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

 

Be the Awesome Intern

You have an internship? Fantastic! We’ve put together a handy list of tips so you can be an AWESOME intern.

How to be the awesome intern; wood desk top

  • Set goals with your supervisor about what will be accomplished throughout & by the end of the internship.
  • Keep track of what you do each day at your internship. This will help when meeting w/your supervisor & updating your resume at the end.
  • Find ways to go above and beyond what is expected of you. If you finish a task ahead of schedule, ask where else you can assist.
  • Be punctual. If you start at 8am, be at your desk/station ready to work at that time versus walking in the door.
  • If you don’t know (and you’ve tried multiple ways to the solve the issue yourself), ask. Asking questions is a good thing.
  • Do you commute to your internship? Maximize your time by reading the news, listening to podcasts, or keeping up with the trends in your field.

Tori with Bacon sign at Hormel

Peer Educator Tori at her internship with Hormel Foods

  • From one of our fave recruiters: “We look at it [the internship] as a long interview. Kill it, learn/grow and you might have a job before it ends.”
  • Meet with people from throughout the organization. Learn about what they do and advice they may have for you.
  • Attend events the company has designed for the interns. Be a joiner!
  • Ask for constructive criticism/feedback. It’ll help you be a better intern and professional.
  • Take your internship seriously and be eager to learn.
  • Learn your organization’s company culture (mission, values, org structure, clients, attire, etc).
  • If you have fellow interns, connect with them. You’re all going through the internship experience together.
  • Don’t like your internship? Figure out if it’s the work, the people, or the company rather than an overall negative experience.
  • Managing your time as an intern is different than when you’re a student. Find what works best for you.
  • How to be the best summer intern in your office. Via: The Prepary

Kirsi doing Astronaut user testing at NASA co-op

Peer Educator Kirsi at her co-op with NASA Johnson Space Center

  • Check in with yourself halfway through the internship and reflect on how it has been going so far. Tweak as needed.
  • Talk to people in a variety of departments and work functions to see the bigger picture of your organization.
  • How to handle a competitive work environment.
  • Check in with your supervisor on a regular basis to see how your internship is going. Ask questions. Get feedback.
  • Interested in having your Internship transition to Full-time? Explore company benefits: retirement, insurance, continuing education, etc.
  • Environment is huge. Take notes about your internship and what works (or doesn’t) for you: nature of the work, people, and work setting to help with your next search. 
  • What have you been learning about your industry during your internship? How will you bring that back to your classes?
  • Details matter. Proofread everything, because you don’t want to be remembered as the person with the typo problem.
  • Research how your company invests in its people. Training, help with furthering education, personal growth, benefits, and more.
  • Be thinking about who at your internship you want to ask to be references for you. Ask before your last day.

Of Possible Interest: 

  • Internships – all of our blog posts about the topic
  • Internships – our Pinterest board filled with articles and resources

Photo Sources: Unsplash; Tori; Kirsi

The Impact of Microaggressions

By: Tony

It’s just a fact of life that you are going to come into contact with people who are different than you. Whether it be at school or in the workplace, you will inevitably end up talking to someone whose background isn’t the same as yours. Naturally, you will want to get to know each other, which is great. However, you may run the risk of committing a microaggression.

The impact of microaggressions

What is a Microaggression?
A microaggression can be described as covert or unintentional discrimination. They are words and actions that marginalize certain groups of people, even if it is unintentional. The main issue with microaggressions is that even though they may be minor offenses, they can add up quickly and seriously damage one’s self-image and make them feel as though they do not belong. Often, microaggressions manifest themselves in seemingly innocent ways whose impacts are not apparent unless their underlying implications are thought about.

