All posts by Alex Sparks

Never Stop Looking for a Job

I have worked for the Career Development Department for a little over a year. I really enjoy the job I have and the work I do. As a college student, I spent most of my time on the internet anyways so it wasn’t a huge shift for me. Now I just focus my attention on the internet and I get paid for it.Its a solid gig. Besides the obvious benefit of gas money, I have taken a lot from this job. My position has forced me to become more familiar with both Career Development and Social Media. Two knowledge-sets that are invaluable as a young adult preparing to enter the real world. In short, I really enjoy my job and it is perfect for me in this season.

However, I have not stopped looking for a new one since the day I got hired. But why?

Why would I look for a new job if I love the one I have? As I mentioned, it is perfect for this season, but I do not know when this season will end. I know for certain that it is a short lived position. I graduate in May and a new, bright-faced student will take over the reins. I also know that this is not where I want to be forever. I love Social Media, but it is not my calling. It is a means to an end and has already given me valuable skills in my desired field.

Jobs are meant to serve your career. Career development is about progressing your career for the long-term. Every job you have, temporary or permanent, expands your reach and prepares you for the next step.

I still spend 30-60 minutes a day job hunting online. Part of the benefit of my job and desired field (Film Production) is that it allows me to work short or temporary jobs, as well as working from home. My unending job search, has landed me Social Media work for two companies other than Biola, weekend jobs on Film sets, and a handful of consultations and interviews.

Jobs come and go, which is why it is important to always be on the lookout. You would hate to miss an incredible opportunity because you took a month off from the search.

It is important to be loyal to your employer. Do not hop from job to job every couple of months because something better comes up. But if you work hard and pay attention to the market, an opportunity may present itself that is worth the switch. If you are working in retail or food service, but really want a job in marketing, you would hate to miss an entry-level position or internship because you stopped looking.

There is definitely a balance between being content in your work environment and looking for the next step. Enter every work day with the intention to give it your all and never see any work as “unimportant because it is temporary.” At this stage in our lives, every job is temporary. We are preparing for our careers. Work hard in whatever you do and always be looking for doors to open. God has a way of guiding our paths through college and then through our careers. Stay faithful to him in knowing that his timing does not always align with ours. Sometimes it is when we need a job the most, sometimes it is when we already have two or three.

Top 10 Gaming Companies of 2012

These gaming companies are doing it right. Creating inspiring products in an innovative way. This list is compiled from Fast Company.

01 || Tapjoy

For fueling mobile app growth through the use of in-app advertisements. Its 280 million users select which ads to engage with in exchange for receiving virtual currency that they can later use in their favorite apps. Its turnkey in-app advertising platform has monetized more than 11,000 apps across Apple’s iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, and HTML5 platforms. “For thousands of developers around the world, their apps wouldn’t see the light of day without us,” says CEO Mihir Shah. “We’re in the business of discovery. We pair user interests with great mobile apps.”Last November, Tapjoy branched out from mobile advertising with the beta launch of its personal app marketplace, which delivers customized app recommendations based on users’ current apps, as well as those of their friends.

02 || Recyclebank

For incentivizing people to recycle via gamification–and saving cities millions in the process. Since launching a pilot program in Philadelphia in 2005, Recyclebank has helped more than 300 communities across 31 states and the U.K. double or triple their recycling rates by offering participants points for engaging in eco-friendly activities. Customers can redeem their points–worth an average of $133 per year–at local or national retailers, restaurants, and grocery stores. In 2011, Recyclebank expanded its digital presence with the addition of games like the Green Your Home Challenge. “The concept of leveling and badging and leaderboards and basic game dynamics are very powerful concepts because it speaks to the underlying psychological and behavioral needs of individuals,” says CEO Jonathan Hsu. Since building out its digital platform, online users now comprise more than 25% of Recyclebank’s more than 3 million membership, and average time on the site has increased three times.

03 || Zynga

For making inroads into gaming platforms outside of Facebook. Its first major foray into mobile gaming, its acquisition of Words With Friends (which it helped advance into a cultural phenomenon), has led to much more, including FarmVille Express and Dream Zoo, adding almost 2 million mobile daily active users in the process. The company has also made tentative announcements of Project Z, which will allow users to play Zynga games independently from Facebook.

04 || EA

For expanding into online and casual gaming while maintaining an arsenal of bestselling console titles. Last year, EA beat out Zynga in a bid for Bejeweled developer PopCap and debuted Sims Social on Facebook, vaulting past FarmVille to collect 36 million users less than a month after launch. With the release of several much anticipated sequels–Battlefield 3 and BioWare’s The Old Republic[/i] and [i]Mass Effect 3–EA is also taking the opportunity to hype Origin, its new online gaming platform and intended rival to Valve’s Steam.

