Tips for Interning & Working Remotely

By: Rachel

At the end of my summer internship, I was asked if I’d be interested in continuing to work remotely once I returned to school in Duluth. As I quickly found out, working remotely can be an awesome opportunity, but it does bring some unique challenges. Whether you find yourself working remotely temporarily or more permanently, here are some tips I’ve learned in the past year to make the most of your experience:

Establish a routine. Among all the people I’ve talked to about working remotely, the most successful ones are those who stick to a routine. One of the biggest things many people enjoy about working remotely is the flexibility, and you can definitely take advantage of this, but try to set aside intentional times for work, meals, school, and personal interests. You’ll find this allows you maximize both the productivity and quality of whatever you’re focusing on.

In order to establish a routine that works for you, you’ll need to understand how you’re most productive. Do you work best in the morning or at night? Do you find your best time to exercise is the afternoon? Find what works for you and build your daily routine accordingly, recognizing it might change from day to day or over time.

Image: laptop computer sitting open on wood desktop
Text: Tips for interning and working remotely

Prepare for success. Take the time to set up a workspace and make sure you have all the equipment you’ll need. I’ve found it’s helpful to have one area dedicated to my work. Keeping this place organized and free of distractions helps me enter into the mindset to do my best work. Preparation can also be a daily practice of taking the time to get ready each day and having a morning routine before diving into work.

Optimize your work time. Some people find it’s helpful to set timers for work and break times. Personally, I try to be aware of where I keep my phone while working. When I need to focus, I’ll set it in a different room and only check it on breaks. Working remotely often requires a higher level of personal responsibility as you’re on your own, and I find lists to be really helpful in keeping track of everything I need to get done.

Connect with colleagues. You’ll probably find you need to adjust the way you communicate and collaborate with coworkers. This depends a lot on the nature of your role, but keep in mind the schedule you’ve created for yourself doesn’t necessarily align with the people you’re working with. Familiarize yourself with their routines so you know the best times to reach them. Keep in touch by checking in periodically whether that’s through an email, text, or conference call. While it can be more difficult when you aren’t there, it’s still important to stay updated on what’s happening within the company.

Make the experience fun! Motivate yourself by making your work time something you enjoy. To the extent your company allows, find some awesome playlists to listen to, create a workspace you’re excited to come to, wear what makes you happy and productive, and keep your favorite snacks on hand.

One of the biggest challenges with working remotely is maintaining work-life balance, so stay tuned for a blog post on tips for managing that to come!

Best, 
Rachel

Of Possible Interest:
Internships, On the Job, Productivity & Wellness – all our blog posts on the topics
Now that You’re on the Job – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Photo Source: Unsplash | Kari Shea

Mentors: Be One; Have One

By: Amanda

One of the most impactful lessons I have learned throughout my college experience so far is the importance of mentorship—both being a mentor and finding one. Finding a mentor, whether it is in a formal or informal setting, is something that can help one learn and push their limits. I have had a variety of formal and informal mentors in my lifetime. When it comes to making big life decisions, it’s vital to have a trusted person to turn to who understands your life goals and visions. 

Image: notebooks and rose gold binder clips on white desktop
Text: Mentors: How to have one and be one

FINDING YOUR MENTOR

Join Student Groups
Mentors can come in many shapes and forms. If you are in a club or student group on campus, perhaps there is an older, more experienced individual who you can learn from. In my sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma, I have two alumni I refer to often for professional and personal advice. Ask to grab coffee with someone who you look up to in your organization. You never know where it will lead!

Use Your Collegiate Unit
Another way to find a mentor is through your collegiate unit. Find someone further along than yourself. Use them and their life as guidance. Learn from their highlights and downfalls; ask sensible questions. Additionally, some collegiate units have formal mentorship programs that kick off every fall. Check out the UMD Mentor Program.

Within Professional Work
Finally, mentors can be found through your professional work. During my summer internship experience, I was paired with a mentor who had similar goals and values as me. We sat down bi-monthly to discuss the program, my goals, and any questions I had. Within your next professional job, seek out a mentor who will help you navigate work experiences.

BEING A MENTOR: PAYING IT FORWARD
Although I haven’t been a formal mentor yet, I have found many instances where I am taken a “mentor-like” role. For example, while working at Career and Internship Services, I have found myself helping younger students who work in our office. I was in their shoes just two years ago and love to help them sift through work, life, or school. Additionally, in my sorority, I’m often helping younger women who are in the business school and trying to maneuver through internships, their majors, or what classes to sign up for. 

Through experiences like these, I have discovered the importance of paying it forward and intentionally aiding others as much as possible. I have had profound mentors over the past few years who have significantly changed the course of my life. Being able to give back in some way, even if minuscule, is something I cherish. 

I challenge you to not only find someone to help you with your career goals but also find someone who you can help. When you do this, you will find ultimate fulfillment. 

Of Possible Interest:
Networking; On the Job – all our blog posts on these topics
Key to Networking; Now that You’re on the Job – our Pinterest boards filled with resources & articles

Read Amanda’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | STIL

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

 

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