Five Questions for Emily Caigan ’89: Working with Artists as Sole Proprietors

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Emily Caigan graduated from Skidmore in 1989 with a major in Theater and a minor in English Literature, but her career has gone in a very business-oriented direction. With a master’s degree from Goddard College in interdisciplinary arts and a professional certificate in arts administration from New York University, she has launched her own enterprise, Legacy Arts Management, LLC, focused on advising artists on managing their assets.

“One of the most interesting aspects is what one calls an ‘asset” in the arts,” she writes. “There are ‘products’, but also collected letters, old 8mm film, 1/2 inch tape and the stories that are still untold that can be turned into different narrative media. This is succession planning, project design & management, and product development. I work with artists and arts organizations and the lawyers, accountants and Boards of Directors who work with my clients in order to concretize and distribute products called art, theater, books, and intellectual property.”

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Thanks for joining us, Emily. How did you find your way to this line of work? And how, exactly, would you describe it?

Caigan: This is a relatively new field. I have heard people say that the US is no longer a leading producer of “products”, but I find that to be a limited view. We produce a tremendous amount of cultural capital. That is the focus of my work, harnessing this capital in the present, so that it is not lost when an artist dies or an organization closes.

I came to this work after working in many different areas of arts management and education.

Skidmore taught me to think from multiple perspectives while focused on a single story. I do this every day in my work. I am committed to cultural history as an important legacy. This means how we as a society tell stories. What we value is dictated by what we see, hear and read. I work with artists and arts organizations to best tell their stories.

At Skidmore I also learned to be “hands-on”, and that is vital in how I approach my work. I have literally removed paintings from a mouse- infested shed because I believed that they might be an important piece of an artist’s career. They were later shown at PPOW Gallery in New York City and at museums. It was an incredibly exciting and challenging project.

In short, I am the person who takes a “needs assessment” to the next step.

Can you elaborate on that? For an artist or an arts organization, what elements does a “needs assessment” generally encompass?

Caigan: Each working artist is a sole- proprietor business. I work with artists and their staff (if they have one) to assess how each area of the business works. New York Foundation for the Arts is a good resource for learning about best business practices in the arts. Their resource list is quite useful.

For non-profit and commercial arts businesses, a needs assessment is a review of a business plan.

Partnering with other organizations is a current trend in arts management. Cultural Blueprints is a new program from the NY State Council for the Arts. It is focused on economic development, using arts organizations as a driving element for tourism and real estate development. Its goal is to improve communities and build partnerships between organizations, which will ultimately save money and make money.

After a needs assessment I am available for project management, program design, and educational outreach. I also refer clients to services and other consultants when there is an issue outside my scope of work. There are no kickbacks, just good will and community building.

In what ways has your study of theater at Skidmore been helpful to you in your career?

Caigan: First and foremost, the professors supported my ideas and challenged me to make them a reality.

Here is an example, Jeff Sichel ’89 and I wanted more opportunities for student productions each semester. Dave Yergan said, “Produce them yourselves!”

We spoke with Carolyn Anderson, Alma Becker and Larry Opitz — all of whom are still at Skidmore. They told us what was required in order to make our idea of a five- production semester a reality. Jeff and I wrote a proposal, it was accepted and the Theater Committee was formed. We asked for 2 students from each year to volunteer as producers and we were off and running. The next year the same proposal was accepted. A freshman on the committee came to a meeting and gave us our notes typed and laminated. Jeff and I had a good laugh. It looked so official. We had written a business plan and project management guidelines without fully realizing what it would mean for the students who followed us. This program was in place for many years after Jeff and I had graduated.

I have studied production models since that experience, but the skill building that I learned at Skidmore is a cornerstone for how I work today. I was mentored in the theater department. I encourage business students to get involved with the theater, dance, music, and visual arts programs and offer your management services. It is a great way to gain experience.

Do you have any suggestions for Skidmore as we develop our program in arts administration?

Caigan: I think that students interested in the arts would benefit from studying the constitution of the United States. It is regularly used to support and challenge artistic freedom. Our non-profit institutions are funded in part by tax dollars and this structure presents unique problems.

In the 1990’s there was the controversy with the NEA4.

Today the controversy is at the the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. They have been told to remove a video by David Wojnarowicz due to its content. The US government has threatened to pull the museums funding if it does not comply.

