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Get Busy, Get Productive in 2017

By Siyu Wu

January 20, 2017

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, especially for students, is improving productivity and time management. It may seem counter-intuitive to use technology for time management, especially when technology – social media, texting, email, YouTube and more – is typically the greatest distraction. But, there are many useful apps and strategies to help manage your time more efficiently and productively. (Note: most of these apps are extensions for Google Chrome, but there exist similar apps for other web browsers, PC and Macs, and phones!) Here are some tips to get started.

The Pomodoro method

This research-backed approach  blocks your time effectively into small, manageable chunks of high productivity. Instead of spending a long time trying to stay focused on your task, instead break your work into focused time blocks of 25 minutes, with 5 minutes of break in between each time block. After four such blocks of time, take a longer 10 to 15-minute break. The benefit of working in small chunks of time (called pomodoros) is improved focus during that time and a chance to refresh and clear your mind every so often.

Block out distractions

There are many ways to ensure your focus is uninterrupted in each Pomodoro. While some may find it as simple as setting a timer for 25 minutes to keep on track, others may want more restrictions on which apps and websites may be accessed during a certain period of time. There are several apps that can block your access to websites - Facebook, Buzzfeed, Tumblr, etc. -  of your choice for a set amount of time.

  • Strict Workflow  is a simple but powerful website blocker that uses the Pomodoro method of 25 minutes work and 5 minute breaks (though you can set other time chunks!). List the websites that you want blocked for the set time period, and work away until the timer rings.
  • StayFocusd is a similar extension that allows you to block a designated list of websites, or block all websites except those on an “allowed” list.
  • DistractOff  is a slightly less strict website blocker – you can designate blocked websites for certain work days and hours. But, it also allows you to override the blocker if necessary.

Track your productivity

Before making changes to your current time management style, it can be helpful to get an idea of how you currently use your time. For a few days, jot down the amount of time you spend doing different activities. Seeing clearly how you typically spend your time can give insight into whether certain activities take more time than you expect. To get a more detailed overview of how you spend your time online, use a productivity tracker extension.

  • Toggl Button  allows you to manually track the amount of time you spend on each website. Also, it offers a Pomodoro timer and reminders to help you keep on track.
  • Ultidash  is a multi-function productivity management tool with to-do lists, graphs and charts breaking down your website activity, a timer, website blocker, and other customizable productivity tools.

Everyone has different preferences for time management, so don’t worry if one of the methods mentioned above doesn’t work out. Figuring out how to streamline your work and maintain focus is an ongoing process, and it may be necessary to try different strategies to see which fits best with your work style. If at first things seem tough or don’t work out, remember that it takes time and practice to form new habits.

Make sure to stay committed to whichever approach you choose for at least few weeks to see results!

Siyu Wu is from Colorado and attends Princeton University, pursuing a degree in Economics and certificates in Finance and East Asian Studies. Siyu will graduate in 2018. She hopes to synthesize her interest in China and East Asia with her passion for finance to eventually work in a career related to international finance and Asian capital markets.

 

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How to Get the Most Out of Your Planner

By Jordan Perras

January 17, 2017

While you’ve probably been using a planner for a while, you may not be getting as much out of it as you can. Yes, you’ve heard that you should write down tests and due dates, but if that’s all you’re doing, you’re missing out on a lot of functionality. Read on for some tips on how to maximize your planner’s potential.

Use a different pen for each class.

As soon as your syllabi are posted or handed out, write down every assignment and test in your planner in a different color for each class. Look for weeks that will be busy or stressful and write down ideal times for you to start studying. Try to stick with the same color pen throughout the semester as different tasks pop up.

Tip – Stick to pencil for things that aren’t set in stone.

Buy a ton of Post-Its.

Use them for to-do lists, grocery lists, and more. If the planner has a daily schedule, the post-its can help you block off chunks of time for various activities.

Tip – Use one color for academic, another for extracurricular and a third for personal/miscellaneous activities.

Write down EVERYTHING.

