Career Lessons from Lord of the Rings

By: Ashley

About a year ago I wrote a blog post on the lessons learned from Disney movies, this time around I thought I would write about lessons learned from something more near and dear to my heart, the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. A few of the lessons that correlate with Tolkien’s novels that I have learned over the course of my time here at UMD as an undergrad are:

LOTR Lessons

Say yes to adventure

I think the most obviously benefit for Bilbo Baggins on saying yes to his adventure was that he ended up making off with a large sum of treasure but he also found friendship with many dwarves and elves of Rivendell. I think college is a once in a lifetime experience, these 4 or 5 years are years where we discover who we are and who we want to be and I think we often get caught up in the stress of it all and forget that now is the time to take chances and go on adventures. If you have the chance to study abroad do it, I didn’t and I think it could have been a blast even if it might have ended up adding on an extra semester, who knows maybe it wouldn’t have but what could hurt from going to the International Education Office (IEO) and inquiring about opportunities overseas? Go out and find an internship or volunteer, even if it doesn’t relate to your major, maybe you will find a new passion you didn’t even know you had.

It pays to have friends

Throughout The Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy Frodo and Bilbo were helped out of troubling situations by their friends. Many times Gandalf saved the day, and without Samwise, Frodo would have never gotten the One Ring to Mount Doom. If I had not met my wonderful friends I would have probably ended up never exploring the city of Duluth the way I have and would have never made the memories I have over the years without them. Stay true to your friends and keep them close because you never know when you will need them or they will need you.

Never lose hope and never give up

Even though you might not get the first job, internship, or grad program you apply for that doesn’t mean you should cut your losses and give up. In The Return of the King at The Battle of the Black Gate Sauron’s army was defeated and the battle was won, but victory seemed hopeless and by the means of the destruction of the One Ring by Frodo, Middle-Earth was saved. The Fellowship never gave up and in the end they succeeded, but not without shedding a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Figuring out what you want to do with your life and finding the right workplace for you isn’t meant to be a walk in the park, it takes perseverance, hard-work, and it means not being afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Learn how to defend yourself

Just like Legolas had his bow and arrow, Gimli had his axe, and Bilbo and Frodo both had Sting, you too need to learn how to defend yourself. I don’t mean to say you need to learn karate or go buy a sword; what I mean to say is that as an undergrad entering the work force the best weapon you have at your disposal is your resume. Being able to present your skills and experiences helps demonstrate to future employers what you have to offer. Making sure your resume is up to date before applying for jobs is just as import as checking your chainmail before you head off to battle.

To experience great things, you have to leave your comfort zone

Just like Bilbo and Frodo both left their comfortable lifestyles at Bag End, we made a choice to leave our hometowns to come to Duluth and have the college experience. By choosing to go on their adventures both Bilbo and Frodo got to meet amazing people and do amazing things and in the end they got to sail to the beautiful Undying Lands with the elves. Even though we may not be meeting dwarves or saving Middle-Earth, we get to discover who we want to be, what we want to do with our lives, and get to make wonderful and lifelong friends. In order to make these friends, to gain insight into potential jobs by volunteering or interning, and to get to know the wonderful city that has, for me, become a second home, you have to step away from the familiar and safe and take risks. Like Bilbo says in The Fellowship of the Ring “it’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

These are just a few of the lessons I learned from J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels that apply to my life as a college undergrad and soon to be college graduate. I hope this post was as inspiring as it was entertaining, I hope everyone is making new friends, defending themselves, and setting out on new adventures because that is what college is all about!

Photo Source

Read Ashley’s other posts

Pop Culture Career Lessons

By: Megan

I don’t know about you, but it’s almost impossible for me to get through procrastinating on homework without reading an article on something some celebrity has done. When you’re a public figure, everything you do affects your career. Now, we may not have paparazzi following us everywhere we go, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn some lessons from their mistakes. So here are 4 tips we can learn from celebrities on how to manage your career.

Pop culture

Keep your online persona professional

This is something we knew already, but your online persona can affect your career more than you think. Employers regularly search the web, and what they find may affect your hiring or continued work with them. There are only so many things you can make private once you post them online.

Now for the celebrity story: Amy’s Baking Company (ABC) was featured on Gordan Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. It was the first (and only) restaurant he walked out on. That was some pretty bad publicity for ABC. However, that wasn’t the end of the story. When the show aired, Amy’s Facebook page took off. There were rants, raves, accusations, and incoherencies galore. Don’t do this. If your page is public (especially your business page) make sure what you’re posting represents you.

If you need a break, take time off.

