Snapshot Series: Clear and Consistent Communication

The Snapshot Series features PSE alumni and members sharing their expertise on anything from professional advice to specialized business topics. Below, alumnus Tyler Clayton shared some valuable insights on the importance of clear and consistent communication when transitioning from college into the workplace.


The Importance of Clear and Consistent Communication

Starting your first job out of college leaves you with a ton of mixed emotions. You are excited, nervous and usually a bit scared. Some of us walk through the doors a bit more confident than we should be, while some of us are not confident enough with our own abilities.

Working in public accounting for over a year now, I have learned that handling all of these emotions with an intense work load is only made easier by communicating effectively. I will lay out a few scenarios that most of you will likely find yourselves in, and hopefully you find my advice helpful.

First things first, there is no such thing as a dumb question. You are going to get a lot of new information and tasks thrown at you; most of the time it will feel like it is all coming at you at one time. You will not understand everything right off the bat. But guess what? That is understood and even expected. If you ever find yourself not understanding something or confused with a task, it is okay to try and struggle through it on your own for a while. After a short period of time, raise your hand and ask for help. Your employers know that you will have questions and that there will be tasks that you don’t understand, but we can’t help give you better direction if we don’t know what it is that you’re struggling with. Spinning your wheels accomplishes nothing.

One small side note: GROUP YOUR QUESTIONS. Work all the way through a task until you get to a point where you literally cannot go another step. Then go ask all of your questions to someone at once. Asking a superior a different question every 3-5 minutes is not the route to take.

It is important to be very clear on your timetables for completing tasks. In all industries, but especially in public accounting, there will be multiple people who need tasks accomplished by you at the same time or around the same time. Do not feel pressured to have to tell everyone yes for everything that they ask you to do. If you truly cannot get to something, let that person know so that they can find someone who does have time to accomplish the task. It is better to be honest up front, rather than taking on too much and not getting something completed on time. All that does is stress you out and make you look bad to your superiors all at the same time. If you truly don’t have time to get the task done, it is okay to say NO!

The most important thing I hope that you take away from my attempt at passing along knowledge is this: Understand and acknowledge that your lack of experience and need to learn is understood and expected from everyone. You are not expected to know everything or be an all-star right off the bat. Ask questions, and be honest about your own abilities to accomplish your tasks so that everyone is always on the same page. This will help smoothly transition you into the working world.

Snapshot Series: Interview Advice

Happy Friday!

Today marks the beginning of a new series of articles entitled Snapshot Series that will feature guest authors including PSE alumni and members writing on subjects that range from professional advice to specialized business topics. This post contains advice on how to approach interviews from alumna Sarah Salbu.

Interview Advice: The Power of Three | By: Sarah Salbu

What an exciting time! You are about to interview! It’s a mix of nerves and excitement as you are about to showcase your best self with the hope of joining a great organization. Regardless of what happens, the fact that you are putting yourself in this situation is reason for kudos.

I have participated in many interviews in my professional career on both sides of the table and to make sure you are best prepared for your interview, I would like to share my suggestions to set you up for success. This will make interviewing as easy as one, two, three!

Three Point Answer

Typically, interviews begin with an open-ended question. This provides an opportunity to pack a punch right out of the gate but you want to be mindful not to ramble. Think of any open-ended answer in three points. For the common, “Tell us about yourself.” You can frame it like this:

  1. Background: Who you are, your year, major or current position,
  2. Intent: Why you are seeking the position, and
  3. Character: A fun or interesting fact. We are all human – let’s have a little fun!

Here is a hypothetical example:

(Background) I’m Stacey, I’m a first-year from Michigan studying communications. (Intent) I am excited to be here after learning about this organization because I am looking for an opportunity to build on what I’m doing in the classroom by having real-world experience (Character) When I’m not doing schoolwork, I am really interested in photography and just recently spent time near Lake Michigan taking some of the best photos I’ve ever taken. I’m really proud of them.

This is a succinct, focused and complete way to provide the interviewers a well-rounded snapshot of who you are.

Context, Action, Result

This is my favorite framework for answering questions because it keeps you focused on the key pieces of information you need to tell. Often times, interviewers will ask you about a situation such as, “when is a time you went above and beyond,” or “describe a challenge you overcame.”

It can be difficult to stay on point if the story is complex. To make it easier for yourself structure your answer in three parts. Set up the context, followed by the action you took and end with the result. Regardless of the result – it is important to finalize the answer with what happened. Here is an example of an answer to, “when is a time you went above and beyond”:

  1. Context: I was part of team that was organizing a local networking event and we wanted to make sure we sold out the event.
  2. Action: In order to increase awareness, I created social media posts for Twitter and Facebook and asked my friends and family to repost on their social sites to generate additional buzz.
  3. Result: Our social media blitz right before the event resulted in increased ticket sales and we sold out all of the tickets. In addition, I learned that my personal network can be a powerful way to share information. This is why I am pursuing joining this organization because I feel I can bring this experience and add value to the group.

Don’t you sound smart!? In the last portion – “the result” – there is an opportunity to break it down into three points: The actual result of the action you took, what the lesson was or key takeaway from the experience and how that ties to why you are a great candidate.

Questions

You just did a great job answering all of your questions, now the interview is wrapping up and the interviewer asks if you have any questions. The rule of three applied here: don’t ask more than three questions. While you want the conversation to flow and you want to take the opportunity to continue the connection you don’t want it to drag. Here are some great questions you can ask any interviewer:

  1. What are you looking for in an ideal candidate?
  2. What is your favorite part of being in this organization?
  3. What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned by being in this group?

When you send a follow-up thank you note, you can tie in their responses from any of those questions to why you are excited about the opportunity.

You’re a pro interviewee now – go get em, tiger!

I’d love to hear how this advice impacted your interview – feel free to share on Twitter or via email: sarah.salbu@gmail.com

Sarah Salbu is a Senior Account Executive at SHIFT Communications in Boston. She was a member of the PSE Gamma Gamma Chapter from 2008-2010.

PSE Miami Alumni Spotlight: Tommy Marzella

After graduation, life can seem daunting. There are endless paths to take. The “traditional” corporate career path is evolving rapidly as new technology steps onto the stage. A decade ago, there was no such thing as a job in social media. And as our world continues to shrink into a global, compact, wired marketplace, job options are more numerous than ever.

Not only is the technological environment changing, but cultural and generational factors are sculpting our times. As the baby boomer generation begins to leave the workforce, our generation has the potential to redefine the world in which we live. We will be graduating with the possibility of charting a brand new course not only for ourselves, but for the working world.

But what’s out there? How does one decide where he or she fits? How does one know how best to channel his or her skills into something worth working for?

In our new YouTube Series, PSE Miami Alumni Spotlight, alumni from the Miami chapter are opening up to tell us what they wish they had known before entering the working world and to give professional advice to current members of the PSE Miami chapter. They are sharing their insight and experiences as they leave amethyst and gold footprints across many different industries.

What do they have to say? Check out our link to see the first video from alumnus Tommy Marzella: