Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to make money helping people

I’ve met so many college students whose answer to the question “what do you want to major in” is:

“I don’t really know yet…I just know I want to help people.

I love this answer mostly because it reveals the genuine heart and one of the best parts about this generation. While there are many issues Millennials have to overcome – one of the greatest things about the Millennial generation is that most of them really do want to impact social change in their work.

But whenever I hear the "help people" answer, I know we have to go deeper. Because the truth is, there are millions of ways you can help people in the work that you do – because a lot of work helps people, and it doesn’t even have to be in non-profit or in a start-up. And it doesn't have to be in the traditional social change industries - we need positive change in many areas of the world and business.

However, if you are one of the students who really wants to help people and make an impact on the world in a way that promotes social change – the hardest part can be figuring out how to make money and do it full time, beyond volunteering. 

I just read the most amazing book on this subject, and it’s called Making Good by Billy Parish and Dev Aujla. 

Billy and Dev are living their dreams and make money from organizations that are having a huge impact on the world. Dev cofounded the Energy Action Coalition (an incredibly group of college students making a serious impact in the global climate crisis) and is now president of Solar Mosaic, a solar energy company.

Dev is the founder of DreamNow, an organization that helps young people fund social change projects.

Making Good is the most comprehensive book I’ve ever read on this subject, and is a book anyone who has even a little bit of interest in social change should read. 

Billy and Dev write in a really engaging and conversational way and take you through step-by-step of exactly what you need to do to make change, make good, and make money so that you can do it full time.

They do this by first giving the most amazing overview of some of the biggest global crises in our world and reveal some of the big gaps that need to be filled. This will help you think about where your interests and passions lie and will stimulate your creativity in how you could impact one of these large global issues in your own unique way – and get paid to do it.

The key to making money while doing good is being creative, thinking globally, and filling a need in the economy with your change initiative. You can also partner with companies and other organizations to help fund your social change projects or organizations. And in addition to being an entrepreneur, Dev and Bill also share how you can be an advocate of social change in almost any job or industry, by working within your organization.

The book is filled with incredible content and tools that will inspire you to pursue your dreams and think bigger about how you can help solve our world problems full-time.

You are uniquely equipped with talents and passions that can indeed help people. It doesn’t mean you have to come up with the idea to stop world hunger. It just means you have to start taking small steps by learning constantly and engaging in what you love in small ways, every day.

The first step I recommend? Get a copy of Making Good right now.*

*As always, I only promote things that I love and want to shout from the rooftops because I think they will help you too. No one asked me to review this book, and I do not know Dev and Billy – though I really hope to meet them sometime soon. You can also check them out on their recent MSNBC appearance!

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! Or if you're just amazing - you can buy your paperback or Kindle copy on right now :) 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How to find travel opportunities in community college

When I was in Boston last week, I happened to overhear a group of students discussing some of their plans for studying abroad next semester.

And it got me thinking, and wishing in fact, that every student could have that amazing opportunity.

The thing is – I think every student can have those amazing opportunities – I just think the responsibility falls upon the individual to find those opportunities. And not only find them, but make them happen (even if you're broke).

Sometimes that means extra work, extra classes, and extra risks.

But it also can mean an extra experience, an expanded perspective, and often amazing relationships. 
So below are three tips (It is Three for Thursday after all;) for you to use your college as your own personal travel agency and see what opportunities it can open up for you.

1. Clubs offer the most accessible pathways for student travel.

Not every club or scholarship organization has a budget that can afford to send everyone of its students on a trip. But quite a few do.

I wrote about the opportunities clubs offer in my book; I had never been on an airplane until my Sophomore year of college – Phi Theta Kappa offered that opportunity because our budget afforded officers to travel to their international convention. And that trip led to me building friendships that I still have six years later.

Even if a club can only offer you a few trips around your state or locally – those opportunities are ones that can really serve to expand your day-to-day college journey, especially if you are at a two-year school and live at home. 

Those trips also forge bonds between you and your fellow club members.

And those bonds are the ones that can last even after you transfer to your next destination. 

2. Community colleges offer travel opportunities – sometimes at a cost – but at one that you should consider.

The 2-year college that I attended offered honors students a free opportunity to participate in a global summit with students from around the world in Austria.

Now, I'd be lying to say that they took just any student - in fact, the program was very selective and usually only took a handful of students a year. 

