On the banks of the Red Cedar…

31 03 2010

The NCAA Final Four is upon us and even though I won’t be in Indianapolis to cheer on the Spartans in person, I’ll be at home, wearing my Izzone t-shirt and rooting for my second alma mater.  Since you can’t turn on ESPN without hearing or seeing MSU basketball (GO GREEN!), MSU has been on my mind all month.   As a full-time graduate student (2006-2007), I only spent three semesters at State, but there are still plenty of people, places and traditions I miss.

Here are some of my favorites from MSU:

Food

  • Waui dubs at Menna’s
  • Sesquesentennial Swirl ice cream at the Dairy Store (in a waffle cone)
  • 50-cent-boneless-wing-Thursdays at B-Dubs
  • Charlie Kang’s on Grand River
  • Banana pudding with Nilla Wafers at Owen Graduate Center (What? It was good.)

Sports

  • Spartan football (and the massive amount of choreography, cheers and chants you have to learn to blend into the student section)
  • Rowing down the Grand River
  • Running through campus past the Spartan statue
  • MSU dominance of U-M in basketball during the Izzo era (oh wait, I can still enjoy that from home)

People

  • Dr. Mastin – My program advisor, professor and all around awesome person.  I wanna be like her when I grow up.
  • Laura Kassenbrock – How we managed to be partners on pretty much every group project in every class during our entire program is beyond me, but it sure was awesome!  So awesome, I’m going to forgive her for rooting against the Spartans (eh, she’s also a Butler alum, what can you do?).
  • Zeke the Wonder Dog – Okay, so not really a person, but there is definitely a special place in my heart for Zeke.  Never has watching a dog catch a Frisbee been more exciting or endearing.

This weekend I’ll be rooting for our boys in the green and white with all my heart.  In the meantime, I’ll fondly remember all the gifts MSU gave me: a master’s degree, plenty of sports-related triumphs and heartbreaks (MSU v. Notre Dame, 2006), a lifelong friend, thousands of dollars in student loans…

Fellow Spartan grads: what did you love most about MSU? 





“At least you don’t have to wrestle the bear…”

26 03 2010
When I went into work this morning, I knew there were some challenging conversations I needed to have and a to-do list of other items waiting for me on my desk.  Even though it’s Friday, I was braced for the day to be a little bit crappy.  I should mention here that I really do love my job and the people I work with – one friend at work in particular actually inspired this post (she’s pretty much my favorite coworker ever, so I’ll refer to her as Fav Ever for the purpose of professional anonymity).

Anyway, I stopped by Fav Ever’s office this afternoon to ask her how her day was going.  She said, “you know, it’s been a funny day.”  The look on her face and the tone of her voice indicated that the word “funny” could have easily been replaced with “challenging,” “ridiculous” or “a-little-bit-crappy,” but funny was the word she picked.   

Really though, everything’s funny.  At least that what I told Fav.  Life is a sliding scale of funny moments ranging from funny (haha) to funny (weird) to genuinely hilarious to tragically hilarious.  Finding humor in mundane meetings and bizarre requests can take your day from crappy to fun in an instant. No effort is required for funny (haha) moments to brighten your day.  It’s usually the tragically hilarious ones that require some sort of attitude adjustment on your part.  

For example: your boss asks you to complete a series of tasks which are as bizarre as they are challenging.  The tasks require you to stay at work late, consult with an individual with a known attitude problem, use algebra, drive to an off-site meeting in Northern Michigan with no directions or GPS, learn Japanese and do almost everything short of wrestling a live bear in front of the executive team.  Also, the tasks are your boss’s responsibility.  The fact that you can’t think of anything worse than this is kind of funny, right?  This is an example of a situation that’s tragically hilarious.  The sooner you embrace it as such, the sooner you can stop fussing over which office supplies might be strong enough to hang yourself with.  Step away from the packaging tape gun.  

Even in a job you love, you’re going to have “funny” days.  How you choose to process them can make or break your day.  Here are a few tips to help you have more fun days and fewer crappy ones:  

  • Make friends with fun coworkers.  Two fun people staying at work late are better than one.
  • Make your own fun.  Last Thursday, I found a big foam “#1” finger in my storage room.  On Friday, I went down the hall, popping into offices wearing the finger and told several admins and everyone in accounting that they were #1.  It was fun, cheap, easy, it made everyone laugh and for the first time, HR didn’t have an issue with someone giving coworkers the finger.
  • Don’t procrastinate.  If you have to do something tragically hilarious, do it as soon as possible, preferably before the weekend.  Putting off a stressful project will only make it worse.  Once it’s done, you may realize it wasn’t as bad as you thought it would be.
  • Refer to your list of things you really love about your job.  If you don’t have one, make one when you are in a better mood.  If you can’t think of anything, reevaluate your career path.
  • Fix what you can.  There will always be some things you won’t be able to change or challenges that seem overwhelming, but if you can make even a small positive impact on a tough situation, start there.
  • Follow someone funny on Twitter.  A random funny tweet in the middle of a stress-sesh will be just what the doctor ordered.
  • Pray.  Sure, it’s easier to get mad, procrastinate or place blame, but God created the boss/coworker/consultant who’s making your life so hilarious right now.  Who better to seek for guidance on how to deal?

