Internships – Beyond Your Project

By: Kirsi

Intern beyond project

Source: Unsplash | Jeremy Thomas

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Recording data from my summer Co-Op project.

At the beginning of the summer I wrote a post about how to make the most out of your summer career experience expanding on getting to know your workplace before you get there, setting goals related to your project and establishing good habits. These points focus primarily on you growing your career experience and your project assigned by your department. The organization where you are interning/ Co-Oping will likely host other students, be comprised of other departments and be one of several locations around the nation or even world. Connecting with these three aspects will help you grow more in your career and also help you stand out beyond your project’s success. In this post I will talk about connecting with fellow Coterns (slang for Co-Ops and interns), connecting with your organization and connecting with your organization’s locations around the world.

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I present about tips on writing a resume. Photo by NASA Cotern.

Connect with Fellow Coterns

This summer I Co-Oped at NASA Johnson Space Center which hosted over 100 interns and over 25 Co-Ops. Johnson has a unique Cotern group that autonomously organizes itself into committees that are either professional development focused or social networking focused. Every other week these committees take turns presenting about NASA sports league competitions, filming times for the student video, upcoming lectures by NASA leaders and volunteering opportunities. Depending on your company’s size similar professional and social committees may exist, otherwise, you can start your own! This summer fellow Coterns and I hosted the Professional Development Committee. We held a workshop on resumes and cover letters, a workshop on LinkedIn and networking, and there were many Ted Talk viewings during lunch. To get an audience we bribed Coterns with lemonade, doughnuts, and cookies. If you are not confident in giving workshops on a professional development aspect inviting Coterns to view Ted Talks during lunch with discussion after is an awesome way to provide helpful content without being an expert.

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Coffee with NASA Johnson Center and Deputy Directors. Photo by NASA.

Connect with the Organization

Randomly, I was selected among Coterns, employees, and NASA contractors to have coffee with Johnson Center Director Ellen Ochoa and Deputy Director Mark Geyer. Above I am pictured to the left of Ochoa in a red blazer and I look pretty serious writing notes. This was an awesome opportunity to learn about the Directors’ vision for NASA’s future, hear other departments’ concerns and represent Coterns by sharing a student point of view. There is no need to wait for an invitation to coffee to learn more about your organization. Keep an eye on when “All Hands” meetings are held (updates on department and organization wide progress), mission/ new product debriefs, and department open houses. Ask your mentor what other departments work on projects you may be interested in and ask about getting in touch with them. Ask a fellow Cotern about their department and ask them to give you a tour of their workplace in return for a tour of your lab/workspace. Ask and you shall receive.

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Tram tour through NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility.

Connect with Other Organization Locations

NASA Johnson, although known for the Apollo 13 “Houston, we’ve had a problem“, is not the only NASA Center. I led a group of students in biweekly video chats with some of our sister NASA Centers – Glenn, Goddard, Kennedy, Langley, and Stennis. Connecting with the other locations of your organization is valuable because you are likely collaborating on different aspects of the same projects. Johnson Coterns traveled to New Orleans to meet with Stennis Coterns, tour their site, and tour the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility where Space Launch System is being built. Getting to know Coterns from other locations is an opportunity to meet students with similar interests, exposes you to other places you may like to intern next, and contributes to the cohesiveness of the whole organization. Consider taking a weekend trip to another location of your organization (like its headquarters) or host another group at your location. If a weekend trip is logistically not possible consider Skype meetings with sister location Coterns.

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Fellow Co-Op Adam Bass presenting about networking.

While your project’s success should be the priority of your internship/ Co-Op making time for connecting with fellow Coterns, the organization and other locations can help you grow in your career.

Of Possible Interest

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All photos are Kirsi’s unless otherwise designated.

From Welcome Week to Commencement: Reflecting on My College Years

By: Katie

During my first week as a UMD student, I walked through a tunnel with my fellow incoming students, lined by upperclassmen orientation leaders, staff, and faculty cheering as we were welcomed to the UMD community. Just a couple months ago, I walked through a similar tunnel. Except this time, it was lined by faculty members dressed in commencement regalia while I was outfitted with my black robe and gold tassel. This time, I walked through that tunnel on my last day as a UMD student.