Below is a brief description from the NY Times:

“The video, called ‘A Fire in My Belly,’ was created by David Wojnarowicz and was being shown as part of an exhibition called ‘Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.’ The exhibition, which opened on Oct. 30, addresses issues of sexual and gender identity and bills itself as ‘the first major museum exhibition to focus on sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture.’”

For more information see the full article.

What happens to arts administration (and in this case curators) when the division of church and state is compromised by political leaders who can pull funding from a major institution?

If I was at Skidmore and had the opportunity to study arts administration this would be my topic of choice!

Knowing now how your careeer has gone, is there anything you would have done differently during your student days at Skidmore? If so, what?

Caigan: I had many wonderful opportunities at Skidmore. I do wish that I had studied Spanish rather than French, but other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Five Questions for David Howson: Skidmore’s New Program in Arts Administration

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David Howson, the inaugural Arthur Zankel Director of Arts Administration, arrived at Skidmore last January to begin building a new new interdisciplinary program to prepare students for creative lives and management positions in the visual arts, music, dance, and theater.

We asked him five questions in our Management and Business Department sub-group in LinkedIn, but you’re welcome to ask him more. Just join the Skidmore Connections group and look for the MB sub-group.

Thanks for joining us, David. Here’s our first question: How should we think of the College’s new program in Arts Administration? Is it a kind of joint venture between the Department of Management and Business and the departments of Art, Art History, Music, Dance and Theater?

HOWSON: To me, the program is a natural outgrowth of Skidmore’s strong visual and performing arts departments and its popular management and business curriculum. It’s really the perfect complement for our existing programs but will offer students the opportunity to learn about arts organizations as institutions as well as look at the impact of philanthropy on the arts in the United States.

What’s the essence of what you aim to achieve with this new program?

HOWSON: Artists and arts organizations need smart people with artistic sensibilities and business savvy to help them navigate the world outside of the studio or the rehearsal hall. My hope is that we are preparing students with the knowledge and tools to make a difference and support the artistic enterprise. Within the last decade alone, the arts in the United States have faced enormous challenges that have fundamentally altered the way we produce and see art. (And by art I am including both visual arts and the performing arts.) And while technology has provided exciting new advances in art production, it has forever changed the distribution and dissemination of the artistic voice. What once took weeks or months to produce can now be uploaded and distributed world-wide by anyone almost instantaneously…and then copied a million times over. We need to prepare students to analyze and creatively solve problems that we can’t yet imagine.

How has the response been so far?

HOWSON: Thirty-five students are enrolled in Foundations of Arts Administration with interests varying widely. But, I think the most important thing for me has been having the support of the faculty and administration to really leverage our existing resources in ways that are collaborative and rewarding for our students. Students are attracted to great programs and that’s why they come to Skidmore. Arts administration gives them an opportunity to explore the intersection of two disciplines.

I must also add that the support from alumni has been amazing. Each week I get an e-mail or phone call from one or two alumni offering to be a resource for our students. The Skidmore connection is very real and the generosity of our alumni is sincere and heartfelt. We have alumni from almost every major working in arts organizations across the country. Engaging the power of that network is one of my priorities for the coming years.

In what ways does Skidmore’s offering in arts administration differ from approaches at other colleges?

HOWSON: Great question. Arts administration and arts management programs started out at the graduate level and I think you will see that several large public universities have strong undergraduate programs. Skidmore is uniquely positioned to be one of the few small liberal arts colleges to offer such a program. With on-campus resources like The Tang Teaching Museum, the new Zankel Music Center and our current academic programs in the arts, not to mention all of the arts organizations in Saratoga County and beyond, we have the opportunity to create something where students can put to practice what they are learning in the classroom.

What’s the first step for a student who’s interested?

HOWSON: First and foremost, students interested arts administration must have a passion for the arts and I encourage first-year students to get involved by attending exhibitions and performances. Discover the kind of art that moves you and then take the foundations course, AA 201.

Five Questions for Jared Tendler ’01: What Does It Take to Think Like a Pro?

