Ideas for Lifelong Learning

In the past year, we had a regular series on our Instagram Stories titled either Monday Musing or Wednesday Wisdom (depending on the semester). These topics sprung from conversations our student employees (Eva & Rachel) were having, then they wanted to share them with a wider audience. We’ve decided to group together the topics into overarching ideas and share them here on the blog. Today we’re talking about ideas around pursuing lifelong learning.

Lifelong Learning
We tend to think of our education as a means to an end, but learning from the world around us never has to stop. Choosing to tap into the wealth of knowledge around us can be intimidating, especially once we leave the classroom. Keeping a learner’s mindset can help us grow as individuals, connect with our communities, and engage in life on a deeper level.

Here’s a list of places to start: audiobooks (try your local library for a no cost option) and podcasts; community education classes, reading a book of different genre than usual, taking lessons from someone in your community, watch documentaries, YouTube tutorials, community cultural events, town hall meetings, and the list could keep going.

Image: arching library bookcase filled with books; black & white photo
Text: Ideas for lifelong learning

Reflecting on the Word “Learn”
Sometimes we get so caught up in college that we lose sight of what it is we’re doing here and how we’ll use it outside the classroom.

What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned so far? These could be deep or light. How to be a better friend. Take lip balm out of your pocket before doing laundry.

How can you apply what you’re learning now? You do your homework and take your tests, but what are you really learning? Push yourself to consider how you can use it in your own life now or down the road. Maybe you hate that writing class, but you’ll use the skills to craft a cover letter. Time value of money might seem irrelevant, but you might use it to calculate student loans.

What’s one thing you hope to LEARN in the next year? Maybe it’s school or career related, or it’s a new skill. A part history or the world you’ve always wanted to know about? Use your resources!

Knowledge is power, and learning is a process that never ends.

Photo Source: Unsplash | Susan Yin

Tips for Growing Outside Your Comfort Zone

In the past year, we had a regular series on our Instagram Stories titled either Monday Musings or Wednesday Wisdom (depending on the semester). These topics sprung from conversations our student employees (Eva & Rachel) were having, then they wanted to share them with a wider audience. We’ve decided to group together the topics into overarching ideas and share them here on the blog. Today we’re talking about different ways you can stretch and grow outside your comfort zone.

Being a Work in Progress
We often get so focused on the end goals that we lose track of the present moment. Keep taking steps in the direction you want to go and don’t force the outcomes. Your big goals will fall into place as a result of all those mindful small steps, even if those goals aren’t the same as what you had in the beginning.

Taking Risks
In college, you’re faced with many choices & opportunities: What major? Take an out-of-state internship? Study abroad? Double major? Attend a job fair?

Economics taught me there’s always an opportunity cost. We always give up something in pursuit of another. It could be your time, money, or sense of comfort. But rather than avoid risks, I think we’d do well to learn how to leverage it.

Abraham Maslow said, “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” There will be times when the best choice is to take a moment in safety. But there are also times that growing requires a lot of courage.

Risks are going to exist either way, so don’t let them stop you from you’re meant to do.

Image: large leafed green plant on white background
Text: Tips for growing outside your comfort zone

Embracing Growth Opportunities
It isn’t always easy to admit there are areas we need to grow in. But these areas don’t make us inadequate; they’re simply opportunities for us to improve. 

You’ll have many chances in your life to attend speakers, conferences, etc. They may pop up through school, your job, or other activities. Some of these opportunities may call you out of your comfort zone, and not every one will be right for you. Remember, true growth never comes from a place of comfort. 

When deciding whether or not to pursue something, it’s helpful to first know yourself: your strengths, your weaknesses, and where you want to improve. In what ways will (or won’t) this opportunity help you grow in the right direction? Also, realize a professional event can benefit your personal life, and vice versa. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself about an area you want to improve in, and take a brave step towards making it happen!

It’s all about becoming a better person than you were yesterday.

Not Settling
There are many areas we might settle for less than the best: final projects we turn in, majors we pursue, jobs we accept, and people we hang around. There are lots of reasons why we might do this. We “don’t have enough time.” It’s the easy option. We fear we can’t do better.