But why can't you be one of the handful of students on your campus? Your school might not have the exact same programs, but you should certainly contact your Honors program director to see what is out there.  

If your community college doesn't offer a program like this, the odds are they still have a study abroad program (or a partnership with a local college who has one).  

I researched five different community college study abroad programs for this post, and the trips aren't cheap - they can cost anywhere from $2000 - $5000 for a program (depending on its length and scope of travel). But here is the catch - most of those programs have scholarship opportunities and grants that they allow students to apply for. 

In fact, one college that I researched offered awards to students of up to $5000 to pay for the program! The important step is to plan ahead and think creatively to make it happen (e.g. some of the colleges offered monthly payment plans for the programs as well). 

I know that it's hard enough just to cover tuition, let alone anything else. But if you close off your mind immediately, it will 100% never happen. Set a goal, ask a lot of advice, and work really hard. I promise you it is possible for you.

3. Study abroad programs at your transfer destination can also be an option.

When I transferred to a university, I took a class that included a two-week trip to England as part of the curriculum.

My scholarship covered the cost of the class – I had to work to pay for the rest of the cost of the trip. That meant that I had to work quite a few extra hours at my part time job – but I honestly can say that at no point in my life would the opportunity have ever presented itself otherwise.

And I think that is what is important to remember about these kinds of opportunities.

I constantly hear students (and even adults) mentioning the “college experience” – I don’t think a lot of people think about what that actually means.

I think the “college experience” should mean that you have this rare opportunity to expand your horizons in ways that you never had thought possible growing up.

If you’re a student like me, one that comes from a family that didn’t have the financial means to really see a lot of things outside of where you grew up, college can be a vehicle for you to see parts of the world you never would see otherwise.

The most enriching experiences aren't always the easiest or the cheapest. But they are worth the effort - and there is always a way to make it happen if you're dedicated enough. 

The best way to start? Ask someone who has studied abroad for their advice :)

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!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dining out with your professors?

“If you could eat dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?”
The stakes of your answer are completely arbitrary, right? It's just a question meant to get to know someone better; it doesn’t matter who you select. The stakes are low.

But in the real world, those stakes are very high.

Because those who you can actually call upon, who can actually help build you towards a goal, do actually have a tremendous impact on the direction of your life.

So let’s play the game for real...the professor version.

If you could invite one professor to dinner, past or present, who would it be?

Follow-up question: Would he or she accept the invitation?

Part of what stands in the way of success for those of us who don’t come from backgrounds with preexisting networks of professionals and wealth is that it can be easy for us to defer.

To defer to a drive-thru education.

One where we come out on the other side with our immediate hunger satiated, at the expense of long-term help. 

The long-term nutritious help comes from the networking connections you make. The key is, you have to make an effort to create them. 

And professors are the best people to start with.

More often than not, they are more willing to help you than you realize.

So here's the challenge:

Meet with two of your professors at your college this week – from your current or previous semester. Find out their office hours or send them an email to schedule a time.

And when you do meet, ask them this question:

“What blanks in my experience do I need to fill in order to succeed in [insert your current major/career goal here]?”

Be a sponge. Listen. Take notes. Follow-up with anyone and anything that they suggest, at least on the exploratory level.

And start to book those dinner guests.

Metaphorically of course. Let’s not really invite them over to your place - that invitation could awkward... ;)

But move forward and build those connections. You'll be amazed at where they lead. And feel free to let me know your meetings go; I am glad to help with any feedback you're given -

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!

Monday, March 26, 2012

A spring fling...scratch that, I mean a spring filing.

Study Tipping Tuesday
Getting your files organized 

So I have a confession to make. I love puns. 

And I love puns-for-titles even more. 

As cheesy as my title might be now, it took more effort than you can imagine to avoid using X-files in the name of this post. 

Today's study tip is really really simple: 
Organize your files to save yourself from the turmoil of not being able to find important information when you need it. 

You are swarmed with e-mails and documents every day - and trust me - when you get a job it only gets worse. These documents often seem incredibly unimportant - until the moment you need them and cannot remember where they are.

The key is developing a file system (I told you this was a sexy topic). 

Seriously though, it will save you more headaches than you can imagine. 

My favorite filing box.

Step 1: Buy a small, cheap, filing box. 
Step 2: Use it (e.g. create files for things such as: FAFSA info/PIN, tax info, transcripts, degree audits, standardized test scores, diplomas, awards, resumes, product manuals, college application mailings, etc.)

