Tuesday, February 25, 2014

11 interview tips from yours truly

We're in primetime for summer internship/job interviews, and since I've gone through the interview process already this year (not to mention a few times in the past), I'm offering you my tips to help you excel in your interviews.
  1. Get to know your prospective employer.  Being knowledgable will convince your interviewer that you really want the job you've inquired about.  It will also show him/her that you are someone who goes the extra mile to be informed and perform a given task to the best of your ability.
  2. Know information about past work experience.  Interviewers often ask about past employment; your reason for working there and why you no longer do, past salaries, job titles and descriptions, expectations, how you solved problems, what you liked and what you didn't, employment dates, etc.
  3. Think about yourself.  No, it's not selfish.  The interviewer wants to know who he/she might be hiring.  You'll often be asked what your greatest strengths and weaknesses are.  Another common request is to describe yourself in three words.  Questions about yourself tend to be the most difficult because you have to be completely honest when evaluating yourself.
  4. Be honest.  Don't lie because you think a made up answer is what the interviewer wants to hear. If you're not being truthful and representing yourself, the job would never work out, even if you got it because you need to find an employer who fits you, just as the employer needs to find employees that fit him/her.  More importantly, lying is wrong!
  5. Look up interview questions.  This is not cheating.  There are certain interview questions that everyone asks: why you want the position, name a time you went "above the call of duty," and where you see yourself in the future, to name a few.  Prepare possible responses, but try not to sound too rehearsed.  After all, a major part of interviewing is thinking on your feet.
  6. Ask questions.  It is a common misconception that the interviewer does all the asking and the interviewee does all the answering.  But you should use your interview as an opportunity to ask questions about the prospective employer from someone who is most likely an expert.  Often the interviewer asks you if you have any questions for him/her at the end of the interview, but even if that is not the case for you, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO SPEAK UP.
  7. Use good speaking techniques.  It's okay to be nervous during and interview--it's almost expected.  But interviewers want to see how you can work through your nerves and turn them into something positive.  Do not let your nerves get the best of you.
    • Don't talk too fast
    • Breathe
    • Do not use conversational language (slang, jargon, etc.)
    • Don't fill pauses in speech with "like," "um," or any other so-called filler words
    • Vary the tonality and quality of your voice
  8. Take time to think about your answer.  Interviewers want you to take a few seconds to mentally prepare a response.  They do not want you rambling and making things up on the spot.  There is no explanation needed; just take a deep breath and think about what you want to say.
  9. Dress professionally.  Looks aren't everything, but the way you look is part of the "brand" you are trying to sell to a prospective employer, not to mention the fact that looks are a major contributing factor to the formulation of an interviewer's first impression of you, no matter how shallow you may think that is.  Ladies, wear skirts (no shorter than knee-length).  Gentlemen, wear a tie.  Research the proper attire for the type of employment you are seeking, but don't rely on what other employees are wearing--they are already settled with the employer and do not always feel the need to dress to impress, although they should.
  10. Timing is key.  Do not show up late or right on time.  Get to your interview early, which will give you time to compose yourself.  Don't talk to long in response to each question, either.  If you've been answering one question for over two minutes, it's probably time to wrap it up.
  11. Introduce yourself with confidence.  A solid handshake is everything.  Be polite, but also be a stand out--make sure the interviewer will remember you above other candidates (for the better).
Hopefully these interview tips are helpful!  Best of luck with any interviews you may have coming up.  Let me know how everything works out.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Belated OOTDs

Again, I'm a little late with these OOTDs, but there is this thing called homework, which takes precedent over my blog posts and tends to take up a great deal of my time.  But better late than never!  Here are a couple of my OOTDs from last week:

Early last week, I wore my merino tippi baseball sweater with a removable collar from J.Crew with my J.Crew cafĂ© capri in wool.  I wore diamond stud earrings to match the collar of my sweater.  The shoes are from an old Jeffery Campbell collection.