05 || Foldit

For using crowdsourced gaming to decipher–in three weeks–a structural enigma of the AIDS virus that stumped doctors for a decade. In Foldit, a multiplayer computer game developed by researchers at the University of Washington, players compete to find the best way to fold a protein or design new proteins, and it turns out they’re better than the experts. “We’re seeing the players starting to actually direct the protein experiments going out to the labs,” says Seth Cooper, Foldit’s lead designer.

06 || Valve

For promoting free-to-play and indie games while simultaneously crafting a string of massively profitable hits. Last April, prior to the much hyped release of Portal 2, the developer initiated an addictively complex viral marketing campaign for the game, enticing players to engage with a bundle of 13 underrated indie titles by embedding a series of hidden clues in them. It was a win-win for the indies and Valve. Portal 2 sales topped 3 million just two months after its launch.

07 || Bunchball

For anticipating the gamification explosion before anyone knew what gamification was. Bunchball implements game mechanics across websites and mobile apps to increase customer loyalty with the 125 million users it now reaches. In the last year, Bunchball’s client base–which includes Playboy, USA Network, and Comcast–doubled to 100, with many of the new business clients seeking ways to motivate their employees. “Sales managers have been doing rewards contests for years by hand” says founder Rajat Paharia. “Now we give them an application that allows them to incentivize employees to sell more using game mechanics.”

08 || Warner Bros. Interactive

For succeeding where other entertainment companies like Disney and Viacom have failed. By choosing to forgo direct game adaptations of films like Batman Begins, the studio has been able to expand franchises with original storylines rather than merely duplicate existing ones. In October, the studio released Batman-inspired Arkham City to stellar reviews, shipping 4.6 million copies within a week.

09 || Bethesda Game Studios

For creating a massive, complex, nonlinear role-playing universe. Released in November, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim proved an impressive, if not superior, follow-up to 2006’s Oblivion. With more than 70 voice actors and 60,000 lines of dialogue, Skyrim generates an infinite number of quests for players via its Radiant Storytelling engine, which records character actions and adjusts the storyline accordingly. The game shipped more than 7 million copies its first week and became the fastest selling title in Steam’s history.

10 || Deep Silver

For hyping Techland’s game, Dead Island, via an unforgettable cinematic trailer. The three minute trailer–which depicts a family’s (failed) attempts to escape hordes of zombies–sparked more than 12 million views and talks of a potential Lionsgate spin-off film. Even though the game debuted to tepid reviews, it shipped 2 million units in its first week thanks largely to Deep Silver’s marketing. “Deep Silver as a publisher has never had a number one product,” says Aubrey Norris, PR manager for the company. “We’ve gone from pretty much nothing to millions and millions and millions, and we don’t plan on being a one hit wonder.”

Top 10 Retail Companies of 2012

Top Ten Retail Companies of 2012 is compiled from a list by Fast Company.

1. Amazon

For creating a virtuous cycle of commerce interwoven into its technology. The Kindle Fire is the purest expression of tablet as consumption engine. It deftly uses free TV shows and movies to drive Prime memberships that in turn fuel greater retail sales. It also invented a market for 10,000-25,000 word stories that didn’t previously exist with its Singles program. The Fire also represents the purest expression of Amazon’s vision: For customers to acquire or consume any content, physical or digital, in as seamless a fashion as possible. In that, the Fire is undeniably a triumph of instant or almost instant gratification.

2. Square

For creating a new kind of mobile, social, and local retailer and streamlining point-of-sale payments. When Square launched in October 2010, it was a mere dongle that plugged into iPhones, enabling anyone–especially small businesses–to accept credit card payments. No more. Square has since set out to transform the entire payments process, launching an iPad app designed to replace the cash register and point of sale credit card equipment and processing and its Card Case app brings the future of the digital wallet to smartphones today without having to wait for a tap-and-pay system of embedded chips and readers.

3. Patagonia

For its aggressive pursuit of sustainability. As part of its unprecedented Common Threads initiative, the outdoor-apparel company launched an eBay storefront where Patagonia owners can sell secondhand clothing. It’s also expanded into music downloads that benefit environmental charities and even a sustainable salmon jerky in an effort to promote sustainable causes. These initiatives themselves don’t make Patagonia any money, but the resulting brand burnishing improves sales every time.

4. Kiva Systems

For powering faster e-commerce shipments thanks to its autonomous robots. Kiva’s order-fulfillment wizards are now roaming the warehouses of such retailers as Toys ‘R’ Us and Timberland, two of the 24 new customers Kiva picked up in 2011 on its way to doubling revenue for the second year in a row. The machines intelligently organize warehouses to be more efficient–even stacking shelves vertically–enabling more accurate orders and less expensive shipping, even for common grocery or drugstore items. “Low-margin goods are the next wave in ecommerce,” says CEO Mick Mountz. “For that to happen, you need efficient pick, pack, and ship like Kiva offers.”