This morning, I got my biggest challenges out of the way first and the fallout wasn’t the nuclear winter I expected.  It turned out to be a fun Friday with several tragically hilarious moments shared with Fav Ever.  I can hardly wait for Monday.  

Photo found via Google images search, credited to zavesmith.files.wordpress.com

 





Everybody loves payment

21 03 2010

Ah, graduation.  Pomp and circumstance.  Those flattering gowns.  One last picture with the campus statue or rock or mascot or whatever.  Now, SHOW. ME. THE. PAYCHECK!  Not so fast.     

If you’re graduating college soon, chances are you’re searching for a job or internship in your field.  Or maybe you’re looking forward to continuing your education.  Having a degree is great, but that funny hat with the tassel isn’t going to magically produce a job or entrance into your desired graduate program.  The degree will help (assuming you went to a sweet school like BGSU or MSU), but there are several additional steps you can take to increase your odds of landing your dream job – or at least a job that will help with those student loan payments.     

"Does this gown make my butt look fat?" Lar and I before our graduation from Michigan State, December 2007.

 

Before the interview:   

Network.  Keep your friends close and your former bosses, professors and advisors closer.  Here’s why: the internship coordinator who absolutely loved you will probably be willing to tell all her friends in her field how awesome you were.  She may also know who is hiring and can pass that info on to you and/or recommend you for the job.  This is what is known as a reference.  Keep in touch with people who are willing to go to bat for you.  Being great is one thing, having someone vouch for your greatness and is another.  Note: Don’t list someone as a reference without asking first and always thank the people who act as references for you.     

Prepare a resume.  A resume is a brief history of your accomplishments, education and work history.  Have your academic advisor, mentor or a professional from your university career center review your resume with you and give you constructive feedback.  If you happen to have an older sister in corporate communications, be sure to take advantage.  Never lie on a resume.  List relevant experience and achievements, scholarships or awards you have earned and any other unique attributes that may be of interest to your potential employer or graduate program.  Always have a third party proofread your resume for typos and grammar.  Seriously, ALWAYS.     

Prepare a cover letter.  A cover letter is a chance to introduce yourself, explain why you want to work at company X or attend graduate program X and explain why you think you would be an asset to company X  or grad school X.  This may involve some research on your part.  Writing a cover letter can also help you define for yourself why you want to pursue this opportunity.      

Open your closet.  If you are pursuing a corporate opportunity (and even if you’re not), a dark suit is going to be your go-to outfit on interview day.  Your interview attire should ere on the conservative side.  If you have tattoos, they should be covered and any piercings should be removed prior to entering an interview, unless you are applying for an opening at a body mod shop.      

Check your privacy settings.  If you have any public profiles online (facebook, twitter, myspace, etc.), keep in mind that a quick Google search of name could turn up a photo of you looking less than professional.  If possible, delete incriminating content.  At the very least, adjust your privacy settings so your information does not appear in a public search. 

Practice.  Anticipate what questions the interviewer will ask you.  Be prepared to talk about your strengths and weaknesses, a challenge you have faced, why you want the job, etc.  Have at least one compelling “success story” prepared.  This can be a challenging project you excelled on or a tough situation you handled really well.  If you tend to get nervous, practice introducing yourself and shaking hands with a friend.  Run through a few practice interview questions too.  If you’re afraid of looking like a dork, get over it and just imagine yourself employed – dorkiness and all.     

During the interview:     

Smile.  Smiling is underrated.  Smile when you meet someone new.  From the receptionist to the interviewer, people like a happy, pleasant person.     

Be engaged.  Be an active listener and show your interviewer(s) you are interested with your body language (lean forward, nod in agreement, don’t fidget, etc.).      

Be concise.  Answer questions directly.  It’s okay to use relevant examples to illustrate your experience and qualifications, but don’t dominate the conversation.     

Ask questions.  Be prepared to ask some questions of your own.  Don’t grill your interviewer or ask questions related to salary, but do inquire about what a typical day might be like, what your role would be and what the company culture is like.     

After the interview:     

Say thanks.  Send a note to say “thank you” for the opportunity to interview with the company or program.  This is also a good opportunity to reiterate your enthusiasm for the position/program and reaffirm that your skills and experience are a good match for the opening.     

Take something away.  Even if you don’t get the job, you can learn something from every interview.  Was there something that the interviewers were really impressed with?  Did you forget to mention a unique skill you have?  Take note and move on.      

Keep looking.  Don’t sit back and wait for the offer from the interview you’re sure you aced.  Maybe the offer will come.  I hope it does, but other great openings may pass you by while you wait for the one you think is in the bag.  Don’t get discouraged.  When I graduated with my master’s degree, I didn’t expect a 5 month job search averaging several interviews a month, but I not only became a seasoned interviewee, I now have a job I love.     

Good luck.  Please leave a comment if you have any questions I may be able to help you with.





