• Creating a Schedule in a Time of Chaos

    by Becca Elson

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    Has anyone else’s world completely turned upside down? Yes? Mine, too – as well as every other college student across the world. I would have never imagined my education could change so dramatically in such a short amount of time. Campus closures due to COVID-19 changed not only my education, but my entire social life as well. If you are managing to not go insane, huge props to you! 

    This is all very difficult, but I am doing my best to make it through this as I hope you are, too. I want to share what has helped me stay positive and motivated throughout this experience. Here’s a consistent schedule I try to follow every day to maintain a sense of normalcy

    Set the Alarm

    Waking up at a decent time is very important. This helps to get my day started and get motivated. I make a point to be up by 9 a.m. because I’ve noticed that if I wake up later than 10 a.m., the day is done before I’ve had a chance to be productive. I also like to have my day wind down around 6 p.m. so then I can relax, make dinner, and chat with friends in the evening. Keeping this timeline is a great way to establish balance in your life. 

    Make Daily Goals

    I suggest making a flexible schedule built around five things you would like to accomplish every day. For example, between the time I wake up and wind down, I try to work out, do something school related, read for thirty minutes, spend some time on my job with Pearson, and study for my certified public accountant license. No one is perfect and some days are better than others. I don’t always have to complete everything, but by having a goal, I find myself more motivated to get out of bed and get things accomplished!

    Stay Accountable

    Keeping track of what I am doing helps me stay on schedule. I created a document where I have each day listed in a row and I mark what I have done for each of my five daily goals. It might sound nerdy but it really works for me! Before I give in to the urge to lie in bed and watch Netflix, I will look at my document and see what I have slacked on before turning on my show. 

    Go Outside!

    I always carve out at least 30 minutes a day to be outside. Being cooped up in your house all day can get very dull. Going outside is a great way to get a change of scenery. If the weather is nice enough, I try to do my homework outside or take a walk. 

    Sticking to a routine can help you stay in a positive state of mind in these chaotic times. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, both physically and mentally. All we can do is try our best and hope this will be over soon.

     

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  • Time to get LinkedIn with your social media presence

    by Becca Elson

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    Having a strong and professional social media presence is critical when entering the job market. LinkedIn is a key platform to make sure you are doing just that. One of the most important things to remember about LinkedIn is to make sure it represents you. It is not uncommon for recruiters to screen candidates on LinkedIn before meeting them. Imagine getting asked a question about something on your LinkedIn that you don’t even remember posting. How embarrassing! That is why it is important that your profile stays relevant and updated to represent your current pursuits. 

    Selecting your profile picture

    A picture is worth a thousand words. This is important to remember when selecting the image you are using for your profile picture and header. For your profile picture, you will want to use a professional individual picture that is high quality. Avoid pictures that have others cropped out, may be blurry, or where you are not dressed in business professional or business casual attire. I recommend changing your header from the default setting to an image that stands out more, but is not overwhelming to your profile. 

    Adding experiences

    When listing your experiences on LinkedIn there are few components: title of position, company, timeline, location, and description. All these details are important because it gives the viewer a full picture of your commitment and involvement in this activity. The description should vary from what you would put on your resume. It is advised to use clear and concise language that can be applied to the job type you are looking for. I suggest using sentences rather than bullets for this section. At times it can be useful to include a description of the organization, especially if it is not a national organization. 

    Networking

    Building a network on LinkedIn is key to the benefit of this platform. When building a network it can be tempting to add anyone who sends a connect request to you, but avoid the urge to accept it. I have noticed that sometimes I receive requests with many mutual contacts, but I know I have never met this person. Remember that just because you see someone has mutual friends it does not mean you should accept; your connections could have mindlessly accepted this request as well. As you develop in your career you will want to have meaningful connections that could be used for networking, so it is important to connect with those who you would feel comfortable reaching out to. 

    Staying connected

    Sharing posts and news, liking, commenting, and creating your own posts are great ways to stay engaged with LinkedIn. It shows viewers that you are interested in up-to-date news and keeps you in tune with what your colleagues and friends are up to in their professional lives. I enjoy following businessmen, businesswomen, and companies I admire to continue my education outside the classroom. 

