Category Archives: Entrepreneurship Tips

How To Design the Perfect Interview Outfit

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Dressing for an interview is a crucial element in winning the job. Although it has been said that it’s the man (or women) not the suit that matters, the reality is that first impressions are everything.

So the question is, is it possible to over dress for an interview?

I’ve had the privilege of sitting on both ends of the table and in my opinion, I don’t think it’s possible to over dress.  Although some companies are more casual than others, I think it’s generally understood that interviewees will typically dress with the idea of creating an excellent first impression.

A friend of mine interviewed at a local tech company for a sales position. For the interview, he wore a suit and tie. When he walked into the interview, he found that he was the most dressed up person on the floor. He said that this made the interview a little awkward. My friend later asked me whether he should have dressed more casually for the interview. There are many schools of thought on this.

If you are interviewing for a position at a company that has a relaxed culture, I think most people can get away with simply wearing a suit with a well paired shirt. Although some people may disagree with this logic, interviewers are looking for both aptitude and  cultural fit. The means that in the interview,  the hiring manager is typically are looking at you through the lens of whether or not they can imagine you working at the company.

On the other hand, it can be argued that you can never really overdress for an interview. A mentor of mine insists that it’s always better to be overdressed than to be too casually dressed. I tend to agree with the more conservative approach because dressing too casually can often backfire

Here are a few tips for designing your interview outfit:

  • Focus on fit! Well fitting suits exude confidence and attention to detail.
  • The tie can make or break an outfit so choose wisely. Slimmer ties are back in vogue.
  • Shine your shoes. Unpolished shoes look incredibly unprofessional.
  • Use classic accessories such as tie clips, cuff links and pocket squares. But don’t go over board. Stick to simple designs.
  • Make sure your suit and shirt doesn’t have wrinkles
  • Dress to your comfort level. If you’ve never worn a tie, then consider leaving it out as it may make you feel awkward in the interview.
  • Wear bold color combinations and pair it with greys and blacks.
  • Do a bit of research on the company to see what kind of culture they have. You would most likely plan your outfit differently for a law firm versus a tech company.
  • Wear your favorite professional work outfit to your interview. A well put together outfit that you’ve stylized exudes confidence.

One last point, is that while looking sharp is really important, it doesn’t replace preparation. Make sure you’re on your A game both in your outfit and in your head.

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How Effective is Telecommuting?

Earlier today, I read an article on the Harvard  Business Review stating that Marissa Mayer (Yahoo) has eliminated the option for staff to work from home. I found this article fascinating because so many technology companies have prided themselves of creating a culture of productivity that goes beyond a brick and mortar location.

This got me thinking as to how effective Telecommuting actually is.

In most of the positions that I’ve had, Telecommuting has been an option due to the nature of my role as well as the culture of the company. I found that while I occasionally appreciated the freedom to work from home when I wanted to, I was still the most productive when I was at the office. There is something about being around other working people that adds a level of engagement to your day. I also found that being able to physically walk to somebody else’s space or office was a better way to hammer out a solution to a problem as opposed to just a phone conversation.

Some of friends who work from home absolutely love it. They find that they get more done because their distractions are limited and the time they save from not having to travel to an office. They also argue that Telecommuting provides options for a workforce that is not limited by geography. I definitely agree with this statement and would definitely add that I’ve had quite a bit of success working on projects with people completely online.

With the increased use of virtual teams and Telecommuting, I’m curious as to whether this will continue to be a trend or whether companies will take Mayer’s lead and do a full assessment of the effectiveness of this work option.

What are your thoughts on Telecommuting?

I’ll leave you with this hilarious College Humor Video called “Hardly Working From Home

10 Gift Ideas For That Entrepreneur In Your Life

Finding the perfect gift for your friends, family or significant other this holiday season can be stressful. How many times have you asked yourself “What do I get for the person who has everything?”.

Well, today I’m going to make your holiday shopping just a little easier.

Here are 10 gift ideas that are perfect for the entrepreneur or business person in your life. And hey, who says you can’t treat yourself to something special?

1) Audible Membership

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What better way to kill time on the bus or commute into work then to listen to an educational or fun (fiction) book? Catch up the latest best sellers while on the go. And if you work from home, you can load up your ipod with audiobooks and go to the gym!

2) Tim Ferris’s new book “The 4-Hour Chef

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I haven’t read this book yet but based on Tim’s last two books, I am looking forward to diving in. This book has been highly publicized and looks to be a great read.