The truth is, you’re going to be the one living the life you’ve built. You’re only going to live the life of your dreams to the degree that you pursue them. There’s a time and place where done is enough, where having a job that pays the bill is necessary. But, the majority of your life will be a result of the choices you make. So make the ones that take you where you want to go!

Turn in the work and take the paths that excite you and build your confidence in the direction you’re headed. And do so boldly.

“Our problem is not that we aim too high, but that we aim too low and hit.” – Aristotle

Of Possible Interest:
Building Your Resume – all our blog posts on the topic
Boost Your Career in College; Now that You’re on the Job – our Pinterest boards filled with articles & resources

Photo Source: Unsplash | Josh Calabrese

At the End of it All

By: Taylor

In a blink of an eye, I’ve suddenly found myself at the end of my first year at UMD. This past year I’ve become a tour guide at UMD, began working at the Career & Internship Services office, changed my major to Communication, and next year I’ll find myself as a T.A. for UMD Seminar. It’s been an exciting first year and I couldn’t be more ready for summer break. With my busy schedule, I’ve had opportunity to meet a ton of other students, professors, and UMD staff. Networking and knowing people can sometimes play a big role in our next endeavors. Before we scurry off to our summer plans, here are some tips on not burning those bridges.

Image: bridge with water and cliffs in background
Text: Importance of keeping connections

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is this awesome platform I like to refer to as “professional social media.” I’d recommend students to connect with professors on LinkedIn or friends you met in of which your friendship only revolved around the class, you can even find our career counselors on it too! It’s an awesome strictly-professional way to remain interactive with professional peers.

Instagram
As time creeps up on us, it’s important to keep in mind your social media presence. Some of our friend’s Instagram’s may not be super professional, where I say Instagram could be a great way to keep in moderate connection with other students. You’re sharing important and personal moments of your life for family and friends to enjoy with you.

Email
When I was in middle school, I was convinced when I grew up no one would communicate through email. Today, I think some days I send more emails than Snapchats. Emailing has stuck around and continues to be an important way of communication. I’ve used email to update the teachers who wrote me recommendation letters; a quick message letting them know UMD is great and I’ve been enjoying my time here. This would be another great way to keep in contact with professors or any professionals you’ve been in contact with before.

It’s time for my conclusion, for this blog post as well as this year. As finals close us out, I bid you farewell. Remember to not burn any bridges made and to keep in mind of the bridges that can be made. LinkedIn, Instagram, and email are just a few options as to how to remain connected with people. If possible, meet for a cup of coffee instead and enjoy in-person presence.

Read Taylor’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Cody Hiscox

Senior Design: More Than A Class

By: Kirsi

Kirsi holding the field operator's sensor.
Me holding the field operator’s sensor.
Pointing a stealth camera at a circuit.

I didn’t want to take senior design (SD). I tried to get out of it two times. I have completed plenty of technical paid internships since high school. Why do I have to take SD? What do I possibly have left to learn?

Image: programming code on a computer screen
Text: Skills learned in senior design

With a closed mind opened, I was ecstatic to find SD was exactly what I hoped college would be when I applied six years ago. Our SD team competed in the Air Force Research Lab Design Challenge. We built a two user system that helps first responders navigate Amber Alerts, rubble searches, and active threats. Our system can identify objects of interest through cinder block, drywall, multiple rooms, and car trunks. You can watch a demo video of the system, all built at UMD by students! SD has been a huge opportunity for me to grow my soft and technical skills.

Display screen of the system showing data from four sensors
Display of the system showing data from our four sensors.

What You Will Learn In Senior Design:
A major experience missed by only interning in the professional world is being challenged improve communication techniques. In an internship you learn the ropes of reporting achievements, asking questions, and forming a consistent path of communication. This is more procedure than an art. Management, mentors, and peers who you interface with at internships are usually seasoned leaders and communicators. Student peers? Sometimes, not so much. To no fault of their own. Raw inexperience. This required compensation I did not expect and revealed major communication flaws I have.

Leading
Being a leader means self-drive, delegating tasks to others, and people wrangling. Part of leadership on a SD team simply comes from being there for many hours, being there when things happened, something that couldn’t be scheduled. Because of my time commitment, people asked me details about the project and next steps. Ultimately, I started delegating and prioritizing tasks due to this informal leadership promotion.

