Slowing Down During Spring Semester

By: Tori

I don’t know about you, but spring semester seems to sweep the ground up from under my feet! I get caught up in the busyness of life and it’s hard to slow down. This blog post is dedicated to you, and to me, as a reminder to take a breather and to not be afraid to sit on the bench during the game of life every once in a while.

Slowing down during spring semester

Here are a few tips to tame the speed of spring semester!

  1. We’ve all heard of spring cleaning. While it sounds like a lot of work it can actually help you feel more organized and on top of your stuff.
  2. Take 20 minutes each day to slow down. The worst thing we can do to ourselves is to sacrifice all of our time for other people and not save any for ourselves. Spend at least 20 minutes each day doing something you enjoy – listen to your favorite music while you lay in bed, watch a quick episode of The Office (then turn it off immediately before you get sucked into the next episode), or paint your nails, etc.
  3. Plan ahead. I’m not talking in terms of homework, I’m talking about doing something each week that gets you out and about. Go to a movie, plan a fun roommate date up the shore…plan ahead so you have something to look forward to that gets you motivated during the week
  4. Disconnect. Part of the reason we feel so busy is because we are too busy on our phones! Take a break from your phone – leave it at home, read a book instead of an Instagram post, etc.

These next few weeks I plan to take these to heart, and I hope you join me! Let’s tame the semester together!

Read Tori’s other posts

Photo source: Unsplash | Dimitris Gerebakanis

Unplug and Reset

By: Heidi

Coming back from Spring Break can be a stressful and overwhelming time. You may have just had a week off and were busy traveling or you were enjoying your time relaxing at home. At this point in the semester, a lot of people are referring to it as “crunch time” and things are “getting real.”

With the overwhelming feeling of so many to-do’s, you may be left feeling with no idea where to start.

First, breathe. Second, map out all of the important due dates you have. Once you have an idea of the timeline you’ll be on you can create a day-to-day and week-by-week guide as to how you will be managing your time in the most efficient way.

With all of the assignments, readings, and projects, it feels like you can never be doing enough school.

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you. by Anne Lamott

There are many benefits to unplugging and taking a step back from school work. Powering down will allow you time to create rather than consume. If you think about it, the majority of our time is either spent consuming or creating. Allow yourself to take a break to build relationships, create hobbies, or forge a relationship with the community.

Here are some ways to practice taking a break and recalibrate yourself to be the best version of yourself.

  1. Get some fresh air and go for a walk
  2. Free write in your journal
  3. Cook a new recipe you’ve been wanting to try
  4. Sign up for a fitness class you’ve never tried before
  5. Donate clothes you don’t wear anymore
  6. Write down your current short-term and long-term goals

Take these ideas and run with them, or let them inspire you to create new ideas of your own to engage in. Although we are all at school with the common goal to get an education, allowing yourself time to take a break is just as important.

Read Heidi’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Oliver Cole

5 Tips for Preparing for a Job Fair

By: Kimberly

In February of 2017, I attended my first ever job fair. This fair had over 300 employers attending and hundreds of other potential applicants attending for the same reason as myself. My initial impression of attending this job fair was both overwhelming and extremely nerve-racking. But I didn’t have time to be worried about that, I had to prepare myself if I wanted to make a good first impression. If you’re wondering how I made it through the day, below are a few tips and tricks that successfully guided me!

#1 Attend Workshops
I can’t stress this enough, attend the workshops that are provided for you at no cost. You’d be surprised by what you will learn in these workshops. If it helps, bring a friend or two to tag along as well. These workshops will give you an opportunity to practice a handshake or two and give you critiques on your elevator speech before you make your appearance at the job fair. Typically, there is a wide range of workshops that are offered throughout the month of job fair season and or throughout the semester. Attending more than one can be very beneficial because each workshop focuses on different areas. Having developed the skills and experiences at these workshops can come in handy when you need them the most. If workshops aren’t your thing, you can meet with a career counselor one-on-one to cover this material.

