One Last Holiday Gift to Send

Happy Holidays! Now that you have opened that last gift, ate a big meal, watched some sports on T.V. and got bored enough to read this blog post, it’s time to consider sending one last gift: a year-end donation to UCF. Funding education is about investing in hope. Gifting a deserving student the opportunity to earn a college degree offers the hope of a brighter future for an entire family. Gifting support to hire the best faculty in the world and bring them to UCF, holds the promise of building a more dynamic Orlando economy. Gifting money to help fund research, or kick start our entrepreneurial projects, holds the promise of changing our entire world.

Kelly wants me to remind all of you that to ensure your year-end giving to the UCF Foundation qualifies for a tax deduction in 2013, mailed cash or checks must be postmarked on or before December 31, 2013. To ensure that credit card contributions qualify for a 2013 year deduction, head to no later than 12:00 noon, Tuesday, December 31, 2013. Other organizations will have their own cut-off time for credit cards so be sure to check with them first.

Know that all gifts come with our gratitude. Knightro thanks you. The College of Business thanks you. And, I thank you. Now let’s kick some butt in the Fiesta Bowl. UCF has arrived people both on the field and in the classroom. Charge On!

Advice from George Anders: The Volunteer’s Edge

As part of my effort to give students ideas about how they could use their Winter Break to develop their professional skills and experience set, I reached out via Twitter to George Anders. George is a contributing writer at Forbes magazine and author of “The Rare Find.” He also is a former trustee and treasurer of the Odyssey School in San Mateo CA, and a former trustee and vice president of Z Space, a San Francisco theatre company. He graciously accepted my request and provided the blog post below. His willingness to provide a pro bono post to someone he has never met is a wonderful example of the accessibility and kindness of many successful people. The content of his post is great advice for students. I’d ask that you thank George by tweeting him a “Thanks for the Post!” via Twitter at @GeorgeAnders and use the hashtag #UCFBusiness. Here’s George’s advice:

When someone says the word “business,” does your mind focus strictly on Fortune 500 companies that are famous for their giant factories, stores or office towers? Or do your horizons stretch a bit farther? Consider the day-to-day challenges of the clinics, schools, theatres and community centers in your neighborhood.

Yes, nonprofits are businesses, too. They don’t have the big budgets or big bureaucracy of corporate titans. But if you’re looking for a brief – and worthwhile – project to undertake during your winter break, knocking on the door of a local nonprofit could provide some surprisingly valuable business training.

Here’s what I learned in the past five years from serving on the boards of two small California nonprofits. These organizations’ leaders (executive directors) tend to be smart, dedicated, down-to-earth people. They like getting things done. They’re working miracles every month with lean staffs and even leaner resources. Yet there’s always something important that keeps getting deferred, because available time and money can’t stretch any farther. Perhaps it’s a grant application that needs to be filled out. Or a website that ought to be updated. Or maybe some budgeting and financial modeling that sits on someone’s desk, incomplete.
The lists can go on and on. In board meetings, executive directors will talk hopefully and ruefully about all the extra initiatives that could happen if they had one more smart, college-educated person who could pitch in.

You are that person. In the course of a couple weeks on winter break, you can help write that grant, organize that list of key donors, get that Twitter account kicking into gear – or whatever else needs to be done. All you need to do is make it easier for the executive director to give you a desk and a handshake than to shoo you away.

So, start by visiting for a list of nonprofits in your area. Pull up the interesting groups’ latest annual report, known as an IRS Form 990, to get the names and contact information of the organization’s top leaders. (These forms are on Guidestar.) If you like finance, spend a little time analyzing those numbers and thinking of ways you could add value. If you’re more of a marketing type, visit the organization’s website. Check out its presence (or non-presence) on Twitter, Facebook and the like. Think about ways the organization could start a Google keywords ad campaign, if it isn’t doing so already. Then email or phone the executive director, explaining to him or her that you like the organization. Propose some specific ways that you could help during your break, free of charge. If you’re in the neighborhood, pay a visit.

There’s no way of knowing whether such prospecting will pay off 20% of the time, or 70%, or something in between. But your odds of success are far better than zero. Most executive directors of these organizations would be absolutely thrilled to have a bright, college-educated person who could come in, pro bono, and take command of a two-week project.

Get something done in the nonprofit world, and you’ve got a great new element to add to your resume. You’ve also made valuable friends in the community, who may point you toward other career opportunities. And you’ve tested your classroom knowledge in a real-world setting. Those big companies on the covers of magazines may take years to hire you for your dream job. But a small nonprofit may need only 10 minutes to decide that it’s worth taking a chance on you. And – because these organizations are hardly giants, you can go start-to-finish on your project in a very reasonable amount of time. Let the executive director know that you’re working within the the time frame of winter break, and you can probably accomplish something exciting and still have some personal time to enjoy as well.

