Foliotek Blog

Starting Strong

It's finally here … your first semester of college. Supposedly, the past four years of high school have been preparing you for this very moment. When it comes to starting college, chances are someone will say that you should start strong…maybe you're even telling yourself to start strong. Talk of 'strong starts' is everywhere: business, sports, diet, fitness, and education. For instance, when starting a new franchise or multi-level marketing business, there is almost always a 'strong start' program that encourages (and rewards) folks to build success quickly. Even sports teams talk about starting the season strong and how the first several games can set the tone for the rest of the season. Many people talk about starting strong, but is it really that important? Specifically, does the way we start our first semester of college really have an impact on the rest of our college career?

alt

Michigan State University dug into this exact question. It turns out that your academic performance during your first semester of college is a decent indicator of how likely you will graduate. Their research showed that students who have a GPA of 2.0 or lower their first semester of freshman year have a less than 40% graduation rate, compared to MSU's overall 80% graduation rate. That means if you do relatively well your first semester you are TWICE as likely to graduate than if you were to fall into academic probation. So, while you don't need a 4.0 your first semester to make it to graduation, there IS value in taking your first semester seriously.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

If starting strong is important after all, how do you have a strong first semester? In the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, "by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail". But don't only take his word for it (although you probably could … he was a pretty smart guy), a survey by Palo Alto Software found that companies were twice as likely to succeed if they had a business plan. The same concept can be applied to your college career. So, what should you include in your plan for the first semester of college? There is a lot of great information out there if you search for "Tips for college success". Here are several I found especially noteworthy that apply not only to college, but post-graduation as well:

1. Take Responsibility
You're not going to earn your diploma if you don't work for it. While other people do play vital roles and can influence your success, at the end of the day YOU have to put in the effort. This includes going to class, taking steps to build good study habits, and doing your homework. If you're struggling academically, take the initiative to seek out help. Reach out to other classmates, utilize online resources or campus resources like a writing center, and take advantage of professor's office hours.

2. Invest in Good Relationships
It's inevitable: you're going to face challenges. Surround yourself with people who will have your back and provide the encouragement needed to make it through the tough times, and do the same for them. When there is tension in your friendships, learn how to resolve conflict. You're not always going to agree with your friends and you will most likely hurt each other in some way. If they are a friend worth having, don't let pettiness win … address the situation and move forward. It's a good life skill to have.

3. Strike a Balance
While anything worth doing requires hard work, have some fun too. Prioritize your responsibilities so your academics don't suffer, but also carve out some time in your schedule for a little fun. Go to football games and social events, hang out with your friends and family, do something you like to do (walk, hike, read, watch movies, play music). Whatever you like to do for fun, just make sure it's balanced with your other responsibilities. If you can figure out how to find this balance in college, you will be well on your way to developing a good work-life balance for your future career as well.

Add a comment below to share your own tips for a successful first semester!


Lessons from My Part-Time Job

Warning: Lessons from a part-time job during college used to acquire a full-time “adult” job can lead to job advancement, insurance benefits, consistent scheduling, and stable income. Proceed with caution.

I used to dread telling my peers where I worked while I was getting my degree. There is something rather lackluster about being a part-time employee at an indoor playground while in college. It felt like everyone else had locked down internships in their fields, and there I was working what many people considered a “high school students” job. I’d spend my afternoons and weekends singing ‘Happy Birthday’ on repeat, cutting (eating) cake, locating lost parents, cleaning up various bodily fluids (too much info?), giving away prizes, and I couldn’t help but wonder ...

“How can I possibly turn this into relatable work experience in the future?”

Part-time jobs are generally temporary and should be used as a stepping stone to get from where you are now to where you want to be. Despite how “unprofessional” your job may seem to others, if you look hard enough, there are lessons for you to learn that any potential employer will recognize and identify with in their own experiences.

Lesson 1: Communication Skills

You’ll develop essential teamwork skills and invaluable communication experience with people from all different walks of life whether it be customers (or their kids!), fellow staff members, or managers. Many part-time jobs take place in fast-paced environments requiring individuals to step out of their shells and communicate effectively to get the task completed in a timely manner (or else face the consequences of unhappy customers).

Lesson 2: Time Management

This is one of the most valuable skills you can possess as a student and future working professional. This will come from a phase of trial and error. Some days, you’ll oversleep and run into work just barely on time without realizing your socks don’t match. Other days, you will have had time to make the bed, fix breakfast, enjoy a nice cup of coffee, walk the dog, and still get to work 15 minutes early. Despite those rough days, you’ll get a sense of how long your daily routine takes and learn to allot enough time in the future.

