Brutal Honesty

By: Kirsi

Calling someone out for not contributing during a group project is exceedingly easier than owning up to your own shortcomings. Professors have twisted humor to subject students to group projects, especially when group members are picked at random. “As if I will ever be drop-kicked into a situation involving a group of strangers working to meet a common goal and a lofty deadline?!” WRONG. (Maybe some wisdom was acquired when they earned that Ph.D.) In the work force, there is life after college, you may find yourself in a group project type scenario again. Get comfortable with the uneasiness of cat herding, negotiating, and communicating because it’s not getting any easier.

View of earth from space

I have participated in a handful of internships, co-ops, and summer jobs during my time at UMD. At the conclusion of each experience, I have a false sense of accomplishment that, “I cannot possibly learn more than I already have this summer!” Without failure, every summer, I am steamrolled by a new life lesson. Fall 2017 I learned about adaptability when my co-op was delayed by Hurricane Harvey and how to do more than your assigned project summer of 2016. This past summer I was assigned to a sort of group project, but a group project with so many people that some of the participants weren’t even stationed on Earth. While Co-Oping with the International Space Station‘s Mission Control this summer I learned about communication, more specifically brutal honesty. Embarrassingly, I learned how to be the shameful sap who owns up for not getting their work done in a group project.

People sitting at big desks with many computer screens

Sitting console in International Space Station Mission Control.

Operating a space station requires trusting a lot of people to contribute their parts. Space travel, humanity’s greatest group project. When someone doesn’t contribute to a college group project your group’s grade suffers, or at least the slacker’s grade does. When someone doesn’t contribute to flying the Space Station worse things happen; maybe a light bulb isn’t replaced, maybe something gets thrown away that shouldn’t, or maybe the station deorbits? Mission Control has a reliable way of reassigning responsibilities if someone is unable to get the job done it is handed off to someone else. The key to reassigning work is letting your flight team lead know you can’t complete the work.

This summer I failed to communicate that I could not get one of my tasks done. Fortunately, it was not a task involved with real-time space operations. Yet, it was a task assigned to me that my mentors expected me to complete. Although my reasons for not getting it done were very valid, fearing to admit the brutal honesty that I could not get it done prevented my mentors from receiving the information they needed. If I had owned up to not being able to complete a project sooner it could have been assigned to a different intern. Unfortunately, the task simply didn’t get done at all.

At the conclusion of my Mission Control Co-Op I asked, “what more is there to learn?” At least I am equipped with the confidence that brutal honesty is better than hiding a failure. Don’t be THAT PERSON in your group projects of life.

Read Kirsi’s other posts

Photo Sources: Unsplash | NASA; Kirsi

 

Tips From Job Fair Recruiters

By: Kirsi

Typically I attend a job fair in a tizzy to find a summer internship. With a summer position already locked down, I was able to navigate the job fair in a calmer manner and get a unique perspective. At UMD’s E-Fest Job & Internship Fair, I asked recruiters from various engineering and tech companies for advice for students attending job fairs. They shared wisdom about communicating with recruiters and how to polish your resume.

layered pieces of white paper with the large text of "Tips from job fair recruiters"

Recruiter Communication Tips from Employers

Maintain good posture. Body language makes a difference.

Know why you are interested in the company. Do your research. Avoid canned compliments such as, “I’ve heard good things about you.”

Approach the employers like you are having a conversation rather than giving a speech.

Let your interests and personality shine. We look for the whole person.

Talk with companies even if you are not sure if they have any openings for your major. You may be surprised about what they need and what you can offer them.

Prepare an elevator speech. Give your name, major, what position you are looking for, and why you are interested in the organization.

Several students walking around dressed professionally

Resume Tips from Employers

Layout your resume in an organized chronological manner. Make your major clear on your resume.

Present your resume confidently when you introduce yourself. Don’t hide it!

Share your experiences effectively without being too wordy.

Show what clubs you got involved in on your resume. It helps to demonstrate that you have initiative and hands-on experience.

Of Possible Interest:

Read Kirsi’s other posts

Graphic Source: Unsplash | Brandi Redd
Photo Source: UMD Career & Internship Services

What’s a Co-Op & How Do I Get One?