Write down the group fitness class at the gym, grocery shopping, chapter meeting for your sorority, university lecture, class, study time, and more. The more you write out, the more likely you are to actually do the things you plan to do. Writing it out may also help you to identify days where you’ve maybe overbooked yourself. Yes, you might need to grocery shop on Tuesday, but if you have a meeting, a paper, and a yoga class on Wednesday, you might end up rescheduling if you see it all written out in your planner.

Be consistent.

It is easy to get excited about staying organized and using your planner effectively, but then completely lose track when midterms hit. Be intentional about using your planner the entire semester. It will be most helpful during the weeks where you are least likely to want to write in it!

Jordan Perras will graduate in 2018 from Northeastern University and she is majoring in Math and Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and a minor in Economics.  She has a wide variety of interests that include history, art and literature and plans to pursue an MBA after college. She is especially interested in the role of social entrepreneurship in sustainable business.

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Taking the Break in Winter Break

By Siyu Wu

December 12, 2016

Yes, winter break should be a break. But while you have a few weeks away from classes and homework, it’s also nice to take advantage of the free time to prepare for the new year and new semester. Here are some things to do in between holiday parties and family time to make the most of your winter break.

Read a book

I have always enjoyed reading, but found it challenging to finish a book given my hectic schedule while classes are in session. Winter break, then, is the perfect time to start (and finish) a book that has been on the to-read list. Even better? Read a book – either fiction or nonfiction – that can be a conversation starter. Find a book on a subject you enjoy but also introduces something you didn’t know before, that you can talk about in an interview or conversation. (Interested in finance? Here’s a list of books that every finance student should aim to read.)

Write down some personal goals

New Year resolutions may seem frivolous, but the process of writing down some goals is actually quite beneficial in itself. Research has shown that goal-setting – when done well – can increase productivity and allow you to achieve more. Make sure that your goals are feasible, clear, and measurable. (Get more tips.) I personally like to maintain a balance by separating my goals into categories, choosing one each for academics, relationships, and personal.

Update your resume

After a semester of hard work, it’s important to make sure your resume is up to date with your latest activities and achievements. As you gain more experience, it may be time to delete some of your old activities and expand on your more recent positions. Be sure to describe every experience in a way that reflects your efforts and highlights measurable results.

Submit an application (or two)

If you’re still in the internship or job application process, winter break is a great time to really focus on refining your cover letters and submitting some applications. Set a goal of submitting one application every week or so, so that you can head back to campus with the knowledge that you’ve gotten a head start for spring recruiting.

Write some holiday emails

During the holiday season, maintain connections with your mentors, supervisors, and others you’ve met with a quick end-of-the-year check in. Nothing too fancy is needed; just write a quick line or two wishing happy holidays to professional connections, friends, and families. Short emails like this are a great way to stay in touch after networking events.

These tips can be helpful in preparing for the new year, but don’t spend too much time on academic and professional-related work. Winter break and holiday season is time for relaxation and fun. Be sure to take a break (and perhaps do some of the things mentioned above) to start the new year strong!

Siyu Wu is from Colorado and attends Princeton University, pursuing a degree in Economics and certificates in Finance and East Asian Studies. Siyu will graduate in 2018. She hopes to synthesize her interest in China and East Asia with her passion for finance to eventually work in a career related to international finance and Asian capital markets.

 

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How I Found the Perfect Course Load for Me

By Sameera Polavarapu

December 9, 2016

Coming into college, the best word I would use to describe myself is eager. I wanted to do everything and anything my school had to offer me, even at the expense my own sanity. I joined countless organizations and clubs and began to cherish feeling involved on campus. However, this all was happening while I was taking 17 credits. I faced a constant struggle between studying and keeping up with my extracurricular activities, a problem I thought I had left behind in high school.

I wish I could say that I made the right choices all the time and learned to prioritize my schoolwork, but that isn’t necessarily true—it is something I’m conflicted with even today. Two semesters later, I find myself taking 19 credits and have meetings for organizations almost every day of the week. However, at the end of this semester, I was able to finally sit down, and decide that it was time to scale back one way or another.