    LinkedIn has endless possibilities on how to best stay in touch as well as promote yourself. Utilize it because there are countless benefits to explore!

     

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  • Four Tips for Career Fair Success

    by Becca Elson

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    It may feel like the semester has just begun, but Fall career fairs will be here before you know it! Whether you’re a first-time career fair participant or a seasoned veteran, here are some tips on how to get the most from the experience. 

    Advance planning

    I cannot stress enough how important it is to research the companies that will attend the career fair. Most college career service offices will make their list of participating companies available ahead of time. Make a list of the companies that most interest you and explore each company’s website to learn what makes them unique. This will help you be able to explain why you are interested in their company on career fair day; in addition, you will be able to explain how your personal brand fits in their company. Investigate what positions you may be interested in and consider the skills you have that would make you successful at those jobs. If the company has not posted job information yet, inquire when this information is expected to come out and a rough timeline of their recruiting process. 

    Resume required

    On career fair day, there is not a specific time that is best for handing the recruiter your resume. Some recruiters will want to have your resume from the beginning to ask you questions based off the resume. Other recruiters will not want to be distracted by the resume and prefer it at the end. There are some companies that do not accept resumes at career fairs at all. Regardless of what situation you end up in you will want to make sure you bring plenty of copies of your resume to the career fair. While not a necessity, your resume will look much better if printed on resume paper rather than on regular copy paper that can be easily wrinkled. I also like to have my resume on top of my padfolio in clear view for the recruiter, so they can feel free to ask for it at any point. 

    Engage in the moment

    The lines for some companies can be particularly long and they may have recruiters checking people in before approaching the main recruiters. Take advantage of the recruiters who are monitoring the line. They work for the company, too! Ask them how their day is going and what they think of the campus. This is just another opportunity to network with more people and a chance to make another good impression. Make sure you are asking them and the main recruiters questions specific to them and not generalized ones. Also, while you are waiting in line make sure to look engaged. This can mean looking over your notes or talking to others in line. Standing in the line on your phone does not give a good impression to recruiters and they will notice. 

    The aftermath

    One of the most important parts of a career fair is what you do afterwards. It is critical that you send a thank-you email to each recruiter you spoke to within 24 hours of the career fair. You must remember to ask for the recruiter’s contact information, which in most instances is their business card. Sometimes recruiters will not give this out, but don’t worry – this most likely means they are extremely busy and won’t have the time to get back to you. In this instance, you may need to search the company’s website to find contact information. Avoid sending the exact same thank you email to every recruiter you talked to; this will look generic and lazy. I found it most helpful to take notes after each company I spoke with. Then I could reference something specific in my follow-up email to each person. You think that you will remember what you spoke about with each company but believe me, when you get home it will all feel like a huge blur. 

    No matter if you are looking for a job or if you are just there for practice, make it a point to attend career fair. Prepare ahead of time, take your resume, engage with recruiters, and be sure to follow up afterwards. Be confident, enjoy getting to know new people and you’ll be on the path to success!

     

     
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  • Roommate Rules: Tips for a Better Roommate Experience

    by Becca Elson

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    (This is the third post in our Roommate Rules series. Be sure to check out the first and second posts, too, for more great advice on building a successful roommate relationship!)

    Having a great roommate experience starts with choosing the right person. Just because someone is your best friend does not mean they will make a good roommate. I could never see living with some of my closest friends. When discussing rooming with someone it is important to go over topics such as guests, schedules, and cleanliness. 

    Be Our Guest

    Some people prefer their alone time and would not like to have guests over to their place all the time or overnight guests. It is important to set boundaries about how often you should expect to have guests over and when it is off limits, such as the night before a big exam. You need to be on the same page before it becomes a problem and becomes awkward for everyone.

    Conflicting Schedules

    Schedules are also important to go over because if you have a night owl and a morning person in the same room, issues may arise. If this ends up happening, try to make a compromise. This could mean that during the early hours and late nights you will try to stay out of the room or move to a more common area. A simple tip I used is that my roommate and I used our phone flashlights when coming in late or leaving early rather than turning all the lights on. Work together so you both can be happy.

