The Importance of Understanding Organizational Culture

In school we spend a lot of time learning about culture—we learn about our own culture, about different cultures, and even about respecting any and all cultural differences. Often we learn about culture in the context of different countries, races and religions. Rarely do we hear about culture in the workplace—until now.

The concept of “workplace culture” or “organizational culture” is becoming increasingly important to employees across all industries. Put simply, organizational culture can be described as “how things are done” in an organization. In truth, there is much more to it than that. Organizational culture encompasses several different aspects of an organization and its operations, including the organizational expectations, experiences, philosophy and values that hold it together; as well as the way organizations choose to conduct business with clients, customers, and even among coworkers. Organizational culture is often based on a set of shared attitudes, beliefs, customs and both written and unwritten rules.

It’s easy to see that once you begin trying to dig in and understand the concept of organizational culture, you are faced with a very complex and involved task. But that doesn’t make it any less crucial to really sink your teeth into this ever-important aspect of today’s job market!

Now more than ever employers are looking for candidates who they think will fit well within their current organizational culture. That being said, as job market entrants and potential employees it is imperative that we take the time to research the organizations we want to work for. Look for cues and hints about what the organization’s culture might look like. This will give a better sense of what the organization might be looking for, and allow for stronger, more tailored responses during an interview. Upon entering a new organization, understanding and embracing the organization’s culture can not only help make your transition more seamless, but it can also help you to better determine if the organization is a good fit for you. Particularly when completing an internship or volunteer experience, do your best to immerse yourself and learn everything you can about what makes the organization tick. Developing this understanding as early as possible will help you to develop your long-term goals—and to determine if those goals include working to stay with the company or not.

Ultimately the importance of organizational culture is becoming more and more prominent. Speaking from personal experience, I have been really fascinated in trying to wrap my mind around the culture present in the organization where I’m currently completing an internship. There are so many different facets that make an organization run, so many different pieces that go into creating a well-oiled business, and organizational culture is one of the most intriguing pieces I’ve found thus far. If you’ve got questions about organizational culture, transitioning into a new organization or any other related questions, Career Services is a great resource—and we’re still open during the summer!

Written by Sarah, senior Finance major

5 Things Employers Wish Millennials Learned in College

In a recent blog post, Lindsey Pollak, the leading expert on training, managing and marketing to Millennials (the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s), discusses whether or not college is preparing today’s young people for the real world of employment: 5 Things Employers Wish Millennials Learned in College.

According to a 2013 Chegg study, hiring managers felt that grads were most lacking in organization, leadership, personal finance skills and “street smarts.” Lindsey also adds communication skills to that list. So in looking at these 5 things: Communication, Organization, Leadership, Personal Finance Skills and “Street Smarts.” I started to think about the different ways that UP students and alumni can demonstrate these skills to potential employers. I would suggest starting with your related coursework and projects, then look at all of your applied experiences – internships, part-time and summer jobs, volunteer work, research, activities, athletics, etc. You must be able to tell potential employers and networking contacts about these experiences in a meaningful way, using your resume and cover letter, as well as interviews, your elevator pitch, positioning statement, and personal brand.

Here in Career Services, we can help you figure out the best way to tell “your story,” but you have to spend the time doing the work and reflecting on your various experiences. If you’re ready to show professionals that you have the Communication, Organization, Leadership, Personal Finance Skills and “Street Smarts” that they are looking for, call us at 503.943.7201 to set up an appointment. We’re happy to help!

Written by Mary Beth, Career Counselor

What to Do if You’re the New Face in Town

Remember back in high school when the “new kid” came to town and their arrival seemed to have everybody talking? People wanted to know their story—where they came from, what they’re doing, who they are, etc. It seems that even now, when you start a new job, volunteer experience or internship, it’s pretty safe to say you’ll get a few looks and hear some of that same old “new kid” chatter. So how do you handle it? What’s the best way to adjust to a new job or professional experience?

A blog on “Unstuck” lists 7 tips to follow when starting a new job, and I’ve chosen my 4 favorites to share with you!

