Thursday, August 30, 2012

How to make the most of social media

Social media is the primary way most of us connect with other people, and despite the proliferation of meme's and pictures of people's pets (which I'll admit, I love), social media can lead to some of the most meaningful connections in your life.
However, the most powerful social media relationships occur when you add the other senses to your interactions (e.g. you need to see them in person, shake their hand or hug them, hear their voice, and...smell them? Ok that'd be weird, but you know what I mean).

There is something chemical that happens when we meet with people in person that will never be replicated online. And the bonds you create with people in person are the ones that will affect your life - both personally and professionally. 

So how do you turn a social media connection into a more meaningful connection? There are two strategies depending on your purpose, for friends or for business:

For Friends

Too often we let social media take the place of in-person hang outs with friends. I call it the social shortcut - and I am so guilty of it. 

Instead of making the effort to invite a friend to coffee or chat on the phone (do people even do that anymore?), the social shortcut allows you to just write something on their wall or send them a message. This works great for most things, but it keeps us from getting really close with people. And as humans, we need to feel that closeness with others in a live community. 

So here's what you can do (don't worry, I'm not going to make you call anyone): instead of just messaging a friend or writing on their wall an open-ended "I miss you" or "we should hang out," look at your calendar, figure out when you're free, and then text or message them an invite to do XYZ on one of your free days. Give them all the times you're available that week and ask them to pick the time that they're free too.

Make the effort. Keep inviting people until someone says yes. Don't get discouraged. Because once you come home after hanging out in person, you will notice you get a feeling that social media just can't touch. 

For Business

There is a lot of hype around how social media can help people in business. Some are skeptical, however, because it's difficult to quantify how social media effects sales or careers.  

I've always been a huge believer that social media can help you find mentors and develop professional connections, and I've recently experienced how valuable those professional connections can be - especially when you translate them to in person meetings.

The third section of my book is all about how to do this, but in short, simply  interact with them as you normally would wherever you "met" them (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) and get to know them by what they do on social media. Build a casual "internet" relationship first. 

Then, send a direct message or e-mail saying why you admire them and ask to chat on the phone for ten minutes to ask their advice. If they live nearby, ask to meet them in person. Something magical happens when you connect with someone in person. I'm sure this is documented in a sociology book somewhere (and I'm almost sure 'magic' is the scientific term). 

When you make that in-person connection, you become familiar with someone in a deeper way - a way that lends itself much more closely to developing a mutually beneficial relationship where you help each other in your careers, and many times, your lives. 

I owe so much to social media, and some of my most treasured in-person friendships and business opportunities have come from Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn. 

And just so we're clear: Don't meet online strangers in dark alleyways. Do make the effort to make your social media connections count. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Transfer advice from a former international student

Below is transfer advice from one of my good friends and incredible community college alums Alejandra Pozzo (she's also in my book). After attending Palm Beach State, Ale (short for Alejandra) transferred to the University of Miami and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in May 2012.

As a Jack Kent Cooke scholarship winner and former international student, Ale has incredible advice to offer that I wanted to share with you. Below is an interview I had with her recently: 

What led you to community college?
As I graduated high school, I learned that my parents’ economic situation was deteriorating. To make matters worse, my citizenship status was not resolved, which meant that I would have to pay for college as an international student. International students pay two to three times as much as regular students, something that seemed out of reach for me. I made the decision to attend community college part time, while I worked full time to pay for my tuition.

How did you make your transfer decision? 
I knew I wanted to transfer out of community college eventually and obtain a Bachelor’s degree. However, I was facing many challenges. I applied myself and became very involved on campus. I met a great mentor, who introduced me to private scholarships that I could apply to and guided me through the application process. When I became a Jack Kent Cooke scholar, my life changed and my biggest obstacle suddenly tumbled down.

What were your biggest obstacles in adjusting to your transfer institution?
The academic course load. I went from being a part-time student to having 17 credits my first semester.

What helped you the most in getting adjusted at your transfer institution?
As cliché as it may sound, what helped me the most was the fire within me; the passion I had to get a nursing degree is certainly what empowered me to push through all the difficulties I faced.

What helped you make friends at your transfer institution?
Making friends was easy because I went into a nursing program, so I had classes with the same group of students all day. My second year, however, I expanded my friendships beyond the nursing school. I joined different committees and organizations that were interesting to me. I met one of my closest friends in one of these organizations. It is important to surround yourself with people who share the same values and ideals as you.