By: Kirsi

Co-Op: Short for Cooperative Opportunity. An internship is a one semester arrangement to work with an organization. A Co-Op is a multi-semester arrangement to work at an organization often leading to full-time employment upon successful completion. Both opportunities allow students to complete meaningful work, learn more skills related to their major and help push the organization forward.

Venn Diagram of internship and co-op

Diagram of the similarities and differences of an internship and Co-Op.

What Is A Co-Op?

No matter if you get an internship or a Co-Op you will know that you are doing meaningful work that pushes the organization’s efforts forward while expanding your knowledge in your major. The biggest way a Co-Op, differs from an internship is the agreement you make with the organization to work several semesters and the huge commitment the organization is making for you. Co-Ops are available for a number of majors.

I Co-Op with NASA’s Johnson Space Center so I am a little biased when it comes to this Co-Op topic. At NASA Johnson, they expect students to complete three work tours which, at the minimum, include one long semester and two summers before your last year of college. You can stack on as many work tours as you and your organization are comfortable with – causing your four-year graduation plan to be extended. A Co-Op is typically an organization’s pipeline for hiring early career candidates. Your Co-Op experience is like a multi-semester interview where the organization gets to know you and you get to know the organization. Since you are expected to have more than one work tour your projects may be related, leading to a long-term project. Often, Co-Ops are treated like full-timers with health, life, travel, sick leave, annual leave and retirement benefits… well, your hourly pay will be lower than full-timers because you haven’t graduated yet.

screenshot of how a co-op looks on a transcript

Screen shot of a Co-Op experience on a UMD transcript.

I’m going to expand more on the “extending graduation” aspect because that sounds kinda spooky to us folks who are avoiding debt and eager to get out of school. Your engineering department (or whatever department) likely offers a credit for Co-Ops if you work during a fall or spring semester. This holds your place here at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), you can maintain full-time student status (12 credits) thus maintaining financial aid and letting you check that box on the FAFSA. It shows up on your transcript as one credit, like the image above, but shows up at 12 credits for all the Financial Aid Staff. Other colleges may handle your absence due to the Co-Op differently than UMD. Personally, I make money at NASA and spend it on UMD the next semester which prevents me from gaining debt. I flip flop between semesters at UMD and NASA. For example, I was in Texas Fall 2015, at UMD in Spring 2016, in Texas this Summer 2016, and now at UMD.

Kirsi at her co-op at NASA Johnson Space Center

Working on a fluid system for a Co-Op project at NASA Johnson.

How Do I Get One?

So a Co-Op gig sounds pretty sweet huh? Well, excellent ways to score a Co-Op include attending UMD-hosted job and internship fairs and other career fairs hosted by the University of Minnesota. Before the fair do your research on GoldPASS so you know who is going to be there and who to ask about Co-Op opportunities. Some companies only hire upperclassmen Co-Ops but I have seen exceptions in the past for folks with outstanding experience in high school or early college, so I think it is still worth asking and sharing your resume. When you talk with an employer offering Co-Ops at a job fair it would be wise to ask:

  • How does your Co-Op program differ from your internship program?
  • What is the typical journey of a Co-Op?
  • What projects to Co-Ops work on?
  • How can I apply for your Co-Op program, any tips?”

If you want to pursue a company not attending a U of MN system fair do research on LinkedIn, GoldPASS or that perspective company’s website. On the LinkedIn networking site if you simply search “Co-Op,” up will pop pages and pages of Co-Ops! Government Co-Ops have a very specific method of applying on USA Jobs and if you need help with that I have written previous blog posts specifically on that topic. If you want to pursue a company not attending a U of MN system fair and you want to connect with them in person tech conferences and hackathons. Your department may even fund you if you ask nicely.

Get out and get yourself a Co-Op!

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Kirsi’s other posts

Photo & graphic by Kirsi.

Internships – Beyond Your Project

By: Kirsi

Intern beyond project

Source: Unsplash | Jeremy Thomas

Working_On_Project

Recording data from my summer Co-Op project.