That wasn’t my last act as a member of the UMD community; I have still been working in the office over the summer. It also wasn’t my last day as a student, as I will be starting a graduate program this fall. But it was the last day of my four years as a UMD student, years which were filled with experiencing more change in myself than I could have possibly wrapped my mind around as a lost and intimidated freshman.

Katie tabling for C&IS at a Bulldog Friday Visit.
Katie tabling for C&IS at a Bulldog Friday Visit.

While at UMD, I spoke to a lecture hall’s worth of people, voluntarily, on several occasions. In high school, I couldn’t speak in front of a small class without my voice trembling. At UMD, I danced and yelled and acted a fool while wearing a bright t-shirt and flower headband, for a week, surrounded by hundreds of people. In high school, I did everything I could to disappear into my surroundings, and avoided attention at all costs. At UMD, I completed my psychology degree and got accepted into a counseling grad program. In high school, I had never taken a psychology class nor considered a profession in which I would be so closely involved with others.

I have a distinct and difficult memory of the day when I made the jump from my high school life to my college one. My parents and brothers had helped me move my things into my dorm and shop for dorm-friendly snacks and decor, and now all that was left was to say goodbye. Leading up to that day, I had been excited about being on my own. But when the moment came to stand on a new campus in a new city full of strangers while my family drove away, I hesitated. I tried feebly to say something that would keep them around a little longer, because I suddenly felt lost and alone, terrified of what my shy self would do when my support system left me.

I like to think of that moment when I look toward the day in the near future when I will be moving across the country to begin a new program at a new school in a state where I don’t know a soul. It’s a similar situation, yet this time, I’ll have four years of growth and strength to draw on. I started at UMD shy, timid, alone, and confused, but I’m leaving it open, confident, and capable.

Reflecting on all this, I can think of so many things I wish I could have told my college self throughout the past 4 years. In the absence of this opportunity, I’ll write my advice here, in the hopes that some other college student might benefit.

So, here’s what I can tell you. Know that you won’t be the same person as you move your tassel across your cap on commencement day as you were when you first walked on campus as an 18-year-old. Know that the changes that occur during that time in between are up to you, mostly. Know that your openness to new experiences, new people, and new ideas will become the foundation and the finishing touch on your college experience. Know that there will be things that happen to you, both good and bad, which will influence that experience just as much as the things you choose to do. Know that you don’t need to be in such a rush to figure it all out. It’ll happen somehow, perhaps without you even knowing it.

Most importantly, know that college is going to end one day, and after that, you are pushed out of the educational bubble you’ve lived in most of your life and will truly be responsible for the state of your existence. So before that day, take advantage of these years to focus on yourself.

Flip all the furniture around in the lounge of the dorm floor below yours (ahem..just kidding..I definitely never did that…). Stay up way too late hanging out with your friends even though you have a test at 8am the following day. I promise you, you’ll remember those late nights more than you’ll remember whatever grade you’ll get on that test. Take a ceramics class even though your parents are pushing you to be a doctor like the rest of the family. Embrace every crazy, fun, overwhelming, emotional, unforgettable moment.

If done right, your college years will be ones you’ll miss. I know I will.

Read Katie’s other posts

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Summer Internship

By: Lexi

As only the first month of my summer internship comes to an end, I have already learned so much. It took a while for my employers to let me actually dive into the beneficial learning that is specific to my internship and my major, but while I was waiting to be assigned task after task, I learned important lessons that can help anyone with an internship succeed.

Ask Questions
Most of the time, there is never a stupid question. Asking questions will make you seem eager to learn and insure that you do your job correctly, which will impress your superiors.

Be Proactive
There is almost always something you can do. If you are not officially assigned a task, make one for yourself. You could study their company, look at past projects, get to know the book collection or database, etc.

Finish work on time & do more than is expected
This is so important. Being prompt and exceeding your expectations will make you stand out, which will help you succeed in your internship.

