When Good Things Have to End

By: Kirsi

Way back in January 2016 I started my work study position as a Peer Educator in UMD’s Career and Internship Services (C&IS). The semester before, I was looking for a work study position that would give me a break from my technical work and saw a Tweet about the Peer Educator position. Seven semesters, four years, and 2000+ resumes later, I am wrapping up my time as a Peer this semester. I have completed a lot, learned a lot, and shaped my future while working in C&IS.

Kirsi & Ellen filming for Love Your Major.

What I Did
One of my greatest weaknesses is making assumptions. I assumed that all I would do as a Peer Educator is review resumes and do homework when there was no resumes to review. Reality check, there is almost always resumes to be reviewed; dropped off, submitted on GoldPASS, collected from classes, or brought by students during drop-ins. If there was not a resume to review, C&IS puts Peers to work on projects – to advance the office’s mission, to grow your strengths, and match your interests. 

My favorite project I worked on as a Peer was implementing, “Love Your Major,” a retention initiative made possible by a grant from Strategic Enrollment Management. I challenged fellow students with the question, “Should I choose, change, or embrace your major?” The goal of Love Your Major was to encourage students to think about their major over the summer, so they could hit the ground running in the fall. The target audience was all returning students who would start their sophomore year fall 2017. Students received information about how to choose, change or embrace their major by mail, email, and social media. I hosted weekly interactive Facebook Live events. I interviewed fellow peer educators on how they choose their majors, described how Career & Internship Services can help students pick their major, hosted Q&As with career counselors, and gave an office tour of Career & Internship Services. It was extremely fun to mix web design with social media, with career outreach.

C&IS carefully collects data on where UMD alumni work six months to a year after graduation. I have edited, modified, and updated almost every webpage related to that data to insure that the public has the most accurate information. Learning about where alumni from each major go after graduating was interesting and I encourage everyone to take a look at that data.

letterboard down on table with letters everywhere
Sometimes, things have to get knocked down & put back together.

What I Learned
During my first year as a STEM major, I held a toxic elitist view on what majors are and are not meaningful. After working with Peers of other majors, learning about what alumni from other majors do after graduating, and hearing goals from students of other majors my mind was opened and changed. It was fascinating to learn the goals of each collegiate unit on campus, learn about each major, and hear about students’ career aspirations during resume reviews. I am thankful for how fun, cool, and supportive all of the fellow Peers I have worked with are! Enjoyment in office and extracurricularly. 

I had a morale break down one semester not far from graduation. I wanted to drop one of my majors, petition out of engineering senior design, overload a semester with classes, move to Arizona, and work at Taco Bell. I am not exaggerating, this is simply what I wanted, and I was serious about it. Fortunately, the C&IS work environment of being submerged in a sea of counselors snuffs out crises quickly. I am completing both majors (in less than three weeks), staying in Duluth until I do, and had an extremely positive senior design experience. I am thankful for C&IS’ supportive senior staff!

2019 calendar on wall
Counting down to graduation.

What I’m Doing Next
Early this winter I will be working full-time at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. This has been a multi-year long journey and still feels unreal. Our Peer supervisor suggests that working at NASA will feel real once I have been their longer than my longest Co-Op stint. In the far future I can see myself continuing my career in space exploration, becoming a K-5 teacher, and/or intentionally working at Taco Bell. I am confident about my future because of all of the love and support C&IS has shared with me.

Read Kirsi’s other posts

Photo source: Kirsi

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener, But You Should Check Anyway

By: Kirsi

image: green grass growing
Text: the grass isn't always greener, but you should check anyway

I thought I had my post-college life figured out. This summer I received a verbal job offer, determined a location to work, and established a network of friendly coworkers. For seven internship/Co-Op tours, I got to know this job site and found work there that best fit my interests. Out of nowhere I was contacted by a different center of the same organization. They offered a similar job position in an extremely different environment and work culture. I have made a binding offer acceptance with one of these two jobs! Here is how I worked through my dilemma: 

basket of pens and pencils with one pencil on table beside basket.

This basket of writing utensils is all possible jobs I can pick from. The pencil is the first job offer I received at the place I am most familiar with. The pencil is sturdy, predictable, and perfectly fine. I am so happy with the pencil I found I do not feel the need to try any of the other writing utensils.

Basket of pens and pencils with a pen and pencil on table beside the basket.

Out of the blue, a multicolor retractable pen gets chucked at my face. Unexpectedly, I experienced an “ooh something shiny” moment. This pen is the coolest and I can’t believe I was happy with a pencil. Suddenly the new opportunity seemed to be the best opportunity – but I wasn’t sure why and if that was true.