Later in the week, I wore my navy 3/4 sleeve button down from J.Crew under my Old Navy boatneck sweater in imperial jade (check out The College Prepster's comparison of this piece to an almost identical piece at J.Crew, along with several other J.Crew styles which can be found for much less money at Old Navy here).  I tucked the button down and the sweater into my J.Crew shirttail mini in sequins (Note: if you have big quads like I do, go a size up in this skirt so you can actually walk without pulling at the seams).  The weather has still been pretty disgusting at Marist, so I wore Sperry Top-Sider Pelican Too Rain Boot in Black Quilted Rubber.

I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend!


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Missouri defensive lineman is openly gay

Missouri Tigers all-American defensive lineman and the Associated Press' SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Michael Sam, stated publicly in an interview with ESPN's "Outside the Lines" what his teammates and coaches have known since August 2013: "I am an openly, proud gay man."

This is considered breaking news, but why?  In 1969, when Super Bowl-winning football coach Vince Lombardi found out he had a gay player in his locker room, he reportedly told his assistants, "If I hear one of you people make reference to his manhood, you'll be out of here before your ass hits the ground."  Gay men have been in the NFL for at least that long, including former Super Bowl participants defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo and guard Roy Simmons, vocal allies and Super Bowl champions linebacker Scott Fujita and linebacker and special teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo, the previous commissioner's son, and the current commissioner's brother.  While the sexual orientation of these men may have been known during their professional careers, it was never publicly stated.  Yet, as American journalist and commentator for CNN and ESPN LZ Granderson points out, "Some owners, maybe coaches, will shy away from the best defensive player in what is widely considered the best conference in college football simply because he's gay."

It will be particularly interesting to see how events transpire from here.  Sam has undeniable, pro-level talent: the SEC's season leader in sacks (11 1/2) and the first Mizzou player to be a unanimous First Team All-American selection by the Football Writers Association of America in more than 50 years, Sam is eligible for the NFL draft in May.  Assuming that he is drafted, Sam could become the first openly gay player in the history of the NFL.  Most NFL draft projections see him a likely mid-round pick, with some saying Sam could go as high as the third round, with a possible position switch to outside linebacker.  Sam is rated as the 12th-best outside pass rusher in the draft by ESPN Scouts Inc.  The kind of talent he possesses would make the prospect of him not being drafted, not being signed, not having his cleats laced up on Sundays a blatant form of pop culture homophobia.

Sam had already confided in a few friends before his recent decision to speak out in interviews with ESPN and the New York Times.  Sam had also dated a fellow athlete who was not a football player, so while coming out to his Mizzou teammates last year was a "key moment," it came almost as an afterthought, during preseason and training camp.  At the Senior Bowl two weeks ago, he said many already seemed aware of his sexual orientation, which is not surprising because Sam did not ask his confidants to keep his revelation a secret.  Sam gave the following reason as to why he elected to inform the public about his sexual orientation: "I want to own my truth…No one else should tell my story but me."

While Sam was understandably nervous and scared about telling the public he is gay, his upbringing was filled with adversity, which made publicizing his sexual orientation seem like nothing in comparison.  "I endured so much in the past: seeing my older brother killed from a gunshot wound, not knowing that my oldest sister died when she was a baby and I never got the chance to meet her.  My second oldest brother went missing in 1998, and me and my little sister were the last ones to see him…my other two brothers have been in and out of jail since 8th grade, currently both in jail," Sam reveals.

Sam's discipline and drive has enabled him to remain focused on his goal.  "I know what I want to be…I want to be a football player in the NFL," Sam said.  He is hopeful that NFL players will be as mature about his sexual orientation as his college teammates.  While he does not anticipate difficulty gaining acceptance in an NFL locker room, he said "I just want to go to the team who drafts me because that team knows about me, knows that I'm gay, and also knows that I work hard.  That's the team I want to go to."

But the argument has been made that an openly gay player would be too distracting for an NFL team to be successful.  During an appearance on ESPN, where Herm Edwards is an analyst, the former NFL coach compared Sam to a player with "off the field" issues and raised concern about how his teammates might handle the ensuing media firestorm.  "He's bringing baggage into your locker room," he said.  "Can the players handle the media attention they are going to get, when they get the question asked 'are you okay with a gay teammate?'"  Former NFL player/free agent wide receiver Donte' Stallworth shot down Edwards' discourse by tweeting, "If any NFL team can't 'handle the media coverage' of drafting Sam, then your team is already a loser on the field."  Stallworth pointed out that any number of issues can arise during the NFL season--even in the offseason, since the NFL seems to be a popular topic of conversation almost year round--including both on-field and off-field issues.  The entire organization is constantly dealing with media scrutiny and coverage, so while Sam's sexual orientation is considered a media issue, the NFL and everyone involved in it should have no issues with his personal preferences whatsoever.

