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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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Maintain Focus and Become a Productivity Boss in College

By Hafsah Lakhany

October 7, 2016

As a freshman in college, my first year emerged as intense period of discovery, exploration, and profound personal and academic growth.  Throughout the progression of three challenging quarters, I found that I performed most effectively when I was focused. 

I’m sure many of you can either identify with or eventually discover that college is a strange place—college is a place where in one moment you may be having the time of your life with friends and without any warning the next moment you discover you have four finals, two presentations, three projects, and four extracurricular events and commitments all sandwiched into one grueling week. 

In fact, one of my professors even joked that one of the primary areas many students often ironically neglect in college is their academic course load. 

So amid all of the activities, involvements, and a desire to maintain some smidgen of a social life, how does one maintain laser sharp focus on their academic course load, arguably the most fundamental component of their college careers?

Environment

For many students, myself most definitely included, the environment in which you try to tackle schoolwork emerges as the most deterministic factor for the speed, quality, and focus of your studying and work.  If you’re not sure which environment you thrive in, experiment and go with whichever sticks, as everyone is inherently different. 

For many, quiet, structured libraries emerge as powerhouses for study, while other prefer the solitude or relaxing nature of their dorm rooms.  Personally, I find cafes and coffeehouses like Starbucks maintain the perfect balance between structure and background noise conducive to effective study habits and productivity for me.  Also, a little caffeine never hurts wink

Mental Prioritization and Pre-Planning

We’ve all been there: we plan on carving out a specific time frame for studying for that midterm or finally getting to that paper when one of your closest friends, or one of your favorite clubs on campus decides to host the event you’ve been dying to be a part of on what was going to be your most satisfying productivity day.  Do I want to have fun or maximize my score in Class X?

Personally, I try to avoid being confronted by such dilemmas by trying to abide by my mental priority list.  I prioritize academics/personal well being, followed by work, leadership responsibilities, friends/family, and finally all other club involvements/downtime.  That way, if my friends invite me to hang out, if I feel like lost time will drastically compromise the quality of my work, I’ll opt out but if I believe that I can realistically enjoy their company for a few hours and still maximize the quality of my work, then I’ll be happy to oblige.

Calendars/Task Apps

I don’t think it’s possible to vouch enough for free apps like Calendar and To Do List Apps.  Out of every tool and hack I’ve utilized throughout my college career, those two types of apps in tandem have most considerably simplified and enhanced the quality of my life. 

Personally, I tried to stay fairly involved on campus, so every club meeting, work shift, class, lab, seminar, and even library session would be listed on my calendar app, along with each event/task’s designated location, description, and frequency.  As opposed to wasting energy trying to remind myself of my committed events, or struggling to carve out time, my calendar app handled the guesswork and reminded me of each event which enabled me to really maximize my time and tackle each task with a peace of mind. 

In terms of specific tasks, I used a to-do list app to organize all of my goals and tasks in terms of categories (work, subject areas, personal tasks, etc.), deadlines, and even priority level which not only simplified my life, but also emerged as a motivation tool, since I rewarded myself with a gummy bear or just plain satisfaction every time I crossed off an item from my to-do list. 

If you enjoy the feeling of carrying a physical agenda or planner, by all means go for it!  I can concede that there are few experiences more satisfying than crossing off a physical item on a written to-do list.

Despite popular opinion, anyone can maximize their productivity and focus in college by prioritizing, organizing, and planning to win at the game of college and life. 

Keep fighting the good fight my fellow college students—it’s our game to win. 

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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Be Like Beyoncé: Be Assertive

By Zaire Johnson

September 30, 2016

Assertiveness stands in a murky middle between aggressiveness and passiveness. Assertiveness can be characterized as the ability to speak up for yourself, or others, in a manner that is both positive and effective.

This definitely does not come easy to everyone, something that I and many other people struggle with! The following ways to help with your assertiveness will feel difficult and uncomfortable at first, but they will pay off in the end.

Start small and look for ways to sharpen your skills!

There are a number of interactions in our life that we let slide because we don’t want to be a fuss.

Want your coffee with low-fat milk? Ask. Want to buy a blouse, but a button is broken? Ask to see another.

Little conversations like these where you ask for your needs to be met may take a great deal of courage. But they build up your ability to assert yourself in different situations.

Embrace the “I” pronoun!

“I feel [emotion] because [x,y,z]” statements are the golden ticket when engaging in most types of confrontational conversations. Phrases like, “You never…” or “You haven’t..” can cause the other party to completely tune out of your conversation.

