Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Three things for your spring break

It is Thursday – and since the students at the college that I work at will be on spring break next week – along with employees ;) – here is this week’s spring-break-themed Three for Thursday: 

1. Check out these tips from the TalkNerdy2Me blog for a safe and affordable spring break. Have fun on spring break – but don’t feel the need to fulfill some sort of negative college stereotype.

In one of Sinbad’s (yes, this Sinbad) standup routines, he said, "if I wouldn’t go parasailing when I live in Cincinnati, why would I parasail on vacation in the Caribbean?" Now I'm all for adventures on vacation, but do not try to fulfill some sort of false expectations or be someone that you're not. 

Listen to the wisdom of Sinbad.

Be yourself and let the break refresh and revive you.  

2. Go on a road trip – a good, old-fashioned, beef-jerkey (ew) buying, car-singing trip with some friends. It sounds like much more fun than a week of asking people “What is going on today” on Facebook, right? (It is ok, we’ve all been there.)

To get you pumped up, check out the reality series on
Then step up and be the organizer of your spring break road trip. Your friends will be glad you did. 

3. Have some fun with your spring break look.  I was watching the NBA All-Star weekend stuff this past week, and I saw quite a few sports journalists commenting on how many of the NBA players have begun wearing fake reading glasses.

Not many of you know this, but I passed up a chance playing for the NBA to pursue my dream of blogging for awesome community college students – but I figured I’d better be in on the latest trend…

What do you think of the look?

If you like it – they are a fairly cheap fashion accessory (I got mine for less than 10 dollars at the mall).  Not the look for you? Then experiment with your fashion on your break – you have a break from classes, so why not experiment with a new style and see if it works for you? I can help create that refreshing feeling that spring break should be all about.

For the most part, once college is over you will find spring breaks and free time like this to be severely limited. Embrace these times and make the most of them. Make the effort to have experiences with your friends that you will never forget. 

If you want to read more about your spring break, here is my post from last spring break with some ideas for engagement and enrichment on your week off.  

I hope that your spring break is a fun, safe, and memorable one!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

29 things to do on your February 29th

Okay so I know it’s just another Wednesday.

But, let's face the facts: 

We get an extra 24 hours this year – that means 24 extra hours for you to move forward in reaching your goals. 

With that said, here are 29 things for you to do on your extra day. Happy leaping! =)
  1. Begin using Google calendar (if you don’t already).
  2. Buy The Other Wes Moore or check it out from your local library.
  3. Update your Linkedin profile – or create one if you don’t have one.
  4. Schedule a meeting with one of your professors to discuss your future in your major.
  5. Ask your advisor at your college about PTK (Phi Theta Kappa).
  6. Create an online resume (like this one).
  7. Join Pinterest.
  8. Visit your college’s Facebook page to see what is happening on campus.
  9. Write three of your long-term goals on a post-it note and stick them on your bathroom mirror.
  10. Download Nike Training Club onto your phone or iPod (it's free!) – this is my favorite workout app and can save you a trip to the gym.
  11. Eat something healthy - here is a good site to help with recipes. 
  12. Call a friend on the phone – don’t just send a text message.
  13. Put together a professional outfit that still shows your style. 
  14. See if your campus has a branch of NSCS for you to join.
  15. Visit YouTern and take a look at the internships they advertise.
  16. Form a study group.
  17. Be the bright spot in someone’s cloudy day.
  18. Check in with your choice of college major. 
  19. Deal with that test that you didn't get an "A" on. 
  20. Check your email address and make sure it is professional. 
  21. Take the "Are You Really Trying" quiz.
  22. Go through your Facebook pics and make sure your tagged photos are job interview friendly. 
  23. Read How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie.
  24. Join in on a Twitter Chat - they are great resources for you to get great free advice and network with others in your field. 
  25. Clean out your car. I am always amazed at how much better I feel when my car is clean. 
  26. Go to your dream employer's web site, look at what positions are regularly being hired in their careers department. 
  27. Read Darren Hardy's blog
  28. Apply for this scholarship - it changed my life. 
  29. Beware the Ides of March - mainly because my book releases on that day :) 

Monday, February 27, 2012

How to Ace Your Presentations - Part 2 (make them entertaining)

Study Tipping Tuesday
How to Ace your Presentations – Pt. 2

Once you’ve completed step 1 and have a clear outline of your presentation with a few key points you are ready to start making the presentation entertaining.

And I don’t mean embedding any old YouTube video or dressing up in some kind of weird costume (though these things could work as long as they were relevant).

