Category Archives: networking

9 Practical Tips for Effective Email Communication  

Photo by flickr user joelogon/Creative Commons license.

Image by flickr user joelogon/Creative Commons license.

Email dominates every waking minute of our day – but only if we let it. Instead of pursuing the elusive and utopian Inbox Zero, try these incremental changes to restore some sanity to your professional email correspondence. Master these tips and your professional network will thank you.

  1. Remove that comically long email signature after the first message. This makes it easier for you and others to scan a long email string for a specific piece of information buried somewhere in the conversation. If anyone needs info contained within your email signature they can still find it by scrolling down to the initial message.
  2. Use deadlines to help others understand your intended timeline for completion. Include a simple sentence like, “My goal is to have this complete by 4 p.m. today.” Avoid vague phrases like “ASAP” that tend to create confusion regarding expectations for completion. Communicate specific deadlines to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  3. Use the Drafts folder. Not sure about the tone of an important message? Worried your message might come across the wrong way? Save it to the Drafts folder and revisit the next morning or even the next week. After sleeping on it for a few days you might think better of sending the email and opt instead for a phone call or in-person meeting.
  4. Consider batching your email times so you can focus on important-but-not-urgent projects. Completing long-term projects requires periods of uninterrupted focus, and constantly checking and replying to emails makes this nearly impossible. Unless your job requires truly constant monitoring, have the confidence to close down the email and focus on one thing at a time.
  5. When emailing a group, specify which recipients you are expecting to take action. The more people copied on any given message the less likely anyone will respond. What often happens is everyone assumes someone else is going to answer the question or complete the task. This is similar to outfielders having a protocol for handling fly balls that land between positions. Clearly stating what action you expect recipients to take will also avoid unnecessary follow up emails.
  6. Avoid using Bcc except for rare occasions. Using the blind carbon copy feature is perceived by many as devious and even conniving. Be transparent about your communication and avoid using the Bcc feature. The rare exception is when you’re emailing a large group and don’t want to expose everyone to a potential reply all chain.
  7. Assume your message will be read by people it was not intended for and keep this in mind as you’re drafting the message. Out of convenience — and sometimes out of carelessness — people will forward emails to others you did not intend to read the original message. This can cause confusion and embarrassment for the original sender who wrote the message specifically for the intended recipient. Similarly, practice good email etiquette and ask the original sender before forwarding to new recipients if you have any doubts about the intended privacy of the message.
  8. Stop sending non-urgent emails after work hours. Replying to emails at 11 p.m. is not impressing anyone — you’re only contributing to the work/life balance issues that tend to bubble up in any professional work environment. Clarify expectations with colleagues and supervisors ahead of time. If replying outside of work hours is not expected then don’t make the problem worse. Relax, decompress, and pick it up the next day. Everything will be fine.
  9. Don’t be the first to reply to a group email. Let someone else initiate the perpetual reply all email chain, unless the email is specifically addressed to you. By the time you get around to answering the initial email it will likely be resolved without any involvement required of you. More often than not an email sent to a large group is merely for informational purposes. Chime in to an existing conversation only if you have something substantive to add. Of course, use your best judgment in all situations. There may be occasions where the sender wants to have confirmation of receipt.

Do you have additional tips for effective email communication? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

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New Startup Aims to Provide Nutrition for Those on the Go

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MacroFuel founders set out with the goal to make consuming a balanced and nutritious diet simple and effortless.

Max Tave (Cornell) and his classmate, Gus, came up with the idea for MacroFuel last year after enduring the effects of missing meals and subsisting off energy drinks and cheap protein bars as a result of long nights studying in the school library.

They set out with the goal to make consuming a balanced and nutritious diet simple and effortless. They worked with some of Cornell’s top PhD food scientists to develop their initial product, a healthy, wholesome drink that aims to maximize physical and mental performance.

MacroFuel’s all-natural recipe and portable packaging are designed to satisfy all of the body’s macro- and micronutrient needs in 30 seconds or less. They worked with food scientists to make sure the product would blend well with water.

Max and his MacroFuel co-founders have witnessed early success so far, earning support from two venture accelerators and investment offers from other groups.