5. UPS

For letting customers tap directly into UPS’ sophisticated logistics system and control where and when packages get delivered. Its new service My Choice gives customers who’ve signed up a heads-up when a package arrival is imminent the next day. That alone (there are also premium services) helps UPS avoid missed deliveries, saving them money, yes, but also driving greater loyalty both to the end user and the retailer shipping the package. My Choice, then, is UPS’ nod to its e-commerce business. Acknowledges Geoff Light, UPS’ vice president of new product development, “Our business has shifted in correlation with what’s happening in retail, toward e-commerce.” More than 30% of UPS packages now ship to consumers.

6. OpenSky

For converting shopping into a social star trip. Users of this shopping platform follow “curators” like Padma Lakshmi, Molly Sims, and Shaquille O’Neal to populate a Twitter-like feed of recommended products. “Why don’t we build a network where people can connect to people who inspire them?” says OpenSky CEO John Caplan. “Tom Colicchio for food, Cynthia Rowley for clothes. People who live in their passions. Those people would every day be recommending new products to you–daily bolts of inspiration.” When OpenSky started, users were connected to 6 curators on average. Now it’s 18.

7. Fast Retailing

For fashioning Uniqlo into America’s Next Big Retailer. The new $450 million, 90,000-square-foot global flagship store–which is actually the largest retail outlet ever opened in New York–is just the beginning: Uniqlo’s goal is to have 200 stores in the United States and U.S. sales of $10 billion by 2020.

8. RelayRides

For building a business out of “underutilized assets” and dragging the car companies along with it. The peer-to-peer car-sharing market made a landmark deal with GM to let millions of GM owners with OnStar rent out their idle cars. RelayRides claims the average vehicle generates $250 in rental fees a month, with an owner keeping 65% of the total.

9. Shopify

For democratizing and automating ecommerce tools. Shopify offers pre-made templates that allow people to quickly and easily set up an online store without needing to know how to code a website. Shopify creates tools and templates to power online storefronts. (Notable clients include Rovio, Angry Birds’ parent company, and GE.) Shopify has grown to almost 20,000 storefronts in 88 countries, which did a combined $275 million in online sales, up from $120 million in 2010. Up next: Making it as easy to buy sell to mobile customers.

10. Warby Parker

For doing the seemingly impossible: making possible online prescription glasses sales. How? High design and Zappos-style customer service. The New York-based team designs its own glasses, selling them for $95, and it recently expanded into sunglasses ($150). The company keeps prices low by ordering from manufacturers and selling directly to consumers, avoiding expenses like brand licensing fees and retail markups (a la LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, and others). So far, it has sold more than 100,000 pairs of glasses and says it’s profitable.

Top 10 Education Companies of 2012

Top Ten Education Companies of 2012 is compiled from a list by Fast Company.

1. Southern New Hampshire University
For relentlessly reinventing higher education, online and off. The private, not-for-profit and nonselective university is a favorite of innovation guru Clay Christensen thanks to the hotbed of ideas for reimagining higher learning. President Paul LeBlanc is constantly looking to pilot models that provide the benefits of an SNHU education in different combinations to different people. SNHU Advantage, for example, is a streamlined satellite program conducted at an offsite office park where 45 “less confident” students complete their first two years of general ed requirements in four hours a day. Its College Unbound program, which started this fall, is a learning community of first-generation students who design individualized learning plans around jobs and internships, spending as much time in the world as in class. SNHU’s success has attracted potential partners around the region and around the world. Rhode Island wants to offer a free public higher education option; local high schools and community colleges are exploring dual enrollment with SNHU; and a member of SNHU’s Innovation Lab team was dispatched to New Zealand last fall to make SNHU the second U.S. “anchor” for the Open Educational Resources University, an international effort to create paths to degrees for people studying open resources in online networks. Read More

2. Knewton
For learning as you learn online. Five years in the making, the company debuted its software that helps students go at their own pace and personalizes content to how they’re most comfortable learning (making it more gameline, for example). Knewton launched with a college readiness program in math at Arizona State University last summer, helping incoming first-year students improve their proficiency so they could handle college-level courses in the fall. It lined up UNLV, Washington State, Mount St. Mary’s, and Penn State to do the same. It raised another $33 million, reputedly making it the best-capitalized education startup in history, and to cap off its year, it signed a deal with Pearson Education, the world’s largest educational publisher, to power Pearson’s math, science, and humanities tutoring software used by nine million higher-education students. Read More

3. Skillshare
For making it easy to let any doer teach. The community marketplace for offline classes launched last April, and the Airbnb-like platform promises to turn any city into a distributed campus. Fun and useful courses–San Franscisco has Settlers of Catan and digital curation, New Orleans offers modern dinner party etiquette and business model generation–are available for typically less than $50, of which Skillshare takes a 15% cut. More than 15,000 hours of classes have been taught thus far.