3) Gift Card to App Sumo

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App Sumo is the candy store for tech entrepreneurs. Similar to other daily deal websites such as Groupon, Living Social and Ethical Deal, App Sumo offers great deals on software, education and web tools. I’ve scored some awesome deals this year.

4) An e-reader

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E-readers have been out for awhile but the new versions this year are great. The Kobo Mini and Kindle Fire HD are my picks.

5) An ergonomic chair for the home office

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This one doesn’t sound sexy but don’t knock how your productivity can increase with a good working chair. I went to a local ergonomic chair store and was amazed at the difference that a good chair can do. Talk to one of the ergonomic specialists at your local chair store and they can set you up with the perfect chair.

6) Digital magazine subscriptions

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Magazine subscriptions can be a lame gift. But now with most magazines offering digital versions through the ipad or other tablets, you can give somebody a few magazines for cheap.

7) Jet Bags

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Jet Bags are an ingenious invention. A worry free way to travel with wine or liquor bottles in your suit case.  Jet Bags consist of a plastic “ziploc” type bag with an absorbent cloth layer inside. If the bottle breaks, the absorbent layer will soak up all the liquid (750ml) and keep your clothing and other luggage items safe.

8) Membership to Lynda.com

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Okay, giving somebody education as a gift seems like a boring idea. But what better way to kick off the new year then with some shiny new skills to improve both productivity and profitability? Lynda.com has a wide selection of courses ranging from SEO to Adobe Photoshop. This one is on my list for sure!

9) Moo.com Gift Certificate

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Business cards are essential networking tools regardless of how much social networking somebody does. A gift card to Moo will ensure that your gift recipient will be well stocked with cards for January.

10) A Journal

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Jim Rohn once said he bought expensive, high quality journals so that he could fill them up with ideas, notes and reflections that would be worth more than the cost of the book. Moleskine journals are fun and now Evernote has its own integrated version.

You should follow the Pinstriped Suit on Twitter here.

Book of the week: The start-up of you

The start-up of you by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha is one of those books that a friend referred to me but I never got around to reading. Finally, last month my friend Jacob suggested the book for a business book club I’m part of and I finally got around to tackling it. (Plug: Amazon’s Whispersync saves your spot if you listen to the audiobook and kindle edition so you can get the book done way faster if you use both formats)

The premise of the book revolves around the idea that the key element to career success is to always be in a stage of “Permanent Beta”. For those of you who don’t know, entrepreneurs and start-ups use this term to describe a constant state of learning and pivoting. In essence, choosing a direction but always being open to opportunities, ideas and growth that you may not be able to see today.

But before I get into some of my favorite ideas in the book, I’ll fill you in on some information about one of the authors, Reid Hoffman. Reid started Linkedin back in the early 2000’s and is now the Chairman of the Board. He has been a mentor and investor to many start-ups from Silicon Valley and continues to be a prominent thought leader in entrepreneurship, technology and of course start-ups.

Back to the book.

The start-up of you is broken up into seven chapters, each one dealing with principles and practices that start-ups use that can be applied to developing career success. Below, I’ve listed the seven chapters with my key takeaway from each section.

Chapter 1: All Humans Are Entrepreneurs

  • The old career rules are dead. We have to constantly pivot and find new types of jobs and value to bring to the employers or clients that hire us.

Chapter 2: Develop a Competitive Advantage

  • Like every successful business, you need a competitive advantage that’s going to set you apart from the pack. You need a point of differentiation from everybody else who’s applying for the same job or pitching the same client as you. What’s your competitive advantage?

Chapter 3: Plan To Adapt

  • The world is changing quickly and making plans too far into the future may not be effective. Plan for the future but be ready to change direction or have a backup plan just in case. Figure out what your Plan B and Plan Z. This reminds me of the adage “A failure to plan is a plan to fail”

Chapter 4: It Takes A Network

  • This chapter boils down into the nitty gritty of how to build and maintain an effective network. Reid identifies two distinct groups in your network: 1) Allies 2) Weaker ties and acquaintances  You should know which group to approach for career advice or for new opportunities. Another key point is that relationships are vital to maintainin a healthy and effective network.

Chapter 5: Pursue Breakout Opportunities

  • Reid talks about how George Clooney found his breakout role in the hit TV series “ER”. Think about what your breakout opportunity could be and then do everything you can to get it.

Chapter 6: Take Intelligent Risks

  • Learn how to size up risk appropriately but don’t be afraid to go after a risky opportunity. Exposing yourself to risk regularly helps you acclimatize to when unforseen circumstances hit.

