EducationSkills

Last week I talked a little bit about building your brand and how to do it. Even if you’re still trying to figure out how to market yourself, the best time to make a LinkedIn profile is now. Think of it as your lemonade stand where you can set up all of the ingredients you need to be the best lemonade stand you can be. Okay, maybe, that isn’t the best analogy in the world, but the point is that in order to get people to buy what you are selling, you have to let employers know that you are on the market.

It doesn’t matter if you’re still in high school or in college. There is an internship out there waiting for you and you’re only a LinkedIn profile away from finding it. Don’t waste anymore time; if you don’t already have an account, sign up! It doesn’t hurt to have another social media outlet. Don’t panic if you’re not sure where to start. I’m here to help!

While I was building my profile, I did a lot of research on how to make my profile look as professional as possible. You don’t have to read countless articles on how to make a good LinkedIn profile – here are the 10 things that you should include:

1. Professional photo: LinkedIn may be like Facebook in the sense that it connects you with other people, but that doesn’t mean the profile picture you use for Facebook (the one where you’re making silly faces with your friends) should be the same one you put on your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is like the more conservative cousin of Facebook. Whereas Facebook is for personal usage (though this doesn’t mean you should post anything and everything), LinkedIn is the Internet’s door to the professional world; a place where recruiters from different companies look at the profiles of students just like you.

Keeping that in mind, don’t let their first impression of you be a picture of you sticking a finger up your nose. Instead, use a headshot that has a plain background. If you’re like me and can’t afford to have a professional photo taken at the moment, take the picture yourself with your phone or camera in front of a white wall. Or, use an old picture and use Paint (or any equivalent program) to cut yourself out of the original photo and paste it on a white background. The second choice is really time consuming, but is ultimately can be a good option for the time being.

2. Summary: This is the section where you talk about yourself. You don’t have to share your entire life story, but it may be good to talk about your college major or write a paragraph about what your future goals are. You can also mention your purpose for making a LinkedIn profile, i.e.  to find an internship in [insert field]. Remember to keep the summary brief since recruiters won’t spend an hour on your profile. You want them to get past the summary and onto the good stuff, such as your work experience and courses that you have taken.

3. Collegiate/high school experience: The four years you spend in high school and in college tell a story. Whether you participated in after-school programs or in clubs, it doesn’t matter. Document it all! If you held any leadership positions, that is especially great.  These are the kinds of things you should put on your LinkedIn profile to let everyone know that high school and college isn’t just about the academics for you. Don’t forget to list all of the relevant courses you have taken so far. This means any business, language, major, etc. classes you have under your belt. Displaying a sample of your work (i.e project, paper, etc.) in this section might also be a great idea. Or, if you don’t want to do that, make an online portfolio and link it to your profile. That way you can have a separate space for all of your work.

4. Skills: We are all good at something, whether it’s having great written communications skills or being good at building websites. There is an employer out there looking for someone with your expertise, so make sure you list the things that you have excelled in. If you can get endorsements (people who can attest that you possess said skills), then that’s even better! The more endorsements, the better. Try not to have more than ten skills on your profile though. Only list the ones that are important and the ones that you think will make you stand out from the crowd.

5. Awards: Are you the student who gets good grades or is a star athlete? Good for you! List all of your accomplishments in the awards section. Let people know that you have rewards as proof for outstanding work.

6. Headline: A headline on LinkedIn is like the headline of a newspaper article. It’s the attention grabber; it’s your chance to send out flares to recruiters so that they can find you more easily. You can constantly change your headline to fit your liking, but if you’re not sure what to put there, start off with ‘Student at [insert school].’ or ‘Intern at [insert company]’. If you don’t have an internship and would like one, try using ‘Aspiring [insert profession] seeking an internship in [insert job/field].’ You could use a combination of the three, just play around with it and look at other profiles to help and inspire you.

7. Contact info: You don’t have to provide your phone number (and I advise against putting your phone number online) but what you can do is put your email address on LinkedIn. This way, recruiters or anyone who is interested can contact you through email. LinkedIn may be a professional site, but you always want to be careful with who you give your information to.