Tips for Summer Internship

Ask for constructive criticism
Asking for feedback is one of the best ways to learn at an internship. It will help you in your future tasks as well because you will know what they are looking for. Just be prepared to take the criticism and use their advice to fix your work, do not ignore it.

Take it seriously & be eager to learn
You are here to learn, show your employers that you want to. The more eager you are, the more likely people are to teach you. Show up on time, bring your materials and be ready to work.

Take a to-do list that you cannot lose
You will be given assignment after assignment, write these down! Making a to-do list will help you remember everything that you need to get done and it will keep you organized and finishing your work on time. Just don’t lose it!

Watch for opportunities to show off & contribute your knowledge
You were hired for the internship for a reason, you obviously have knowledge. Impress your employers with what you already know, but always have an open mind to learn more. After all, that is what you are there for.

Don’t just follow directions.
Do more than just the directions. Think about what you are doing when you do it. Understand what they gave you and really take information away from it.

Build professional relationships with your coworkers
The saying, “it’s who you know” is true. Build relationships now to have those connections in the future. This will help you advance your career.

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo source: Unsplash|Andrew Illarionov

Let Us Know What You’re Doing

Calling all 2015-2016 UMD Grads (undergrad & masters)! Let us know where you’re working or continuing your education. We use this information to showcase the success of our graduates and to help current UMD students see what all they could do with their majors. And no, we don’t ask you for money…just a few minutes of your time. You can see published Graduate Follow-up Reports in action on our website. Click to graphic below to take you to filling out the quick survey.

Take GFUR

The Truth About Career Success

By: Ellen (Career Counselor & guest author)

A few weeks ago I was thinking about my own career success and how I’ve defined that since graduating from college 10.5 years ago. “Career success” at 22 probably revolved around getting a full-time job of some sort in order to pass time before I was ready for grad school. “Career success” now, at 33, looks very different. It’s about using both of my degrees to own and grow in my current role, while doing some strategic planning for whatever may come next. Using both of my degrees (Communication/Business for undergrad and Counseling for grad) wasn’t necessarily at the forefront of my mind when job searching for my first post-grad school position. However, that concept has now become incredibly important to defining career success for me because I’ve experienced how great it is for me to use both of my degrees in my current job.

Truth About Career Success

Here’s the truth about defining career success…it looks different for everyone. Some people have it figured out when they graduate from college, but a lot of people don’t. Figuring out your career and career success takes time, it’s messy, and make look different depending on your stage in life.

In addition to sharing my own experience about figuring out “career success,” I did what everyone does when they’re looking for advice…I turned to Facebook. Here are some pieces of wisdom about career success from people who are in various stages of their careers and in various industries.

  • Even though you have a degree, you still have to work hard to succeed.
  • Be patient and open to opportunities given to you. You never know, it might sound horrible, but turn out to be something you’re really passionate about.
  • You won’t use all your qualifications in all your jobs. Being (or believing you are) overqualified doesn’t mean the job you got hired to do doesn’t still have to get done by you.
  • Talking about problems without suggesting solutions doesn’t really help anyone, especially not your reputation.
  • Everything you get, you have to earn. You may have taken leadership courses and been the top of your class and done everything you were supposed to in college, but chances are good that you are going to start on the bottom and have to work hard to move up.
  • You will not get the same kind of do-overs that you got in college. You don’t get to pick what your tasks are, you don’t get to decide you don’t feel like doing _____ today.

So how do you define career success?

Photo source: Unsplash | Jeff Sheldon

Make the Most Out of Your Summer Career Experience

By: Kirsi

Summer Career Exp

Photo source: Unsplash | Vladimir Kudinov

From internship to summer job to Co-Op there are ways you can get more out of your experience with just a little extra effort.

Do Research

Before diving into your summer career opportunity it is wise to do some research on the company you will be working with an the position. For example, if you scored a position as a Design Intern at the new maurices headquarters downtown read into what some of maurices’ corporate goals and what a designer does. Using LinkedIn, you can connect with past and current employees with the same position. While guided imagery may seems cheesy simply visualizing yourself working in your new position can help get your prepared.