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A three-time All-American in golf who majored in management and psychology at Skidmore, Jared Tendler ’01 went on to earn a master’s degree in counseling psychology and become a licensed mental-health counselor. But golf has remained his passion, and he has focused his career in large part on helping golfers – and now poker players as well – come to terms with the mental aspects of those games. Jared has worked with the Kirkendoll Performance Golf Institute in Phoenix, Ariz., and ESPN Golf School’s Online Academy. He also conducts seminars on stress- and performance-management skills for corporate clients.

You describe yourself not as a therapist or a coach, but a “developer of mental strategies.” Can you provide an example of a common mental strategy you have helped golfers, or poker players, or business executives develop?

TENDLER: It’s been hard for me to come up with a name for what I do. I trained as a therapist so I could understand the underlying issues behind performance problems. I talk with clients like a coach who provides explicit direction and find ways to inspire, and I’m an expert in learning. I’m a bit of a hybrid, and calling me the ‘developer of mental strategies’ is as good as any description I’ve thought about.

The most common issue that affects golfers, poker players, and executives is anger. Anger even at low levels (intolerance, impatience, frustration, etc) can be equally problematic, because it often accumulates into bigger problems over time. Normally
calm and even keeled personalities are often those who have the hardest time understanding the source of their frustration because — when they do blow-up — their struggle to make sense of how it happened actually adds to the frustration.

The goal in working with anger issues is always to strive to understand the source. Anger basically represents conflict. A missed shot in golf might cause frustration because you expected more of yourself, and that means either that your perception of your own skill is too high (overconfident) or you failed to properly prepare for the shot. The conflict here is between you and yourself; that means you must either readjust your perception to the reality that you’re not as good at golf as you thought, or you need to take greater care in preparing. Either way, you’re taking anger out of the equation and adopting a mental strategy that’s going to improve your game – whether it’s golf, or poker, or some business activity.

What does it mean to be “in the zone” — and do you think it’s possible to merely think one’s way into it? In other words, is there a mental strategy we can adopt that will bring us into the zone? If so, can you describe it?

TENDLER: The zone is essentially a person’s peak state of mind. It’s commonly described as having a sense of pure focus where decisions come easily, time slows down, and the person has a sense of easy control over what they are doing.

There are many who think you can just train your mind to consistently think your way into the zone, or to trigger it by repeating a mantra, etc. You can do it once or twice, but the fundamental reason that this perspective is flawed is that it presumes the person’s zone, or peak mindset can’t actually improve even more. The mind operates just like the body in the sense that through proper training it can perform at levels even greater than before. The zone can improve. Your mindset can become even more timeless, focused more deeply, and have even greater mastery of what you’re doing.

The way you achieve that requires an understanding both about what fuels the zone, and what takes you out of it. The single easiest way to get into the zone more consistently is to eliminate the things that take you out of it – distractions, frustrations, poor technique, etc. Do that and the zone will naturally be there more. Additionally, you also want to prepare yourself properly by setting clear goals, and using those goals to narrow your focus before you begin. You also want to have a sense of what typically would take you out of your zone, so when it happens, you can recognize it quickly and work to refocus just as quickly.

The other key thing to keep in mind is that while the zone might feel easy, the brain is actually using a tremendous amount of energy. So if you are tired or hungry, getting into the zone will be tougher. And on days when you did perform in the zone, be sure to get plenty of rest that night, if you want to have a good chance to get there again tomorrow.

In poker, players must be continually on guard against allowing their emotions to carry them into a state of “tilt” or “steam”. Is it accurate to think of the brain as being in a constant struggle between our emotions and our capacity for logic and reason? When we develop and apply a mental strategy, are we in effect strengthening reason so as to better control our emotions.

TENDLER: Yes, the brain is in a constant struggle to become in better control of our emotions, but this is only half the ultimate goal. When we talk about being mentally tough, what we are basically referring to is the amount of mental muscle we have to control our emotions. It’s generally been something that is hard to teach, but it’s honestly no different that lifting weights and getting physically stronger in the gym. In this case, the neurons in the mind are the equivalent of muscle fibers and people who have more developed neurons specifically for emotional control are the ones commonly described as being mentally strong or tough. They can lift more emotional weight. So if you want to build it yourself, think about the principals of building muscles in the gym, and do the same thing emotionally. That’s a big part of what I do with clients.

