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5 Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking

By Sameera Polavarapu

October 11, 2016

For many, public speaking conjures up impossible fear, pieces of advice to imagine the audience in their underwear, and imagining feigning a sudden sickness that makes it impossible to attend a speaking engagement.

While public speaking can be intimidating, learning how to present yourself in front of others and convey your message is an essential skill in every career path.

Over time, I have found five methods that make me stand up just a little straighter and help me slowly remove the stammer from my diction:

Consider why you’re nervous in the first place.

When presenting, it is so easy to get caught up in nerves and anxiousness that I find myself forgetting why standing in front of others and speaking is scary in the first place.

Am I nervous that people won’t like me? Am I horrified that people will think I’m stupid? Do I hate the idea of being judged?

Stepping back and thinking about the reasons that you don’t want to speak in front of others ultimately helps you look forward and tackle the specific issues you have head on.

Remember that speaking confidently will make the audience WANT to listen to you.

When answering the questions running through my head, I often come to the consensus that people will likely dislike me, find me stupid, or judge me much more if I appear unconfident.

I have seen that when I speak loudly and stop shuffling around, the audience seems more tuned in to what I have to say. In return, I grow more confident in what I am saying because people seem to care about what I am speaking about.

Be enthusiastic and believe in what you are saying.

If you don’t sound enthusiastic about what you are talking about, how can you expect others to?

Working on a presentation is a task in itself and its important to show your audience that you are proud and excited to show them all you have done. Although it sounds extremely cliché, I’ve found that believing in what you are saying will ultimately help you believe in yourself.

Know your audience: Find three points to guide your eyes.

Let’s be honest, the content of a presentation is only half the battle; it is just as important to have great eye contact and body language. In the past, I have had countless critiques about seeming unhappy, looking into space, and talking unnaturally fast or slow.

I think this often stems from not having a solid understanding of my presence in front of a crowd. Not knowing where to look and direct my voice can easily make me forget my train of thought or what I have to say altogether.

To combat this, it’s a great idea to pick three specific points throughout the crowd and transition from each point in your presentation by guiding your eyes to a different point in the crowd. Knowing where to be speaking towards really helps the presentation feel more put together, in both your mind and the audience’s.


In the end, it all comes down to practice. There is no better way to feel great about presenting than to understand the logical flow of what you will be saying and how you will be saying it. Practice in front of your friends, practice in the mirror, practice in the room you’ll be presenting in—it will only make you better.

Most of all, practice being confident, telling yourself that it is just public speaking, and that you are going to do just fine.

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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Grow from Mentee to Mentor

By Jordan Perras

October 10, 2016

As a college woman, I am regularly told that I must find a mentor to help advance my career or collegiate experience. The perks are endless, from resume and interview tips to opinions on which professors are best. Having an older woman (or man!) to look up to is such a great way to get advice on college and the workplace.

The math major in me can’t help but wonder that if everyone is looking for a mentor, then who are the mentors?? If we are all looking to be the mentee, there have to be a shortage of mentors. Luckily, changing that is easy and it starts with us.

While you definitely shouldn’t stop looking for a mentor, start looking for how to be a mentor. And if you don’t know how, here are some helpful tips!

Ask open-ended questions and listen more than you talk.

To listen more than you talk, you’re going to have to avoid yes/no questions. The more you can have your mentee talk through achievements or challenges, the more she’ll get out of them. She’ll have to explain her thought process or what specifically is challenging/rewarding for her.

Try to avoid giving advice unless she specifically asks for it.

It’s totally understandable to jump to giving advice right away. You might have been in a similar situation, and it’s super easy to rush to tell her what she should do. However, try to let her work out what the next best steps are, but absolutely chime in if she asks your opinion (and she probably will!).

Draw from your experiences but don’t try to create a mini me.

When you’re giving advice, keep in mind that most situations don’t have a right and a wrong way to act. In most cases, there will be a spectrum of appropriate action, and her gut reaction might be different from yours. Absolutely feel free to share what you have/would do in a situation, but don’t be surprised or upset if she ends up choosing something different.

Don’t worry about making it formal.

This doesn’t have to be a super formal relationship – you don’t even have to use the words mentor/mentee. Coffee dates once a month for advice and chats about life are a great way to form a relationship without stressing about it.

Overall, my main tip is not to overthink things! This should be a fun and low-key way to get to pass on your advice and get to know a younger woman.

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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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?


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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How to Create a Holistic Internship Application

By Danni Ondraskova

October 6, 2016

Many companies ask for a resume, cover letter, and either essay response or writing sample when reviewing applicants for jobs and internships. These materials are like a first handshake for the HR office: if you come across as limp or artificial, chances are you will get passed up for an interview, but if you knock it out of the park, employers will be lining up around the block for you.

