Nervousness & Body Language

By: Emily

Communication is about sending, receiving and interpreting a message. Even before we begin speaking, we start the communication process with our bodies. Everything about our posture, our gestures, our energy, and our expressions sends information about us to others who assess that information either consciously or subconsciously. Everything we do and say changes the way the receiver responds to us, like a game of ping-pong.

We know body language plays an enormous role in first impressions. If an interviewee is tense and nervous during an interview, interviewers may find them defensive, distant or flustered. If, however, a person comes into an interview cool, calm and collected (even if they might not feel that way on the inside), their relaxed state will spread throughout the room. Interviewers will likewise feel comfortable and will be more able to picture working with the interviewee in the future. According to studies done on this subject, it takes a person only 30 seconds to capture enough data about another person to make a first impression. Other studies have shown that it is harder to overcome a bad first impression, than it is to loose someone’s good opinion after making a good first impression. If that is indeed the case, those first few seconds of meeting someone can determine a lot, so how do we make the most of it?

Body Language

It’s important to be aware of yourself. What are you like under pressure? What areas of your body do you naturally tense up? Before an interview check in with these places and give your body a face massage, shoulder rub and anything you need to loosen up. Invest that nervous tension into a focused, positive energy. Some people are afraid of being nervous and are positive that it will cause them embarrassment. Nervousness is not a bad thing when managed and directed in the right ways, it can give you an incredible energy boost and separate you from other competitors.

The part of your brain that causes emotions such as anxiety, anger or sadness is different than the part of the brain in charge of speech, problem solving and decision-making. Sometimes, when you are immersed in emotion you may find that you are unable to articulate what you are feeling in words or you might make impulsive decisions that you often come to regret later. That can be because the part of your brain that is in control of your emotions is more active than your frontal lobe, or more logical part of your brain. To be at your absolute best during an interview, you might need to find ways to engage your frontal lobe beforehand. This can help you get a better handle on your nerves. Sit down and do a random math problem. Think about different key points you would like to touch on in your interview. Avoid thoughts that engage the emotional part of your brain, such as dwelling on insecurities or anticipating the worst.

By considering the psychology behind your emotions and behaviors, you can gain some control over them. Tension caused by nervousness can sabotage the verbal and nonverbal messages you are trying to send to your interviewers. Before interviewing anywhere, I strongly recommend watching this TEDTalk by Amy Cuddy. Having studied the psychology of body language for several years she has some insightful information and advice.

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Art for a Living

By: Emily (an actual SFA major!)

Working in Career Services, I meet students from a variety of different majors. There are future educators, engineers, scientists, computer programmers, actuaries and businessmen and woman that come in for guidance and resume advice. Yet there is an unmistakable void that I have difficulty ignoring. Rarely do I get the chance to meet students that are pursuing art.

It isn’t all that surprising, really. People typically have a lot of advice for you when you tell them you are an art major. After disclosing your art major like an embarrassing secret to a roomful of political science microbiologists and corporate advertising actuaries, you are often met with the same question: what are you going to do with that? The answer is simple and yet makes us feel like silly children. It should be no surprise that you want to do art with your art major, but if you are anything like me, you list off your goals and accomplishments to make it seem as if you have a foolproof plan for life.

Many art students strive to be taken seriously, yet feel misunderstood and underestimated by people in other disciplines. It is stressful to consider future plans, so why would you willingly ask advice from someone who might laugh at your dreams and tell you that the chances of getting a job in your field are slim and your salary will be minimal?

Art for a living

You, my friends, are not exempt or excluded from the career support offered by Career Services. If you are considering a life in the arts, here are some things to ask yourself:

Are you a perfectionist?

Practice makes perfect, but if you are a perfectionist, you might have difficulty enjoying the muddy process of rehearsing. You might feel uncomfortable sharing your work with other people. You might spend hours doing touch ups and editing, but dread giving the final version of your manuscript away. When you finally reveal your work and get feedback from others, are you the kind of person who obsesses over criticism? There will be people that don’t like your work. You will get rejected more times than you can count. If you have difficulty handling feedback, you might run into challenges as an artist.