Examples of Microaggressions and Implications

  • “Where are you from?” “The Twin Cities” “No, where are you REALLY from?”
    • The implication is that the second person is being identified as a foreigner and not as the group they choose to be identified with. If you are wondering about someone’s ethnic or racial identity, there are better ways of going about that.
  • “Can I touch your hair?”
    • The implication is that the body of the person who’s being asked is exotic and a target of curiosity, which is degrading. I’m sure the awkwardness of the situation outweighs the satisfaction of your curiosity.
  • “Oh, you’re Latino?! Do you know (random person)?!”
    • Not all (Latinx/Black/Asian/Native American/Queer/Muslim/etc.) people know each other. Assuming that they do gives the implication that their group is small and lacks diversity.
  • (When speaking to a person of color) “Say something in (foreign language)”
    • This implies that all people of color know a second language, which is not true. Worse, it implies that POCs are trained animals that will respond to your whims.
  • (When speaking to a POC) “You are so articulate”.
    • This implies that POCs are uneducated and unable to make intelligent conversation.
  • Blatantly using the wrong pronoun
    • Yes, mistakes happen, but if you know someone’s preferred pronouns, please use them. Mis-pronouning someone implies that you do not accept them for who they are, or at best, you do not care to listen to them.
  • Catcalling
    • The implication is that you see women as sex objects that only exist more male enjoyment.
  • “That’s so gay!”
    • The implication is that being gay is a negative characteristic.

How to Avoid Microaggressions
In my opinion, the keys to avoiding microaggressions are recognition and reflection. You must recognize when your words or actions, intentional or not, have a negative effect on others. You must also reflect on how you can improve your behavior and become more inclusive. As a general rule, if you are curious about a certain aspect of someone’s life, such as their racial identity or any conditions they may have, get to know them. If they wish to tell you about themselves, they can do so on their own terms. It may also be helpful to ask yourself why you want to know about that aspect. Is it to get to know the person better? Or, is it based on sheer curiosity?

Ultimately, modifying behavior is a personal act that you must figure out yourself, but I think self-awareness is a good starting point. With this information, you can do your part to make your classroom or workspace more inclusive and welcoming to all people.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Tony’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Michal Grosicki

10 Lessons We Learned from The Office

By: Willow

I love The Office. I think it’s hilarious and I have watched it a million times. I think The Office can teach us a lot about how to behave, or not behave in an office setting. The following blog post is to show us the lessons we can learn our favorite characters.

Don’t be an idiot.
office-1

Know how to use technology.powerpoint

Have people you look up to professionally, and try to be more like them.
office-3

Have big dreams.
office-4

Never stop trying.
office-5

Don’t start a fire in your office. We learned this one two different episodes.
office-6

office-6-1

Office Safety is important. Don’t do this:

Know that you’re not perfect. Don’t be full of yourself.
office-8

Always be positive and look ahead to the exciting things in coming up in your life.
office-9

Remember that you spend a lot of time at your office so no matter what happens, make the best of it.
office-10

Read Willow’s other posts

The Right Time to be a Quitter – How to Quit

By: Willow

A couple of weeks ago, part one of my three-part blog post on how to quit your job was posted, welcome to part two, How to Quit. Last time I talked about things to look for to help you figure out when it might be the time to quit your job. This post, is all about how to quit, as in how to have the meeting where you tell your boss you no longer want to work there.

to-be-a-quitter

I’m sure you know that the big elaborate quitting scenes in movies are not the right way to quit your job, even if they are exciting to watch. Even though quitting that way could be detrimental to your career, it’s a good way to get your anger out, let yourself think about how you would elaborately quit your job. Practice it in the mirror or go over it in your head as much as you need to.  Act it out over and over, get all of your frustrations out, yell it into your pillow, whatever. Get your anger out at home. This is so important because you don’t want to be angry in your meeting. Maybe you’re not angry and can keep your cool, maybe you need to keep imagining you’re flipping the desk quitting scenario a few more times before you go talk to your boss. Once you have done that, you can start to plan your actual process of quitting.

When you are ready, set up a meeting time with your boss. You don’t want to go in randomly, you want to be able to mentally prepare, and you also don’t want to totally blindside your boss.

Know exactly what you are going to say. This is a big one. Don’t go in and just say “I quit see ya never.” Be prepared to have a conversation with your boss, state your reason, and say you’re resigning. Don’t say the word quitting, say either leaving or resigning, these words are less aggressive and will (hopefully) prevent your boss from getting defensive. Be prepared for some questions they may ask you, and practice answers beforehand.

You don’t owe your boss anything but two weeks notice. It is possible that your boss will try to make you feel bad, or not be satisfied with your reason for leaving. That’s not your problem, you don’t owe your boss anything, you don’t need to apologize. People leave workplaces, it’s a part of life don’t let someone guilt you into doing something that isn’t the best for you.