I’m gonna need some help parking my hover car

17 03 2010

One of my workers dropped by this afternoon to see if I had finished converting a proposal for him.  The proposal was for a Person X, who happened to have the same name as one of the characters from the Marvel comic X-Men.  I mentioned this, but unfortunately my aforementioned coworker wasn’t familiar with the X-Men.  Aw, shucks, no one to share X-Men humor with.    

Thanks for the reminder that I’m the only one in administration younger than 30.  Being the youngest has its benefits and challenges.  It means I have the privilege of explaining the intricacies Twitter, LinkedIn and the art of the “facebook creep” to our owner.  It means facing the challenge of “dressing for my position” with minimal parameters.  It means being more excited than everyone else for birthday cake.  It means constantly being warned about the pitfalls of marriage, children and mortgages.  It means someone is going to call me “kiddo.”    

So I prefer hot chocolate to coffee?  At least I hold myself back from filling the rest of the cup with marshmallows like I really want to.  Being the youngest in a group of experienced professionals gives me an opportunity to learn from people with decades of experience, which is great.  It also makes me wonder: when I’m sitting where they are, what the youngest person in the office is going to be teaching me?  How to park my hover-car?  How to teleport to a meeting?   

Seriously though, no matter where my career may take me, I hope I always have experienced mentors to teach me about business and about life.  I’ve had some brilliant professors, advisors, coworkers and bosses who were and still are more than willing to give advice or guidance when called upon.  The same goes for my personal life.  I’m blessed to have some very wise men and women in my circle of friends and family and I try to take full advantage of the opportunity to learn from their experiences.    

So, are you taking full advantage, kiddo?  Whether you’re under 30 or you have an AARP card, if you’re anything like me, you’re surrounded by people who know more than you do.  Just look around.  Social media has revealed a plethora of brilliant minds that you don’t even have to meet to recognize their genius.  And if you’re not into social media networks, good old-fashioned human contact is still in style.  Keep in mind, most people won’t just spout unsolicited knowledge at you word vomit style (you should probably run from those who do), so if you’re committed to personal and professional growth, tell those smarties around you how much you respect their knowledge and experience.  Ask for help when you need it and fill them in on the cast of characters from the X-Men.  Because knowledge was meant to be shared – and so were X-Men jokes.   

And just so you’ll stop wondering: no, that proposal wasn’t for Wolverine.   

The X-Men





My baby daddy brings me nuggets…and everything else I need

9 03 2010

John and I were supposed to be at my mom’s around noon this past Sunday for lunch.  Around 10 a.m., he decides he should pick up something to eat “just in case your mom wants to chat or look at pictures instead of eating right away (you know how she is).”  I figured a quick bagel or cinnamon roll couldn’t hurt and off he went.  About 20 minutes later, he walks in the door with a McDonald’s bag and I assumed he had got some sausage biscuits.  He proceeded to set out a couple of orders of chicken McNuggets.

“I ordered nuggets, but the guy said they weren’t serving lunch yet,” he explained as he unpacked the black market McNuggets.  “But I was like, ‘man I got a pregnant wife at home and she’ll kill me if I don’t bring back some nuggets,’ so he said, ‘alright, man, I’ll drop some.’”

WHAT?!  I asked him if he really said that to the drive thru guy because I figured he was just messing with me, but no, he REALLY SAID IT!  And just to clarify here, I am neither married, nor pregnant and I wasn’t even jonesin’ for some nuggets.

But it was just what I needed.  I needed John to be his unpredictably hilarious self because I was exhausted from a ten-hour round trip drive (of which John drove nine hours) to and from Indianapolis the day before for Lar’s bridal shower and was still trying to kick the case of SARS that had had me down for the count last week.  And when I had asked him to drive with me, he didn’t complain about the fact that he would be left to entertain himself for hours in an unknown city or the fact that he would be stuck in a car with the emotional rollercoaster that I turned into on the ride home or that he really didn’t feel like driving ten hours in a day.  He just did it.  Granted, the bright spot of his day was his “glorious” first experience of the culinary genius you and I know as Chik-fil-A.

Original chicken sandwiches, waffle fries and cookies ‘n’ crème milkshakes aside, I know it was a sacrifice of his time and patience and he did it without complaining – which is why I don’t complain when he finishes that last quarter of NBA basketball or NCAA football on Playstation 3 when I’d rather chat about how our respective days went with his full and undivided attention.

The last two nights, we’ve gone up to the track together.  Laying down after work would have been so much easier, but because I had John there to support me, I had two good workouts instead of two good naps and I’m on my way to recovering from my most recent body disaster.  When I got great news from my annual performance review at work yesterday, he was so proud of and happy for me and told me that I deserved the recognition and rewards that came with it.  How great is it to have someone who’s always in your corner?  Despite my personal quirks, random obsessions with cleaning methods and slew of differences, John always shows up in the best way for me.  I can always depend on him for motivation, love, support and utter hilarity.  I just hope I make him feel as loved as I do.

So, if you’ve got a good man and you know it, clap your hands…or give him a good hug or bring him McNuggets with his favorite sauce (honey) because a good man is a great blessing.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go make my second dinner.  Second dinners are totally acceptable when you’re eating for two.