1) Join the team—it’s always important to make the effort to get to know the other people you’ll be working with. After all, unless you work for a massive company or work mostly from home, you’ll probably end up interacting with coworkers on a fairly regular basis. As the saying goes, you only get to make one first impression, so do your best to smile and be friendly to everyone you meet. You never know who could become a useful connection (or even your boss) in the future!

2) Respect what you don’t know—most of us want to feel like we’re making a difference in the company we’re working for. We may look to make changes that we feel bring value to the company—sometimes these are big changes, other times they’re not. Some small changes are harmless and relatively easy to make, but if you enter a new position and start making big changes without first taking the time to understand the company’s inner workings, you could burn some serious bridges. Be confident in what you do know—if you weren’t smart, the company probably wouldn’t have hired you—but also take heed to the fact that you can’t know everything right away, and that doesn’t make you any less capable, successful or qualified. In fact, taking the time to learn new processes before trying to change things can show your interest in and respect for the way the company operates—all good things in starting to build a future with the company.

3) Speak up to get what you need—it’s inevitable that questions are going to come up when you’re starting a new job, so don’t be afraid to ask questions about things you aren’t sure of! I’m almost certain that employers would rather you ask clarification questions than have you do something incorrectly. Sometimes employers and coworkers even appreciate questions because it helps to reinforce their own knowledge of the subject. Just be careful not to ask questions that a little bit of independent research could have answered for you!

3) Take it day by day—in almost every new job, there will be some frustration with the sheer amount of information and stuff you have to learn. It’s easy to quickly feel overwhelmed, discouraged and even a little frightened. You may think to yourself “I’m barely even making it through my first week, how can I make it through next month… next year… how can I ever build a career here?” All of these fears are natural. Don’t let them overwhelm you. Again, you aren’t expected to know every little detail right off the bat. Be patient, both with the learning process and with yourself. Just do the best you can, and your effort and determination will shine through on its own. The learning will come if you take it day by day and try to understand the process.

Hopefully these few tips can help you when you begin your new professional experience! Career Services is always here to help with other questions you might have!

Written by Sarah, senior Finance major

A Few LinkedIn Suggestions

Job seekers can no longer deny the importance of social media in today’s job search. An increasing number of employers are using social media to evaluate potential employees. While Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are very popular social media avenues, they might not reflect the most professional aspects of individuals, and can actually prove damaging at times. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is a professional social networking site than many employers are now using to evaluate potential employees. But what exactly should you put on your LinkedIn profile? How do you handle it differently than your other social media accounts? Forbes.com posted an article on “What Every College Student Should Post on LinkedIn.” And below are my three favorite pieces of advice:

  • Show off your schoolwork by including your coursework and other academic extracurricular activities. Not all of us will have work experience when we graduate from college. Some students think this means they have nothing to put on their resume, but it doesn’t. Academic projects, involvement in clubs and activities, campus volunteer experiences and relevant coursework can all be useful material to include on a resume. It’s not so much about what you did, it’s about what you learned and what skills you gained from it.
  • Check for spelling and grammar errors. I have heard countless employers talk about how frustrating it is to see grammatical and spelling errors coming from professionals. Employers may be looking at your profile without you even knowing it, and you may never get the chance to meet them in person, so it’s important to make a positive, professional impression by making sure your profile is error-free. You wouldn’t want an employer’s first (and sometimes only) impression of you to be based on silly errors, right?
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations. Recommendations from advisers, professors, and managers can prove very beneficial on your LinkedIn profile. I just caution you to make sure you really consider who you’re asking for recommendations from. Ask people who can really speak to your work and who are familiar enough with you to be able to give an honest and insightful reflection. Think quality here, not quantity. It’s better to have a few genuine and really strong recommendations rather than to have many that are inconsistent, basic and that don’t necessarily represent the best version of you.

So take a good, hard look at your LinkedIn profile. Are you following this advice? Where can your profile use some TLC? And overall, do you feel you’re using social media to your best professional advantage? Career Services can help you answer some of these questions. Stop on by, we’re here all summer!

