Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Can Rap Teach Management?

"Investor Uses Rap to Teach Pithy Lessons In Business" . I must admit, the headline caught my eye. When I read that the investor in question was none other than venture capitalist Ben Horowitz, I knew I had to read the entire article, which ran in the The New York Times on Monday, February 20, 2012.

Horowitz is my favorite VC blogger (ben's blog). He always makes so much sense, gives excellent advice and writes very, very well. So it was quite fascinating to learn that he perceives rap lyrics as purveyors of sound business advice. Horowitz is a co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz.

He claims that rap lyrics help connect emotion with business because most of the songs are about business. The poetry is very direct. Themes in the songs include leadership, collaboration and vulnerability. Horowitz says he uses rap lyrics to make points. (see:   http://bhorowitz.com/2010/04/28/why-we-prefer-founding-ceos/). He also says it's good to connect rap culture with the culture of Silicon Valley. There are very few African American entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

Yet, when I mentored entrepreneurs as part of my work running the Small Business Resource Center at Norwalk Community College, I certainly worked with no shortage of African Americans. They were starting mostly low-tech businesses right around the time of the dot-com boom. I hope Horowitz is right and that rap can break through the cultural divide and provide sound business guidance to a very wide audience.

Unemployed? 10 Tips For Getting Hired

One would think that in this terrible economy with the soaring unemployment rate that it would be easy to fill a job opening. Not so. I've recently helped an organization screen over 100 applicants to fill one blue-collar-level job. As I've done this, I've realized that I could help those of you out there who are looking for work by sharing a few tips. If the advice seems obvious to you, that's great. If it doesn't, then read, learn and apply the advice.

1. Answer the ad carefully. It may seem simplistic, but when you answer an ad on Craig's List or in the newspaper, let the employer know why you are interested and what you can offer. Check your spelling and grammar. Do your sentences make sense? Read your email over carefully, or have someone else check it over before you hit "send".

2. If you get a response from the potential employer, answer promptly. If they ask you specific questions, answer them carefully.

3. Be reachable. If we like you, we want to be able to call you or email you. One guy gave his parents' phone number, and they referred me to a girlfriends' number, which only had a message machine. His emails bounced back because his inbox was full. Another candidate had a voice mailbox that was full.

4. Project a professional image. One voice mail had a rap song answer, instead of a ring. The rap song started, "Who the hell is this, paging me..." Not an image that is good to project if you want a job. Another showed up for the interview wearing a dirty sweater.

5. Be on time to your interview. On one day of interviews, the first candidate showed up a half hour late. The next one didn't show up at all and apologized later when he realized that he had forgotten the interview.

6. Respond quickly when asked for references. We had one great candidate, but it's been days since we asked him for references, and we still haven't heard back.

7. When asked to talk about yourself, keep to the relevant facts. The interviewer doesn't need your whole life story. Be prepared to say why you'd be good for the job. Cite relevant experiences in your life that you will be able to draw upon and apply to the job.

8. Make eye-contact in your interview. This can be difficult, but if you're looking all over the room, instead of at your interviewer, it makes the interviewer wonder what is wrong. Practice with a friend, if this is hard for you.

9. If you're on social media, make sure your postings are professional and show good judgement. If you're on LinkedIn, have a photo and a complete resume with no mistakes posted. If you're on Facebook, and the profile is public, don't say stupid stuff. Think!

10. Write a thank-you email. The candidate who impressed us the most wrote a thank-you email expressing his interest in the job.