Higher Education Aspirations

Why college is an investment, and why its not always a sound one.

Interviewing & Public Speaking for Introverts: A Guide

In my opinion, one of my best and worst qualities is that I’m an introvert. I love being an introvert, but even throughout college it’s been difficult. It’s hard to get people to understand that you may want to spend a Saturday night reading a good book or watching videos online without anyone else surrounding you. And since college more than anywhere else will force you to be an extroverted introvert (i.e. participate in a lot of clubs/activities/committees/etc.) sometimes I need my weekends/weeknights as a cooling off procedure.


Don’t worry guys, the gator is shy as well. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When it comes to networking, job interviews, and public speaking, it’s a completely different ballpark. While there’s been plenty of articles written to show how “socially inept” the Millennial generation is because of social media and our propensity to take selfies, post our entire lives online, and feed into our narcissistic personalities, I’d argue that most societies still celebrate extroverted personalities. And that makes sense. Very little would get done w/o great speakers or those who are willing to be active talkers, but sometimes it’s frustrating that the nature of quiet isn’t appreciated. This is very apparent with public speaking and job interviews, which come off as kryptonite to many introverts. So for all of those ambitious introverts like myself, here are a few tips for your next big speaking event:

1) Utilize your body language

Power poses are one of the best things you can do to gain confidence before and during an interview. Relax your shoulders, position your feet towards the person (or people) you’re speaking to, and converse in a lower tone. Especially for women, many of us tend to raise the pitch of our voice when we’re nervous or to appear more feminine. I’ve done this many times myself. Don’t second guess your abilities or feel insecure. They wouldn’t have bothered to call you back for an interview or asked you to give a speech if there wasn’t something of interest in your profile that stood out to them, so be confident and speak in a clear, deep tone. Additionally, practice power-boosting poses. Stand up, put your hands on your hips, and focus on building confidence before beginning an interview or speech.

2) Always keep eye contact

This one probably doesn’t need explanation, but it’s a hard one. Your friends and family won’t notice if you lost eye contact, and most of the time you’re so comfortable talking to them that direct eye contact comes naturally. If you feel yourself slipping during an interview, pause, take a deep breath and/or close your eyes, and then resume. It’s better to make a semi-dramatic pause as a way to collect your thoughts instead of loosing eye contact and seeming unsure of yourself.

3) If you make a mistake, breathe and start again

At some point, you’ll have an awkward bout of silence. People will laugh when you didn’t mean to be funny. You’ll trip. Life goes on. Most interviewers are empathetic and understand this may be your first time dealing with this situation. Either way, it’s OK. Breathe. Relax. Say, “Let me clarify that a bit more/Let me start over/etc.” No one wants to deal with embarrassment, but you’ll be fine. Learn from it, and move on.

4) Fake it till you make it

A lot of people have problems with interviewing because they don’t know how to sell themselves. So think about it: how badly do you want this position? I’m not asking you to fake a personality or be disingenuous, but if faking how excited you are is the best way for you to overcome these issues, then do it. Pretend you’re meeting your favorite celebrity, or you’re auditioning for a role. If you’re giving a speech, imagine that you have the best product in the world, and the only way it will reach people is by hearing your words. Or pretend you’re discussing a new idea to your friends, and focus on your personal brand. At the end of the day, there’s a thousand people who have the qualifications and experience, but only you can bring yourself to the table. Show them your personality and skills, and don’t shy away from showing how great you are.

If you have any other tips on interviews/public speaking, be sure to share them in the comments!


The Minority Millennial: Intern Extraordinaire, Part I


The Life and Times of Many Interns (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Note: This is a post for everyone that has done an internship, or for those who are hoping to do one soon. 