#2 Review, Review, Review Your Resume
10 out of 10 of you are going to need a resume prepared prior to the job fair. It doesn’t necessarily guarantee you an internship or position, but it does show that you came prepared to obtain one. Avoid bringing an old resume that is outdated or hasn’t been edited. You don’t want to scramble around last minute trying to edit it because it’s not fun and very unprofessional. There are great resources like your Career and Internship Services office, on-campus for you to get your resume reviewed and polished just in time for the job fair. Don’t hesitate to go because they’re probably expecting you and more than willing to help review your resume with you. They’re also going to be the place you stop at afterward when you’ve secured an application or interview. Therefore, update your resume and make the stop.

5 tips for job fair preparation

#3 Plan Your Outfit
Your first impression is initially predetermined with how you dressed up for the job fair. With that said, look at your wardrobe at least a week or two in advance! It’s better to plan and prepare an outfit for the job fair because sometimes we might not find that shirt we “thought we had” or you accidentally misplaced one of your shoes. If you are unaware of what is an appropriate outfit for a job fair, ask the sales representative or a friend with experience and attend a workshop that discusses appropriate attire. Taking these additional steps to prepare will give you enough time to make a trip to the mall to grab what you need. You can also check out our Pinterest boards for ideas.

#4 Know Your Potential Employers
The majority, if not all employers really appreciate it when you’ve taken the time to learn about their company or organization. You might wonder, how will they know? Well, recruiters can determine that by your conversation. Therefore, take some time out of your day and designate it to researching information about organizations you plan on visiting. They certainly don’t expect you to memorize everything about them, but you should have an understanding of who they are. This also can help you generate some great questions in advance to ask recruiters because newsflash: they love questions! It shows your engagement and the interests you have. In addition to getting recruiters to know your work ethic, you also want to show that you want to know theirs too. On the flip side, this can also prepare your responses when recruiters ask you questions. It may not be as intense as an interview but having prepared thoughts never hurts anyone.

#5 Build Connections
Building connections at the job fair can be intimidating when you have hundreds of other students and individuals attending with the same purpose as you. It can be even more intimidating when you are more dressed up than usual and have to prepare what you’ll say in advance. Sometimes, it’s so intimidating that you eventually start to forget how to enjoy these conversations while connecting with others. Hence, it is helpful to take a deep breath and realize that this experience can be fun at the same time. Making a connection with others at the fair may consist of enjoyable conversations. Your conversations don’t have to feel limited or restrained. Bringing up a common interest or a story to connect with the recruiter can generate some great conversation topics. Lastly, don’t forget to embrace the moment and realize how you’ve already taken prior steps to prepare yourself for this moment.

Of Possible Interest: 

  • Job Fairs – all of our blog posts on the topic
  • Dress for Success – all of our blog posts on the topic
  • Dress for Success – Women, Men – our Pinterest boards filled with examples

Read Kimberly’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Garrhet Sampson

First Time at a Career Fair: A Guide for First-Generation Students

By: Tony

A couple weeks ago, I attended the UMN Job and Internship Fair for the first time. To be completely honest, I was overwhelmed and terrified. I had been to other career fairs in the past, but the sheer size of this particular fair caught me off-guard. Unfortunately, the preparation I did beforehand was not enough to make me completely ready. Being a first-generation college student (neither of my parents have received a degree from a four-year university), I do not have many of the resources my peers do, and I have not always been aware of the resources available to me. If you’re also a first-generation student, you may be in the same boat as I was, and even if you aren’t a first-generation student, career fairs are likely still intimidating. After self-reflection and re-acquainting myself with the resources offered by Career and Internship Services, I have come up with a quick guide that will prepare you for what to expect at a career fair and inform you how to put yourself in the best position possible.

