December 31, 2015

Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016

By Kelly Marderosian

It goes without saying. This is the time of year where we embark on major reflection, looking back on the year behind us and crafting resolutions for the fresh days ahead. We set family goals, personal expectations and dream big for business.

When 2015 roared in, it brought with it new colleagues…introduced challenges…created lessons learned….saw business lost…business gained.

What did it all mean? What did we learn? What are some of our key takeaways from 2015?

Here’s a look at some of my past year’s lessons and how we aspire to make 2016 one filled with purpose, goals achieved and little things in our world changed for the better.

Collaboration Matters.

Sit around a Consociate Media table during a creative jam session (yes, there’s music involved!) and like a flynt to a stone, you can practically see the sparks flying. The fresh ideas, the brainstorming, the collaboration. When it all comes together, it’s like magic. Or fire. Or whatever analogy you want to use here. Whether working from an office, or working from home, it’s imperative to collaborate with colleagues. Collaboration takes teamwork to the next level.

There is so much value in working side by side and sharing a sense of purpose. We – and by we, I mean our PR and marketing team at Consociate and our clients – are all in this together. To succeed together. To grow together. To be great together.

Organization is key.

Don’t want something to slip through the cracks? Two words. Stay organized. How you do that is up to you. But find a tool. Maximize its use and put it to work. Don’t let hours in your day be consumed by inefficiency. In our office, we use a cloud-based project management tool to maintain all of our active projects, communicate with one another and set deadlines on deliverables. But don’t be fooled. Getting and staying organized takes work, time and focus. In the end, it’s worth it.

Be open to constructive criticism.

Okay, this is a tough one…for me. Not many of us like to face the reality that what we did was not the best work ever. But truth be told, especially in a creative agency that’s built on stories and ideas, constructive criticism allows us to see what we did first and how to make it better the second time. If you think of everything you do can never get better or improve, then what’s the point? The goal is to learn more, do more, create more…and make it even more meaningful. You can’t do that without getting feedback on how to do it better.

I am admittedly very hard on myself and get discouraged easily…and then I tend to dwell on it. Stephanie once told me you have “you have ten more minutes to be upset, then you need to get over it.” It’s something her first newspaper editor told her when she had to put her first error report in the paper. Mistakes happen. Learn from them, don’t get discouraged and move on.

Work smarter. Not harder.

One major reality check this year? Slow down. Take your time. You WILL do better work. Earlier this year, our entire team took a breath. We actively slowed down, if that makes sense! We began weekly creative sessions. We picked small and large projects we were all working on and focused on them together. Taking the extra time to outline goals and collaborate will save time down the road and result in better work.

Use your vacation time.

Sounds funny, right? The truth is, our team likes to take their laptops with them on vacation so they can fit work in when time allows. I may be guilty as charged. Rudy jokingly says he will confiscate all laptops before anyone leaves for vacation! Why? Because he recognizes the value in taking a step back from work to refresh and recharge. Taking time to turn off your brain often awakes your most creative thoughts.

Make time for team building.

Team building isn’t just a way to get out of the office and enjoy time together, it’s also a way to bond and boost morale. Besides, the majority of people in the workforce spend more time at work than with our own families. Creating lasting relationships is important. Teambuilding also shows your employees that you value them and their hard work. At Consociate we went to Go Ape, participated in the RE Strong Run 5K/10K and enjoyed a holiday celebration at Waypoint Seafood and Grill. We are already making plans for our first team building adventure of 2016! It’s nice when you enjoy being with the people you spend the most time with, eh?

Be amazing.

When you have amazing team members, all possessing different skills sets and talents, the work speaks for itself. Ensure you have people on your team passionate about your goals so you can achieve them together.

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The Business Benefits of Interdisciplinary Study

By Mary Arczynski, Guest Consociate Media Blogger & Recent James Madison University Graduate, Double Majoring in English and Economics

It’s a question that comes up frequently.

In a world of specialized jobs, concrete career paths, and specific job requirements, why did I choose to study two seemingly disconnected majors like English and Economics? The answer: because I like to read, I like to write, I like math, and I like anticipating the behavior of others. They also happen to be the subjects I am passionate about and feel competent in. But most importantly, the two majors challenge me as much as they challenge each other.

Double majoring in English and Economics makes sense because it is not expected. As a study combination, it surprises and intrigues people.

Proficiency in writing and editing is the beneficial skill of an English major that is regularly mentioned to me. It is true that an English major requires a lot of writing practice and that this is a beneficial skill in almost any profession. But, English is also very interpersonal. Every time I open a book, I examine the inner thought process of an author.

Instilling a passion and dedication to reading creates a socially and emotionally aware individual.

It constantly exposes one to other cultures, religions, geographical settings, and logical thought processes. I believe it to be a safe assumption that in a person’s career, one will work with many people who come from an array of different backgrounds in any or all of these categories and more. Books, fiction and non-fiction alike, provide insight into the experiential context of other peoples’ lives that one cannot physically experience his or her self. Furthermore, reading and textual analysis increases cognitive abilities on a micro and macro level. An English major focuses on word choice, sentence structure, character development, historical setting, etc. At the same time, a reader must pay attention to the overarching themes of the novel and the questions, “why does this book matter,” and “how does this book change my outlook on the world?”

