The Desk Essentials

By: Kendra

So you just got your first job after graduation and your first day is tomorrow … First off, congratulations! Second, what are you going to bring with you? I am sure you will bring your keys, wallet, and a cup of coffee/tea (of course), but what else might you need? With all of the nerves and excitement that comes with getting a job after graduation, no one worries about what to bring with them to make their life at work easier.

Image: white notepads and gold binder clips on white desk
Text: The desk essentials

I asked a few professional staff what sorts of random items they have in their desks that come in handy and here is what I found:

  • Deodorant — No one likes to be smelly at work!
  • Lint roller — You never know what sorts of dust and fuzzies will stick to you throughout the day.
  • Stain remover — A stain on your top or pants would be embarrassing!
  • Fidget items — For the long days when you just can’t quite sit still.
  • Hand weights — Do some exercising during your breaks!
  • Shoes — If it is rains or snows, you have nothing to worry about because you have dry, warm shoes waiting for you in your office.
  • Nail clipper and nail file — Sometimes you just need to clip your nails or remove a pesky hangnail.
  • Earring backs — You never know when the back of your earring will fall off!
  • Bandages — Blisters, paper cuts, hangnails, etc.
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste — You’re safe if you forget to brush in the morning and if you have some garlicky pasta for lunch.
  • Small mirror — Perfect for touching up make-up, hair, or just making sure you have nothing in your teeth!
  • Pain medication — Don’t let a headache ruin your day.
  • Thank you cards — It is always nice to send thank you cards after meetings with important people in your workplace, having these available will make it super easy to do!
  • Coffee mugs — You might like to offer coffee or tea to people you meet with.
  • Sewing kit — You never know when a seam will come loose.
  • Shoe polish — Clean the scuffs and dust off of your shoes to keep yourself looking put together!
  • Screen cleaner — It is amazing how dirty a computer screen can get. Keep it clean and clear with some screen cleaner.
  • Glasses cleaner — No one likes a smudgy pair of spectacles!

Getting a new job after graduation is exciting! Even if you don’t have a job where you are seated at a desk, having some of these items in your car, purse, or backpack can be really handy. This is not to say that you need every single one of these items, but it allows you to think of things that might be helpful to have with you as you go to work each day because you never know what might happen. I wish you the best of luck with your new job and hope that having some of these items was of help for you!

Of Possible Interest:
What to Bring on the First Day of Work
On the Job – all our blog posts on the topic
Now That You’re On The Job – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Kendra’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Stil Classics

How to Deal with Difficult People

By: Sophia

At some point in our lives, we deal with people who get on our nerves. They can be people at school, work, or even at home. These are the types of people who can bring the entire mood of a room down the minute they walk in. This may affect everyone or just you. I have dealt with people like this before at work and at home. I have had roommates in my college career which we have not gotten along with each other and it was a very tense and toxic environment. I have also had to deal with situations with coworkers and customers who have not gotten along as well.

During the summer and winter break, I work at retail store where there are daily interactions with people of different backgrounds. These are both with coworkers and customers. Every other week, there was a woman who would come into the store that would attempt to return items that were not purchased at my retailer and would get frustrated and blame the cashier (including me one time) for not being able to get her money back. There was also a woman who would come in and try to steal hundreds of dollars worth of inventory at various stores throughout the district. She got caught and banned from each store that it happened at, but she came into my store the most and kept trying. I applaud her determination, but it caused extra work for the employees when it came time to do inventory. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much we could do in these situations except call over a manager when the situation was getting tense. The one positive thing about dealing with these people was that they helped me learn a lot of important skills on how to deal with these situations when they arrive.

Image: green cacti on a white background.
Text: how to deal with difficult people

Whether it is a roommate, coworker/boss, or customer, these are some tips on how to handle difficult people in difficult situations:

Create a roommate agreement.
This one really only applies to roommates, but it can be a really helpful thing to do. Create a contract that goes over the mutually agreed upon rules such as chores, how long guests can stay over, and quiet times. If you absolutely can’t come to a compromise, get an RA involved or a neutral friend to help mediate. Your work group, department, or workplace may do something similar to make people accountable for how they are acting in the setting and treating others.