What advice can you share that you wish someone would have shared with you before you transferred from community college to a university?
Transferring is not easy at first. But once you get through that hurdle, everything will start flowing better. However, it is essential that you have a clear vision of what your goal is – beyond getting an education. Be passionate about the career you chose to follow, your drive and determination will determine your success. Also, know which study habits work for you, everyone is different. Do not be afraid to seek guidance from your professors, especially if you are struggling with your academics.

Make a point to identify your weaknesses and strengths – and work on both. Do not compare yourself to others, you are as good as all you give and that is a wonderful thing. 

Effective time management is crucial when you are juggling school, work, organizations…and life outside all of these areas! Organizing my days, weeks, and months (yes, months) worked well. If I knew a certain time of the month would be very busy, I would attempt to complete as many tasks as possible when I had free time so that my responsibilities would not pile up.

And most importantly, enjoy every minute of it – academics should be your priority, but they should not take over your entire college experience.
Great advice - thanks Ale! 

If you have a transfer success story to share on the blog, please visit to learn more!

What NOT to do when networking

With only about 30% of all jobs posted online, networking is the best way to get a job. And as I share in my book, the best way to network as a college student is to ask professionals you admire for advice. The formula is pretty simple:

1. Say why you admire them.
2. Ask to meet with them for 10-15min to learn more about them & their job.
3. Leave an easy way for them to make the appointment. 

I've used this formula over and over again. From winning a $110,000 scholarship to now being able to live my dreams working from home, the mentors I found through my career center, mutual friends, and social media changed my life

However, now that I have progressed in my professional career, I am now on the other end of those e-mails, with students asking me for help and professionals asking me for business. 

Most of the e-mails I get from students are genuine asks for help, and I love nothing more than carving out 10 minutes of my day to e-mail them back a heartfelt answer.

But there are some e-mails that don't warm my heart. There are some that are just plain annoying. And trust me - you do not want to be one of the annoying people when it comes to building relationships. Because whether or not that person can help you get a job right away, you never know how they could affect your professional life in the long term. 

Below are the worst types of e-mails I get. I wish I could show you examples of the ones I receive, but I can't because these types of e-mails get deleted immediately. You do not want to be one of these people:

1. The Generic. These are the form e-mails that people send out in mass, without any personalization. Something like "Hi friend - I've read your blog and I think you would love for me to write an article for it as I have a lot to say about your topic." 

Any e-mail sent in mass is not worth sending. Personalize any e-mail request you ever send to a specific person. Use their name, and do your research so you have something unique to say to show them you care about who they are and what they do. 

2. The Me Me Me. These are the e-mails that devote a few words to the recipient of the e-mail, and then go on and on about themselves and their work and what they want. They share too much about their accomplishments just for the sake of it, and by the end of the e-mail you can tell they've never actually done any research on you, have any interest in what you do, and are just trying to get something from you and benefit from the work you have already done. They seem like they are trying to take a short cut.

Getting advice is a short cut, the best kind, but you can never seem like you're trying to take an easy route. The way to avoid this is to dedicate 90% of your e-mail to genuinely complimenting the person you want advice from on their work. If you can't do that, then you're e-mailing the wrong person.

3. The Too Much Too Soon. This is the kind of e-mail where someone asks for a huge favor before taking the time to get to know someone first. You can't e-mail a stranger and ask them to edit five scholarship essays for you. Your first encounter should be for the sole purpose of you listening to that person and learning from their experience, and for no longer than 15 minutes (unless they insist they can spend more time with you). 

The more a person talks in a conversation, the better he or she feels afterwards; studies show that the person who talks the most rates the conversation the highest. So when you're networking initially, ask lots of questions and let other people talk about themselves. You will make them feel great, and when they feel great about the conversations they have with you, they will want to bend over backwards to help you. 

In short, the longer you spend building a genuine relationship with a person, the more vibrant and beneficial your relationship will be. 

There are no "vegas weddings" in networking. Real networking happens over time, and feels more like friendship than a business exchange. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Five reasons to travel in college

I used to hate it when people talked about "finding themselves" through travel. Backpacking through Europe during college seemed like a rich-kid fantasy. My family could never have afforded something like that.

So for me, travel was only a luxury - something I could never afford and something I didn't need to "find myself." I still don't believe you "find yourself" in travel. But through my travel experiences in college, I learned that travel can be an important stop on your journey to creating yourself in college.
Whether you're like me and figured you could never travel in college because you can barely afford tuition itself, or if you're deciding whether taking that student loan to cover study abroad is worth the money, I hope the the five reasons to travel in college below will help you think more deeply about what you could gain. 

