CHRISTMAS SHOPPING AT WORK

Christmas decorations are going up earlier each year and the local supermarket is already stacked with Christmas crackers and angel shaped chocolate (not complaints on that one!).

So I thought I would get in early too as we near the festive season, and cover off some of the things you need to consider at work when giving gifts.

Company Policy – please read it before giving or accepting gifts from suppliers, co-workers, customers. There are so many anti-bribery laws in place now, that if you stray from this your Christmas gift may be that you don’t have a job.

Gifts for the Boss – it’s not necessary. A nice card with a note of thanks inside is enough. If you really want to do something than a good suggestion is always a donation to a charity of their choice.

Gifts to Employees – Stay away from anything too personal, or that might offend. And please do not give something with the company logo on it, that is just poor form and insulting! Gift vouchers are always a winner, spa treatments, or half a day off to do Christmas shopping is a nice gesture. And remember, everyone is born equal so make sure the value is the same for everyone.

I will save work Christmas party rules for a another day, as that deserves its own post!

TEACHERS PET

Thinking about going back to do some more study? A huge number of people have taken advantage of being “in between jobs” to do so – but maybe not as many as you think as most MBA programs reported a decrease in applications in 2011.

People still aren’t straying too far away from existing jobs though as MBA programs that have shown the greatest increase are – finance 83%, management 69% and just over 50% for accounting programs.

However where the students are coming from is changing – with a 46% increase in graduate programs from international applications (China and India topping the list of foreign applicants)

So where to study? This may be a good wish list –

MSc Econometrics and Mathematical Economics
London School of Economics
Acceptance rate: Less than 5%
Approx. Tuition: $30,500 a year.
Alumni: The school has 13 Nobel Prize winners among its former alumni and staff, and over 30 former or current heads of state or government.

Bachelor of Technology
Indian Institute of Technology
Acceptance rate: Less than 2% (approximately 5,500 admissions out of 300,000 applicants).
Approx. Tuition: $1,100 a year (including miscellaneous administrative expenses).
Alumni – R. Narayana Murthy (cofounder and chairman of Infosys); Rajat Gupta (former managing director of McKinsey & Company); Vinod Khosla (cofounder of Sun Microsystems).

MBA
Harvard Business School
Acceptance rate: 12%
Approx. Tuition: $39,600 per year plus many extra fees.
Alumni: Michael Bloomberg, George W. Bush

M.D.
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Acceptance rate: 4%.
Tuition: $34,000.
Alumni: Peter Agre (winner of Nobel Prize in Chemistry), Richard Axel (winner of Nobel Prize in Medicine), Herbert Spencer Gasser (winner of Nobel Prize in Physiology), Haldan Keffer Hartline (winner of Nobel Prize in Medicine).

POWERPOINT OR A PENCIL IN YOUR EYE?

Zzzzzzzzz another boring powerpoint presentation. No doubt we would all rather stab ourselves in the eye with a pencil than have to suffer this fate again. Unfortunately the reality is we all suffer from having to look at them, and also present them.

Surely there must be a better way… or at least some help and inspiration to better refine them and make it more interesting for all parties concerned.

Here are a few top tips to think about when you are next pulling together your slides.

Subject
What are you going to address and does the audience care about it?

What is your role
Leader, Expert, Cheerleader?

Audience
Are they there because they want to be, or have to be and what will they learn?

Format of presentation
What story are you telling?
To make it more interesting please use multimedia, illustrations, photos etc, not just text, graphs or tables.
Stick to one idea per slide for biggest impact

Takeaway
Is it clear and concise, and are there any next steps?

And remember like anything with good taste…. Less is more!

Here are some great examples for inspiration – http://www.slideshare.net/mrcoryjim/smoke-the-convenient-truth-5602255

STUCK IN A JAM

I’m lucky, my commute to the office is easy. Either a 10 minute drive, or I have the option of catching the train which would cost me $1 and get me there in about the same amount of time (hey I am lazy, I choose driving!)

But some people don’t have that luxury and getting to work can be a right royal pain in the….

It seems it’s particularly so in New Delhi and Beijing where 95% of commuters say that roadway traffic on their commute has negatively affected their health.

The Commuter Pain Survey (by IBM) is based on 10 factors including commuting time, time stuck in traffic, and how traffic affects work – and the following countries come out the worse.
1. Mexico City
2. Shenzhen
3. Beijing
4. Nairobi
5. Johannesburg
6. Bangalore
7. New Delhi
8. Moscow

But if you live in Alaska, that won’t be a problem as more people walk to work there than any other U.S. state. And for the other states in the US, you can work out your commute time on the following site -http://www.trulia.com/local#commute

What about public transport I hear you say?