I’ve realized the importance of asking yourself, “What are my goals, and how do they correlate with how I am spending my time?”

As a marketing major, I feel I thrive most on real world experiences, and opportunities to test my skills. However, as an underclassman, I often find myself in general education classes about finance, accounting, and management. While I value these experiences, overloading and watching them bring down my GPA is most definitely not as important as taking balanced courses paired with being a part of organizations that help me grow my skill set.

However, others, such as accounting majors, may need to consider sitting for a CPA exam one day, which requires 150 credits. In this case, it’s important to maybe prioritize taking on more classes than extracurricular activities.

Everyone has a different perfect balance. Learning to strike a perfect chord has taken me almost two years, but by analyzing what I love and how I can spend my time effectively, I definitely foresee less stress in my future.

Sameera Polavarapu will graduate in 2019 from the University of Maryland at College Park with a major in international business and marketing. Her dream job is to do marketing for a global organization such as the United Nations.

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Career Services: Your Guide to Career Choices

By Danni Ondraskova

December 7, 2016

There comes a point in every college student’s life when he or she either feels lost about what career path to plan for or is interested in many possibilities and is finding it hard to narrow down. Maybe you are an English major at a liberal arts college who wants to get an analyst summer internship at Goldman Sachs. Maybe you are a political science major who has worked for several political campaigns or government departments and wants to break into the nonprofit world. Maybe you are a passionate statistician who also has a penchant for Japanese painting. Or maybe you are the archetypal wide-eyed first year (or even college senior!) who has no idea what you want to do with your career or life.

Compound your uncertainty with the fact that you are a college student whose brain has not yet reached its intellectual peak and that your personal and preferences are highly variable until at least your thirties, on average. So where should you go?

Many schools of higher education have fantastic career education centers with resources on internships and jobs for various fields. In some cases, certain companies send alumni to their alma maters to conduct interviews, and students need to apply on their career services accounts. Many also have financial resources for grants or scholarships related to graduate school programs, academic or career conferences, internships, and even volunteer opportunities. And most importantly, career services centers in your college or university are likely the key to opening the door of alumni connections you may need to earn that coveted job or for professional support in your future.

Once you’ve decided that making an appointment with your career services organization is worthwhile, what should you do next? It is an excellent idea to attack your plan in multiple phases. Sometimes, if I have questions swirling in my head about what to do, I’ll spend five minutes doing nothing but writing down every career-related query I can think of. When the time is up, I often try to group questions in a number of ways to make them more manageable.

First, I consider what can be solved by talking to my parents or academic advisors, the Internet, or plain old common sense. Once those questions are set aside, I’m ready to move on. I then try to look for common thematic threads. For example, my questions may all be related to the common theme of how to succeed in finance internship interviews. Once I organize everything into themes, I am ready to make my appointment.

Next, you have the career services meeting with your advisor, which hopefully will go well for you. Now you have answers. But it is often the case that such meetings bring up a host of new questions—as the next section of your career path is revealed, a new fork in the road appears. Or you may be in another situation—you would be good at the job that you and your career services mentor have identified, but it doesn’t ignite any real spark in you. That is to say, it is something you can envision doing, but not something you will likely be passionate for your entire life.

If you are in that situation, or if you are in the situation of knowing exactly what to do with your life but don’t have the grades or money to get there, don’t forget that jobs are temporary, especially in this day and age and for Millennials. With lowering travel prices from a few decades ago, it is also in many ways easier for you to physically move to a new job, so you have more geographic mobility than you may be giving yourself credit for.

In today’s startup and social media oriented economy, it is also easier now than at any point in human history for you to kickstart a campaign you’re passionate about or have your product go viral. Will being successful be easy? Probably not. But with the education you are getting and the writing, analytical, and critical thinking skills you are honing in college, you are already ahead of the curve.

