Coffee Break

For the girl that has everything, and still needs to discuss unrelated topics.

Quick Links: Life After Graduation

A few days ago, I discovered a wonderful website called Good.Co that’s geared towards psychological development & the workforce. Since I’m a big fan of personality theory & career development, I figured I’d check it out. While I was most certainly not a psychology major and thus can’t really quantify how valid all of the information on the site is, I really enjoyed some of the key features of the sites, such as the free personality test that you can take when you sign up.

Essentially, it helps you to discover your workplace personality and style through a simple questionnaire. My result split me into the three categories of the Dreamer, Idealist, and Innovator which gave a full listing on what other types of personalities I would or wouldn’t get along with alongside recommendations for workplace habits and careers. They also come with famous people as the avatars for each description – sadly I don’t think Beyonce is on there. Maybe I’ll send that in as a future recommendation.

Though my favorite resource so far is the blog, but there’s no surprises there. For recent grads who are searching or lucky enough to be employed, Good.Co has a Life After Graduation resource list for the Class of 2014. My favorite posts are on career development for Gen Y employees  (once again, no surprises) but I really do love that they focus on personal branding and workplace happiness. So many post-college resources are dedicated to the grind of getting a job that they fail to explain what happens afterwards. For those who are still searching for a job or want to brush up on their workplace skills – I definitely recommend checking out this site.

Are there any other career blogs you’d like to recommend?

Blogging 101 for the College Grad

Wow! It feels like 2014 has flown by so quickly already. I’ve finishing up the busiest (and last) semester of my college career, and preparing to graduate next Saturday!

Now that I have all the wisdom of a soon-to-be college graduate, I want to share some of the tips I’ve learned both as a blogger and as someone who has gotten involved in social media marketing in Twitter, Facebook, and beginning with Pinterest and Instagram! I’m hoping I can share some of my exploration with the rest of you, which I’m going to term as part of my “101” series in online marketing.

This week’s series is on one of my favorite platforms: blogging. I’ve blogged in WordPress primarily, but I’m familiar with other platforms as well. Simply put, I want to make a quick guide of tips for those who are hoping to find their niche within the blogging world. If you’re struggling to figure out exactly what you want to get out of your blog content, here are a few ideas to get to you started with some follow-up actions to boot.

Sometimes having a quick, 5-minute activity is all you need to start creating amazing posts. So what exactly do you want to do to create great, open blog content?

Try out a bunch of things

If you’ve been blogging throughout college or are just starting post-graduation, the early stages of blogging rarely have a clear focus. When I first started producing online content, I wrote about everything from sustainable farming to dating advice – and I personally think that I’m much better for it. If you have an idea in mind of what you want to do, and you think that you can push forward in it, definitely go ahead. But if you have mixed feelings on what content you want to offer, it’s OK to “play around” for a bit. At some point, you’ll start to discover exactly what you want. And that’s when you’ll find your niche. Just don’t spend those first 3-4 months or so panicking because your blog doesn’t have a set theme. You might end up splitting it off into multiple themes, and that can end up being an incredibly valuable experience.

Action: Make a list of topics that interest you, and see if you can think of any sample blog posts to go alongside that.

Read other blogs

One of the best things that happened during my blogging career was to join the HerCampus Blogger Network. When I was trying to figure out exactly how to structure my blog, I looked at many of their styles to figure out what I wanted to offer, and just how interesting I could make it. It was so helpful to look at those who had witty, well-organized, and incredibly fun blogs such as Lady Unemployed and Flawlessly Flawed to see what kind of content that I could be providing to others. I always recommend looking at the work of those who are one or two steps above you – sometimes the best muse is browsing the ideas of those who have already become incredibly accomplished.

Action: Set up Google Alerts for your topic (or topics) of interests. See if any common new sites or blogs come up, and browse their sites for design and content ideas.

Write for others – share your content

When I first started blogging, most of my content was created for others. While I had been writing for a variety of sites since at least my sophomore year, it wasn’t until I met Kira Sabin at a Lafayette Sex Week talk that I decided to write for the College Crush. It was an exciting experience for a number of reasons, but most importantly, I got to establish an online voice that wasn’t simply talking about academic criteria or summarizing the works of others. Though I am nowhere near a dating expert, I enjoyed creating content that would be applicable for an area of focus that I was actually familiar with: college women. Also, it helps to create an established online presence and gain traffic for your own blog.