Unfortunately, emotional control is only half of the story, because ultimately for consistent high performance, especially in the zone, your mind has to move past emotional control. Emotional control requires a lot of focus and energy. We have only have so much focus to use, so if part of it is going to control our emotions, that means we have less to use towards what we’re actually doing – playing poker or golf or leading an important sales meeting.

To move past emotional control, we have to resolve the underlying reason the emotion is there. Once that happens, the emotion dissolves completely and will never show up again for that reason. For example, you might get anxious playing poker or golf because you fear making a making a mistake. You might fear making a mistake because when you do make on you become very self-critical. Self-criticism is a common result of perfectionism. Striving towards perfection is not a problem, but expecting it is. So when the causes of your perfectionism are resolved, your fear of making mistakes naturally goes away. You no longer have to use your emotional muscles to control it, and you can now focus more realistically on your goal of playing perfectly.

Do your techniques have as much applicability in the game of business as in the games of golf and poker? Does your practice include business executives?

TENDLER: It does, but it’s been several years since I’ve worked with business executives. The major reason I’ve specialized with golfers and poker players is that I believe that people are more likely to make progress when they are given instructions in the language of what they are doing and when I have a clear understanding of the demands of their job or sport. I started with golf because that’s what I knew best, and poker I learned quickly after meeting a top poker pro on the golf course.

My long-term goal is to standardize the general strategies, theories, concepts and methodology that I’ve used over the past five years so that I can selectively begin partnering with experts in other fields – such as business executives, lawyers, other sports — and create tailor-made programs. I’m in contact with a stock broker/day trader and next year plan to begin working with him more once my book on the mental game of poker is completed.

It’s reported in Scope magazine that you devised your career plan in a Skidmore dorm room. Can you describe how that happened? Do you have any advice for students who may be striving to develop career plans?

TENDLER: The fall of my senior year it had become clear that my dreams of playing professional golfer were a pipedream because of my mental game. I played great on the Skidmore team, but out on my own in elite national competition I continually failed under the pressure. I had done some sport psychology work, but found that it made me better at every other time except under intense pressure. I figured that if I could find a solution to my problem I could find a career that could also benefit others. I added a psychology major to my business degree and stayed a 5th year.

I came up with the idea after realizing I wanted to be around golf, but not a club professional. Having seen the movie ‘Tin Cup’ several times probably gave me the idea too. I got a lot of advice from family, friends and my therapist. The resounding answer was that they loved the idea. Once I decided on it I went for it with full steam.

For me that meant deferring my ultimate goals for 4 years because I needed to learn the skills of a therapist. I think deferred gratification with career planning is essential for people with long-term goals. The biggest mistake I made at times was thinking that my success would come easier than I thought. Competition requires a level of skill and competence that can only come from years of work. If you have a goal, be willing to make the hard choices to do what’s necessary in the short-term.

I’d also say that it’s important to be flexible, creative, and opportunistic. There are a lot of opportunities out there for people who can identify a need and work hard to fill it. My sense is that with the large corporate structures being less predictable these days that people are looking to put their careers in their own hands. To do that successfully means there’s a lot of unpredictability, a lot of failure/set-backs, and difficulty in your future. These roadblocks are opportunities in disguise. Often if you solve these roadblocks, or figure a new way to the same or a better end goal that’s where your advantage in the marketplace comes from and people will want what you provide.

Five Questions for Sophie Cohen ’10: The Creativity of Business Majors

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Are Skidmore business majors as creative as Skidmore art majors? That question so intrigued Sophie Cohen, who graduated last May with a dual major in Art History and Management and Business, that — working with MB faculty member Laura Paul as her advisor — she decided to make it the focus of her senior thesis.

Sophie, thanks for joining us. How did you become interested in this subject — and why do you think it’s an important one to explore? (We’ll invite Laura to jump in as well.)

COHEN: I was frequently told by my friends, teachers, and even potential employers, that as a double major in Art History and Management and Business, I had the best of both worlds: creative fulfillment from the arts, and logical thinking skills from business. However, I was always curious why people assumed business courses could not teach creativity. Even at a place like Skidmore, with a slogan of “Creative Thought Matters,” there is a general assumption that art students are more creative than business students. I wanted to determine the validity of that assumption.

What exactly did you set out to find out? And how did you structure the study to achieve those goals?