That’s why no matter how qualified you are, you can’t turn down the chance to look like a personable, qualified candidate that they would be mistaken not to hire.

The resume

This is the common denominator: most, if not every, job you apply for will ask for your resume. Typically shorter than a curriculum vitae, resumes include the academic and professional accomplishments of candidates.

Your resume should include raw facts and statistics resold in a compelling way. If you increased your company’s sales by 300% or made 30 presentations on discounted cash flow, put that down. Anything that is quantifiable is a good talking point.

Try to have two to four bullet points for each job you put under work experience. Make sure to keep in mind that private sector resumes are typically one page, while public sector and non profit can be longer.

The cover letter

Cover letters have become especially important as technology makes it easier for individuals to apply for multiple jobs and flood companies with requests. With even resumes seeming to blend together with all the qualified candidates out there, it really is a writer that makes a difference much of the time.

Try to let your personality shine through in this one-page letter. In your first paragraph, tell them what job you are applying to and why. In your next one, address what qualifications you have that they will find satisfactory. In your penultimate paragraph, discuss what you would like to get out of the job. Finally, add a polite thank you and any last words.

Remember above all to be formal but personable and have compelling reasons for your attributes and interest in the company.

The organization essay

Some organizations, particularly government organizations and think tanks, will give you a prompt of a few hundred words. Often, questions will either be technical ones related to the organization or something more personal about why you want to work for the organization.

Just be honest about your perspective and how the opportunity fits into your career path. Be sure not to be repetitive. Adding details or previous encounters you had with the company (even if virtual!) will personalize your essay and set it apart from those of other applicants.

The writing sample

If you’re applying for a research analyst, communications, or similar kind of job, chances are that you’ll be asked to submit an academic essay or journalistic publication. For me, as a student journalist who has written a lot, I had to think about the affiliation of the place I was applying to.

If your company has a certain political slant, take that into account when deciding whether to apply there and what article or essay to end. The same goes for academia. Don’t be afraid to recycle your best pieces for multiple companies if you are confident in their quality.

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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Three Simple Ways To Make the Most of Your Opportunities

By Sameera Polavarapu

October 5, 2016

As I prepared to make my college decision two years ago, the choice of where I would attend weighed heavily on my conscience. I was encapsulated by the thought of going to a highly ranked school because I saw it as a fast-track to success.

In my mind, my university represented my future: who I would meet, the opportunities I would be rewarded, and my personal path towards receiving a job offer. I struggled to believe that students who did not attend reputable schools could achieve the same feats as those who did.

Today, I attend an incredible state school, and although it lacks the perceived caliber I once found so crucial, I have most definitely been proven wrong. I see those around me pushing themselves to be their best, and those deserving success finding it. I have learned how many resources are available to students, as well as how many of these resources go unused. I now value the art of hard work, and I realize that employers do as well.

I can still say that not everyone is awarded the same opportunities to move ahead. But the people who continually use what they do have to their advantage will find nothing but success.

My time at college has taught me three surefire ways to make the most of opportunities, no matter what institution provides them:

Take Opportunities

I previously found myself spending too much time thinking about what I lacked in my school rather than taking what was right in front of me. Focus on what you have, and what resources you can take advantage of to get ahead.

Site visit? Alumni panel? Networking event? Honors program? Research what interests you to find the best fit for your goals, and go after it.

Build your brand around what you do in class and extracurricularly. When you talk to employers or write up your resume, the things that you do in and out of school should be a reflection of where you have been and where you want to go.

Build Your Network

Every person you meet is a part of your network—utilize them. The girl on your floor who has an uncle working for a company you are interested in, the teacher who can help you write an incredible cover letter, the counselor who offers you lists of internship applications—these are all people who may seem like menial parts of your life.

In reality, a network starts small and grows as you build a personal community to help guide you to success. Each person is a resource that may be willing to help you move forward, so build your network and don’t be afraid to ask for advice!

Maintain Relationships

The first step to building a network is reaching out. However, the most important part of building a network is maintaining it. People are more willing to take action on your behalf, reach out to their contacts, or help you with professional development if they understand that you are a genuine person who would do the same for them.

Value the people that have inspired you, work for companies you admire, and that you feel like you could relate to. Learn about their lives and continually prove that you are interested in them rather than solely what they can do for you. Most importantly, later down the road, make sure to give back to who got you to where you are now.

These three steps are easier said than done, but if you follow them, I can only envision success in your 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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Top Tips for Networking

By Siyu Wu

October 4, 2016

You’ve likely heard the old adage, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Though what you know still plays a significant role in landing your ideal job or internship, it is undeniable that getting to know the people at a firm can be a big help - not only for getting the job, but also for learning about the company culture and industry through an insider’s perspective. Networking can help you get that insider’s perspective.