That is the key word to making your presentation entertaining – relevance.
Look at your outline and think about how you can do at least one of the following (if you can hit all 3 you’ve got a home run):

1. How can you make your presentation content relevant to your audience’s lives?
2. How can you add in an entertaining element to your presentation that is relevant to current popular culture and the course/presentation content?
3. How can you do something creative that will  help your audience see your presentation content in a new/deeper way? 

Using these questions you will then want to think of ways to use media, stories, or any other means to take your presentation from boring to memorable. Which, when done right, will take your presentation from a B- to an A+.

As I'm sure you've experienced – boring is not a good teacher. We retain and learn the most when we are entertained and engaged (e.g. I bet you can remember the lyrics to your favorite song faster than you can remember the quadratic equation). 

Do your classmates a favor and don’t bore them to death on presentation day. Give them something to remember.

And always remember it isn’t about entertainment for entertainment’s sake – your professor will not be humored by that (and in the end your goal is of course not to entertain or teach your classmates but to get a good grade). 

But - your professor will be very impressed with your ability to be creative with the course content in a way that further engages the class in whatever it is you are presenting about (e.g. I once created an XtraNormal animation for a grad school presentation that was a huge hit with my professor).

For example, when I co-taught a Life and Career Planning class I was tasked with creating the lesson on social intelligence (the ability to understand and act upon unspoken social rules). I wanted to make this fun and wanted to start with an entertaining and relevant introduction to engage the class right away. So after reading more deeply on the subject (this is the key to adding entertaining elements to your presentations – you have to know your stuff!) I had an idea.

I realized that the best example I saw of social intelligence was in the comedy The Big Bang Theory. The heart of this show is the character Sheldon who possesses a very high IQ and almost no social intelligence (e.g. does not understand how to follow social conventions like how to act in a movie theater, how to choose a formal outfit, how to properly read the emotions of others, etc.) and his (and his other brainy friends’) interactions with Penny – their next-door-neighbor with not-the-highest-IQ but who possesses a high social IQ. Thus, I showed the following clips to the class and it turned it into one of the most engaging classes I taught that semester.

Simple integrations of popular culture or connecting a concept with something your audience can relate to immediately in their own lives will capture their attention, make your material more stimulating, and earn you a better grade.

Engage deeply with your content and think big about how you relate to it. Brainstorm relevant videos, popular culture, news stories, or stories in your own life that could illuminate your key points and create a memorable experience for both you and your audience.

Once you have your key points and the stories and/or media you are going to use to make them interesting, do you just slap a bunch of words and pictures on a PowerPoint? Are there other, more interesting ways than the same old PowerPoint? Oh yes! I’ll share them with you next Tuesday =)

If you get a degree, you get a job…right?

A few days ago I did an interview with Mark Babbitt, founder of the innovative internship search website YouTern. I wanted to talk to Mark about the upcoming conference YouTern is putting on called 1KV (one thousand voices). This conference will bring together college students, post-grads, and young careerists who realize, as Mark put it, that being negative and complaining about the economy isn’t in our best interest. The economy isn’t going to change; we have to change.

So YouTern is bringing together a group of like-minded individuals who are ready to make a difference in the world and find success in a time when it can seem so far away.

Why does success feel so out of reach for young careerists and post-grads, and even some college students? Because, as Mark put it, his generation “lied to us.”

Mark boldly admits that his generation told young people that if you get a degree, work relatively hard in college, you will get a job. And not just any job, but a great job!

But today many post-grads find their post-college job in food or retail, working alongside those who are still working on their college degree or who never got one. Many post-grads find themselves living at home. And many post-grads feel lonely, confused, frustrated, and wonder what those four years were for anyway.

A college degree is incredibly valuable. But it’s vital to remember that the single credential, the single piece of paper, isn’t enough anymore; hence, the “lie.”

What is the truth?

The truth is that you must figure out how to focus your college degree on something you are great at and find interesting, and you must build career-related experience as soon as possible.

In short, you must go the extra mile.

And I have a step you can take towards that extra mile right now. How about attending YouTern’s 1K Voices conference in New York this March 23-25? How about joining the other like-minded people who are ready and excited to do more. How about recharging yourself during a weekend that will remind you what it takes to reach your dreams, and provide you with the tools and the support group to help you get there.

And want even more good news? Because Mark and YouTern are so awesome and really like you guys they gave me a special promotional code just for you to save some big bucks on your registration (please note I am not being paid at all to talk about this…I will only ever recommend anything to you that I truly believe in and think will actually help you, end of story).

But before you scroll down to get the promotional code and sign up for a weekend that could be a turning point in your life (and also sounds like a heck of a lot of fun), check out some of the incredible and exclusive insight Mark shared with me based on his incredible experiences and success working with our generation and their career search.

  • Q: What inspired you to start YouTern?

