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.

Young Professional Cooking Tips

Coming back to school and need a bite to eat? Here are some cooking tips to help you get through your semester!

For those of us who don’t have culinary training, or Giada de Laurentiis’ manicurist, do we have hope of making ourselves healthy, tasty meals, in a timely eat-before-9pm way, using tools and ingredients we’ve actually heard of? Yes. Just takes a little planning and a few solid recipes!

  • Know the basics: The first place to start is learning basics. And by that I mean, literally the basics of how to cook things. Scramble eggs, cooking pasta correctly, how to sauté, how to store food properly, which tools you need (yes good pots, pans, and utensils are important and another good place to start with the basics. You don’t need an immersion blender right away, promise). Once you learn the fundamentals, you can build on them.  I got a free promotional copy of Jessica Seinfeld’s “Can’t Cook Book” and laughed at first. That seems too simple. And it was great! Even though I’ve been cooking for about 10 years now, I learned lots of great basics. That cookbook is a great place to start for the truly new chef.
  • Know what to have on hand: Certain ingredients should be kept on hand at all times. Salt, pepper, spices for seasoning, pasta, frozen veggies, marinades, frozen meats (ya Omaha Steaks), rice, bread crumbs, flour, sugar, nuts…all things that last for a while and can help you make a meal in a pinch. Things like those on hand can help you whip up chicken parm, stir fry, and marinated steak tips all with ingredients you have on hand. There are endless lists from a google search that can help you review what items to keep on hand.
  • Eat colorfully: If you are going to stay healthy, you need fruits and veggies. When I make a meal, I do a color check to make sure I have more than just brown all over my plate. It’s an easy way to make sure your meals are balanced.
  • Plan your grocery trips: I don’t rush my grocery planning or trips. This is a huge and underestimated key in healthy, easy cooking success. Unfortunately, to really plan and prepare, you have to sit down and spend some time thinking about what your week looks like (if you have plans every night, maybe just a quick trip for breakfast foods), and what you will need for food, and what you will need for those meals. Sit down with your laptop or cookbooks and write out your list while watching a favorite TV show – seems less like a chore that way. I keep my list (paper! I know! In a world of technology my list is on paper) on my refrigerator and add to it as I run low on items so I can restock next trip. I plan out my trips for two big trips a month, with two quick trips in-between to restock fresh items like fruit, meats, and milk. Find what works for you.
  • Prep as soon as you get home from the grocery store: When I go to the grocery store, I leave enough time in my schedule for that day to prep, chop, and wash all that I bought. It makes your weeknight meals and snacking faster and healthier when everything is prepared and ready to go.
  • Make enough to reuse: Make more than what you need in one seating and reheat for other meals. If you get bored with a meal after eating it for one night, find a twist on it to multipurpose. If you make meatballs and spaghetti Sunday. Meatball subs on Monday. Don’t put marinara on all the spaghetti noodles, and make Pad Thai on Tuesday.
  • Freeze! And Thaw!: As you learn to make all these tasty meals on your own personal culinary journey – make extras (like above) and freeze them. Instant microwave meals or thaw the day before.
  • Just TOO exhausted? There will be a day you are just too tired for any amount of cooking. This is when you dig out those frozen meals you’ve made. And don’t underestimate a yummy smoothie or shake (just watch the ingredients so they aren’t a calorie bomb). I keep a few microwave meals on hand in my fridge – while they heat I’ll make a salad or sauté veggies to beef up the health factor (and keep me fuller, some of those meals are tiny!) Make a crudités plate – hummus and pita bread, veggies, cheese. Here’s probably the simplest recipe I’ve ever found:

Cut each pita in half and then into 8 wedges. Arrange the pita wedges on a large baking sheet. Pour olive oil over the pitas. Toss and spread out the wedges evenly. Sprinkle with salt, and pepper. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until toasted and golden in color. – Giada

  • Slow Cooker. Nothing more on this one. Just, get a slow cooker. Find recipes. Happy winter meals.
  • Campbell’s & Pillsbury: These websites have simple recipes that incorporate a few of my favorites, soup and crescent rolls. Cheese, marinara, and a slide of pepperoni in a crescent roll wrap? Instant pizza bite to pair with veggies or a salad. My point here: there is NO shortage of recipe sites or cookbooks; you have to find which ones work for you. (Recommendation: crescent taco bake. Add: serve with Tostito chips)

So these are some tips I’ve picked up over time to help me prepare healthy meals when I get home from work that don’t take forever. What tips have you found that are helpful to quick weeknight meals?