In the past year, we had a regular series on our Instagram Stories titled either Monday Musing or Wednesday Wisdom (depending on the semester). These topics sprung from conversations our student employees (Eva & Rachel) were having, then they wanted to share them with a wider audience. We’ve decided to group together the topics into overarching ideas and share them here on the blog. Today we’re talking about ideas around pursuing lifelong learning.
Lifelong Learning We tend to think of our education as a means to an end, but learning from the world around us never has to stop. Choosing to tap into the wealth of knowledge around us can be intimidating, especially once we leave the classroom. Keeping a learner’s mindset can help us grow as individuals, connect with our communities, and engage in life on a deeper level.
Here’s a list of places to start: audiobooks (try your local library for a no cost option) and podcasts; community education classes, reading a book of different genre than usual, taking lessons from someone in your community, watch documentaries, YouTube tutorials, community cultural events, town hall meetings, and the list could keep going.
Reflecting on the Word “Learn” Sometimes we get so caught up in college that we lose sight of what it is we’re doing here and how we’ll use it outside the classroom.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned so far? These could be deep or light. How to be a better friend. Take lip balm out of your pocket before doing laundry.
How can you apply what you’re learning now? You do your homework and take your tests, but what are you really learning? Push yourself to consider how you can use it in your own life now or down the road. Maybe you hate that writing class, but you’ll use the skills to craft a cover letter. Time value of money might seem irrelevant, but you might use it to calculate student loans.
What’s one thing you hope to LEARN in the next year? Maybe it’s school or career related, or it’s a new skill. A part history or the world you’ve always wanted to know about? Use your resources!
Knowledge is power, and learning is a process that never ends.
In the past year, we had a regular series on our Instagram Stories titled either Monday Musings or Wednesday Wisdom (depending on the semester). These topics sprung from conversations our student employees (Eva & Rachel) were having, then they wanted to share them with a wider audience. We’ve decided to group together the topics into overarching ideas and share them here on the blog. Today we’re talking about different ways you can stretch and grow outside your comfort zone.
Being a Work in Progress We often get so focused on the end goals that we lose track of the present moment. Keep taking steps in the direction you want to go and don’t force the outcomes. Your big goals will fall into place as a result of all those mindful small steps, even if those goals aren’t the same as what you had in the beginning.
Taking Risks In college, you’re faced with many choices & opportunities: What major? Take an out-of-state internship? Study abroad? Double major? Attend a job fair?
Economics taught me there’s always an opportunity cost. We always give up something in pursuit of another. It could be your time, money, or sense of comfort. But rather than avoid risks, I think we’d do well to learn how to leverage it.
Abraham Maslow said, “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” There will be times when the best choice is to take a moment in safety. But there are also times that growing requires a lot of courage.
Risks are going to exist either way, so don’t let them stop you from you’re meant to do.
Embracing Growth Opportunities It isn’t always easy to admit there are areas we need to grow in. But these areas don’t make us inadequate; they’re simply opportunities for us to improve.
You’ll have many chances in your life to attend speakers, conferences, etc. They may pop up through school, your job, or other activities. Some of these opportunities may call you out of your comfort zone, and not every one will be right for you. Remember, true growth never comes from a place of comfort.
When deciding whether or not to pursue something, it’s helpful to first know yourself: your strengths, your weaknesses, and where you want to improve. In what ways will (or won’t) this opportunity help you grow in the right direction? Also, realize a professional event can benefit your personal life, and vice versa. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself about an area you want to improve in, and take a brave step towards making it happen!
It’s all about becoming a better person than you were yesterday.
Not Settling There are many areas we might settle for less than the best: final projects we turn in, majors we pursue, jobs we accept, and people we hang around. There are lots of reasons why we might do this. We “don’t have enough time.” It’s the easy option. We fear we can’t do better.
The truth is, you’re going to be the one living the life you’ve built. You’re only going to live the life of your dreams to the degree that you pursue them. There’s a time and place where done is enough, where having a job that pays the bill is necessary. But, the majority of your life will be a result of the choices you make. So make the ones that take you where you want to go!
Turn in the work and take the paths that excite you and build your confidence in the direction you’re headed. And do so boldly.
