3 Academic Things to do Before Graduating

Today at 12:30pm I registered for classes for what should be the last time in my life! I say, “should be,” because I don’t intend to go to grad school, but you never know what things might change a persons mind, and I’ve enjoyed being a student. Knowing I’ll probably never have to pick out classes again is both relieving and a little bit sad, and generally got me thinking about my college years and the types of things I would recommend to an incoming student.

There are so, so many things to recommend- where the least expensive cafe is, specific teachers and courses, all kinds of stuff. So I decided to make this list academic-specific. The things that people don’t necessarily want to do but afterwards are glad for. I suppose I’ll get to it.

1. Get to know a professor (or 2, or 3…)
Professors are here because they have a crazy amount of knowledge on a subject and want to share it. If you a) have a class you really love; b) have a class you want to love but is really hard for you; or c) think your professor seems interesting; go talk to them in their office hours! I have 3 professors who I really liked in class and gradually got to know by visiting in their office hours, and who I now stop in to chat with or get perspectives from; one of them is also now my boss in an internship (but the way that happened is another story entirely related to one of the other professors).
Not only can professors be helpful to you in class, but most really, really want to see their students succeed and will let you know about things related to your major that will look good on a resume- whether it’s a class that will give you certain skills or an internship they heard about. Also they sometimes have snacks.

tugo

One of my 3 taught me to take good photos. Another of the 3 eventually hired me, in part because I can take good photos.

2. Attend a Public Lecture
I did this for the first time just a few days ago and can’t stop sharing the information with people. Some day when you realize you have an hour or two of downtime and nobody is answering their phone go to a lecture on any subject, whether it sounds incredibly interesting to you or not. For my job I went to one on intentional communities and it was way more interesting than I expected going in to it, and now I want to attend more public lectures. It’s not boring because although students attend lectures most weekdays, they are always on the same subject- public lectures are usually about 45 minutes to an hour on something you probably don’t know a lot about.
For a list of public events on campus take a look at the public events page from the library. There are also other community calendars with lectures listed around Eugene and Springfield.

3. Use the Tutors/GTF’s
This was/is the hardest for me to do because I hate sitting around waiting for a tutor to be available. But if you have any doubts about a paper, math problem, or whatever, there is probably a tutor on campus who can help you in 30 minutes or less. I’ve been stalling in taking my required math classes because I plain old don’t like math, but this term I’m pretty confident I’ll get a good grade and it’s with many thanks due to the GTF who runs the lab I take. He’s patient with everyone no matter how many times he has to go through a problem, and, like so many professors, wants to see students succeed.

These three suggestions are easy to do but can seem weird or intimidating until you’ve actually done them. Really, though, the worst that can happen is maybe the public speaker has an annoying voice or someone else waiting to see a tutor smells bad. Those are unavoidable situations in life, so give these things a shot before you graduate!

I don’t get paid to fix privacy settings.

Happy new year!

I haven’t written a new post since April… and with that one I was all “I should start blogging again!” because it had been a month. Mwerp. So, not as a resolution necessarily, but more of a “this would be good for me” decision I made after talking to my brother about something unrelated, I’m going to get back at it… again.

I’ve been in my current internship for about a year and a half now, with a lot of the work I’ve done centering around social media. Oftentimes I’ll tell people that detail and their instant reaction is to ask me a random question about how to change their privacy settings or generally teach them about Facebook or Twitter. While I’m absolutely capable of doing those things, let me tell you about what I actually do right now; it seems like a good starting point since I haven’t written a blog post in 8 months.

When I say that “social media is a part of my internship,” I mean that I find content for our clients to post that is relevant to their industry/product. Sometimes I find the content and I’m also the person who posts it (one example is our client Texters- the link will take you to their Facebook page). I use the website Hootsuite because one person easily has access to multiple accounts, and the ability to schedule future posts; Hootsuite also happens to be the site my boss was already using when I started working for her, there are many similar sites. If you have your own business or use social media for more than your personal page you might want to check it out.

This picture is relevant because I mention Nike in the next paragraph, and I am proudly wearing my bright pink Nike's in this photo.

This picture is relevant because I mention Nike in the next paragraph, and I am proudly wearing my bright pink Nike’s in this photo.

Many companies have entire departments dedicated to social media (I’m always super impressed by Nike in this area), because one minor mistake can turn into a big mistake in a short amount of time if it isn’t acknowledged and fixed quickly– see my post about McDonald’s last year. Posts on Facebook and Twitter can’t entirely be talking up a product or company because people won’t pay attention to those for long, if at all, but posts still need to be relevant to the product/company.

