The Hidden Benefits of Greek Life

By: Amanda

When I came to campus in the fall of 2017, I knew I wanted to join Greek life. The benefits of joining are endless: service and philanthropic events, social events with other organizations, a sisterhood that lasts a lifetime and a home away from home. Although I gained all of these through joining Phi Sigma Sigma, I found that the professional development opportunities nearly outweigh the social ones.

It is believed that there are currently over 9 million Greek members across the nation (source). On top of this, the first female senator and first female astronaut were Greek. And additionally, 85% of Fortune 500 executives belonged to Greek life. It goes without saying that Greek members are making an impact well past their collegiate years. When considering this impact, there are three main hidden benefits of Greek life: professional network development, resume crafting, and a job interview.

Image: desk top with pot with writing utensils, yellow coffee mug, back of computer monitor
Text: Hidden Benefits of Greek Life: professional network development; resume building; examples for job interviews.

Networking naturally occurs through Greek life in college, as all Greek organizations often have social events. Furthermore, individual chapters typically hold alumni events multiple times each year where active members are able to meet with previous ones. Although these are all great starting points, it is important to go beyond this. Consider checking out the LinkedIn profiles of alumni from your org. This is an incredible asset to find alumni who are working in your industry all over the world. A personalized LinkedIn invitation to connect can go a long way and show a lot about your character. One might consider conducting an informational interview with an alum. Oftentimes, Greek members from the same organization share similar values and traditions. This can be something to go off of when sparking up conversation. A few informational interview questions tailored to Greek life include:

  • How did your collegiate Greek life years help you get to where you are today?
  • What would you recommend I do in my time before graduation to expand my network and prepare my resume?
  • Are there any alumni or any other Greek members who you recommend I reach out to?

Resume building is the next advantage of Greek life. Think about starting an ongoing list of accomplishments you have had through your organization, both individually and as a group. Whether it be philanthropy, volunteer work, leadership, teamwork, or event planning, there are skills being developed every day that go unrecognized. An example for a leadership position on your resume could be as follows:

Public Relations Chair, Phi Sigma Sigma, Duluth, MN, Jan 2018 – Jan 2019

  • Wrote blog posts regarding informational and promotional events
  • Take photographs and post on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook
  • Managed chapter website on the platform, Weebly, and ensured content was up to date
  • Designed graphics to be posted on social media and in print for events and fundraisers

The final way Greek life can aid in professional expansion is through a job interview. Answers to questions can often be pulled from leadership and learning experiences in Greek life. Here are a few examples of questions that could be applied to Greek experiences:

  • Tell me about a time that you had to work on a team
  • Tell me about a time you have had to use your time management skills
  • Tell me about the type of leader you are

Clearly, the benefits of being a Greek life member, go far beyond service and socials. Professional development can be found in all aspects of Greek life and it is time to start taking advantage of it today!

Of Possible Interest:
Building Your Resume – all our blog posts on the topic
Obtaining a Leadership Position as an Introvert
Boost Your Career in College – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Amanda’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Georgie Cobbs

How to Make the Most of Winter Break as a Senior

By: Heidi

As we’re approaching the end of finals week and the deadlines are slowly but surely wrapping up, the only thing on our minds is heading home and catching up on some much-needed sleep.

While time to relax and taking a step back is important, this month-long break can be used to get a head start on preparing for the job search and get some things done that you usually don’t have time for.  

Snowing street scene; text: How to make the most of winter break as a senior - connect with alumni on LinkedIn, fine-tune your resume, donate or recycle old textbooks, schedule informational interviews, spring clean your professional wardrobe, read a book

Connect with Alumni on LinkedIn
As a university student, you have the ability to connect and join a variety of Alumni groups on LinkedIn. Whether it’s a group with the school you’re apart of such as the “Labovitz School of Business and Economics at UMD” or joining the official UMD Alumni Relations page, it will allow you access to job postings and Alumni. 

Guy in a suit cartoon; Text: it's not stalking...it's expanding my network

Fine-tune your resume
Since you’re further along in your academic career, you’ve likely had projects and more experiences to highlight that are related to your future career. Touch up your resume to show these new experiences off.