“Our problem is not that we aim too high, but that we aim too low and hit.” – Aristotle
Sooner or later, it seems like we all reach that point where we’re ready to be done with the semester, and we don’t care who knows it. It’s all we seem to talk about, and sometimes it’s even reflected in our work. The reality is, you’re going to face seasons like this throughout your life. Perhaps you’re just sticking out your job for two weeks until you can move on to the next one, or you’re just gliding through the last few days before your week-long vacation. Maybe right now you’ve got your eye on that diploma regardless of the GPA attached, or you’ve determined these last few weeks are just an inconvenience (albeit busy!) that must be endured, because your mind is already preoccupied with summer.
In my opinion, one of the biggest contributors to living a successful life is finding joy in the present moment. So many of us get caught up in what’s less than ideal about our current lives, and we believe things were so much better in the past or they will be in the future. Often times, we were complaining just as much then and we will just as much in the days to come, unless we change our mindset.
I’d like to offer you a few practices that might help you change your mindset to help you make the best of every situation you find yourself in. It’s important to recognize that not every aspect of life is ideal or healthy. There are times where enduring feelings of negativity might be a sign to take a different path, change majors, or find a different job. But, even the path of your dreams will have a few rocks in it; the key is not to let them trip you up.
One of my favorite ways to find joy in where I’m at in life right now is to ask myself what I’ll miss about it years from now. Sure, college can be a struggle, but when I look at my calendar and get stressed about the jam-packed days that never look the same as the next, I picture myself as a 50-year-old pining for the days that were filled with variety, and it makes me appreciate my current life a little more. I’m sure we all got sick of eating every meal in the Dining Center at some point, but I knew the day would come where I’d run out of fun meal ideas and dread washing the dishes, so I made the most of it.
I’ve found it extremely helpful to have close relationships with people of a wide variety of ages. These people can lend you perspective, and while the problems in your life right now might loom bigger than any others you’ve ever experienced, people with more life experience can usually assure you that what seems like the end of the world actually isn’t. It’s like that insurance commercial, they know a thing or two, because they’ve seen a thing or two. They might not always know best, but having friends who have already survived college or their first years in a full-time job can tell you what things are not worth working yourself up over and other things that are worth pouring your energy into.
Practice gratitude. Many of you have probably heard of the 21 Day Gratitude Challenge, where you write down 3 things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days. Scientists say this is long enough to form a new habit. The point is, regularly recognizing the aspects of your life you can be thankful for means you’ll be more likely to embrace even the trying times with gratitude.
Taking a step back and reminding yourself of the reasons why you’re on the journey you are can be a great way to recenter your mindset. Maybe you really struggle with school, and you can’t wait to be a counselor holding appointments where you’re able to help people. Well, you know you’re probably going to need a degree to do that, so focus on the end goal, and try to make the most of each step along the way. Perhaps you don’t love the types of job positions you find yourself in now, but you know you have to put in your time to earn the kind of position you really want. Give your best to that role, and try to focus on the aspects you enjoy.
I truly hope you’re able to use these tips to embrace the last few weeks of the semester (and your life as a whole) by appreciating the present moment. Sometimes all it takes is a little change in your mindset.
The path to choosing a major is one that looks different for everyone. It seems we’re asked countless times over the years, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Some of us are sticking with the same answer we gave in 1st grade, while others have new ideas every day. Before we get to that career, many of us have to decide which major to pursue first.
To share a brief summary of my own experience, I decided what fields I wanted to study in college the summer before my senior year of high school. I had a few different ideas over the years, but they were slowly weeded out as I came to know more about myself. I always had a love for the written word, but I didn’t really want to go into creative writing, and I wasn’t sure what options that left for me. Out of nowhere, grant writing started to come up in conversations with my aunts and uncles, teachers, and other professionals. While I didn’t know a whole lot about it, it sounded like the type of writing I was interested in.
I had a friend who majored in Professional Writing, and one day the idea came to me to pursue a similar major along with a general background in business. I thought this would lend me a wide scope of occupational opportunities while still being areas I was excited to learn about and work in. My pairing was both strategic and driven by my passions; you can read more about that here.