With an interest in pursuing the humanitarian aspect of the company, the MacroFuel founders are now exploring potential initiatives to improve nutrition developing nations. MacroFuel currently makes a nutritionally complete meal for under $1 (not including packaging) that requires only 16 ounces of cold water.

Max says his experience co-founding MacroFuel has boosted his leadership skills, particularly the importance of being a good teammate through active listening. “Leadership is all about creating a vision, aligning people, and motivating them to achieve that vision. Our team has achieved early success because we are all super motivated and believe in the vision our founders have created for the company.”

MacroFuel maintains a company culture that is open, fun, and competitive. Instead of micromanaging, the group has found success by focusing on robust discussions that lead to new ideas.

What advice would they offer to other startup founders? “Be scrappy,” Max recommends. Too many startups see early success and start splurging on offices with lavish amenities, only to see their initial success soon dry up. Max and the team at MacroFuel take a different approach by staying lean and investing every dollar back into the company.

Max also advises would-be startup founders to make sure they are prepared for the demanding lifestyle required to get a new company off the ground. “When you start a company you need to live and breathe your idea,” he cautions. “There is always room for improvement and things you can and should be doing to increase your chances for success.”

As for advice directed at fellow Sigma Nus, Max urges entrepreneurs to use alumni connections, both at the national and local level. “Sigma Nu has an amazing network, and the alumni want to help and share their experiences with you,” he counsels. “With our food startup, we were able to get in touch with experienced alumni who’ve been in our position running a young company.”

Sigma Nu’s Gamma Theta Chapter provided an environment that helped Max and his fellow brothers excel in the classroom and surrounding community. The brotherhood supported all the various endeavors, from the pursuit of competitive internships to campus-wide events that involved top Silicon Valley tech firms.

With leadership roles as Recruitment Chairman, Social Chairman, and Risk Reduction Chairman, Max says his Sigma Nu experience helped him develop the individual skills that would help him excel after college. The competitive but supportive chapter culture helped him further refine his entrepreneurial ideas.

Max and his team are looking to build off their early momentum by raising capital and opening up a second seed round. As with any startup, sustained success and eventual growth requires capital to build on the initial momentum.

Visit MacroFuel’s Kickstarter page to learn more about supporting their continued growth: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/macrofuel/macrofuel-fuel-your-life

Max Tave - MacroFuel

Co-counder Max Tave (Cornell) demonstrating MacroFuel’s ability to provide nutrition on the go.

2014 College of Chapters Day 3 Recap

1. Some catch a snooze while others converse on the bus ride to Lexington. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

2. Commanders compare notes on the pilgrimage to Lexington. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

3. Visitors take smartphone pictures outside the Headquarters Shrine. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

4. College of Chapters participants endure a cold rain to photograph the Rock that sits in front of the Headquarters Shrine. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

5. Visitors photograph a clay rendering of the badge on display in the Headquarters’ foyer, Smith Hall. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

6. Commanders descend stairs leading to the Alpha Room. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

7. Staff member Bill Morosco talks Sigma Nu history with collegians gathered around a scale model of VMI in the Headquarters museum. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

8. A visitor snaps a photo of the original painting of The Quest. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

9. A Commander has his photo taken with his chapter’s burgee in the Alpha Room. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

10. Staff member Drew Logsdon gives a tour of the Founders’ Room, which includes the encyclopedia set Founder Hopkins used as a VMI cadet. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

11. A topographic map in the Hall of Fame gives Headquarters visitors a spatial view of Sigma Nu’s wide geographic reach across the U.S. and Canada. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

12. Visitors explore the Hall of Fame in the South Wing of the Headquarters Shrine. The lectern in the foreground contains a photo and bio for every Hall of Fame inductee. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

13. A College of Chapters participant browses titles by Sigma Nu authors in the Richard Fletcher Honor Memorial Library. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

14. Commanders tour the Hall of Honor in the North Wing of the Headquarters Shrine. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

15. Busloads of Sigma Nus unload at VMI just a few hundred feet from the Legion of Honor’s founding site. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

16. Sigma Nus get a special tour of the VMI museum. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

17. The pilgrimage will be Instagrammed. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

18. Back in Roanoke, Regent-Elect Joe Francis knights the 2013 Alpha Affiliate inductees. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

19. 2012 Man of the Year Wells Ellenberg returns to deliver the evening keynote address. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

20. In the final chapter session, Commanders finalize their goals for the year based on the vision they developed during College of Chapters.  Sigma Nu Leadership conference

21. Commanders write their goals on a poster that will be taken back to the chapter home. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

Photos by David Hungate/Dominion Images.

