Building Relationships and Networking

Posted March 31, 2009 by Carleen McGillick
Categories: College, Networking, Relationships, Students

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Establishing, developing and maintaining positive connections with others is an integral part of the college experience. Some students interpret this to mean they should have a very active social life. While extensive socializing is certainly an important part of many students’ college experiences, the types of relationships that will prove most valuable to students are less about parties and more about professions.

College is the perfect time for students to start building their professional network. Students should work to build and uphold positive working relationships with all people they meet within their future career field, such as professors in their major, internship supervisors, employers or administrators. Every contact is important, because any one could lead to a job in the future. It’s never too early to start networking to plan ahead for career opportunities, and students can set up a personalized networking timetable to guide their efforts. Students should actively think about networking and work on establishing professional relationships beginning in their freshman year and continuing to graduation, when their networking pays off with many appealing job prospects.

One ideal way for students to establish meaningful professional relationships and to network is through active involvement in their school’s chapter of a student professional organization geared toward their potential career field. For instance, a future public relations specialist may want to join their school’s PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) organization. Involvement in these organizations not only helps students stand out to potential employers, but it allows students to meet and network with many professionals already in the industry they want to break into. This includes program coordinators, guest speakers and professionals the students meet during activities and workshops associated with the organization.

Social media sites like LinkedIn are great ways to maintain professional relationships and to network.

Social media sites like LinkedIn are great ways to maintain professional relationships and to network.

Students should also build relationships and network with their classmates, particularly in their major classes because these students might be other students’ future colleagues or bosses, or could help them find a job.

Joining professionally-geared social networking sites such as LinkedIn can help students compile and connect with their contacts. Just as students build a portfolio of classes and professional work experiences to learn skills in their career field, they should build a portfolio of professionals and peers to prepare them for their future careers.


Tailoring the College Experience to You

Posted February 19, 2009 by Carleen McGillick
Categories: College, College Life, Goals, Individual, Students, Tailor

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The college experience is not a “one size fits all” endeavor. The images of the antics, misadventures and raging parties of college students promoted by mainstream movies and magazines certainly do not embody the type of college experience that suits every college student. Most modern college students don’t fit the stereotypes of either the promiscuous partygoer or the library-dwelling drone. Instead, college students can make the most of the college experience by “custom-fitting,” adapting and tailoring it to their individual personality, lifestyle, goals, course load, obligations, expectations and plans for the future.

Crowds are composed of individuals. To "find" yourself, you have to "be" yourself. Where do you fit in?

Crowds are composed of individuals. To "find" yourself, you have to "be" yourself. Where do you fit in?

Students shouldn’t feel compelled to conform to college stereotypes, particularly if they find the associated activities counterproductive and counteractive to their health, success and attainment of goals. For many students, spending an evening in the library is not nerdy but necessary. Waking up somewhere strange after attending an alcohol-drenched party they can’t remember half of is not exactly some students’ idea of fun.

Further, students should make their own decisions and should not rely on what their parents or others desire. Students should choose their majors, for example, based on what they want to be doing for the rest of their lives, not based on what they think their parents would approve of or want them to do. Or, students may choose not to join a fraternity or sorority their parents, siblings or friends were loyal members of if they don’t have enough time or money. Ultimately, the college experience should be about what each individual student desires. Students are then free to blaze their own paths.

College is a time of development and discovery, of experimentation and exploration. It is a time of opportunities and endless potential yet to be realized. It is a time for students to forge a unique identity and establish a solid foundation for the rest of their lives.

The ideal college experience is not necessarily one that aligns with pop culture portrayals. Rather, it is one that allows the student to try new things, gain real-world experience and career expertise, build confidence, and progress toward achieving their lifelong goals and dreams.

Diversifying Your College Experience

Posted February 12, 2009 by Carleen McGillick
Categories: Activities, College, Diversification, Involvement, Students

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Financial experts often advise investors to diversify their stock portfolios to increase their potential yield. Mixed bouquets of various types of flowers are more colorful and appealing than homogenous arrangements. Similarly, well-rounded college students who diversify their experiences enjoy a greater likelihood of achieving success, both academically and personally.

Like an appealing mixed bouquet of different flowers, students should diversify their activities for a more colorful college experience.

Like an appealing mixed bouquet of different flowers, students should diversify their activities for a more colorful college experience.

Diversification allows students to expand their horizons, meet people they wouldn’t ordinarily encounter, learn new things, explore their interests and become more involved in their college and community. Most colleges offer a vast array of opportunities and outlets for students to get involved and engage with their interests and their peers.