A: Mark started YouTern because he felt we were losing the “human” part of human resources when it came to searching for jobs online (ever applied for a job and never heard anything back….it's the worst!). In Mark’s previous successful start-up he had interns who got a lot out of the experience working for a small business doing actual work (NOT getting coffee) and getting mentored along the way. He found his interns were going on to be incredibly successful, and he wanted to create a portal where more businesses and non-profits committed to mentorship-based and real-experience based internships could share their opportunities. He also wanted to help the struggling populations of students who wanted professional advice and high quality mentor-based internships.

What is really cool about YouTern is that they screen all of the company’s that post internship opportunities on their site so that, as Mark put it, “it’s not some creepy guy in his garage.” While of course they can’t guarantee it will be a perfect experience, they can guarantee they’ve done everything possible to guard against the “creepy” guys and only showcase internships that feature small businesses, non-profits, and socially responsible organizations.

  • Q: What inspired you to create the 1KV conference?

A: Mark realized there wasn’t a conference for young careerists who are transitioning to the professional world. There was nothing to teach college students and post-grads what to do after you walk down that aisle in your cap and gown. There was nothing gathering together people who wanted to contribute to the world in a positive way and do whatever it takes to succeed – no matter what is going on in the economy. He wanted to bring together a group of people who refuse to sink to the negativity in the news and who realize the only thing we have power to change is ourselves. And when we increase our knowledge and skills and surround ourselves with good people – our situations almost magically change. This is a conference for positive people who are ready to get fired up about how to make an impact in the world and discover success in their career after college.

  • Q: What is the number one benefit conference attendees will receive?

A: Realizing that only YOU can make yourself successful and getting the tools to know HOW to make yourself successful. One of the best ways to reach success in your life is to surround yourself with positive people who will keep you accountable, as well as learn from those who have had success before you. This conference features incredible speakers (e.g. Jenny Blake author of Life After College) who will ensure that you will come out with more than just a fired-up attitude and new friends to keep you accountable – but the tools to actually know what to do and how to get your life on track.

  • Q: What is your best advice for what my readers should be doing right now in order to find a great job after they graduate from college?

A: Mark said that we have forgotten that getting jobs is a competition in which only those who take it as seriously as an athlete will win. The number one thing to do right now (and one I firmly believe in as it is the heart of my book)? Networking! Because as Mark said, 8 out of every 10 jobs are being filled through personal relationships. 

So right after you finish reading this blog do at least one thing to build relationships with people in your desired field and show the world that you are taking your career as seriously as an athlete. Create your LinkedIn profile and connect with a LinkedIn group that interests you. Join a Twitter chat (I love #InternPro). Join this blog's Facebook community. Visit your career center and ask if they have a mentorship database so you can meet with a professional who does a job that interests you. Find a mentor on And…

Register for the 1KV Conference using the promo code: CCSuccess. 

I hope to meet you there!

P.S. If you're like I was in college and are broke and have no idea how you could ever afford to go to a conference in New York, just remember that anything is possible if you want to make it happen. Get creative. And never forget that an investment in your own success is the only guaranteed investment in the world. 

To read more about Isa's personal story how you can build relationships to: make positive friends, be more successful in academics and work, find the right people to connect with, and access the hidden job market, grab a FREE e-copy of the first chapter of Community College Success: How to Finish with Friends, Scholarships, Internships, and the Career of Your Dreams! Claim your free copy on the Facebook page!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why you should read The Other Wes Moore

As you will soon read in my book, there are people you will meet in your life who will serve as your mentors and change your life forever. There are also people who will do this that you will never meet - they are called non-fiction authors. If you want to be successful in your life then you must get into the habit of reading beyond what is required in your coursework. Listen to audio books in the car. Download them on your kindle or nook. Check them out for free at the library. Find whatever works for you – and read. 

The authors I’ve "met" in non-fiction books have changed my life for the better. I am grateful to so many of them, and I want you to share in that same growth and discovery and success that comes from reading.

Thus, to help get you started I am going to start sharing with you some of the most life-changing books I have come across thus far in my life. 
The first book I want to share with you is the NY Times Bestseller The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore. 

In short, this book helped me better understand both the world that we live in and helped me understand a world I’ve never known. The first world is the one where the environment you are born into and the daily choices you make can chain you to a life you would never have chosen if you had really known you had a choice. And the second is a world of drugs and violence that I’d only seen in movies and heard about in rap songs. This book elucidates these two worlds from the very real lives of two men, both named Wes Moore. Both men grew up in Baltimore, MD. One Wes Moore wrote this book, is a Rhodes Scholar, and an absolutely incredibly successful man and role model. The other is serving a life sentence in jail.  

