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Whenever I’m in Chelsea, I feel compelled to casually walk by the Alexander McQueen store and glance in the window. There’s always something in the window that catches my eye. It’s usually a fantastic design, bold colors, and unusual silhouette, or an extreme use of ruffles, rosettes or ruching.

And I’ve gotta have it. Just gotta have it.

Something about the designer’s work attracts me. It draws me to it, and every time I walk by that store, I feel drawn inside. My wallet however, usually drags me back out as quickly.

I know why I’m drawn towards this designer. But for a lot of other things that attract my attention, I usually don’t know why. Sometimes it’s the colors, sometimes it’s the display. Sometimes it’s the product itself. It’s the branding that attracted me like a lonely moth towards a street lamp.

I just gotta have it.

Not too long ago, I woke up with a crazy thought that just popped into my head. I finally figured out the best asset I had to work with. It was staring right back at me from the mirror. Myself.

I don’t know why I’ve never thought about it before. I know myself inside and out. I know my strengths and my weaknesses. It’s other people that don’t. If I am my best asset, why don’t I brand myself that way?

I am a brand.

Whoa.

I am a brand.

With unemployment at uncomfortable levels, people occupying Wall Street, Oakland, San Francisco and everywhere else, people are unfortunately all starting to look the same. People are starting to blend together like running ink from a wet newspaper. We’re all old news, fading away and moving quickly towards the drain.

There is nothing to attract employers to you, unless you do it yourself. You have to make yourself a brand that the company just has to have. What sets you apart from your peers? Your competitors? What makes you an individual? What makes you the brand that you are? Why do they need you rather than someone else? No one else can build that value of yourself or that sense of urgency that you are a once in a lifetime opportunity. You don’t want to miss out on this exclusive limited time offer that is ME!

As I pondered this thought, I tried to think of a way to describe myself. What would make me seem different?

I started with: “They are standard, and I am deluxe.” Yeah, like that would work. I’d come with pickles and onions with a side of fries.

“They are vanilla, but I am rocky road.” I’ve never even had rocky road, so I’m not sure where that one came from.

I finally hit on it.

“These people are one dimensional, while I am prismatic.”

I am colorful, unusual, sparkly, and multi-faceted. Why didn’t I think of this before?

I am prismatic.

How will you brand yourself? What word or phrase best describes you?
Ebonye Gussine is a recent graduate in the Master of Science in Business Management & Leadership Program at the CUNY School of Professional Studies.  She loves writing, reading, and is an avid fan of John Steinbeck’s works. In her spare time she sings off-key and travels to new places.
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With the somewhat-sudden loss of Steve Jobs, everyone is wondering about the future of Apple. The stagnation of Facebook also has people wondering what Mark Zuckerberg has up his sleeve next. Twitter has taken flight and is continuing to gain speed as it moves towards the horizon. Everyone in Silicon Valley is scrambling to be the next big thing.

Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.

Many people, in the United States and across the world want to have that single great idea that makes them millions. They want to find a niche in the technology world to fill. Once you think the market is saturated with tech companies, innovative ideas and more services you didn’t know you needed, something else comes up. It seems almost inevitable.

It’s one of the great things about innovators like Steve Jobs. They keep on re-inventing and they keep on moving forward.

But this post is not about Steve Jobs.

We are suffering from a lack of clear vision and focus. So many people get start-up money, rent some office space, add “fun extras” and wait for the money to roll in. Google did not gain it’s place in the marketplace by offering gourmet meals to it’s employees and adding treadmill-desks to the offices. They did it by working hard and thinking outside of the box.

I think too many of us fail to do the same. We expect that our great ideas will be enough to carry us through.

What we need are fresh injections of new ideas and new perspectives. I came across a blog entry that made the statement that we need to see more women in tech. I think that’s only a partial answer. I think we need more of everyone in tech. Many people of color and most socio-economic statures never venture into tech. Often it’s the lack of education. But there are many other factors at play. Many people think it’s too hard. Or too boring. Some people just don’t have the financial or emotional support to dedicate the hours needed in order to put good ideas into action.

It’s not to say that the people who make technology now aren’t doing it well or fast enough. But if we have more people with different cultural and educational perspectives, I’m sure that we’d see technology move even faster than ever.