Talk things out.
Sometimes problems can go away through talking. There might have been a misunderstanding that caused the problem in the first place. Find a private area and have a respectful conversation using “I” statements to express how you feel. Give positive feedback and use active listening skills to show the person you are paying attention and care about what they have to say. NEVER have a conversation when you are angry or try to one-up the person.

Talk to a boss/RA.
If you have tried talking things out and the situation still isn’t getting better, it is ok to ask for help in either mediating the situation or having a private conversation about what is going on.

Be the bigger person.
Through personal experience, this is one of the best things to do when dealing with a difficult person. Treating them with kindness and respect can help dissolve a situation because it shows the other person that what they are trying to do to you doesn’t affect you. It often leads to the other person leaving you alone in the end.

I hope these tips help you handle your difficult situation.

Of Possible Interest:
Brutal Honesty
The Impact of Microaggressions
Now that You’re on the Job – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Sophia’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Thomas Verbruggen

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

The Basics of Salary Negotiation

By: Heidi

When it comes to accepting your first job, your first salary can often set the pay you earn for the rest of your life. After attending the Start Smart workshop hosted by the American Association of University Women, I learned a lot about your first salary and strategies about how to negotiate that salary. I wanted to share some of the tips I learned for other students and especially women, who often avoid negotiating a salary all around.

The Gender Pay Gap and Why It Matters
In the year 2016, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 80 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 20 percent. It’s important to note, this gender pay gap is even worse for women of color. The gender gap tells us that women are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and underrepresented in high-wage ones. Women’s work such as health, education, and public administration, is devalued because women do it. And because women are often caregivers, they face lower pay and promotion opportunities because they are assumed to be distracted and unreliable.

Know Your Value
When it comes to asking for a salary you deserve, it is important to have an understanding of what skills you bring to the table, and how to communicate that. Think back on past accomplishments, contributions, skills, and relevant work experiences. Reflect on what positive results from these accomplishments, what role you played. Consider keeping a journal of all your accomplishments throughout the year, no matter how big or small. Use the template below to help articulate your value:

As a result of my effort to do ____________________________ (identify your action) I have achieved _______________________________ (result), which provided the following specific benefits to the company: ____________________ (fill in quantitative result or other positive outcome).

Image: US $1 bill on white background. 
Text: The basics of salary negotiation.

Know Your Strategy And Benefits
It is important to have objective research when it comes to preparing for your negotiation. Follow these six steps when it comes to benchmarking your salary and benefits: Research and identify a comparable job title, find the salary range and establish your target salary, identify your target salary range, create a realistic budget, determine your resistance or “walk-away” point, and determine the value of your benefits.

When it comes to matching a job to a salary, start with Salary.com and identify a job description that matches the job you are researching. Identify a target salary range looking at the 25th to 75th percentile, at, below, or above the median. Use the target salary as the bottom of the range and do not stretch more than 20 percent. You can calculate the take-home pay for the target salary at PaycheckCity.com

As for determining a resistance point, this is the lowest salary you are willing to accept and still reach an agreement. This is a useful tool to prevent you from accepting a salary you might later regret. Offers below your resistance point may signal you to walk away from a job offer.

Creating a budget is also essential in preparing for your negotiation strategy. Your budget doesn’t need to be scary, and is something that can be broken down quite simply. The 50/20/30 rule can help you proportionately break down and create a healthy budget. It is meant to be flexible based on your particular situation and needs. Breaking it down looks like this: 50 percent or less will be made up of essential expenses such as housing, food, transportation, and utilities. 20 percent or more will go towards your financial goals and obligations such as savings and debt. The ending 30 percent is meant to be for flexible spending and personal choices such as shopping, personal care, hobbies, and entertainment.