The book’s tagline says it best: “One name, two fates. The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his.”

Books like this could never be fully captured in a review, so I highly recommend you buy it and read it as soon as possible. For me, the best memoirs are the ones that make me forget it’s a memoir. They make me feel like I’m reading the most vibrant, literary, exciting, terrifying, chilling, and intense fiction book and then every few pages or so say to myself wait, this really happened? Whoa. The Other Wes Moore is that kind of book. 

It is a story that will have you on the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen next. But what is most important about it, is that it’s a true story. It’s a memoir. It elucidates real life lessons about pain, loss, choices, fate, hope, and the power role models and mentors can have in our lives.  
I was deeply and personally impacted by reading this book and I know you will be too because it illuminates realities that are often brushed away in dark corners.  

There are a lot of reasons that can be deduced about why these two men who grew up near each other and even had the same name had such different life outcomes. I cannot pretend to know. But what struck me most of all was the people they had in their lives to look up to. What seemed to be the most powerful influencer in their young lives (especially as neither grew up with their father - one passed away, one uninvolved) was their friends and the older men in their lives. Unfortunately, not all of the role models were positive ones.

It really made me think about the people in our lives and what the word "role model" really means. It make me think about how quickly a life can go astray without love and support from someone who believes in them. 

The good news is, however, is that it works both ways. Lives can be saved when people are given that love and support in their lives. Too many kids do not have people in their lives who believe in them, and it breaks my heart. That is why this book meant so much to me.  

The Other Wes Moore dives into this issue in an important way, and I highly recommend reading it with an open mind, an open heart, and a commitment to do something about the issues it elucidates after you read it. Tell a friend what you think they are capable of. Be a positive role model for someone in your life. And do whatever you can to find positive role models in yours. If you don’t know any right now, I can recommend one. His name is Wes. 

Wes Moore was recently named the Phi Theta Kappa Distinguished Alumnus for 2012 and got his start at a two-year college: Valley Forge Military College. He also hosts a really cool show called Beyond Belief on OWN.You can buy The Other Wes Moore on

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Three for Thursday – Managing your online identity

It's Thursday and that means that I have three things to share with you that have piqued my interest this week :)

This week, I've been thinking a lot about online identities. Check out the three things below that I engaged with this week to help you maximize the potential of your online identity - while also having some fun doing so.  

1. Twitter chats – I didn't understand Twitter chats until recently and have fallen in love with them.  If you don’t know what a Twitter chat is, it's an online meet-up or discussion in which groups of people congregate to discuss things, usually in a Q&A format, while using a #hashtag to keep the conversation linked. They are usually open to anyone and can be a great resource for learning cool information and connecting with like-minded people. The one I've been taking part in lately (and have loved) is #Internpro with @YouTern. There are many chats and I'm still learning about them - so tell me your favorites! If you aren't on Twitter, consider signing up as I have found it a great place to connect with awesome people and professionals who have become actual real-life great friends. 

2. The pictures you're tagged in on Facebook - This recent post from the blog, TheUnlost, features blogger's Therese Schwenkler's self-evaluation of her college "tagged" pics. In addition to making you laugh out loud as it did me, Therese offers a brave and honest look at the ways in which we sometimes use social media to create false identities for ourselves that don't support our long term success. Check this out to have a laugh (she shares her college pics) and learn from Therese how to avoid mistakes many students make and find a way to positively and genuinely represent yourself on Facebook. 

3. An online resume – Have you ever considered this option? You can create a free account from Blogger or Wordpress and use really simple template tools to develop one. In today's world, an online portfolio of your educational and professional accomplishments can only help. It shows you are technologically savvy, that you are cutting edge, and that you are aware of how online identities affect future employment. Employers will search for you online and it will be better for them to find more than just your Facebook profile. I stumbled across a friend of mine's online resume this past week. It's a great template to help you get started. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Take the "is my college job helping or hurting me" quiz

Working your way through college is becoming the norm nowadays. While some people still say "you will never have more free time than you do in college" and movies show students lazying around with lots of free time on their hands - that is the luxurious college experience. It is not the norm.

Most students today have to work in some capacity to help pay for college and/or living expenses. And while in some cases working your way through college is truly the only way - in some instances students who work too much during college find that it actually works against their success. 

I remember sitting next to a student in my Western Civilizations class my first semester of college. She was really excited about college and was incredibly smart. She worked long hours at a restaurant and sometimes came to class looking half-asleep. As the semester went on she seemed to lose her energy. And one day, she got an essay back with an "F" on it. As I was walking out of class that day I'll never forget my gruff professor telling her "you have to choose: college or your job - you can't have both."

