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

Navigating the Curveballs

By: Amanda

Sometimes life throws you curveballs. As a student or a working professional, whether it is through illness, injury, or essentially anytime you need to take time off, it is crucial to know what your options are in both school and work life. Here are a few areas to look into:

Meet with your Academic Advisor
Academic Advisors are a wealth of knowledge just waiting to be tapped into. They can help to understand options when going through sticky situations. Their job is literally to aid in keeping students on path towards graduation. Take advantage of your assigned advisor, after all it is a free resource built in to your tuition. 🙂 No matter what the situation, you can count on your advisor to have the answer to your question, or be able to direct you to where you can find the answer. Depending upon the situation, they may suggest a medical withdrawal. As daunting as this process may seem, open communication with your academic advisor will help all run seamlessly.

Image: looking down on colorful pens in a jar on a grey background
Text: Navigating life's curveballs

Medical Withdrawal
With proper approval, a medical withdrawal on a student transcript is not something that will make or break a student’s academic career. There are three main steps that go into a medical withdrawal. First, a petition must be made. Through a petition on the OneStop website you can cancel all classes or individual classes, depending on the situation. Keep in mind, that if only one class is canceled, there should be a brief explanation why one class is being canceled and not others. On the last page, you can have your advisor recommended the withdrawal. Second, there must be a medical supplement form submitted. This is simply a form filled out by a Medical Professional with specific dates and information. Finally, keep in mind a tuition refund. Adjusting credit load can alter tuition, as well as financial aid. This is the most complex part of the process and if not done right could potentially make a student owe money. Make sure to set up an appointment with OneStop to work out the fine details.

Family and Medical Leave Act
FMLA requires employers to provide job secured unpaid leave for all excusable medical and family reasons. In order to be eligible for FMLA the employee must be at the business for at least 12 months and work at a company that employs 50 or more employees in a 75 mile radius. As college students who will be soon entering the workforce, it is important to have knowledge in this area and be fully versed in all rights.

Counseling Sessions
Remember that through UMD each semester you get 10 FREE counseling sessions with your tuition. This is almost one counseling session per week. No matter what you are going through, know that you are not alone and there is always someone here to talk. Once you’re out working, your company may also have an Employee Assistance Program the provides consultation and referral services in counseling and a number of other areas. Here’s what is available to UMD employees, as an example.

Life throws difficult curveballs and situations our way often and it is important to know how to deal with them. These resources are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to resources offered. The first step is to meet with an advisor or your supervisor and see what is available for you!

Of Possible Interest:
Disabilities in the Workplace – all our blog posts on the topic
Productivity & Wellness – all our blog posts on the topic

Read Amanda’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Jessica Lewis

Changing Your Mindset

By: Rachel

Sooner or later, it seems like we all reach that point where we’re ready to be done with the semester, and we don’t care who knows it. It’s all we seem to talk about, and sometimes it’s even reflected in our work. The reality is, you’re going to face seasons like this throughout your life. Perhaps you’re just sticking out your job for two weeks until you can move on to the next one, or you’re just gliding through the last few days before your week-long vacation. Maybe right now you’ve got your eye on that diploma regardless of the GPA attached, or you’ve determined these last few weeks are just an inconvenience (albeit busy!) that must be endured, because your mind is already preoccupied with summer.

In my opinion, one of the biggest contributors to living a successful life is finding joy in the present moment. So many of us get caught up in what’s less than ideal about our current lives, and we believe things were so much better in the past or they will be in the future. Often times, we were complaining just as much then and we will just as much in the days to come, unless we change our mindset.

Image: colored confetti on brown stone background
Text: Change your Mindset

I’d like to offer you a few practices that might help you change your mindset to help you make the best of every situation you find yourself in. It’s important to recognize that not every aspect of life is ideal or healthy. There are times where enduring feelings of negativity might be a sign to take a different path, change majors, or find a different job. But, even the path of your dreams will have a few rocks in it; the key is not to let them trip you up.

