Friday, November 21, 2014

Seeing my future come into focus

College is nothing like high school, I actually remember being there forever and wanting to leave. If I could, I would stay in college for at least a couple more years (and never get older of course).

High school is as static as it gets, not a whole lot changes. College is very dynamic, you never know what the next day has in store for you. You hear people tell you that time flies, but that doesn’t seem more true than anywhere but college.

This month is going to be full of adventure and opportunities for me. Today, the Career Development Center organized a career fair with a room full of different companies from UPS, Fastenal, and Crayola where you could walk around and network and hand out resumes to. Since I worked at Fastenal as a sales-trainee over the summer, I talked to the district manager about getting some hours over winter break. Not only was he excited for me to come back and work at the Milton location, but he also wanted me to work at the Bloomsburg Fastenal next semester.

This just shows you that you should always work your hardest and even if you need to leave a company for any reason, you should never burn any bridges with anyone. You never know when you might need a job in the future or a few hours to make some extra cash. Students from my Advanced Professional Sales class went to talk to UPS to thank them for funding some of our trip to Orlando, FL to the International Collegiate Sales Competition (ICSC). We talked about careers in sales and how much they love their jobs because they get paid to talk to people and create relationships. They also gave us some advice about interviewing and resume tips.

The ICSC was the most amazing experience I have encountered during my years here at Bloomsburg. The ICSC consisted of two competitions, one was the Tom James role play and the other was a Sales Management Case competition. I competed in the Sales Management Case competition, because soon I will be going to New Jersey for another sales competition.

We arrived in Florida on Thursday and immediately went to the opening ceremony and registration. At 7:30 p.m. that night, my partner and I were given our case where we had 18 hours to creating a presentation. We immediately went back to the hotel and plugged the flash drive that they gave us and stared terrified and immediately stressed at the 12 pages of information.

We were given a scenario of a real company that was fictitiously struggling and we had to come up with an idea to help them get back on their feet and present it to two people from companies that were sponsoring the event and the third person that was from the actual company the case was about. We researched and brainstormed and paced up and down all night and day to finish this presentation. 

We had to hand in our PowerPoint by 1 p.m. Friday. It was getting down to the wire, we were scrambling to get this presentation finished but we did. We had to present our ideas to the judges without any practice. We went in there and nailed it! Luckily, we got to see our judges later that day and talk to them about how they think we did. I got the most encouraging feedback I have ever received in my life. The feedback I got from the judges actually made me 110 percent sure that I was going in the right path for my future. The experience was something that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.

A total of six of us (including our professor) went to Orlando for this competition, Jordan Barnett and Amanda Leshko competed in the role play competition and Austin Schwarts was an alternate if anything had happened to any one of us. Even if you were an alternate coming to this competition, the companies that were at the career fair there wanted you. Students aren’t invited to these competitions “just because,” you are invited because you have a passion for sales and you are good at.

Dr. Favia picked a great group to go to the competition this year. Anthony Furjanic and I did not place in the top four out of the 21 schools that competed in the case competition but we definitely made an impression on people from industry. Jordan made it to the second round and also made a good impression on some of the judges. Amanda did an amazing job and made it to round three where she was in the top sixteen out of 84 students. We definitely put a good word out about Bloomsburg University because different companies introduced themselves to Dr. Favia and wanted to make connections with her and our University. Overall the trip was an amazing experience and we couldn’t have done it without Dr. Monica Favia, thank you!

Another opportunity I couldn’t have been able to have without Dr. Favia, is an interview with ADP. She encouraged us to talk to a recruiter from APD about a month and a half ago to get some information about the company to see if we would be interested in working there. After meeting with the recruiter, we emailed her our resumes and gained a brief phone interview and an in-office interview.

At ICSC, when we walked around the job fair, we pretty much had mini interviews with each company that we talked to. Some of them asked me questions that I was prepared for and others asked me some that I wasn’t so that helped me prepare for next week. Another way that helped teach me how to interview, were the Professional U sessions that the University organizes. They are extremely informative and you learn something new every time.