Do Your Homework
Most career fairs will at least give a list of the employers that will be tabling at the career fair on their website. If you’re lucky, the organizers will also be able to provide a brief overview of what each employer is looking for in terms of majors, career field, and type of position, whether it be an internship, part-time, or full-time. Regardless, you should look through the list of employers and select a few that look interesting to you. Once you have your list, familiarize yourself with each employer. What do they produce or what services do they provide? How big are they? What recent developments have they made? Their website will be your best friend, as you can gather a lot of information on them just by browsing what they have on their site. The purpose of this is to both get an idea of what working for them may be like, as well as building up knowledge that you can impress them with later. I would also recommend formulating a question or two about each company or organization to ask the employers.

Spruce Up Your Resume
Your resume is key. Not all employers may be able to take your resume due to their human resources policies, but they are multifunctional. I’ve used my resume and seen others use theirs to inform employers about themselves and their accomplishments. I have also seen employers use resumes to explain how the attendee would fit into their company or organization, given their knowledge, experience, and interests. One time, an employer even took my resume and said that he would look at it later and send me applications for job openings in his organization that I may be interested in.

Each version of your resume should be specifically tailored to the reason why you are making it, and job fairs are no different. In the typical job fair resume, the focus will be broader than it would be for a job or internship application resume. In this case, your objective will only be as specific as the industries or fields that you wish to work within. The rest of your resume will then demonstrate why you’re qualified to work in that industry or field.

Success at the career fair, a first-generation student's guide

Work On Your Elevator Speech
An elevator speech is a quick 30-second to one-minute pitch of you. You want the employer to get a good idea of who you are as a person and potential employee. You should talk about your:

  • Name
  • Grade level
  • Major/minor
  • Strengths
  • Relevant interests

I recommend practicing your elevator speech in front of a mirror or a partner. It will likely be part of the employer’s first impression of you, and you want to make sure it’s as smooth and natural as possible

Dress Appropriately
Today’s the day. Today might be your first time interacting with your future employer after you earn your degree, no pressure. But the question on your mind is, what should I wear? Although the specific dress code and work culture will vary from employer to employer, the safe bet is to dress business professional. What does that mean exactly? Here’s a resource with some good basic information. 

Travel in a Wolf Pack
Job fairs can be intimidating when going alone, so try to go with a group to ease the tension. Of course, you should generally interact with employers one-on-one, but the shared experience of a group can reduce stress and anxiety. Personally, I like when my girlfriend comes with me for moral support. She’s always great at it, and I highly recommend having the moral support of your own if you can.

The Approach
Here it is. Everything has come down to this. Now it’s time to put together all the pieces of the puzzle and knock it out of the park. When engaging with the employer, make sure to make eye contact and give a firm handshake. Introduce yourself with your elevator speech and express interest in learning more. After the employer has given more information, pose the question(s) you have prepared. Throughout the conversation, make sure to make eye-contact, be aware of your body language, and give non-verbal cues like nodding and smiling to show that you’re paying attention and interested in what they are saying. If they are accepting resumes, give one to them, and take business cards if they have them available. Also, make sure to take note of the names of the representatives there as that is information you can mention later in a cover letter. As you depart, say nice it was to meet them and give another firm handshake. There you go, you’re done! That wasn’t too bad, right? Now go do it some more.

On-site Research
What if you see an employer that you are interested in, but are unprepared to talk with them? Fear not, you can still do some quick research on your phone so you don’t have to talk to them with little to say. Usually, there will be a student lounge where you can do this research (and relax) away from the employers.

Networking, Networking, Networking
A major component of career fairs outside of talking to employers is to talk with your peers. Networking sounds complicated, but all it entails is getting to know others and talking about your interests and goals. As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” The bigger your network, the better your chances are a getting more resources and professional opportunities.

Hopefully, this advice will help you become better prepared for job fairs other career development events. I wish you the best of luck, and never hesitate to ask for assistance if you need it.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Tony’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | RawPixel

Professional Clothes on a Budget

By: McKenzie

Shopping for professional attire can be daunting when you can count how much money is in your bank account using the digits on your hands. When it comes to being job fair season it can become an even bigger stress because this is your first impression to your prospective employers. Luckily there is a cheaper way to find clothing.