COHEN: I was determined to uncover the creative potential within our Management and Business department, to see if business students truly are “less” creative, and how Skidmore’s Management and Business department can foster and promote creativity in the classroom. In order to answer my questions, I created a survey to analyze the tolerance of ambiguity, self monitoring, learning styles, and risk taking abilities of Management and Business and Studio Art majors.

“Tolerance of ambiguity” refers to the ability to perceive ambiguity in information and behavior in a neutral or open way. Individuals who possess a high tolerance for ambiguity tend to pay more attention to information, interpret more cues, cope more effectively with change, stress, and conflict.

“Self-monitoring” refers to the ability to regulate one’s behavior to situational factors. High self-monitors show considerable adaptability in their behavior depending on their surrounding environment, and are expected to demonstrate greater flexibility in adapting to leadership in changing situations.

A “learning style” is the way an individual best absorbs and processes information. While learning style is not necessarily directly related to creativity, understanding one’s learning style helps to maximize efficiency in the classroom and minimize frustration related to learning.

“Risk-taking” is an individual’s ability to handle risk comfortably. People who are willing to take risk expose themselves to the possibilities of creative work. Creativity occurs when an individual goes beyond the known, the rules, and the given.

In addition to the survey, I asked declared Management and Business majors to take an “alternative uses” test. An alternative uses test is considered to be a pure measure of creativity. It simply asks people to list as many uses as they can think of for common objects. While some people think of two or three obvious uses, other can keep adding to the list until they are told to stop.

LAURA PAUL: I agree with Sophie that we have significant creative potential in M&B, and supervising her thesis research has inspired me to reexamine the assignments I give my students. As designed, did they allow students to tap into their creative potential? This semester I have challenged the students in my organizational behavior classes to be more creative in their group assignments and have been impressed with the initial results. In addition, students can design a learning activity for each of the modules in the course (three) and then create an original project designed to develop an understanding of their chosen topic in more detail. I’ve also encouraged them to be more interdisciplinary in their approach, and feel that their initial project ideas are very promising. Some students interviewed local business owners and employees, created a film, used video to illustrate de-motivating management practices and then created skits to demonstrate motivating employee-manager interactions. I look forward to seeing what other ideas they come up with this semester

COHEN: In the case of my thesis, what I learned and what surprised me are one and the same. Despite the common assumption that art students are more creative than business students, according to my survey and experiment results, the Management and Business students and Studio Art students at Skidmore College are equally creative.

The “tolerance of ambiguity” scale used to assess the extent to which individuals cope with incomplete, unstructured, and dynamic situation, showed only minute differences in the personalities of Studio Art and Business Management majors. Therefore, hypothesis one was not supported by the data. However, unexpectedly, the survey results showed large distinctions between male and female tolerance of ambiguous situations. For example, 50 percent of participants strongly agreed with the statement, “Often, the most interesting stimulating people are those who don’t mind being different and original.” Of those respondents, 11 were Studio Art majors and 11 were Management and Business majors. More interestingly, 17 were female, while only 8 were male.

The “self-monitoring” scale had minor differences between majors. However, just as witnessed in the Tolerance of Ambiguity scale, there were significant differences between genders. In response to the statement, “I am not particularly good at making people like me,” 83 percent of the survey participants disagreed and chose false. Of the 83 percent, 20 students were Management and Business majors while 24 were Studio Art majors. The more significant difference was in gender, with 27 female respondents versus 17 male respondents.

The “learning style inventory” applies to the Skidmore curriculum more directly than the other survey questions, due to its unique focus on how Skidmore students’ best learn information. Consistently the survey participants suggested they learned best by doing and participating in activities. The five statements that students most identified with were, “When I learn I like to be doing things,” “When I learn I like to see results from my work,” “I learn by doing,” “I learn best from a chance to practice and try out,” “When I learn I like to see results from my work,” and “I learn best when I can try things out for myself.” In response to the statement, “I learn by doing,” which 64 percent agreed is the way he/she learns best, 17 respondents were Studio Art majors and 16 respondents were Management and Business majors. However, just as seen in the other scales, 21 of the respondents were female while only 12 were male.