4. Chegg
For becoming a social hub for homework help, course selection, note taking, and finding scholarships. Chegg began as “Netflix for textbooks,” but it has expanded its mission to being more of a student-centric network of useful services. Chegg has added online course scheduling; a college-admissions service that includes scholarship matching for high-school students; a web tutoring platform; and a lecture notes service to build out what it calls the “student graph.” The company has also built an HTML 5 e-textbook reader to anticipate the reduced use of physical volumes, and it claims more than one-million pageviews in its first two weeks.

5. Pearson
For launching a free online learning platform to complement its textbook business. The largest publisher in the world has become “the largest learning company.” Nearly 50% of U.S. schools use at least one of its student curriculums, instructional management, or financial software packages. It’s also the largest provider of educational assessment services and solutions. Internationally, it’s ahead of the trend towards independent accreditation via EdExcel, the UK’s largest body offering academic and vocational qualifications and testing to schools, colleges, employers and other places of learning. And in India, it runs Tutorvista, a network of English Language coaching centers for Indian students that also provides remote tutoring to 10,000 students around the world–the call-center version of help with your homework.

6. Datawind
For making the world’s cheapest tablet computer ($35) for Indian students. This small British tech company makes Aaakash, an Android device with a 7-inch touchscreen, 3-hour battery life, and 32 GB of storage that will be available starting at $35 for students. The Indian government also plans to purchase and give away 100,000 to schoolchildren and hopes to have millions in use within a few years. Aakash comes pre-loaded with a few apps, but it’s not an app platform since it can’t access the Android Marketplace. The tablet has been extensively tested in 118 degree Fahrenheit conditions to replicate summers in northern India.

7. Fidelis
For designing an online coaching platform to help vets graduate. An online community and platform that coaches veterans through the process of preparing for college and the workforce, Fidelis provides technological solutions (gamification, badges) to the tough problem of student retention for a demographic that struggles in the transition back to school and work. Fidelis will serve as virtual counselors for vets, from GED tests through their first jobs. They’re in discussions with Harvard University, Stanford University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others.

8. 2tor
For bringing live online video teaching to non-profit schools. The full-service live video teaching platform, first announced in 2008, is expanding from its original offering, an online master’s degree for teachers, to social work, nursing (Georgetown) and MBAs. Its impact is profound: USC’s Rossier School of Education, for example, historically ranked in the 30′s in the U.S. News rankings. Since its partnership with 2tor began, its rank has risen to number 14 and its enrollment has risen from 100 students to more than 2,000.

9. Root-1
For finding the fun in building vocabulary. This games startup has created such educational titles as xWords, which includes a variety of crossword puzzles, and Word Joust, a vocabulary-building game that students can play solo or in competition. This first Word Joust is built around 3,000 SAT-type words. Ten thousand students in Singapore (soon rising to 40,000) are playing an experimental, browser-only version called Word Kungfu based on elementary school word lists.

10. MacArthur Foundation
For creating a $2 million competition to merge games and real-world learning. Its annual Digital Media and Learning Competition focused in 2011 on badges–transparent, game-like, modular rewards for real-world learning–one of the most exciting concepts going in the world of education technology. The first winners will be announced in March 2012.

Top 10 Advertising Companies of 2012

Top Ten Advertising Companies of 2012 is compiled from a list by Fast Company.

1. 72andSunny
For creating collaborative three-way branded entertainment that works. The L.A.-based ad shop has demonstrated a knack for working beyond conventional ad frameworks and in the spaces where Hollywood and Madison Avenue intersect. That approach has resulted in an eclectic and impressive body of work: a line of baby mattresses and bedding created from the ground up at 72 and buzz-magnets like its ongoing K-Swiss work in conjunction with HBO’s Eastbound and Down character Kenny Powers and “The Vet and the N00b,” the recent campaign for Activision’s record-breaking Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The launch film, directed by Peter Berg (Hancock, The Kingdom) starred Sam Worthington and Jonah Hill in the titular roles and racked up 13 million views in its first week online. “The mandate is simple–get our clients in a cultural conversation,” partner Matt Jarvis says of the agency’s MO. Read More


2. Chipotle
For making fast-casual dining sustainable and marketing it like no other fast food, to the tune of $1.84 billion last year. The burrito hub increased its use of local produce in 2011 to more than 10 million pounds, double its 2010 goal. Read More


3. Networked Insights
For using data analytics to make more effective ad, media buying & original content decisions. MillerCoors, MTV, Samsung, Kraft, EA Games, Gawker Media, Charles Schwab, Microsoft, GroupM, MediaBrands, and Universal McCann have all hired Networked Insights in the past year to in some fashion apply web analytics to their content-making decisions. The Madison, Wisconsin-based company, which informed $5 billion in media spending last year, uses complex mathematical formulas to tap into Internet conversations for data that helps marketers make better decisions. Read More


4. Boo-box
For building a burgeoning Internet advertising giant in Latin America. The ad network, which dominates social-media advertising in Brazil, has now partnered with the Argentinean social analytics firm Popego to combine forces and offer targeted, social-media powered advertising across the continent. Read More

5. Buddy Media
For becoming “the” arbiter between brands and Facebook. The software that Buddy Media sells to advertisers can be used for other social media sites; however, the bulk of its business comes from those who want to manage their Facebook presence, including buying ads from Facebook. The company added close to 200 new customers in 2011, including some of the world’s most recognizable global brands, retailers, and media companies such as Ford Motor Company, Hanes, ESPN, Hearst Corporation, and Virgin Mobile USA.

