5 Lessons Learned While Being in the Real World for Over a Year

By: Abby

Warning – a woman who was envious of the movie 13 Going on 30 wrote this article.

I have always been waiting for this life chapter. My brain always shrugged off the “glory days” of high school and glamorized the mid 20s to 30s. Here it is folks – the Real World is all that I hoped.

But every new pet urinates indoors a couple times.

Real World Lessons

Here are a couple tips to help make your Real World better:

1) Nobody is providing you with a list of goals to check-off.

There isn’t a syllabus for your new life. This may or may not be exciting for you. It was for me. WOOP – I do what I want. But then it occurred to me – what do I want? Cue Monthly Goals!

Confession: I enjoyed a few months of thoughtless floating through my new career… Until I realized just that – I was floating. And floating isn’t cool (especially if you are George Clooney in space).

To guide myself back to a path of progressive self-improvement, I began a life of goal setting. I gave myself yearly goals, e.g. strengthening Spanish language skills. At the beginning of each month, I reevaluate my yearly goals and make a couple monthly goals, e.g. read a Spanish-language book.

Where I still need to improve: 5 year and 10 year plans are non-existent (shocker, I know, sorry to disappoint).

2) Don’t forget to keep connected! Always be building & maintaining relationships.

Through college, you have built career-benefiting relationships. Don’t lose them! Don’t confuse starting your career with stopping your networking. Careers evolve with time and that evolving means changing positions, companies, and careers. As I am sure you know, it is all about whom you know. Continue to get out in the community (or social networks) and meet new people. Reach out to your current friends and have coffee every so often. Limiting yourself to the view from your current desk limits your future views.

Idea: get involved in local professional organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce. The Duluth Chamber has a young professionals branch called Fuse.

3) Believe me or not, nonfiction is actually fun.

Guess what; I don’t want to frighten you (especially since Halloween is over), but there are 21 million college students in the world right now. That number will be growing. People will always be learning. Don’t stop learning just because you’ve left school. Keep learning. Stay informed. Be relevant.

The world is full of literary treasures to help continue your growth. And many of them will make you laugh (or even cry, if I may be so bold). Make the choice to read something other than BuzzFeed (unless your “something other” is nothing… then BuzzFeed will do).

4) Budgeting isn’t just for making sure you can pay for college.

Sorry friends – this necessary evil must continue. The vote is out on whether money can buy happiness, but the Real World agrees that by managing your money you will avoid stressors.

5) Schedule out your free time too – it goes quickly.

This new 9-5 lifestyle brings a life of free nights and weekends for you to allocate as you please. But as I am sure most computer-wielding folks are aware… many an evening (or full day) can pass in the grasp of Netflix. Procrastinating on homework is no longer a worry, but your new life has new to-dos that can be sidestepped just as easily.

Plug in your workouts, schedule some time with friends, and write down when you’ll run to Target to get new light bulbs. Using my calendar to remind me of what I should be doing has increased my productivity and grown my feeling of accomplishment.

Bonus: The best is yet to come!

Get as excited as me folks. Our life is going to be great.

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4 Takeaways for Professionals from “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg

By: Abby

Editor’s Note: We’re welcoming Abby back for a guest post! Check out all of her previous work on the blog from when she was a student.

Last summer I read a book that has stuck with me for this whole past year. The book swept the world and was labeled “revolutionary.” Oprah Winfrey even deemed it, “the new manifesto for women in the workplace.” But don’t leave yet, men! Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is a book to benefit all people.

(For those of you who haven’t heard of it yet, give it/her a Google)

Lean In

I found 4 quotes/takeaways that can benefit all professionals (college students, recent grads, or even not-so-recent grads):

  1. “So I thought about calling you and telling you all of the things I’m good at and all the things I like to do. Then I figured that everyone was doing that. So instead, I want to ask you: what is your biggest problem and how can I solve it.” (Pg. 52)

When faced with the opportunity to talk to someone you admire in a position of power at a company you want to be at… do not be generic. Stand out. That’s what Lori Goler did to Sheryl Sandberg while at Facebook, and it worked.