Finding those relevant and interesting pieces of information is what I do. :-)

Spam-free Twitter?

Whenever I’m asked about Twitter my first reply is, “It’s a silly place,” similar to how King Arthur describes Camelot in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Trends change by the hour, and one mistake from a company can spread within seconds and quite suddenly become a news story. However silly a place it may be, Twitter is useful for sharing all kinds of information… with varying degrees of importance.

At the very bottom of the importance chain we find spam. Stupid, slimy, not-the-food, spam. Anyone who has ever had an email address knows just how frustrating spam is and, unfortunately, it is prevalent in the 140 million active-user Twitterverse.

Bale Milford and I have never been introduced... and I have no interest in his spam-y link!
And yeah... Middle-earth Podcast follows me.

So it was to my great delight when I read this article on Mashable that Twitter filed a lawsuit today against five of the major spammers. As stated by Twitter, “Taking legal action sends a clear message to all would-be spammers that there are serious and costly consequences to violating our Rules with their annoying and potentially malicious activity.”

Spam is generally an easy thing to ignore and avoid, but it sure is annoying and can really mess stuff up if someone mistakenly clicks on it. By suing five of the major groups creating spam, Twitter is not only sending a message to potential future-spammers but also to other groups not included in the current lawsuit.

Even if Twitter somehow loses the lawsuit, at least they made an effort to improve the quality of their space on the internet. The announcement was just made today and already there are thousands of happy tweeters spreading the news that Twitter is taking action against spammers. I think I’ll join their ranks.

Rules in the “Real World”

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not graduating until next Spring, which I’m glad of, but recently I’ve been feeling like I may actually be more “real-world” ready than some of my peers. I see people on Facebook and Twitter in the middle of lectures, and their general demeanor makes me wonder how they’ve reached senior level classes at all. An article I read today on Inc.com wasn’t necessarily a wake up call to me, but certainly a solid reminder that in a very short amount of time my peers and I will have new rules to live by. Here are some “old-school” rules that stood out to me as necessary reminders to my generation.

1. Experience trumps education.  This one is kind of hard to accept. We just paid a bunch of money and spent 4(+) years at school and are ready to take on the world! Alas, unless there were many internships or jobs at the same time as school, all that time and money was spent to get to square one on the Life board. SO experience as much as possible while in school; internships, jobs, traveling, living. The more experiences we have the more easily we will be able to show what we can give a company.

2. Commitments mean more than just “best effort.”  Commitment: a pledge or promise; obligation. I don’t know if 20-somethings have historically been really bad at holding commitments or if it’s a newer issue, but I can’t say how many times I’ve been part of a group project and people just didn’t do their parts. By not doing their part in school they get a bad grade, so what do these people expect upon graduating? If a commitment is made and is not upheld in the workplace, especially without any warning that the person needs help/more time/whatever, the non-committer can expect a harsh talking to if they get to keep their job.

3. Multitask, yes; multi-think, no.  This goes back to my frustration with classmates who are always on their phones or laptops, doing everything but listening in class. For this point I’m just going to quote the whole thing. “You can walk and talk on the phone at the same time. That’s multitasking. You cannot give full attention in a meeting and be texting or emailing at the same time. Be fully present to only one activity at a time if that activity requires thinking.”
Come on, guys.

Gen-Y folk already have a bad reputation for having an aura of entitlement-without-responsibility. Taking this advice (and the rest given in the article), we may be able to eventually change the opinion of the general public. Maybe. I hope I do, anyway.

I didn't have a photo for this post... these are some daffodils in front of my house. Daffodils are the flower of hope, and I hope to never seem "entitled-without-responsibility" :-)

Sometimes it’s best to leave things at “Sorry.”

Early this year a Wisconsin man, Ronald Ball, opened up a can of Mountain Dew and was sorely disappointed to not have a delicious glowing green beverage, but instead a rather “rancid” one. After further inspection, Mr. Bull discovered that the can in fact had a dead mouse in it! I’ve never been a fan of Mountain Dew myself, but any liking I had for it just went down the drain… and, according to an article from PRNewser, it gets worse.

“After contacting the company, Ball sent the evidence to PepsiCo. Lawyers and experts from the company say that after closer examination, they determined that the mouse would’ve ‘dissolved in the soda’ in the time between bottling and consumption, turning it into a ‘jelly-like substance.'”

I'm gonna go on and skip this "experience."