Lesson 3: Handling Stressful Situations

This will look different for everyone depending on what your part-time job entails. For me, this was the entire computer system shutting down on a rainy Saturday (prime weather for the indoor playground business). The computer system controls literally everything in the building from all monetary transactions to the arcade games. Now, I could have chosen to freak out. Instead, I handled the situation with grace and clarity. I provided the customers with necessary updates while using alternative methods for transactions which allowed us to avoid the potential uproar.

Regardless of how you earned your work experience, take solace in knowing that you learned valuable lessons in the process. And when the interviewer asks you to discuss your resume and job experience, answer with confidence because you got this!


The Power of Body Language

The moments leading up to my year-end review were like what most other people experience: nerves building deep within the gut, clammy hands, heart beating out of my chest. All the nervousness was making me feel sick. I knew I was a good employee and really didn't have anything to worry about, but I just couldn't calm my mind or body to be confident and comfortable. Then I remembered a bit of knowledge my colleague had previously dropped on me, and I ran to the bathroom. The two minutes I spent locked in the stall were silent; filled only with my wonder woman power pose and a growing confidence in my bones. You see, there is an untapped power that people either don't know they have or they forget to use. A power that with just two minutes before a possibly stressful situation, can not only raise your testosterone levels (build confidence), but lower your cortisol levels (reduce stress). What is this magic potion, you ask? The power of body language.

Body language doesn't only refer to the awkward lack of a handshake on the news, the slouching student in class who doesn't know the answer, or the nervous Nelly grimly looking over their resume again before an interview. As Amy Cuddy explained in her 2012 TED Talk, it's the ability to configure your brain to cope the best way possible in whatever situation you're in.

Cuddy explains, "We tend to forget, though, the other audience that's influenced by our non-verbals, and that's ourselves. We are also influenced by our non-verbals, our thoughts, and our feelings, and our physiology." Think about the last time you felt judged. I bet it probably made you feel pretty crummy. What we don't always realize is that we do this very thing to ourselves on a daily basis! We are consistently putting ourselves down, not feeling good enough or not meeting certain expectations of ourselves. But what if we were to take this approach of using body language to not only impress others, but to impress ourselves? Even if you're not feeling impressive or empowered, take the time to make yourself feel like you are.

Fake it 'til you make become it - Amy Cuddy

We could, quite possibly, get ourselves out of the never-ending cycle of disappointment and defeat, and instead be confident, authentic, and passionate individuals. So, do yourself a favor. Sometime today, head to a bathroom stall, a quiet room, or a field in the middle of nowhere, and do a power pose for two whole minutes. Feel the stress drain and the confidence invigorate your mind.

Tell us in the comments what you think about power-poses and their ability to change the way you feel! Do you do anything to calm your nerves or invigorate yourself before particularly stressful situations?


Ownership of Online Identity

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

We all know the nursery rhyme. Humpty, the egg, falls off the wall. Sadly, it's all over for him. Nobody figures out how to reassemble Humpty. And if you watched the Super Bowl this year, Turbotax even made a commercial about the guy.

What I find interesting about this little nursery rhyme is this: nowhere is “Humpty” identified as an egg. But, I would wager, you never questioned whether Humpty was or wasn’t an egg (unless you are one of those philosophical types that questions everything). You just assume, from the evidence provided by popular culture, that he was an egg. Spoiler alert! There is literally no evidence that suggests that Humpty was an egg. Whoa! Time to rethink the meaning of your life. Of course, if you dig deep, there are a variety of theories that lead to the conclusion that Humpty Dumpty was, indeed, an unborn chicken (but wait ... was it even a chicken's egg?). You’ll need to research those on your own.

The point I am trying to make is that we all too often take things at face value. I’ve seen hundreds of nursery rhyme books featuring the egg, Humpty, perched precariously on the wall. Therefore, I never questioned his species, genus, family, order, class, or phylum. Why should I, the evidence was right there. Obviously, Humpty’s origin is not going to change the direction of my life, so I have no reason to dig into the roots of this nursery rhyme. However, there are many times in life when we face making an important decision where knowing the history and facts could have significant repercussions. In those instances, you don’t want to judge a book by its cover.