  1. “One of the conflicts inherent in having choice is that we all make different ones.” (Pg. 166)

One of the things I’ve found hardest while being in the “real world” for this past year is that there is no right path/answer (even though half of my brain still tells me that is the wrong answer! <- see?!). Do not let the “what if’s” take over. The only choice you have is to make the best decision you can and in that, be confident. It will be a different one than the choices your friends make, but that is ok. Lean In says never feel guilty or resentful.

  1. “You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around,” Padmasree Warrior (pg. 35)

There is not an exact perfect fit out there when you’re starting a career. Don’t pass up an enticing opportunity while you’re learning.

  1. “Do not wait for power to be offered. Like that tiara, it might never materialize. And anyway, who wears a tiara on a jungle gym?” (Pg. 63)

Ok… this one is a little girl-specific, and it also has some Lean In inside jokes*. I shared it anyways because I found it to be the most profound. This quote means that you cannot wait to be adorned with the success and happiness you feel you deserve or want. You must go out and achieve it on your own. Promotions won’t (never say never…) land on your lap. Go out and ask for what you want.

*The inside jokes = Sheryl explains that a career shouldn’t be called a ladder, it is more of a jungle gym… as there are more directions that just up in a successful career. The tiara is referring to the tiara syndrome, which is also discussed in the book.

This last quote reminds me of a not-so-fortune fortune cookie I got the other day “Mediocrity is self-inflicted. Genius is self-bestowed.” Go out and make yourself a genius!

There are so many more great lessons in this book. If you have the time (or not)… I recommend giving the full book a read!

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Abby’s Nuggets of Knowledge

By: Abby

Well everyone… I am graduating! Yay!

I want to thank everyone for reading these posts over the last year. Just last summer Ellen and I were sitting in her office brainstorming what to call this blog, and how to skin it… It was quite fun. I am so excited about how far it has come so quickly!

As I reflect back on my time at UMD, I find there are a few nuggets of knowledge I want to leave with you all.

  • Know what you want
    • It is easier (and possible…) to be successful when you know what you’re working towards. If you don’t know now, don’t be complacent and assume it’ll come to you. Come visit Career Services. Explore your interests. Informational interview and shadow professional in the fields you’re exploring.
  • Set goals
    • Set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Tell people about them. Then they can help hold you to the goals, but also when they know what you’re working on, they’re more willing and able to help. Dream big and set your goals to the moon. You’ll be surprised at what you are capable of.
  • Get involved
    • Get involved with the community and your school. It’s a great way to feel connected, to meet people who could help you one day, to have fun, and to gain experience.
  • Find a mentor
    • Don’t try to do everything on your own. Find someone whom you want to be professionally and ask to be their mentee. They’ll teach you so much…

While I will be embarking on a new amazing life journey, I am also leaving behind a great one. It is bittersweet as I sit in the Career Services office for my final shift… This job has been the best. I have learned so much and grown as a person while holding this position. I might be biased, but I truly believe a Peer Educator for Career Services is the best job anyone could have on campus. There are fabulous people here that I will truly miss.


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How to Stay Professional on Your Mobile Phone

By: Abby

Cell phones are a place for many things these days: sending photographs to your friend, balancing your checkbook, and even checking in for your flight. But with all of these additions, it still hasn’t lost it’s main intent: phone calls.

Mobile phone tips

If you haven’t yet, you’ll soon be talking on the phone with potential employers or even potential business partners. It is always important to put your best foot forward, even if they can’t see your feet. Here are some tips on how to remain professional while using your phone.

  • Use a professional outgoing message.
  • Eliminate distractions and background noise when using your phone.
  • Have a fully charged battery and ample service before answering or making a professional call.
  • Speak slowly and clearly and spell your name when leaving a message.
  • Don’t answer your phone while driving.
  • Don’t answer a professional call when in a public place or while engaged in a social activity.
  • Don’t walk around while talking on your phone.
  • Turn-off your phone while waiting for an in-person interview. If you usually review your notes on your phone, use another method so you don’t appear to be checking messages.
  • Turn-off your phone during an in-person interview, presentation or professional meeting.