Economics gives me the hard skills I need to succeed in the business world. It requires a sense of mathematical ownership and acceptance of current truths. There is a certain amount of rigidity and discipline that comes with the mathematical side to Economics- not every answer can be right. Economics teaches that in the world there are an unlimited number of wants with a limited number of resources. It shows current inefficiencies in resource distribution and creation. It gives me an appreciation for the excellence and innovation that competition demands. It also teaches anticipation of the actions of others by examining cause and effect, and the correlations and causations of natural and human occurrences. Studying economics gives me the sensibility and courage to accept the world in a real way, as it is now. This acceptance allows me to think of tangible, constructive solutions to problems in business, life, and the problems of the human community. Furthermore, from a functional standpoint, it shows me to appreciate each person as a valuable resource.

So, how does interdisciplinary study apply to the business world?

The most important benefit of an English major entering the business world is idealism. Books provide social commentary, and challenge society to be better by fostering goals. Economics instills a very pragmatic way of thinking—which is important for an idealist. But pragmatism alone does not lead to large-scale advancements just as idealism alone achieves nothing. Pragmatism can create a pattern of complacency in its practicality, whereas solely being idealistic paralyzes decision making, because people and businesses cannot perfectly achieve their goals one hundred percent of the time. Interdisciplinary study has given me knowledge and proficiency in the soft skills of reading and writing, and the hard skills of math and science, but more significantly, it has made me a pragmatic idealist. I have expectations of bettering society, and I use economics to think of practical step-by-step measures to bridge the gap between idea and reality. I realize that not everyone can have the same number of resources, but I also do not lose sight of the emotional part of humanity that we must embrace in order to progress as people, a business, or as the human race. Economics shows where the world is now, and provides options for how to take the next step. English fosters the cognitive ability that creates finish lines for these logical, pragmatic steps, finish lines that may or may not ever be reached, but will be run toward nonetheless. When one has the means and the end, success in business and in life is inevitable.

By no means am I implying that everyone in the world should be an English and Economics double major. Rather, I encourage others, especially those in the business world, to break the mold of what is stereotypically “useful” in certain segmented career paths. Different fields of study have a lot to learn from one another, but unless experts can meet each other halfway, then bridges between different subjects are hard to cross and the comparative advantage of different fields of study are not used to their full advantage. The people that can embrace and accomplish many different methods of thinking are the life-long learners, the adapters, the innovators, and the leaders. They put themselves in the way of success because they do not aspire to what is expected, but rather, aspire to create and excel past our current society’s expectations.

Related Article:

http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2010/04/02/attention-and-intelligence/

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Strong Interdependent Men and Women

Recently I (and this is Steph Heinatz writing) had the pleasure of meeting Mary Arczynski, a recent graduate from Virginia’s James Madison University with degrees in English and Economics.

She believes in the power of education and the inspiration of words, both spoken and written, to lift people out of hopelessness and poverty. She aspires to learn from each person she meets and to make every person she meets happier for knowing her.

Those are her words, not mine. That’s how wonderful this aspiring writer is – currently, Mary is doing a year of service working in a Title I elementary school in Denver, CO.

She loves learning, nature, reading, hiking, soccer, kind humor, tea, puns, poetry and people. We love people, too, and Mary’s writing, and are pleased to present this essay by Mary which we loved reading and asked her if we could share.

Please meet Mary here, through her writing, and enjoy this piece on men, women, life and business.

____________________

Recently, I got into a long discussion about feminism and the Kelly Clarkson song “Miss Independent” with my friend Brian. The phrase “strong, independent female” gets thrown around a lot in my generation. For me, this phrase always conjured about connotations of a financially independent female who does not rely on a romantic relationship, or a boyfriend, for money, validation, or self-worth. I always took this phrase to be an empowering compliment. But is true independence really what we want and need?

As a woman who desires to enter the business world soon, do I really want to be called independent? Will having an, “I can do everything on my own,” an, “I don’t need the help of anyone to get things done” attitude really make me the best employee, the most successful person I can be? I used to argue that independence meant that one has the ability to choose dependence, but I do not believe that is true anymore. We are ALL dependent on someone, but if that is true, then that means that someone else is also probably dependent on you—whether that is for love, for food, for support, or for a budget sheet needed for a contractual negotiation. No one is solely independent or solely dependent, rather; we are all interdependent on the skills, strengths, interactions, or work provided by one another.

Once I forego the mindset that my independence proves my ability to be a strong woman, a smart person, or a good employee, I recognize the real power that it takes for leaders to recognize the strength in others and to trust the strength in their teams. All of the leaders I respect most in my life recognize their interdependence, and the way I see that manifest in the business world is through delegation of work and appropriate recognition of the quality people working around them. One of the most inspiring things I hear people in positions of power say is, “I am always looking to hire someone who is smarter than I am.” We all have weaknesses, acceptance of interdependence allows us to seriously look at our weaknesses and find other people that can turn those same weaknesses into strengths. That can manifest in who you hire, who you ask to work on a team with you, or who you ask for advice when you do not know how to do something. It is through our acceptance of our interdependence that we empower one another and become the best employee, the best boss, and the best version of ourselves.

The song may be titled “Miss Independent,” but at the end of the song, Miss Independent falls in love. The beauty of love is that it allows for the acceptance and support of imperfection both in us and in others. It might seem radical to apply to the workplace, but most people spend equal to, or more, time at work than they do with their own families. We should surround ourselves with people who make us the best work-version of ourselves in the workplace. They should challenge us, praise our skills, and help us to surpass our limitations. When a team is not just existing as separate pieces, but really performing, the interdependent relationships are apparent, as is the love. The love can manifest in mutual respect, appreciation, or concern for how your coworker will do on his or her portion of the project—call it whatever you want. But once we recognize that not one of us can do something completely alone, trust happens, specialization happens, efficiency happens, and high employee and company performance happens.

 

 

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