Here’s the facts about internships:

  • Interns come in the paid and unpaid varieties. You can naturally assume which one is coveted, but even the paid ones are struggling to cover the cost of living (as not all of them pay a decent wage).
  • There’s been some debate on the legality of unpaid interns, and whether their exploitative or helpful. Due some of the legal claims, this may change the nature of unpaid internships within the next 5-10 years.
  • For most majors, internships are the new reality. The recommendation is to do 2-3 before graduating, but it depends on a lot of factors.
English: CBO interns

English: CBO interns (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So for students, finding an internship is a must. But for many, working for free is financially impossible. I completely understand, as I’m only able to do it because I’m working roughly 4 jobs every semester. For those worried about the intern squeeze, here are my top tips for you:

Set goals, set money, and make a choice

If you don’t have the money for an unpaid internship, don’t kid yourself. Look for available resources such as if your school offers stipends. There’s also INROADS for minority students looking for potential work. Many schools require internships – and you have to pay for it. Make sure you know the basics as early as possible, and then create a budget

Paid Intern? Maximize your time

You’ll hear a lot of discussion about it, but there’s little benefit to being a paid X intern at prestigious company if you’re just shuffling papers all day. Don’t be afraid to speak out to your coordinator, and ask if you can attend a marketing team meeting, take a day to observe the trading floor, or shadow the programming staff for a day. It’s great that you’re being compensated for your time, but remember that most paid internships are similar to entry level positions: they’re testing you to see if you’re a good fit for the company. Take the initiative.

Unpaid? Budget, negotiate, maximize, and power through

Under any conditions, please do NOT take an unpaid internship and stay with it if you think your time isn’t being maximize. There’s a lot of talk about not burning bridges, and many will tell you to stick with the internship for recommendations, but for those who can’t afford to provide free labor for little benefit, it’s not worth it. A mediocre recommendation from a supervisor that barely involved you within the company is of little benefit.

That said, don’t scoff at the internship immediately because it’s unpaid. I’ve had to work during all of my unpaid internships, but I can definitely attest that most of them gave me valuable skills that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else (like interviewing the head of the American Firefighters Association at a rally in Philadelphia).  But I do think that many of them can be questionable. Ultimately it’s a judgement call, and one that we have to make with little preparation.

Word of Caution: While the debate concerning unpaid interns is ongoing, I severely caution potential interns to throughly research companies, their reviews, and the corporate culture before taking on an internship. It is not worthwhile to be exploited, and protect yourself from taking on an exhausting and fruitless task by defining your goals and keeping in close contact with the media and your career center. And even then, the judgment calls will have to be on you.

Next week, I’ll post part II of the Intern Extraordinaire, giving you some more tips on finding, choosing, and surviving your internship!

The Minority Millennial’s Guide to Networking

Networking is hard, especially for the millennial generation. Unless you’re in a STEM field, you have to stretch through a lot of loops to get employers to notice you (and thousands of articles/friends/family telling you that you picked a useless major), and even those in STEM fields deal with other troubles, such as the rapid evolution of technology and outsourcing. But this is for a sub-sect of the Gen Yers, the minority millennials.

While it’s often ignored, many minorities of different racial, ethnic, sexual, religious, and social groups are given less pay and less recognition. (Article of interest: http://www.thedailymuse.com/career/the-other-pay-gap-why-minorities-are-still-behind/). And while some may not find that specifically interesting, it paints a grim picture within the American economy. But still, as a Gen Y minority, we’re known for being persistent. So if you’re looking into building connections, here are a few tips.

To start off, I want you to face 3 points of reality:

  • You’re going to have to work 3 times as hard, for 1/2 the credit, and probably 1/3 the pay.
  • You may be a target of scapegoating, uncomfortable office chatter, and many other types of backlash against your very presence.
  • You may feel lonely as the only one in your speciality, or even may feel as though you have to compete against other minorities to fill a “quota.”

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about networking. Here’s a few posts by the great website the Intern Queen to get you started on the basics of networking: http://internqueen.com/blog/tag/networking, and now we can discuss how it relates to the minority experience.

1. Brave the shock, stand out, and push forward.

I’m an African American female Economics major who is also trying to learn chinese and coding in her free time. None of these things are noteworthy on their own – at least in my opinion – but attach these things to my face a *bam*, there you are. Most people as me why, or give me a look of disbelief. If I’m really lucky, I may get a few comments about how ‘intellectual’ I must be.