The “risk taking” scale used suggested that, as a whole, the control group were moderate-risk takers. Studio Art students are not higher ranking risk takers than Management and Business students. Over 90 percent  of the survey respondents replied false to the statement, “I’d rather not travel abroad,” and more that 94 percent said “true” to the statement, “Making my own decisions is very important to me.” Of the Studio Art survey participants, 1 is a low risk taker, 7 are cautious, 12 are moderate-risk takers, and 8 are high-risk takers. Of the Management and Business participants, 7 were cautious, 15 were moderate-risk takers, and 3 were high-risk takers.

The results of Guilford’s “alternative uses” test (1967), which was used to test the fluency and flexibility of students enrolled in Management and Business and Studio Art courses, supported hypothesis five. On average, when working individually, both Studio Art and Management and Business students provided 13.4 possible uses for a brick. However, as previously speculated, the participants provided an average of 24 possible uses for a brick when working in group.

You noted that this is an area that’s ripe for further study. What areas in particular do you think future Skidmore students (or others) might productively investigate?

COHEN: While my research was a good start, we still do not know how creativity is being integrated to Skidmore classrooms and how we can further foster creativity throughout the Skidmore environment. Creativity in the classroom has been advocated as a critical success factor for students entering an increasingly diverse, rapidly changing, and competitive workplace, making it a worth-while and critical field of study.

What are you currently doing? And what are your plans?

COHEN: I am currently working in advertising sales at Time magazine in New York City. While I have no idea what is in store for the future, I hope to continue to work in an environment that requires creativity in everyday business practices!

Five Questions for Keith Petri ’10: Making the Most of Social Media

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Keith Petri ’10, founder of eBranding Me and a consultant to members of Generation Y on the effective use of social media in professional networking, recently led a great Career Services workshop on the campus titled “Reputation Management 101.” We thought it was fitting to make him the first Skidmore alum we feature in our series of weekly interviews in LinkedIn. It’s pretty long, but you’ll find a lot of good information in it.

Keith, since some students and alums may be new to LinkedIn, let’s talk first about effective strategies for networking here. Perhaps we should start by explaining how it differs from Facebook, since that’s a space with which virtually every student is familiar.

PETRI: Simply put, Facebook is a social-networking site, while LinkedIn is a business-networking site for professionals. Both services contribute to your personal brand, but rules and etiquette for the members of each community are very different.

Generation Y students are very familiar with Facebook and its many services. Facebook is a social network built to enable communication between college students. However, it has matured into a web space with personal profiles, photos, videos and applications available to all Internet users. Facebook allows programmers to develop third-party applications for the over 500 million Facebook members, but these plug-ins are mostly geared toward games, social groups, quizzes and other non-professional activities i.e. distractions from work.

LinkedIn offers a clear alternative to Facebook for professional networking. Its user interface is uncluttered and focused on allowing users to find and share opportunities with each other. Once a user has completed their profile, he or she is easily found online as an experienced employee in their field, with their personal page highlighting their past experience, education and capabilities.

LinkedIn offers current college students the opportunity to establish their professional presence on the Internet, stay in contact with peers, professors and others, find experts and join discussions, and finally, explore opportunities. Successfully navigating this online tool will help in career advancement.

The first step a current Skidmore student should take is to complete their profile (100 percent). To do so, requires a few simple steps:

  • Upload a Professional Photo
  • Current Position: “Student at Skidmore College”
  • Two Past Positions (i.e. lifeguard, internship, etc…)
  • Education (Skidmore College, and high school)
  • Profile Summary (personal branding statement or “elevator pitch”)
  • Specialties (i.e. Microsoft Word, Excel, Photoshop, etc..)
  • Three recommendations (ask professors, past employers, religious leaders, or even group members for school projects)

Once you have a complete profile it is 40 percent more likely that you appear in search results (according to LinkedIn). If a potential employer is searching for a candidate to fill a position, LinkedIn can help make YOU the candidate they go after.

Creating a LinkedIn profile makes you easy for prospective employers to find when they’re doing a search, but it also serves as your platform for proactively interacting with Skidmore alumni and others who might be in a position to help open doors for you. Let’s talk about how to make the most of LinkedIn after you create your profile.

PETRI: Sure. Once you complete a profile with the most up-to-date information on your past work experience, education, specialties and current position, it’s time become an active member in the LinkedIn community.

