Recap: “The Academic Road Map” Session

“I know what I like to do, but what am I going to do with the rest of my life?”

So you haven’t declared your major yet. Whether you are an underclassman still exploring your options or an upperclassman who has finally realized you hate what you’re studying, picking a major can seem like an impossible task. Are you interested in too many things? Do you have no idea what you want to do? Is this indecision giving you anxiety? During Friday’s “The Academic Road Map: Unwrapping the Academic Mechanics to Graduation”, Career Services’ Mary Beth Snell and Freshman Resource Center’s Brenda Greiner addressed these fears and put them to rest. Were you unable to make it? We’ve got you covered.

Do you feel like you’re the only person who isn’t on a path toward direct success? Does everybody seem like they know exactly where they’re going and how to get there? You’re not alone. Nationally, 30-40% of incoming freshman go into college undeclared. Moreover, 75-80% of students change their major at least once.

Many students hope to major in something they can get a job with, but realistically, a person’s major does not usually translate into a predetermined career. Only 50% of grads report that their career closely relates to the subject they studied during college. In addition, it’s estimated that a person will change careers 3-5 times over the course of their adult life. For this reason, it’s essential to major in something you enjoy learning about. While you will probably forget the theories and facts you learn in the classroom, the passion and skills you attain will transfer over to any job in any field.

The first step in figuring out what you want to major in is to get to know yourself. What do you value? What are you interested in? What are your strengths and your weaknesses? Being able to identify these traits within yourself and what you enjoy learning about is key to figuring out what you want to study. Don’t be afraid to sit down and have this conversation with yourself.

The second step towards choosing a major is simple: Go to class. No matter how tempting your bed and an episode of Grey’s Anatomy may seem on Monday mornings, it’s really important to go to that 8:10 Introduction to Statistics course. By engaging in your classes, you may find that you really enjoy one of the subjects you are studying.

UP’s core curriculum is set up to assist students in making these discoveries, requiring students to take 13 classes introducing the basics of many different areas of study. These seemingly pointless classes really do have a point, as they may steer you in the direction of a deciding on a major.

Moreover, UP students are required to take elective classes outside of their major. In the College of Arts of Sciences, students are given up to 15 elective courses of WHATEVER THEY WANT. This not only allows for undeclared students to explore what they want to do, but for already declared majors to pick up another major or minor.

So after some self-discovery and studying, you may be asking yourself what next? For additional assistance, stop by Career Services and Freshman Resource Center to make a one-on-one appointment with a counselor. They’ll be happy to help you during the decision process. Additionally, come to “Connecting Interests and Skills with Majors” on Friday, October 3rd from 4-5 and “Making a Major Decision” on Friday, November 7th from 4-5 in Career Services.

 

Written by Emily Neelon.

 

Grad School Panel: What I Learned

By Emily Neelon

 

Sitting in the back row of Tuesday’s Panel Discussion on graduate school, I knew one thing for sure: I had never felt more out of place. In a room full of senior Engineering and Math majors, I was the lone sophomore studying social science. As students adorned in funny science tee shirts joked about Calculus 2 and Differential Statistics, I felt even more conspicuous in my large wool hat and with my distaste for numbers and equations. Would I be this intimidated all the time if I decided to go to grad school?

As a Communication major, I often see life beyond graduation as a dark abyss of low-paying writing positions and one-room apartments. I haven’t decided how I will apply the skills I have learned, nor do I know what jobs will be available in the rapidly evolving industry of mass media. Prior to attending this discussion, I had never considered grad school as a path to take after my four years at UP. But, as I’ve stubbornly learned again and again, it’s never too early to look at your options.

Although most of the discussion was geared towards the Math and Engineering fields, I was able to glean many important tips from the panelists. The first, most obvious question to ask yourself:

Why do you want to go to grad school?

You must have to have some motivation beyond: “I’ve never been bad at this, so why not keep going?” Your motivation can be as simple as not being ready or qualified enough to enter the workforce in your field, or as complex as one panelist’s comment:

“I wanted to contribute to the collective sum of knowledge.”

If you decide that you do in fact want to continue on to grad school, you must take two important things into consideration: location and fit.

“If you don’t like cornfields, don’t go to Nebraska,” another panelist recommended.

The application itself will often consist of an essay, transcript, and multiple letters of recommendation among other requirements. The panelists stressed the importance of taking time to write a sincere and sound essay. This will be the component of your application that will distinguish you from other applicants. Additionally, ask for letters of recommendation from professors you have relationships with. In other words, don’t ask that one professor you had one class with freshman year to help you get into grad school.

During your decision process, try to talk to as many grad students from the schools you’ve been accepted to. Another pro tip: Go to grad student parties where professors aren’t present. These gatherings will provide you with honest answers to what it’s like to attend that university.

So what’s life like as a grad student?

Word on the street is that grad students sleep in the library and survive off of old coffee and stale pop tarts. Although this may very well be true, the panelists emphasized the importance of taking time to do things completely unrelated to your studies. Pick up a new hobby. Have you ever wanted to learn how to ride a skateboard? Cook? Play an instrument? Now’s the time. Additionally, make friends outside of your discipline to avoid burning out on whatever you are studying.

Despite the amount of tears and dollar bills you will spend to attend grad school, this extra degree can pay off in big ways. If nothing else, remember this:

“What can you NOT do with a master’s degree?”

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