The cheapest public transport is –

Caracas, Venezuela (Metro, Bus=$0.12 – $0.28)
Cairo, Egypt (Metro=$0.17)
Delhi, India (Metro=$0.18 – $0.66)
La Paz, Bolivia (Bus=$0.19 – $0.50)

And the most expensive commute on public transport -

London, England (tube $6.43)
Oslo, Norway (tram, bus, metro, ferry $4.34)
Copenhagen, Denmark (metro, bus $4.20)
Zurich, Switzerland (bus, tram, train $4.08)

Based on an ‘average’ commute – driving your car to work can cost you up to 5 times more a week compared to taking public transport. But, it will also save you on average 6 hours a week in travel time… proving that time really is money!

SMART ART

Last week two new pieces of artwork arrived that I had ordered to hang in my office at home (and they look absolutely amazing!). Not wanting to break the bank, but still wanting something unique, I went with some customized art. I know you are probably thinking of those awful pop art prints that hung everywhere at one time, or a massive black and white family shot that has been blown up on to a canvas… you can relax, my taste is a tad more sophisticated. I went with two specific items – and not only are they great for home, but can add a unique feel to an office.

1. A customized map which is available in any colour, size, pattern you like. It comes with pins so you can track any location around the world and you can print whatever wording you like on it too (mine is pictured above).
Perfect for –
a) Remembering family holidays
b) As a gift (especially a wedding present)
c) Business – hang it in reception or a meeting room so you can show office locations around the world

2. A “Favourite Things”. All of your cherished things – quotes, holiday locations, people, movies, experiences, dates, food, values – all on one canvas and the list is endless. Every house should have one. And again completely tailored and available in any colour and size.
Perfect for –
a) Children’s rooms
b) Gifts
c) Business – Company values, office locations, customer lists… whatever your style.

Best place to source this from? After a lot of research from all over the globe, I found one supplier who provides not only a high quality finished product, but has the artistic prowess to design something special for each individual.

Check out the BLANK website to see for yourself – http://www.blankbespokeart.com/Gallery

The best thing… the customized art starts from only USD$425 and they can be shipped anywhere in the world!

CARD TRICKS

I am old school and love receiving a business card that is completely out of the box and wows me. Business cards are one thing that you can afford to be creative on as after all, they should leave a lasting impression. And if you receive one that you think is great you are less likely to throw it away as soon as you get back to your desk.

Visiting cards first appeared around the 15th century in China and were used as a means for aristocrats to announce their arrival to whomever they were visiting. This tradition then moved on to nobles in France and England and the business card was born!

Things to consider if you are on the market for new business cards:

Materials and Effects – Most are printed on card stock, but you may want to consider a coating, a embellishment, embossing, or specialized material (eg wood)

Size and Shape – Be creative! They can be any size and not just rectangle, think round edges, cut out shapes…

Printing Methods – Digital is the most popular, Letterpress will give you better quality and Engraved will give you another option.

Colour & Style - There are unlimited options with some imagination. Four colour process is standard and recommended. Try and keep a similar look to your website and let the card reflect what it is you actually do.

But if you are opposed to business cards you may like to try out some new alternatives.

LinkedIn has the CardMunch app that digitizes an analog card. It captures the image of a business card, recognizes it and then saves it on your phone as a contact. It also integrates that person’s information from his or her profile on LinkedIn.

You can also create a digital card using Cardcloud that can be delivered by email.

But one important tip – Try to learn the basics of foreign customs regarding presenting yourself and the exchange of business cards before your next overseas work trip, otherwise it could be over before you have even started your meeting!

DO YOU LIKE GARDEN GNOMES?

Business headlines continue to be ones of billions of dollars being wiped from the markets and job cuts from all the multinational companies. People are looking for new career opportunities, but are they fully prepared with what questions they might be asked?

It’s been a very long time since I have been in a job interview, so my approach is probably quite an “old school” one, which may or may not be a good thing… the jury’s still out.

The fundamentals still remain the same, and stick to these at all costs.
The employer really wants to know -


1. Can you do the job?
2. Will you love the job?
3. Can we tolerate working with you?

BUT… always be prepared. Here are a few of the stranger questions you may be asked.

“How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator?” — Horizon Group Properties

“What do you think of garden gnomes?” — Trader Joe’s

“If Germans were the tallest people in the world, how would you prove it?” — Hewlett-Packard

“How many people are using Facebook in San Francisco at 2:30 on a Friday?” — Google

“Just entertain me for five minutes. I’m not going to talk.” — Acosta

“Would Mahatma Gandhi have made a good software engineer?” – Deloitte

“Room, desk and car – which do you clean first?” – Pinkberry

“If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?” – Goldman Sachs

What is the strangest question you have ever been asked in an interview??