    Coming Clean

    When I first moved in with my freshman year roommate I needed some work in the cleanliness category. For me, cleaning meant that if all my clothes were put up within a day of when I brought them out, then it was fine. On the other hand, my roommate liked to clean as she made a mess. The best way to handle this type of situation is to communicate your issues before they start to boil up. If you let issues fester with your roommate, then when confrontation arises it could come off as aggressive when instead it can be a simple conversation. I would suggest setting up a cleaning schedule for common areas so that everyone knows their role. If the same person is taking out the trash every single week, they will get sick of that quickly. 

    Sharing Food

    Food may seem like a simple issue, but I have seen it affect many of my friends’ relationships with their roommates. The main reason this can become a problem is because of finances and the fact that people are paying for their own food. It is key to ask before you ever assume someone is OK with you having some of their food. Other times it works out great where there is give and take and everyone shares. Always replace anything you take from your roommate because they may not feel comfortable bringing it up, although it may be bothering them deep down. This goes for not just food, but anything that belongs to your roommate. Unless you and your roommate have explicitly agreed that borrowing without asking is OK, do not assume. 

    Get Time Away

    Another important thing to realize is that you don’t have to do everything with your roommate. It is OK to both have your own friends and do different things. In fact, it is a good thing to get space from your roommate sometimes, so that you are not around one another 24/7. But do make an effort to get to know their friends because you may end up finding some great friends for yourself as well. 

    I have had great relationships with my roommates from my freshman year dorm, to a sorority, and now a house. My biggest takeaway has been that not everyone operates like you and you must be careful to communicate your preferences and boundaries. Make the most of the experience because you may never know how much you enjoy living with roommates until you don’t have them. The one semester I lived alone I missed my roommates more than I could have imagined. 

     

    Check out the first and second posts in our Roommate Rules series:

    Roommate Rules: Communication paves the way for a positive roommate experience

    Roommate Rules: Five Types of College Roommates and How to Live with Them

     

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  • How do you get organized for the first week of class?

    by Becca Elson

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    Getting organized for the first week of classes starts before the first week of classes. Professors will start sending out their syllabi weeks before the class begins. I always look at the syllabus as soon as the professor sends it out because occasionally there will be assignments listed there that are due the first day of class. I try to get the assignments done before I am physically back on campus because getting settled and catching up with friends can begin to get hectic. Even though it’s still break, it is important to put your best effort forward on these assignments. They are the first impression your teacher is getting from you.

    I remember walking into a class on the first day and the teacher asked, “How many of you did not get a chance to do the reading?” No one raised their hand. After that, he began calling on students to summarize the reading for him and that’s when the truth came out. No one had done the reading for the first class and everyone got caught in their lie. After attending this class, I made sure to always do the reading assigned for the first day to ensure a situation like this would not happen to me.

    Another thing I do to get ready for the first week of class is to go through all my school supplies from the previous semester and see if there is anything I can reuse. This is a great way to save money and time and you don’t have to go through the hassle of spending hours at an office supply store. And honestly, in college there aren’t many school supplies to get except pencils and notebooks.

    Hold off getting textbooks. Many times, bookstores on campus will have a list of the books you need for a class before your class has started. I have found that these lists are not always accurate and can end up costing you more money than you need to spend. Wait until the first day of each class or until you’ve read the syllabus before you go buy textbooks because your teacher may say you don’t even need it in their class.

    Syllabus week is not a week of no homework, although we all wish it was. Most times professors will already have a homework assignment prepared which is why it is important to have your house, dorm, apartment, or wherever you may live set up before the first week of classes. This way you don’t have to come home from class and organize your living space.

    If you organize the week before classes start you will have a much better and relaxing start to the semester. I love spending that first week of classes exploring my campus and catching up with friends before the real work starts!

     

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  • It's Not Too Early to Start Your Summer Internship Search

    by Becca Elson

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    It’s the beginning of the Fall semester, but if you hope to have an internship next summer, the time to start planning is now. Here are some things to keep in mind when kicking off your search.