After this idea came to me, I did more research into job outlook and what I could expect. I took a career class spring of my senior year of high school that forced me to conduct informational interviews and research through sources like O*NET OnLine and the Occupational Outlook Handbook provided through the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). I remained open to the fact that I might decide to change my majors once I got into college, but the things I learned through my research affirmed my decision. I want to take a moment to highlight the sources I found particularly helpful as well as a few others offered through our office.
Your network: I never would have even known grant writing existed if it weren’t for the people in my life. Reach out to those around you, especially professionals. It’s important to keep in mind that one person’s opinion/view is just that: one person’s view, but those working in the field have a unique perspective on opportunities that exist and may be able to offer ideas of where your talents and abilities could be used best.
Informational interviews & Job shadowing: Informational interviews and job shadowing are additional ways to connect with professionals in a field of interest. They can provide tips on steps you should take at this point in your life to set yourself up for success in the future, and doing an interview/job shadow can be a great way to add valuable contacts to your network.
What Can I Do With a Major In (all majors): There are so many different online resources out there, and I’d recommend not just relying on one. It’s a good idea to cross-reference your data, and different sites provide slightly different types of data. This resource through the University of North Carolina Wilmington is a great one for college students, because it links a major with a bunch of connected job titles as well as related major skills. This provides you with occupation titles you might not have ever heard of that you can plug into other career outlook sites for more information. The related major skills can be super helpful in determining what minor or additional major would be particularly beneficial to you in that field.
What Can I Do With This Major? (via University of Tennessee’s Center for Career Development): Somewhat similarly, this site takes majors and breaks them down into more specific areas. Within each area, there are bullet points of typical job duties. Reading through these might pique your interest or turn you away, thus narrowing your search. Each area also includes examples of specific employers and strategies for success in the field. These are helpful tips of steps to pursue in your education, activities, job experiences, etc. in order to build a solid foundation for that specific area.
BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook: Once you have pinpointed a specific job title you’d like to look into, you can use BLS to find a quick summary of median pay, typical education level expected, and job outlook, among other statistics. Across the top, you’ll find additional tabs with information on job responsibilities, how to become one, and similar job titles. One of the tabs I use most is the one that provides state/regionally specific data.
O*NET OnLine: One last website I’d like to highlight is O*NET, which is like the BLS Handbook in that it is organized by occupation. It is easy to use, and a quick search will provide you with a summary of tasks, skills, and knowledge commonly used on the job, as well as personality characteristics and values that lend themselves well to the field.
Graduate Follow-up Report: This report provides much of same information provided through these sites, such as job titles within each major, specific employers, and median salary, but it is specific to students who have graduated from UMD! We put this together every year with information from students who have graduated in the last 6 months to 1 year.
Assessments: Another potential source of information that will help you determine your major/career are career assessments. There are 3 major ones offered through our office as well as a few you can take for free online. These will provide information on your personality, interests, and skills which you can then match up with compatible fields. Setting up an appointment to discuss your results with a career counselor can provide further clarification.
This might seem like a lot of information to navigate, but this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the different routes determining your career might take. If you find yourself trying to answer the question of “What do I want to do when I grow up?”, my core advice would be to stay open. The inspiration for what direction to head could come from just about anywhere: your hobbies, your dreams as a child, your skillset, your heritage, a class you took, or information you found from a website. I’d encourage you to make this decision based on what you learn from a variety of sources: testimonies from professionals, statistics, and your personal attributes. More than anything, recognize that the answer to the question will never totally be finalized, and that’s part of the beauty of career development.
Summer can be a great season of growth, but there can also be great pressure on students to nail down the perfect plan. Some students dream of crossing adventures off their bucket list and seizing the break from school as a chance to take time for their personal life. Others are hoping to develop professionally through some career-related experience or an internship. For some, summer is also a time to get back on track financially and develop new skills or take some classes towards their major.
The first step to nailing down your summer plans is to know yourself and what you want/need to get out of this summer. While I don’t mean to stress you out (right now let’s just make it through the semester!), some plans won’t come together overnight. Putting in a little work now to the extent you are able can really save you a lot of stress down the road. For this post, I’m going to be addressing those who are looking for a job or internship and providing just a few tips I have to help ease the burden of what can be an overwhelming task.