8. Groups/companies/universities: The great thing about LinkedIn is that you can join groups that fit your career interests. LinkedIn groups, once you become a member of them, give you access to thousands of people that otherwise wouldn’t show up in the ‘People You May Know’ section. Getting involved in discussions will get you noticed, and you may even learn valuable lessons from professionals that you aren’t connected with. Also, ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ the companies that you would want to intern for or possibly work for in the future. If you want to go college or graduate school, ‘Follow’ your dream universities to stay on top of what’s going on.

9. Connections: Make sure to only add people you know. If you do get those few random invitations, make sure to check out their profiles first before you add them. It’s good to have a lot of connections, but it’s not good if you don’t know your connections. That said, connect with professors, teachers, old friends, family members, people you’ve worked with, etc. Sometimes it’s not about what you know but WHO you know. Keep that in mind as you navigate the networking realm.

10. Alumni tool: LinkedIn has become more accessible to college and high school students alike in recent years, especially with the addition of the alumni tool. Here you can see what people who graduated from your university (or your dream university) went on to do with their degrees. You can also look at their profiles for tips on how to structure your own. If you have any specific questions, you can message them. I love the alumni tool and it’s certainly something you should check out if you’re new to LinkedIn. Go to ‘Connections’ and click on ‘Find Alumni’ to access that tool, and for more information on a particular university, go to ‘Interests’ and click ‘Education.’ Both of these can be found at that top of the page.

I hope that this list was helpful to those of you new LinkedIn users who don’t know where to start. I don’t want to tell you how your profile should look because not one profile should look the same. I do, however, want to give you a sturdy foundation to build your profile upon. Just remember that you don’t have to get it ‘right’ the first time. You can always edit your profile to your liking. With that said, make sure to keep it updated. If you get a new job, update your experiences on your LinkedIn profile. Or if you’re unemployed but you have an internship or are involved in a club, let it be known that you are staying busy even if it’s not a job. Also, if you haven’t participated in a lot of extracurricular activities, internships, or jobs, don’t let that discourage you from not making a LinkedIn profile. Maybe that blank profile can be what motivates you to get more involved. Who knows?! Just don’t wait to create your profile because you won’t know how successful your lemonade stand will be until you build it.

Image: Esther Vargas, Flickr

CollegeEducationHigh SchoolInspiration

The transition from college to high school is a weird time. Not only are you getting ready to embark on a new journey in your life, but you might be going on a journey that is different from your friend – some of whom may decide to go to a different university, take a year off to travel, or maybe they don’t see themselves continuing with their education. Whatever their choice ends up being, it will usually end up being different from the one you make.

That is a hard realization to come to, and for many of you, you are already trying to navigate your collegiate experience without the people you have spent four years (or more, if you knew them before high school) of your life with. Luckily, we live in a society where technology has advanced and we don’t have to rely on writing letters to communicate with someone. So, if you’re missing your friends, you can always video chat with them or send them a text.

As it gets to be later in the semester, this line of communication may be hard to keep up, especially once you start getting involved with activities and get bombarded with various assignments. You might even make new friends that share the same interests or are taking the same courses you’re taking.

It’s never easy to talk about ‘letting someone go,’ especially if you’ve known them for a long time. This is not to say that it is impossible to stay friends with the people you went to high school with when you’re in college. Many people are able to keep the friendship intact, which is always a great thing. But if you and your friend(s) grow distant over time, that’s okay too.

We grow up a little each day, and sometimes when that happens, we become different people. The jokes we used to make with our friends might not seem as funny as they used to. Our definitions of fun changes and we just grow away from the people we used to be close to. When I was in ninth grade, I thought the people I befriended would be my friends forever. While we still message each other on Facebook from time to time, we don’t have the bond that we use to have. That is partly because none of us are the same people we were when we were in high school. This might apply to many of you because you just started your first semester of college. I think it’s important to talk about this now because no one told me that I wouldn’t have the same friends after I graduated from high school and went to college. No one told me that the people I sat with at lunch for four years would become strangers.

This might not happen to you but if it does, don’t worry about it. When I say ‘let someone go,’ I don’t mean that you should close them out of your life forever. It’s just that if a friendship has run its course, let it run its course. Some people are in your life for seasons, and others, especially the ones you meet in college, may become your lifetime friends. It’s up to you to decide who those people will be.