  • One of my favorite ways to find joy in where I’m at in life right now is to ask myself what I’ll miss about it years from now. Sure, college can be a struggle, but when I look at my calendar and get stressed about the jam-packed days that never look the same as the next, I picture myself as a 50-year-old pining for the days that were filled with variety, and it makes me appreciate my current life a little more. I’m sure we all got sick of eating every meal in the Dining Center at some point, but I knew the day would come where I’d run out of fun meal ideas and dread washing the dishes, so I made the most of it.
  • I’ve found it extremely helpful to have close relationships with people of a wide variety of ages. These people can lend you perspective, and while the problems in your life right now might loom bigger than any others you’ve ever experienced, people with more life experience can usually assure you that what seems like the end of the world actually isn’t. It’s like that insurance commercial, they know a thing or two, because they’ve seen a thing or two. They might not always know best, but having friends who have already survived college or their first years in a full-time job can tell you what things are not worth working yourself up over and other things that are worth pouring your energy into.
  • Practice gratitude. Many of you have probably heard of the 21 Day Gratitude Challenge, where you write down 3 things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days. Scientists say this is long enough to form a new habit. The point is, regularly recognizing the aspects of your life you can be thankful for means you’ll be more likely to embrace even the trying times with gratitude.
  • Taking a step back and reminding yourself of the reasons why you’re on the journey you are can be a great way to recenter your mindset. Maybe you really struggle with school, and you can’t wait to be a counselor holding appointments where you’re able to help people. Well, you know you’re probably going to need a degree to do that, so focus on the end goal, and try to make the most of each step along the way. Perhaps you don’t love the types of job positions you find yourself in now, but you know you have to put in your time to earn the kind of position you really want. Give your best to that role, and try to focus on the aspects you enjoy.

I truly hope you’re able to use these tips to embrace the last few weeks of the semester (and your life as a whole) by appreciating the present moment. Sometimes all it takes is a little change in your mindset.

Best, Rachel

Of Possible Interest:
Productivity & Wellness – all our blog posts on the topic
Slowing Down During Spring Semester
Healthy on the Job – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Rachel’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Chris Barbalis

How to Deal with Difficult People

By: Sophia

At some point in our lives, we deal with people who get on our nerves. They can be people at school, work, or even at home. These are the types of people who can bring the entire mood of a room down the minute they walk in. This may affect everyone or just you. I have dealt with people like this before at work and at home. I have had roommates in my college career which we have not gotten along with each other and it was a very tense and toxic environment. I have also had to deal with situations with coworkers and customers who have not gotten along as well.

During the summer and winter break, I work at retail store where there are daily interactions with people of different backgrounds. These are both with coworkers and customers. Every other week, there was a woman who would come into the store that would attempt to return items that were not purchased at my retailer and would get frustrated and blame the cashier (including me one time) for not being able to get her money back. There was also a woman who would come in and try to steal hundreds of dollars worth of inventory at various stores throughout the district. She got caught and banned from each store that it happened at, but she came into my store the most and kept trying. I applaud her determination, but it caused extra work for the employees when it came time to do inventory. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much we could do in these situations except call over a manager when the situation was getting tense. The one positive thing about dealing with these people was that they helped me learn a lot of important skills on how to deal with these situations when they arrive.

Image: green cacti on a white background.
Text: how to deal with difficult people

Whether it is a roommate, coworker/boss, or customer, these are some tips on how to handle difficult people in difficult situations:

Create a roommate agreement.
This one really only applies to roommates, but it can be a really helpful thing to do. Create a contract that goes over the mutually agreed upon rules such as chores, how long guests can stay over, and quiet times. If you absolutely can’t come to a compromise, get an RA involved or a neutral friend to help mediate. Your work group, department, or workplace may do something similar to make people accountable for how they are acting in the setting and treating others.

Talk things out.
Sometimes problems can go away through talking. There might have been a misunderstanding that caused the problem in the first place. Find a private area and have a respectful conversation using “I” statements to express how you feel. Give positive feedback and use active listening skills to show the person you are paying attention and care about what they have to say. NEVER have a conversation when you are angry or try to one-up the person.

Talk to a boss/RA.
If you have tried talking things out and the situation still isn’t getting better, it is ok to ask for help in either mediating the situation or having a private conversation about what is going on.

Be the bigger person.
Through personal experience, this is one of the best things to do when dealing with a difficult person. Treating them with kindness and respect can help dissolve a situation because it shows the other person that what they are trying to do to you doesn’t affect you. It often leads to the other person leaving you alone in the end.

I hope these tips help you handle your difficult situation.