This professor was a pretty extreme guy and I remember thinking that was pretty harsh at the time. Some students literally have no choice but to work and they are just trying to get their education the best way they know how. They are trying to work for it. But now as a graduate and student life professional I realize what my professor meant. He didn't mean that you should forego living expenses for college or that you are in any way less-than or "bad" if you work through college.

He meant that it is impossible for us to make two things a priority. You can have multiple priorities - but the thing about priorities is that one thing has to trump another; that is how they help you make decisions. There will be times when you have to choose only one.

And in the fight between your job and your education, in many cases choosing to focus 100% on college will benefit you more in the long-term.

Every situation is incredibly different, so I want you to think about your situation. Answer the questions below honestly to yourself (and jot down your answers on a word doc or something so you can check them at the end). If you want some help, advice, or increased accountability, feel free to copy/paste them into an e-mail and shoot them my way at

1. Do the hours of this job limit my opportunities to study during the week? 
2. Is my job one that I have any interest in continuing past the moment I graduate college?
3. If it is – have I discussed any post-grad opportunities with my supervisor or someone above me in the company?
4. If it isn’t – is the money I'm making at this job good enough to trade in the potential opportunity to get a job that might relate more closely to the future profession of my dreams?
5. Is there a way that I can balance this opportunity with an internship or volunteer opportunity within my major?
6. Am I constantly and consistently looking for other opportunities to co-finance my college, even while working?

The "answer key" is at the end of this post. If your answers match then you will have a pretty good idea that your current working-in-college-situation is working for you. If the answers are different - it's time to think of other options that will better support your success - both present and future financial success.

Those who find success know that the circumstances and requirements of the present must always be balanced with the goals of the future. Because future success is merely a result of our present choices. 

If you let either overshadow the other – neglect your present grades because you had to pick up a shift at your part time job last night, or drop out for a semester because of the fear of a semester worth of loans when you graduate – then you are depriving yourself of a chance.

And you are worth way too much to take away any chances from yourself. The world is too competitive – and too many others have predetermined financial advantages – for amazing students like you to miss out on opportunities.

So keep going. Keep working hard. And never stop evaluating whether the way you spend your time and make your money in college is setting you up to reach your great potential. 

Answer Key
*if these were your answers than you are in pretty good shape with your current job. If your answers do not match the ones below (and you'd like some help/advice) feel free to email me at
1. N
2. Can be Y or N
3. Y
4. Y
5. Y
6. Y

Monday, February 20, 2012

How to ace your presentations

Study Tipping Tuesday
How to ace your presentations

Today’s study tip revolves around one of every college student’s "favorite" things – presentations! ;)

This is such a huge concept with so many tips; and since a lot of presentations are given in the middle of the semester, I’m going to take the next few Tuesdays to unpack the skills needed to increase the A’s and decrease the anxiety when it comes to giving presentations in front of the class.

I’m going to take you through my entire A+ presentation process that has helped me and will help you create and give presentations that are fun, interesting, easy, and most of all - engaging!

The first step, however, is to focus on the basics.

When you get the assignment to create a presentation, read the assignment. Read it carefully and answer these questions to yourself (either in your head or in writing – just be sure to do it):

1. What is the core message I am going to present?
2. How is the professor measuring my success?
3. Why aspects of this core information is best shared in a presentation?
4. What can I do to “wow” the audience while staying directly on-topic?

The worst mistake students make is getting off-track from the very beginning. Too many just throw too many words or too many images/animations on slides and then read from note cards – often missing the main point.

So after you answer these questions open Word first (not PowerPoint) and create an outline. Do the research and document any specific quotes or sources you’d like to use in your presentation. And then type out everything that you think you want to present about, relating to the main topic. 

The early process you go through for a presentation should be very similar to that of an essay. You need to brainstorm your ideas and then focus them on your key points (that will eventually turn into slides).

Once you've asked yourself the questions above and finished your outline you need to ask yourself, would I want to listen to me speak about this? The answer may be “no” initially, but the goal is for you to make that answer “yes.” How do you make your presentation entertaining so that you help your fellow students learn something new and you get an A? I’ll tell you next week! :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How to have the most fascinating college conversations

Have you ever had a conversation that made you think differently? College can be a rich reservoir for these fascinating exchanges.  

Even though I’m not in college anymore, I had some of those conversations this past Friday.

As a Student Activities Coordinator I worked with SGA to put on a small Diversity Fair where the international students on our campus set up a table with d├ęcor, information, and food from the country where they were from.

And in addition to eating unbelievable foods like yucca and rice cakes and trying on gorgeous head gear from the Bahamian festival Junkanoo, I learned things from students at our college that I hadn’t known before.