    Start early

    I cannot stress the importance of diving in as soon as possible to potential opportunities. I recently completed my sophomore year at Indiana University and did not start my internship search until about midway through second semester. This was a huge mistake because I was stressed out about finding an internship as finals approached. I thought I had an internship secured at a company that ended up not finalizing their internship program until the start of summer. As spring break approached, I knew I needed to get serious about pursuing other opportunities. When your school tells you recruiting is in the Fall, they really mean it. When I finally got on the job board site for my school’s career center, there was almost nothing left. I knew I was late to the game at this point.

    Search online

    After applying for a couple of internships at my school’s career center, I began to explore the web. I would advise anyone who does this to apply for everything they see that remotely sounds like something they might want to do. The biggest issue I found with online job applications from websites is that they almost never got back to you whether it was good news or bad news. Another issue is that internships were posted when the position had already been filled. (This is another reason I would really recommend heading to your career service office in the Fall when there are more opportunities and reliable postings through school services.) The internet is filled with a lot of junk jobs and internships, however that doesn’t mean the perfect job for you is not waiting out there. I ended up receiving an accounting internship offer from a listing I found online. Although I did not accept the offer, researching and interviewing with the company was still a great experience.

    Utilize family and friends

    If you are looking for an internship, friends and family are a huge resource. It is important to reach out because you never know the connections they might have. They really helped me feel more comfortable about my search. I ended up finding my internship through a family friend. 

    Honesty is the best policy

    One of the most important things I learned in my search for an internship was that it is important to be open and honest with employers. I had a final interview for one company the same day my offer was expiring at another company that had extended my offer deadline. This was a nerve-wracking day for me as I was balancing the two companies. Thankfully my honesty with both companies about my situation paid off and I received an offer on the spot from my top choice. In the end I had a great experience interning for the Commerce Trust Company in St. Louis and I had a family friend just one floor away.

    You can start now to secure a great internship. Utilize your campus career center, search online, and put the word out to family and friends. Hopefully, your advance preparations will lead to a rewarding internship next summer!

     

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  • The Balancing Act

    by Becca Elson

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    I wish someone would have told me how important it is to keep up a balancing act in college. In high school, I was hard working so I didn’t expect college to be too different. College is another level of hard work. As you progress in your college career, there are things you must adapt and learn from. I’ve encountered very insightful experiences so far. Freshman year went relatively smooth. I guess teachers know you are a freshman and are willing to give you some slack as you transition. Sophomore year has been a whole different story.

    A narrow focus

    During the first semester of my sophomore year I started to feel like I was missing out on part of my college experience. I barely had any time to be with my friends, have time for myself, or even give my parents a call. By focusing on trying to maintain a 4.0, I lost sight of the world beyond the classroom. I wish someone would have told me how difficult this balancing act would be.

    Making adjustments

    This year I have been engrossed in all my major classes. It has been a completely different experience than my general education and prerequisite courses from freshman year. I walked into my three 300 level accounting courses this year to be told the average grade in this class would be targeted at a 2.5-3.0. In high school, I was always a 4.0+ student and being told the average would be a 2.5-3.0 has been a difficult adjustment for me.

    Evaluating commitments

    On top of school, there is the pressure of being involved in extracurriculars. And not only to be involved in extracurriculars but to take on leadership positions within those organizations. When I went through recruitment, I had no idea how large my commitment to my sorority would be. There are countless meetings, obligations, activities, and on top of that, I am Vice President of Finance. In addition to the sorority, I have also joined business organizations that go along with my major. But now I’m going to try something different. I’m going to focus on organizations that truly encompass my passions and ones I get excited about. I am going to join ICAN (Indiana Canine Assistance Network) to work with service dogs. This will relieve some of the stress of college and allow me to give back to the community.

    A new plan

    If you are feeling as overwhelmed as I was when I started sophomore year, I caution you to not lose the balance that I lost my first semester. Of course, grades matter and your education matters. It’s why you go to college. But there is a balance to maintain. It is vital to take time for yourself, family, and friends. Adjust your study habits to meet the expectations of challenging classes. Evaluate the commitments you make to extracurricular activities. Think quality, not quantity. Without doing this you can lose sight of what college is all about: learning who you are and who you want to become. It is important to devote your time to things that truly matter. Improving on your balancing act could be as simple as going and spending fifteen minutes with your roommate every night just to catch up and relax.

    Students, how do you find a balance between work, school, and fun? Share by commenting below!

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