Of Possible Interest:
Brutal Honesty
The Impact of Microaggressions
Now that You’re on the Job – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Sophia’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Thomas Verbruggen

Becoming Comfortable with Uncomfortable

By: Taylor

As a Minnesota born Hmong-American, it’s never been uncommon to find myself in a situation in which I am almost entirely the only person of color (P.O.C.) in the room. While I encourage everyone to communicate with people of different backgrounds, it happens almost without thinking to interact and group together with people you find yourself more in common with. Those commonalities often times are found in how you were raised, food you do or don’t enjoy, sense of humor, and other things that are heavily influenced by culture.

Image: looking at the blue sky up the side of colorful building 
Text: being comfortable with uncomfortable

Despite the uncomfortability anyone could experience when in a room full of people you assume you don’t have many commonalities with, whether in a classroom or at your workplace, is inevitable and will happen more than once in your life. Here’s a few notes and tips I’ve jotted down from my encounters.

Be open. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Another thing humans do when meeting new people is to automatically go to our schemas or stereotypes we have about certain people in our brain. It’s important to remind and train yourself to not always assume the stereotypes we have in mind are correct. Have an open mindset; be open to learning new cultures, new traditions, and new and different stories.

Be aware. Humble yourself.
Often times it’s hard for anyone to admit they don’t understand or know something. Microaggressions are defined by Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary as “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).” Be aware of your comments to others. Humble yourself to the person or people you don’t have many commonalities with by letting them know you aren’t culturally aware and are genuinely interested in learning more from them.

Be yourself. Enjoy the awkward process!
Meeting and putting yourself out there isn’t always the most comfortable and ideal environment, even for people who consider themselves an extravert. In doing so, that uncomfortableness is heightened when you have no idea what to talk about when you don’t think you have many things in common. Remember to be yourself whether that’s talking about activities or clubs you’re apart of or are interested in, to a funny-cringey story about middle school (I’m convinced it was an awkward and weird time for everyone).

Meeting and being open to people of different backgrounds builds your cultural competence; the ability to comfortably communicate and interact with people who have a different culture than your own. In a workplace, it’s important that you, your coworkers, and anyone coming in and out are being respected and treated equally. Here at UMD you can build it by meeting new people in the Multicultural Center, home to our Office of Diversity and Inclusion (O.D.I.). In any and all careers we will all meet people we’ve never met from cultures we may have little-to-no knowledge about.

Attending UMD has provided us with some of those resources to assist us in becoming comfortable with uncomfortable. Now only you can begin the journey of building our cultural competence, and preparing yourself to be that cool-coworker-who-gets-along-with-everyone in the career and workforce you decide to be apart of.

Of Possible Interest:
The Impact of Microaggressions
Cultural Competency & Professionalism
Embracing My Self-Identity in the Workplace
Diversity – all our blog posts on the topic

Read Taylor’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Scott Webb

Be Genuine

By: Kirsi

Stories about students fraudulently receiving job offers and college acceptances by lying on resumes and applications frequent news media. Extreme efforts taken to fake qualifications include: forging a high school diploma, cheating on the ACT, lying about work experience, and photo-shopping a picture to make it look like they played sports. Although these attempts are extraordinary and comical, there are more nuanced ways to present yourself un-authentically. These white lies include: pursuing a career path that does not match your interests, insincerely schmoozing to recruiters, and fudging interests to match that of recruiters. The best thing you can do for the highest long-term reward is to be genuine.

Image: brick wall painted white on left side and blue on right side
Text: Be Genuine

What being genuine can look like:

  • Pursuing a career for the right reasons, goals beyond money, other people’s opinions, and chasing fads.
    For example, studying to be a doctor because you are inspired by nonprofits that provide health services to conflict zones. 

  • Declining an otherwise achievable opportunity due to your conscious, ethics, or beliefs.
    For example, you may identify how a recruiter wants you to answer a particular interview question and instead you answer truthfully upholding your honesty and integrity.

  • Avoiding low hanging fruit at networking events.
    For example, picking more unique topics of conversation that reflect your interests (which can still be company and career related). Overused points of conversation include; sports, weather, breaking news about the company, and other trite chat.

  • Researching career opportunities beyond what is cookie cutter for your area of study.
    For example, if you are a STEM major but find film making super interesting, there may be opportunities to marry your skills and interest with a little guidance (talk to a career counselor).

Sometimes being genuine will feel like a short-term loss. Feeling confident that you made decisions based on what is right and what is important to you will be a unmatchable reward in the future.