Professional Dress on a Budget

Champ’s Closet
Champ’s Closet is for UMD students who need professional clothing. It was created so students in any situation could have access to clothing for jobs and internships. Students are able to make up to one outfit per semester from clothing donated by staff/faculty, maurices, and Main Stream Fashions for Men.

Thrift Stores
Duluth houses many thrift stores such as Goodwill and Savers. These stores provide shoppers with gently used clothing, which was donated by those who no longer had a need for it. Stores like these often feel like you are digging through piles, however, it is like a mini treasure hunt. You never know what you will find.

Consignment Shops
Consignment shops are a great place to get clothing. Shops like these tend to be for those who are either very fashionable or have a unique taste. While some shops can be expensive there are still plenty of them that are affordable. Be sure to not disregard the more expensive ones right away either. There can be hidden gems (especially in the clearance sections).

Secondhand Shops
Secondhand shops like Plato’s Closet are a bit different from thrift stores because instead of donations people sell their clothes to these shops. If you are short on money it might be a good idea to sell your clothing here. Secondhand shops also only accept brand name clothing so if you are stuck on a certain brand then this is your best bet.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read McKenzie’s other posts

Apply Adaptability to Your Career

By: Kirsi

Adaptability is a trait employers seek in their candidates. How have you been able to successfully adjust your habits and expectations to unfamiliar situations? Could your adaptability propel you through uncontrollable forces like illness, rejection, or a natural disaster?

Apply adaptability to your career. Ocean waves from overhead.

The only thing standing between me and my Spring 2017 Co-Op tour in Houston, Texas was the record-smashing Hurricane Harvey. Bravely (or foolishly?) I traveled down I-35 into the storm, arrived in Houston the evening Harvey hit, and bunkered down with a week of supplies. Unscathed, unlike many, a week later the flood water subsided and I started my Co-Op. Suddenly my Co-Op became less about me, my projects, and refining technical skills. My Co-Op became more about the affected employees, returning to normality, and refining my empathy toward others. In the coming weeks I adjusted my deadlines if my team members had to navigate flood insurance logistics, I volunteered at a donation center to get employees’ families the essentials, and reprioritized what tasks really needed to be done.

Hurricane Harvey from NASA International Space Station

Hurricane Harvey from Space

I hope you will never have to adapt to such an extremely destructive situation. One of my greatest weaknesses is adapting to change that is neither initiated by me nor part of a job’s nature.

If I am met with the challenge of adaptability again these are some big-picture questions I would reflect on…

What actually matters?
Taking a massive step back in life when a large change has occurred is necessary to get the whole picture and also is an opportunity recalibrate your life’s trajectory. Asking yourself “What actually matters?” leads to smaller questions and simpler answers. Here are examples of college-focused decisions…

Smaller (but not by much) Questions:

  • Why am I going to college?
  • Is what I am investing my time into going to lead to financial stability and a fulfilling future?
  • Am I happy?
  • Are there other options I am not aware of for my future?
  • Am I making the best decisions and how can I become more skeptical of my decisions?

Simpler Answers

  • I’m going to college because engineering positions require an ABET accredited engineering degree.
  • I’m going to college because it’s the only place I can learn about my field and it’s worth the hundreds of thousands of hours / and tens of thousands of dollars.
  • My current career trajectory is leading me to a fulfilling field that innovates in ways that shape the present and future of humanity.
  • My current major, while challenging, makes me happy because the climb is rewarding.
  • There are always options I am unaware of and I must keep an open mind and open doors.
  • I am making the best decisions based on my current perspective, skepticism can be achieved by welcoming critique and new experiences.

empty store shelves

Empty shelves that used to be filled with water.

What do I need?
This question arises when starting a career experience, moving, or changing a major. The “I” in this question is literal. What do I need, personally, to adapt?