Don’t engage in petty behavior. We all live in the real world and know that sometimes adults, including bosses, don’t act like adults. Don’t allow yourself to get into an argument, stick to your story. If your boss says something rude and petty that makes you want to yell back, just say something like, “I am leaving because I feel this job is not a good fit for me,” or something along those lines. Don’t cave, when it doubt, repeat what you said the moment you started talking.

Eventually, it’s ok to just leave. If your boss will not stop badgering you, trying to make you feel bad, trying to make you stay, whatever, it is perfectly alright to just say, “thank you for your time, my last day will be next Friday.” You don’t have to spend an hour being yelled it.

As always, the staff at the Career & Internship Services office can help you with your transition, they can help go over what questions your employer might ask you, help you practice what you want to say, and help you get out all things you wish you could say without ruining your career.

Next time, we will cover how to act after you quit. Get excited!

Read Willow’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Geran de Klerk

The Right Time to be a Quitter, Part 1

By: Willow

At Career & Internship Services we strive to help students embrace their futures with confidence. We usually do this by making sure students have the tools they need to get jobs and internships. One important part of a person’s professional life, however, is leaving jobs. We usually don’t talk too much about this, but it is incredibly important and not easy. I recently quit one of my jobs and thought it could be helpful for others hear about my experience. Welcome to the first of three installments in The Right Time to Be a Quitter.

to-be-a-quitter

There are so many reasons to quit a job. Here are just a few:

Moving
Obviously, if you are changing locations you probably won’t be able to keep your job, but it’s better to talk to your boss about it sooner rather than later. There may be options you are unaware of that will help you in your transition.

Health
This one can be hard. Maybe you have a physical job and you get injured. Maybe you have some mental health issues you need to take care of. Your health is so important, once again talk to your boss, they may have health resources you can use. Either way, your health is more import than your job. I know it’s hard to say that because it is not fun to think about not having a job, but if your job is affecting your health you can’t be successful in any part of your life.

Finances
Sometimes you can get more money at a different job. That is awesome, good for you. Remember to weigh all of the pros and cons of a new job including but not limited to money, if it is a good choice, there is nothing wrong with leaving a job to get more money, and there’s nothing wrong with (professionally) telling your boss that’s why you’re leaving.

Unhappy
The final reason I am going to cover is a little more difficult. Leaving because you’re unhappy. This is not easy. I know, because I just did it. It’s hard to know the right reason and right time to leave a job. When I started to think about leaving I went to my resources. The first was my mom, and she gave me some awesome advice: She asked me, “What could change that would make you want to stay?” And when I realized I could see no situation where I wanted to stay, I knew it was time to leave. I know that sounds easy, I was obviously unhappy and nothing was going to make me want to stay. But it wasn’t all bad because there were parts of my job I liked and co-workers and clients I was close with. So I found some other people to talk to.

I went into Career and Internship Services and talked with a couple of counselors there. It wasn’t the first time I had talked to them about my job and how discouraged I was. After talking through options, I once again realized that quitting was the right thing to do. I still had one more person on my list of resources, though, my closest co-worker.

Talking to a co-worker is tricky, it can be setting yourself up for failure. The last thing you want in a job setting is that your venting to your co-worker to get back to your boss, or even worse your boss hearing you want to quit from you co-worker before hearing it from you. I went to this co-worker because we were close, and I knew she would be a trustworthy confidant in this situation. If you have even an eyelash of a doubt that your co-worker might not keep your conversation between the two of you, don’t do it. It’s not worth it. I found it extremely helpful to get an opinion from someone in my situation, but be very cautious with what and how you say things to co-workers.

These were my resources, but yours may be different. No matter what, don’t quit on a whim. It is a big decision that takes planning. Fun fact, you can use Career and Internship Services for your entire life as a UMD alumni. So if you are ever thinking of quitting, you can call our office and talk to a counselor about it. It is important to remember everyone has bad days, once in a while you will come home from work crying, it’s just a fact of life. No job should make you miserable all the time, that’s the difference.

This ends the first installment of The Right Time to be a Quitter, tune in next time to learn about how to quit without, for lack of a better term, being a huge jerk and ruining your life.

Read Willow’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Geran de Klerk