My Worries

  • Was the appeal of my well known option only more attractive because it was a safe? I was not sure if this was true or not, but I was aware familiarity can be a fallacy while determining what is best.
  • FOMO (fear of missing out) – I wanted to be sure I chose to work where I would be useful and where there were the most projects.
  • Will I enjoy life outside of work at xyz location?
  • Will where I work value me and assign me projects beyond busy work?

How I Explored The Options

  • I talked to trusted advisors and mentors about what my options were and what questions I should ask each job site.
  • I evaluated my values I want to practice at work, in personal life, and hobbies.
  • I imagined in more detail what my day to day would look like at each job.

and most importantly….

  • I interviewed and toured onsite at the new job offer. 

Touring the site of the new job offer was invaluable. Every worry, preconceived notion, rumor, and assumption melted away. I felt I gathered enough information to feel confident about making a decision. I walked around the location, drove around the area, tried food nearby, shopped in a grocery store nearby, and spoke with prospective supervisors and team members.

After a lot of thought, reflection, and advisement I accepted the first job site’s offer. Ultimately, I made this choice because I found the work at the first job site most interesting. I feel self-assured that the decision I made was truly mine and not influenced by anyone or force with bias.

Of Possible Interest
UMD Health Services & Career & Internship Services – chatting with a mental health or career counselor can be a great way to help with the decision-making process
The Basics of Salary Negotiation
How to Turn Down a Job Offer

Read Kirsi’s other posts

Photo Sources: Unsplash | Chang Qing & Kirsi

Questions You Can Ask After an Interview That are Actually Good

By: Kirsi

The hardest part of an interview may be the dreaded, “Do you have any questions?” Interviewees may use this question to learn logistical information like; “when can I expect to hear from you?” Beyond logistical questions an interviewee can use questions to determine if an organization is a good fit. Turn the tables, the organization can now be interviewed about their qualifications.

student talking with recruiter at job fair
Kirsi chatting with an employer at the E-Fest Job & Internship Fair.

Questions To Ask About The Supervisor
What is your supervisor style?
Are you hands off? Their answer could allude to their check in/ monitoring frequency.
Do you like to stay involved with projects? Watch for warning signs of micromanagement.
What got you interested in the organization/ position?
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
What do you find valuable in your work here?

Questions To Ask About Your Position
What are the duties day to day for this position?
What are some projects employees completed in this position?
What is the workload of this position?
Why is there an opening in this position? What is the turnover? This may help identify red flags about unrealistic expectations by the employer.
What does it take to be successful at this position?
Why is this position important for your company? Could help you determine if you help advance company goals or if it is simply busy work.

Questions About The Workplace
What is the environment/ work culture like at xyz organization?
Is overtime expected/ the norm for employees?
How is life balance/ work+life balance achieved here?
Does this organization feel more like a government, private industry, academic, or startup setting?  
Do employees feel tied to the organization’s missions and feel fulfilled by their contributions?  
Is the work pace slow enough/ fast enough?  

Of Possible Interest:
Interviewing – all our blog posts on the topic
Interview Like a Pro – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Senior Design: More Than A Class

By: Kirsi

Kirsi holding the field operator's sensor.
Me holding the field operator’s sensor.
Pointing a stealth camera at a circuit.

I didn’t want to take senior design (SD). I tried to get out of it two times. I have completed plenty of technical paid internships since high school. Why do I have to take SD? What do I possibly have left to learn?

Image: programming code on a computer screen
Text: Skills learned in senior design

With a closed mind opened, I was ecstatic to find SD was exactly what I hoped college would be when I applied six years ago. Our SD team competed in the Air Force Research Lab Design Challenge. We built a two user system that helps first responders navigate Amber Alerts, rubble searches, and active threats. Our system can identify objects of interest through cinder block, drywall, multiple rooms, and car trunks. You can watch a demo video of the system, all built at UMD by students! SD has been a huge opportunity for me to grow my soft and technical skills.

Display screen of the system showing data from four sensors
Display of the system showing data from our four sensors.

What You Will Learn In Senior Design:
A major experience missed by only interning in the professional world is being challenged improve communication techniques. In an internship you learn the ropes of reporting achievements, asking questions, and forming a consistent path of communication. This is more procedure than an art. Management, mentors, and peers who you interface with at internships are usually seasoned leaders and communicators. Student peers? Sometimes, not so much. To no fault of their own. Raw inexperience. This required compensation I did not expect and revealed major communication flaws I have.

Leading
Being a leader means self-drive, delegating tasks to others, and people wrangling. Part of leadership on a SD team simply comes from being there for many hours, being there when things happened, something that couldn’t be scheduled. Because of my time commitment, people asked me details about the project and next steps. Ultimately, I started delegating and prioritizing tasks due to this informal leadership promotion.