1. It's cheaper, and sometimes freer, than you think. I never flew on an airplane until the end of my sophomore year of college, to the Phi Theta Kappa International Convention in Nashville. And as the president of our Phi Theta Kappa chapter, the entire experience was free.

Many community colleges have clubs whose leaders get to travel to conferences, as well as offer scholarships to travel abroad. I got a scholarship that covered a two-week trip to England I took my junior year. And my senior year my University flew me to New Orleans to present my senior thesis (and try the famous, delicious beignets), absolutely free. These opportunities are out there for you too - start with your college website and ask your professors. 

2. It makes you memories. I know this may sound cheesy, but there is such value when college is treated as a complete experience. And when you commute to college, it can be hard to really bond with new friends through new experiences. 

My most treasured memories happened on trips in college. Those memories are what tie you to your friends long after you graduate. 

3. It adds to your academic curiosity. Have you ever driven home after class, put your car in park, and then realized you totally zoned out and cannot even remember driving home? This is what happens when we get familiar.
When you travel outside your hometown, your senses awaken in a way they just can't when we're in our familiar routines. 

Something powerful does happen when we explore new places and new people - we realize there is a huge world that exists outside our daily lives. We know this intellectually, of course, but it's another thing entirely to experience it. This kind of experiential understanding can't come from a book, but it does have the power to make books (and lectures) come alive. 

Once you start to see the world in a new way, you'll find you'll develop a thirst for knowledge that stays with you forever (and has an incredible impact on your grades).

4. You actually do have the time. With the exception of the college students who have full-time salaried job while going to school (and/or kids), you will never have more free time in your life than you do now. Once you accept a full time salaried job, it will not be easy to take off big chunks of time to travel. 

College jobs and the college schedule is much more flexible. This is the time to do it. And while yes it will require sacrifices, I hope these reasons are helping you see they're worth it.

5. You'll gain independence & motivation. When I first signed up for the two-week field study trip to England, I did so with a friend. However, a month before we were scheduled to leave, she couldn't go. I didn't know anyone else going on this trip, and without her, I questioned whether I could do it. But quickly I realized, no, I am still going to go. And I went.

Being totally alone, forced to make new friends, was one of the best experiences of my entire college journey. It was empowering. When you learn that you can manage yourself anywhere in the world, with anyone, you start to feel like anything is possible for you. This attitude is worth every penny when it comes to motivating yourself to achieve big goals in college. 

Whether it's a semester-long study abroad trip to learn a new language or a weekend-conference across your state, make it a top goal to travel somewhere during your college experience. You won't find yourself, but you will find yourself changed for the better

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Top 5 ways to relieve job-hunting stress

Below is another great question from my inbox, whose answer I thought would benefit you too. 

Leslie writes...

...I have loved my first job teaching Kindergarten, but I'm only getting one-year contracts and every year I feel like I'm back at square-one trying to find another job. Do you have any tips on how to handle the stress that comes with looking for a job and trying to pursue my passion?

My response...

1. Find someone who has a job you want - As I lay out in my book, the #1 thing to do when you're stressed about finding a job is to get to know and ask the advice of professionals who are currently in that job. As much as possible, get to know other teachers who are doing what you want to do and ask them their advice for finding a job.

They will have the best insider information for your particular industry - and as you get to know more and more people you will grow connections and might even get a job that way, though the main purpose is always just to ask for advice and to listen.

2. Read career books - What also really helped me with the stress of finding a job was checking out every career book I could at the library. Not only do they offer a lot of helpful tips to implement, but the act of reading them and trying out different tips relieves stress as it makes you feel like you have more control. 

It's also good to read biographies or autobiographies of people who interest you. In their stories you'll often see most great people go through a lot of hardship and failure and stress in their journey. Their stories also hold subtle tips on how to get through the hard stuff and continue towards your goals, shedding a little light at the end of your tunnel.

3. Make time for you -  It's so important not to let the job hunt consume every waking moment of your life (I remember scrolling through job listings on the summer after college until 2am one night - not a good idea). Make time for friends. Exercise. Do something fun that makes you feel like YOU. It can be so demoralizing not to have a job and it can start to make you feel horrible. It's vital to maintain confidence and to remember that a job doesn't define you.

4. Journal - Looking for a job is stressful and the rejection sometimes forces you to face some of your deepest insecurities. Getting your thoughts out on paper is cathartic and will help you learn from the journey itself. It's important to keep the journal positive and hopeful, but it's also okay to vent your frustrations too.

5. Remember that you're not alone - Getting a job is so hard. For pretty much everyone. And while our society talks a lot about the unemployment rate percentages and the importance of a college degree, no one really talks about the awful feeling that you get in between. 