YouthDialogue1 (Photo credit: International Monetary Fund)

Regardless, after they get over their shock,  most are very curious. No matter what, be sure to smile, nod, and comfortably answer their question. It may get tiring after a while, but use it as a chance to update and evolve your elevator pitch for different situations. “Well, I’m glad you asked. I’ve been used to managing my family’s tax returns for a while, and my love of economics and finance began in college when I participated in an accounting program…” 

If you’ve caught their interested, take it and run with it. Networking is about creating a memorable connection in a short amount of time, so don’t hesitate to be proactive about what a person finds unique about you.

2. It’s OK to bring up your minority related affiliations

Are you a member of the American Association of Black Accountants? The LGBTQ association? President of your International Student Association? I say leave it on the resume. It’s a tough call, and could make or break a potential application, but if you have job relevant skills as either a treasurer or PR person, I don’t see a reason to leave it off.

Think of it like this: if a company cares that much about your affiliation, would you really be comfortable working there? I have no desire to be praised or scorned for my involvement in multicultural organizations, it just reflects a part of my personality that I’m truly interested in: social justice awareness. If you’re passionate about that as well, it could be a great talking point in your interview as well. I’ve had plenty of recruiters who tend to look at my resume and like to use that as a talking point.

3. Cut bridges if you begin to feel uncomfortable

Michelle Obama, official White House portrait.

Michelle Obama, official White House portrait. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sad to say that I’ve had a variety of things said to me by faculty, students, and coworkers regarding my race, gender, and profession. Some were mild, some we’re more colorful in nature. As much as I hate leaving any networking opportunity, it is fine to cut bridges when you feel as though a line has been crossed. It’s not your job to stay in a negative or uncomfortable environment, and I most certainly would not advise it. Take considerable time to consider your final decision, and be polite if a networker or recruiter just isn’t a good fit.

Ultimately, networking is about finding your brand. You want to be able to have a steady image that you can put forth to the public. I’m not saying that you need to make everything about your minority status, but be realistic and understand that it will come up, whether you like it or not. Accept the facts, be brave, and know your boundaries. You’ll succeed no matter what.

Language Barriers

English: "Chinese grammar" in tradit...

English: “Chinese grammar” in traditional and simplified Chinese (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To finish out my last year of college, I’ve decided to take on a new language. Namely, Chinese. I decided to do this for three reasons:

A) To see the shocked and confused faces from my friends and family

B) It may prove useful if I’m ever involved in foreign relations

C) The language itself has always fascinated me since I was little, and honestly it’s never too late to start trying.

For anyone else that’s hoping to a learn a new and potentially difficult language, here are a few tips:

1) Define your language goals

First off, why do you want to learn this language? Because it’ll help in your career? It’s fun? You plan to study abroad and meet your significant other there? Regardless, figure out what you want from the language. Let it motivate you. Besides my other reasons specified above, it was reading this TIME article on language and the brain:


And I began to think, “how amazing would it be if could fully converse and play around with a language instead of the minor knowledge I had accumulated in high school? Why not start now?” Additionally, what do you mean by learning a language? Understanding the complexities of Chinese grammar, or being able to hold a business conversation in formal, and fluent French? Start high, and then find out what steps you need to reach that goal.

2) Join groups

There are great sites where you can converse with language specialists over Skype, or find specific groups on http://www.meetup.com. If you’re still in college, go to the language lab or see if any special interest groups are on your campus. My college for example has houses called Living Learning Communities, some which are tailored to learning certain languages. Look for places that will cater to you needs, and you can decide on what you need to do.

3) The internet is magic

If you’re like me, you probably feel the need to be over prepared for everything you’re doing. So if you’re learning a language that you have little experience with, move onto another platform and look for sites that can help with language learning. A few that I found for Chinese are http://www.yellowbridge.com/ and http://www.chinese-tools.com/ which have been very helpful for me learning the basics of the Pinyin system. I’m still just learning how to combine initials, finals, and tones into syllables. It’s like middle and elementary school grammar classes all over again!

4) It’s not an easy journey

Part of the reason it took me so long to finally take on Chinese is because I knew that I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, and I really wanted to finish all of my major courses first. I thought it would be stressful and I am already WAY too friendly with stress. But learning how to think and communicate in a different language is something that I’ve always loved, and I’ve pushed it back for far too long. Even if the journey is hard, it’s ultimately worth it. For everyone else out there hoping to learn a language, I wish you all the best!