On the other hand, you might have had friends who partied a lot and participated in things they shouldn’t have participated in while they were in high school. If you were the kid who hung out with that crowd, it’s up to you to make the decision on whether you still want to keep those kind of people in your life. People can tell a lot about the kind of person you are based on the people you associate with. You might see or understand the importance of choosing your friends carefully right now but, trust me, as time goes on you’ll begin to understand why people don’t always keep in contact with their friends from high school or why people change in the first place.

It’s up to you to decide whether someone will benefit your life in any way, or if the person you used to get into trouble with when you were in high school will keep you from reaching your full potential and having the best collegiate journey you could possibly have. I’m not saying that you can’t be friends with the girl you used to party with a lot or the guy who used to do crazy pranks. It’s just that if they’re still the same way and aren’t going in the same direction you’re going, you don’t have to cut them off completely, you just have to distance yourself from them so you have room to grow and to become the person that you want to be.

College will change you and your life. Whether for good or for bad, that is entirely your decision. Just make sure you have the right people in your life because part of what changes you is the people you associate yourself with. You’re not going to be the same person you were in high school, so don’t be afraid if your friends aren’t the same either.

Image: morguefile

SkillsTravel

The jet lag struggle is real. Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder that occurs when you cross two or more time zones. When we travel quickly and go from one time zone to another in a short time frame, the rhythm of our biological clock is thrown off. Jet lag can be overwhelming, exhausting, and frustrating, especially when all you want to do is get out and explore new cities and sights. Instead of sitting around in a hazy state of mind, use these tips to prevent and get over jet lag during your travels. This is the time to seize your youth and explore new cultures, landmarks, languages, and to meet new people. You’ve come this far and traveled great distances; you want to make the most of your time traveling. Don’t let your valuable time be monopolized by jet lag.

Pre-Trip Prep

Make Small Adjustments

Figure out what time it is in the country you will be traveling to. A week before you leave for your trip, start slowly adjusting to that time zone. Go to sleep earlier or wake up earlier and schedule your meals for later or earlier in the evening. Small adjustments like this will get your body used to doing things a bit differently, so when you are all of a sudden functioning to a new clock you won’t experience as much shock. When you advance or delay your body clock ahead of time, studies show that you will adjust faster and can reduce the effect of jet lag.

Hydrate

This is just good advice for every day of your life. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. While you can’t bring liquids through security, as soon as you make it to the other side, purchase a big bottle of water or fill your water bottle up. Planes can be very dehydrating, and you don’t want to have to wait for the drink cart to roll past to get your fill of H20.

Use Plane Time Wisely

If you are traveling somewhere far away, use this long plane ride to catch up with the time zone you are flying into. As soon as you sit down in your seat, set your watch. If where you’re going is midnight, sleep on the plane so when you arrive in the morning you feel fresh and awake. Use a sleep mask and earplugs if the light and noise bothers you.

If you need to sleep on the plane, avoid caffeine and sugar as best you can. If it’s the daytime, even if you are tired, try your best to stay awake and keep yourself busy. Get up and walk up and down the aisles and stretch. You can sleep when you arrive, since it will then be nighttime.

During the Trip

Make Wise Food Choices

During the first couple of days of your trip, make wise food choices. Your body will already be trying to catch up with a different time zone and won’t be metabolizing as efficiently, so go easy on spicy foods and large meals in the evening.

Prepare Your Room

Before you drift off to sleep, prepare your hotel, hostel, guest room in a way that will be conducive to a great night’s rest. Shut down your electronics and television an hour before bedtime, close the curtains or blinds, dim the lights, turn the temperature down if you can, wash up and get ready for sleep, and get cozy in bed with a book, magazine, or your gratitude journal.

Schedule Activities

When you are exhausted and feeling jet lagged on a trip, it is unbelievably tempting to just sleep until you feel awake and ready to explore. However, this temptation might get the best of you, one hour turns into five, and then all of a sudden your day of exploring is gone. If you purposely schedule activities at times you want to try to stay awake, you can mentally adjust faster than if you know you have the entire day free. Scheduled activities are a great way to keep you going because you are held accountable for paying and showing up.

Get Moving

Try to exercise as much as you can when you travel. By keeping your body active, you’ll feel much more alert and ready for the day. Exercise first thing in the morning or when you feel sluggishness coming on midday. It can be as simple as walking the block a few extra times, slipping a jump rope into your suitcase, or doing some push-ups and crunches on the floor. Anything to get your heart rate up will be sufficient.