At the beginning of the summer I wrote a post about how to make the most out of your summer career experience expanding on getting to know your workplace before you get there, setting goals related to your project and establishing good habits. These points focus primarily on you growing your career experience and your project assigned by your department. The organization where you are interning/ Co-Oping will likely host other students, be comprised of other departments and be one of several locations around the nation or even world. Connecting with these three aspects will help you grow more in your career and also help you stand out beyond your project’s success. In this post I will talk about connecting with fellow Coterns (slang for Co-Ops and interns), connecting with your organization and connecting with your organization’s locations around the world.

How_To_Resume

I present about tips on writing a resume. Photo by NASA Cotern.

Connect with Fellow Coterns

This summer I Co-Oped at NASA Johnson Space Center which hosted over 100 interns and over 25 Co-Ops. Johnson has a unique Cotern group that autonomously organizes itself into committees that are either professional development focused or social networking focused. Every other week these committees take turns presenting about NASA sports league competitions, filming times for the student video, upcoming lectures by NASA leaders and volunteering opportunities. Depending on your company’s size similar professional and social committees may exist, otherwise, you can start your own! This summer fellow Coterns and I hosted the Professional Development Committee. We held a workshop on resumes and cover letters, a workshop on LinkedIn and networking, and there were many Ted Talk viewings during lunch. To get an audience we bribed Coterns with lemonade, doughnuts, and cookies. If you are not confident in giving workshops on a professional development aspect inviting Coterns to view Ted Talks during lunch with discussion after is an awesome way to provide helpful content without being an expert.

Ellen_Ochoa_Mark_Geyer_Coffee2

Coffee with NASA Johnson Center and Deputy Directors. Photo by NASA.

Connect with the Organization

Randomly, I was selected among Coterns, employees, and NASA contractors to have coffee with Johnson Center Director Ellen Ochoa and Deputy Director Mark Geyer. Above I am pictured to the left of Ochoa in a red blazer and I look pretty serious writing notes. This was an awesome opportunity to learn about the Directors’ vision for NASA’s future, hear other departments’ concerns and represent Coterns by sharing a student point of view. There is no need to wait for an invitation to coffee to learn more about your organization. Keep an eye on when “All Hands” meetings are held (updates on department and organization wide progress), mission/ new product debriefs, and department open houses. Ask your mentor what other departments work on projects you may be interested in and ask about getting in touch with them. Ask a fellow Cotern about their department and ask them to give you a tour of their workplace in return for a tour of your lab/workspace. Ask and you shall receive.

NASA_Michoud_Tour

Tram tour through NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility.

Connect with Other Organization Locations

NASA Johnson, although known for the Apollo 13 “Houston, we’ve had a problem“, is not the only NASA Center. I led a group of students in biweekly video chats with some of our sister NASA Centers – Glenn, Goddard, Kennedy, Langley, and Stennis. Connecting with the other locations of your organization is valuable because you are likely collaborating on different aspects of the same projects. Johnson Coterns traveled to New Orleans to meet with Stennis Coterns, tour their site, and tour the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility where Space Launch System is being built. Getting to know Coterns from other locations is an opportunity to meet students with similar interests, exposes you to other places you may like to intern next, and contributes to the cohesiveness of the whole organization. Consider taking a weekend trip to another location of your organization (like its headquarters) or host another group at your location. If a weekend trip is logistically not possible consider Skype meetings with sister location Coterns.

Networking_Workshop

Fellow Co-Op Adam Bass presenting about networking.

While your project’s success should be the priority of your internship/ Co-Op making time for connecting with fellow Coterns, the organization and other locations can help you grow in your career.

Of Possible Interest

Read Kirsi’s other posts
All photos are Kirsi’s unless otherwise designated.

Make the Most Out of Your Summer Career Experience

By: Kirsi

Summer Career Exp

Photo source: Unsplash | Vladimir Kudinov

From internship to summer job to Co-Op there are ways you can get more out of your experience with just a little extra effort.

Do Research

Before diving into your summer career opportunity it is wise to do some research on the company you will be working with an the position. For example, if you scored a position as a Design Intern at the new maurices headquarters downtown read into what some of maurices’ corporate goals and what a designer does. Using LinkedIn, you can connect with past and current employees with the same position. While guided imagery may seems cheesy simply visualizing yourself working in your new position can help get your prepared.