6. Dentsu Network West
For conquering the U.S. advertising market from Japan. The venerable Japanese advertising holding company has succeeding where no Asian outfit has before thanks to its unique approach. Rather than acquiring every hot agency, it makes bets on a single agency within a particular discipline. The plan is to become an actual network of partners rather than a conglomerate of scale. Traditional agency McGarry Bowen, interactive powerhouse 360i, and boutique digital production house FirstBorn are some of its holdings that have helped it organically grow business 32%.

7. Klout
For evolving the art of “the influencer” into a science. For decades companies have spent big money to try to identify and nurture word-of-mouth influencers. Klout is finding the people who are experts at creating, aggregating, and sharing content that moves online, and measuring influence for marketers, based on that. Some of the biggest and brightest marketers and brands such as Disney, Audi, Starbucks, and Nike have incorporated Klout influencers into their traditional marketing efforts. And it is working. According to Klout, each influencer in one of their Perk programs generates an average of 30 pieces of content and millions of possible impressions. The cost per thousand impressions is incredibly low compared to other forms of advertising and it is organic since it is being generated by people who already love the brands.

8. Target
For building Apple-like buzz around a new product line. Last September, Target unveiled its exclusive 400-piece limited edition Missoni for Target line to greater demand than you’d expect on a typical Black Friday. It deftly stoked demand through chronicling the line’s every development on one of its Facebook pages to using a 25-foot robo doll dressed in head-to-toe Missoni named Marina to “blog” about the collection during Fashion Week. On the day of launch, Target’s website crashed several times throughout the day and hundreds of shoppers lined up at stores early in the morning the day that the limited offerings of bikes, luggage, clothes and housewares went on sale. Everything was gone within six hours.

9. Wieden+Kennedy
For proving that iconic TV advertising can still captivate, provoke, and get people buzzing, even on the heels of its postmodern Old Spice campaign juggernaut. The Portland agency scored touchdowns for client Chrysler in two consecutive Super Bowls, first with its 2011 Emmy winning Eminem-does-Detroit spot, and then with its two-minute Clint Eastwood-narrated “It’s Halftime in America.” The indie network also helped finance nine startups through its Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE) arm, which not only connects entrepreneurs to the agency’s creative braintrust but also gets them access to clients like Coca Cola and Google.

10. Big Spaceship
For being a crack team of digital inventors. Its What Do You Love? campaign for Google is a metasearch tool designed to help users utilize and explore the endless possibilities of Google by inviting them to learn something new about their favorite things while interacting with Google’s broad range of services. Big Spaceship also created “The Expressive Web” for Adobe to help designers and developers maximize the capabilities of HTML5 and CSS3 to design the modern web. And Taco Finder has been called “the app I never knew I needed,” a unique compass that directs iPhone and iPod touch users to the nearest taco using GPS technology–part of its growing portfolio of creative digital intellectual property.

Impact the World, No Matter Your Job

Article written by Margot Starbuck and first posted on Relevant Magazine.

Everyone knows the best place to foster relationships with the poor is on the church’s annual week-long mission trip or within the specified hours we’re doing “volunteer” work in the community. Or, reluctantly, when we can’t quite zip through a red light in time to avoid the sign-holding stranger who wants a bite to eat. Where we don’t always encounter the poor is at work.

Except that we do.

Though our temptation is to designate relating to people who are poor as being something special we do outside of our job, Jesus had a whole other plan.

Who’s to say the Samaritan who aided a bloody mugging victim wasn’t on his way to Starbucks to discuss a possible business merger? And how do we know the one Jesus praises for visiting prisoners wasn’t a manager at the Burger King where the prisoner was employed? There’s simply no good reason to assume we shouldn’t be engaging with the poor—materially and otherwise—where we work. It may take a little creativity, but it’s worth the effort.

Working as a barista, bartender or waiter?

Know the names of the customers you serve. Though you won’t be able to know each one, identify a few regulars and be open to new ways to know and care for them. It might be as simple as remembering what they’ve shared with you and following up the next time you see them.

Does your coffee shop or restaurant get rid of food at the end of the day? See if you can donate leftovers to a local shelter or a homeless person you pass on your commute.

Working in health care?