Why on earth PepsiCo. thought the best way to approach this issue would be to admit their product can dissolve a mouse, I will never know. If I were a mother and read about this, I would never- ever! – let my kids drink Mountain Dew for fear that one day their organs would join the mouse and turn into a (probably bright green) jelly-like substance. Somewhere along the line PepsiCo. officials obviously forgot to consult their PR people before making this announcement.

I think consumers should be informed when something they’re consuming has the ability to dissolve a small rodent, but this was far from the right way, if there is such a thing, to do it. PepsiCo. should have offered an apology and perhaps some rodent-free Mountain Dew to Mr. Ball.

The Pioneer Woman Knows Her Social Media

One thing I really like about my part-time-to-get-me-through-college job is that I get along really well with all of my coworkers. One of my favorites, Sonja, was the first person to introduce me to the blog The Pioneer Woman. Sonja encouraged me to take a look at it because the writer of the blog, Ree Drummond, was not only funny but she had great recipes and lots of photos to go along with each recipe.

Sonja moved away (thank goodness for Facebook!), but I continued to check into the Pioneer Woman every now and then to find new recipes or just stare at pretty food pictures, but she also has tips on gardening, photography, and homeschooling, as well as a couple other less specific “for fun” sections.

I mean really, look at that. Who wouldn't want to visit this blog all the time?

The Pioneer Woman is a good (extreme) example of how social media can be used for public relations, and to gain and expand an audience. Ree started with her blog, and when it acquired followers she created Facebook and Twitter accounts. Through these outlets people are able to share their finds with others and by word of mouth The Pioneer Woman became a well known blog. So well known, in fact, that Ree now even has her own show on the Food Network (also called The Pioneer Woman), and a cookbook coming out on March 13!

Nearly 400,000 people follow The Pioneer Woman on Facebook, and nearly 300,000 on Twitter. As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, interaction is essential to maintaining an audience and Ree constantly replies to fans in addition to starting conversations and posting new content to her blog, Facebook, and Twitter almost daily. If you have never been to this blog I encourage you to at least take a look… there’s so much to find :-)

Using Social Media Personally and Professionally

Last year I sat down with my adviser and set up a graduation plan. I could have arranged to graduate this spring, but I didn’t feel like I’d be ready for the “real world” that soon. I will instead be graduating Spring 2013, and I am happy to say that although my skills have improved immensely over the past year, I still feel that graduating next year is a good idea. Both in school and in my internship, one of my biggest difficulties has been learning to effectively use social media in a way that balances personal interests with career-type interests.

Mashable recently had an article, “9 Ways Students Can Use Social Media to Boost Their Careers“, which I found incredibly helpful. I have heard most of these suggestions before, but being able to read them and perhaps read a second time is helpful to me. Take a look at the article, but I’ll tell you the three that stood out most to me.

First, it is okay to still post personal stuff! If you’re a student and only posting career-related stuff it can make you seem unapproachable. Everyone knows that you’re going to have real-life friends as connections on Twitter or elsewhere, “but refining your language, highlighting content and information that’s more career-focused, and connecting and conversing with more people outside your immediate group of friends signifies that you’re interested in more than just the personal.”

This can remain true even when trying to be more professional! I also just wanted another post with a Dr. Seuss quote.

When I’m interacting with my family and friends, I tend to be heavy on sarcasm. Every now and then I come across someone who doesn’t understand it and I make a mental note to keep things straight-forward. I’ve been hesitant to be sarcastic online because of some past experiences with text messaging where people thought I was serious and that was 381% not the case; the problem with text is that there is no tone of voice. Anyway this article is clear that sarcasm is just fine if it’s something you would say to someone face-to-face; likewise if you would not say something face-to-face do not say it. Luckily for me, I’m generally a nice person and don’t say mean things :-)

Something I need to do more, and am encouraged to do so now that I’ve read this article, is interact with professionals online. It gives you a better understanding of the area, but also showcases that you already have a base knowledge and interpersonal skills. Interacting with professionals can even (will according to the article) get you a “once-over” from possible future employers.

I like social media, and I’ve learned SO much over the past year about how to use it effectively. The article on Mashable made me feel confident that I’m mostly doing it right, and good suggestions on how to improve my efforts. I hope you all learned something, too!

Extreme Savings… Great PR

At some point in 2008 I started noticing updates on Facebook from a friend in North Carolina all about how much money she had been saving with coupons. As time went by, and she learned more about combining coupons, the total amount saved grew to be unbelievable.