First off, connect with your peers. Using the LinkedIn “Add Connections” feature, you can find past or present classmates here at Skidmore or from any school you’ve previously attended. Since I list Tenafly High School, Skidmore College and the National University of Ireland Galway in the “Education” section of my profile, LinkedIn prompts me to “get connected and never lose touch again” with classmates from these schools. I can even adjust the search results for class year, making it easy to display only those who graduated in my class.

Secondly, you can join a group that’s relevant to your professional interests. Groups are organized around a subject, organization or industry. LinkedIn allows you to join a maximum of 50 groups, so be selective. By contributing to discussions and interacting with other group members, you can build a stronger network of contacts, become more involved in an industry and present yourself as a knowledgeable individual in your field.

Find groups that are of interest to you by visiting the “Groups Directory” and searching for a keyword. So that you’re not deluged by LinkedIn emails, be sure in each group you join that go to the “Settings” option and tell the system that you want updates from the group to be emailed to you weekly, not daily.

One of the first groups you’ll want to join, of course, is the “Skidmore College Connections” group, which has nearly 2,000 members and is growing daily. It’s a great tool for conducting research, finding a summer internship, or just connecting with other Skidmore alums in a new city. The opportunities to connect are endless. Just reach out!

‘Advanced Search’ is another powerful LinkedIn feature. Say I’m a Skidmore senior looking to enter the marketing field after graduation but am only interested in living in Boston or New York City. Using Advanced Search and adjusting the Industry and Location settings, I can select the list of “Skidmore College Connections” members and filter the search results to display only those who are in marketing in those two cities. Connecting with them is as easy as a click of my mouse!

A final suggestion: When you’re interviewing for a job, you’ll want to always check LinkedIn to see if your interviewer has posted a profile. Knowing something about your interviewer’s background shows that you’ve done your homework and can help you establish a rapport. That can make you really stand out.

That pretty well covers LinkedIn, so let’s talk about Facebook. Should we regard Facebook as a space for professional as well as personal networking? What strategies do you suggest?

PETRI: Whereas LinkedIn is a professional networking site, Facebook remains a social networking site. If you’ve joined Facebook, you’ve probably done so because you want to share personal news, personal photos, and personal videos, and you want to interact online with friends or family members in the same ways you do in the “real” world.

In LinkedIn, you add a “connection” or a “contact” to your network. In Facebook, you add a “friend.” That says a lot about the difference.

Still, there are ways you can effectively use Facebook in professional networking, especially now that a new app called Branchout enables you to alphabetically browse everyone on your “friends” list by place of work (and previous places of work) rather than by first name. For the first time, you now can use your Facebook network as a true professional network.

Which means you have even more reasons to ensure that your Facebook profile is “employer-ready.” Here are five steps every job-seeker should take to deploy a professional Facebook profile:

1. Segment Friends By “Lists”. Facebook’s “lists” feature enables you to segment your Facebook contacts into different groups to which you may selectively apply your privacy settings, enabling some to view updates, photos, videos, and personal information, while denying such access to others. Create one list for “family members”, another for “closest friends”, another for your not-so-close friends, and another for “business associates,” and calibrate your privacy settings strategically.

2. Opt-Out of “Public Search”. By default, Facebook enables search engines to index your personal profile and display your Facebook Page on search queries (i.e. Google Search). If you don’t want prospective employers to find your Facebook profile, be sure you change the default setting and opt-out. This will have the added advantage of pushing your completed LinkedIn profile to the top of the results page. That’s probably that you prefer employers to see.

3. Audit Your “Likes”. Prospective employers can tell a lot about you by the pages you “like” on Facebook, and these are public to everyone who can access your profile. If you have “liked” the fan page for “Weed” or “I Hate My Boss,” for example, you’ll probably want to “unlike” it.

4. Check Your Applications. When you give an application permission to access your profile, you are in many cases enabling it to access not only your personal information but that of friends as well. So be selective in the applications you choose, and read carefully their explanations of how they will work and the information they’ll access.

5. Check Your “Facebook Places” Privacy Settings. This is Facebook’s first foray into geo-location services. It enables you to announce to your friends where you are so that you may potentially meet up with someone. Here’s the problem: By default, your location is made public on your Facebook profile and will appear on the newsfeeds of friends. Also, friends are able to check you into Places without your consent, which means that you could wake up one morning to discover that a friend, via Facebook, has announced to everyone you’ve “friended” that you were in a particular bar last night. To change all of your privacy settings, visit your “Settings” page. Customize what activity becomes public and control the amount of information available to Facebook users out of your network.