Enjoy a Breakfast of Champions

Start your day with a breakfast of champions. Water, protein, and fruit are great breakfast staples. Don’t forget to try some of the local food if you’re abroad. Just because you’re not hungry now (maybe back home it’s the middle of the night), try to get something in your system so you can start the day on an energetic note. Live by the rules of the time zone you are in.

How do you prevent and overcome jet lag?

Image: Picjumbo

EducationSkills

Counting down the days until you are free from the vice-like grip of your job or internship? Dissatisfied with the work you are being asked to do? Wishing time would pass faster? We’ve all been there, and it really is no way to spend your time. Instead of using your energy being dissatisfied with your internship, use that energy to figure out how to make your internship work. Here are some tips to make the most of your internship when you are feeling frustrated with it:

1. Grab Lunch with People in Other Areas of the Company

If you are working in a certain division of a company, talk to people who work in other divisions. For example, if you work in the script reading division of a film production company, ask people in the marketing, finance, Human Resources, talent, and production divisions to go to lunch. You can walk up to someone or send a quick email introducing yourself. Be grateful for the time people give you, and meet with the intent of learning more about how those people got to where they are in their careers. This is a great way to network internally at your internship and to make the most of your time there. Even if you aren’t dissatisfied with your internship (or job), this is a smart way to meet more people and gain insight.

2. Focus on the Good and Write Down Positive Things That Are Happening

When you are frustrated, it’s easy to get pulled into a negativity spiral. Step back from your disappointment that the internship isn’t what you thought it would be, and instead focus on the things that are going well. Did you make a new friend? Did you deliver a project before the deadline? Was it a nice sunny walk to work? Pay attention to the little positive things, and you’ll see when you write them down that things might not be so bad after all. You might also try starting a gratitude journal for this same purpose.

3. Ask Your Boss for More (or Different) Responsibilities

Do you think your workload could be heavier? Too much free time? Maybe you see something that would be interesting to try? Once you determine whether you need more responsibilities, or maybe just a different project on your plate, approach your boss with a game plan. Have a clear “ask” and know what you want to say. If you approach your boss with an open-ended loose idea, he or she might think you aren’t serious or ready for more responsibilities. Ask for something specific and explain why you are feeling this way and how you would accomplish the tasks. If your boss approves, you now have a new exciting project to add to the original tasks that weren’t satisfying you. Even though you still have to get the other work done, your new tasks will help you break up the day and test new skills.

4. Be Honest with Your Boss About Expectations and Reality

If you are truly frustrated with the way things are happening in your internship or you feel like the job you applied for isn’t quite what you are being assigned, talk to your boss about it. Your time is precious and you should be making the most of it. While it’s important to pay your dues, you shouldn’t be spending every day for three months cleaning walls and getting coffee for people. You need to be learning and challenging yourself.

5. Take Initiative (While Also Getting Your Work Done)

If you see something around the office that needs to get done, be a self-starter and offer to do it without anyone having to ask. Be sure to get your main duties finished first, but then once those are completed, you have a project where you can shine and show initiative. This is a great way to be a rockstar at your internship even when you might feel dissatisfied with it.

6. Make Friends

Befriend the other interns or entry-level people you work with. Ask them to grab lunch or dinner after work. Is there a fun networking or social event this weekend or weeknight that looks interesting? Ask someone from work to join you! Having friends at work will help your internship feel more fulfilling.

7. This Internship is Temporary

Oftentimes, we figure out what we want to do by figuring what we don’t want to do. Even though you are disappointed with your internship, treat it as a learning experience for what you do not want to do. It’s a good lesson to learn now when you haven’t invested too much time or money into it. Additionally, once you realize that you only have a certain number of days of your internship left, you may start to feel inspired to make the most of it.

8. Create Healthy Competition with Yourself

When I feel frustrated with repetitive work, I create a healthy competition with myself. I try to get the work done faster than I did the previous day or see if there is a new strategy I can implement to accomplish the work. Setting goals against the work you did on previous days will keep you feeling sharp and attentive.