Desirae Young started using coupons in 2007 to stretch each dollar for her family. She now spends just $150 each month on food for her family of 3, and even has a stock room with everything from non-perishable foods to extra laundry detergent and cough syrup. She’s set for pretty much anything, and donates a lot of food and supplies to various people and groups.

Proof of one of Desirae's incredible shopping trips. Amount spent: $0.32, amount saved: $382.35

Desirae acquired a fairly large following of people on Facebook and would occasionally have contests with various prizes- from coupon books to video games- to give away. She has always been great about interacting with her followers and providing them with a lot of valuable information about couponing.

In 2011 she made an appearance on the TLC show “Extreme Couponing.” Her Facebook page now has more than 22,000 followers and she has been featured on her local news, as well as recently being on the show “Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers” (see it here).

Extreme Savings With Diva Desirae has changed quite a bit from when I first saw it in 2008, but is now a treasure trove of links to daily deals and printable coupons, giveaways and freebies. There is a link to “Coupon 101″ for people who are beginners. She also has a YouTube channel with explanations to frequent questions and other information about some of her own shopping trips.

Desirae has done a wonderful job of maintaining her own public relations, even with the rapid increase in followers and amount of questions asked each day. She always has a positive attitude and is encouraging to people, reminding them that becoming an “extreme” couponer doesn’t happen over night.

By effectively managing her social media, Desirae is able to help people as well as maintain her reputation as a coupon expert.

Be the high flier! Know your audience.

All through college we students are told to do as much as we can to make resumés stand out to future employers. Internships, school groups, volunteering… anything to show that person who has likely just looked at twenty or more other resumés that you have something to contribute everyone else does not.

This is sound advice, but can also be incredibly intimidating. There’s always that one person in your class who you know is more creative, volunteers somewhere, and probably has at least three skills you don’t even know exist that show up on their resumé. That person makes you feel like the guy in “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” who was a high flier but his air balloon got caught in a tree.

With a world of competition, what can one need to do to really stand out?

One guy decided that the best thing he could do was write a blog post all about why he was the best candidate. Not only did he land the job, it caught media attention and got people asking whether the blog was a good idea or not (one example here). There are opinions on both sides; some say it was a great idea and allowed him to show off his knowledge, but on the other hand if a company says to turn in an application and resumé… that’s what you should do.

I think that, given the position, it made sense for him call on their attention in a nontraditional way. The company he was applying to, Radian6, manages and monitors social media. He used their own devices to show off his knowledge of social media and give examples of why he would be a good fit for their company. He’s that guy in your class.

In the world of Public Relations it’s important to know how to reach your audience. You can have the best message in the world and get zero results if you’re not using the right outlet. Not everyone is going to land their dream job by writing a blog post about it… sometimes it will need to be a blog post AND an impeccable resumé. If you know your audience, you’ll know what to do.

Parents: Quit Hovering

I have always appreciated my parents. They’re both wonderful in their own (very different) ways, and for the most part allowed me to make decisions independently while growing up with an occasional nudge to the left or the right if I seemed to stray. That said, it hasn’t been until the last year or two that I’ve learned my generation is known for having “helicopter parents.” I thought those were only in movies, or inflicted on the rare unfortunate soul, until numerous teachers at the UO started telling stories of parents calling to inquire about their child’s grade… and I was horrified on behalf of whoever that other student might be.

This article from NPR is all about helicopter parents, and how they have not only infiltrated my generations schooling, but are moving on to their careers with them as well! One story tells of an intern whose mother called to inform the employer of “how talented her son was, and how he deserved much more [compensation], and that he could make much more money outside of this position.”

In my imagination there is a woman hanging out the other side, frantically shouting questions through a microphone at her son who is attempting an escape via jet ski.

Apparently stories like this are common enough that many schools and companies have developed “Parent Relations” within their Public Relations departments. Again I must express my embarrassment for the guys and gals my age whose parents are the cause of this addition to our world. I can almost-sort-of grasp a parent calling about a grade if, you know, the student was incredibly ill and hadn’t been able to talk for two weeks or something. But really, by hovering around as close to 24/7 as possible, what do parents expect their kids to grow up to “be”, aside from incapable or as far away as possible?

I’m proud of the public relations people who realized something needed to be done for these helicopter parents, hopefully most of them did not have to deal with too crazy of a parent before that happened. Parent relations are a good idea at colleges anyway since many parents assist their kids in paying for school. However, to the parents showing up to job interviews on their kids behalf… It’s time to let them grow up- surely all of your hovering has formed them into a decent person.