Keep asking for advice and talking to other people who are going through the same thing to remind yourself that this is a journey, an adventure. And if you've found something you really want to do, you just have to keep trying and keep the faith that your hard work will pay off, even if it feels like it never will.

Good luck on your job hunt, and keep sending your questions to!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Do you have Olympic focus?

The Olympics are over, and while for some athletes it marked the end, for many it marks the beginning of four years of training. Four years until they'll see marked results from their daily work. Sound familiar?

It also takes about four years until you walk on that stage to get your diploma. 

There was one particular Olympics commercial about the journey itself that really struck me. While images flashed of the road from the perspective of a cyclist, the blue mat from the eyes of the gymnast, and the splashing water from the goggles of a swimmer, these words played: 

Take a day off? I don’t even take a morning off.
I haven’t ordered dessert in two years.
You know that best selling book everyone loves? I haven’t read it.
I haven’t watched TV since last summer. Hey, I’ve been busy.

Your first thought may be, wow, they have no lives. While I'm a big believer in balancing work and play, I do think there is some powerful truth in this commercial --> If you want to be average, spend your time doing things average people do, but if you want to be great, you've got to spend your time differently. 

Just like the Olympics, we live in a competitive world, and standing out requires sacrifice. However, it's not about sacrificing for the sake of misery, but for the sake of something you want more than what's tempting you in the present.

If you want to be good, that's totally okay - we need more good people in the world. But if you want to be great, you have to work harder than everyone else.

The good news is, what someone else is doing in his or her lane doesn't actually matter - all that matters is what you're doing in yours, and how focused you are on your goal.  

So how do you know if you have Olympic focus? Take a close look at your daily habits and the way you spend your time. Choose one day this week to write down what you do each hour, without judging yourself. Then write down your goals and analyze the way you're spending your time with their goals. Do they align? What could you replace in order to make more time for the things that really matter the most to you?

It's the daily habits (and yes, sometimes sacrifices) that make big dreams come true. Dreams really do come true, but only for those who realize that every spec of fairy dust requires is a drop of sweat. 

The business of dreams is hard work. But the rewards - they're as good as gold. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

How to lose weight in college

It all started on a Monday when I was running late for my oh-so-early 7:30am Spanish class. After getting off the highway, I realized I had a few minutes to grab a quick breakfast. The yellow arches called my name and I ordered a breakfast sandwich, a hash brown, and a water. Not too bad. One time. No biggie.

I ate the sandwich on the road, and then, bit into the hashbrown. Oh that crispy, sparkling hash brown. 

The next morning I woke up in plenty of time to eat breakfast. But. That food was just so good yesterday, why not? As I rolled through the drive-thru for the second day in a row and contemplated my order, I thought, why not just get four hash browns instead of a whole meal, since I really just love the hash browns?

And that, folks, is how my college hash brown addiction was born. 

For almost a year, every Monday thru Thursday I rolled up for my greasy quadruplets, making my steering wheel shine with their residue. 

This is the story that came to my mind when one of my readers asked for my advice on how to lose weight and stay in shape in college. I thought this was awesome because a) I was so excited for someone to see me as someone who could give health advice because I was not very healthy in college and b) I've always wanted to say in my blog "please consult your physician before starting any diet or exercise program." So first of all, please do that. Because I'm not a health expert.

But I am an expert on overcoming a hash brown addition (and losing the freshman 15 that came with it). I'm hoping that sharing what I did will help that reader and you think more about how to overcome the bad habits that sneak up on us all when we're busy, and find your own best ways to get healthy in college.  