Along with my interview next week, I will be going to another sales competition in New Jersey where I will be participating in the role play competition. At this competition we will have to sell ADP in various scenarios in various rounds. This competition will also have a career fair where I can market myself to potential businesses around the US.

My second to last semester has most definitely flown by with the blink of an eye. The most I can do is to get out as much as possible from my experiences as I can and learn as much as I can before I get thrown out into the real world. My advice to you, is to take advantages of the opportunities that surround you every single day. Don’t put something off or push great opportunities to the side, you never know when you might get them again and when they do, they will be gone in a blink of an eye.

— Chelsea Underhill, senior marketing major #HuskyLife

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

3 organizations I wish I would have joined

Bloomsburg has so many opportunities for absolutely anyone on campus with any interest. If there isn’t something for you, it is extremely easy to create your own club! I was lucky enough to discover Program Board and it has most definitely opened an infinite amount of doors for my future, but there a few other organizations on campus that I wish I would have joined.

When I was in high school and looking at colleges, I was planning on being a nurse. I never in my wildest dreams would have predicted that in three years from my senior year, be a senior majoring in the business field, let alone being a marketing major but that is exactly where I am now and I wouldn’t change it for the world. But when I was in high school, there was a club called Phi Beta Lambda, which stands for Future Business Leaders.

If I would have known that I would be where I am today when I was in high school, I would have joined that club in a heartbeat. As a freshmen, I had no idea what I was getting into, how much time I would have on my hands, or any idea what Bloomsburg had to offer. I was very narrow minded and that is one of my biggest regrets.

After my three years here, I wish I would have joined this club for a couple of reasons; it’s a resume booster, it is a national business organization recognized throughout the country, and holds fundraisers, guest speaker events and meet the alumni events. This club would have been great for expanding my network and would have expanded my knowledge about the campus and what Bloomsburg has to offer for after I graduate. If I had the opportunity to meet alumni, I’m sure I would be hearing a lot of the advice I am now giving you.

Another organization that I wish I would have joined is the American Marketing Association (AMA). AMA is a professional association for individuals and organizations teaching and developing marketing knowledge worldwide. This club could have given me a great opportunity to really expand and grow my knowledge of the ever changing marketing world. This club could have given me a leg up on some applicants that I will be competing with for jobs. They say it’s all about who you know in the business world and the more connections you make and the wider your network, the more doors will be open for you in the future.

They also get the opportunity to go to the International Collegiate American Marketing Association Conference where you can take your marketing skills to the next level by learning from and interacting with current marketing professionals from all over the country. At the conference there would be presentations that are given about current market trends, how to get a career in marketing, and the constant change of marketing. This would have been an amazing resume booster and a great opportunity for anyone in marketing.

The past two organizations I talked about were very similar in how they could benefit me and were geared more toward something that would have increased my knowledge in the field of business, but my third organization is a bit different. I would have loved to join the dance ensemble. Now you’re probably thinking, “What in the world does that have to do with your major and can you even dance?”

Good question! No, I have never tried dancing in my entire life, but I love the Step Up movies and wish I could own those skills that they have and dance like no one but yet everyone is watching! *snaps fingers and strikes a sassy pose* Another reason is because a couple of my friends were part of the dance ensemble and I would have loved to have something other than classes that we can all have fun at. Don’t get me wrong, dance is a lot of hard work and takes a lot of time and effort, but it sounds like a lot of fun too!

Okay, okay if you want to hear about the resume side of things and how it can benefit you, then here it is. When you join the dance ensemble, you are joining a team, you need to learn discipline, time management skills, teamwork, reliability, and confidence. I recently had a practice phone interview with a company that I might be working for after I graduate and she explained to me how I should answer the question, “Why do I want to be a sales person?”

She told me to think about the sports that I was in and talk about those abilities that I possessed and whip them out for the kill! She also told me that bringing up any inspiring stories that you may have from doing some sort of sport or activity. Since I have never had a single dance lesson in my life, I’m sure there are plenty of obstacles I could have brought up during an interview that I could have overcame.