By using “I” statements you show that you’re taking responsibility for your feelings and concentrating on the actions and not the person. For example, “You never clean the dishes” communicates a different meaning compared to,  “I get frustrated when the dishes aren’t cleaned.”

The person you’re talking to understands how the action makes you feel and it’s communicated that you aren’t trying to personally attack them. Argument avoided! (Hopefully!)

Fake it consciously!

It can not be understated how easily faking assertiveness, can lead to being assertive. The flip-side to that advice is to be conscious of your surroundings.

Most of human communication is in the form of body language. So stand-up straight, but don’t cross your arms. Be direct, but stay calm.

Understand the differences between yourself and the person you’re communicating with. 90% of confrontational conversations happen because of miscommunication, oversights, and simple mistakes.

Do keep that in mind when communicating an issue, or problem, with someone. There’s a fine, but clear, line between aggressive confrontation and an assertive conversation.

Be honest!

Simple, yet underrated. From the beginning of a project, or interaction, honesty can help avoid a lot of future frustrations. If you’re honest in all of your interactions, when an incident happen, solutions can happen quicker! When in a more confrontational conversation, honesty is the best policy. If the person who you’re talking to knows that you’re being genuine, they will respect you more and be more open to your conversation.

Zaire Johnson will graduate in 2019 from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. A Computer Systems Engineering and Mechanical Engineering major, Zaire dreams of serving as the Secretary of State.

 

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Goal Setting 101

By Jordan Perras

December 7, 2015

I’ve found that one of the most helpful routines I’ve developed in college has been regular goal setting. I sit down with some blank pieces of paper, a bunch of colored markers (and some coffee) to look at what I want to accomplish.

I do this at the beginning of each semester and then again right after midterms. It makes it easier to analyze my progress and identify habits that I should continue to develop, and those that I should try to avoid.

Sitting down to a blank sheet of paper is relatively intimidating, but it is important to understand what you’re working towards.

When writing your goals, use a different color for each category. Include pictures of things are (somewhat) easily drawable. Hang this sheet up somewhere you’ll see it every day. If you’ve got roommates or don’t want other people to see it, hang it in your closet. (Weird trick, but how often does anyone else look in there?)

Identify Your Categories

I’m willing to bet that you have goals that aren’t exclusively academic. As high-achieving college women, you probably have goals in a bunch of different areas. Look at each of them separately and set goals in those categories. Here are a few to consider.

  • Academics – GPA, attending office hours, relationships with professors
  • Extra-curricular activities – leadership in a club, outside lectures on campus
  • Career – Excel trainings, attending networking events
  • Personal/Health – books to read, exercising, healthy eating, enough sleep
  • Relationships – coffee with friends, calling your parents

Think Big

What is the end result you want? These can be as big as your overall life dreams! This is where you really want to stretch your brain and figure out what you want.

  • Get an MBA
  • Become proficient in Excel
  • Graduate magna cum laude
  • Run a marathon

Think Small

What I mean by that is this: How are you going to get there? Those big, life-changing goals do not happen overnight. They take small, measurable, and consistent steps to get from where you are to where you want to be.

  • Sign up to take an Excel class
  • Check a book out from the library

Goal setting can be scary because your big dreams can seem so far out of reach or unattainable. But really, that’s what makes them exciting. Don’t be afraid to dream up crazy goals for yourself and then prove to yourself how awesome you are by daily (or weekly or monthly, you get the idea!) taking baby steps towards those goals.

Jordan Perras is a third-year student at Northeastern University 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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Time to Give Thanks

By Grace Chow

November 6, 2015

Stop and take in your bearings. It’s another year and you are halfway through the semester. It won’t be long until you see the snow stick and start packing to go home for Thanksgiving Break.

However, before you do so, take a moment to reflect and give thanks to all that you have. Family, friends, health—you are gifted with so much that often, it becomes an overload of sorts, one in which you inevitably overlook some boons in your life and take them for granted.

So, before you step on the plane or ride that train, give thanks not only to what you already have, but to the opportunity that you were blessed with to have those things to begin with. Know that you are beyond lucky to have the opportunity for meaningful relationships, the opportunity to stay and be healthy, and the opportunity to have an education.

In our tentative and dynamic world, nothing is constant—incidents happen, people change, life moves on. But, we can hold onto these moments and blessings while we have them.