One time at a networking event, a UMD alumni commented on how it was odd for me to still be using notebooks to be taking notes. I responded, “well, if I was taking notes on my cell phone, you’d assume I was texting…” He laughed and agreed. Even though you could be doing a hundred other things on your phone, some people will assume you’re doing the worst…

Keep these tips in mind while trying to build upon your professional self!

Does anyone have any other tips? 

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Photo by: Gonzalo Baeza

The Strength in Relating

By: Abby

My last weekly StrengthsQuest theme post! tear

I love StrengthsQuest!

This week we’ll be discussing the theme: Relator. The person with the Relator theme gets satisfaction from deep, close relationships. They know all sorts of people, and understand how to speak with them, but they have a very close group of friends that they enjoy. This theme pulls you toward people that you already know. It does not mean you’re shy about meeting new people (in fact, you could be like me and have both WOO and Relator and enjoy both!), but you feel very strong and happy when you’re with the people you’re close with.


A person with Relator as a strengths theme cares about their friends. They want to know their dreams and goals because they want to help them achieve them. When their friends are happy, they get happy.

This person feels that the only relationships that have true value are deep ones. They are very trusting in others.

Here is some relational/career/educational advice for a Relator:

  • When working on a goal or project, involve others. You’ll enjoy it more!
  • Since you tend to be at your best when you are part of a stable group of friends you can trust, join a regular study group in your challenging classes so you can stay motivated to achieve.
  • Learn as much as you can about the people with whom you want to relate. Your interest will be a catalyst for trusting relationships.
  • No matter how busy you are, make time for your friends. They are your fuel.
  • Seek out advisors, counselors, and professors who demonstrate genuine interest in you as a person.
  • Study with friends who have goals similar to yours.
  • Become a mentor and always have a mentor.
  • Get to know professors who take an interest in you.
  • Choose classes that friends are taking. Your relationships with them will heighten your engagement in the classes.
  • Become involved in campus organizations that foster friendships.
  • Talk to your trusted circle of friends about how they see you. Don’t ask them what career they think you should choose; instead, ask them to help you see your greatest talents.
  • Careers in which in-depth, meaningful relationships are valued are likely to be most rewarding to you.
  • Stable work environments where you can work with people you trust but also develop multiple levels of relationships probably will bring out your best.

Read Abby’s other posts

Read other StrengthsQuest posts

What to Bring on the First Day of Work

By: Abby

I was just offered a real job in Marketing. I accepted it. YAY!

As I was preparing for my first day of work, I thought to myself, “hmm… what do I bring?”

People teach you how to write a resume, how to network, how to prepare for interviews… but rarely is the aftermath covered. I landed the career (yay), but then I was curious what was next. Here are some things that I decided to bring, and some things I forgot and wish I had.

  • A dish of chocolate covered pomegranates – Snacks are important to keep your mind going!
  • A tea/coffee cup
  • A water bottle
  • Hand lotion  and sanitizer
  • My lunch – It’s always safe to bring a bag lunch. You might not know what opportunities you’ll have to leave the office to grab some food on that first day.
  • A small notebook and a pen – Taking notes on your first day will help you retain more information, and make you look prepared. That first day will be full of information.
  • Knick-knacks – Spice up your desk space and make it your own! You will feel more comfortable.

First day of work

I forgot, but wish I brought:

  • Passport – This will come in handy for the “proving who I am” business. You could also bring your driver’s license and your Social Security card. There are actually a bunch of options, but the passport was easiest for me.
  • Checkbook – Most offices, mine included, use direct deposit to pay their employees. I brought a checkbook so that I could write down my account and routing number.
  • Notes from the interviews – During my interviews and afterward, I took notes on ideas (which you should too!). I wish I brought them with on the first day to refer to while going through my new projects.

It wasn’t a problem that I forgot these. I just did it on the second day. But if you want to be super prepared, bring them along!