You are probably aware of times when digging a bit deeper is important. For example, election years might cause you to dig a bit deeper. Figuring out where to further your education will probably push you to do a bit of research. And maybe a job search would drive you to dig deeper into various opportunities. However, I can assure you of a time when research is paramount. Interestingly, it isn't research done by you, its research done on you. YIKES!

This happens when hiring managers are considering whether or not to bring you in for an interview. They begin to search for what public (or private) evidence exists that supports the claims you made on your resume. Will they discover you’re an egg or something else entirely? In a recent survey, Career Builder found that 60% of employers will use Social Media to gather more information about job candidates. So what does this mean for you?

Career Builder found that 60% of employers will use Social Media to gather more information about job candidates.

If you are job searching, you need to make certain that you have curated your online brand. This means shutting off all publicly accessible components to the online social channels you frequent that aren't professional. It also means googling yourself to see what shows up. Because you're limiting access to these online brands, it would be wise to also provide the hiring manager a professional online brand to view. If they are going to creep on you anyway, why not give them a guided tour? There are many tools available to help you create an online brand. Of course, I’m going to recommend some Foliotek magic, but you can certainly give others a whirl. What’s most important is that you take ownership of your online content.

If you don’t define who you are, other people will define it for you.


Imani Steele: Building My Personal Brand

alt When we see a student get this excited about building her brand, we knew we had to get an interview to learn more. Imani Steele is a sophomore marketing major with a minor in business analytics and is a Fellow at the Center for Business Leadership (CBL) in Miami University's Farmer School of Business. One of the CBL's top priorities is creating improvement initiatives that are organized and run entirely by the Fellows (students) in the program.

In last week's post, we spoke with the Fellows responsible for implementing the Foliotek Initiative. Below is our interview with Imani which provides a student's perspective.

Foliotek: You are working on a separate initiative with your team. What did you learn from that experience?

Imani Steele: When you're on a team with phenomenal leaders that create a very diverse environment, you learn a lot. I've learned how to be an effective, inclusive leader and make sure that everyone's input is utilized. You can't get away from teamwork, collaboration, and diversity (some of my core values) in society.

F: At some point, you were told that you would be using Foliotek to showcase your own initiative. What was your first impression?

IS: The advisors informed us during our individual leadership lab in September that we would be using Foliotek to record our experience and how it relates to CBL's main values. I thought it [Foliotek] was really cool, and obviously there are many ways to promote your personal brand, but Foliotek can really showcase your individual and team projects, which I love.

F: What was the impact of using Foliotek to showcase your projects?

IS: Foliotek lets you go more in-depth when it comes to explaining and showcasing your projects. I was able to take time to reflect on what I actually did. The way the project templates were structured helped me not only talk about what I did on the surface level, but I was able to dig in deeper and talk about how it shaped me in my leadership and teamwork skills.

F: What value did you get from reflecting on your work?

IS: There is always room for growth. Being able to reflect on what you've done and document your growth, see your growth, and show your growth is really effective in crafting your professional and personal brand. Every application I fill out for internships, I always put a link to my Foliotek ID page. Foliotek has helped me with this because I can tell anyone to 'go to this website to see what I've done,' and [my projects] are right there with a click of a button. I don't think I could have thought of a better way of showcasing everything I've done while building my own authentic brand.

alt F: Do you think you'll continue to build your brand in Foliotek?

IS: Absolutely! I've even had to pull stuff from freshman year! I'm currently working on a project in one of my business classes and I will put it in there; any other project I complete from here on out will be going into Foliotek. When it [my ID Page] was done, I had to send it to my dad. Every time I talk to him, he wants to know what I'm doing in school. He thought it was really cool and was impressed! I now have a way to keep my parents up to date and show them that everything they are putting into my education really is an investment!

F: So, what are your next steps in the CBL?

IS: One thing I love about being a part of the CBL is that it's student-run. I'm excited to continue to be part of the CBL and come up with ideas for how the center can really be effective and continue to do things for the Farmer School of Business and Miami University as a whole. I have a few plans [for future initiatives] that would be really cool for inclusion and diversity within the CBL, and hopefully that could trickle down to the Business School as a whole.

F: We've really enjoyed being a part of this improvement initiative at your school. Fellows are creating strong, professional brands that reflect highly on the values of the CBL and Miami University. Thanks so much for taking the time to meet with us today.

IS: Thank you for letting me have this opportunity!