We’ve all heard the story of Lindsay Lohan. I could go into quite a few things we’ve learned from her, but I’ll stick with this: Take a break when you need one. Don’t overload yourself. A few years ago, when Lindsay was going through legal and emotional issues, she continued to take jobs. After repeatedly not showing up for shoots and causing bad press, she was fired and essentially black-listed by Hollywood for a good amount of time.

If you feel overwhelmed, or just don’t know where you’re going, step back, reevaluate your career, and ask for help. Don’t be afraid to take a break. When you’re back on track, you’ll find something. It’ll probably be even better and more suited for you once you know what you are actually looking for.

Don’t talk badly about coworkers (or supervisors)

Office gossip is hard to avoid. That doesn’t mean you should partake. A good example is when Megan Fox expressed her opinion of Michael Bay’s directing skills publicly. She was promptly fired from Transformers 3, and will never work in one of his films again. Your experience might not be quite as dramatic, but it will definitely hinder your career. Keep quiet, discourage talk around you, and make sure you never criticize your coworkers to anybody but them or your supervisor (and then only in the most productive, professional way you can).

Be Proactive

From various celebrities we’ve learned that if you mess up, the best response is to tell somebody before it’s found out. That may mean setting a meeting with your supervisor or the person who was wronged. Explain how the mistake happened, and come up with a solution as quickly as possible. Do not let yourself get caught covering up a mistake.

Next time you’re reading the tabloids as a way to waste time, try to find something that can apply to your life. Don’t just get caught up in the drama; learn from it!

Read Megan’s other posts

Learning from Mistakes (aka: Insightful Moments)

By: Emily

Humans make mistakes. Unless you are an alien or a zombie or a creature in a human disguise, you have most likely said or done something you shouldn’t have at some point in your life. Mistakes can injure opportunities, damage relationships, and they can make you feel incompetent, but the most critical part of making them is to use them to your advantage. That’s right. That old mantra: Learn from your mistakes.

In the last few weeks or so, I have had some of these “insightful learning moments”, which is just a feel-good way of saying I made a lot of really stupid blunders. Granted, I am a perfectionist, and I am more acutely aware of my own failings than anyone else on this planet, but I will also be the first to turn all my less graceful, less intelligent moments into humbling and positive experiences.

Here’s a few things I have learned:

Don’t associate your name with bad work
Emails. Letters. Resumes. Internet “About Me” profiles. Take a second glance at everything you write and make sure it is well written. Don’t rely on spell check alone. Your name is tied to your work and every misspelling makes you less credible. If you expect someone to take the time to read it, take the time to craft it. Are you addressing the recipient in the correct way (Ms., Mrs., Mr., Dr., Professor or are you on a first name basis?), and are you absolutely certain of the gender of the receiver if you are using a gender-specific title? Take out the jokes and smiley faces, but be positive and genuine. With everything you post, send, and say, maintain a consistent and professional image across the board. It’s better to be overly formal than mistakenly casual.

Remember everybody’s name
At the beginning of this week, I called a coworker three different names before realizing all three of them were wrong. Talk about a bad Monday morning. Save yourself some embarrassment and get names down as fast as you can, first and last.  It’s the first personal thing someone tells you, so forgetting it may be sending a message that you find that person forgettable and unimportant. If you are the type of person who struggles with names, try creating associations and visuals in your head (Ex: Taylor looks like a runner and might be in Track). It might seem silly, but if you are a new employee and faced with the task of memorizing many names in a short amount of time, it works like a charm.

Don’t guess, know
Present yourself in the best positive light, but don’t pretend you’re an expert. If someone asks you a question, don’t guess. Tell them you’ll find the answer they’re looking for and get back to them as soon as possible. Be upfront about yourself and what you have to offer, and never craft a persona to please other people. Set aside pride and ask questions if you need clarification or are confused about what is expected of you. Pretending to be someone you’re not or to understand when you don’t will put you in some sticky situations.

Here’s a hypothetical scenario:

Boss: Hey Emily, are you a big football fan?
Emily: I watch… from time to time… man, those Vikings, are… sure something…
Boss: <insert anything football related>
Emily: ….um…. excuse me…(runs away)

Take time to reflect
How would you do things differently if you are faced with a similar situation in the future? Nobody likes dwelling on his or her own failings, but don’t skip over this part. If you need to apologize, think of what you will say in advance and say it to the people who need to hear it. Don’t blame, but take personal responsibility and assure them you will do better next time. After that, stop thinking, give yourself a clean slate, and don’t make the same mistake twice!

Of Possible Interest:

Read Emily’s other posts