Prior to starting a internship or Co-Op it is common to get in touch with your designated mentor (if you have one). You can talk about what projects you will be working on over the summer and how you can be ready the first day. Your mentor may have suggestions on reading, training, or project-prep you can do ahead of time. If you are not assigned a mentor before your first day find one once you start! Mentors can give you feedback on your work, answer questions you may have about professionalism, and introduce you to other employees working on similar things.

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Sitting with PLUTO (Plug-in Port Utilization Officer) in Mission Control logging Extra Vehicular Activity tasks. Photo by NASA.

Set Goals

There are goals to be reached beyond getting discipline related experience and a project done over the summer.

Likely you are surrounded by professionals working on things related to what you are interested in for a future career. Make it a goal to interview folks around the organization. Ask about how they got started, why they are interested in their work, and a rewarding challenge they have tackled in their career. Don’t be afraid to ask management about their work or to shadow them for a day. While Co-Oping at NASA Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control I was challenged to meet and shadow with four or more people in Mission Operations. I learned about what it takes to send a device to space, watched astronauts receive training, and even sat in Mission Control.

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Uh oh, I was wearing khakis during an exit presentation! I didn’t know better back then.
Giving an exit pitch about work on a Solar Array Regulator circuit at NASA Glenn Research Center Summer 2013.

Another good goal is to make a meaningful contribution to the organization and share it with your mentors. The project or job pre-established before your first day may already contribute to the organization meaningfully. If you feel your first assigned task is monotonous it may simply be a test of trust, your work ethic, and if you can keep a positive attitude. It’s your job to communicate either through an exit pitch or presentation established by you how your work has been meaningful. A past Google Intern, Jon Youshaei, wrote a TIME article “10 Ways to Maximize Your Summer Internship” listing unique ways to connect with management. Youshaei suggests sending weekly recap emails to your manager, asking senior executives about having a “roundtable chat” or “lunch and learn”, and pitching new project ideas.

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Journal entries from my internship experiences.

Keep a blog or journal about your career experience! Never thought you would go back to your diary writing days? Actually, writing about your work day is a good way to digest everything that has happened, be thankful about all the good, and ruminate about ways you can improve. I have kept written journals and an online blog accounting internship, Co-Op, and tech related experiences. It was really helpful to look back to what I worked on when putting together my exit presentation!

Make it a goal to grow during your experience. Ask for and be accepting of feedback. Ask for feedback weekly or as you get things accomplished. Then apply the feedback in visible ways. Ways you can ask for feedback include; “How are ways I can improve my XXXX project?”, “How are ways I can become more professional?, or simply “How do you think I am doing?” Your organization may already have a student performance evaluation system where your work is reviewed throughout the summer.

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Photo source Olu Eletu | Unsplash

Establish Good Habits

A summer career opportunity is much like a summer long interview for a possible full time position therefore creating good habits is key to a good impression. CNBC shared “10 tips for your summer internship” that suggested interns find ways to go above and beyond, honor your word and your work, and maintain a strong work ethic. Below are some additional goals to consider.

  • Dress For Success – In the world of engineering I see a lot of folks in khakis. While that is accepted in the work place I make it my goal to dress as nice as my team lead or manager. How you dress shows how serious you are about your work. Be careful to dress work appropriate, like closed toed shoes in a lab or layers if the temperature fluctuates. This doesn’t mean that a tux or pearls is necessary but looking sharp does not hurt.
  • Arrive Punctually – Be on time! Think you can sneak in at 8:10 am? Nope, people are watching and judging. Consistently arriving on time, dressed, fed, and ready to go at the start of your work day or even a few minutes early shows that you are prepared for the work day. Carrying this habit for on time arrival at meetings is key too.
  • Be Thankful – Your level of professionalism can be measured in your respect for others and how you show thanks. If a mentor or peer has helped you out send a quick thanks email. At the end of your summer experience leaving a hand written thank you can mean a lot.

