campaign for LEGO by art director Marco Sodano, famous paintings are recreated using the world-famous brick. The recent campaign was done by Geometry Global, Hong Kong. A fellow artist by the name of Geoffroy Amelot seems to have executed the same concept, you can see his versions on Tumblr.

Scroll through the pictures and then check out the answer key at the bottom of the post to see how many you got!

[via Marco Sodano on Behance]


lego versions of famous paintings by marco sodano (6)



lego versions of famous paintings by marco sodano (2)



lego versions of famous paintings by marco sodano (5)



lego versions of famous paintings by marco sodano (1)



lego versions of famous paintings by marco sodano (3)



lego versions of famous paintings by marco sodano (4)


Answer Key

1. The Mona Lisa – Leonardo da Vinci
2. The Son of Man – René Magritte
3. American Gothic – Grant…

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Lessons from My First Year Working

April marked my one year anniversary as a Sales and Marketing Coordinator at Own The Room/Blue Planet Training, a small (less than 50 employees) public speaking training company with big Fortune 500 clients. It is a startup environment located in New Jersey, and I have learned so much already! Here are some lessons I learned in my first year in a “real job”:

1. Don’t let projects get “stale.” Our teachers and professors were right to suggest that we should work on projects/studying a little every day. The real world isn’t about cramming, regurgitating, and forgetting; it is about learning, applying, and maintaining. Otherwise, inactive projects go stale, and the more time that elapses, the harder it is to pick up where you left off.

2. It’s okay to work for free/cheap. Sometimes. If you want to help someone but they cannot pay you, if you feel that an opportunity could open more doors, or if something can help you build your network or gain a mentor, it really is okay to work for free. This is how I got started freelancing. However, if you feel subservient, disrespected, or as if you are doing work that paid employees do, it is really not. Consult with the labor laws in your area and know your rights.

3. Read, read, read. Start the day by reading the news. Follow news sources on Twitter. Keep your eyes peeled for articles about potential clients and businesses in your industry. If you are in marketing and sales like I am, this is extremely important in order to keep your message relevant.

4. If have a feeling something has been forgotten, speak up. I am not saying to be a crazy micro manager, but it is good to double check things, especially in a startup environment when people are juggling a lot of tasks and ESPECIALLY if your intuition is going wild.

5. Find work-life balance. My work-life balance means to never ever check work email from my phone. It stresses me out and increases the chances of letting something fall through the cracks.

6. Treat real people like celebrities and celebrities like real people. Our CEO says this all the time. Treat everyone the same.

7. Communicate effectively always. When I first started, I was making a lot of cold calls. This made me nervous and I said “um” and “like” a lot. I knew I was in trouble one day when the COO called me into his office. He told me I needed to get rid of the weak language, one of our training program’s key principles. I was flustered and embarrassed, but he was right. How would we sell our product if our salespeople were not communicating effectively? After that, I became extremely conscious of filler words and opted for a pause instead.

8. Be patient. Be positive. I am always eager to see results, results, results. But relationships take time to build, ad campaigns take a while to get right. Time spent thinking and talking needs to be cut in half and time spent doing needs to double.

9. Meet people, help people. The book Startup of You by Ben Casnocha and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn really rocked my world! Introduce people who you think can benefit from knowing one another. Really listen to what people say. Send relevant articles, send thoughtful LinkedIn requests, send thank you notes. I highly recommend joining a club or organization (I like my local young professionals group, New Jersey Young Professionals!) Not only is it fun to be part of something and make friends, but also the members may give you ideas on how to grow your business or career if you let them be helpful. This is especially true for small business!

10. Check everything at least three times. Then give it to three other people to check. Seriously. Be like Nike and JUST DO IT.