Donate or recycle old textbooks
That math book from your freshman year or the philosophy book you only ever skimmed? Donate it with your extra time over the winter break so it can be recycled or donated to someone else.

graphic of box to donate books in

Schedule Informational Interviews
If you have the opportunity to meet someone in person, now is the prime time. Scheduling a phone call works too and can give you more insight than a google search to a company’s culture and opportunities to look out for.

Spring Clean
Out with the old, and in with the new. Donate your old intern wardrobe to someone who may be in need right here on campus. Champ’s Closet at UMD located in the Office of Student Life, Kirby Plaza 245 allows you to drop off clothes right there. Not only will it feel good to help someone else out, but you can free up some closet space to have room to update your wardrobe for your professional career.

Read a Book
Whether it’s professional development or just for fun, it can be nice to shift gears and escape the usual textbook. Reading something new can offer a new perspective or can serve as entertainment. Reading can help you stay fresh during your time off and also help you further develop your interests.

More Ideas for Your Winter Break:
How to Have a Productive Winter Break
Making Progress During Winter Break

Read Heidi’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Filip Bunkens

If You’re Afraid of Networking then You’re Doing it WRONG

By: McKenzie

TRUE/FALSE: Networking is shady.
ANSWER: FALSE

TRUE/FALSE: Networking is scary.
ANSWER: FALSE

It came as a shock to me when I learned that many people I know perceive networking as a scary or shady activity. As I watched my colleagues engage with peers, professors, and community members I began to wonder, “Why do people associate such negativity with networking?”. Is the issue rooted in our fear of being rejected or possibly the media’s portrayal of the way to the top being a competitive game of knocking down others? I cannot say for certain where this fear comes from, however, I can say this: You are almost ALWAYS networking.

Networking. It's kind of a big deal.

I want you to think of your average day. Imagine yourself at your job or if you’re a student picture yourself at school. Consider all of the tasks you will complete, but more importantly, think about all the people who you have come into contact with today. Networking is not scary because we do it all the time. When the average person thinks about networking they often draw up images of stiff “networking” events where everyone stands locked to the wall staring anxiously at each other like middle schoolers at a dance. You came. You did nothing. You left. And you probably didn’t get much out of it. But the reality is that we are constantly networking. Unless you work from home and don’t contact anyone beyond sending your work in or you live a life of complete isolation, you are always creating contacts.

The hardest part of networking is taking the initiative to really get to know someone. Often times, our networks are full of people who have what we want or know someone who does. It’s just a matter of asking the right questions to the right people. I found a contact at Google because I happened to mention to my mom that I was interested in learning more about the company. She informed me that I already knew a family friend whose son works there and guided me to where I could find their contact information. It was then in my hands to take hold of the opportunity to reach out to them.

Getting rejected might be the scariest part about networking. I wasn’t sure that our family friend would agree to leverage her relationship with her son to get us in contact. When I messaged her I could only hope she would. And she did. The piece to always remember is that the worst thing someone will say is, “no.” and in the grand scheme of things that is really not so bad. It just means getting right back up and trying again. I have asked many people in my life to get me in touch with one of their contacts and I have only been told no once. It wasn’t scary at all. It’s a good trait to be curious about people’s lives and how they lead them. We can learn a lot from each other that way. If you aren’t sure where to start then try asking them for an informational interview because it’s pretty easy for people to talk about themselves and they anticipate that you want to learn more about them. I believe in you so get up, get out there, and start networking!

Of Possible Interest: 

Read McKenzie’s other posts

STEM – Majors for Everyone

By: Kirsi (STEM student majoring in Computer Science & Electrical Engineering)

stem-majors-for-everyone

Photo source: Unsplash | Johan Mouchet

Do you….
a) enjoy teleworking in your pajamas?
b) like to work after hours, letting a project eat your life?
c) strive for a work-life balance lifestyle?
d) just want a vanilla 40-hour work week?