Are you up for the challenge?

Ebonye Gussine is a recent graduate in the Master of Science in Business Management & Leadership Program at the CUNY School of Professional Studies.  She loves writing, reading, and is an avid fan of John Steinbeck’s works. In her spare time she sings off-key and travels to new places.

“Will I make my connection?” I asked the bus driver.

She smiled at me and told me I had three minutes and I would be fine.

Knowing what New York bus schedules are like, I was highly skeptical.

I caught my connecting bus.

This was the first of many culture shocks I would receive while starting over. Fresh out of SPS with my new shiny degree, I moved to California with my fiancé to start a job in Silicon Valley.

When I arrived at my job’s lobby, I was greeted by a very friendly receptionist. I was escorted upstairs by my new boss and given every possible tool I could need to get my job done. I felt like a celebrity my first day.

Countless meetings didn’t bother me at all. I learned so much that first day. I learned about the company, how they operate, the tools they use and how they draw from many different fields in order to get their work done. I am part of a super talented team, but most importantly I felt like a part of the team.

As I watched with amusement, my new boss propelled a foam rocket at one of the team members (even more culture shock), I reflected on how fortunate I was to land a job that used all of my degrees and all of my skills. It is humbling to realize that out of the entire talent pool that is Silicon Valley, that they chose me for this role.

I have so much more to learn, but I am ready for the challenge.

Ebonye Gussine is a recent graduate in the Master of Science in Business Management & Leadership Program at the CUNY School of Professional Studies.  She loves writing, reading, and is an avid fan of John Steinbeck’s works. In her spare time she sings off-key and travels to new places.

“Look outside the window, and tell me what you see,” said Mr. P. to his history class.

We all ran to the window, and saw a huge cloud of smoke.

“Is there a house burning nearby?” I asked myself.

“Remember what used to be there?” Mr. P. asked us.

Nobody knew.

“The Twin Towers,” he said to the class.

We all stood there, and loudly accused him of lying to us. He wasn’t joking.

There’s a lot to be said for a moment like that. The realization that your innocence has left you, drifting in the wind like that giant cloud of smoke. For a while, I felt exactly like that. It was difficult to regain a sense of comfort when everything you knew was crashing down around you, literally and figuratively. I can still remember watching 7 World Trade Center fall on TV while my mother recounted walking across the 59th street Bridge to get back into Queens. It’s not the way you’d expect a bright sunny day to end.

When the dust began to settle, there was one thing that I kept on seeing. People helping each other. New Yorkers are perceived to be tough cookies, and they do what they have to do to get by. I didn’t see any of that. I saw people coming together. My mother recounted stories of commercial trucks letting people in the back in an attempt to get home. People went looking for their friends and loved ones. No one, if they could help it, was to be left behind.

While I learned many lessons from the tragedies of 9/11, I will always keep one lesson dear to my heart. If you can help someone, do it. It doesn’t matter how little or big that action may seem. I have made a vow to myself, that if I can help someone, I will.

For all the public service workers, the friends, the neighbors, and the ones who were passing through and stopped to help, I thank you. You have helped show the world, what humanity is all about.

Ebonye Gussine is a graduate student in the Master of Science in Business Management & Leadership Program at the CUNY School of Professional Studies.  She loves writing, reading, and is an avid fan of John Steinbeck’s works. In her spare time she sings off-key and travels to new places.

“It’s a bad economy.”

“We’re in a recession.”

“You gotta take what you can get.”

“Nobody is hiring anymore.”

“Those old jobs are not coming back.”

We are hearing a lot of negativity about the job market these days. The fact that the unemployment rate is hovering around 9% nationwide is not helping our general lack of optimism. While a 2010 map of unemployment shows a more reasonable unemployment rate of 2.8% for Billings Country, North Dakota, it shows a much more chilling realization for Imperial County, California where the unemployment rate was 27.6%. As anyone will tell you, this is an animal we’ve never seen before, and most of us are not quite sure how to deal with it.