Word Docs
Step 1: Create a lot of clearly labeled folders and files on your computer.
Step 2: Use them (e.g. organize by semester, by classes, and then combine folders into archives when you're done). 

Step 1: Create a lot of labels for your e-mail (I'm a huge fan of Gmail).
Step 2: Use them (e.g. clean out your e-mail at least once a day and label things away when you're done with them. What's also helped me tremendously is keeping an e-mail marked as unread until I've replied to it and am ready to file away). 

Happy Filing! ;)

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!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

From waitressing to writing for The New York Times

Can you imagine what it would be like to be a journalist for one of the most respected newspapers in the country? Jennifer Mascia is one such journalist for The New York Times, and recently she shared with me how her college journey led to the job she has today.

Like many post-graduates, Jennifer’s first job out of college was in the service industry – she was a waitress. Jennifer’s story is inspiring because she teaches us that no matter where you are or what you are doing, you can learn, develop, and enhance your passions by being in tune with the world around you.

Your journey is never over, and no matter where you start, your career dreams can continue to evolve, and continue to surprise you.

Jennifer came to New York when she was 17 years old and had to wait a year to apply to college so that she could get in-state tuition (out of state was just too expensive). She went to Hunter College at a time when SAT scores weren’t required to pursue her dream of being a theatre actress. 

In the process of studying theatre, Jennifer fell in love with the education she was being given by Hunter College, which was under the incredible CUNY umbrella (City University of New York). Jennifer eventually got into the Thomas Hunter Honors program and became the arts editor of the student paper.

Jennifer graduated college in 2001 with a theater major and an English minor, and began waiting tables. During that time, something unbelievable happened in her city.


This intense experience stirred something in Jennifer. She became hyper-aware of the politics and the issues going on in her country, and found within herself a particular anger, passion, and fuel. She realized there were some things off track, and at the time, she felt powerless.

Unlike most who translate that powerlessness into extremes of unfocused anger or apathy, Jennifer decided to do something about it.

She started educating herself about the country, the world, and our role in it. She became a news junkie in the three years she spent waiting tables, and she fell in love with writing and communications.

Jennifer followed an interest that she learned as she grew, and even though she was still waiting tables, she never stopped learning and engaging with her passion. So when a friend encouraged her to apply to Columbia’s journalism school she didn’t hesitate – she applied within two weeks and got in.

But of course, Jennifer was also ready and willing to act.

Jennifer attributes that willingness to…can you guess…


It started with the teachers in high school and her professors in college who noticed her writing ability and told her that she was good. Jennifer says she never would have thought about writing if those amazing women in her life didn’t take notice and told her she had a talent (e.g. the power of mentors).

Secondly, the friend who encouraged her to apply to graduate school was huge. The friends in our lives have a tremendous impact.

And finally, the people Jennifer met during her job as a waitress gave her incredible insight and helped her develop great questioning skills for her job as a journalist. Jennifer loves and understands people, which is what intrigued me most about her. Within the first two minutes on the phone with her, I knew I was talking to a compassionate and giving person.

Jennifer valued her time working as a waitress, and really shows that if you are passionate, have the right attitude, and are always willing to learn, your college experience is never really over; you can create an education no matter where you’re working or what your circumstances are.

Jennifer’s story proves that you can make the most of any job you’re in, and that it can lead to places you could never have dreamed – IF –and this is a big if – you are engaging 100%, giving your best to your work, and constantly learning.

After graduate school Jennifer began at the New York Times answering phones and running errands. What inspires me most about Jennifer is she never explains her menial jobs in a menial way – she describes them with passion and vigor, explaining what she learned from those incredible experiences.

This is what we can learn most from Jennifer. The power of that “always learning” attitude. The power of making the most of your situation and absorbing as much knowledge as you can.

Here is what Jennifer had to say in her own words:

What is one piece of advice you could share with my readers that you wished someone would have shared with you in college?

“You don’t have to have it figured out at 25. It’s okay to take your 20’s and figure it out. I kind of expected to be a fully-grown adult at the age of 22. There is a learning curve, and it is OKAY! You think everyone around you has it figured out – but they don’t! It’s important to understand that. I always thought I was on the bottom rung, but often you are only one question away from figuring it out, so never assume you’re at the bottom.“

What is one thing you think my college student readers should do as soon as they finish reading this article in order to be more successful? 

