The Truth About Career Success

By: Ellen (Career Counselor & guest author)

A few weeks ago I was thinking about my own career success and how I’ve defined that since graduating from college 10.5 years ago. “Career success” at 22 probably revolved around getting a full-time job of some sort in order to pass time before I was ready for grad school. “Career success” now, at 33, looks very different. It’s about using both of my degrees to own and grow in my current role, while doing some strategic planning for whatever may come next. Using both of my degrees (Communication/Business for undergrad and Counseling for grad) wasn’t necessarily at the forefront of my mind when job searching for my first post-grad school position. However, that concept has now become incredibly important to defining career success for me because I’ve experienced how great it is for me to use both of my degrees in my current job.

Truth About Career Success

Here’s the truth about defining career success…it looks different for everyone. Some people have it figured out when they graduate from college, but a lot of people don’t. Figuring out your career and career success takes time, it’s messy, and make look different depending on your stage in life.

In addition to sharing my own experience about figuring out “career success,” I did what everyone does when they’re looking for advice…I turned to Facebook. Here are some pieces of wisdom about career success from people who are in various stages of their careers and in various industries.

  • Even though you have a degree, you still have to work hard to succeed.
  • Be patient and open to opportunities given to you. You never know, it might sound horrible, but turn out to be something you’re really passionate about.
  • You won’t use all your qualifications in all your jobs. Being (or believing you are) overqualified doesn’t mean the job you got hired to do doesn’t still have to get done by you.
  • Talking about problems without suggesting solutions doesn’t really help anyone, especially not your reputation.
  • Everything you get, you have to earn. You may have taken leadership courses and been the top of your class and done everything you were supposed to in college, but chances are good that you are going to start on the bottom and have to work hard to move up.
  • You will not get the same kind of do-overs that you got in college. You don’t get to pick what your tasks are, you don’t get to decide you don’t feel like doing _____ today.

So how do you define career success?

Photo source: Unsplash | Jeff Sheldon

My Potential Plans After Graduation: AmeriCorps

By: David

As some or none of you may know, I will be graduating from college in about three semesters. As a current senior, I have yet to make future plans as to what opportunities and steps to take for life after graduation. Some days it scares me, other days it excites me, and some other days where I’m very, “Graduation? Meh.” Lately, I have been having instances of  zoning out about my plans for the future. Coming into the semester, I had a clear cut plan for post-graduation, but throughout the semester my life experiences has open my perspective to other possibilities and doors. To keep it brief, one opportunity that I have always considered is volunteering as an AmeriCorps member. After doing some research, I was able to uncover some interesting facts about AmeriCorps.

Branches of AmeriCorps

Within the AmeriCorps program, there are various branches that AmeriCorps breaks up into, but for the purpose of this blog post I will be mentioning three main branches: AmeriCorps NCCC, AmeriCorps VISTA, and AmeriCorps State & National.

AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC)
To start off, the AmeriCorps NCCC branch focuses more so on strengthening communities through community service. Certain projects could range to helping local and national parks with conservation of wildlife to infrastructure improvement. Within this branch, there are two possible paths for members, the Traditional and FEMA Corps. The Traditional Corps would focus more so on hands-on projects in certain field settings to accomplish the NCCC’s mission which is to help better communities. On the other hand, the FEMA Corps focuses more so on responding to disasters. To better understand this, the acronyms FEMA stands for, Federal Emergency Management Agency. Members in this branch would travel to strengthen communities across the nation.

AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service To America  (VISTA)
To shift gears, the AmeriCorps VISTA’s goal is to “fight poverty in America” according to the website. Members of this branch typically live and serve in low-income areas of the nation, and many of the projects are designed to bring individuals and communities out of poverty. Some of examples may range from organizing shelter and job opportunities to assisting victims of disaster to recruiting mentors for children with an absence of support.  

AmeriCorps State & National (SN)
Lastly, the AmeriCorps State & National is by far the broadest branch because it offers a wide-range of opportunities to engage in critical community needs such as education, public safety, health, and environmental. Projects within this range may vastly range from community outreach and financial education to collaborating with Girl/Boy Scouts.

Areas

In the program, there are multiple areas and fields that members can dive into. Depending on what your interests are, they can filter out specific programs for you for the AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps SN. Due to the breadth of content, feel free to explore the website some more to better grasp an understanding of the various areas that they offer, “AmeriCorps Focus Areas.”  

AmeriCorps VISTA

AmeriCorps VISTA

AmeriCorps SN

AmeriCorps SN

Benefits

Though the wage may not be the most captivating, there are definitely benefits to being an AmeriCorps member. For college graduates, the most appealing benefit would be the Segal Education Award. In a nutshell, the education award allows you to pay off any previous student loans, current or future educational expenses in higher education or training programs, or can be transferred to any child or grandchild under certain circumstances. Here is a chart indicating the various sum amount of the award:

Segal Education Award

In addition to the education award, other benefits as an AmeriCorps member may include training, limited health care, relocation expenses, student-loan forbearance or deferment, and non-competitive eligibility for a federal government position.