Action: See if any of your favorite blogs are looking for guest writers. Make sure that your blog will be listed either in the post or in the summary section to gain traffic.

Though these are just a starting base of tips, use them to push forward in creating a unique voice for your blog. Blogging isn’t easy work if you plan to really focus in on it, but push forward and see what kind of amazing things you can come up with!

***Flawless (Senior Advice)

Disclaimer: This is just a fun reflection post I put up for my birthday. I make no promises to offer and worldly sage advice, just a few more thoughts on senior year and turning 21. Enjoy!

Yes, I know the caption image is from the song “Superpower.” Yes, I am an avid Beyonce fan. No shame. 

So I forgot to do a post yesterday – it was a pretty hectic and laid-back weekend at the same time. Today’s my birthday, and I’m finally turning 21 with less than 90 days to graduation. It’s also Dr. Seuss’ birthday, which I’m devastated that no one has mentioned up until this point.

More than anything, it’s nice to have a quiet day where I can reflect on how far I have (or haven’t) come since freshman year. Oddly enough, I can say that I’ve managed to accomplish everything that I wanted to do.  And a bit more than that as well. I’ve been a lot of people at Lafayette College who have broadened my perspective on the world and what it means to be a global, engagement, and active citizen, which  is more than I really could have hoped for at college. Most importantly, I’ve learned that I’m really never going to stop learning – which seems a bit obvious to most. But for me, I really had hoped to go to college, learn some marketable skills, and graduate. But now, I can sincerely say that I’ve done a significant amount more than that. And that’s really more than I would’ve asked for at college.

I think one of the greatest things about this year is coming to terms with what it means to be a college student, and a member of Lafayette’s community. More than half of the student body is full of over-committed overachievers (myself included), but I think that’s one of the many things liberal arts colleges offer that we can’t quite get anywhere else.

While I think its very useful to be involved in a single activity that they give their heart to. I strongly recommended allowing yourself to try things out. I really didn’t find my niche until junior year, and my that point I was having to deal with the level of social capital – both positive and negative – that I had created at our college. I think that it’s really important to be allowed to explore for a variety of reasons, not even just for the general learning experience.

I don’t think college is really about finding yourself. At all, really.

But I do believe that college gives the chance to discover who you are in relation to the world at large. The activities you take on, the professors you learn from, and the memories you create are all a reflection of the person who you have become in this world. I don’t think this viewpoint is isolated to college, or that college is the only way that you can accomplish these goals, but I think that it’s important to recognize that college may be one of the only places to get a full view of theories and methods behind social, scientific, and general societal concerns. You don’t have to take advantage of everything, but you should definitely refocus your efforts as well as you can.

… and if nothing else, do as much as you can to maximize your tuition dollars.

What’s your take on the future of Higher Education?

What’s your take on the future of Higher Education?

Happy Friday everyone!

This article comes at such a convenient time for me – I had the pleasure of meeting Lafayette’s newest President yesterday, and she had so many fascinating things to say about the future of higher education and the resulting discussion on whether our degrees/education/experience/etc. has any form of quantitative market value. Additionally, she brought up the need to integrate new technologies with higher education models – using MOOCs as the obvious example. 

And that got me thinking – is that really what I want from my college? I can sincerely attest to the awesome nature of MOOCs – Coursera is one of my favorite websites, and I’ve been using Lynda.com to revisit some software models that I’m gotten rusty with. But at the same time, I think that there’s a lot to be gained from in-person discussion experiences. It’s one of the greatest things about my college in that perspective. 

I think that there are a lot of different takes on higher education models and whether some degrees are more useful over others – but ultimately that perspective leads to a damaging derailment of what college is. Yes, we all want degrees that provide market value and can further our careers. At the same time it’s important to remember that college should teach us more than that. Most of my greatest college experiences were outside the classroom experiences – through clubs, committees, and most often jobs. And this is probably the liberal arts student speaking to me, but I also think that the mentoring relationships that I’ve gained in college are equally as important as my other experiences. 

But I absolutely agree with Selingo’s point that some parts of the college experience are taken for granted. There should be a significant focus on career development, financial management, civic engagement, and even skills that should be general – language learning, computer and information literacy, and public speaking – that colleges should refocus into their curriculum. Students should be allowed to structure their college experiences, but it would be helpful if there were a set of base skills that they all had to learn. 