These students grew up in Tanzania, The Bahamas, and Vietnam and came here to start a new life, make a better life. These students overcame language barriers, cultural barriers, and are some of the most involved students I work with. They really care about their education and they inspire me every time I talk to them.

This past week, I learned so much more about their journeys, about their families still in their countries, about their loneliness, and about their determination. I learned about their foods, their festivals, their customs, and their culture.

We talked about how hard it is to learn a new culture, a new language, and drive on the “wrong” side of the road.

As I listened to these stories and I engaged with these students, I thought about how difficult it would be to adapt to an entirely new culture. I wondered what it would be like to adapt to that culture and it’s educational customs. And I thought about how determined you’d have to be to make it.

What strikes me every time I meet one of these students is how determined, excited, ambitious, and grateful they are. And learning more about their journey’s reminded me that there is this giant world out there that no matter how many movies we watch or books we read or classes we take we’ll never understand – because we’ve never lived it.

How many people walk around you in college every day who have lives you've never lived? How much could you learn from those lives? I promise you - it's a lot.

Be on the lookout for these kinds of conversations in your own life and let them open your mind. Create opportunities for them and cultivate them so that they yield the incredible fruits of new understanding.

Make an effort to get to know a wide variety of people at your college. Do what you can to expand your horizons with every conversation. Ask people their stories. Listen deeply.

You’ll make them feel like someone cares. And you might just learn something that expands your own mind in a forever kind of way.

One of the things I remember most poignantly was one of the students saying how lonely she felt. She mentioned a work-study student who sits at front desk of our small indoor campus, and how he says hi to her and calls her by name every day. You could see in her eyes that his “hello” and use of her name meant the world to her. It made her feel welcome.

Welcome a variety of people into your life. It will mean the world to them; and they might just open a whole new world for you. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Community College Success: The Book Trailer

Hi everyone! As you may have heard on this blog, my book Community College Success, published by Norlights Press, will release on March 15th, 2012.

I am very excited to share this with you - I appreciate all of your support. Here is a short trailer put together for the book.

I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Jeremy Lin can teach us about college success

Hi everyone! It is Thursday and time for this week’s Three for Thursday – and Linsanity has even infiltrated my college success blog.

If you don’t know what Linsanity is, you probably aren’t into sports. That is totally fine – I just got fully into basketball this year. But, so that you can better understand the ideas I am sharing with you, I will catch you up on his story really quickly:

The rise of Jeremy Lin, a professional basketball player currently playing in the NBA, is one of the most captivating success stories that I have seen in media. To witness someone going from being a relative unknown to the absolute apex of popularity in his or her field (within the time frame of a week) is pretty amazing. We're used to this when it comes to the YouTube viral videos of the world, but you don't just become good at sports overnight. You can, however, become popular with the national media and the general masses. But why? 

What has made this story explode, and what allows me (by no means a sports journalist) to have any sort of license to offer advice based upon it, is the back-story of Lin's journey. The characteristics and circumstances of his rise to the top are pretty unique:
  • He graduated from Harvard University (not traditionally a school from where NBA players develop).
  • He is the first Taiwanese-American to play in the NBA.
  • He was not selected in the NBA Draft.
  • He was cut by two teams that had previously signed him.
  • He spent time in what essentially be the Junior Varsity of the NBA (called the NBDL or d-league).
  • He was almost cut by the New York Knicks before getting an opportunity to start for the team.
  • He has led his team to six straight victories (some without their two best players) and is the focal point of pretty much every sports outlet right now. 
These are the things that I find most fascinating about sports: the stories, the unexpected, the hard work, the dedication, the teamwork, the people. Because I think there is a lot to learn. And I think any student striving for success can learn something from this story - some might say "three" things ;)

1. Opportunity requires patience and readiness --  This particular story is great because of the unexpected nature of the phenomenon.  There wasn’t a lead-up moment where sports pundits said, “Alright, now it is time for Jeremy Lin to be a superstar.”  And honestly, I would bet, judging from interviews like this one on ESPN, that Lin himself didn’t expect the opportunity to arise when it did.  

But the opportunity did. And it only did because of that perseverance – the kind of perseverance that reminds us that we can’t always write our own timelines – but that patience can be rewarded if we continue to push forward. 

A reminder - this guy earned an economics degree from Harvard – it isn’t like he couldn’t have abandoned the NBA dream and moved into a career elsewhere.  

But he possessed an intense readiness – and when the opportunity presented itself, he applied those skills he had developed. Imagine if he hadn’t been prepared. If he hadn't, I imagine that none of us non-hard-core sports fans would even know his name.

But we do – because of his patience and preparedness.