For me, I do just that by staying connected. I initiate calls and set up lunch dates where I can keep up with old friends and acquaintances. Not only am I honing my networking and communication skills, but maintaining enriching relationships are an instrumental part of my emotional and mental health.

I take the time to go out for a run around my campus’s trails or step into the ring to box. Devoting a part of my day to these tasks is my way of giving thanks to my University for offering these opportunities, but it is also how I appreciate myself. I am worth the time and effort I put into making myself happy and healthy. I am thankful for who I am and the trek I took in getting here, so I have every reason to do what is best for me.

By being thankful for who I am, I am giving thanks to all the opportunities, the people, and the moments that got me here.

So, thank you.

Grace Chow is majoring in finance and sociology at the University of Notre Dame. After she graduates in 2018, Grace plans to go into investment banking. She dreams of starting a non profit someday.

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7 Ways to Kick Stress in College

By Heather Ianuale

November 5, 2015

In college, our stress levels are constantly reaching new heights. With four or five classes, multiple activities and clubs, internships, jobs, and trying to constantly build up our resumes; we have a lot on our plates.

Maybe you feel like you’re handling it, maybe you don’t.  Either way, it’s important to have your own set of remedies to prepare you for when a stress spell hits.

Workout

Working out is a great way to burn energy that stress creates. When you’re worrying, your body creates negative tension. The best way to get rid of that is to work out.

Go for a run, hop on the elliptical, take a yoga class – just do something. You know what you enjoy, so make time for it. I know it can be difficult to fit the gym into a busy schedule, but you won’t regret doing it.

Spend time with your friends

Any time you’re feeling overloaded with stress, text a friend. They can instantly cheer you up and take away the stress that’s building up.

I do my homework with my friends, and every 30 minutes, we take a 5-minute dance party break. They motivate me to get my work done while also ensuring I stay sane. It’s a win-win.

Make sure you have downtime

I understand that it’s difficult to find downtime when you’re bogged down with seemingly endless amounts of work.  Even with piles of homework and hours of meetings, you need to schedule time for yourself.

I schedule an hour every day where I turn my phone off, put my homework away, and watch an episode on Netflix. Once it finishes, I’m refreshed and ready to continue on with my day.

Go to counseling

A lot of people shy away from taking advantage of their campus’s counseling center for various reasons, but they’re mostly misguided. Your school counselors are not paid to judge you; they’re there to listen and help guide your decision-making.

I see a counselor weekly, and I use it as a rant session to let out steam. It makes a huge difference for me.

Visit someplace off-campus

A friend of mine goes to Starbucks every Tuesday to do her homework. She says it helps her because she’s in a place where she’s able to focus on her work and not get distracted. Find your happy place and take advantage of it.

Write out your stress

If you find your mind racing with thoughts of things you need to do, write them down. Make a list, add some side-margins to notes, do whatever it takes to get the thought out of your head.  You can revisit these thoughts later and deal with them, but it’ll help you get your mind back on track.

Get enough sleep

It sounds silly to mention this, but sleep really is important. You can’t stay up until 2 in the morning and then wake up for an 8 a.m. You won’t function as well, you’ll be in a haze, and your overall performance throughout the day will suffer. Find time for your homework in between classes or while you eat. You need to prioritize your sleep.

Being stressed is inevitable, but there are ways to minimize it. I have found that by using these tactics, I’m able to get my work done, have a social life, and get sleep. My stress levels are controlled, and I’m much happier because of it.

Heather Ianuale is a sophomore at Muhlenberg College double majoring in accounting and finance. She dreams of becoming an entertainment accountant and plans to achieve this goal by interning at as many different places as possible while in school.

 

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Why Study During the Summer?

By Valeria Tirado

May 28, 2015

While summertime is a time for fun, many of us are going to be taking summer classes. Obviously studying is going to be very important to us, but what about the people who are lucky enough to not be taking summer classes?

Well I’ve got news for you; even if you’re not taking summer classes, studying throughout the summer may be a smart thing to do. Study what, you ask? And how?

So you probably already made your schedule by now so you know what classes you’re taking next semester. Lucky you! (If you haven’t then you should really get on that.)

It’s no doubt these classes are gonna be work so why not get a head start? If you’re taking a political science class, brush up on some political science. The same can be said for any other class. Many professors let you know in advance what textbooks you’ll need so you can get those ahead of time and see what you’re in for.

If you think a particular class will be especially challenging, wouldn’t it be smart to review it a little so you can be ahead of the game? Your professor will certainly be impressed!