In May, an article was published about the new rules for the job interview. I found these rules such as “research, research, research” and “ask questions” to be somewhat refreshing. Many of the online articles that give advice such as “always write a thank you note”, is somewhat dated and doesn’t work in every case. I’ve also discovered that these articles have gotten so many hits, that it seems everyone is taking this advice. If everyone is using the same advice, you can no longer fully distinguish yourself. If the employer can’t remember you, then why hire you?

I am not pretending to be an expert on the job interview process, but I do have some insights that I picked up during my own search. Hopefully, these “rules” will be useful to some of you.

There Are No “Rules” For Every Job Search

This one is pretty hard to swallow. Most people just want to know what to do and how to do it. There are no hard and fast rules. Every industry is different and every company is different. Sometimes the hiring managers have the final say, and sometimes it is human resources. The person reviewing your work may not necessarily know the exact qualifications needed for the job and how to screen them. Some hiring managers appreciate thank you notes and some have no time to read them. Some allow follow-up phone calls and some prefer email. Your best bet is do to as much research as you can, and use networking sites such as LinkedIn to learn more about the company as well as the kinds of people that they normally hire. Are you similar to the typically hired employee? Does the company value diversity in interests and education? It is your job to find out these small details and make them work for you. It could give you an advantage over someone else who does not know these little bits of information.

Grammar and Tone Speak Volumes

Everyone knows that a well written cover letter and resume will help you not get disqualified as easily as poorly-written ones. Hiring managers get hundreds, sometimes thousands of applications for a single position. Having documents that are not perfect will work against you. However, many people forget about the tone that they use when write cover letters. Your voice and personality can really shine through when you use the correct words. Syntax and semantics can also reveal a lot about you. Do you write as if you are confident or entitled? Are you apologetic for circumstances in your work history or ready to prove yourself? These are subtle differences that can make all the difference in how you are perceived by a hiring manager. Be careful with your written language.

Don’t Fool Yourself Into Thinking Interviews Are A Simple Process

So you landed an interview. Fantastic! Your work is not done. Depending on the industry and the amount of applications you may be subject to multiple interviews. This could be a good thing or a bad thing. It could indicate that they really want you or it could mean that they have several close candidates and they are unsure of who to pick. I was recently subjected to four interviews with nine different people over the course of several weeks. No one can tell you whether you should keep granting a company interviews or give up and move onto another company. It really is up to you. Use your discretion or your gut before turning down multiple interviews. It may not necessarily be a bad sign.

Know What You Can Offer The Company

Unfortunately, it is an employer’s market. It’s a potential employee buffet, and the employer can interview as many people as they want, and decide not to fill a position if they don’t find the right person. It’s up to you to let the company know what you can offer them. Are you good at driving up sales? Let them know that. Are you especially frugal and can save the company lots of money? They need to know that. Do you have some innovative ideas that can help them open up to a new market? They want to hear that from you. Don’t offer up too many of your valuable ideas, so that they get free brainpower from you and you receive nothing in return. It is a give and take atmosphere, but at the end of the day, it’s still business. They have something to offer you, and you have something to offer them.

Know What is Important to You About Compensation

Do you need to make a lot of money to pay off bills? Do you need health insurance to take care of yourself or your family? Do you need time off? Will flexible hours allow you to take care of a special needs child or an ailing family member? You need to know what your priorities are, and if a company can meet them for you. You should aim to be flexible, but it still is a business transaction. If work/life balance is important to you, do not be so quick to settle on a job if it will take away from that. While we cannot always have everything we want from an employer, it is important to maintain your health and sanity, not to sacrifice everything.

Just Be Yourself

This can’t be stressed enough. These days, an employer can easily find out if you are lying about your qualifications. These things are so easily checked that you should not waste their time nor yours. You should always be on your best behavior when on an interview, but don’t fake it. Employers want the most for their money, and if you have the qualifications it will help. But if your personality does not match up with theirs or their company culture, then they will be hesitant to hire you. Giving the most accurate yet best presentation of yourself will do you more favors than not. Always remember, just because an employer can’t hire you for a position, doesn’t mean that their other hiring manager friends at other firms can’t.

Ebonye Gussine is a graduate student in the Master of Science in Business Management & Leadership Program at the CUNY School of Professional Studies.  She loves writing, reading, and is an avid fan of John Steinbeck’s works. In her spare time she sings off-key and travels to new places.