Chapter 7: Who You Know Is What You Know

  • Use your network as a highly sophisticated system of business intelligence. By tapping the right people for information, you may be able to avoid a crisis or gain insight into an opportunity your pursuing.

The book is loaded with lot’s of case studies and examples that can be applied right away either to help you find a new career, expand your network and just simply get you thinking about living your life in permanent beta.

This book is a short read and is available on Amazon or Audible. Also, the companion website offers a plethora of resources and access to start-up of you networks.

Never Eat Alone Book Review

I admit, it took me quite a long time to get around to reading this book. Not for any other reason aside from the fact that I’ve read quite a few books on networking and find that a lot of the same ideas are recycled over and over. I was happily surprised to find that while there were definitely some familiar concepts presented, it also covered some new ideas and practical tips that I hadn’t thought about before.

First off, the author Keith Ferrazzi is a well-known speaker, marketer and networking guru. A graduate of Yale and Harvard, Ferrazzi is a classic example of how hard work and connections can create opportunities that may seem beyond most people. Ferrazzi is also the Owner and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a marketing and business consulting firm.

The main theme of “Never Eat Alone” centres on the idea that networking is not just a tool to meet people and make connections but can also be used as a powerful way to achieve your personal and professional goals as well as help others do the same. Ferrazzi uses many examples throughout the book from his own life as well as people within his network to demonstrate the power of a robust and active network.

Here are the six big ideas that I took away from the book:

1) Nobody makes it alone

One of the key ideas that Ferrazzi brings up is that while it may seem that high achievers are independently successful, the truth is that they are the sum of all the people who have helped them along the way. Whether it be trying to get an in on a new job prospect or simply trying to get connected with the right people, a well-established network is the key to making this happen. Ferrazzi has a great quote on this “Success in any field, but especially in business, is about working with people, not against them”. It’s often that we assume that everybody is the competition, but when you begin to see your business contacts as a community of people all looking to achieve their own goals, you can see the value of collaboration.

2) When you help others, others help you

This idea is pretty straightforward. Ferrazzi says “Once you’re committed to reaching out to others and asking for their help at being the best at whatever you do, you’ll realize, as I have, what a powerful way of accomplishing your goal this can be. Just an important, it will lead to a much fuller, richer, life, surrounded by an ever-growing, vibrant network of people you care for and who care for you.”

Ever since my first mentor helped me get my career started, I’ve always asked myself the question “How can I add value to my connections?” By finding ways to use your resources and connections to help others, you inherently create opportunities for yourself.

3) Networking is really about connecting

Many people have the misconception that going to a networking event and collecting a handful of business cards is real networking. Although it’s part of it, networking is really about creating valuable connections with people by taking an interest in their projects and finding ways to add value for them. Ferrazzi emphasizes the importance of not only connecting with people on the professional level but also on the personal level too.

4) Introduce your connections to each other

This is a really good practice that I’m not currently doing myself. My friend Jacob does a great job of this. Every event we go to he is always introducing me to people who may add value for me or who I might be able to add value to. Another practice that Jacob has is that he frequently has dinner parties where he’ll invite a few of his connections over to his house and introduce them to each other. I really like this idea because it creates an opportunity for people to really get to know each other in a comfortable environment. He got this tip straight out of the book.

5) Passion is important, specifically “What do you truly love to do?”

At first, I thought it a bit odd to have a whole chapter dedicated to passion in a book about networking. But after reading this section, I actually found it to be quite obvious. Ferrazzi talks a lot about doing what you’re passionate about because once you figure out what that is, then you can engage other people into helping you pursue what you love. And in turn, you can help them chase after what they love. Also, people who are passionate about what they do are generally more interesting people to talk to.

6) Goals

Ferrazzi talks quite a bit about goals in Chapter 3 of the book. Specifically about the process of setting goals and then figuring out who in your network can help you reach your goals. Ferrazzi talks about how his Dad’s goal for him was to have him receive the best education possible. In order to do this his father approached a well-respected business person who sat on the board of an elite private school. By connecting with this person, his father was able to get him into an excellent educational institution which created the foundation for his career. One of the ideas that resonated with me from the book was that you don’t necessarily need to know exactly who you need to talk to but have a general idea. Then you can enlist somebody from your network to help you connect to this person.

This book was a great reminder about the basics of networking and also creates an excellent framework for developing your own networking strategy. I highly recommend it to people just starting out with networking as well as for the seasoned networking pro.

Never Eat Alone is available through Chapters and Amazon. Ferrazzi also has another book that was published recently called Who’s Got Your Back: The Breakthrough Program to Build Deep, Trusting Relationships That Create Success.