To conclude, I want to personally emphasize on a key component. Though the wage may be discouraging but the benefits appealing, it seems that the main purpose of the AmeriCorps program is to assist and help other individuals and communities to flourish to success. I understand that it is very cliche to say that the best benefit to the experience is making the world a better place, but in reality it actually is. Throughout the years, I have seen myself and others stray away from the concept of collectivism and towards individualism. Not to say that one is better than the other, but sometimes in order for us, as individuals to become better than yesterday we have to help ourselves and also those around us to efficiently flourish as one.  For some like myself, the end goal is not money, but happiness within yourself and others. I’d like to leave off with a quote I came across earlier this week that has inspired me to continue helping others, “Money is nothing but numbers, and numbers never end. If money is what it takes for someone to be happy, then the search for happiness will never end.” Enjoy the holidays, stay safe, warm, and as always, stay gold!

Read David’s other posts

Not the End of the Tunnel

By: Glen

July 1, 2015. It’s been about six weeks since I walked across the stage to signify the end of my undergraduate education at UMD. I am now a proud Bulldog alumnus. In the last six weeks, almost everything about my life has changed.

New house.
New roommates.
New job.
No UMD…

For the past four years, I was on the campus of UMD almost every weekday (minus the three month span in between my first and second years as a student). It wasn’t just for education; I dedicated my life to the school as a student employee, even through the summers. UMD was not just a place for me to work, it was my life.

Tunnel photo

Now I sit here; six weeks removed from the entity I dedicated the last four years of my life to. Suddenly, you realize all these moments from the past are a blur. Everything in life is new again.

My last couple blog posts were about the anxiety facing the unknown abyss that is life after graduation. Now that I am fully submerged, I can confidently inform you that it is not an abyss such as the deepest parts of this earth, but the relatively shallow ocean waters around a great reef. It is not as dark as you would fear, and is not as deep as you would expect. Yet, things are not perfect. The underwater world is still unpredictable enough for anything to happen. If you panic, you could still be in great danger. If you rush, things will go wrong. Actions need to be measured and calculated. When you know the next move, acting with confidence will push you forward.

I am happy to report that I enjoy this new life. There are numerous reasons: I am learning a bunch in my new job. My new roommates keep me incredibly active and are always supportive. I know there are going to be future options to propel me toward my career and life goals. Clocking out legitimately leaves work behind for the rest of the day. There is plenty to like about the graduate life… Right now, anyway.

There is an incredible difference between the life I led as a student, and the one I am already leading as a graduate. I suppose that is the whole point of this tangled web of metaphoric blog post I weft. Yes, there are plenty of unknowns to be afraid of for when you yourself graduate; however, you will find a way to make it to where you want to be if you are patient enough to calculate your post-grad moves in life. Trust your friends. Trust your mentors. Trust yourself.

Read Glen’s other posts

Photo source: Unsplash|Modestas Urbonas

The Last Semester: Light at the End of the Tunnel?

By: Glen

My previous blog post was a reflection on some of the stressors that face me as I prepare to exit school, and having nothing solid scheduled for the next year for the first time in my life. It’s a very interesting time in life, as the world is your oyster. The flip side of that is… Well… The WORLD is your oyster. How does one deal with that?

One Brick at a Time

I am not certain why, but for some reason, this song (linked above) was something I listened to repeatedly when I was a child. Although it’s from some musical, (that I never even knew of until I looked it up just now) I had it on some sort of developmental-child-music-cassette-tape-thing. Sadly, I did not realize the important message in the song until my last year of the undergraduate college experience (meaning, I learned this, like, three months ago).

Compartmentalizing tasks. Simple as that. Seriously, every major project that is worked on needs to be taken one step at a time. Or, “One brick at a time, one brick at a time! One single solitary brick!” This lesson goes for life as well! Instead of dealing with the pile of stressors in front of you (which I sometimes affectionately refer to as a pile of dung) being able to shovel things one task at a time is very useful. I was stressing about trying to find a place to live. How did I deal with that? I found people to live with, a place to live in, and signed a lease. It’s done, and now I can move on.

If you haven’t figured out what the takeaway is yet, here you go: Take things one step at a time. It’s how I’ve managed to survive thus far, and it is how I will manage to get everything I need to get done before graduation. That includes getting a job!

Read Glen’s other posts

The Last Semester: The Bottomless Abyss that is Life After Graduation

By: Glen

It’s my last semester of school at UMD, and lots of things are changing right before my eyes. So much has changed, that my usual response to “How are you doing?” has switched from something like, “great,” “excellent,” and “fantastic,” to something along the lines of, “ehhhh,” “I’m alive,” or “hanging in there.”

As it turns out, there are certain tasks you have to get done in order to graduate, such as passing classes. Additionally, there are tasks you must complete in the same time frame, such as getting a job, or finding a place to live. Here are a couple of the stressors I am facing as a college senior, for your reading pleasure.

Bottomless abyss

Getting a Job

It’s April now, and some places have already hired college seniors for upcoming jobs. If you end up in this category, you win the game I like to call, “Senior-ing” (you’ve done a great job of being a college senior!).

Other places are in the swing of the hiring process. If you’ve got interviews in place, but no job, it’s a bit stressful. Yet, a solution can appear soon, so keep your chin up!