If you work in health care, your work is holy. You, quite literally, are God’s hands and feet in the lives of the ones God loves. As you care for the poor, be open to discover how Jesus wants to use you in their lives—and vice versa. Expect these routine encounters to be the place where Jesus is at work.

Working as a creative (artist, performer, writer, speaker)?

Author Henri Nouwen spent a season of his life among people with disabilities as a member of a L’Arche community. When he traveled to lecture, he’d bring one of these friends along. As you develop friendships with those who are poor, find creative ways for them to share your platform. Rather than telling a story about them, find a unique way for them to tell their own story. You can also donate your time to providing creative assets for organizations or groups that could benefit from this expression.

Working in IT?

You’ve got mad computer skills, so don’t be afraid to use them. Consider contacting a congregation or nonprofit with whom you have some connection—your housekeeper’s church? local teen outreach?—and offering to share your skills. If they don’t have a site online, they need your help! Offer to mentor a teen or adult who can continue to update the site.

Working in social services?

If you work in social services, you’ve hit the jackpot. No doubt a world in need files past your door, rides in your car and calls your phone every day. Counselor Michelle K. tells clients: “You are God’s beloved. You are made in the image of God and God wants good things for you.” The announcement has brought clients to tears. Find creative ways to communicate this truth.

Working a desk job?

Though a desk, an office door or a cubicle might naturally separate you from groups who are demographically different than you, keep your eyes peeled. Who vacuums the office you use? Who cleans the bathrooms? Who fills the vending machines? Seize opportunities to know these forgotten coworkers, as well as ways your business could benefit those beyond your office doors.

Working as a student?

There are a lot of people who work to make your experience possible, and many you might overlook are worth knowing. Who’s cooking in the cafeteria? Who’s cleaning the classrooms? Use the flexibility your schedule allows to know and learn the stories of these important and often unrecognized people.

Working as a pastor?

Though many of our churches are fairly ethnically and socioeconomically homogenous, partner with a sister congregation across demographic lines of income, race or—truly revolutionary—even denomination. Invite their men to join your congregation’s men’s group, or ask if your women can participate in their annual women’s retreat. The goal? Authentic friendship and, eventually, shared mission.

Working as a youth pastor?

Too often, parents and the church keep young people from encountering a world in need in the name of “protecting” them. Challenge young people to identify and discover one new friend at school whose economic circumstances are less privileged than their own. Better yet, make them curious by modeling it with a friend of your own.

Working at home?

Whether you build websites or build earrings to sell on Etsy, you’ve got a tricky challenge. Basically, you’re going to have to leave your home or invite the outside world in. Is there an elderly person in your neighborhood who’s home during the day? Could you make yourself available to pick up the kid of the single mother from daycare when she’s in a bind? Ask God to show you these opportunities. (Looking for other ways to make an impact in your neighborhood? Here are some tips for making a difference in the suburbs.)

Working in education?

From curriculum to field work, let your students encounter a world that’s bigger than the one they inhabit by exposing them to news, stories, history and encounters with those who are materially poor. Think on ways to challenge your students to know and engage with those who are under-resourced.

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How do you impact those around you while at work? Tell us your story in the comment section below!

Summer Networking Tips

It is almost summer time, which means you can turn your career brain off and relax for three months, right? Nope. Summer is a great time to network because we have more free time,  we meet new people and experience new places, and generally we are much more relaxed.

Use the next few months off of school to make lasting relationships and establish professional connections that can help you in the coming school year.

Here are a few simple tips to help out with networking:

1)     Know who you don’t know. Is there a specific person or type of person you need to meet?  Maybe an industry expert who works in the field you hope to?  Or a creative partner to assist your business mindset?

2)     Do your homework. Find opportunities to meet with people. This can be an event specific to networking, a guest speaker at school, or a church function. Do a little background research and see if anyone you want to meet is speaking at a local event.

3)     Know yourself and your audience.  Now that you know where you are going and who you want to meet, figure out what you want to say. Don’t practice too much though or it will sound forced. Be sure to know who you are talking to as it should dictate how you handle the conversation. Everyone responds differently.

4)     Don’t be too shy to ask. To be successful you have to be willing to ask for help. Everyone starts in the same place and the ones who make are the ones who got a helping hand.  Asking for someone’s advice about a topic they know well is a great way to get a conversation started.  When they respond with specific advice for your situation they become engaged in your success.

5)     Do what you say you will do.  Follow up with your new connections! Simply meeting new people will not progress your career. You have to hold up on your end of the deal. Don’t wait; follow-up promptly.  Be persistent while also being respectful of your new connection’s time.

Networking can be scary at first, but it only gets easier. Take full advantage of the summer and make as many new connections as possible.

Content taken from Inc.com

Top Ten Mobile Companies of 2012

Top Ten Mobiles Companies of 2012 is compiled from a list by Fast Company.