For more information on Facebook Privacy settings, visit the Skidmore Communications Department online resources here.

Blogs are another major feature of the “social Web.” What suggestions do you have for students in that arena?

PETRI: Blogs are now so widespread on Web that they scarcely need explaining any more. I define them as expressions of thought, experience and/or knowledge that anyone may produce in a simple (and free) content management system.

I’m a big advocate of blogging for professional reasons. It’s a proactive way to become visible on the Web, and it represents a big step beyond the online identity you’re able to create for yourself in LinkedIn or Facebook beyond. In fact, just about any blog software you choose (I recommend WordPress) will enable you to easily attach your blog posts to your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, thereby making your blog an actual extension of your profile.

What should you blog about? Any subject in which you are passionately interested. That passion is important because you’ll consistently write and develop your blog only if it furthers and expands your interest. Just remember that any post you make represents your personal values and beliefs, and thus reflects on your personal brand.

In reflecting on subjects you might blog about, consider the following:

Topics Related to Your Major. If you’re an international affairs major, write about world events. If you’re a music major, write about the genres that most interest you. Report on lectures or films you attend, and critique them. Review books or television shows related to the topic. Share papers you’ve written as class assignments. Share links to news articles related to your interests.

Topics Related to Extra-Curricular Activities. If you’re a member of SGA, write about the issues you’re confronting. If you’ve landed a role in a play, write a daily chronicle of the play’s coming together. If you’re an athlete, write about training, competition, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Challenges: College students are faced with living on their own for the first time, budgeting their money and making the right choices. All of these challenges offer the unique opportunity to lend advice to peers and chronicle personal experiences and lessons learned.

Make it a practice to read other blogs on similar subjects, and freely post comments when you agree or disagree. Or, even better, write your comment on your own blog and link your post to the other blog on which you’re commenting.

Ready to give it a try? Just contact Ben Harwood in Academic Technologies at bharwood@skidmore.edu and he’ll get your started. Also, download eBranding Me’s free eBook: “Guide for First Time Bloggers” for additional help.

Tell us more about eBranding Me. How did the idea of launching this enterprise come to you — and how’s it going so far?

PETRI: eBranding Me is a business still in its infancy. It all started at the beginning of my senior year at Skidmore. Like many college students, I began a traditional job search; sending out tailored cover letters and targeted resumes to potential job opportunities at companies that interested me. However, I saw little return on my time invested. I received limited responses, most of which directed me to resubmit my application closer to my graduation date. I wasn’t satisfied, so I changed gears.

I focused all of my attention on social media channels and developed my personal brand. I created a centralized location online, my personal blog, where I linked to all of my social networking profiles: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I highlighted my resume and past entrepreneurial ventures, providing my sites visitors with links to learn more. Over time, I no longer needed to proactively search for open positions in my industry, social media marketing, but employers were seeking my expertise for open positions.

However, my entrepreneurial spirit drove me to take the path less traveled. Yes, I had other opportunities but I decided to become self-employed. If not now, then when would have the opportunity to start my own business? After successfully building a strong personal brand using free online tools, I began to motivate my peers to become involved in social media to aid in their post-graduate employment search. Lo and behold, they became sought after employees as well. eBranding Me was born.

eBranding Me informs Generation Y about online privacy and social responsibility through on-site seminars and a supporting website. We also act as a resource for educators, providing curriculum to inform students how to create a positive online presence and avoid the dangers of damaging their reputation online.

eBranding Me is the preeminent resource of information pertaining to personal branding among students for the sole purpose of successfully enrolling in college or securing gainful employment post-graduation.

Currently there is massive growth in the online sector across all industries. This includes blogs, social networking sites and communication tools. I see the ever changing environment and continuous innovation as an opportunity: to continually provide updates on the tools available to students, teachers, administrators and employers. eBranding Me is the only peer-to-peer information service – Generation Y informing Generation Y.

First Post

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This is where we’ll post all interviews conducted in our new LinkedIn group for Management and Business students, alumni, and faculty. Stay tuned for our first post featuring Keith Petri ’10. We asked him five questions on making the most of social media in professional networking.


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