Danni Ondraskova will graduate in 2018 from Wellesley College. Danni plans on earning a dual degree in law and business and dreams of working for JP Morgan’s Global Investment Management division.

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A New Year, A New Professional You

By Hafsah Lakhany

December 5, 2016

Maybe you’d like to get around to finally dropping those last 10 pounds that have been creeping up on you ever since Thanksgiving and nana’s holiday snickerdoodles re-entered your life.  Perhaps you finally want to finish the second half of that motivational self-help book or novel.  It’s possible that you just finally want to just take charge of your life and allow your dream of achieving your ideal career come to life. 

Rather than allowing yourself to frequent the gym or LinkedIn for the first few weeks of 2017 only to lag behind once again, here a few tips to take full advantage of the new year’s birth to completely reinvigorate yourself and take charge of your destiny:

Roadmapping

Envisioning what you want for yourself emerges as a phenomenally motivating impetus to fully realize some of your greatest goals.  However, beyond just organically envisioning and visualizing your future self, actively engaging in the process of setting macro goals, and breaking each goal into sub-goals is nearly crucial if you find that you need more structure and direction. 

Goal Defining and Organizing

Rather than just aiming to learn a new skill and get employed, construct specific overarching macro goals that may be broken up into micro sub-goals and tasks.  For instance, learning Python and securing a local tech consulting internship from one of 5 major firms that interest you might emerge as two definable set of overarching goals which can be broken up into tasks such as completing each individual lesson of a comprehensive Python course with each subsection emerging as an individual task, or learning, marketing, networking, applying, and interviewing for a set of pre-selected internships in the tech consulting field. 

This roadmapping technique maintains the best of both worlds by enabling you to maintain your macro overarching objectives, while empowering you with the sense of direction to cover all of the more involved components to see those large goals gradually come to fruition. 

Conditioning and Repetition

Once you map out your comprehensive plan and determine the ideal environment for achieving many of your goals, utilize task managing apps, a journal or some accountability system to see each individual micro and macro goal.  Upon the completion of even the most minute tasks or components, try to reward yourself by something as simple as a check on a to-do list app, or as visible as nibbling on a holiday treat. 

Repeat this process consistently to reinforce positive steps towards the realization of your goal through a combination of both reinforcement as well as repetition. 

Network

Once you reinvent a new, more professional you, try optimizing your growth by attending an industry conference, reaching out to groups on LinkedIn, or even that coworker or distant family member who’s occupational achievements you’ve always admired but never grabbed lunch with. 

Revitalizing current relationships and forging new ones will empower you with a profound amount of insight, and potential avenues towards pursuing a new, or excelling in an existing career. 

Hafsah Lakhany will graduate in 2019 from the University of California at Irvine with a major in business administration. After college, Hafsah plans on going into consulting, health care management, and career development coaching/consulting.

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Using Self-Knowledge to Improve Your Leadership Skills: Team Player Style

By Jordan Perras

November 9, 2016

One of the best ways to become a better leader is to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your tendencies in various situations. You can understand your strengths and weaknesses and learn how to improve them. In the first part of this series, you’ll learn about how you interact with others on teams and how to combine different styles to make a more effective team.

Parker Team Player Styles

The Parker Team Player Styles are helpful to understand how you (and others) behave in a team setting. We are all thrown into group projects or sports teams or club executive boards, and it is important to remember that everyone brings something different to the table. Check out my summary below or take the assessment yourself to gain a deeper understanding of your style(s).

The four styles are:

Contributor

  • Strengths: You are task oriented, dependable, reliable, and organized.
  • Weaknesses: You may come across as shortsighted, perfectionistic or uncreative.

Collaborator

  • Strengths: You are goal-directed, flexible, imaginative, and forward-looking,
  • Weaknesses: You may come across as insensitive, overinvolved, or over-ambitious.

Communicator

  • Strengths: You are process-oriented, supportive, relaxed and tactful.
  • Weaknesses: You may come across as placating, impractical or manipulative.