Of Possible Interest:
On the Job – all our blog posts on the topic
Advice From the Real World

Read Kirsi’s other posts

The Basics of Salary Negotiation

By: Heidi

When it comes to accepting your first job, your first salary can often set the pay you earn for the rest of your life. After attending the Start Smart workshop hosted by the American Association of University Women, I learned a lot about your first salary and strategies about how to negotiate that salary. I wanted to share some of the tips I learned for other students and especially women, who often avoid negotiating a salary all around.

The Gender Pay Gap and Why It Matters
In the year 2016, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 80 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 20 percent. It’s important to note, this gender pay gap is even worse for women of color. The gender gap tells us that women are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and underrepresented in high-wage ones. Women’s work such as health, education, and public administration, is devalued because women do it. And because women are often caregivers, they face lower pay and promotion opportunities because they are assumed to be distracted and unreliable.

Know Your Value
When it comes to asking for a salary you deserve, it is important to have an understanding of what skills you bring to the table, and how to communicate that. Think back on past accomplishments, contributions, skills, and relevant work experiences. Reflect on what positive results from these accomplishments, what role you played. Consider keeping a journal of all your accomplishments throughout the year, no matter how big or small. Use the template below to help articulate your value:

As a result of my effort to do ____________________________ (identify your action) I have achieved _______________________________ (result), which provided the following specific benefits to the company: ____________________ (fill in quantitative result or other positive outcome).

Image: US $1 bill on white background. 
Text: The basics of salary negotiation.

Know Your Strategy And Benefits
It is important to have objective research when it comes to preparing for your negotiation. Follow these six steps when it comes to benchmarking your salary and benefits: Research and identify a comparable job title, find the salary range and establish your target salary, identify your target salary range, create a realistic budget, determine your resistance or “walk-away” point, and determine the value of your benefits.

When it comes to matching a job to a salary, start with Salary.com and identify a job description that matches the job you are researching. Identify a target salary range looking at the 25th to 75th percentile, at, below, or above the median. Use the target salary as the bottom of the range and do not stretch more than 20 percent. You can calculate the take-home pay for the target salary at PaycheckCity.com

As for determining a resistance point, this is the lowest salary you are willing to accept and still reach an agreement. This is a useful tool to prevent you from accepting a salary you might later regret. Offers below your resistance point may signal you to walk away from a job offer.

Creating a budget is also essential in preparing for your negotiation strategy. Your budget doesn’t need to be scary, and is something that can be broken down quite simply. The 50/20/30 rule can help you proportionately break down and create a healthy budget. It is meant to be flexible based on your particular situation and needs. Breaking it down looks like this: 50 percent or less will be made up of essential expenses such as housing, food, transportation, and utilities. 20 percent or more will go towards your financial goals and obligations such as savings and debt. The ending 30 percent is meant to be for flexible spending and personal choices such as shopping, personal care, hobbies, and entertainment.

Know Your Strategy
Negotiating your salary will differ depending on whether you are looking for a new job or preparing to ask for a raise or promotion. When it comes to a new job, deflection strategies are key to avoid discussing or negotiating your salary until AFTER you have received a job offer. Here are a few different ideas you can use in an interview can look like:

  • “I’d rather talk about that after I’ve received a job offer.”
  • “I’d like to learn more about the role before I set my salary expectations. As we move forward in the interview process, I would hope and expect that my salary would line up with market rates for similar positions in this area.”
  • “What is the salary range for this position or similar positions with this workload in the organization?”

If you receive an offer below your resistance point, then you should attempt to negotiate upwards. Having your notes to reference, you can counteroffer in several ways:

  • “Do you think you have any flexibility on the salary number?”
  • “Thank you for the offer. Based on my research with comparable roles in this area, I was thinking of something in the range of (your target salary range.)”
  • “Based on my prior experience and familiarity with this role, I believe that an additional $_____ would be fair.”

Practice, Practice Practice
Your negotiation skills will not improve without practice. With each time you practice, you can not only improve your ability to be objective, persuasive, and strategic, but confident in your capabilities of negotiating your worth!

Using your notes from your research, sit down with a roommate or a friend and go through a role-play scenario. The more you practice, the more feedback they can provide you with to improve your verbal and body language.

Though this is a lot of information, it’s important to be informed when negotiating your first salary as it sets the benchmark for the rest of your career when it comes to raises and bonuses. Take this information and use it to set yourself up for success so you don’t end up leaving any extra money on the table.

*Tips taken from the AAUW Start Smart Workbook

Read Heidi’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | NeONBRAND