Some places have not yet even posted the job openings yet. I’ll tell you what: There is nothing worse than knowing there is(are) job(s) you want to apply for, knowing it’s April, and they haven’t been able to post the openings yet. You just want to know where you will need to live; you want to know how much money you are making; and you want to stop searching for jobs! I would be lying if I told you I was in a different situation than this one. It just so happens that this leads to the next big stressor of college seniors (as experienced by Glen).

Finding a Living Location (Sometimes referred to as a “House” or an “Apartment”)

Alright, do you want to live with anyone? Where do you want to live? How will you pay for said living space? At first, I was among many people I knew that wanted to move to a different place, maybe with some friends of mine, with a brand-new sparkly job. If I get completely blown away by an offer, I might relocate. However, I am really leaning heavily toward finding a location that I am comfortable in, with people I am excited to live with.

“Why? This is the time of your life to keep moving on and upward with your life!” I’ve thought about that, but I have also reflected a bit on my own life values. Reflecting on my senior year so far, I haven’t done many “exciting” things. I am okay with that, but I also felt a sense of impending doom all year because of the large numbers of projects I have to complete. Right now, I am okay with scoring a job, and taking a year to myself to gear up for what is next in life. I would advise taking time to find what is comfortable for you after graduation. Are you okay with making a plan on where to live and sticking to it? Do you have the opportunity to sit back and get things figured out before you determine a living space? Where do you really want to live? Who do you want to live with?

So, yes, there are a lot of things to think about, and it is stressful when things do not work out perfectly right away. My hope is for you to be able to read these events in my own life, and be able to ask yourself the same questions about life after graduation. It’s extremely stress inducing, but if you take the time to think things through regularly, you can save yourself some stress later. “No pain, no gain!”

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Glen’s other posts

Photo source: Lou Levit

10 Pieces of Advice for the Class of 2014

By: Ashlee

A few weekends ago was a bittersweet reminder that a mere three years ago, it was me walking across the commencement stage at AMSOIL Arena, shaking Chancellor’s hand, accepting my “diploma”, and putting a final bookend on my years as an undergrad at UMD.

A lot has changed since then.

This class was especially hard for me to watch graduate. Many students graduating from the Class of 2014 theater program had been freshman when I was in my final year. They, my friends and cast mates, have grown up, and it was great watching them celebrate their latest accomplishment.

Graduation Mickey

Most of all, it reminded me of how exhilarating and terrifying this thing called “the real world” was. No more set schedule. No more assignments and tests. No more textbooks where I could look up a correct answer. Since then, I’ve learned a few things that I wish someone had whispered into my ear shortly before the anxiety of life after college set in.

While I can’t whisper in every one’s ear, I can share them here with you:

  1. Don’t be in a rush. Right out of college is the time to fulfill those crazy dreams that will be 100x harder once you’re married, have a family, or settle into a dedicated company position. Always wanted to work on a ranch in Wyoming or help third-world farmers in Peru? Do it now.
  2. Travel, travel, travel! Pick a destination, save up a few bucks, and go! Once you’re working a full-time job, it takes time to accrue paid time off. It’s harder to pick up and leave for even a two-day trip when you’re expected back in the office Monday morning right at 8 a.m. Don’t forget those friendly student loan payments that will soon be knocking on your front door!
  3. Use your Student ID when and where you still can. A discount is still a discount. Five cents off per gallon at the gas station? Five dollar movie tickets on Thursday’s? It still feels great, college student or not.
  4. Pick up a newspaper. More accurately, scan the main headlines on your phone in the morning before heading out the door. Knowing current events and other big news items comes in handy when meeting new people, both at work and in social settings.
  5. Keep in contact with college connections. Remember that internship you held the summer after sophomore year? Your favorite college professor? They might be able to help you in your job search. Shoot’em an email, give’em a quick call. Let them know what you’ve been up to and the type of work you’re looking into with your job search. They have connections and networks, too.
  6. Revisit favorite Duluth places. Whether you’re moving three days after graduation or plan to hang around for a bit, revisit those favorite places you’ve discovered over the past 4 years. Enger Tower, the Lakewalk, your “spot” on Park Point beach…Duluth is a pretty special place and is one-of-a-kind.
  7. Push to keep learning. You may have the degree, but that doesn’t mean your skill sets and knowledge should stop growing. Love graphic design, but didn’t have the time for it in college? Look into community college classes. Dreams of opening your own business? Research MBA programs. Don’t become complacent. Keep reaching higher!
  8. Hobbies outside of work are a GOOD thing. Find groups, clubs, anything that matches your interests and dive on in. Audition for the next community theater production; join the gym’s running club. Whatever it is, do it. Life after college shouldn’t be all work and no play.
  9. Call mom and dad. You might not live under their roof or under their rules anymore, but they still want to hear what you’re up to. Give’em a call and let them know you’re doing okay.
  10. Faced with a tough decision? Make the choice that will make a better story.

Congratulations to the Class of 2014. Whatever you pursue, it’s going to be great. Times will be tough, but you’ll make it. College was great, and what lies ahead is going to be even better.

Read Ashlee’s other posts