9. Plan After-Work Activities

When your days are filled with work you are not passionate about, they can feel long. Plan after-work activities to help keep you excited throughout the day. Search for networking or social events in your area, plan a dinner with a co-worker or friend, or catch a movie. There are many things you can organize after work that will help keep you from feeling too bummed out.

Bonus Tip #10: For Future Internships, Truly Know What You’re Getting Into

When you are applying for future internships, really understand what you are getting into. Just as the company interviews you, interview the company and ask them questions so you get a feel for what you will actually be doing on the job. Talk to other people who have interned at the company to hear what they have to say about their experience. Companies will be getting value from you during your internship, and you should gain value from your internships, as well. Ask lots of questions, do research, and if you can, ask to spend a day with a member of the team you are interested in to get a feel for what your summer, fall, or spring will look like.

How do you make things work when you are dissatisfied?

CultureEducationTravel

Backpacking through the Trinity Alps, kayaking down the Salmon River, conversing with local school children in rural Chile…these experiences are just the norm at the Alzar School.  And Elena Press, a sophomore at Upper Dublin High School, located outside of Philadelphia, was one of just ten participants in its Fall 2013 session.  From mid-August through the end of December, Elena attended the fully accredited semester school, partaking in the schools “Six Foundations:” leadership training, academics, outdoor adventure, service learning, cultural exchange, and environmental stewardship.  The school, based on a 100-acre campus in Cascade, Idaho, is for motivated sophomore and junior students.  Students participate in significant outdoor expeditions, learning to whitewater kayak, backpack, rock climb, surf, ski, snowshoe, and more. Its academics are challenging, all honors and Advanced Placement, and the leadership opportunities that are provided are what Elena describes as “once-in-a-lifetime.” But these high level courses are distinctly different from those familiar to a traditional high school. The Alzar School emphasizes critical analysis, creative thinking, and effective communication, while using its unique resources to provide a vast variety of hands-on experiences for its students.

Elena Press elaborates:

Before beginning the process, I was hesitant to depart my highly regarded high school, as well as the town I had lived in my whole life.  Leaving behind friends, family, school, clubs, and activities would be an immense sacrifice. Of most concern, since I was missing a semester of my customary education, was how this would impact my future?  A typical worry of many teenagers is college.  Many students, including me, wonder: What classes should I take?  How can I earn the best grades?  Should I get more involved in my community and service projects?  How many awards can I receive in my high school years?  Yet colleges love seeing students partake in unique activities and take risks, two items surely fulfilled by an experience at the Alzar School!

A frequent activity of the students at the Alzar School is kayaking. Students kayak in Idaho, Oregon, California and Chile, providing many opportunities for a first-time kayaker, like me, to increase their knowledge of this riveting sport. I vividly remember staring with wide eyes and quaking in fear as I gingerly paddled in my kayak, mortified at the prospect of going down Snow Hole, a Class IV rapid. My instructors insured me that I was capable and reviewed the line with me multiple times. Then, I went down. I did it! And I flipped over and swam out. Consequently, I discovered that kayaking is absolutely thrilling; you can choose to challenge yourself however much you desire. The uncertainty of being under the water’s influence taught me to push myself, but kayaking is all about community; my friends and I learned many lessons from each other, and constantly supported and cheered one another on, whether doing a flip in the air, or leading down a rapid for the first time.  This is one of the reasons why the Alzar School integrates a large amount of kayaking into the students’ time.  The school considers it a great medium for empowering young leaders.

Of the five months spent at the Alzar School, students spend two weeks traveling through the Northwest, six weeks in Chile, and the remainder of the time in Idaho.  When traveling to Chile, students fully immerse themselves in the culture, vastly improving their Spanish skills by participating in a homestay program, attending a Chilean school and conversing with locals. By traveling through Chile, I discovered that smiles and laughter can break even the strongest barriers of age, language, and culture. The traveling opportunities are not presented purely to allow the students to experience new places, but to open their hearts and minds to other parts of the world, and an unknown culture.  All these contribute to the ultimate goal…to empower and teach young individuals to become leaders in our world today.