Students can take elective classes outside their majors that pique their fancies. They can join clubs and organizations tailored to their interests, such as culture, politics, religion, art, technology or music. They can participate in intramural sports or enroll in athletics-related lessons such as yoga or martial arts. They can study abroad. They can participate in community service projects. They can work at a part-time job or internship to gain real-world experience, network, earn spending money and build their résumés. Successful students combine several of these activities with academics and socialization for a well-rounded college experience.

Diversifying their experiences allows college students to take risks and explore their interests. In high school, students are encouraged to dabble in numerous areas, but when they arrive at college, they are expected to specialize in one particular area corresponding with their major. Engaging in a variety of different activities allows students to avoid the monotony of attending class, eating and sleeping. Participating in activities also adds enjoyment and excitement to students’ schedules. With a diverse portfolio or colorful bouquet of experiences, students develop holistically and become well-rounded individuals.

Organizing Your Space and Yourself

Posted February 5, 2009 by Carleen McGillick
Categories: College, Organization, Students

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An organized workspace and an organized life both help college students succeed.

An organized workspace and an organized life both help college students succeed.

Each day, college students must adroitly balance academics, employment, extracurricular activities, social lives and other obligations. Accomplishing this requires organization and orderliness. Organization comes naturally to some college students while others struggle.

College students often complain about a lack of time. To address this issue, college students should work to become organized in both their physical workspace and life overall. This means that, in order to succeed, college students should keep their living and working area neat and orderly. It also means that students should establish order in their lives through time management, goal-setting, prioritization, and other strategies. Organization increases efficiency, which in turn increases productivity.

One important initial step in organization would be to sort through and reduce clutter. One type of clutter plaguing college students is the obvious physical type affecting their personal space, such as piles of paper, unused items and trash stacked on a disorganized dorm room desk. Another type of clutter requiring reduction is non-physical, consuming time and energy. Examples of this type of clutter may be an unnecessary activity, pastime or habit a college student engages in that would advantage the student if eliminated. Both types of clutter decrease efficiency and productivity.

To be successful, college students should acquire and utilize strong time management skills. Many students find it helpful to keep an agenda or to create a to-do list each day to consider, plan and visualize what must be accomplished. Students should also remember to prioritize and focus on what is most important.

Organized students will find that their lives run more smoothly and are less stressful, they have more time to accomplish their daily responsibilities and assignments, and they can ultimately achieve success.

Setting Realistic and Optimistic Goals for the Future

Posted January 29, 2009 by Carleen McGillick
Categories: College, Goals, Students

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Many students arrive at college without a clear objective or end in mind. They may choose to attend college because it seems like the next logical step after graduating high school. For others, parental, familial or societal pressures may incline students to enroll in college. Still others go to college with certain goals and ideas in mind but soon abandon these plans. Only a lucky few students begin the freshman year of college with a clear idea of what career they want to pursue. So, an essential skill college students should master would be to learn to set, plan for, and work toward realistic and optimistic goals.

Goals can be short-term or long-term, simple or complex. Short-term goals allow students to complete tasks on hand, such as assignments for a class or outside work. Short-term goals serve a tangible, immediate purpose. Long-term goals are more lasting and require perseverance and farsightedness. For college students, these goals often pertain to career, family and community contributions.

When setting goals, a student should strike a balance between realism and optimism. That is, the goal should be challenging yet attainable, exciting yet reasonable. Further, goals should be tailored to the individual’s personality, skills, values, lifestyle, expectations and desires, among other attributes. This is important because knowing one’s career goals will help that student select a major or course of study for college. For example, if a student’s goal is to become a high school English teacher, the student should probably major in, perhaps, English or secondary education with a concentration in English, depending on that student’s college’s programs. Students should thoroughly research available academic majors and programs offered at their college aligned with their desired career goals.

Once student have set realistic and optimistic long-term goals, they must then proceed to work toward these goals by setting a series of short-term goals that form a path to achieving each long-term goal. This will require foresight, dedication and planning, all of which some college students shy away from but that are essential to success and to achieving their goals and dreams.

Finally, students should always keep in mind that goals are flexible. Many students change their minds and their majors at least once during their time at college. If students decide that a certain career path and corresponding major are not for them, they should feel free to reexamine their goals and make appropriate modifications. Students can change their majors if they’d like, and they should also keep in mind that many job positions consider students from a variety of majors. Students should not feel “stuck” or limited by their majors if they decide they want to pursue a different career path when it is too late to change their major in order to graduate on time. Further, some students choose to stay in college for over four years in order to complete a course of study that they believe will help them pursue their goals if possible for that student’s financial and personal situation.