New Group Learning Environment Mirrors Fraternity Leadership Development Programs

Faculty member Dave Mainella works with chapter presidents during the 2012 College of Chapters in St. Louis.

GOOD magazine has a new story up about an intriguing program at Penn State that aims to provide professional mentoring for college students all living in the same house:

Imagine as many as 60 entrepreneurial college students living under a single roof and being mentored by successful professionals in their chosen fields. That’s the idea behind a social living project called co.space in State College, Pennsylvania.

Working with more than 50 student interns from Penn State, New Leaf built the framework that will serve as a model for other universities interested in the project: a two-year program for juniors and seniors that includes a semester of training, the opportunity to lead a semester-long project, a summer internship, and a personal mentor—plus a plethora of professional networking options in-house.

It sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? What are some ways fraternities could collaborate with GOOD or co.space on a similar project?

Underemployment Continues Among Young Graduates

Coverage of the looming higher education bubble just won’t go away. A new Rutgers University survey finds that only half of the graduates from 2006 to 2011 are working full time jobs. Close to half of the graduates who do have full time work have jobs that don’t even require a college degree, according to NPR’s coverage of the survey.

We’ve been watching the higher education bubble for a while now, both here at the blog and in the magazine. Our feature story from last year explored the factors contributing to a possible bubble, including the alarming increase in student loan debt and the inflated value of a college degree.

Coverage of the higher education bubble, student loan debt, underemployed young graduates, and the worth of a college degree has been surprisingly scarce on remedies for weathering the storm.

If the value of a college degree is in fact deteriorating, as many believe, those most likely to come out on the other side will have to find ways to get more out of their college experience. And as we’ve noted many times before, fraternities are uniquely positioned, if you’ll forgive the catchphrase, to offer this value.

If there is a higher education bubble, and if it bursts, tapping a network of support will be even more important as a growing number of applicants seek a relatively fewer number of jobs. The social skills absorbed from fraternity membership, combined with the applied career and life skills learned from the LEAD program, will give an edge to the members who took full advantage.

“In our very technological society, we need people who are very effective at relationship building and that value the importance of connecting with people and solving problems together,” McKeirnan says.

Read our full story here.

Time Well Spent

From “10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You,” published earlier this week in the WSJ:

1. Your time in fraternity basements was well spent.

The same goes for the time you spent playing intramural sports, working on the school newspaper or just hanging with friends. Research tells us that one of the most important causal factors associated with happiness and well-being is your meaningful connections with other human beings. Look around today. Certainly one benchmark of your postgraduation success should be how many of these people are still your close friends in 10 or 20 years.

Full list available here with a mix of more sound advice and some other not-so-inspiring advice (see No. 10).

Underemployed Graduates Should Look to Fraternity Network

According to an AP study released this week, 53% of young college graduates are out of work or underemployed. The alarming figures have created quite a buzz in just about every major news outlet, not to mention all manner of higher education and economics blogs.

(Apparently the iconic Starbucks barista is the preferred symbol of the underemployed young college graduate.)

The report ties in closely with a story we ran in the winter 2012 issue of The Delta detailing the possibility of a higher education bubble. In the process of examining the bevy of contributing factors, we pondered the possible silver lining for fraternities, namely, that Greek organizations can serve to connect job seekers and employers in a tough economic climate.

So we’re curious to know: Are you among the 53% of young graduates struggling to find full employment? Have you ever found a job through a Sigma Nu connection? Did the outlook of finding a job influence your chosen field of study? Share your experience in the comments section and we’ll compile and share them in a later post.