Mediating
It was a bit challenging to look past how someone was communicating, shed emotional charge, and focus on what the concern or question was. I had to learn to look past communication styles, meet peers where they were, and come up with a way to move forward. This required me to make sure my concerns or points did not come with any baggage.

Team giving a presenation
Our team presenting at the competition.

Reviewing
What is the point of making something cool if its importance can’t be described? I had to learn how to communicate our accomplishments to operators who may use our equipment in the future. I looked over and presented materials and made sure we were using understandable language.

Designing
The system we were building was for first responders, therefore, we met with law enforcement from the community for design and usability feedback. We met with police officers to attend SWAT training to understand how they would be responding to threats and what their priorities were. Throughout development, we invited first responders to our labs, put our devices in their hands to use, and asked for feedback on how to make things more user friendly. Additionally, I met with a graphic design major to make sure that data was clearly presented to operators.

I am excited to report to that our SD team won the competition bringing the gold home to UMD! I am honored to be a part of this team and thankful to have such a positive experience! I highly recommend making the most of your senior design!

Of Possible Interest:
Building Your Resume – all our blog posts on the topic
Boost Your Career in College – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Kirsi’s other posts

Photo Source: Kirsi & Unsplash | Markus Spiske

Senior Year as Coffee Drinks

By: Heidi

Senior year is full of change when it comes to thinking about the future and where you hope to end up. The job search process can be full of ups and downs, while still finishing up classes, making time for friends, and all the fun events that can take place. And what are these late nights and early mornings fueled by? Your favorite cup of coffee full of its own unique blends and flavors. Here are my thoughts on what it feels like to be a graduating senior and all of the emotions that come alongside it.

What the job search process really feels like: Red Eye
When you order this coffee, you’re confident in the blend you ordered after a little research you did on the coffee shop’s website. Unfortunately, they were out of the coffee you wanted to order and once you placed your order, the barista poured you the wrong kind. Not what you were expecting, but you respect the process of what it takes in order for a good cup of joe.

Notes of: Excitement, Fear, Disappointment, Relief

Image: looking down on 3 coffee cups on wood table surface
Text: Senior year as coffee drinks

Senior slide: Americano
The deadlines have surpassed you, yet for some reason your work seems to still be incomplete. You know exactly what you need to do to get the job done, but the action just isn’t quite there. This cup of java is exactly what you need to get the job done and finish strong my fellow seniors.

Notes of: Procrastination, Regret, Early Mornings, Late Nights

Crossing things off your bucket list: Cold Brew
Those road trips you’ve always wanted to do but left until senior year or a last spring break trip with your friends aren’t going to happen if you’re not fueled properly. Those early mornings and late night adventures could use a little kick, so why not treat yourself in the process.

Notes of: Excitement, Indulgence, Spontaneity

All of the Goodbyes: Flavored Latte
Whether it’s wrapping up clubs you’ve been involved in for the past four years, saying goodbye to your younger friends who will still be around for a few more years, or to the friends who you will be soon parting ways with. A comforting latte with your favorite flavor shot is exactly what is needed for this situation, and ideally shared with a friend.

Notes of: Bittersweet, Nostalgia, Gratitude

Next Chapter: Macchiato
You’re on the horizon of change whether it’s a big move, grad school, a gap year, or a challenging career. Rather than going into it with fear, the best we can do is embrace this new chapter with a positive attitude ready to take on whatever comes your way. You’ve conquered these past four years, who says you’re not ready for what’s next? Let this next chapter be fueled by your passion and confidence knowing you have important contributions to give to the world. This cup of coffee is whatever you choose to make it be.

Notes of: Pride, Bliss, Elation

Of Possible Interest:
Job Search – all our blog posts on the topic
On the Job – all our blog posts on the topic to help you thrive in the phase of life.

Read Heidi’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Nathan Dumlao

Phone Interviews: My First Impression

By: Paying

I have recently been applying for summer internships for the Twin Cities while I’m in Duluth and was contacted for an interview. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make a trip down for the times that were listed so they offered me a phone interview which I have NEVER done before. For this blog post, I will be sharing my first impression getting interviewed over the phone and some advice for those of you who may want help preparing for it!

