Rethinking “Back to Square One”

Elf, Will Ferrel

To some, December  also means watching Elf on repeat!

Well, it’s here. It’s December which means its only another two more weeks until final exams and then BAM…Christmas and New Years.

There have been some conflicting reports on the job market as of late. As a graduating senior this May – I’ve been on the hunt for any signs of opportunity and I’m at a loss.

Only a few weeks ago, Lindsay Gellman of the Wall Street Journal authored an article titled, Class of 2016 Graduates May Step Into Millennial’s’ Best Job Market Yet. The genesis of this reporting may have spawned from a survey’s results conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (known as NACE) where 201 employers stated that they were planning on hiring 11% more graduates this coming year than they had done so previously.

Earlier this year Lydia Dishman of Fast Company profiled the graduating class of 2015 forecasting that they’d hit some turbulence in finding secure career opportunities. Dishman cites that individuals, “between the ages of 17-24 have historically been hit with high unemployment”. Comparing the class to recent graduates pre-2008 economic crisis, Dishman highlights that current data shows that 10.5% of graduates are neither enrolled in graduate programs or employed, whereas in 2007, this figure was 8.4%.

What could this possibly mean!?

Behind all these inflated, conflated, deflated, and any other word containing the suffix –flated numbers lies, well, the applicant.

Truth be told, I’m not necessarily looking for a job when I graduate in May. I’ve still got another year (go Huskies!) to compete my MPH with the program here. I’ll most likely be able to sustain a part-time job, do a little bit of research, and complete my full-time studies post May 2016 with no problems whatsoever. So why go through all of the fuss of studying the job market etc. etc.??

Upon my return to the United States a renewed sense of responsibility and opportunity dawned upon me, as it does to many students as they begin their fall studies. This energy and this desire to not only perform at a high academic standard, but to contribute new ways of thinking, how to analyze problems, and offer novel solutions is something that, well…is something that we should consider to develop and maintain (especially over the course of the semester…yes even during midterms and finals).

Maintaining and developing the constant flow of information and the transmission of data through language, art, and science doesn’t have to be such an intimidating endeavor either. It’s easy to get caught up in the personal dilemmas, the trials and tribulations of coursework, and all of the other things you’ve probably got on your plate. More often than not, what’s sacrificed is our curiosity, our creativity, and our drive when we’re faced with the challenges associated with the thick of the semester.

We’ve all heard it – “Well, it looks like we’re back to square one”.starting line

When faced with a failure, and faced with a new beginning as a result of this ‘failure’, we tend to frame ourselves and our metaphysical position in space in perhaps the most negative and backwards vantage point possible.

I’d like to offer a redesign of this phrase – back to square one.

We instead are always at square one.

Imagine the things we could do or the things we could achieve if we approached everyday like it was the beginning of a new semester? Imagine the things we could achieve if we realized that we are in a constant state of learning, and if we fed this intellectual hunger? It’s pretty wild.

So, I guess going back to the whole job thing. Don’t sweat it. With each trial and error is an opportunity to begin again with a nuanced approach, with a redesigned strategy, with a new line of thinking. Be an applicant that’s the truest form of a lifelong learner, find the opportunities, stay informed, approach the process like it’s the first day of school. Stay at square one.

This post was written by Student Contributor, Jonathan Sirisuth. Follow him on instagram.

Post-Co-op Reintegration

Library SchoolLike many of you, I am back in classes this semester after completing a spring co-op. Here is a list of the good and the bad revolving around returning to classes after experiencing work in the real world.

  1. A new light is shed on your studies. Whether you realized how little or how much class material you used during your co-op, this will affect your study habits and your outlook on your undergraduate degree. You might realize that you’re studying and working towards a degree for a purpose, or that it is actually completely misaligned in your field of work. You might decide to change your major, like I did, or take more interesting classes that focus on things you experienced during co-op.
  2. New-found motivation. It’s hard be motivated to do well in classes after coming back from co-op. You just spent six months working as an actual adult (!) and didn’t have to worry about midterms, homework assignments, or group presentations. Personally, I’m having a tough time memorizing terminology on bone formation and muscle contraction after spending a semester catching babies in delivery rooms and planning malnutrition programs for impoverished villages. It feels somewhat backwards, but also made me realize that I should have learned about human anatomy and international health care systems in class before doing the hands-on work in a practical learning environment.
  3. More direction. Did you enjoy your co-op? Is it something you’d like to do in the future? Or did you completely hate everything about it? No matter how your experience was, you’ll know what to look for in your next co-op or your first job. With co-op under your belt, you have the right to be more selective in the future instead of shrugging and thinking, “sure, why not?” to any job offer that comes your way.
  4. Networking. Unless you spent a solitary six months working by yourself with no communication with the outside, you interacted with different people every day. New connections, both professional and personal, arise from co-ops. Stay in touch with these contacts, because you never know when something might come along – a collaboration on a paper, a part-time work opportunity, or a conference that you could attend. You also want to be able to approach your supervisor for a recommendation for future job opportunities or ask him/her to connect you with others in the field that you could benefit from meeting.

You already have half a year of professional work experience and that is definitely something to be proud of. Enjoy college life while you can, and keep these things in mind if you ever feel frustrated about going back to classes after co-op.

Rock that Interview.

art of interviewing

You’re on the job hunt and have sent out resumes upon resumes upon resumes and you finally get that phone call offering you an interview with a potential employer. First, congrats! Getting an interview is the next step and that deserves appreciation. Second, here comes the time to shine, to rock that interview.

Interviews aren’t exactly about showing that you’re perfect; they’re about sharing with another person what you’ve done, what you want to do, and how you can fit into their workplace culture.

Think of some answers beforehand. We all know the typical interview question: Tell me about yourself, tell me about a time you faced a challenge and how you overcame it, describe a past project to me, etc. I could go on. Chances are you’ll get asked these at the majority of your interviews so it’s good to have some answers thought out beforehand. Don’t stage what you are going to say, just have a general idea. You’ll relax and allow yourself to focus on simply answering the question instead of scrambling to find an answer.

Dress to impress. It’s time to pull out a nice outfit. Dress up slightly more than you would for a typical work day. It shows the interviewer(s) that you care about the interview and respect their company. Go for something more business professional than business casual. A little tip: try to make sure you wear something you’ve worn before, at least once. The last thing you want is to find out a new shirt is itchy or just plain uncomfortable when you’re waiting for the interview to begin.

Be personable. You are a human. Your interviewer is a human. Therefore, be a person. You don’t have to build yourself up and only talk about your successes. Companies want to see that you have faced challenges in the workplace and want to know how you troubleshot them. Be yourself. Don’t try to change the way you speak, just answer their questions, ask questions, and let your natural light shine through.

Hopefully these tips help you out with any upcoming interviews! Personally, I think the last one is the most important because it’ll show the company who you are because they want to make sure you will be a great fit for their workplace culture. There’s a wealth more of tips on this blog and online, so be sure to check those out if you need more. And remember, you got this.