7 ways to start off the semester right

‘Back to grind’, sighed two college students on their last night before school re-opened that fall. It would be back to books, classes, assignments and may be even punishments for them and for so many other students who were returning to school. Lest we forget, and also for those freshman year students who were just going to start off with, for what might be still uncharted territories, the campus-life.

How many of us can relate to this aforesaid scenario? Haven’t we all been in this situation before? And some of us may still be at this crucial juncture. The times that we spend in college are eternally etched in our lives. So why not we do the best we can to create memories, moments and events that we can fondly reminiscent long after we’ve graduated. Given that, we’ve no or minimal control over most situations in our lives, there are some basic yet comprehensive steps that we can take that may guide us towards the “right direction”; and sometimes, just sometimes, even take us right to our destination!

So whether the semester has already commenced or not, whether you’re making headway towards your goals or you’re finding yourself in choppy waters, here are some of suggestions that may help you to steer your boat through high seas and low tides of what has always been, a roller-coaster campus-life.

1. Set a routine

It’s not as hard as it sounds, I promise. Fine, a tad arduous but definitely rewarding. It may be something as elementary as simply making your own bed immediately after waking up in the morning. One may say that it’s nothing so spectacular that could be added to a resume but it certainly is the first step to creating a solid one, going forward. Setting a routine will only give a boost to all of your succeeding tasks as you can get done with mundane tasks at lightning speed; clearing up the rest of your day to take on more important tasks.

2. Source books, notes, lectures materials early on

You can still manage to get a grade, probably, a C or a C+ by pulling an all-nighter the night before your exams. But how are you going to pull one off if you don’t have the study materials in place? It’s always beneficial to read through the syllabus in advance and raid the library before all those books are gone.

3. Mix-and-mingle with peers at school and outside

Your classmates are the best support system you’re ever going to get. Period. So collaborate and join forces to create your own support system. Try finding find common interests or even better, try finding mutual disinclinations; there’s no bond stronger than when two students jointly despise the same class. By partnering classmates, one is able to learn new skills from one another. And no sooner than later, what might have seemed like a tough class turns out to be a walk in the park.

4. Leverage campus resources

Students tend to overlook plenty of resources that are made available for students at school; ranging from curriculum based extra classes to clubs for fashion, sports, movies and tech. Students are encouraged to give these a try if not become members; for these play a key role in meeting students from different departments and learning about various on-campus and off-campus activities.

5. Volunteer

One the key aspects of making the semester worthwhile is to volunteer. It may be doing a task as plain as scooping ice-cream at a local festival to something more wide in scope like cleaning gardens or painting the walls of neighboring communities. This is really a trump card that students can use going forward in the semester. By volunteering, one gets to learn about aspects like bridging the community-college gap and creating an all-encompassing environment as well.

6. Take break, time-out and relax

Juggling classes, socializing and volunteering is sure going to overwhelm students. So, it’s imperative to take that much needed break from all these activities and let your hair down. Do things that make you happy. Anything, really!

7. Keep working on that personal brand

The laundry list of things above are mere suggestions. However, what’s most important is your unique, awesome personality that you and you alone can shape, nurture and enhance. Take classes or not, volunteer or not, connect with peers or not; your personal brand is that aspect of your personality that you wish to tap on which will open all doors of opportunity for you and widen your horizon. So take a look within yourself and ask what is it that you really want to achieve in this semester and pave your path to accomplish your objectives.

One may or may not get the best start to the semester but what is important is to finish strong. With this goal in mind, reach out to your peers, classmates and community today and experience the many possibilities that the semester will offer you.

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Starting a new role? Stand out with these four tips!

Starting a new co-op or full-time job can be a challenge.  As the new kid on the block, you not only have to learn how to do the job, but also how to fit in with the company and make a strong impression. However, in most organizations, just being good at your job is not enough to get you noticed.  If you want to turn your coop into a full time offer or get on your boss’s radar for a promotion, it is important to find effective ways to increase your visibility.  You want your colleagues and manager to see you as a leader who adds value to the team and the company.  As a manager, I have hired several interns into permanent positions.  What differentiated them from the competition to win a coveted spot on our team?