  • If you have moved this may be as simple as familiarizing yourself with your surroundings. Where is the closest grocery store, hospital, gas station, or Target? Where can I hang out on the weekends, work out, shop, or meet new people?
  • If you are changing a major this could include: Who are my new advisors? Who can I partner up with to tackle homework? When are office hours? Who is in my new “support network”?
  • If you are starting a new career, adapting requires communication with your peers and managers about what you (reasonably) need. “I would like to meet once every week to talk about my progress,” “I would like a mentor to refine my professional skills,” and “I would like to know routines your company has so I can adjust to them.”

What resources are needed to get the job done?
Once you have a big picture and you have taken care of your personal needs you can focus on thriving in a new environment. If your goal is to have a successful internship you may need…

  • A new knowledge base populated with skills in coding, communication, math, thermodynamics, management, or simply knowing when you need to ask for help.
  • A support group of experienced mentors you can run ideas by and foolproof your solutions.
  • Classes or workshops to get you up to speed with other employees.
  • Enough time to make a couple of drafts and mistakes.
  • Proper materials, protective equipment, training, and authority.

Adapting is becoming constructively uncomfortable to improve yourself and advance a greater objective. To avoid adapting is sheltering yourself from beautiful possibilities. Wipe the sweat from your brow, control the knot in your gut, and get out there.

Of Possible Interest:

Read Kirsi’s other posts

Photo Sources: Unsplash|Carlos Dominguez, NASA, & Kirsi

Advice for my Younger Self

By: PJay

Greetings everyone! I am so excited to be back to share a few things that I have learned about college and wished an upperclassman could have told me while I was in my younger years. I’m hoping my advice and experiences can guide you to know that it is alright to feel confused right now and that things will get better with time.   

One of the biggest things that I can remember struggling with as a freshman, and even to this day, was maintaining good grades. You may not have received the grade you wanted on an assignment, a test, or in an overall class, but that is fine. College was the first time I had to experience what it felt like to retake a class. It was EMBARRASSING, so I didn’t want to talk about it to anyone. When I learned how to accept the fact that I needed to retake a class, it only challenged me to work harder, learn, and love the class more. Understanding the topics better the second time around will influence you to be more eager to learn which will help you achieve the grade you want.  

Advice to my younger self

I know it’s difficult to hear your friends or classmates say that they barely even studied and still got an A on an exam, whereas you put in so much effort to study the night before but still received an unsatisfactory grade. However, sometimes you have to remember to not compare yourself to them because you are unique and everyone has different learning techniques. Someone can say they only studied for an hour the night before the exam, but that may also mean they studied for an hour every night for a week or the whole semester leading up to the day of the exam. You have to discover what works and doesn’t work for you. Don’t doubt your abilities and your intelligence because you are still learning. No one is expecting you to just know something or get everything right the first time. Remember to not let a grade define who you are. You are a person, not a number or a letter.  

Another thing that I remembered struggling with the most was making friends. Friends can actually help you get through a lot in college. I used to feel hopeless in making friends because when I introduced who I was or who my people were, many of the students that I met have never heard of the Hmong people before. They just assumed I was “Chinese” or “Korean”, so I was placed in an awkward situation when explaining who my people were. Because of those experiences, I shied away from going out to join clubs or even attend classes sometimes. I didn’t know what to do but eventually, I joined an organization that I identified the most with, the Asian Pacific American Association (APAA). By being more active on campus, I learned more than I thought I already knew about people of color, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community. If you want to learn more about the world than just what you’re taught in school, join a club. Not only do you learn more about others, but you also learn more about yourself.  It’s the easiest way to find friends who will accept you.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that it is okay if you cannot decide on your major. I have seen so many of my friends who wanted to be doctors their freshman year but now want to pursue other professions. Take classes that you have never taken before or even take classes that you may think you are not interested in. If you want me to be honest, there have been times where I enjoyed the classes outside of my major more than my required classes. For example, I have never taken physics prior to college and I was so intimidated to take it. I pushed it off until this year and discovered that it has been one of my favorite classes this semester.  

Sometimes we just all need a little bit of time for things to get better. You are not alone, you are smart, and you can get through all of this. If you are performing actions that come from your heart and passions, you will become the person you want to be in college.

Read PJay’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Sharon McCutcheon