Good luck your summer career experience, learn lots and have fun!

Of Possible Interest: 

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Embracing My Identity: I am Generation A

By: David

We are all aware of Generation X and Generation Y, but never has there been such a concept recognized as Generation A until now. As this is my final blog post of the academic year, I would like to wrap up my “Embracing My Self-Identity” series with this last one in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. After returning from the  MAASU Spring Conference at the U of M several weeks ago, I feel rejuvenated and as if I have returned as a new and improved person. After four years of being a student here at UMD, three years of being an active student leader in the Multicultural Center, and three MAASU Spring Conferences (held annually), I can finally, for once, walk around the halls and sit in my classrooms/workplace with complete confidence and truly embrace who I am as an individual, specifically as an Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA). To understand this struggle, let’s take a look at some numbers. The APIA student population (doesn’t include international students) accounts for only 4% of the entire campus community, but continues to be the largest student of color of population on campus. This comes to show how small the student of color population is on UMD’s campus. All data can be found on the Office of Institutional Research webpage. With all that being said, here is the concrete definition of what Generation A is, what it means to be Generation A, and why it is so important to embrace such a movement.  

Generation A is one where we take ownership of who we are. It is a generation where we create our own narratives, tell our own stories, and design spaces for us and by us. We are the future generation of APIA leadership.”

MAASU Poster

Identity Crisis

Before jumping into my reflection and insight, I want to briefly talk about a concept that is especially popular in the field of Psychology which is the state of identity crisis. According to Merriam-Webster, identity crisis is “a feeling of unhappiness and confusion caused by not being sure about what type of person you really are or what the true purpose of your life is.” I mention this because my assumption is that almost every, if not all, college students will experience this at one point or another during their college career. In my two previous posts, this was especially true as I struggled and fell into a state of confusion to figure out how my personal identity, specifically my racial identity, plays a part in the campus community and society as a whole.

MAASU Reflection

This year I was fortunate enough to attend the MAASU conference with 33 of my peers which turned out to be a remarkable experience for many of us. Though I have attended two MAASU Spring Conferences prior to this year, it isn’t until now that I am able to completely embrace my identity with full confidence.  It is true that I have always embraced my identity, but I feel as if there was always a missing piece to the puzzle, or that it wasn’t real or complete. What I took out from this year’s conference then and how it impacted me so tremendously was that it made me realize how important and precious my APIA identity really is.  As I walked around the Twin Cities campus during the conference, I was able to witness a sense of unity among my APIA peers from different parts of the region. With every workshop related to APIA topics and issues, I finally feel as if my identity and history is valid and that there is deep value in learning about the people, traditions, and culture of the APIA community. Growing up as a student of color, never did I learn anything pertaining to Asian American history or about the accomplishments that APIA leaders were able to achieve and because of this it forced me to deny a part of my identity as I had to assimilate to the majority. With MAASU, it was one full weekend that was dedicated to this piece that I, along with many others kept locked away for so long. For once, there is this sense of recognition and acknowledgement that we matter and that our existence matters.

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UMD Asian Pacific American Association & Hmong Living in Unity & Balance students at the MAASU 2016 Spring Conference.

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UMD Asian Pacific American Association & Hmong Living in Unity & Balance students at the MAASU 2016 Banquet.

Moving Forward

As I have finally achieved or acquired this state of enlightenment and self-actualization, I hope to help others in doing so as well in the future. In addition, I want to become a learner and a teacher, one who is able to learn more about this identity and teach it to those who never had a chance to learn about it. With this, my hope is to do what the conference has done for me, which is to create a sense of validity and importance in the APIA identity and history. Furthermore, I hope to break away from the stereotypes that are placed upon me because of the color of my skin or my physical features. In the end, my ultimate goal before I leave UMD is to have my peers and friends to achieve and acquire this state of enlightenment and self-actualization and to fully embrace their identity with a whole sense of they really are. Even if it is just one, I will be content with my efforts. With that being said, I wish you all well for the rest of finals week and Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!  

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