Winter Break Wednesday: Advice from Illinois

During Winter Break Wednesdays I am posting ideas about how students can use their semester break to further their professional goals. Here’s some advice from a student at the University of Illinois…I like his 6 Rs approach to Winter Break:

John Brown

Today is the first day of Winter Break, the time between the Fall and Spring Semesters. I have vivid memories of this time from my own college experience: At my alma mater, exams ended on about Dec. 23 and we returned to school the first weekday right after January 1st. The greatest part of this tight schedule was that we got out of school at the end of April and had a jump on summer jobs. The bad news was that there was little time to prepare for the holidays, do something adventurous, or unwind. It would take me three days after I got home just to quell the nagging feeling that I was supposed to be doing something and by the time I did silence that inner voice, it was time to prepare to go back to school.

Winter Break at UCF is a month. It is way too much time to spend all of it procrastinating, eating cookies and getting fat. So I’m seeking examples of interesting, productive things people do over Winter a Break. Things that build their professional portfolio or prepare them for a new challenge during the long holiday season.

My inspiration here is John Brown. Yes, that is his real name. I am outing him a bit, because he seems fearful that his fellow students will be horrified by the realization that he actually knows the Dean. That said, John is resilient. I’m sure he will get over me exposing this secret.

John, is what I would term a holiday opportunist (read risk-taker). He sees Winter Break as a season full of people with needs for unusual services that he can provide. Some time back, John began an exterior maintenance company in Denver. As an adrenalin junky, he managed to create a business repelling off the sides of glass sky scrapers in order to clean the windows. In Denver the window cleaning business shuts down in November (kinda of like us). So, what did he do with his off time? He took his unique repelling talent and did a job no one wants to do in the winter in Denver: hang Christmas lights off of slippery roofs. He turned his slow period into a boon. Another year, a friend came to John with a problem: His limousine company was seeing a dramatic decrease in business during the month of December. John saw the slowdown as an opportunity to create a special limousine service for families. He developed a Christmas lights tour of Orlando and Winter Park. You can now sit in the back of a plush limousine and enjoy all the lights while drinking hot chocolate, eating cookies and listening to Holiday music. Frankly, this is my version of hell, but by all accounts it’s been a big hit with many tours booked through the coming weeks. (Two Lessons: (1) it is not about your’s about theirs; (2) you can frequently repackage your assets, add a little twist and diversify your revenue streams.)

So, I wonder if my readers could give me some other examples of people like John Brown and how they are using this time of year to learn more about what they want to do after graduation, develop their business skills, or further their professional development in some way. I will also provide a few suggestions you could try over the break, let’s call them Winter Break Wednesdays…(eh, if you got a better title here, let me know).

Failure Competition Finalist Three

It is time to select the winner of this semester’s learning from failure competition. We have selected three finalists. We will feature one of them each of the next three days and then have a vote on Thursday to pick a winner. Last semester we had over 800 votes. The winner should be the story that inspired you the most and gave you the best insight into what failure teaches about success. Thanks to all the participated! The winner will get a letter from me about their story to show potential employers. Here is the third entry:

Haley Huitt

Before I became a student at UCF I was a student at a smaller college a couple hours away. I wanted to get my AA degree there and then transfer to UCF afterwards. Back then I used to push myself to the limit. I had two jobs and on top of that was going to school full time. I also had a boyfriend and a dog to keep happy. It never seemed to catch up to me. I was indestructible. I ignored the fact that I was losing sleep and harming my health.

After I finished my AA Degree I moved to Orlando. I don’t know how but the next thing I know I had two jobs and was signed up for two classes at UCF. I didn’t know what UCF classes were like so I only took two to be on the safe side. My restaurant employer asked if I would be able to handle this huge work load. I said of course, not a problem! I was used to it. I would work from 5:30am to 2pm at that job and then rush home to let my dog outside. Then I would go to my second job from 3pm to 9pm. Eventually, I fell behind in my classes. These classes were so much more intense than the classes back home. I kept telling my restaurant employer that I couldn’t work as many hours. Initially, I was told that I would only be working 32 hours a week. However, they were working me about 50 hours a week and on top of that were working me like a dog. I had not one, not two, but six positions because the company was short staffed. They didn’t allow me to have a break because usually I was the only one working. I would be so exhausted from that job that I would be fighting to stay awake at my other job. After a while, the manager wouldn’t schedule someone to relieve me until 5pm. So basically I was stuck there until 5. They didn’t care that I had a second job and most importantly, lectures to watch. Honestly, I just left at 2pm most days and left the restaurant empty. I wanted to quit both jobs so badly but I couldn’t. The second shift job hired me first and I felt that I had to be loyal to that company, especially since they needed the extra help. I definitely couldn’t quit the restaurant job because I was making so much money. In the end, I got really sick and had to go to the hospital. I had to quit both jobs and was unable to pay my bills. I had to stay home for a few months just so I could recover. I didn’t think I was ever going to find a job and be able to finish school. This was a personal failure to me because I couldn’t be perfect and do everything I wanted. It was really hard for me to get over.