If you answered any yes to any of the above, the world of Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) careers are for you! STEM is uniquely comprised of careers for every person with every desired lifestyle. If you are still pondering degree options or have been destined to go STEM since your toddler days of LEGO construction I will expand on the often overlooked advantages of getting a STEM major. Working environments, networking communities and possible projects of STEM majors will be explored.

google_garage_via_business_insider

Google Garage workspace, picture by Business Insider

Working Environments
Stereotypes of interns coding in bean bag chair, taking breaks in sleep pods and grabbing a complementary snack at a company cafe are real incentives that industry offers STEM interns and professionals. Mainstreamed by “The Internship” movie, Google has a famously appealing workplace. One of the Google locations has a “Google Garage” where all the equipment is on wheels making collaboration, hacking, and brainstorming easier.  “I’ve always described Google as a kind of mix between kindergarten and a classy law firm,” describes Alex Cuthbert of Google while reflecting on workspace design. Another company with a surprisingly innovate workspace is Capital OneIntern alum from Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur shared, “The work culture in Bangalore office is very open. People decide their own work hours in accordance with their teams. There is also the option of working ­from­ home.” If an open floor plan hinders productivity and frightens your inner introvert, traditional cubical workspaces do exist and often exist as alternatives in the Googles of the world. NASA has adopted start up like collaboration spaces with walls of whiteboards, media stations to share presentations and various comfy chairs. When you choose a career in STEM there are working environments for those who like to work in a team, solo, in a start-up studio setting or telework in a hermit’s shed in the forest. You can discover your ideal work environment by taking our career assessments.

ieee_penn_state_outreach

IEEE students from Penn State teach students about robotic function,
picture by Penn State University

STEM Communities
The hashtags are everywhere: #CSforAll, #WomenIn(insert STEM discipline here), #(insert ethnicity/ identity here)InSTEM, #ProfessionalEngineers, #IEEE, and #ILookLikeAnEngineer. The growing diversity in STEM has created support groups for everyone to network. Often these communities are online groups or host weekly/ monthly in-person meetings featuring presentations from group members about their work in STEM, talks from tenured professionals in industry, tours of various parts of the workplace or other STEM companies. A Professional Engineers group at NASA Johnson hosted a suite of presentations by employees about their favorite project. A fellow NASA Co-Op talked about her work with Curiosity Rover’s martian surface sampling drill arm. Having a community, a network or mentor can assist in navigating the workplace, be a source of new ideas and connect with those necessary to complete multidisciplinary projects. There are a number of STEM communities at UMD too such as; Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Biology Club, Institute for Electric and Electrical Engineers (IEEE), Tau Beta Pi (an engineering honor society), Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and dozens more found on UMD’s Bulldog Link. Some of these communities continue past college as company, city, state-wide and national chapters!

nasa_ames_stem_synthesis_c_c_intern

Interns build Mars terrain navigating robots, picture by NASA Ames

Meaningful Projects
What you work on in STEM has impact on society and often humanity’s advancement, leaving a sense of fulfillment every day after work. In private industry, you compete against other companies to create what society wants or needs most efficiently. Similarly, in government and non-profit sectors, you do you best to research and innovate for all mankind with the future of humanity in mind. Even as an early career STEM professional, including intern or Co-Op, you will likely be contributing to meaningful work. Microsoft Intern Arush Shankar described his contribution, “Work quickly became challenging yet rewarding. I was making a lot of design decisions on my own as my team began to trust me with more work… I was treated more as just another full-time employee on the team. Squashing bugs, checking in new code, and iterating.” Maria Carrasquilla, NASA Johnson Space Center Intern and engineering undergraduate was tasked with modeling effects of Micrometeoroids on space habitats and crafts. Her mentor, Dr. Eric Christiansen, expanded on the importance of the task, “We really appreciate how Maria quickly learned to run hydro-code simulations and provide meaningful results on the effects of non-spherical hyper-velocity impacts on spacecraft shields.” Dr. Eric Christiansen is the NASA lead of the Hyper-velocity Impact Technology group. The higher demand for STEM professionals, the higher the likelihood an early career professional will be trusted with game-changing tasks.

Maybe you are filled with doubt which is keeping you from pursuing a STEM career; “I’m not a math person,” “I don’t want to burn out” and “Those guys aren’t going to hire me.” Again, STEM is uniquely comprised of careers for every person with every desired lifestyle. There are flexible working environments, caring STEM communities and a future of meaningful projects that will propel you through the challenges. Give STEM a chance, regret often comes from a chance you didn’t take.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Kirsi’s other posts

Ways in Preparing for Your Career Success, Part II

By: David

From my previous post, “Ways in Preparing for Your Career Success,” I mentioned that I would expand and explain on the tips and advice that I received from a workshop I attended a few weeks back. Though many of these may sound self-explanatory, I will still add minor details to each piece of advice. Well, what are we waiting for, let’s get started!