  1. Square

    For creating a new kind of mobile, social, and local retailer and streamlining point-of-sale payments. When Square launched in October 2010, it was a mere dongle that plugged into iPhones, enabling anyone–especially small businesses–to accept credit card payments. No more. Square has since set out to transform the entire payments process, launching an iPad app designed to replace the cash register and point of sale credit card equipment and processing and its Card Case app brings the future of the digital wallet to smartphones today without having to wait for a tap-and-pay system of embedded chips and readers.

    Read More

  2. Tapjoy

    For fueling mobile app growth through the use of in-app advertisements. Its 280 million users select which ads to engage with in exchange for receiving virtual currency that they can later use in their favorite apps. Its turnkey in-app advertising platform has monetized more than 11,000 apps across Apple’s iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, and HTML5 platforms. “For thousands of developers around the world, their apps wouldn’t see the light of day without us,” says CEO Mihir Shah. “We’re in the business of discovery. We pair user interests with great mobile apps.”Last November, Tapjoy branched out from mobile advertising with the beta launch of its personal app marketplace, which delivers customized app recommendations based on users’ current apps, as well as those of their friends.

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  3. Foursquare

    For moving far beyond check-ins and adding services like daily deals, a recommender, and real-time geolocation alerts. Last year, the location-based social network partnered with Groupon, LivingSocial, and Scoutmob to offer live deals within its mobile app. It also rolled out Radar, an opt-in service that knows where you are and alerts you when you’re near a restaurant or store you’ve saved to your to-do list. And in November, it leveraged the mass of data its collected since launching in 2009–from more than 10 million users and over a billion check-ins–to create a kind of personalized city guide for users logging in from a computer or tablet.

  4. Instagram

    For creating a beautiful, free photo-sharing service that lets regular people take professional-looking photos. Instagram’s signature square-shaped photos pay homage to Polaroid’s instant camera, and amateurs can create frame-worthy shots by stylizing their photos with the app’s special custom filters. Users can then share to multiple social networks at once, including Instagram’s own network. The site has grown to more than 15 million users, up from one million last January. Famous users include President Barack Obama, Snoop Dogg, and Justin Bieber.

  5. Flipboard

    For bringing its addictive news- and social-media consumption app to the iPhone and making it even more irresistible. Upon its debut late last year, the iPhone app tripled the typical usage of Flipboard’s iPad app. The addition of the iPhone app grew Flipboard’s page views (which it calls flips) from 650 million to almost 2 billion per month. Smart and timely content guides, to enhance everything from the Presidential election to watching the Super Bowl, go further in making Flipboard an essential tool for consuming content.

  6. Shopkick

    For creating the first instant geo-couponing system that rewards users for stepping into retail stores. Shopkick has redefined the check-in-to-reap-rewards game by eliminating a step: the act of checking in. It works by installing a hardware system in each of its partner stores that picks up signals from smartphones that has installed the app. So users start accumulating “kicks,” or rewards, the moment they walk in. Since launching in 2010, Shopkick has grown to 3 million users who walked in to 5 million stores and interacted with 1 billion products as of January 2012. Last November, Shopkick partnered with Visa to give customers an added incentive to shop after walking in. Users with registered Visa cards get rewards anytime they shop in participating stores including Old Navy, American Eagle Outfitters, and Toys ‘R’ Us. “We’re the only company that gives rewards just for walking in,” says cofounder Cyriac Roeding. “It happens so fast, people think it’s like magic. It’s instant gratification.”

  7. GetGlue

    For turning live TV-watching into a social media appointment with friends and fellow fans. “If you’re watching TV, chances are you’re using social media, too,” says CEO Alex Iskold. “We’re tapping into that market.” GetGlue offers its users three main services: the ability to check in to a TV show, interaction with others watching too, and special loyalty features like retail rewards and profile badges. Last year, its monthly check-ins increased 1,000%, to more than 16 million per month by year’s end. GetGlue has partnerships with more than 70 media companies, including virtually all of the major TV networks. And some, like TNT, have even integrated GetGlue into their own mobile apps. Last year it refined its filters to direct users toward conversations they’re most interested in, based on their TV preferences.

  8. Twilio

    For easing app developers’ headaches by letting them add voice, SMS and VoIP functionality to their apps. Twilio provides easy-to-integrate phone and text services to its 75,000 developers. “The number-one thing we did was create access to telecommunications for developers, when before it was this black box,” says Danielle Morill, Twilio’s director of developer evangelism and the startup’s first hire. In 2011, it quadrupled in size to more than 100 employees and increased its customer base by 400%. Last year it launched Twilio Connect, easing the billing process between developers and their users, and Twilio Client, allowing developers to integrate cloud communications into their apps. They also expanded into Europe.