The first lesson here is to not push yourself to the extreme. My health issues from the last few years have progressed tremendously. It has made a huge impact on my daily activities. I am constantly in and out of the doctor’s office because I didn’t take care of myself. School has always been my main priority, but in some cases it can’t always be. It doesn’t matter if you graduate with a 4.0 if you are constantly sick. After calling off work or going home early from your job too many times will cause you to lose your job. I may not be graduating on time but I am finally getting there! The second lesson I’ve learned is to not settle for a crummy job. If your employer is running you into the ground you should not have to put up with it. Something good will come along eventually. No one deserves to be treated the way I was at my job in the restaurant. My advice is to have some respect for yourself and to never give up! Something good will come along eventually. Even though it took a little time, I found a great job where I have started to grow with. I’ve already been promoted and will be promoted again after I graduate! Patience is the key to success!

Failure Competition Finalist One

It is time to select the winner of this semester’s learning from failure competition. We have selected three finalists. We will feature one of them each of the next three days and then have a vote on Thursday to pick a winner. Last semester we had over 800 votes. The winner should be the story that inspired you the most and gave you the best insight into what failure teaches about success. Thanks to all the participated! The winner will get a letter from me about their story to show potential employers. Here is the first entry:

Student: Steven Bostel

Around 5 years ago my girlfriend (now my wife) went back to school to become a certified esthetician, which is someone who performs skincare treatments based on their unique skin types. I encouraged her to pursue this path because it was something that she was truly interested in. She enjoyed the classes, earned good grades, and graduated. She had high hopes of getting a job at a high end spa or plastic surgeon’s office since she was now certified to work in the industry. After intensive job searching and numerous interviews she soon found out it was not going to be so easy to get her “dream job”.

She soon began job hunting online and in her searching she found someone that was selling their skincare business that was located in a hair salon, at a price that we could afford. Now one might think it would be crazy to open a business with their spouse, some people thought we were even crazier to start a business since we were boyfriend and girlfriend at the time. However, as an aspiring entrepreneur I saw a great business opportunity for the both of us and everything just seemed to feel right. The hair salon was very nice, the people that worked there were very friendly and it seemed like a good fit, so we purchased the business.
We soon found out that there was a reason that the previous owner sold the business… because they did not have any business! It was just not in a good location for the services that we offered. We tried very hard to market and get things going but we simply could generate enough money to make it work. So after nearly two years of trying, we decided to call it quits, cut our losses and sell off the equipment we had purchased. The whole experience truly tested our relationship and our bank accounts. We ultimately felt like we had failed miserably and had nothing to show for it.

In the years to come we would soon find out how much value and experience we gained from our “failure”. My wife ended up getting a job at a dermatologist soon after we closed up shop. It was not the most ideal job but it helped the bills and build up her resume for the next job that she would get at a plastic surgeon’s office, and some spas performing skincare services. She moved from spa to spa for a couple years but then one day saw her “Dream Job” posed online. It was at one of the best spas in Brevard County. She updated her resume and applied for the job. She was selected as the best candidate for the job out of over 150 applicants.
All of her jobs build up her resume that got her dream job.

The foundation of that resume just so happened to be our failed business together. We did not realize it but 2 years of having our own business was a great resume builder for her. It also opened a lot of doors for her and had lasting benefits for both of us. After failing at a business together, without causing bodily harm to one another, we realized we could go through anything together and on December 31, 2010 we got married. We have a great marriage, made great friends along the way, and learned a lot about business in a small amount of time. She is now very happy at her current job and we are pursuing starting a photography business together in our free time. We will not make the same mistakes that we made in the skincare business. If we had not taken that risk five years ago we may not be where we are today. I am very happy that we tried our best and failed. No class could have taught us the lessons that we learned from that experience.