Written by Sarah, senior Finance major

Don’t Act Like an Intern

To All the Interns Out There…

Congratulations! You’ve finally landed that internship you’ve been wanting for months. All the interviews are over and you can now rest easy because you’ve officially sealed your spot with the company… right? But as your first day approaches, you may find your anxiety continuing to build as you ask yourself questions about how you’re supposed to act, what you’re supposed to wear and what you’re going to be doing. The age-old cliché comes to mind—where the intern gets the coffee, files all the papers and lives next to the copy machine. Many of us may wonder if that will be the scope of our own internship (and usually we hope that it won’t be.) Even in beginning my own internship, at times I’ve caught myself thinking “Oh, I’m just an intern” as if my thoughts won’t matter or my ideas can’t take flight.

But what if I told you that we aren’t just interns?

What if I told you that you should never act like you’re just an intern?

Countless resources suggest that the best piece of advice you can offer any intern is simply this: Do not act like an intern, rather act like a regular employee within the company. Nothing is automatically out of your reach solely because your job title has the word “intern” in it. As you would any other job, enter your new position with confidence. Many employers view hiring interns as a way to bring new, fresh, creative ideas to their organizations. Capitalize on this by presenting your ideas and perspective when asked. Work like you’re in it for the long haul—internships can eventually lead to full-time work or other long-term opportunities with the company. If you act like you’re only going to be there for a few months and let your work ethic follow accordingly, you may be hurting your chances for these long-term opportunities. Immerse yourself within the company and investigate the company culture as much as possible. Make sure to do your due diligence by asking questions, taking notes, and doing everything you can to show your genuine interest. Never miss an opportunity to network, make a stellar first impression, and start to build lasting relationships. If you find yourself running out of things to do and you’ve completed all of your current tasks to the highest quality you can, ask to take on extra projects. It may be that your employer doesn’t quite know what to expect in an intern and they are waiting for you to take the wheel, ask questions and make the internship “your own.” Be responsible, reliable and always hold true to your word—but be sure to remember that just because you are an intern doesn’t mean you’re just an intern. Chances are if your employer didn’t see the potential for you to bring value to the company, they wouldn’t have hired you in the first place. Don’t limit your own possibilities!

All of this being said, be sure to always be very respectful and professional in any job or internship. An internship is still a learning experience, so don’t be presumptuous—while you should have confidence in your knowledge, don’t be cocky and assume you know everything. While you should ask questions, do your best to find the answer on your own first—try not to ask questions that a simple Google search could answer for you. It is always important to get a good feel for a company’s culture when you’re entering a new workplace, and then to do your best to understand how you fit in to that culture—but don’t automatically glue yourself to the bottom of the totem pole because you think you’re just an intern!

An internship can be an incredible opportunity for learning, growth and networking. It can serve as a great “foot in the door” for many, creating a truly special experience—so do your best to treat it as such. And, as always, Career Services can help with any questions! We also have an online internship portal for students with a ton of resources if you are still looking for an internship experience.

Written by Sarah, senior Finance major

Changing Our Attitudes about Change

Anthony D’Angelo once said “Don’t fear change, embrace it.” As beautiful a thing as this is to say, I’ve found it somewhat of a scary thing to actually apply. Initially with change may come uncertainty, adjustment, and a lot of other things it would be easier to simply not deal with. In a university setting, many changes occur—students are often facing changes in their homes, their friends, their classes, etc., and this is all considered to be a “normal” part of the “college experience.” But, for me at least, there seemed to be this stigma around “change” when it came to changing a college major. I remember when I entered college, I thought I knew exactly what I was going to do—what I was going to major in, where I wanted to work, and I had this really nice and pretty plan laid out in my head. I thought people who didn’t have the same plan, or who changed their majors, didn’t know what they were doing or what they wanted and were just wasting their time. I was also afraid of the thought of changing my major—what if it meant I couldn’t graduate on time? What if it was a reflection of the way I make decisions in my life? What if I picked the wrong major? And among all the other changes that were happening to me as a new college student, I was confident that changing my major would not be one of them.