Are you focused on your dreams and prepared for when opportunity presents itself? Do you ever feel like giving up because it seems like things are going nowhere? Success only comes to those who push through the times when it feels like nothing is happening. It's called patience, and it's hard work. 

2. Confidence can amplify hard work – Being confident in yourself is important. But what is really amazing is what can happen when others believe in you. 

One of the things that is amazing about Jeremy Lin’s story is that momentum continues to build and build.

And as that momentum builds, Lin’s success seems to develop some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. 

People believe that he is going to save his team from mediocrity – and he is drawing upon that belief to do so. 

Always be on the lookout for your cheering squad, and don't be afraid to seek them out (e.g. mentors). Surround yourself with those who believe in you and draw upon that belief that motivate you to work hard. 

3. Genuine character is magnetic in any field – I watched highlights of a game the other night in which Lin hit a shot in the last second to beat the Toronto Raptors.  And the crowd went insane.

What’s so special about that?

The game was in Toronto.

I doubt that Lin was cheered the entire game – in fact – I am sure that he was booed or jeered just like any other star player in another town. 

But, at the end of the game, it seemed the crowd had no choice but to cheer. 

And it wasn’t just because the guy is playing his sport well.  It certainly wasn’t the first time someone has beaten a team in the last second. 

But there is an authentic humility with Lin; there is an authentic positive, encouraging, and self-aware character. And there is a teammate. In every interview I have seen with Jeremy Lin, he has used collective verbiage whenever referring to success: our, we, this team, our coach tells us…

And that leadership resounds.  It is infectious.  And it can teach us another lesson:

Let people recognize your efforts for you; you don’t have to place yourself on a pedestal in order to relish in your successes. 

Instead, by showing humility, you will find that there are others (not everyone at every time) who will want to help carry you even higher. 

And those are the supporters who will be with you throughout your journey, win or lose. 

If this advice interested you, remember to mark your calendars for March 15th, 2012, when my bookCommunity College Success, will be published by Norlights Press and will be available on  It was inspired by a couple of other people who came to New York to make a life for themselves - my grandparents who moved to NYC from Puerto Rico :) 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How Can You Tell if You Want That Job?

Hey guys! Today is a very special day for me.

The countdown has begun – I can’t believe it – but in exactly one month, my book will be released by Norlights Press and available for purchase on

It is literally a dream come true. 

So I wanted to share something special with you in celebration of this countdown. 

I want to help you answer a question that I pose in the book: a question whose answer can help bring direction and excitement to your life -->

The Question: How do I know if this person's job is the one I want when I am older? 

I've talked a lot in this blog about choosing your major. But in the end, most people want to find the major that best prepares them for a job they would like to do. And the best way to know if you like a job is to try it or to ask someone who is in it. 

So when you meet someone or sit down with them to ask their advice, how do you know if their job is really one you'd like to have? How do you know if they would be a great professional role model for you in your life? Consider the following:

1.  Is there a wow-factor beyond the car?  I think any professional role model should have a wow-factor. And I'm not talking about the whoa-they-make-a-lot-of-money-and-drive-a-sweet-car factor.

Ask anyone who makes a lot of money but is unhappy in their work and they'll tell you to find something better for yourself. People today are looking for meaning in their work. And that meaning comes from finding a wow-factor in the daily tasks that make up a professional role model's work. 

What about the actual tasks they perform pique your interest? Remember, a job is continuous, and when you find one with tasks you generally enjoy, it will have a wow-factor.

2.  What paths have they taken to gain this success? When you think about finding professional role models, consider the variety of paths to success and learn from their timeline.

The truth is, that some professionals have a very long and winding path towards their present positions. Others have what I call the wunderkind effect – that is – some circumstance they encountered, or skill-set they possessed for a particular moment that catalyzed their success.

For example, one of my good friends whom I admire greatly is a successful filmmaker. He is incredibly talented and driven; during college spent time aboard a medicine ship in Africa, working for a charity, where he met someone who hired him to do some film-work that helped ignite his career at a very young age.

Some careers have built-in timelines that you can't avoid (e.g. you cannot finish medical school and become the top doctor immediately). However, some are varied and professional mentors  can help guide you towards what will help you expedite your success, as well as how to keep going even when things aren't happening as fast as you'd like. 

Sometimes, very talented, focused people encounter the right circumstances early on; sometimes they don’t. You might want be a very talented filmmaker, but not have that connection right away – it doesn’t make you a failure; instead, it means that you will have to be patient and persistent. For the most part, success takes time, and professional mentors will have a lot of guidance in that area. Consider their path to success, and think about if you are interested in following a similar one, keeping in mind the old adage that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. 