Mediating
It was a bit challenging to look past how someone was communicating, shed emotional charge, and focus on what the concern or question was. I had to learn to look past communication styles, meet peers where they were, and come up with a way to move forward. This required me to make sure my concerns or points did not come with any baggage.

Team giving a presenation
Our team presenting at the competition.

Reviewing
What is the point of making something cool if its importance can’t be described? I had to learn how to communicate our accomplishments to operators who may use our equipment in the future. I looked over and presented materials and made sure we were using understandable language.

Designing
The system we were building was for first responders, therefore, we met with law enforcement from the community for design and usability feedback. We met with police officers to attend SWAT training to understand how they would be responding to threats and what their priorities were. Throughout development, we invited first responders to our labs, put our devices in their hands to use, and asked for feedback on how to make things more user friendly. Additionally, I met with a graphic design major to make sure that data was clearly presented to operators.

I am excited to report to that our SD team won the competition bringing the gold home to UMD! I am honored to be a part of this team and thankful to have such a positive experience! I highly recommend making the most of your senior design!

Of Possible Interest:
Building Your Resume – all our blog posts on the topic
Boost Your Career in College – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Kirsi’s other posts

Photo Source: Kirsi & Unsplash | Markus Spiske

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

Find Your Fit

By: Kirsi

If you ask a career counselor how to pick the right major, internship, or career path you will likely be directed to assessments. These are quizzes that help you determine your strengths, values, and interests. Career & Internship Services offers online reading about how to seek your fit. But what does it look like once you have found your fit?

Image: Birds sitting on powerlines, one bird flying around
Text: Find your fit

Looks Like
Signs that you have found your fit include that you…

  • lose track of time being absorbed in a project for the class in your major or task at work.
  • experience positive or productive dreams about working on that project or related to your classes or work.
  • follow news and social media about the field you study or work in.
  • feel engaged in your classes or work.
  • imagine yourself in possible roles in your future career.

Doesn’t Look Like
Signs that you have not found your fit include that you…

  • are challenged with starting homework or tasks in your field.
  • dread going to work or classes.
  • wouldn’t consider working on a project or participate in an activity in your field during your free time.
  • find tasks you complete for class or work to be unfulfilling. 
  • avoid thinking about the field you study or work in.

Misconceptions  

  • Finding your fit doesn’t mean you love everything about your classes, work, and field all the time.
  • The potential of the fulfillment your field offers may not be apparent until taking higher level courses, after settling into work, or following further research.
  • Changing your trajectory does not make you a failure! It highlights flexibility and honesty with yourself.

If you ever need help finding your fit, stop by 22 Solon Campus Center and schedule an appointment with a career counselor.

Good Luck! 

Of Possible Interest:
Choosing a Major, Career Planning – all our blog posts on these topics
Boost Your Career in College, Turn Your Major into a Career – our Pinterest boards filled with articles & resources

Read Kirsi’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Danielle MacInnes

After the Job Fair

By: Kirsi

You survived the job fair. Collected some business cards, mastered your elevator speech, and acquired some logo plastered swag. What now? Moving forward seems kind of ambiguous unless you locked down a career opportunity or interview that day. Here are some actions you can take following the fair to lock down an offer and solidify your network:

Text: What to do after the job fair

Apply
Job fairs are a great place to learn about positions companies desire to fill and positions you can apply for online. Apply promptly online while your resume is still near the top of recruiters stack and your name is fresh in their minds. It is acceptable to mention the interaction with the recruiter in a cover letter or if the application asks if you have talked to anyone.

Follow Up
Write a follow-up letter to recruiters you talked to at the fair. Here are some examples of phrases that could be used in the letter: “Thanks for talking to me the other day about your work at XYZ,” “Writing to let you know I applied online for XYZ position. Look forward to hearing from you!,” “Thank you for sharing details about your internship program. It sounds rewarding and fun. Hope to be a part of your team soon.” It is appropriate to send these in an email.

Get Connected
Recruiters typically have active profiles on social media either representing themselves or the company. Make sure your social media account is professional and appropriate and connect with them. LinkedIn is an obvious platform to connect with recruiters on. Past Peer Educator David has an excellent example of an effective LinkedIn profile. If your profile, presence, and posts are professional you could connect on more casual platforms like Twitter. @kfacciol, a Mission Control flight controller, has a great professional Twitter account.

General advice to follow when following up with job fairs is “ask and you shall receive.” Those who make the effort to reach out and stay connected will be rewarded.

Of Possible Interest:
Job Fairs; Internships; Job Search – all the blog posts we’ve written on these topics
What Now?! A Simple Guide for After the Job Fair

Read Kirsi’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Brandi Redd