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Top 5 Reasons an M.A. in English is Useful in Business

26 Feb

People often ask me if I think my Master’s Degree in English is useful in business. I find it a curious question since the answer seems so obvious to me. However, since it’s asked so frequently, I’m offering the following top five reasons:

  1. Communication Skills: My coursework improved my written and oral communication skills. When you’re pursuing your M.A. in English, you learn to write clear, concise, well-documented research. You also learn to orally communicate your arguments in classroom discussions with peers and professors. It’s one thing to have an opinion and another to be able to clearly and cogently discuss it with others. And, whether you’re writing emails, blogs, or reports for your colleagues, these skills are timeless.
  1. Critical Thinking Skills: Writing, research, and critical analysis are the foundations of a master’s degree. You learn how to accept constructive criticism of your work and use that criticism to improve and grow. You learn how to conduct research, organize that research, and then use inductive and deductive skills to facilitate an outcome. Regardless of your business environment, this is a skill set that transfers beyond the classroom.
  1. Consideration of Varying Viewpoints: An essential foundation in the study of English literature is literary theory and criticism. Literary theory is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for its analysis. By studying the many schools of literary theory you learn to view literary works through a variety of lenses. Learning to analyze information from many different perspectives offers the opportunity to grow your thought processes. Understanding the various schools of thought translates into the ability to do so in the business world. You learn to be open to new business models and methodologies.
  1. Commitment to Long-term Goals: One of the most arduous tasks a student will undertake is the research, writing, and presentation of their master’s thesis. The process generally begins as you reach the final semester of your coursework. The length of time it takes to complete your master’s thesis will vary — but it always takes longer than you think. I was given great advice by my thesis chair to, “pick a topic/writer you feel you can live with for the next year or two.” As in business, you may not enjoy every task your job requires, but if you’re pursuing your passion, it makes it all worthwhile.
  1. Conceptual Thinking Skills: Individuals who have strong conceptual skills typically have excellent cognitive abilities. These skills include thinking creatively, formulating abstractions, and analyzing complex situations as well as understanding issues and solving problems. Conceptual skills allow a manager to visualize the entire organization and work with ideas and the relationships between abstract concepts. It also enables an effective manager to weed out those variables that are inefficient and/or detrimental to a successful outcome.

Confessions of a Podcast Addict

6 Feb

It started as most addictions do – slowly, stealthily slithering into my day. It began with just 10-15 minutes before work – then, another 20 minutes during lunch. By the end of the day, it consumed my entire commute home from work. And, before I realized it, I was spending my weekends mainlining it like a two-bit junkie – my iPhone ear buds snuggled comfortably in my ears as I listened hours on end to multiple episodes of The Moth, This American Life, Welcome to Night Vale, and Serial. I now confess…I’m a podcast addict! Since the beginning of time, we yearn for engagement in a great story and interesting characters – It’s the reason we’ve loved to read a good book or watch a great movie. Now, we have new ways to consume these stories.

Podcasts provide modern mobility for on-demand storytelling in a format with few boundaries – They’re working their way into our mainstream digital media and opening doors to new audiences one download at a time. Businesses, non-profit organizations, and entrepreneurs are podcasting their content to new audiences around the world. They now have this new tool in their arsenal to expand the reach of their brands, deepen their customer engagement, and further their knowledge leadership. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone enjoys listening to a great story. Using podcast technology to share your story can be a powerful resource…use it wisely.

Time to Learn Something New

21 Dec

Each year during the holiday season, we close our offices to recharge our batteries. It’s also a great time to work on side projects that require uninterrupted time; time without phones and drop-in visits from colleagues. I also like to use this time to catch up on my own continuing education. So, what’s on my list this year?

PODCASTING
I started learning how to create podcasts last month. I started slowly at first. I quickly realized it requires my undivided attention. It involves both technical skills and creative skills. Mostly, it requires my time and a quiet office. Therefore, it’s the number one skill on my list that I want to improve upon over the next couple of weeks.

READING
I read all the time. However, there have been some business books on my “to read” list that I haven’t had the time to dig into. These are on my list for the next couple of weeks.

I may not accomplish or master everything on my list, but I know I’ll have a great time trying!

 

Winter Reading List

20 Dec

Does this holiday season provide you with an opportunity to catch up on some reading? Below are some of my favorites that do more than just provide philosophical, theoretical, and anecdotal platitudes. These books provide case studies, well-documented research, and usable information to effect change in yourself and/or your business. Some are newer than others, but regardless of their publication date, they remain timeless.

Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor
With the highest number of startups per capita of any nation in the world and massive venture capital investment, Israel is one of the world’s hubs of entrepreneurship. This book offers case studies and interviews with some of Israel’s most brilliant innovators. It explores the circumstances and policies that yield a country that fosters a business climate in which risk is embraced and good ideas are given a chance to grow.

The New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly by David Meerman Scott
The book offers a step-by-step action plan for harnessing the power of modern marketing and PR to communicate with buyers directly, raise visibility, and increase sales. It shows how large and small companies, nonprofits, and other organizations can leverage Web-based content to get the right information to the right people at the right time for a fraction of the cost of big-budget campaigns.

Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing by Harry Beckwith
Today it’s estimated that nearly 75 percent of Americans work in the service sector. Instead of producing tangibles–automobiles, clothes, and tools–more of us are in the business of providing intangibles–health care, entertainment, tourism, legal services, and so on. However, according to Harry Beckwith, most of these intangibles are still being marketed like products were 20 years ago.

Beckwith argues that what consumers are primarily interested in today are not features, but relationships. Even companies who think that they sell only tangible products should rethink their approach to product development and marketing and sales. Beckwith provides an excellent forum for thinking differently about the nature of services and how they can be effectively marketed.

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau
An easy-to-use guide complete with valuable lessons from those who’ve learned how to turn what they do into a gateway to self-fulfillment.  It’s all about finding the intersection between your “expertise” – even if you don’t consider it such — and what other people will pay for.  You don’t need an MBA, a business plan or even employees.  All you need is a product or service that springs from what you love to do anyway, people willing to pay, and a way to get paid.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell explains that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Call Me Ted by Ted Turner
An innovative entrepreneur, outspoken nonconformist, and groundbreaking philanthropist, Ted Turner is truly a living legend. This book explores journey that begins with his difficult childhood to the successful launch of his media empire to the catastrophic AOL/Time Warner deal. Ted became one of the richest men in the world, the largest land owner in the United States, revolutionized the television business with the creation of TBS and CNN, became a champion sailor and winner of the America’s Cup, and took home a World Series championship trophy in 1995 as owner of the Atlanta Braves.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these books or others. Enjoy!

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