Do you like to take risks and experience change?

Sometimes you will be on cloud nine and everything will be wonderful. You’ll get hired to play a gig and actually get paid to do what you love. Then, in a blink of an eye, you’ll be looking for work and spiraling into a depression, wondering if your good days are behind you. With a life that can shift quickly from high to low extremes, it’s important to ask yourself: how much stability do I need? Will I need to teach on the side or work part-time? Do I consider change stressful or exciting?

Do you have skills that could provide you with an income?

What might be beneficial to learn in order to sell your art? Will you need to learn how to make an enticing website? Would it be useful to take classes outside of your major to learn how to write grants, market your product or manage your own small business? Making a living as a full-time artist is hard. There may be times in your life that you will need multiple day jobs in order to pay your rent. Taking time to learn other marketable skills can be a good idea. I have friends pursuing art that are also certified as yoga instructors, real estate agents, bartenders and ordained ministers. By becoming a jack-of-all-trades and building up your tool belt, you will become more versatile and better able to support yourself financially in difficult times.

Are you able to maintain relationships and ask for help?

With performing arts in particular, networking is essential. With so many talented performers auditioning for a limited amount of job opportunities, competition in these fields are steep. Sometimes who you know is just as important as what you know. Don’t wait for graduation to start networking! Start practicing by striking up conversations with classmates. Get to know your professors. You will find that many of them are an invaluable resource and usually want to help you get your foot in the door.

Above all else, remember that if you change your mind about pursuing a career as an artist, you can still be an artist. If you have an itch to create, then make time to incorporate art into your life.  Also remember that if you are an art major, Career Services is a great resource open to all students. Come and visit us sometime.

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Photo: Milwaukee Art Museum by Ellen Hatfield

Bucket List for a Well-Rounded Undergrad

By: Emily

Time flies….my graduation date is looming like a dark cloud in the distance….and I’m having a mid-undergrad crisis moment. Have you ever had one of those? It’s similar to a midlife crisis, except this level of anxiety is reserved specifically for undergraduates. There is simply too much to learn and accomplish in such a short period of time! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to leave UMD with any regrets. With only a year left to grow and expand as a college student, I compiled a bucket list for myself so I can prioritize what I want to give the most energy to. Here are some ideas if you want to make an Undergraduate Bucket List too!

Bucket List

1. Travel: Study / Intern / Volunteer Abroad

If you ever had any desire to go abroad, then you should do it. You can go for a few weeks out of the year on a winter break or May term trip, or go for an entire year or just a single semester. Try to keep an open mind, and don’t get dissuaded from travel just because of money. There are scholarships and financial aid you can apply for and programs vary in price, you just have to be willing to ask for guidance. Visit the UMD International Education Office website to look at different programs and make an appointment with an advisor to discuss possible options. Don’t feel like you have to commit to anything right away, just explore your options. If you are interested in working or finding an internship abroad, counselors at Career Services can help you get started with your search. GoingGlobal is a great way to view job listing and research different cultures and countries.

Note: Check out Ashley’s great post on GoingGlobal and follow the posts of our peer educator, Zach- he’s currently studying abroad in London!

2. Obtain an On-Campus Leadership Role

Refine your leadership skills and build up your resume! Trying on some different hats! Here are some ideas:

  • Teacher’s Assistant
  • Rock Star
  • Student Advisor / Peer Advisor
  • On Campus Job
  • Tutor
  • Tour Guide
  • Instructor of a RSOP fitness class
  • Captain of an intramural sport
  • President / Vice president / Secretary / Treasurer / Active team member of a club

3. Undergraduate Research Opportunity (UROP)

So you’re not going to believe me, but there is a way to research anything that your creative spirit yearns to know and actually get paid for it. For the artistically inclined, you can propose a creative project (write a play, create a film, or choreograph a dance) and get paid. Yes. This is actually a real thing that exists. The first step is to find a mentor, come up with an idea, and then write up a proposal. This is a competitive process, so make sure your proposal is well crafted. The deadlines for UROPs can be tricky because applying for the next semester happens during the middle of the current semester.