Some people may appear to be natural networkers, easily moving among conversations and creating rapport with others. But there are many others, like myself, who find networking a bit daunting or challenging. Here are some top tips to help you get more from networking at the next information session.

Do your homework

Treat a networking session like a class discussion - you can’t go in blind with no knowledge on the discussion topic. Before a networking event, research a bit about the company structure, history, and recent deals or accomplishments. This gives you some fodder for starting a conversation and also helps you appear more prepared and knowledgeable.

Quality over quantity

It may be tempting to speak with as many professionals as you can in order to get your name out there, but this can actually be counterproductive. Have two or three meaningful conversations is much better than meeting six or seven people for only a few moments.

Not only are people more likely to remember you when you have a more substantive conversation, but you are also able to learn more about the firm.

Be respectful of others’ time

While you don’t want to move from group to group too frequently during an event, you also don’t want to spend the entire time speaking with only one individual. This is not only to ensure that you are respecting the time of those attending the event, but also so you can learn about different perspectives and experiences and be better prepared to determine in which part of the company you are more interested.

Take notes

Networking is not a class, so there is no need to take notes on everything someone says. However, jotting down a quick note or two during and after a networking session can help solidify what you learned for future instances.

Something I like to do is to write down a few notes on every business card I get, so that I can remind myself of the conversation I had with that individual. This lets me personalize my email messages to them should I need to contact them in the future.

Networking doesn’t end when the session ends

As much as you may want to put your feet up when you come home from a successful networking session, it is important to follow up with those you met at the event. Send a quick thank you email within 24 hours - mention something about your discussion to jog their memory, thank them for their time, and ask to keep in touch should you have further questions.

If you happen to be near their firm in the future, send an email and ask to meet with coffee. Not every person will reply to your email, but you never know if someone you follow up with will eventually become your mentor or supervisor!

Networking can be really challenging and tiring, but hopefully with these tips, you’ll feel more prepared and energized for your next networking event. But even with this preparation, remember to present your most genuine self - firms and professionals want to get to know the real you, as that is what differentiates you from other candidates who have prepared equally well.

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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Boost your Emotional Intelligence for Success in the Classroom

By Hafsah Lakhany

October 3, 2016

One’s intelligence quotient (IQ) was socially regarded as the most prominent predictor of competence, efficiency, and success in an individual’s personal, professional, and social lives.  In the 1990’s, however, emotional intelligence quickly emerged as a paradigm altering term used widely in both scholarly and professional discourse.

According to a Harvard Business Journal article by John D. Mayer, who was credited for defining the notion of emotional intelligence,  “emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions.”

Likewise, Rutgers psychologist Daniel Goleman decisively claimed,  “The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but…they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. My research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.”

In fact, according to Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence, TalentSmart tested emotional intelligence alongside 33 other important workplace skills, and found that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs.

This might all sound good and dandy, but I’m sure you’re wondering how exactly the fluid counterpoint of IQ that is Emotional Intelligence might be enhanced to boost your own efficiency and competence on a daily basis.  I have personally adapted a few tips from which I have incorporated into my life to enhance my Emotional Intelligence:

Take Ownership of Your Emotions and Conduct

This correlates with the first pillar of emotional intelligence: self awareness. Attributing your own emotional state and behavior as a consequence of your own reactions as opposed to attributing them to external sources enhances your ability to effectively cope with all unforeseen hurdles with emotional intelligence and grace. 

Actively Empathize with Those Around You

Empathy emerges as a second and crucial pillar of emotional intelligence which enables you to more affectionately gauge others’ situations, solidify relationships and thwart potential conflicts. 

Prioritize Responding Rather than Reacting

A third and crucial pillar of emotional intelligence remains self regulation, which remains crucial to conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and optimizing relationships with colleagues, classmates and even loved ones. 

Channel Your Inner Drive For Excellence

Motivation remains so integral for succeeding in every avenue of life.  In order to realistically boost your inclination for maintaining motivation on a more consistent basis, practicing delayed gratification in microcosmic situations will enable you to cultivate the discipline requisite for maintaining motivation amid more challenging and macrocosmic scenarios.

Cultivate a Positive Atmosphere

Happiness and social skills arise as the two last, and arguably most fundamental pillars of emotional intelligence.  Practicing humility, genuinely possessing interest for the wellbeing of those around you, and resisting the urge to harbor bouts of negativity in your life remain instrumental steps for fostering the emotional intelligence requisite for thriving in all avenues of life. 

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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