5 Habits of Highly Effective 20 Year Olds

Churchill College, October 2009

Churchill College, October 2009 (Photo credit: Caramdir)

I’ve already mentioned my love of Stephen Covey on this blog, and his most famous book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I think it’s a great book, and while I didn’t agree with some of his personal philosophies, it’s definitely a book that everyone should read at least once. And because I’m at the ripe age of 20, I decided that maybe there are different measures that we all should be taking. This list is geared towards college students, but I’m sure plenty of people would be happy to give it a whirl.

1. Finances are more important than grades

I know, blasphemy. But once college is over, your GPA may be a foot in the door, but all of the important things (buying/renting a house, taking out loans, purchasing investments) depend on your credit score and your managing of personal finances. Many banks offer programs to help college students manage the brand new world (for some) of finances, and if not, see if your school offers any courses on it. Your bank won’t care about your 3.9 GPA, so start building a good credit score now.

2. It’s time to be something else than the drunkest girl (or guy) at the party

You, I, nearly every college student have had those moments. And if you haven’t, congrats! You have much more common sense then me. But regardless of your class year, you’ve probably figured out the drinking scene. Some will claim mastery level, I’m sure. Take those hours and try to find out someone more productive. I have confidence you can do it.

3. Decide on your (temporary) career path

If your major doesn’t lead to a direct career path or is in a field with slow growth, plan now on how you are going to get there. Interested in being a fashion journalist but can’t find job offers? Take a job at Starbucks/Target/IHOP and volunteer or intern at a newspaper company or fashion house. I know plenty of people who took multiple unpaid internships and didn’t have at least a part time job, and complained about finances. Well, duh. Customer service isn’t a glamorous lifestyle, but neither is making $0 per year.

4. Cut the drama

You’ve probably gone through the friendship fights, downward spirals, and disappointing events. Crying on people’s shoulders and causing chaos is fun for a while, but your potential employers probably won’t be so mirthful. There’s no need for constant drama. Take that energy and network instead.

5. Know that it’s OK not to have all of the answers

Kind of funny that I’m saying this given the title of the post, but you just turned twenty (or twenty-something). While I hate when people use the excuse of being young to ignore Kristen Stewart levels of scandal, you are young. It’s OK to panic sometimes. And you don’t have to have all or any of the answers right now. You just have to keep searching. Don’t let the unknown weigh you down. Embrace it.

Factors contributing to someone's credit score...

Factors contributing to someone’s credit score, for Credit score (United States). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Intern Anomaly

The Intern Anomaly

For all of you struggling college students out there, this link gives an interesting insight into internship opportunities related to the federal government. Personally, I believe that the logic could be similarly tied to non-profit and for-profit institutions as well. I’m currently participating in a non-federal virtual summer internship at the moment, and I’ve had to critically reflect on my time as an intern, and assess the level of experience I’ve gained working as a virtual and non-virtual intern (I’m also interning at my local public library this summer). In my opinion, the quality of an internship is absolutely tied to three factors:

1) the effort an intern is willing to make in a company/institution

2) the desire of the company to educate its interns

3) the ability between both parties to evaluate and revise their current procedures if any conflicts come up

Without all three of these options, I don’t believe that an internship can successfully take place. I was lucky that with one of my internships this summer, I felt that I could carefully discuss matters with my supervisor if any issues or conflicts arose. Plus, the general experience of helping people led me to realize what I wanted to pursue in a career, and influenced my decision to apply to graduate school for library and information science.

At the same time, I believe that completing a variety of internships is the best way of figuring out exactly what you want to do. It’s a way of understanding the trials, joys, and ultimately disappointments that come with working in a professional atmosphere. While I may have done things a bit differently if my life situations had been less complicated, I believe that all students should have a mix of physical and virtual internships, especially for those of us who can’t afford to travel long distances or pursue unpaid opportunities during the summer.

What do you all think?

Pokemon and Persistence

Or how a strange combination of Pokemon, stress, and contemplation is ridiculously relevant to my 20 year old life. 

Image Copyright mynintendonews.comImage just so you know 🙂

Recently, I heard the Pokemon song again. I’ve also had an increasingly rough semester, an even rougher summer, and I decided to make a few lifestyle and career changes that may completely alter who I will be in the near future. In the interests of not sounding melodramatic, I’ve been busy.