How I lost my freshman 15 and started being healthy

  • Reading: I read three books that completely changed my outlook on food: The End of Overeating by David Kessler, Food Rules, and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. In short, these books taught me that diets never work, that eating healthy is a mindset (i.e. a lifestyle), and that food and health is really a lot simpler than it is made out to be. These books helped me focus on eating food that was fresh, and whose ingredients I could actually pronounce. 
  • Eating: I love food and couldn't bear to deny myself of my hash browns, and luckily the books I read also confirmed that I could still have a hash brown once in a while, and in fact that I should so as not to get frustrated and want to forget trying to eat healthy altogether in order to indulge. Moderation really lives up to its hype. 
  • Exercising: I really don't like exercising. I've tried a million different things and almost always give up after a few months. I still haven't found that perfect thing that I do without fail, but what's kept me going is I never stop trying. My favorite things are personal trainer apps (I highly recommend the free Nike Training Club app), Zumba, and the elliptical while watching TV at the gym. And when things get really busy, I always try to force myself to move for 5 minutes as soon as I wake up (e.g. jumping jacks, sit-ups). Keep your requirements to a minimum and keep trying until you find something you like doing.
  • Customizing: I have never been more healthy or in shape in my life and I owe it all to the things above, most especially to changing the way I think. Trying to change the surface things just doesn't work. You have to want to be healthy deep in your brain, you have to have a totally selfish reason, and then it has to simply become who you are. It isn't a short term thing. So college is the perfect time to start building those good habits, because life will only get busier and healthy choices will only get harder and harder to make. There are so many great options out there - but none of them will work unless you are excited about them. Find out what works for you by continually learning.
A few other things I've customized for myself that I enjoy
  • I only drink water, and drink tons.
  • I pack small healthy snacks (e.g.nuts or healthy fruit snacks) everywhere I go so I'm not tempted to make bad choices or pig out at meals. 
  • Whenever I want something delicious, I get it! I just try to keep the portion modest and be mindful of whatever else I'm eating that day.
  • Towards the end of college, I started packing my lunch and other snacks diligently. It was cheaper, healthier, and I actually enjoyed it more.
  • I took a dance elective my last semester of college and it made a huge difference. It's what introduced me to Zumba.
  • I learned to love fruits and vegetables and try to eat them every day (i.e. juicing and dipping carrots into ranch dressing. Mmmm). 
Maintaining a healthy weight in college should be enjoyable. That's how you know you're doing it right :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Vlog: 5 quick tips for your first week of college

Hi guys! 

I know many of you are headed back to school this week - I wanted to share with you some quick tips to help you start your college experience (or get back into the groove if you are a returning student). 

Feel free to pass this along to any of your friends or family that are nervous about starting their college journey - and please invite them to join our community of awesome community college students and alumni!

I hope your year gets off to a great start! :) 

PS - If you are sad about your summer vacation ending, feel free to cheer yourself up by enjoying a laugh at the expense of my YouTube screenshot for this video...;) 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to showcase your personal brand (Pt.3)

It's time to finish up our discussion on personal branding. If you've missed the previous posts you can check out the links below and then come on back here to join us for the end. 

Your personal brand consists of your: 
Once you've finalized your origin story, values, and skills, it's time to think about how your personal brand is relevant to the world. Brands are only as strong as their audience. 

When I ask you to think of your favorite brand, what is the first one that comes to mind? 

Why do you love it? 

What about it speaks to you? 

Do you tell other people about it? Why?

That is the kind of power you want your personal brand to have. The power to elicit a positive response. 

But what you must keep in mind is that a brand is special because its audience is special. Your favorite brand doesn't appeal to everyone. It is special because its specific. 
You of course are a specific individual - you are unique. So you've got that covered and you've defined it by doing the previous three personal branding exercises

Now it's time to think about who will care about your uniqueness. Namely, your core community and defined contribution. In short - who will pay you to do what you do best?

This takes a lot of research and thought, so don't worry if this doesn't come easily to you. If you do these exercises you will already be far ahead of your peers. 

Core Community
Reflect on your origin story, core values, and core skills for a moment. Who are the kind of people your skills and personality can best help? Does a specific company come to mind? A specific demographic? People with particular values? Who could benefit from who you are and the skills and talents you bring to the world? If the answer is "everyone" you're not there yet. 

Think deeply, search online, and read articles about your desired industry. Who is it you can help most, so much so that they might even pay you (or someone else might pay you to help that group?). Write it all down. 

Defined Contribution
This is where everything you've written so far about your personal brand culminates. When you read through everything you've written about who you are, what you do well, and what kinds of people could benefit from your skills, they should lead you to your contribution to the world. What are you seeing so far?

Again, this isn't easy, and it requires specificity. Don't worry if you don't know it all now. Just write what you see yourself contributing to the world in the most detailed way possible. Consider your story, values, skills, and community. Bring it all together and let it simmer. Close your eyes and picture yourself in 10 years. What do you see? Write it down.

Personal branding is a long-term process and will evolve as you evolve. The only mistake you can make is to not think about it at all. 

Because whether you know it or not, you are creating your personal brand every day. When your name is brought up among friends or professionals, they will associate you with certain characteristics, certain contributions. Personal branding isn't about creating a fake persona or caring too much about what other people think -  it's about ensuring you reach and communicate your full potential. 