What Can You Do While Still in School?
As college students, we are privileged in so many ways, yet there is still so much to learn whether it’s in the classroom setting or a taste of the “real” world. So what is it that we can do while still in school to prepare for career success? Wait no further, let us learn more and dive into these 10 tips:

Develop your brand!
From online to offline, it’s important to put yourself out there in the professional world. Whether it’s now or later, branding will always prove to be an essential component in career success. Branding is important because it’s the image that you are portraying to others to see. Check out a past blog post from Abby, one of our alums, on 3 easy steps in starting your brand process.

Clean up your online image
In addition to branding, it’s important to clean up your online image! With the rise of social media, students today are finding ways to keep up to date with the social scene. Though this is very entertaining, it can also prove to be embarrassing as employers today are using social media as a tool to check on candidates more than ever (Source: CareerBuilder).

preping-for-career-success

Build relationships offline
Okay, I’ll admit it and flat out say that I suck at this myself quite bad. For our generation today, I perfectly understand that building relationships outside of our social circles have become quite the challenge. The anxiety (even for an extrovert myself) of making sure there’s no awkward silence when conversing has been quite the goal for students today. Regardless of communication abilities or the anxiety of awkward silences, it is still important to build relationships in real life.

Build relationships online
On the flipside of the coin, as important as it is to build relationships offline we should put the effort in doing the same online. Whether you recently met an interesting peer at a job fair, had a great discussion with a new colleague at a conference, or simply met a new friend at a party – Continue. To. Grow. That. Relationship! This is important because you’ll never know when you’ll need to keep in touch with that person again and it’s not as if you need to be their best friend or ally, but rather, don’t be a stranger should something come up that involves the two of you.

Tailor your LinkedIn profile
Going off building online relationships and branding, it is important to also tailor your LinkedIn profile! I can’t tell you how many times people have added me without a proper LinkedIn profile (no picture, no description of what you did, no message indicating of how we’re connected, etc.). Aside from my social media pet peeve, I want to emphasize that having a strong LinkedIn profile will attract a lot of recruiters and employers, and in addition, your friends and peers will be quite impressed. 😉 So take the time to tailor your LinkedIn every here and then.

Target your efforts
If you’re anything like me, it may be really hard to narrow things down sometimes (well, it’s hard every time actually). So what does it actually mean to “target your efforts”? In literal terms, it means, well, to focus your energy. A big mistake that I often run into is wanting to do everything! Despite checklists and planners, it can get really hard to focus on one thing, but, as always, just take it one step at a time.

Share your passion(s)
No matter what field or career path you decide on or even if you haven’t decided yet, don’t forget to always bring and share the things that you are passionate about – whether it’s art, social justice, sports, education, or anything else. There will always be opportunities for your to share the things you are passionate about and blend it with the work that you are doing.

Show gratitude
You don’t need a turkey and mashed potatoes to be thankful. Showing a token of appreciation to those who helped you goes a long way. This is especially important in cases of recommendation letters, referral to a position, or even connecting you to a third party. Always show your gratitude.

Follow-up
I’m terrible with this myself, but it’s important to always follow up with connections. This can be with professionals, professors, workshop presenters, staff members, peers from an event, etc. It’s always nice to send a quick reminder of who you are and to touch base with the person. Another thing to keep in mind is to always follow up after an interview. Following up and showing gratitude for the interview itself is nice and proper etiquette, but make sure to follow up as soon as possible!

Give back to your network
We all know that one person (at one point in time in our lives) who just leech and mooches off everyone – take, take, take, take, with nothing to give back. If there’s one thing to take away from this post, it would be this: don’t be that person! Be genuine and authentic towards your network, social groups, and relationships. Yes, there’s a sense of professionalism that needs to be maintained in your career but always be willing to give back to your network to help and assist others.  Don’t be afraid to be the first to “scratch other people’s back,” but do know that there’s a breaking point and that you’re not being taken advantage of. All in all, my guess is that majority of the people out there in the workforce will be willing to give back to their network, so don’t be afraid to do so either.