Now, almost three years later, I have changed my major… twice.

I can’t lie—both times I switched majors were clouded with nerves, fear, and uncertainty. I began questioning myself and wondering if I was ever going to find something I enjoyed doing. I was afraid of what my future might look like because of my decision, afraid of what could be said about me because I couldn’t seem to pinpoint what I wanted to do, and overall I just felt a lot of anxiety about the whole situation. However when I went to Career Services, as I did on both occasions, my nerves were almost instantly soothed. After talking with the staff there, I felt at ease and confident in my decisions and I came to embrace the major change I was making by changing my major. I learned that changing my major was not a bad thing. It didn’t make me a bad person, it didn’t mean I wasn’t smart enough to know what I wanted to do or that I was wasting my time—what it did mean is that I allowed myself to pursue what I loved, and it taught me a great lesson about change in life.

Looking back, I’ve faced a lot of changes in my college years. I’ve lived in three different places. I’ve driven two different cars. I’ve taken 41 different classes and had 35 different professors. I’ve worked 4 jobs and had 4 different bosses… it has become blatantly obvious to me that change is a necessary and inevitable part of life. Does that always make it easy to deal with? Absolutely not. Does it make it any less scary? Not always. But does that mean that I should run from change? No. Sometimes change brings us some of life’s greatest opportunities. Without change, where would any of us be? Perhaps with this knowledge and from our own life experiences, we can begin to live Anthony D’Angelo’s words and change our attitudes about change.

Written by Sarah, senior Finance major 

Don’t Get Discouraged

Often when students go to create a resume to apply for their first job or internship, a moment of panic arises. Many jobs, even entry-level jobs, require some sort of previous work experience. Thus a misconception may build that the only people who can get a job or an internship have to somehow already have work experience, a million connections, and possess every possible skill employers are looking for.  Perhaps this idea comes from the fact that, especially in our early college years, we’re constantly being encouraged to participate in anything and everything we can. We’re told employers are looking for students with demonstrated versatility and lots of relevant experience—and sometimes that sounds like “job experience” and “off-campus” and “something that’s not school.” So when it comes time to apply for our first job or internship, where does that leave those of us haven’t yet had our first job? What about those of us who are so determined to do well in school that we haven’t felt that we had time to participate in extracurricular activities, let alone work a job? What about those of us who’ve lived on campus and didn’t have transportation to get us to an off-campus job? Or even those of us who have little bits of work experience here and there, but not enough to fill up a page-long resume? Does this mean that we’re doomed to struggle in the job market?

Fortunately, the answer is no.

Once upon a time in Career Services some very wise people told me that, when it comes to work experience, it’s not always so much about what you did, it’s more about what you learned and what skills you gained from it. I think some of us may be surprised by the things we’ve done in school that we can put on our resumes—class projects, team projects and particular courses in which you developed certain skills can definitely show off your strengths both as a student and a prospective employee. Projects often show teamwork, and if you took on a leadership role within a group you can discuss the skills you gained from that experience. Certain courses can teach you analytical skills such as the use of Excel or other programs that may be frequently used in your field. Participating in clubs can show dedication and involvement—and these are all skills that can make your resume very strong. Especially in your early college years, while employers are looking for work experience, some may understand that you haven’t had much. But if you can create a strong resume based on the experience and skills you do have, it can greatly help you in the process of landing that first job or internship. Then, once you get that first position, you can build on your resume with new work experiences, and by the time you graduate you can have a resume you feel confident with.

If you need help figuring out what you can put on your resume, or how to format your resume, or how to tweak your resume based on a job description, Career Services is here to help! I encourage you to not get discouraged if you don’t have a ton of work experience when you go to apply for that first job or internship. I promise that your school work has probably helped you to gain more resume-worthy skills than you might think!

Written by Sarah, senior Finance major