Here are four ways you can make yourself stand out:

1. Go beyond your job description

View your job description as the minimum expectation and don’t ever be heard saying, “That’s not my job!”  Spend your first few weeks observing others, asking questions and figuring out ways you can add value to your team.  If you see something that needs to be done-take the initiative, bring it to your boss’ attention and offer your help.  If you find a way to do something more efficiently, suggest it with a concrete plan.  Step out of your comfort zone to learn a new skill or take on a project that no one else wants to do.  Possess a Yes-I-can attitude. If you show a willingness to learn or try something that would be beneficial to the company-you will definitely be positioning yourself for success.

2. Manage your time well

If you want to stand out, it is critical that you be regarded as someone who gets things done and done well.  Missing deadlines, or handing in a less-than-stellar project because you didn’t give yourself enough time to do it right is unacceptable.  The ability to multi-task, i.e. managing competing projects simultaneously, is expected of most employees, and is critical for anyone who aspires to a leadership role. It is important to prioritize your time when it comes to completing projects in order to get them done on time.  If you are unsure of which tasks to complete first, have a conversation with your supervisor to clarify expectations, and avoid potential problems in the future.

3. Speak up in meetings

The way you present yourself in meetings can have a big impact on your career. If you don’t let yourself be heard and never offer an opinion or comment, you may be giving off the impression that you are not invested.  Even if you are more introverted and prefer to think things through before you speak, find ways to participate.  When you do speak up, say your points succinctly and clearly.  A great way to figure out how to become an effective speaker is by watching those who do it well.  Meetings are where a lot of business gets done, and contributing your ideas publicly allows your boss and your peers to see you as a leader.

4. Ask for feedback and use it to improve

Getting feedback and constructive criticism from your peers and supervisor is one of the best ways to gauge your performance.  If your manager offers unsolicited feedback about a perceived problem or mistake, don’t be defensive.  Instead, take ownership and accountability and devise a strategy to address the problem.  If your manager doesn’t volunteer performance feedback –ask for it-appropriately.  You could request a regular one-to-one meeting to discuss problems, status updates and check-in about how you are doing.  When you are seeking feedback, don’t ask, “How am I doing?”  It’s too general and might not elicit specific, concrete suggestions.  Instead, ask about the one-thing.  For example, “What is one thing I could do to improve the way I…?  If someone takes the time and effort to give you feedback make sure you demonstrate how you are using it to improve your performance.

Diane Ciarletta is the Director of the Career Development Team.  She has been a Career Counselor for over 25 years and has hired and supervised many interns and professional staff.

Career Changer? Jump Into the Deep-End of the Pool!

I am a “career builder”, or “career changer”, if you prefer.  Over the last eight months I have had the privilege of being a career development intern here at Northeastern University.  It is my first practical experience in higher education student affairs after a long career in design and design education.  For those individuals who find themselves with a change of purpose well into their professional lives, I offer the following reflections.

  1. Be clear and concise about your goals. Articulating who you are and what you want takes thoughtfulness and practice.  Keep working to focus your message:  write it, speak it aloud, change it, and write it again.  Practice, practice, practice.
  2. Reach out and ask for help. Networking and informational interviews will enable you to connect with other professionals in order to gain insights into the new role you have chosen.  Ask lots of questions and demonstrate your enthusiasm in the process of learning about your new endeavor.
  3. Periodically take time to acknowledge yourself and your accomplishments. The process of career change can be daunting, confusing, possibly overwhelming at times.  Employ your favorite strategies for coping (walk on the beach, eat chocolate, call a friend) to give yourself recognition, stay positive, and acknowledge your progress thus far.
  4. Go ahead and jump into the deep end of the pool. The workplace is all about performance, so take opportunities to play large.   Join professional organizations, attend conferences, participate and contribute at every opportunity.  Target the firms you would most like to work for, develop your contacts there, and then hold your nose, and go ahead and jump.
  5. Consider an internship! An internship is an excellent way to test the field and demonstrate your commitment to your new pursuit.  Chances are, you’ll be really glad you did.