Once you define your personal brand you will be able to identify jobs where you'll thrive. And the best part? You will be able to share your unique self and contributions with the world. And trust me, you have way more to offer than you think. We need your personal brand.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How first generation students achieve the American Dream

As our economy shifts and changes rapidly, more and more people than ever before are needing to go to college in order to sustain the kind of lifestyle that once could be created with a high school diploma. Not anymore. 

More and more students who are the first in their family to attend college will be starting a higher education for the first time. Being the first to go down that path is not easy, but those that do sometimes don't realize how important their steps are. If you are the first in your family to attend college, I hope you know what a big deal that is. You should be so proud. 
I recently interviewed Jesus Moran for the piece below on Fox News Latino. His story is one of hope, one that shows the American Dream is still alive, and one that reminds us all that barriers do exist, but that the right support can help others like him bust through those walls and make new paths:

"Jesus Moran's parents struggled when they arrived to the United States from El Salvador.

His father lost his job in construction during a wave of layoffs and now works at a car wash. His mother has been a housekeeper for 14 years for the same family. So when it came to their children, they wanted them to achieve more...." Read More.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Top 5 things to do before college classes start

In most states, college classes start up again next week, and to be honest - I'm jealous. I miss the anticipation and excitement of beginning a new semester.

If you're not feeling particularly enthused (or even if you are), below are the top 5 things to ensure you enjoy and are prepared for the beginning of what can be a truly exciting semester. The best news? It's up to you. 

1. Start setting your alarm for school time (don't hate me). When I have extended periods of time off I tend to stay up later and later, waking up closer and closer to the PM. And it's always those first few days of adjusting back to waking up early that hit the hardest. Starting to get up early a few days before you have to will ensure you are truly refreshed and ready for your first class. 

2. Get all of your books. I know this sounds obvious, but if you've already been to college you know there are often many people (maybe even you) who wait and get their books the same week of class. True story: I've never had to stand in a long line in the college bookstore - ever - because I always went weeks before class. The long lines and the stress are not a great way to start off the semester, and the truth is they can be avoided (with the exception of last minute course changes of course). As much as possible, grab your books early (and, huge bonus, professors will notice you're prepared). 

3. Set out an outfit. Okay so I know this can sound cheesy and it may not be for everyone, but I still got a thrill from laying my clothes out the night before class (and/or getting a new outfit when I could afford it). It was something I did in middle and high school before the first day, and it's a habit I carried over to college. Picking it out the night before saves time in the morning, and the care you put into your appearance on that first day really does send a message that you are excited to face the new semester.

4. Get a backpack/tote you love. Another thing I loved doing was getting a new tote for all my college stuff (doesn't have to be expensive, just something you really like). Since I was a commuter, being able to carry as many things as possible was key, since I couldn't drop stuff off in a dorm in between classes. I know it seems simple, but these small touches can make you feel surprisingly good. Building up that emotional momentum the week before will motivate you to have a successful semester. 

5. Choose an event to attend on the student life calendar. Many students start class and wait a while before getting involved in clubs and organizations. Starting out early enables you to get leadership positions (some come with scholarships) and start connecting with people early on. The earlier you get involved the more engaged you will feel in your day-to-day college life. So after you finish reading this blog, go to your college's website and look for the events calendar. Choose at least one event to attend the first week or two of classes (I highly recommend any sort of Club Recruitment event). And then - show up. 

Figuring out what it takes to get you excited about school is more important to your grades, and even financial success, than you may realize. Your level of emotional engagement affects your success. So figure out what gets you excited and go for it! Start school off with a positive and prepared attitude, and you might just be amazed at the things you make happen this semester.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How to create your personal brand Pt.2

Whether or not you are intentional about creating your personal brand, you have one. Deciding to be purposeful in creating your personal brand is just about controlling the message and thinking about how the things you do both online and offline affect your professional identity. 

As I talked about earlier this week, there are five top components that have helped me when it comes to personal branding: 

  • Origin story (part 1)
  • Core values
  • Core skills
  • Core community
  • Defined contribution
Once you've figured out the key points to your origin story, it's time to think about your core values and core skills. Open up a word doc or grab a pen and write yours down (be sure to include your origin story points too); when this all comes together, you will be happy you did. 

Core values
Core values are the things that define your decisions. They are the concepts that, when defied, make you angry. For example, my top three core values are inclusivity, diversity, and sincerity. What are yours?  

There are lists online to get you thinking about your values. Think about what makes you angry and you will usually be able to find a core value. When it comes time to look for a job, you'll want to make sure it aligns with your core values or you could find yourself in a very unhappy place, conflicted with a company's core values. 