So I’ve been reading into a variety of study materials, as the decision to attend graduate school means that I want to refocus and double my study efforts. If I’m going to be a Librarian or better yet, Information Professional, I need to be someone who absorbs information fully and completely. A lot of this is due to a book I’ve recently gotten into, called Study Smarter, Not Harder, which I would recommend to anyone interested in improving their study skills. I plan to do a review of it on this blog later on.

This book taught me about the importance and interesting skill of Zen Meditation, and creating ‘preparation strategies’ in order to conquer big hurdles such as studying, essay-writing, and test-taking. Naturally, I thought of level grinding. But what does this have to do with Pokemon?

Studying, oddly is exactly like level grinding

So you have a team of 6 Pokemon, and you’ve been training to get to the next gym. You rotate through a different array of Pokemon to build up each of their strengths, and you rest at the health center in between battles. In terms of studying, think of it like this: There are reportedly 8 different types of intelligences humans have. These are linguistic, mathematical/logical, musical, visual/spatial, naturalistic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and physical. And attribute theses to different Pokemon types. I’ve decided to correspond intrapersonal with the Fairy-type because well, it’s funny. Clearly no one has a team of just one type, and you need a wide variety of types to tackle different gyms or tests. So in a way, everyone is a ‘math-type’ or ‘language-type’, also it’s incredibly important to grind/study with those skills at the right times. Just one or the other will give you 0 benefits. It’s a combination that ends up putting you in the right place. Being a math-type will help me to do well in Economics classes, but its my linguistic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal skills that may land me a job or internship.

Don’t pigeonhole yourself. As cheesy as it sounds, go and catch them all.

I want to be the very best, like no one ever was

When I was younger, I loved the Pokemon Anime. I wanted to be just like Ash, and be the best. But be the very best at what? It’s somewhat impossible to be the best at everything, so what was my plan or goal? As much as I loathe to admit, I’m pretty sure he had better goals than I did. “I want to collect all of the Pokemon” is still a better aspiration than “I want to be awesome”. I need to refocus my goals like he did. And as a future information professional, my goal is to be better at learning. I want to absorb information with a passion and with a sense of intuition. I want to be a metadata specialist, and brush up on my business and economic skills along the way. So for all of you college students out there, go back to your inner Pokemon roots and be the very best.

And if nothing else, I hope that you decide to use this message and tell people that you’re a [insert skill here] type. Because you are, and you can hone and collect them all if you put your mind to it. Best of luck!

Finding the Right Career

Hi! This is DD. To say a little bit about me, I am an artist in training. I love doodling and sketching. There was a time when I was obsessed with video games and comic books. Don’t get me wrong I still love them and read and play them every once and a while but not like when I was younger. I chose to become a graphic designer because games and anime have always been my inspiration but I didn’t have the ambition to pursue a career in animation. So my main advice out of all of this rambling would be to make sure your education and/or career is something that inspires you and something that you love. My biggest fear (I have so many) is to wake up every morning and go to bed every night in tears because I hate my job. I forget where I read this but having a job that you love is not really like having a job. I want to be excited about going to work every day.

I just started an internship with a man from my church who runs a magazine. I just finished my first project last week. I started at a stressful time because his deadline was around the same time I started. But even with the stressful time and lack of sleep I still had a lot of fun working. Although with this career I’m on my computer all the time so with some nice music in the background or a movie playing it feels more like a hobby than work. This goes for schoolwork as well but schoolwork always feels like school no matter how much fun it seems.

So, to summarize this, find something that you love to do or something that inspires you and build your life around that, in a way. I’m not saying become obsessed with something and go crazy or hate it. But just find something that will make you happy in the long run.

College, Interning, and the Abundance Mentality

Recently I’ve been rereading (more like completely finishing) Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s an incredibly amazing book and it seems to change my perspective on life every time I read it. So in case you couldn’t tell, I would wholeheartedly recommend purchasing it.

I just finished looking over Habit #4 of the public victory mentality, which deals with thinking “Win/Win or No Deal” meaning that we must use strength and empathy to come up with a decision that benefits all parties involved. If we can’t, then we will walk away from the situation entirely.