Read David’s other posts

Photo source: Unsplash | Daria Shevtsova

Ways in Preparing for Your Success

By: David

Several weekends ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Midwest Asian American Students Union Fall Leadership Summit over at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. While at the conference, I attended a workshop related to career success led by Shane Carlin, Founder and President/CEO of Asian Student Achievement. From the workshop, I wanted to highlight two key aspects that I took away from the workshop and list out a few tips and advice that Shane wanted students to grasp while still in school.

Network During Your Time in College
For the icebreaker portion of the workshop, the sixteen of whom signed up were to partake in a networking activity. Essentially, it was a speed meet-and-greet, but the twist in the activity was that the time interval between every encounter was set at different times. For instance, the first encounter was only for 30 seconds, the second for 45 seconds, the third for 15 seconds, and so forth. At the end of the activity, Shane brought up two key points – the first one is, “What about you will people remember about you for the rest of their entire lives?” which we will explore in the next section of the post. The second point, “Network and give out your contact information. Just because ya’ll are college students doesn’t mean you can’t connect with one another.” This was one key takeaway I was able to grasp from the workshop.

To further explain, this really hit me because it made me realize that networking with other students is an important aspect of networking we usually don’t think of because we are so caught up in trying to network with professionals. Additionally, the activity made me realize that students are always networking, but we aren’t using it to our advantage. Yes, we may have these wonderful connections with other undergraduate students, but how will we use those connections to leverage in terms of career success, and at the same time, how can we help others in getting them to where they want to be.

Tell Me a Little Bit About Yourself?
Every single interview that I have been through all had the golden question, “Tell me/us about yourself.” (Just to clarify, this section of the post will not be directed at how to tackle the question step by step, rather on some ideas to consider when asked the question or when networking in general). Back to the takeaway mentioned earlier, “What about you will people remember about you for the rest of their entire lives?” This is truly a deep question and Shane suggested that we all begin by asking those close to us in what makes us unique.

To further expand on this, there are some key aspects to making people remember you for the rest of their entire lives (okay, maybe not entire lives). First off, it’s important to make sure that whatever it is you are talking about that it’s positive and unique. The example given in the workshop was that you wouldn’t want people to know that you had 60 romantic partners in the course of a month. Instead, you could talk about how you were able to overcome some form of adversity and leverage it to your advantage. This key point then typically co-exists hand in hand with the second point, don’t talk about an achievement that everyone else already has! The example that Shane mentioned was a time when he worked with a student and this student happened to be a founder of a non-profit organization targeted towards helping cancer patients. The reasoning behind the student’s motive was that they, themselves were a survivor of cancer. This story, as Shane mentions, is what gets people moving (emotionally) and therefore will make people remember you for a lifetime. The last piece to all of this then is delivering the message. Talking about one’s passion, ability to overcome adversity, or personal achievements are great things, but what’s more important is the way in which you deliver the content. For instance, consider the student who started their own non-profit, if asked in an interview think of how much of a difference it would make if they either (a) talked about the experience as if it were another achievement, or (b) enthusiastically talk about the energy and effort dedicated to starting this organization because of personal experiences. I’ll let you be the judge of that. All in all, coming up with a story or aspect about yourself that people can remember for a lifetime will be a very difficult and time-consuming process, but hopefully, these three points will help guide you in “peering into your career” on a deeper level.

Final Pieces of Advice and Tips
In closing, these are some bits and pieces of advice that I jotted down during the workshop presentation to consider and think about. Though many of these seem common sense already, it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves every once in awhile in what needs to be done in terms of career success.

What can you do while still in school?

  • Develop your brand!
  • Clean up your online image
  • Build relationships offline
  • Build relationships online
  • Tailor your LinkedIn profile

Professional Tips

  • Listen first!
  • If you don’t know, ask!
  • Follow the ethical path
  • Incorporate feedback into work
  • Keep track of your accomplishments
  • Have respect and courtesy for ALL staff despite their positions

Stay tuned for my next blog post as I will be following up on these tips to further expand and explain them and why they’re important!