Challenger

  • Strengths: You question the goals and methods of the team. You’re honest, principled, ethical and thorough.
  • Weaknesses: You may come across as rigid, contentious or nit-picky.

Do any of these styles (or a combination of them) sound like you? Does reading about the other styles make you rethink how you interact or come across in groups? Think about what how the strengths of one style can make up for the weaknesses of another.

Jordan Perras will graduate in 2018 from Northeastern University and she is majoring in Math and Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and a minor in Economics.  She has a wide variety of interests that include history, art and literature and plans to pursue an MBA after college. She is especially interested in the role of social entrepreneurship in sustainable business.

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Stand Out on Social (In a Good Way)

By Danni Ondraskova

November 8, 2016

You’re likely considering multiple career paths. Maybe you’re hoping to start a tech company that makes graphene easily available for suppliers. Maybe you’re an entrepreneur hoping to make the a Snapchat website for pets. Or maybe you’re just hoping to scale the ranks at Goldman Sachs.

Regardless of whether you want to enter business, the nonprofit sector, or even pursue public service, there are some good baseline rules for managing your social media accounts in a professional manner. If you follow these rules, you will put yourself in a good position to improve your reputation in your field and won’t eliminate yourself from any new jobs you may wish to pursue.

If it’s political, you probably want to drop it.

There is an old joke that if you want to remain friends with the other people seated around the table, don’t discuss politics, sports, or religion. This is a pretty good rule that can also be applied to social media, which if you think about it is just the world’s dinner table.

Politics is already a contentious enough subject, and for good reason: the government often makes decisions that have real impacts on our everyday lives. Even in the best of times, there are hot-button political issues that sometimes end friendships, especially if discussed over a medium as impersonal and prone to misunderstanding as the Internet. Furthermore, this year’s U.S. presidential election is one rife with emotions on both sides of the aisle.

Unless you are in a political job, you will probably wish to avoid making politically loaded statements. To truly stay on the safe side, check out your company’s manual to make sure it is permissible to make political statements.

You may want to consider creating separate accounts for different types of activity.

Many people, especially millennials, already have multiple social media accounts. However, people don’t always do a good job of reflecting on what functions each social media platform should have in their lives. Especially as you move forward in your career and get published, you may want to ask yourself whether it is pertinent to have one more private account (e.g. Facebook) for updates about your personal life and another (e.g. Twitter account or Facebook page) to promote your professional activities.

Dividing these aspects of your life also gives your friends and family the choice of following your professional page, or not if they only want to hear about how you are doing personally.

It’s more permanent than you think, so be careful!

That embarrassing photo you took at your college party that your friend tagged you in may seem easy to get rid of. Just delete it or change the settings to “only me” and the problem is solved, right? Not exactly. As technology and privacy settings grow more sophisticated, so too does the powers of hackers and web scrapers.

These past few years have been instrumental in showing how even public figures have had their accounts hacked and private information displayed for the world to see. Web scrapers are often employed as freelancers for companies to gather information on users throughout the Internet and are quite skilled in doing so. With that, there is always the potential for them and even bored data collectors to gather compromising information on you before you delete it.

Avoid gossip if possible.

This may be the hardest piece of advice to follow. Gossiping about others can be a good way to blow off steam about others and can even feel fun with friends. But gossiping in public can often backfire.

There are legendary stories on the Internet about professionals complaining about their bosses and later being fired. Gossiping about your coworkers can strain your relationship with them even more and give others a negative impression of you. 

Be careful about who you promote.

Before you write that glowing post about Barclays being the best bank of all time, please make sure you aren’t applying to J.P. Morgan or another competitor. This may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but unfortunately, the Internet often shows us that common sense doesn’t seem common.

Many potential employees have been rejected from their jobs because of their actions on social media, and not filtering who they promote is one example of such a red flag.

Danni Ondraskova will graduate in 2018 from Wellesley College. Danni plans on earning a dual degree in law and business and dreams of working for JP Morgan’s Global Investment Management division.

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