All in all, joining any sort of club or organization on campus can expand you knowledge, network, and skills and abilities that can be helpful for the future. Don’t’ be afraid to try new things or meet new people. Remember, college is one of the biggest opportunities you will ever have to try out hundreds of new and exciting things. Like I said before, I had no idea I would be in the position that I am today, the future is always changing, don’t hold back, take a deep breath, and go for it!

— Chelsea Underhill, senior marketing major #HuskyLife

Friday, November 7, 2014

How to survive your last year of grad school

My graduate school experience has had its share of meals on-the-go, motivational self-talks and 16 hour days. Holding two assistantships and advising multiple undergraduate committees and groups, maintaining a full-time class schedule all while preserving some shred of a personal life can be overwhelming at times.

Don’t get me wrong; I feel extremely thankful for the opportunities given to me and I am more driven by my demanding schedule than I have ever felt before.

However, I am not a complete robot and even I still have those moments when anxiety gets the best of me and my inner child just wants to crawl into a pillow fort, where my responsibilities cease to exist, and color pictures of unicorns for a few hours.

I’m not an expert, but I feel as if giving into these fleeting breakdowns once in a while is not only inevitable, but necessary to retaining our humanity as grad students.

Here is my to-do list if you’re interested in keeping your sanity throughout grad school:
  • Keep your schedule in your phone. If you’re anything like me, your phone is constantly within an arm’s reach. After experimenting with several different planners and scheduling methods, the most practical form has been my iPhone calendar. Add your daily/weekly schedule first (classes, office hours, etc.) then as soon as you find out something is happening, put it in your phone, set an alert, and free up some space in your brain!
  • Stop procrastinating. If you’re someone who is always waiting until the last minute to get things done, now is the time to break that habit. If you don’t already, you’ll soon learn what it’s like for something to come up an hour before a deadline and have to explain why the assignment was late. Your professors and supervisors will accept the “something came up” excuse once or twice, but anyone in Higher Education most likely has a similar schedule and, therefore, squandering sympathy for your lack of ability to plan for unforeseen circumstances.
  • Schedule free time. Self-care is different for everyone, but extremely important. If you’re waiting for free time to magically appear, good luck. Figure out how much time you can reasonably set aside for yourself without falling behind in your other responsibilities. If family, friends or gym time is important to you, schedule it. If it’s already in your calendar, when someone asks when you can add a meeting, you’ll be less likely to take away the only hour you have to yourself.
  • Sleep. Eat. Study. You are a human first and a student second. Everything else will come with time. Adding everything at once will only be detrimental to your health, grades and duties.
  • When things get overwhelming, re-evaluate. Grad school is a perfect time to learn how to balance time and experiment with how much you can take on and still give 100%. When that percentage starts to drop, your balancing act might need reassessment. If you find yourself completely booked with no time to sleep study or eat, it’s time to rework your current plan. Maybe it means taking a few hours away from one position and adding them somewhere else. Maybe a conversation with an advisor or supervisor can add some clarity and take away some pressure. It might also mean dropping one responsibility completely, and that’s ok sometimes. You can always add more responsibilities again after you get a better grip on things.
  • Don’t panic. Grad school is the perfect place to make mistakes. You’re probably surrounded by helping professionals who want nothing more than to see you succeed! If everything hasn’t fallen into place quite yet, don’t worry too much. It will.

— Alyssa Meyers is obtaining a graduate degree in Counseling and College Student Affairs (CSA) at Bloomsburg University, where she holds a graduate assistantship in the Student Activities Office. There, she assists in overseeing Bloomsburg's Program Board, Concert Committee and other groups and committees related to campus-wide event and activity planning.

Alyssa also holds a part-time position at Penn State University's Hazleton campus, where she is the Assistant Coordinator in the Office of Residence Life. In this position, she oversees a 10-person student Resident Assistant staff, works with the full-time residence life staff and participates in on-call or "Duty" responsibilities.

Prior to starting her career in student affairs, worked as a caseworked at Columbia County Children and Youth Services. She gained experience in crisis management, community health, and strength-based intervention strategies. Last summer, Alyssa moved to the Los Angeles area and worked with the Student Life and Engagement staff at Marymount California University. The focal point of her summer was designing an LGBT Safe Zone training manual and additional programming for the upcoming academic year.