One of the earliest things you need to do is determine your priorities. These will look different for everyone, so consider what type of field you’re aiming for, the amount of hours you’d like to work, and the geographic area you’d like to live in. Also reflect on which factors hold the most importance to you. Maybe you’re considering multiple fields but you are limited to a small geographic area. Or perhaps you are open to how many hours you work and whether or not the experience is paid but you are set on a specific field. Setting these priorities will help limit and guide your search.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to start looking; the question is where? There are countless options for discovering job opportunities, but I want to highlight a few you might not have thought of.
The first option I like to recommend is GoldPASS powered by Handshake. This is a vetted job board available to University of Minnesota students. Other general online job boards might not provide the kind of postings you’re looking for if you’re searching for a very specific field or location.
A few other options to consider:
This nonprofit job board provided by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits includes full time, part time, paid and unpaid internship, and volunteer positions across the state.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people in your network to see if they know of any opportunities. It can be a little nerve-wracking—I know this is something that makes me feel a little hesitant—but after all, this is the point of having a network. Contact past employers, family members, mentors, peers, etc. You might be surprised by which connection leads to a position. This can be done in person, via email, through LinkedIn, or over other platforms; it’s just essential you communicate appropriately and respectfully. One benefit of finding opportunities through your network is your contact will be able to give you a better idea of company culture, environment, and your fit within the organization than a simple Internet search.
If job posting sites aren’t yielding the results you’d hoped for, do some research on your own of companies you think you’d like to work for. Dig a little deeper and see if there are any career opportunities posted through their website. You will likely find a contact you could reach out to as to whether or not they’d be willing to take you on. This calls for a letter of inquiry; if you need guidance crafting one, look here.
Contact people within your major or department of interest. There might even be an employer relations or internship coordinator within your program who is connected with numerous organizations looking to hire students. Maybe there’s a professor who conducts research in an area you’re particularly interested in. Initiate a conversation, because chances are, this professor has some connections in the industry. Another option might be working for a professor directly, which can open the door to many fruitful contacts in the future.
The biggest tip I’d like to leave you with is keep your mind open. You might follow along these steps: reflecting on your goals, determining your priorities, and conducting your search, and it may seem like all you run into are closed doors. If and when that happens, I encourage you to widen your perspective a bit. While it’s important to know your limits, it can be healthy to take on a position that didn’t seem perfect at first. Sometimes those positions are the ones that help you grow and provide the most guidance for your future career. Wherever you end up, give it your best effort and be open to the lessons that are sure to follow.
Last semester I separately touched on why you might want to consider a degree in Organizational Management or Writing Studies, but I never talked about why I decided to study both. Here’s a bit of my story and a few tips I have for those of you thinking about or are working towards multiple majors.
I have always had a passion for writing, and taking composition classes in high school made it clear to me this was something I really loved learning about. However, I wasn’t sure writing was a career I wanted to go into. Writing books didn’t really appeal to me, and I knew enough about myself to know I wanted a more predictable occupation.
As I talked to people, a field that kept coming up was grant writing. Oftentimes school districts, non-profits, or even larger corporations will hire grant writers, and I heard there was quite a demand for them. This is more of the structured, professional area of writing that appeals to me.
I realized grant writing rarely makes up 100% of a person’s job duties — it’s often tied in with other tasks — so I figured it would be wise to gain some additional knowledge in another area. For me this area was business; it was a field I developed an interest in while I was in high school, and I knew the kind of role I would likely find myself in would involve aspects of business administration, human resources, or management. In short, I realized the kind of writing I really want to do is for a business, so rather than specialize in one or the other, I decided to pursue an education in both.
What I hope you’ll glean from my story is that you hold the power when it comes to your education. Double majoring in two very different fields has allowed me to customize my education in a way no single program ever could. Yes, it has certainly brought challenges, and I’ve realized how critical it is to be your own advocate, but in the end, you are the one who has to take your education to the workplace. Do yourself a favor and make sure it’s one that will help you get where you want to go in life.