“Knowledge is power. Read as much as you can! Learn as much as you can. A lot of people operate the world with a half-tank full. Learning will ALWAYS put you ahead of the pack. Read a newspaper ;)”

For two years Jennifer was a 24/7 reporter for an amazing series NY Times did called the Neediest Cases Series. During this time, Jennifer went into neighborhoods that were segregated due to socio-economic status; she went into people’s homes who had less than $100 in their pocket, and told their stories. Currently Jennifer works in the editorial section of the newspaper where she supports columnists through fact checking, web producing, researching, finding art for posts, and much more. You can also follow Jennifer on Twitter.

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, March 22, 2012

How to find your rockstar drive

I just went on my first media tour this week and it was the most incredibly and most insanely intense experience of my entire life. 

And even though – aside from a few karaoke appearances – I no real idea what it means to be a rockstar, my recent travel/hotel/publicity/speaking experience made me think about how rockstars do it - how they go on tour and put on shows night after night and keep promoting their music nonstop. 

That is what it takes. Constant promotion. Constant hustle. Constant belief in yourself even when it seems no one else believes in you. And it's about putting on a good show every time, no matter where you are. 
And believe it or not, your college and future success relies on a very similar system. 

Success in whatever it is you are pursuing in life will require you to push forward every day, build relationships (like rock stars do with their most dedicated fans), and give yourself to others in some capacity (e.g. giving people a great show).   

How do you have that drive to keep going and keep touring the avenues of your life with the force, excitement, and dedication of a rockstar?

You find what you love. You find your music. You find your voice. And you find a passion to share that voice with the world. You must find that thing that keeps you awake when you want to sleep, that keeps you giving to others when you wish someone would give to you, and reminds you that if you keep sincerely chasing your goals every day, you will reap the rewards. 

So keep going. Keep building positive relationships. Keep driving forward. And keep giving. Rockstars love their music, but they seem to love it most when they are able to share it with others. Find  your voice and what you really care about, and tour the world. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Three cheers for audio books

It's Three for Thursday – and this week I am going to make a case for audio books and why you should incorporate them into your commute. 

I read in a book once (I honestly can’t remember the title) that if you listen to non-fiction audio books on a general subject area on your drive to and from work or school every day for a year, you would have accumulated the equivalent knowledge as that of a graduate degree.

I’m not suggesting that you call your registrar’s office and tell them that you got a new boom box, so they can go ahead and tear up your academic records and refund your tuition payments.

What I am suggesting is that your education shouldn't be confined to the classroom. 

#1: Education never stops – especially after college.

The truly successful people in this world are constantly learning - and developing the habit of a perpetual learner is a key to success. 

And when you're busy and may not always have time to sit down to read, turning your drive time into learning time will compound and help you improve immensely. 

#2: Fiction can be a great start for you when making the leap into the world of audio books – it expands your vocabulary, imagination, and creative process skills – those are all things that the 21st century workplace and job market appreciate. 

But definitely find ways to integrate nonfiction that interests you.

Go for broad subjects, anything that piques your interest or anything you want to learn about. Really - anything!

I love learning about people - how they operate, what they feel, how they are affected, and how they become successful; so in addition to self-help and success books (e.g. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy), I love books on the millennial generation, how people build relationships, how the brain works socially, how we are motivated, and one of my favorites in my CD player right now (that I got for free from the library) - The Social Animal by David Brooks.

#3: The knowledge you gain from books is invaluable – it adds to everything you do whether you realize it or not. For example, it will lead to better papers, more interesting conversational topics, expand your vocabulary, and help you better connect to and understand the world around you. And yet the reality is that as a college student with a lot of required reading, you won’t always have the time to fit in recreational reading.

So go audio. 
You’d be surprised how many audio books you can download to your iPod or Smart Phone from your college or personal library – they also offer cds if you know what those are ;)

I recommend and, of course, the audio books available on iTunes. 

Reading will always be important to success –  regardless of technological advancement. Whether you're reading on a Kindle or listening on an iPod... 

The information acquired is priceless.

So while I still rock out to a song or two before something exciting (and Pandora is on in my office for most of the day), I like to dedicate my drive time to learning. I hope you discover the kinds of audio books that bring you as much joy and engagement as mine have brought to me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The magnetism of thank you

It doesn’t take much of an in-depth research session to assert that people complain. 