3. What personal passion is reflected in this career goal?  This might be the most important question.  It is also the easiest to answer – what personal passion do you have that is reflected in the day-to-day work of this person’s profession?

If it takes you longer than a minute to think of one, this professional might not be the career for you. 

You don't always have to be deeply passionate about your work, but if you can choose, wouldn't you want to choose something that really interests you? 

4. How is the balance of work/life reflected in this professional culture?  This is the question that is often ignored when thinking about a professional to look up to. 

And this is also one of the most important ones.

You will want to think about your personal goals, along with your professional goals, and see how they intersect in the work culture of that potential professional role model.

If you want to travel from city to city and live in rental apartments for months out of the year, you will find that certain professions really fit into that niche and can actually provide a lot of opportunities for you. Conversely, if you plan on having time to settle down, buy a house, and one of your future goals is to have children and spend time with them at home, those professions might not suit you as well.

Anything is possible, but you'll want to consider all of your values and goals and how a particular profession fits in. You won't want to ask a professional personal questions, but you are welcome to ask how they feel about work/life balance in their profession. You'd be surprised at how honest they will be with you. 

Don’t neglect factors such as hours worked in a week, travel commitment, vacation time, etc. – they will play a factor in your future, even if they don’t seem important now. 

Remember, you get months off during the school year from classes – professionally the norm is 1-2 weeks per calendar year.  

I hope these were helpful. They are just a foundation to hopefully get you thinking more deeply the next time you meet someone whom you might want to consider as a professional role model and mentor.

I wholeheartedly believe that  one of the TOP requirements for success is having professional role models/mentors in your life. 

If you ever have any other questions or would like help in approaching professional role models,  email me at

If this interests you and you'd like to learn more (such as how to actually find professional role models and get them to mentor you), check out my upcoming book Community College Success: How to Finish with Friends, Scholarships, Internships, and the Career of Your Dreams on March 15, 2012, when it releases from Norlights Press.  I can't wait to share it with you :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Study Tipping Tuesday - Building a Task List to Manage Your Time

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I got you a gift…a study tip for your Tuesday- I hope you like it ;)

One of the questions I am most asked by students – and one of the ones that I think requires the most attention – is “How do you manage all of the things you have to do at once?”

In a word? Prioritize.

I build a task-list, and then I prioritize it. 

Let’s try it together; I will walk you through my process.

Open up a MS Word document. In bold, create a few categories that best represent your "life" categories when it comes to tasks. For example, right now, my task list is divided into the following:
  • Today (where I put tasks I will do today)
  • Due Dates (where I put tasks that have specific due dates)
  • Grad School (where I put my grad school HW)
  • Miscellaneous (important things but do not have specific due dates)
  • Business Priorities (this is not a to do list, it's a reminder of my most important goals and priorities for the next 6 months. It helps keep me focused when choosing which tasks to tackle first; for you this should be your educational priorities or life priorities).
The next thing that I do is go through my work calendar, my business calendar, my syllabi for grad school classes, and then any other personal or professional commitments that I have and fill them in on the task list. I do it in bulk whenever I receive a lot of dates/tasks at once (e.g. on a syllabi) and then update it about once per day.

Try this now – work your way through your syllabi and fill in tasks and their due dates for your projects/tests/exams are this semester. Make sure you write your to do list tasks using specific action words before each task (e.g. do, read, write, create).

(Example of one of my to do list categories right now.)
Grad School
- Research Meaningful Reception Learning and write paragraph for presentation *due Feb 13
- Create MRL PowerPoint slide for group project *due Feb 16
I compliment this with my Google Calendar. I place every item with a due date in the calendar and set SMS reminders that get text-messaged to my phone (i.e. I call this my life-saver). Whatever system you use, find a way to set up automated reminders.

Every  morning I review the task items in my to do list and move any urgent items to the "Today" category so I know to tackle them that day before or after work. And then all I have to do is focus on the "Today" category and can ignore the rest for the rest of the day. The key is knowing your priorities, and keeping it simple. As soon as you have too many things on your task list you'll never want to look at it. Stick with the most important things and never let it get too cluttered.
A lot of you ask me about procrastination, and the truth is, I really never procrastinate. While some people work better under pressure, I work better without pressure. I love the feeling of true free time, with nothing hanging over my head. And this kind of system does wonders for your grades.

Ask yourself: do you always feel on top of your life and schedule? Are your grades the best they can possibly be? Are you known for being organized and responsible? Are you meeting the goals you have for your life? If the answer is a resounding YES to all these questions then the organizational system you use now is working great.

If the answer is no - why not give this a try, and let me know how it goes!  And if you have any great systems you use, feel free to share. =)