Prior to starting a internship or Co-Op it is common to get in touch with your designated mentor (if you have one). You can talk about what projects you will be working on over the summer and how you can be ready the first day. Your mentor may have suggestions on reading, training, or project-prep you can do ahead of time. If you are not assigned a mentor before your first day find one once you start! Mentors can give you feedback on your work, answer questions you may have about professionalism, and introduce you to other employees working on similar things.

mission_control_work

Sitting with PLUTO (Plug-in Port Utilization Officer) in Mission Control logging Extra Vehicular Activity tasks. Photo by NASA.

Set Goals

There are goals to be reached beyond getting discipline related experience and a project done over the summer.

Likely you are surrounded by professionals working on things related to what you are interested in for a future career. Make it a goal to interview folks around the organization. Ask about how they got started, why they are interested in their work, and a rewarding challenge they have tackled in their career. Don’t be afraid to ask management about their work or to shadow them for a day. While Co-Oping at NASA Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control I was challenged to meet and shadow with four or more people in Mission Operations. I learned about what it takes to send a device to space, watched astronauts receive training, and even sat in Mission Control.

end_of_summer_2013_presentation

Uh oh, I was wearing khakis during an exit presentation! I didn’t know better back then.
Giving an exit pitch about work on a Solar Array Regulator circuit at NASA Glenn Research Center Summer 2013.

Another good goal is to make a meaningful contribution to the organization and share it with your mentors. The project or job pre-established before your first day may already contribute to the organization meaningfully. If you feel your first assigned task is monotonous it may simply be a test of trust, your work ethic, and if you can keep a positive attitude. It’s your job to communicate either through an exit pitch or presentation established by you how your work has been meaningful. A past Google Intern, Jon Youshaei, wrote a TIME article “10 Ways to Maximize Your Summer Internship” listing unique ways to connect with management. Youshaei suggests sending weekly recap emails to your manager, asking senior executives about having a “roundtable chat” or “lunch and learn”, and pitching new project ideas.

IMG_2563

Journal entries from my internship experiences.

Keep a blog or journal about your career experience! Never thought you would go back to your diary writing days? Actually, writing about your work day is a good way to digest everything that has happened, be thankful about all the good, and ruminate about ways you can improve. I have kept written journals and an online blog accounting internship, Co-Op, and tech related experiences. It was really helpful to look back to what I worked on when putting together my exit presentation!

Make it a goal to grow during your experience. Ask for and be accepting of feedback. Ask for feedback weekly or as you get things accomplished. Then apply the feedback in visible ways. Ways you can ask for feedback include; “How are ways I can improve my XXXX project?”, “How are ways I can become more professional?, or simply “How do you think I am doing?” Your organization may already have a student performance evaluation system where your work is reviewed throughout the summer.

dress_well

Photo source Olu Eletu | Unsplash

Establish Good Habits

A summer career opportunity is much like a summer long interview for a possible full time position therefore creating good habits is key to a good impression. CNBC shared “10 tips for your summer internship” that suggested interns find ways to go above and beyond, honor your word and your work, and maintain a strong work ethic. Below are some additional goals to consider.

  • Dress For Success – In the world of engineering I see a lot of folks in khakis. While that is accepted in the work place I make it my goal to dress as nice as my team lead or manager. How you dress shows how serious you are about your work. Be careful to dress work appropriate, like closed toed shoes in a lab or layers if the temperature fluctuates. This doesn’t mean that a tux or pearls is necessary but looking sharp does not hurt.
  • Arrive Punctually – Be on time! Think you can sneak in at 8:10 am? Nope, people are watching and judging. Consistently arriving on time, dressed, fed, and ready to go at the start of your work day or even a few minutes early shows that you are prepared for the work day. Carrying this habit for on time arrival at meetings is key too.
  • Be Thankful – Your level of professionalism can be measured in your respect for others and how you show thanks. If a mentor or peer has helped you out send a quick thanks email. At the end of your summer experience leaving a hand written thank you can mean a lot.

Good luck your summer career experience, learn lots and have fun!

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Kirsi’s other posts