I also brought a few pens, post-it’s, and notepads, but the office also had a lot of those for me. I could have left them at home, but mine are cute so I don’t regret it!

Before my first day, I also referred to the UMD Career & Internship Services Pinterest because they have boards called “Office Space,” and “Dress for Success.” Both boards were helpful with brainstorming what to bring and what to wear.

I hope that this will help prepare you for your first day!

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo source

Researching Before the Interview

By: Abby

Congratulations! You got an interview. Your resume did the trick, and you have won some face-to-face time. This is your time to shine. This is your opportunity to convince the hiring manager that you are the right candidate for the job. But how do you do that…?


It is all about being prepared. The more prepared you are, the more engaged and interested in the position you will appear. So how do you get prepared? What exactly should you be researching? And where do you find this information? Keep reading, and I will tell you!


The following is a list of things that you should research. Not all of these will be available for every organization, but try to find as much as you can.

  • History of organization
  • Complete product line and/or services
  • Organizational structure
  • Size of organization
  • Prospects for growth or change
  • Potential new products or services
  • Annual sales growth for past five years
  • Business methods and philosophy
  • Core company values
  • Reputation
  • Competitors
  • Number of plants, stores and outlets
  • Geographical locations
  • Location of corporate headquarters
  • Type of training program(s)
  • Promotional path(s)
  • Typical career path in your field
  • Information about top management and their backgrounds
  • Corporate culture
  • Prepare answers to the generic questions: why do you want to work here, tell me about yourself, and why should I hire you
  • Know the person who is interviewing you
  • Know the interview process
  • Prepare good questions to ask the employer
  • Know what you are looking for and what you have to offer

The UMD Career Handbook says, “Recruiters expect and are impressed with candidates who research and have knowledge about their companies. A favorite question asked is, ‘Why are you interested in our organization?’ To answer the question effectively, you need to know the organization. By researching the organization, you can learn whether your goals will fit the organizational structure defined by the employer. For example, there are some employers who have a reputation for being conservative; if you know that you do not fit in with this type of environment, talking to the recruiter would be a waste of time.”

The following are options on where to find this information:

  • Employers’ websites
  • Employer profile pages on LinkedIn and other social media platforms
  • Direct contact with the organization
  • Contacts at career fairs
  • Company information presentations
  • Career Services staff, professors, family, friends, alumni
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Annual reports and employment brochures
  • Business periodicals, newspapers and directories

If you are fully prepared for an interview, you’ll feel much more confident, and it will show. The employers will know that you took the time and that you care.

Now that you’re mentally prepared, get physically prepared with all of our professional dress blog posts!

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Photo source: GabrielaP93

CliftonStrengths for Students – Responsibility

By: Abby [Futuristic|Communication|WOO|Responsibility|Realtor]

It is time for our weekly CliftonStrengths for Students theme!

This week, we’ll be talking about Responsibility, my fourth strength.

Responsibility is a word everyone is aware of, but in the world of CliftonStrengths for Students, it has a slightly different interpretation.

CliftonStrengths for Students defines Responsibility as:

People who are especially talented in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.

List of Strengths, Responsibility in green

Responsibility is like a monkey on my back but in the most positive light. If someone asks me to do something, I feel very obligated to follow through. When I commit to completing a project,  volunteer to help a friend, or offer to run an event…I feel psychological ownership over it. I will not let my work be poor because it has my name on it. It also works for the obligations I keep for myself. I feel a need to maintain my values.

Most people say they feel obligated to follow through, and need to keep their values in check, but for me, it is a deep, unfaltering purpose. It can’t be shaken.

CliftonStrengths for Students says, “[for a Responsible person,] excuses and rationalizations are totally unacceptable.” Which makes me laugh because every time I think of giving an excuse, I think about the poem that says, “excuses are the tools of the incompetent.” I believe in that quote and won’t let myself give them.

The negative part is that their conscience can create guilt out of minimal things and bring stress. Also, when people know that you’re dependable, they turn to you with many tasks. The Responsible person can get overwhelmed with duties quite quickly – they take on more than they should.