I think there will be a lot more revisiting in the future, but the ‘future of higher education’ isn’t quite what I’m worried about anymore – I honestly believe that many colleges are actively working to change their perspectives on what they can offer students. Unfortunately, we may be a risk for colleges being used as a substitute for the convoluted – and ultimately destructive – nature of the entire U.S. education system. Fixing one element of the problem may be a temporary fix, but it doesn’t get into some of the bigger problems – but I’ll tackle those in another post!

What are your suggestions for working/improving the world of higher education?

What do you need to stop wasting your time on?

What do you need to stop wasting your time on?

I absolutely loved this article. I think its incredibly true to life, and points 20-25 hit me right close to home.

And while I think that one could go on forever, there’s one thing that at least for college students I believe is an important thing to stop wasting time on: 

Stop trying to get everything ‘right’: Unfortunately, you won’t get everything right. Whether it’s the right answer, the right question, the right idea, it happens. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to get things right at all, but change your approach from getting things right to understanding instead. What is it that you understand now? If you ask people why they want the right answer – most of us will chalk it up to grades. But at some point your experience won’t be measured in grades or quantitative evaluations, so focus on your internal progress, not getting the right answer.

So, what you think are big time wasters?

Revamping Your Health Mindset

Whether it’s the beginning of a new year or a few weeks before the summer – there’s always the push to eat healthy and get into better shape. But even worse is the struggle to dedicate yourself to a solid plan, and stick with it on a day-to-day basis. Counting the New Year alone, only 8% of the American population manage to keep their New Year’s Resolutions throughout the entire year (myself included).  And unsurprisingly, 3 out of the top 10 resolutions are about health – with losing weight coming in at #1.

These are some pretty disheartening statistics right?

There is a really easy way to get around this: change your mindset instead of just your goals. We all have a natural, innate willpower to align ourselves with our larger, more beneficial values. Stanford University Professor Kelly McGonigal discusses this at length with TED. Use your willpower to push yourself into a healthy eating plan by deciding on what you really want to get out of eating better. This will only happen when you decide exactly why you want to become healthy, and turn it into a goal you’re excited for, instead of a commitment that you’re grudgingly trying to complete. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Take it one step at a time: There are two things in this world that can’t be completed in a day – Rome and your brand new diet plan. It’s perfectly fine to take some time and learn of the new ways you can promote healthy eating habits. And once you do, look for small ways you can break up those tasks. For example, make March the month where you drink a full glass of water every day, or prepare to sign up for weekly Zumba classes in June. If you’re looking for ideas, a healthy eating and nutrition startup in Philadelphia has a list of small ways you can improve your healthy eating habits as a starting point.
  2. Read up on the benefits of healthy eating: While there are plenty of benefits to healthy eating overall, plant-based eating is stated to have a number of positive benefits. From preserving the environment, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing weight, there are a host of reasons to try it. What’s important is that you find the one that will motivate you to stick with it.
  3. Become accountable to someone: The best way to stick to a goal is to have a friend, spouse, or family member hold you accountable. Essentially, let peer pressure work in your favor to stay healthy. Alternatively, bring that person along for the ride and push each other to become more fit, better eaters, or any goal that you are looking to accomplish. Make your new goal fun by including others on the path to living healthy lifestyles.
  4. Think long-term: What will be the benefits of healthy eating for you? Think 1, 3, 5 years down the road and decide what you hope to accomplish. If it’s maintaining a certain weight, visualize how great you’ll look in the future. If it happens to be reducing disease, envision spending time with your loved ones and being as healthy and positive as possible. Many of us work best when we picture our goals, so take the time to create a visual mental image of what you want to occur in the long term.

It doesn’t have to be January 1st to start creating healthy eating plans, so be sure to find different ways and opportunities to improve your health! What other ways do suggest for sticking to a healthy eating plan?

After College: 24 Things You Need To Know Before Turning 24

After College: 24 Things You Need To Know Before Turning 24

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of anything related to your 20’s, as I’ve written a whole post about positive things that 20 years old can do in the past. But I came across this post from After College a few days ago, and I just had to share it. Anyone in their 20’s should definitely check this out, as it’s a great guideline for how being in your 20’s is truly a case a trial-and-error for most of us. 

