Career Planning Expert’s Tip of the Month – November

“I’m Just a Girl who Can’t Say No”

I heard this tune from the musical, Oklahoma, on the radio this week, just in time for my debut on Campus Calm, a website where my blog entries will be featured once a month along with my bio and designation as a “career planning expert”. Campus Calm™ helps student leaders become resilient to combat high school and college student stress, and is led by former college perfectionist turned author, speaker and change-maker, Maria Pascucci. She has a great story and message she that shares with high school and college students alike via speaking engagements, a website rich with resources and contacts, and her book, Campus Calm University. We were recently connected through a mutual friend, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences with her audience.

I will leave the anxiety reduction advice to Maria and her panel of experts. However, I will share a few tips of my own related to gaining focus while in college. I still struggle with “saying no” as evidenced by my recent posts to not one, but two elected officer roles in my MBA program. Once a Type A personality, always a Type A personality, I suppose. That said, keeping the following three areas of focus in my life has certainly reduced the amount of stress I experienced as an undergraduate and now as an adult. Happy reading!

Focus on Your Body
I am embarrassed to tell you that it took me 29 years (until I started studying for the GMAT while working full-time), to realize that sugar makes me sleepy. Why does it take us so long to come to the realization that we are what we eat? I was so busy during undergrad (I laugh about this now that I am going to school, working full-time, and trying to build my career coaching brand) that I ate whatever was placed in front of me, especially if it was free. It is amazing that I didn’t weigh 300 pounds and perpetually smell of marinara sauce from all the free pizza I ate. In all honestly, if you can establish a regular workout routine (i.e. not just go to Buck-i-robics when you have a cute new work out shirt or when your friends are going like I did) and ingest fruits and vegetables more often than selecting from the wider assortment of processed options, you will feel SO much better and be more focused in class and in other elements of your life.

Focus on Relationships and Experiences
My biggest regret from college is not studying abroad. My second biggest regret is not taking the time to really get to know my professors. I have learned the importance of both now that I am back in graduate school, but I can’t go back and relive my undergraduate career. Between chasing boys and running for president of everything, I didn’t have much time left for paying attention in class, much less making an effort to get to know my professors on a personal and professional level. I did, however, visit their office hours enough for them to know that I was trying and to give me the benefit of the doubt when my grade was on the border (I wholeheartedly believe professors grade more subjectively when they know you are making an effort). For the record, I somehow eked out with a 3.6. College is about so much more than getting a degree and getting a job. Even if you are a transfer or non-traditional student, seek out opportunities where your schedule permits to take advantage of the vast network of resources your institution has to offer. You probably won’t remember quadratic equations, but you can establish meaningful life-long relationships and a portfolio of experiences, which will contribute to your long-term growth and development.

Focus on Your Future
I was actively involved in student organizations in high school and in college…so much so that I felt compelled to run for an office in every organization I joined. It certainly didn’t help that in college I detested one of my freshman suitemates so much that I spent all of my time (other than when I was sleeping or showering) at the library studying or at student organization meetings and events. It did help my GPA and my resume, but definitely not my level of stress! I continued to remain involved in numerous organizations…but eventually got smart by the time my senior year rolled around and focused on three that I most enjoyed and were applicable to career paths I was considering. I would encourage you to limit your extra-curricular involvement (as a college student or as an adult) to those organizations from which you derive the most fulfillment and enjoyment. Your time is precious. So long as you are intrinsically motived to make a difference, prospective employers and graduate school admissions folks will see the transferable skill set you developed.

Involvement Blunder: As much as I hate to admit it, I really want to be liked. While I believe that I possess a healthy level of self-confidence, it still really gets my goat when someone doesn’t like me. This desire to be liked combined with my naiveté with regard to new technology called email in the 90s, got me into big trouble during my sophomore year of college.

While serving as President of an organization, I developed an unfounded misgiving that one of the other officers (let’s call her Katie) had something against me (for the record, she ran against me for President and ever since the election I felt like she questioned my every move). Taking on the role of [insert your favorite derogatory adjective here] college female, I forwarded an ambiguous email message from her to my Vice-President (or so I thought), noting my contempt for Katie and her questioning ways.

Fast forward to 24 hours later (since this was WAY before we had mobile devices allowing us to check email on demand). I received an email back from Katie asking what I meant by my message. Bad news – I had hit reply instead of forward!!! I spent the next three years making up for my blunder as our paths continued to cross. A campus of 36,000 undergraduates suddenly seemed very small.

Secondary Moral of the Story: ALWAYS check the To field in your emails before sending and wait to complete the field until your message is complete, if possible. Primary Moral of the Story: When we read too much into messaging in life and in work it adds unnecessary stress and takes energy away from our areas of focus. Take communications from fellow students or colleagues at face value until you receive more information. In this case, Katie was just trying to do what was best for the organization, not trying to undermine my authority!

~ Joy Schwartz, Career Planning Expert, Campus Calm™
Check out Joy’s blog: www.sweatstosuits.com

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