As someone who is almost ready to leave college and has mixed feelings on the institution and my time there, I wonder how much of the educational system is built upon the Abundance Mentality versus the Scarcity Mentality. To clarify, the AM is a worldview that promotes the ideas of partnership and opportunities out there for everyone. The SM focuses on the ‘there’s not enough out there for everyone’ idea, and that there are always winners and losers. One of the examples Mr. Covey gives is that only so many people can be ‘A’ students (p.219, paperback edition).

But when I thought about it, even though he uses that as a negative point, that’s relatively true in higher education. Many institutions promote the scarcity mentality, and say that there’s not enough X to go around. Whether its grades, awards, accolades, etc. there’s a distinction between the best, and every one else. To a certain extent, I don’t believe that is a bad thing. Everyone cannot get A’s in a course realistically, and many don’t do the work that merits it. Still, the education system as it is promotes antagonism and the Win/Lose mentality, and with the amount of debt college grads are piling up, its becoming increasingly hard to say whether the educational system is even worth it.

In my opinion, this is where interning comes in. I don’t really think that the Scarcity Mentality of education will ever go away, but instead of focusing on the flaws in education we can move into other situations that will serve us much longer. Interning is a great way to show how to work for yourself and your boss. You’re in a lower position (and hopefully practicing humility as well) which means that you might feel the need to go into lose/win positions, or get goaded into doing something you are uncomfortable with to appease your boss. In this situation, I really support focusing on Win/Win or No Deal, and calmly, effectively, and thoughtfully explaining to your boss what you thought your defined roles were, your goals, and what you believe their aims for you are.

This probably comes off as another one of those “college isn’t everything” posts – probably because it is – but I believe that the skills of Win/Win and the Abundance Mentality are applicable no matter what stage of life you’re in.

Cover of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effectiv...

Cover of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Creating the College Experience

If there was one thing that I wished my guidance counselors would have told my 17-year old high school graduate self, it’s the importance of making your own path in college. I naturally assumed that picking the ‘perfect’ college would magically grant that experience. Sadly, it didn’t. I later found the experience I wanted, but there was a lot of trial and error getting there. Regardless of your college situation, you can shape it into path that you want. Here are a few tips and situations to get you started:

College Relationships are Dramatic, and That’s Good. 

Fostering relationships is work, and at some points you may need to work at it as hard as your academics. Most will tell you that academics always come first and I definitely agree with that. But the truth is for many of us, college is one’s first extended time away from family and friends who are situationally close both emotionally and physically. College pretty much puts you at level one, and tells you to build yourself up from the start all over again. And creating connections is essential for dealing with college stress. So talk to people, join clubs, fall in love, and break a heart or two. Don’t let college get too monotonous.

Try Things and Take Risks (In Moderation)

I personally do not believe in the mantra of ‘sign up for everything at the activities fair, and then drop what you don’t like.’ I think a better approach is to start in your comfort zone, and join clubs that relate to things you already love. You’ll meet people with similar interests, and it’ll help you to manage your time initially as you’ll be following a similar schedule as you’re used to. After that, THEN I say take as many risks as you want. Your high school never had a karate club? Sign up for it then. But only after you’re comfortable. There’s a certain awkwardness that always comes with branching out, but once you’ve given yourself time to settle, you’ll feel much more at ease exploring new things.

Say Hi to Professors (Even The Mean Ones)!

If nothing else, this is a must-do (only second to fostering friend relationships). Your professors are a valuable source of information, and if you have absolutely no idea of your future plans, they could also be a source of interesting facts, opportunities, and career advice. Be eager to learn from them both in and out of the classroom.

Get a Job. Your Parents Will Thank Me Later. 

I personally think that some of my greatest experiences at college have been due to my jobs. I absolutely love working, and I discovered my talent for marketing and my love of librarianship through my jobs. And my jobs have helped me to learn how to interact with others and manage large groups, skills that can’t fully be learned in a classroom setting. Even if a job has nothing to do with your future career path, it can definitely get you into the working world mindset.

Overall, be proactive in finding the college experience that suits you best. There’s no one correct path, and many people have taken different avenues to get there. Just try not to spend all of your parents money and have fun with it OK?