Honestly, if you really don’t want to do anything in the previous paragraph because you think that summer is for relaxing then fine. You’re technically right.

I’ve always thought the best vacations were ones where you could learn something too, though. Even if you’re not learning about school subjects, make the effort to learn something new this summer. It can be reading a new book or learning about a new culture.

Make this summer the most productive by learning something new. I promise you won’t regret it. The greatest part is that you can choose anything you want so take advantage!

Studying doesn’t necessarily mean burying your head in a book and getting ready for an exam. Studying can be also be reviewing and improving something you already know or practicing something new.

If you don’t want to learn about a topic, try something more hands-on by learning or improving a new skill. It can be anything from practicing your drawing skills to perfecting your goalkeeping skills. This kind of learning is especially fun since you get the direct payoff from it.

Go ahead, pick something new to focus on this summer and plan to be a master at it by the time you go back to school!

With these things in mind, I hope you all have an enjoyable summer vacation, and for those of you returning to school next semester; I hope you have a productive and studious summer as well!

Valeria Tirado is a junior at Rutgers University – New Brunswick with a major in Environmental and Business Economics and an Anthropology minor. She plans to get a Master’s from Rutgers in Food and Business Economics and attend NYU Stern for Economics after graduation. Valeria is the captain of her intramural volleyball team and can be found on Twitter at @valeriat94.

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Make Time To Say Thank You, Take Time To Recharge

By Nicole Chacin

May 19, 2015

As the school year comes to a close, I am taking the time to say thank you. What an immense privilege to write for my peers on subjects that affect our lives as female aspiring business leaders this year and last! It has been an exciting journey that has allowed me to challenge stereotypes, search for concrete answers, and understand history’s perspective on female professionals in the world.

This investigative, inspiring journey was made possible through the support of the Forté network, which today is more than 65,000 women strong. Special thank you to my innovative internship advisors Bianca, Mariska, and Suzannah, as well as to my colleague Julianne for their guiding words and continued support.

The personalities I have studied and have been delighted to share with you are examples of exemplary female leaders who span from the 1900s to the 21st century, they were hard working, determined, and had a vision they wanted to live out much like the women of Forté.

These women whose accomplishments seem larger than life all had a starting point (small or large) in their education or career that set them on a trajectory for success. Consistent efforts and focused vision established their name and leadership style.

One of the prominent similarities I have noticed between all of these diverse women is the emphasis they placed on one or a combination of mental, physical, spiritual, and social rejuvenation. If you look closely, note how these women took time to find their voice amidst the clutter of life. With a million and one things to do, they set aside time, even if sparsely, to look inward, to be alone, to embrace the loud silence and refill themselves after emptying so much of themselves for others, in their work, and in their social spheres.

Much like a battery, it is not possible to recharge if there is no outlet, no outside energy source. I hope you are taking time to find your voice amidst the noise of outside forces, so that not only can good things come your way, but good things can also flow through you as a result.

As you approach the exciting summer months, consider where and when you will recharge and what resources you may need to do that effectively.

Taking a break is very different from recharging. Sometimes you really need a change of scenery, or to make a point to unplug electronics and engage in an person conversation; these are some of the healthiest ways to recharge.

These actions collectively will lead to a healthier you, a more effective channel through which all of your intentions and goals can be met. So as you look inwards, please do not forget close friends, family, mentors, and even your spiritual community who can partner with you in your efforts to rejuvenate.

For those unsure of where to start, my belief is that no step is too small. On a personal note, I take 10 minutes each week to reflect and make a mental Ven diagram of my progress. I designate the left column all the things I am grateful for and the right column all the things that need work. In the middle, I place the overlapping items that I am grateful for that still need work, whether that be skills, studies, work, or relationships. This is a great exercise for self-examination and can inspire other small steps that can be both informative and healing.

So as we close the academic school year, I urge you to take time to say thank you to those you met along the journey, pat yourself on the back, and proactively plan ahead for a summer in which you can actively choose how you will recharge before the next journey, whether it be another school year, internship, job, or volunteer experience.

Take charge of the next steps and let your unique voice be strengthened.

Nicole Chacin is a Chicago native and student at the George Washington University where she studies business administration. Nicole aims to obtain a dual masters degree in Law and Business Administration by 2017 and ultimately dreams of working in health policy and administration.  This is Nicole’s 2nd year writing for Forté as she had the opportunity to learn about the organization through the first Forté C2B Leadership Conference.

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