Go on any site that offers reviews of restaurants, hotels, rental car agencies, clothing stores, or even scan the comments section of a news article or editorial. 

Chalk it up to human nature; give credit to the anonymity of the Internet.

Ultimately, regardless of cause, in our society, the vitriolic nature of complaints tends to manifest itself physically. 

But, here is the catch, part of understanding success, part of what can allow students to move ahead, to break glass ceilings placed above them, is to understand that the cultivation of positive relationships paves the path to progress.

So here is the opportunity for you to distinguish yourself – to distinguish yourself in the realm of networking, relationship building, and honestly, determining how memorable you are in the eyes of those around you. 

Say thank you.


Say thank you to the people who do something for you, to those who inspire you, to those who offer the simplest or most complex favors.   

Because the reality is that even those who are fantastic, terrific, and dynamic in our lives don’t hear the words “thank you” nearly as much as you might imagine. 

I issued a challenge yesterday about waking up early in the morning to bring energy to your life. 

And today I am issuing a second challenge – the challenge to say thank you – vocally, digitally, or even through a hand-written note – to someone in your life. 

Say thank you to your friends. They need to hear it.

Say thank you to your professors – not mid-course, not even before the final exam, but after the final class, after the grade is posted. Let it come from a genuine place – send an email, let them know that you appreciated the knowledge they offered you.

And watch the effect this has when you are asking for a recommendation letter when you transfer or graduate.

Most importantly, more than anything, say thank you to your professional mentors – anytime you hear someone speak at a class, conference, or event, go up to them and say thank you – get their business card, email them detailing how you took the advice that he or she offered.

Because there is a reality – gratitude is powerful.

Your gratitude can make you magnetic to others.

Say thank you without expecting anything in return – it can be surprising how gratefulness and genuineness can change how you view certain situations around you. 

And you might be surprised how that little display of gratitude can change the way that others view you. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Take my early morning challenge

It's Study Tipping Tuesday, and today I've got a study challenge for you.

Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to take your alarm clock, phone alarm, trained pet rooster, bugle player, or whatever else wakes you up...
...and tell it to wake you up at 5:45 AM. 


You still here? Awesome. Now let's get down to the why. 

Here is why I know this challenge can help you: 

Staying up ridiculously late, having to pull all-nighters, and not experiencing the hours in which the drive-thru still serves breakfast are all propagated as stereotypes of college students.

And while I think its important to have a social life at night (it is part of the college experience) and I understand that work is going to go late at times, extreme late night desperate studying is just not as productive or healthy.   

I never studied later than eight o’clock when I was in college. Even on nights when I had to work. 

Why? Because late at night homework had a lot of competition - sleepiness, social media, fav TV shows, late-night delirium, and friends asking me to hang out. 

You know when you are never going to have to turn down a friend to hang out because you have to study? At 5:45 AM.

You aren’t losing sleep – you are losing distractions.

I think you will be surprised at how energized you will find yourself when you begin to utilize those early morning hours.

And (although your body and mind will have the function of a zombie at first) you can learn to adjust to the early morning routine; you just have to force yourself to make that first step and get your body used to it.

People ask me how I was able to write a book while having a full-time job, speaking, and getting a Master's degree. And I have the same answer every time - I woke up at 5:30 AM almost every morning this past year. Waking up early literally made my dreams possible, and it can make yours possible too. 

There are small steps to take as well:

Eat breakfast. Understand that an early morning might require more sleep at night or a built in nap during the day. Exercise to get your brain moving. 

Don’t just wake up and vegitate for three hours. I’m challenging you to get moving earlier – get up, start your morning routine, and use the extra hours in a valuable way.

Use those morning hours to get your work done – review your notes, work on your homework, write that paper that has been waiting for you. 

Even if your first class is at 8:30 AM, you are giving yourself a few extra hours to get your work done – hours that don’t have to be squeezed in on afternoons when your boss is calling you to come into work or your friends are calling you to hang out. 

And it is amazing how much more ready for the day I am when I wake up that early - it provides the chance to focus on what is really important to you that day. 

When you give yourself a few hours to focus and work in the morning before class, you'll show up to class more engaged and focused, already feeling accomplished, rather than thinking about how much you'd like to go back to sleep. 

So I want you to give it a try. I double-dog dare you ;)

Wake up at 5:45 AM – get some work done, eat some breakfast, exercise, and be ready for your first class.

(And remember, you can always work in a power-nap later in the day if you need to.)