Note: Cody wrote a more in-depth post about the UROP, so if you’re interested, check it out!

4. Internship / Shadowing /Volunteer

Get some experience underneath your belt by finding an opportunity to be an intern, a volunteer or to shadow someone in a profession you’re interested in. Paid or unpaid, experience is experience, and it’s a wonderful resume builder. GoldPASS is good place to start if you are searching for internships  (http://goldpass.umn.edu/). Career Service provides regular workshops on how to find internship opportunities, so keep an eye on our events calendar! If you are interested in volunteering, the Office of Civic Engagement would be a fantastic resource for you.

Note: Cody wrote a great blog post about unpaid internships!

5. Work for The Basement and/or The Statesman

Whether you consider yourself a journalist or not, practicing your communication skills by getting involved in The Basement on KUMD or The Statesman could be a good move. You don’t have to participate as a DJ or be a writer to be involved. I have friends that take pictures for the newspaper, or participate by sorting through music for The Basement. There are multiple ways to contribute!

6. Join A Club / Intramural Sport

When will you have the chance to try slack lining or maple syruping or cosmic bouldering or scuba diving? It’s likely that this will be your only chance! Use it as a unique networking opportunity and meet people that are involved in different disciplines and areas of study.

Recreational Sports Outdoor Program (RSOP) – Intramurals

Student Organizations

Other Ideas for Undergraduate Students at UMD:

  • Be Civically Engaged by connecting with the Civic Engagement Center
  • Attend a play and dance concert
  • Listen to music in the Webber Music Hall
  • Visit the Multicultural Center
  • Go into the Tweed Museum
  • Take an RSOP class

Creating a bucket list prioritizes your time and helps you make career moves that expand you as an individual. Allow yourself to experience new things so you don’t miss out on the discovery of your real passion. Although joining a club and interacting with strangers can be a little uncomfortable, the more you practice, the easier it will become. Being able to communicate and work with people of different backgrounds and personalities is an invaluable skill out in the “real world.” By creating goals and making the most of your time here, you’ll become a well-rounded candidate with a wide assortment of skills that employers will find impossible to ignore.

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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:

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Strategic by Surprise

By: Emily

This year I took the StrengthsQuest assessment through Career & Internship Services and when I received my results, I thought there was a mistake. “Strategic” was my number one strength, and yet, I had never considered myself much of a planner. When I first pictured a person with this strength, I immediately thought of someone who was organized, focused on long-range goals and who knew everything from what career they wanted to have, to what they were going to cook for supper. This strategic person was someone who was always a step ahead of the game. And this person was clearly not a person like me, because I am usually a few steps behind and racing wildly to catch up.  Even though my immediate response to this strength was bewilderment, I took a deeper look and was surprised to find that I truly do identify with “strategic”.

Strategic

From a definition I found on the StrengthsQuest website, the strategic theme means that you are able to see patterns, evaluate possible paths and proceed forward with confidence after having thoroughly considered all your options. Although making important decisions is usually a strenuous and drawn out task for me, it is only difficult because I look carefully at all the possible consequences of my choices before I make them.

If you have the Strategic strength, there are a few ways you can build on your natural gift:

Brainstorm

If you are anything like me, you might thrive on brainstorming, but try not to overwhelm people with a list of options.  Sometimes, when working in groups, people are looking for efficient and focused decision-making and would like to settle on a topic quickly instead of weighing all the possibilities. So if you catch wind of a project looming in the distance, it might be helpful for you to let your imagination run wild and spend time narrowing down your ideas before introducing them to a group.

Discover Patterns

If you have this strength you often have a knack for picking out patterns, whether it is recurring outcomes from a past experience or from observation. Indulge that natural tendency and look at the big picture more often. If you find that certain strategies succeed time and time again whereas others tend to fail, let that knowledge guide your decision making.