Core skills
What are the top three things you are really good at and really enjoy doing? What do people compliment you on? What do you feel like you do exceptionally well? These are your top skills, and writing them down and thinking about how they relate to all of the other elements of your personal brand will help narrow down your search for your future job. 

If you're having trouble you can also scan skill lists online to think about where you really shine.

We'll talk about your core community and defined contribution next week, and when it all comes together you will be on your way to controlling your brand message and being memorable in a way that wins you scholarships and jobs. Woo hoo! 

Personal branding can be a big topic with a lot of elements and great discussions, so if you have any questions about it please send them my way at or ask on the Facebook wall

Stay tuned and have a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How to create your personal brand Pt.1

This week I am doing a workshop on personal branding at the Pearson Leadership Summit in New York and it inspired me to do a series on personal branding for you. 

Personal branding is is not a new concept, and there are a ton of great books out there

But I wanted to share with you my specific take and give you a template to help you to start to think about your personal brand.

In short, personal branding is vital in college and when it comes time for you to get that first job out of college. A personal brand will help you:

  • Write winning scholarship essays
  • Stand out when applying for scholarships and leadership positions in college
  • Stand out when applying for jobs
  • Network and build relationships with others more easily
  • Narrow down your job search and career path
  • Be memorable in interviews and ultimately get jobs

A personal brand is essentially a purposeful way of thinking about who you are and what you have to contribute. It is memorable. It stands out. It tells people who you are without you having to say it directly. And ultimately, your personal brand is defined by what you do (not your job necessarily, but your actions and involvement). 

The good news is that you are in control of your personal brand. You create it. Though that can sometimes be harder than it sounds. 

So this week I'm going to offer you up the template I created to start thinking about and building your personal brand. It includes your:

  • Origin story
  • Core values
  • Core skills
  • Core community
  • Defined contribution

First off, think of your favorite brand. What is their story? How did the company start? What are the values they have that you identify with? What is unique about their product or service? Who is their primary customer? What do they add to your life? 

These are the questions you'll want to answer for every scholarship committee, job application, and interview. 

For part 1 of this series, I want you to think about your origin story. To start, write down the top 10 things that have happened in your life that you feel have really defined who you are today. 

Then, narrow that down to the top 5 that weave together to tell a story about what you do now and what you hope to do in your future. 

This is the key to writing scholarship essays. While you will rarely tell many personal stories in an interview, they are the bread and butter of winning scholarship money. And these key moments in your life may just shed a little light on your career search.

The question you will want to be able to answer in an interview however, is: "So tell me a little bit about yourself."

Having key moments, accomplishments, and stories that define who you are and relate to the theme of your personal brand will make you memorable

More on personal branding coming soon!

Monday, August 6, 2012

A letter to my 2007 self

If you're a frequent reader you know this isn't a journal-type blog. Because
a) this blog is all about you and
b) I'm not that exciting. 

However - since I've been blogging since 2010, I feel like we're real friends now. And as my friend, I needed to vent. My journal is sitting next to my laptop right now, but it just doesn't feel like enough. I needed to talk to you.

I just finished my 5th Jack Kent Cooke scholar conference. I won the $110,000 JKC scholarship in 2007, and every year since then I have attended the conference where we meet other scholars, learn, and have fun. This is my last one as I graduated with my M.Ed this summer. It's over. And there is something about the things we do over and over again every year (e.g. Christmas) that make us reflect on the passage of time and how it changes us.

So this year at the conference I've had this girl following me around. She has cropped brown hair and bangs, wears a lot of sundresses, and is really unsure where her life is going to go. Her name is Isa Adney, circa 2007.

This year I just keep thinking about who I was in 2007, about to transfer from community college to a four-year university. Excited for the future but deathly terrified of what it would look like, of who Isa circa 2012 would be
Me @ my first JKC conference in 2007 (with friends I miss dearly)
And now I know. And to be perfectly honest, it does feel really good to know. But it wasn't always an easy journey to the knowing, and I still know the learning will go on forever - that's the best part. 