If you’re considering doubling up on majors, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way and tips I’ll pass on to you:
Prepare to be stretched. Taking on another degree means an additional course load, which obviously presents challenges. If your majors are in very different disciplines (like mine are), it can feel like your brain is being stretched in too many different directions. This isn’t always easy, but it’s important to remember that growth only comes through being stretched. The ability to think in different ways is a skill you will use no matter where you find yourself.
Stay organized. The last thing you want to hear is that you aren’t able to graduate because you forgot to fill out some form. Another major means more things to keep track of, especially if you are enrolled in two different schools. Know what the requirements are, and work with advisors to plan out how your programs can work together.
Be patient. Along with staying organized, I can bet you’ll run into more than a few snags. I know I have! You might be assigned two different advisors, you might have to run from one department to the other since no one specializes in both your majors together, you might spend weeks trying to submit the correct paperwork to declare your second major, and it might feel like you’re all alone trying to figure this out. To a certain extent, you are. There might not be anyone else trying to do what you are. But, there are people who can help, and with a little patience, things will fall into place. Stay grounded in why you’re doing what you are, and don’t allow little inconveniences to prevent you from building the education you’re really after.
What does the Writing Studies program entail? Within CLA, UMD offers a Bachelor of Arts in Writing Studies. There is also an option to minor in this program, which is called Professional Writing. While these titles are pretty self-explanatory, you might be wondering what the program actually entails.
To start, every Writing Studies student is required to take four core classes. Aside from this, you must take an Advanced Writing class and capstone course to be completed during your last semester. Other than that, you take 15 credits of writing electives and 6 credits in communication, English, management information systems, journalism, linguistics, or theater. This allows you to customize your education to your interests and career goals. Some of the electives I’ve taken so far incorporate aspects of graphic design as well as web design and software skills which are highly attractive in today’s job market. I’ve also taken more traditional literature classes that prioritize reading and analyzing writers’ works.
How can I use a Writing Studies degree? You might be surprised by how many careers involve a level of writing. Reports, formal memos, or casual emails all require some writing ability. To even land a job, it is likely you will have to compose a resume and cover letter. While all jobs incorporate some writing, there are certainly some that center around it more than others. Here are some writing-related jobs in different categories (in no particular order):
Creative Writing You can certainly head a creative route and work as a novelist, video game writer, or screenwriter.
Journalism Journalism is another field within writing, with subcategories such as photojournalism and sports journalism. TV stations also hire writers for producing and writing content.
Law At the entry level, you can work as an administrative assistant in a law firm. Since the field involves such a high level of writing, a background of study in business and writing is a smart way to set yourself up for law school.
Freelance Working as a freelance writer can be a great option! There are several websites to advertise your skills and help you connect with clients. A similar but somewhat controversial field is ghostwriting. As a ghostwriter, you would develop content for a client, but you don’t get any of the credit for your work. The pay can vary widely, and ghostwriters have been used by songwriters, politicians, celebrities, and novelists.
Business Within a wide scope of businesses, there are a variety of roles that would be strengthened by a background in writing. Some examples include communications specialist, marketing associate, public relations specialist, content strategist, or social media manager. Some organizations also hire proposal or grant writers.
Common Roles Across Industries Other typical jobs for writers include editors, publishers, and copy editors or proofreaders. You can find these positions in a variety of organizations. If you can speak and write in more than one language, there are countless fields that utilize translators.
Unique Roles While we’ve addressed some common areas writers work in, there are countless obscure roles you probably don’t know exist. Think of everything you read; someone is responsible for writing that! The backs of cereal boxes, birthday cards, the fine print at the bottom of those ads for medicine on tv. . .it’s all written by someone. Technical writers are often tasked with writing documents like manuals. In certain fields, such as engineering, demand for these positions can be quite high, but they typically require knowledge in your field as well as writing expertise. Another interesting position is speechwriting. Some celebrities, politicians, and executives actually hire writers to come up with their speeches.
Hopefully this opens your eyes to the many directions Writing Studies can take you! If you enjoy writing to any degree, I would encourage you to think outside of the box and combine that with your other interests to see how you can find success in your career.