Troubleshoot

My family might call me a worrywart, but there have been times when I have been able to foresee problems and was ready to solve them before they even happened. Keep in mind that in the long run, strategic people are very efficient with their time, because they avoid pitfalls and wrong turns by looking at situations from multiple perspectives. Allow yourself to predict the possible challenges of a project, but don’t worry too much! Being stressed out can destroy your creativity and make you unproductive. You will need all those creative juices flowing to be an effective problem solver.

Boldly Declare A New Way

Some people get stuck in tradition and how things have always been before. Strategic people may be able to shed light on an alternative possibility that people have never considered. Although change and new ideas are often met with resistance, if you are a strategic person, odds are you have carefully weighed the pros and cons. Practice articulating your ideas to others and don’t hide the amount of consideration you have given them. Make sure to explain your reasoning. You are thorough and thoughtful, so believe in your ideas! Having faith in your ideas will persuade others to have faith in them too.

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An Undercover Undecided: Tips on Being A Flip-Flopper

By: Emily

I have always been slightly envious of those who have a clear vision of the career path they want to pursue. I have never had that. Not because I am not exploring the possibilities, not because I am too picky, and definitely not for lack of passion. My problem is that I am curious and passionate about a great many things. I also have a chronic problem, called indecisiveness.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve considered changing my major, adding a double major, adding a minor (or dropping out of school entirely to become a full-time hippie/circus performer/travel writer) I would be a ridiculously wealthy woman.

Since pharmacies have not yet come out with a medication that cures indecisiveness, I have been self-labeled as an “Undercover Undecided” for two years. An “Undercover Undecided” is a term I made up for people who are pursuing a degree they are uncertain of. The term is especially fun because it can make you feel like a secret agent and can also be used as a tongue twister if you’re bored.

Undercover Undecided: Tips on Being a Flip-Flopper

Being an “Undercover Undecided” is not always a comfortable place to be, but I promise you are not alone. Here are some things I learned when I decided to change my major:

If you don’t love it now, you will hate it later
Don’t leave here with regrets. Save yourself some money, time, and energy by figuring out what you enjoy and what you are good at. It’s not too late, even if you are a junior or senior. You might have to fast track, add another semester or even a year, but it will be better for you in the long run. Take an interest inventory at Career & Internship Services and discuss your results with a career counselor.

Forget other peoples’ expectations
Your family, friends, and academic advisors will always have advice and recommendations, but it’s your life to live. Expectations can box you in and make you feel trapped, and that feeling of helplessness is only an illusion. Trust your instincts more than advice. Be firm but gentle with the advice-givers in your life, they usually have good intentions.

Don’t let pride get the best of you.
It’s easy to get caught up with the idea of certain titles or the prestige associated with particular professions. You might like the idea of being an attorney or a freelance writer, but dig a little deeper and consider the lifestyle you are committing yourself to. Force yourself to consider the gritty, more unpleasant parts of the job and see if the bad outweighs the good. For more insight, set up an informational interview or shadow someone in the field.

Learning doesn’t go to waste
It’s difficult to work hard for something and then decide to let it go. If you switch majors you may regret the time you “wasted” learning things you may no longer consider relevant to your new field. It’s okay to be well-rounded, that’s why you are getting a liberal arts education. Your knowledge in two fields of study could be preparing you for an opportunity you never knew existed.

Take a Risk
Don’t think yourself out of it. Are you having more bad days than good days? Do you find fulfillment doing what you’re doing?  If you have reoccurring doubts, you might need to make a change for the better. Try taking a class or joining a club that you think would be interesting. Take charge of your education. The longer you wait, the harder it will be.