Here are tips from the book StrengthsQuest: Discover and Develop Your Strengths in Academics, Career, and Beyond, that can help use your Responsibility strength while thinking about careers and career planning.

  • Make an appointment with a career counselor to talk about how to begin the career planning process. The sense of psychological ownership this step creates will engage you in the process and energize you to follow through.
  • You often take initiative, and you always follow through, so you do not need a lot of supervision. Select work in which you can be given more and more responsibility as you progressively achieve.
  • Building trusting relationships with others is important to you, so choose environments in which you can surround yourself with dependable, trustworthy people. When selecting a team to join, be sure the other members are known for pulling their weight.
  • You will be most productive in environments where you can fully follow through on the commitments you make to others.

Responsibility has been a character value for years and years. I am proud of my responsibility, and feel responsible to keep it 😉

Read about the 33 other Strengths

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Using Informational Interviews as a Job Search Technique

By: Abby

You always hear, “it’s not what you know… but who you know.” While searching for a job, you can go into a million interviews spewing the information your college professors taught you, but if you don’t have connections, it’s going to be a much harder process.

Being connected to an employee in a company can be of great value to you. But not everybody has a successful older brother, or aunt working for the company of their dreams. So how do you go about connecting with someone that you don’t even know exists?

A great tool is the informational interview.

The UMD Career Handbook says, “an informational interview is a conversation you initiate with a professional in a field of interest to you for the purpose of learning more about career possibilities.” This conversation can allow you to learn, and it also allows you to begin a relationship with someone whom might be able to hire you one day.

Informational interviews as a job search technique

How might you go about finding this person? It is as easy as a Google search. Find the company you are interested in on LinkedIn, and search through their employees. Find someone with the job title that resembles the one you image for yourself. Next, email them and plainly state you are interested in their career path and would like to learn more. Ask them if they’d be willing to meet with you for coffee at their convenience for an informational interview.

While you’re chatting with them, you might have the opportunity to share bits of information you’re already using from your elevator speech. That way they’ll know who you are and your goals. Once an opportunity arises in their office, you might be on their radar before you even apply. Or, at least, they’ll remember you once you do!

Don’t forget to keep in touch with the person afterward. Connect on LinkedIn. Wish them a Happy New Year. Or congratulate them on the promotion. Check out the UMD Career Handbook for more information on informational interviewing as well as tips on possible questions to ask – because, remember, you’re the one leading!

This technique has been the bulk of my career preparation. I hope it pays off!

P.S. – always offer to pay for their coffee!

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo Source: Unsplash | rawpixel

Time Management During the Job Search

By: Abby

Sometimes a whole month can pass, and you’ll realize, “hmm I haven’t done much to help me get the job I’ll need in four months.” That can be quite stressful.

Well, that is what almost (pretty much) happened to me. I am here to share with you the tips I have learned to keep myself on track moving forward.

Time mgmt

It is all about time management!

If you keep a time-specific calendar for all major things in a day, include time specifically for job search tasks. If you do not keep a time-specific calendar, it is probably time to start.

Keeping a calendar is a great way to keep your life on track, be on time, be productive, and not forget about appointments, meetings, classes, work schedules, and even job searching.

I have always kept a calendar, but I have never put “to-do” tasks on it – until now. I have designated an hour most days of the week to specifically dedicate to my job search (this could also be a useful method in the intern/co-op search). This time can be used finding new people to connect with at some of my target companies; it could also be used to search databases and company websites for potential jobs and applying for jobs.

On a side note: I have also added in times for working out, writing blog posts, and other “to-do” tasks.

If you don’t want to get to the end of April and wonder what you’ll be doing in a few weeks, start designating time to prepare. If you mark down those times now, it will be harder to put off, and potentially forget about.

Another side note: By no means do I mean to do this for all 7 days in a week. If you can, try to keep one or two days unplanned! Too much structure can cause stress as well.

Of Possible Interest: 

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