Know Your Strategy
Negotiating your salary will differ depending on whether you are looking for a new job or preparing to ask for a raise or promotion. When it comes to a new job, deflection strategies are key to avoid discussing or negotiating your salary until AFTER you have received a job offer. Here are a few different ideas you can use in an interview can look like:

  • “I’d rather talk about that after I’ve received a job offer.”
  • “I’d like to learn more about the role before I set my salary expectations. As we move forward in the interview process, I would hope and expect that my salary would line up with market rates for similar positions in this area.”
  • “What is the salary range for this position or similar positions with this workload in the organization?”

If you receive an offer below your resistance point, then you should attempt to negotiate upwards. Having your notes to reference, you can counteroffer in several ways:

  • “Do you think you have any flexibility on the salary number?”
  • “Thank you for the offer. Based on my research with comparable roles in this area, I was thinking of something in the range of (your target salary range.)”
  • “Based on my prior experience and familiarity with this role, I believe that an additional $_____ would be fair.”

Practice, Practice Practice
Your negotiation skills will not improve without practice. With each time you practice, you can not only improve your ability to be objective, persuasive, and strategic, but confident in your capabilities of negotiating your worth!

Using your notes from your research, sit down with a roommate or a friend and go through a role-play scenario. The more you practice, the more feedback they can provide you with to improve your verbal and body language.

Though this is a lot of information, it’s important to be informed when negotiating your first salary as it sets the benchmark for the rest of your career when it comes to raises and bonuses. Take this information and use it to set yourself up for success so you don’t end up leaving any extra money on the table.

*Tips taken from the AAUW Start Smart Workbook

Read Heidi’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | NeONBRAND

Top 10 New Blog Posts for 2018

We published over 50 new blog posts during 2018, and there is so much more good content coming your way during 2019. Here’s a look at the top ten blog posts (based purely on the numbers) published in 2018.

wood desk top with mac laptop, cup of coffee, and notebook. Text: top new blog posts of 2018

Brutal Honesty
Advantages of Being a Peer Educator
Major Exploration: Cultural Entrepreneurship (CUE)
STEM Major Preps for UMN Job Fair
Internship Relocation Challenges: Part 2 Socially Relocating
Career Planning Process: Explore Options
How to Make the Most of Winter Break as a Senior
Tori’s Senior Bucket List
Professional Clothes on a Budget
How to Dress for the Job Title You Want

Photo Source: Unsplash | rawpixel

Bad Grades Don’t Mean a Bad Employee

By: Heidi

I will be the first to admit I’ve had bad exams and just not great grades in my overall academic career. Receiving a bad grade can be really discouraging as a student. You sometimes may think to yourself “why do I even bother trying harder…I may not be doing my absolute best but at least I’m getting by.”

I’m not here to tell you how to turn around your whole academic career, make the dean’s list, or get the 4.0 you’ve always been dreaming of. Performing well on a project or test is great and it feels good to do good, but grades are only just a small representation of you as a student.

desktop with electronic device and black coffee cup with "hustle" on it; quote: work hard in silence, let your success be your noise. by Frank Ocean

So what is this whole “bad grades doesn’t mean a bad employee” thing? Well, this summer walking into my internship I had an “epiphany” if you will. I was working at a good company. I was producing good work. That doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle along the way at all, but what I did realize is that all the time and energy I spent about worrying what grades I got really meant nothing at the end of the day. I knew I could work hard and my boss acknowledged that. So that is what I believe matters most. Focus on the effort you put in and the results will follow.

At the end of the day, grades are just a small measurement of you as a student. It doesn’t make up entirely who you are and all else that you do. I believe our words are powerful and especially the words we say to ourselves. If you’ve never tried using affirmations, I would highly recommend trying it out as your thoughts become your words, and your words become your actions.

“My grades are important to me but they don’t define me.” Repeating this affirmation to myself when I feel discouraged then instead encourages me to focus on the effort I put in rather than my attachment to the grade I receive. As long as I know I am putting in my best effort, that is all that matters to me.

Of Possible Interest:

Read Heidi’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash

Brutal Honesty

By: Kirsi

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

View of earth from space

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

People sitting at big desks with many computer screens

Sitting console in International Space Station Mission Control.

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

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

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

Read Kirsi’s other posts

Photo Sources: Unsplash | NASA; Kirsi