If you think you might be an “Undercover Undecided” here are some helpful tools:

  • What Can I Do with this Major? – this is a great link found on the Career Services page and helps you compare possible career paths.
  • APAS – Go to APAS and generate a “What if?”  You can select different majors and minors and see the requirements.
  • Graduation Planner – Create a different plan, check out classes required for an alternative major – do they seem interesting?
  • Graduate Follow-Up Report – Check out what recent graduates from UMD are doing with certain majors. Are they finding employment in their field? Can you picture yourself working for the organizations they are working for?
  • Come to Career & Internship Services – Create a pros and cons list and come talk to a Career Counselor about it. There are personality and interest assessments that can pinpoint your strengths and inform you on careers you never considered.

Wrap up thought: If you choose the “wrong” major, don’t worry! You still have a college degree! There are LOTS of people doing things that aren’t related to their major. If you find a new interest, try to find opportunities to learn all you can from people that know more than you and gain some new experiences!

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Working with Nonprofit Organizations

By: Emily

Have you ever considered working for a nonprofit organization? Although students interested in human service professions gravitate towards nonprofits, there are prospects for a variety of majors and skill sets. Seeking an internship or volunteering with a nonprofit organization is an excellent way to gain some experience and explore what is also known as the 3rd sector. I am currently taking an Internship Prep class and am enthusiastic about seeking a formal internship this semester. While searching for possible sites, it became clear to me that I didn’t know enough about nonprofits and how they function.

So, I did some research and here’s what I learned:

What are nonprofits?

Nonprofits are focused on a mission or purpose rather than making a profit. If recognized as “public charities” they are often not required to pay taxes, but still face the challenge of sustaining themselves financially by fundraising and securing grants. If the organization makes a surplus, that profit goes into providing more services or improving the services already provided. They often work in collaboration with governmental and for-profit organizations.

How is working with a nonprofit different than working with a for-profit organization?

There are a few pros and cons to consider if you are considering seeking employment with a nonprofit:

Pros:

  • The knowledge that your work makes a difference in the lives of others.
  • Working alongside people who are passionate and enthusiastic.
  • Lack of a hierarchy: the work environment of these organizations can be more team orientated. Coworkers may feel more like family.
  • New ideas are often welcomed because flexible and creative problem solving is required for daily challenges (such as raising funds to sustain the organization).

Cons:

  • Nonprofits may lack in resources and materials.
  • May have loosely defined or ambiguous job responsibilities.
  • Can be understaffed, which can lead to burn out.
  • May pay less than a for-profit organization.

Nonprofit hints

If you’re interested in the 3rd sector, how do you get started?

Whether you’re looking for an internship, a volunteering opportunity or a job here are some helpful hints:

1. Do your research and see what’s out there. There are many qualities, which can make you attractive to nonprofit employers. Number one? Being passionate about their mission. Although internships look nice on a resume, I wouldn’t recommend pursuing one for that purpose alone. Really think about the setting and the population of people you’d like to work with. There are many resources available to you!  If you are a student at UMD come and visit us at Career & Internship Services in Solon Campus Center (the Wedge)! There are plenty of great books dedicated to this subject and provide information about a variety of nonprofits and their mission statements. You can also chat with a career counselor about your interest in working with nonprofits. The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits is also a great resource to learn more about the nonprofit sector specifically in Minnesota.

2. Volunteer at an organization who has a mission you are invested in personally. Volunteers are critical to the day-to-day operation of most of these organizations. Volunteering can provide a chance to network and determine whether or not you’d like to seek internship or employment opportunities in the future. If you are a full-time student, you may be a little wary of committing too much of your time and energy into volunteering, but don’t worry! By doing a little research in advance, you can find the right amount of commitment without overloading your schedule.

3. Be persistent in your pursuit. Unless it’s an organization like the American Red Cross or YMCA, 74% of these nonprofits are small organizations and often don’t have employees assigned to Human Resources. That means, the person who is looking over your resume or volunteer application probably has lots of other stuff to do and it is easy for you to get lost in the shuffle. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t immediately get a reply. Take initiative. Call. Visit. Inquire.

Be bold and your efforts will be rewarded!

Of Possible Interest: 

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