The science of willpower: Kelly McGonigal on why it’s so dang hard to stick to a resolution

“Willpower is about being able to hold opposites.” This one sentence pretty much wraps up how fantastic this article is about. Willpower has to do with accepting all parts of yourself, instead of trying to faze out your own perceived negative qualities.

TED Blog

By the second week of January, that resolution that once seemed so reasonable — go to the gym every other day, read a book a week, only drink alcohol on weekends — is starting to seem very … hard. As you are teetering on the edge of abandoning it all together, Kelly McGonigal is here to help. This Stanford University psychologist — who shared last year how you can make stress your friend — wants you to know that you’re not having a hard time sticking to a resolution because you are a terrible person. Perhaps you’ve just formulated the wrong resolution.

McGonigal has, for years, taught a course called “The Science of Willpower” through Stanford’s Continuing Studies program and, in 2011, she spun it into a book, The Willpower Instinct. The TED Blog spoke to McGonigal this week about how willpower is often misunderstood, and what we each can do…

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My 2014 Life Hack Plan – Hack My Mindset

Scenes at Lafayette College

Scenes at Lafayette College

I used to be obsessed with resolutions – I created personal manifestos (still have them in fact), goal lists, detailed diary entries, etc. In retrospect, I realized that I didn’t actually complete things well because I didn’t have the drive and I tried to automate my goals instead of taking control for my actions. It’s stated that to keep a New Years resolution you have to practice starting from Jan 1st until March. I realize that many people have the drive and persistent to do that rationally, but I sadly am not one of those people. So I realized that there’s a more obvious way that works well for my personality – hack my mindset.

Instead of focusing on a list of tasks I want to accomplish, I’ll focus on the mental acuity I’ll need to do so. That helped me narrow my list from 20 items to four, as everything else will fall into place afterwards. Here are my Mindset Resolutions for 2014:

1. Strengthen my impulse control: I used to have terrible sleep problems – as most college students do. I’ve gotten farther into my original goal of exercising regularly, but I still have a long road to go to keep a daily schedule. Instead, I’m focusing on having more inner strength and regulation: If I say that I’m never going to up until a certain time, I’ll keep thinking it until its a fixture in my head. This may not work for everyone, but it helps me to keep up to date and phase out the lazy parts of my persona until its 11 PM and all I can think is “it’s bedtime.” This also means scheduling my fun time until its ready, and not being sucked into other projects/activities just because I’m asked.

2. Flash card my studies:  While I’m the type of person who can do long-term in-depth study sessions, I like to do them in quiet areas, which outside of my room, is a very fleeting thing in college. But you can study at all times, so if I’m in noisy areas or studying with friends, I prefer making and reviewing study cards. Not everything can be learned with route memorization, but considering that I’m doing a senior capstone, learning how to build a website, and taking Spanish for the first time in 3 years, I can definitely use it to automate a few things in my mind.

3. Develop a ‘diet-Extrovert’ persona:  I’m an INFP, which (pretty accurately) describes me as someone who is very active in deep, one-on-one conversations, but not well tuned to large groups or sparse conversations. I don’t consider this a bad thing necessarily, but it also means that I’m not quite the best at networking, public speaking, etc. But I actively battled that in 2013 by signing up for group events, networking fairs, and speaking at a host of events. I still get nervous at the occasional speech, but I’m willing to push forward by drawing on my extroverted qualities and utilizing them for my own purpose.

4. Be open to risk, rejection, and growth: As much as I love participating in social causes, I realize that this puts me in a bit of a controversial stance: I’m an African American female who is active in feminist, LGBTQ, race & ethnicity,  economic development, and social justice clubs. I’m proud of the work that I’ve done, but I also know that while I’m applying to jobs I could be seen as a too risky or radical hire. I’ve accepted that, and ultimately I decided that I need to be as authentic as possible. At some point in my career my stances may or may not come up, but it would be  disingenuous to pretend since these experiences have made me who I am.

For the casual reader, this means that instead of making a laundry list of resolutions, thinking about mental-improvement abilities over self or skill-development. What can you change about your mindset instead of just thinking about a specific, abstract skill? Additionally, instead of thinking in year-long terms, think about what you can start now which will cause lifelong benefits, and work your way back into a mental strength you can turn that into.

What do you want to change for your future personal development?