  9. Lookout

    For securing 15 million smartphones against mobile threats and reuniting lost phones with their owners. The San Francisco-based company is adding new customers at a rate of more than one million per month. After years of providing security services for BlackBerry, Windows 7, and Android phones, in October Lookout launched its free iOS app for securing data that iPhone and iPad users store on their devices. Last June it launched a new feature to protect users from online threats while web browsing on their mobile phones. Lookout’s cloud-based protection system is powered by its Mobile Threat Network, which quickly analyzes threat data worldwide and block threats as soon as they emerge. Last year they unveiled the Lookout API, which gives partners–including Verizon Wireless–access to threat data, ensuring all apps in their app stores are screened against Lookout’s databases. Lookout now comes pre-loaded on T-Mobile devices and just announced a partnership with Telstra, Australia’s biggest mobile operator, to come pre-loaded on Telstra devices as well in 2012.

  10. Bump

    For creating the smartphone’s high-five: Tap devices to share content with a friend. More than 60 million people have downloaded this app, making it the seventh most popular free download of all time. Recent updates have added music and app sharing, as well as being able to “virtually bump” friends even when they aren’t nearby.

Do You Have a Work-Related Tattoo Story?

To date our most popular blog, by a longshot, is our post on Tattoo-Friendly Employers. We take this to mean that Biola students are greatly interested in finding companies that are okay with tattoos, piercings, etc.

We would like to expand our information on this topic and to do so we are asking for your help.

Do you have a work-related tattoo story? A company that is cool with them? Some companies that aren’t? Did you lose a job because of a tattoo or do have to cover it up at work? We want to hear your experiences so far in the work-world as someone with tattoos. How did you break the stereotype and land the job you wanted?

For a long time Christianity and tattoos were at odds. In an age when that is changing, how do we as Christians represent Christ in the professional world without sacrificing our right to express ourselves through tattoos, fashion, piercings, and hair dye?

Send all of your stories, thoughts, and comments to me at alex.k.sparks@biola.edu or reply in a comment below.

What I Learned From a Poorly Planned Interview

Yesterday, I had an unanticipated interview with a marketing company about a potential summer internship. I knew I had a meeting, but was unclear whether or not I was going to be officially interviewed. Some things went really well and others could have gone a lot smoother. Being better prepared would have only made it easier for me.

Take a lesson from my experience and follow these tips on preparing for interviews.

1. Be flexible
As I mentioned, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into yesterday. I didn’t know if I would walk into a board meeting of suits or a loft of bean bag chairs and Xbox 360s. It was somewhere in between. Be prepared for anything. Different companies operate in different ways, you never know what you will find. A rule of thumb that I should have considered is that in this kind of situation, you are always being interviewed. Even if you are just hanging out and playing Wii with a new company, you are being observed. Employers take note of how you interact with the group, how you handle yourself in competition, and how you treat authority.

2. Always have a resume ready.
This was one of my biggest mistakes. I didn’t have a resume printed out and ready to go. Up until the last minute I was emailing my resume to myself, restocking paper, and finally getting it printed. I was almost late and I was flustered. Although, I didn’t end up needing it, you never know when someone will ask for a resume. If possible, buy a binder and keep a few copies of your resume in your backpack or car. This way you won’t have to bend-over-backwards to get one printed before your interview.

3. Dress well.
This was another big mistake of mine. I knew I had the meeting in the afternoon, but my lazy college brain told me I needed 15 more minutes of sleep, so I woke up late for class and threw on a sweatshirt. After class I had to rush back to my dorm and change into something more appropriate for an interview. This only added to the stress from the lack of resume. If you have an interview, no matter what time in the day, when you wake up get ready. You never know what will come up during the day and it is best to be prepared.

4. Do your research.
Always know the company you are interviewing with and come prepared with specific questions. This lets you fill any awkward lulls with a question. This keeps them doing the talking and makes you look genuinely interested in the company. In my case, I was interviewing with a company that focuses in marketing for TV and film. I want to go into film production and currently work in a field of marketing, so I was able to ask questions geared towards these areas. I tried to find out just how involved they were in the film industry by asking questions about the new movies they had signed onto produce. I knew they had started producing films, because I did my research beforehand.

5. Be willing to wait.
Whenever you are interviewing for a position sometimes it is required you wait. Often this means you are waiting on them, but sometimes you have to be willing to ask for more time to think a job through. This was my situation yesterday. The interview went really well, but I have prior commitments that may interfere and I am still weighing my options for this summer, so I had to ask for more time. It is a part of the process and an employer will respect your honesty. Take a couple days from the interview, weigh your options, and then let them know. This of course doesn’t apply if you’re certain when you get there. If you know, you know. Take the job.

When you’re in the market for a new job or internship it is important to always be prepared. You don’t want to lose an opportunity because you didn’t print out a resume or forgot to prepare questions.

PS – Relax. Interviews will go a thousand times smoother if you take a deep breath and chill out. Be yourself, have fun, and stay humble. Now go get a job!