Before the Phone Interview
Our office actually has a blog post of how to prepare for a phone interview so go check it out for more in depth advice! For me, I was told the interview would be about 30 minutes to an hour long so I decided to book a study room in the Library so I wouldn’t be interrupted. Make sure to find a private and quiet spot before your interview begins and double check that your phone is fully charged!

Besides that, I also did research beforehand and looked up information through our Pinterest board for simple tips and tricks of how to handle a phone interview compared to an in-person interview. If not being able to see your interviewer is an issue, don’t be afraid to request for a video call!

Image: black and silver table rotary phone
Text: Phone interview tips

During the Phone Interview
One thing I did not expect for my phone interview was for there to be multiple interviewers on speaker! The room echoed a bit and one of the voices was further away from the phone which caused it to not be as clear. It’s okay to ask for clarification on questions!

Since everything is done through the phone, be sure to pronounce your words clearly! Talk in a bold voice as if they were right in front of you. A good tip for this is to stand up and keep a smile on your face so you don’t sound slouched or mumbled.

Usually when I am told something or is asked a long question, I nod and say “Mhm” to show that I am being attentive and that I understand. However, it is quite different in a phone interview and threw both me and the interviewers off multiple times. Since I was on speaker, it sounded as if I was interrupting to ask a question so I had to adjust and not say anything until they were done speaking. Expect to adapt to the situation!

After the Phone Interview
As for any other interview, send a thank you email! Thank them for their time and address any other questions, comments, or concerns you or the interviewers may have had. After that, be prepared to be patient and wait for them to finish interviewing the others.

Now that you know what to expect for a phone interview, be prepared and be confident! Good luck!

Of Possible Interest:
Interviewing – all our blog posts on the topic
Interview Like a Pro – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Paying’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Pawel Czerwinski

The Desk Essentials

By: Kendra

So you just got your first job after graduation and your first day is tomorrow … First off, congratulations! Second, what are you going to bring with you? I am sure you will bring your keys, wallet, and a cup of coffee/tea (of course), but what else might you need? With all of the nerves and excitement that comes with getting a job after graduation, no one worries about what to bring with them to make their life at work easier.

Image: white notepads and gold binder clips on white desk
Text: The desk essentials

I asked a few professional staff what sorts of random items they have in their desks that come in handy and here is what I found:

  • Deodorant — No one likes to be smelly at work!
  • Lint roller — You never know what sorts of dust and fuzzies will stick to you throughout the day.
  • Stain remover — A stain on your top or pants would be embarrassing!
  • Fidget items — For the long days when you just can’t quite sit still.
  • Hand weights — Do some exercising during your breaks!
  • Shoes — If it is rains or snows, you have nothing to worry about because you have dry, warm shoes waiting for you in your office.
  • Nail clipper and nail file — Sometimes you just need to clip your nails or remove a pesky hangnail.
  • Earring backs — You never know when the back of your earring will fall off!
  • Bandages — Blisters, paper cuts, hangnails, etc.
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste — You’re safe if you forget to brush in the morning and if you have some garlicky pasta for lunch.
  • Small mirror — Perfect for touching up make-up, hair, or just making sure you have nothing in your teeth!
  • Pain medication — Don’t let a headache ruin your day.
  • Thank you cards — It is always nice to send thank you cards after meetings with important people in your workplace, having these available will make it super easy to do!
  • Coffee mugs — You might like to offer coffee or tea to people you meet with.
  • Sewing kit — You never know when a seam will come loose.
  • Shoe polish — Clean the scuffs and dust off of your shoes to keep yourself looking put together!
  • Screen cleaner — It is amazing how dirty a computer screen can get. Keep it clean and clear with some screen cleaner.
  • Glasses cleaner — No one likes a smudgy pair of spectacles!

Getting a new job after graduation is exciting! Even if you don’t have a job where you are seated at a desk, having some of these items in your car, purse, or backpack can be really handy. This is not to say that you need every single one of these items, but it allows you to think of things that might be helpful to have with you as you go to work each day because you never know what might happen. I wish you the best of luck with your new job and hope that having some of these items was of help for you!

Of Possible Interest:
What to Bring on the First Day of Work
On the Job – all our blog posts on the topic
Now That You’re On The Job – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Kendra’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Stil Classics