Read David’s other posts

A Summer Sip of Reality

By: David

Three Takeaways about the “Real” World

With autumn dawning upon us and classes shifting into gear, it’s a bit nostalgic to rewind back and recall my entire summer (don’t get me wrong, Fall is my favorite season!). During this past summer, I had the opportunity to intern with two different non-profit organizations – New Sector Alliance & Volunteers of America MN/WI and explore the realm of NPOs, which was great as I learned a lot! More importantly though, it gave me a sense of what the real world was like and what it meant to be an “adult”. So here are some random things that occurred to me as I had my “summer sip” of the real world.

A photo by Thomas Lefebvre. unsplash.com/photos/V63oM8OPJSo

Commuting
Prior to my internship, one thing I prepared immensely for was commuting. Early on, I decided that I would be gas-efficient and commute via bus to and from my host site. Little did I know, a one-way trip to my host site was about an hour and a half! This wasn’t entirely bad as it gave me time to read books or process my work before and after my shift, but again, this took three hours out of my day!

Anyway, if there was one thing that I took away from this commuting experience, it’s to always plan out your commute (unless you’re an expert traveler already). I recall the anxiety I had taking the bus the first day of my internship despite planning my trip. Unlike commuting to campus everyday via the DTA in a small town like Duluth, I was extremely overwhelmed when it came to taking the city bus throughout the Twin Cities area, especially downtown Minneapolis. But regardless of what city you’ll be in when you enter the real world, just be wary of your commute whether it’s knowing your bus stop/bus number, parking/parking prices, roads (one-ways, intersections, etc.), and most importantly, an estimate of time to get to your destination.

Work Environment
As the person I am, I’ve always known that I could never work in a cubicle setting and my summer experience firmly confirmed that for me. To add on, I recognized after my internship that a cubicle wasn’t the only setting I didn’t like, but there were other aspects of a work environment that did and did not mesh well for me. For instance, with Positivity as number one for my Strength, I’m a type of person who constantly needs positivity in the workplace otherwise I feel like I am not meeting my full potential. The environment has a huge impact on me and this can range from the nature of the work, the people (whom were all lovely by the way) at the workplace, work setting, etc. All in all, a lot of the work and environment that I was immersed in was geared towards social service, which isn’t entirely bad, but did not mesh well with my strength to work in an environment with positive energy.  This experience truly opened my eyes and gave me a sense of what type of work to look for in the future and how to mesh my strengths and personality with my work. If there’s one thing I’d like you readers to take away from this, it would be to recognize the type of work, work environment, and people that connect well with your needs, strengths, and personality.

Networking
Network! Network! Network!

As the old saying goes, “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. Throughout my summer, I was able to connect and network with various people ranging from leaders in nonprofits, colleagues from my cohort, supervisors & mentors from my two organizations, and professionals in the nonprofit field. It was a summer that definitely opened my eyes to all sorts of new perspectives as I expanded my network. Recognizing the importance of networking and how it is emphasized in college it was great to see networking and the benefits of networking in action this summer.

A prime example of networking was my supervisor from New Sector Alliance, who is the Program Manager for the Twin Cities branch for New Sector. Part of his work was to bring in guest presenters to lead various trainings for the entire cohort. It was amazing to see individuals from various companies and organizations come in to lead the trainings, which was always interesting. One key aspect that my colleagues and I underwent was getting paired up with a professional mentor. Again, through the power of networking, my supervisor was able to match all of us in the cohort with a professional mentor that met our preferences (we filled out a survey indicating our preferences in a mentor and got matched from there). To conclude, as a college student the concept of networking has always been drilled into me, but I didn’t realize the power behind it until seeing it in action. So again, network, network, network! Whether it’s now or later, keep on networking and expand those social circles. Read all of our networking posts.

Conclusion
Altogether, my summer internship taught me a lot and I’m truly thankful for the experience. The knowledge acquired makes me a lot more confident when I do take my first step into the real world. From professional tips from my supervisors to random life-lessons in the working world, I’m glad I had a taste of the real world. But in all honesty, it sure does feel good to be back on a college campus!

Of Possible Interest: 

Read David’s other posts
Photo source: Unsplash | Thomas Lefebvre