But I can't get this 2007 girl out of my head. I so desperately wish I could go back in time and tell her some things. So since I can't do that (unless using my awesome networking skills I can track down Doc. Brown), I'm going to share the things I want to tell her before she transfers to her four-year university, to you.
  • Don't doubt yourself. You are enough.
  • Don't ever cut your hair above your shoulders again. It is not a good look on you.
  • Also forget about bangs.
  • Even though you feel like you're really busy, you will have the most free time you'll ever have in college. Embrace every unscheduled moment and bask in the things you love.
  • You're going to meet a lot of people your age who are wealthy for the first time. Here is a heads up: Citizens of Humanity are jeans, not a class. 
  • Don't worry if you don't fit in - embrace the character built from being from the lower middle class. 
  • When you leave college, friendships evolve. Facebook will never feel like enough. Soak in their presence and words and laughter. Let it make you better. And never stop trying to meet up again.
  • I know you feel lost now, but remember that this daily struggle, this daily hard work, will pay off. You won't see it for years. But if you keep going you will one day know who you are and what you're doing and have a direction so clear that your pursuits no longer feel like work. 
  • I don't want to give you any hints, because I know you need to figure this out for yourself. But just know, the people you meet and work with every day will set your heart on fire. You will fall in love with something. And you will know who you are. 
  • I know you feel so inadequate, with no clear direction, no clear sense of what the heck you are going to do with your life. Just remember that who you are right now is enough, and that one day you'll look back and be so thankful for that young naive girl who kept believing in her dreams and thought the world was a happy and welcoming and fair place. You'll find the injustices you discover just add logs to your fire. And you'll find that you'll miss this. 
Thank you so much for reading this blog and being on this journey with me (I'm talking to you now, not my 2007 self, I'm not crazy I promise). I hope in a few years you will be able to look on your 2012 self with fondness and gratitude. I hope that too. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Do community college transfer students have trouble catching up?

There is nothing I love more than hearing from you in my inbox. Below is a question I recently received from Adriana.*

"...My original plan was to attend UCSC in the fall after being denied at UCI. After high school graduation my family and I went to Peru and came back a week ago where I looked thoroughly over my financial aid. I have to pay quite a lot and I don't want to be in debt in the future because I want to go to law school. 

"But now I'm starting to have second thoughts about attending and my orientation is this upcoming Monday. I don't know if I should go since it wasn't my first choice in regards to my major (Philosophy), and money is tight. I can just do my general ed. at community college and then transfer right? 

"However, will the classes be harder once I transfer to UCI, and do transfer students have trouble catching up? I'm thinking about going to law school after my four years (hoping I get in), but I feel that if they see I went to community college they may think the curriculum I've taken at community college doesn't compare to four years at a UC and I may be behind. 

"And will it take longer for me to graduate when I transfer? As a first generation student I don't know what will be the right path for me because I have never seen someone do it before and don't know what's best. I guess you can say I need some guidance, and I would appreciate it very much if you can share you knowledge or experience with me!"

My response:

Thank you so much for reaching out Adriana! In short, yes you can do your gen ed at a community college and transfer to almost any university. In fact, you seem like someone who would shine in community college, and students like that get tons of scholarships to transfer. It is especially great if you can attend a community college with an honors program and get involved in a club leadership position.

In addition, you will not have trouble catching up because you've attended community college as long as you put your 100% into your CC experience. The last 2 years can be harder in general because you are advancing, but CC will not set you back. I had a tremendously advanced education at my community college. 

In addition, law school will not look down on your CC experience if you give your all. One of my friends who went to my community college just graduated with double Masters in Public Policy from Harvard. While some people can stereotype or make false assumptions about community college education, 4-year institutions and graduate schools are more than happy to accept community college students who can show they worked really hard.  

I also recommend seeking out a mentor who is a lawyer or in law school (you can also try and ask them the same questions you're asking me. They will know more specifically when it comes to law school.

Going to community college and reaching your ultimate educational and career dreams is possible. Like anything, it takes hard work, but the good news is that what your dreams depend on more than anything else is you and the effort you put forth. Where you go to college actually matters very little when compared to your level of effort.

I hope that helps. Please let me know what you decide and how else I can help.



What Adriana said next:

"Oh My Gosh Isa! THANK YOU SO MUCH! I don't know how to thank you enough! I actually went back to my high school to have a talk with my counselor and I texted my old teacher asking her to meet me for advice. It took me a while but after hearing you guys out and attending my orientation I've decided on going to community college and then transferring.

"I don't feel that stressed out anymore. Now my only worry is to get classes since I enrolled a little too late so I'm on the wait list. I will take your advice on finding a mentor! I never knew one e-mail could change so much. I can say it has opened a new path for me which I'm ready to walk on and now I can't believe I have your book which will be a helpful guide along the way. Thank you again!"

If you have any additional encouragement for Adriana to make the most out of her community college choice please write it in the comments section (as well as if you have any advice for what to do when you're on the wait list for classes).

And as always you can ask me anything at

*Name has been changed and permission was given to use e-mail. I always ask permission before putting parts of your e-mail on the blog.