Throughout the semester, I learned to plan and lead expeditions and service projects. Alumni continue to develop the leadership skills they acquired from their time at the Alzar School by creating a Culminating Leadership Project to make a difference in their home communities and the world.  The goal of my CLP, Girls Outdoor, is to foster an appreciation of the environment by exposing young girls to the outdoors.  I’m planning and taking 19 Girl Scouts on a three day camping trip. This will involve, among other things, teaching them Leave No Trace principles, risk management, and camping planning.

My semester at the Alzar School was the peak of my high school career and a highlight of my life. The greatest benefits that I acquired from the experience were figuring out who I am as a person and becoming confident in that person, while gaining a support group of the most incredible lifelong friends and mentors from all over the world. From chopping wood, to teaching Chilean kids how to kayak, I’ve never had more fun doing anything. I overcame limits, fell a lot and laughed even more, and found out quite a bit about myself in the process. I wish that every high school student could partake in an experience like the Alzar School offered me.

 Elena encourages anyone who is interested in the Alzar School to check it out.  For more information, visit www.alzarschool.org

EducationHealthSkills

Is the excitement of heading back to school wearing off? While there are changes happening everywhere around you (just look outside at those leaves turning orange), you might feel like you are in need of your own change when you feel your energy levels crashing. Exams, projects, presentations, and homework might be piling up, and since school just started, there’s no break or end in sight. In order to stay on top of all your work without completely burning out, pick and choose which of these 8 ways might help prevent back-to-school burnout and keep your enthusiasm at its peak…

1. Take breaks. Preventing burnout doesn’t have to happen on a grand scale, but instead you can incorporate little changes into your everyday life. Schedule mini-breaks into your routine, giving yourself 15 minutes to do whatever you want. After 1 hour of studying or essay writing, give yourself 10 minutes to listen to music, practice your new hobby (see #3), or have an impromptu dance party. Do anything that makes you feel great and takes your mind off of work for those precious 10-15 minutes.

2. Plan a fun weekend activity. Get a group of your friends together for a fun weekend activity. When you have something to look forward to during the week, there’s a good chance you will keep your energy levels up so you can get through your work and enjoy your Saturday plans. Instead of doing your regular weekend activities, organize something new and out of the ordinary. Plan activities that are inspired by the season, such as picking apples at your local orchard, seeking out early haunted houses, or hosting a pie-making party.

3. Learn a new hobby. This might sound ridiculous, since you probably have zero time to add anything to your plate. However, even the smallest changes could change-up your entire routine and give you a fresh perspective. For example, learning a new hobby such as knitting or painting are calming hobbies that work around your schedule. You have complete control and practicing your hobby for just 15-30 minutes a day can be a total game changer.

4. Review your routine. Every now and then, it is important to step back and evaluate where you are in your life. In this case, step back and review your routine for the past week. Are there changes you can make that would give you more energy, such as going to sleep 10 minutes earlier? Perhaps sitting in a different seat in class would positively affect your interactions with your teacher and classmates? Pack a snack for when your blood sugar level drops and you need a quick boost. Changing your routine doesn’t have to be a lot of work – little changes can make a big difference.

5. Remember your goals. Did you set goals for the beginning of the new school year? Maybe you set a goal of meeting with your teacher once a week for an entire semester, or you wanted to focus on learning how to do Derivative and Integration formulas like a pro. If you didn’t set goals for yourself, this would be a good time to think about what you want out of the school year. When you start thinking about your goals and what it is you truly want to accomplish, you may become re-motivated and avoid feelings of burnout.

6. Sleep. It might be as simple as catching some zzz’s in order to get back to your energetic self. With the loads of work, extra-curriculars, and team practices, your body might be telling you to slow down and rest. Whether you need to take a long afternoon nap or just work on trying to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, be conscious of what your body is telling you.

7. Take a stroll. Sometimes you just need to drop everything and walk it out. When you feel yourself getting exhausted from work, chores, or school, stop drop and stroll. Surrounding yourself with nature and breathing in fresh air will clear your mind and give you a new perspective on what is happening in your life.

8. Talk it out. Oftentimes we tend to keep our feelings to ourselves. Talking out how to feel is healthy, and one way to prevent burning out is to talk to your friends, family, and teachers about how you feel. You might learn that your friends are feeling the exact same way. It feels great to know that you are not alone, especially when you are feeling vulnerable and exhausted. Your school year is just getting started, don’t burnout now.

How do you prevent back-to-school burnout?