Even more important than Sam's possible NFL career, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel expressed his contentment with Sam and the greater impact he has made and will continue to make on equality among all people, despite their differences.  "We're really happy for Michael that he's made the decision to announce this, and we're proud of him and how he represents Mizzou," Pinkel said.  "Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others, he's taught a lot of people here first-hand that it doesn't matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we're all on the same team and we all support each other."


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

UNC exposed for academic fraud as the student athlete debate continues

The University of North Carolina was exposed two years ago for committing academic fraud in a scandal that involved 200 lectures that never met from 1997 to 2011, as well as hundreds of suspect independent studies enrollments and unauthorized grade changes for student athletes.  It was found that more than half of those athletes could not read beyond an eighth-grade level, and some were even illiterate.

According to CNN, so-called preferential treatment came into play when “UNC students, many of them athletes, were given grades for classes they did not attend and for which they did nothing beyond turning in a single paper.  One professor has been indicted on fraud charges for being paid for a class he didn’t teach.”  The university has always maintained it was an isolated case, but Chancellor Carol Folt is now acknowledging a broader problem.

Neither executive vice chancellor and provost James Dean nor Chancellor Folt were in their positions when the fake classes—which originated in African and Afro-American Studies—were run.  The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) investigated, but found none of its rules were broken.

Alumnus Darrell Smith, Class of 1970, regards this scandal as “the saddest, most maddening, most humbling event to stain Carolina’s reputation in memory.  Everyone in the UNC family must accept some responsibility for allowing our desire to win in the Smith Center and Kenan Stadium to exceed our desire to prevail in the classroom.”

While UNC-Chapel Hill junior Gillian Litynski agrees that this has been a shameful course of events, she points out that all of the evidence against the university has been proven false or skewed.  She believes the athletic department is handling the situation well, making sure to provide extra support for those students athletes who may be hurt by the bad press they are receiving as a group.  For example, Litynski is on the fencing team at UNC, which has one of the highest grade point averages of the school.  The university is making sure that any senior or other athlete in search of a job does not have trouble finding employment as a result of the media.

Litynski pointed out a problem that seems to occur far too often: it is easy for the media to make generalizations, regardless of the truth, which can severely tarnish the reputations of the masses.  Not only is the University of North Carolina an athletic powerhouse, but it is also an academically and otherwise highly reputable university.  That is not to say that all of UNC’s athletes are geniuses—sometimes the only way students get in to colleges is with the help of athletics.  But is that so unfair?

Athletes who are accepted to universities such as UNC-Chapel Hill essentially because of their athletic ability undoubtedly receive preferential treatment when their academics are subpar.  But those athletes have worked unimaginably hard and put in inconceivable amounts of effort to achieve the athletic success that oftentimes is their only way to receive a higher education.  Is American not the “land of opportunity?”  Everyone has their gifts, and for some, that is the gift of athletics, which can be the hard-earned ticket to a better life with the opportunities provided by collegiate athletics.

It can be argued that the aforementioned “preferential treatment” is wildly unfair, especially among athletes.  But one must take into account the significance of student athletes to the nation.  Student athletes put on a show every time they step onto the field, court, track, diving board, etc.—people see a successful athletic program and they want to attend that university.  Student athletes promote their colleges and universities by wearing their school’s colors and logos on their chest, and by displaying exemplary behavior in and out of competition.  Further, student athletes put in approximately 40 hours a week of practice and competition in addition to the hours they spend in class, working on homework, doing community service, traveling, etc.  You might be thinking, “Student athletes don’t do all that,” and that is where you have let the media sway you too much.  I am a Division I student athlete majoring in Communications with concentrations in Journalism and Sports Communication.  Not only that, but I dance, sing, participate in community service and various clubs on campus, and I am in the Honors program.  You might be surprised by how many student athletes there are throughout the nation who are like me.  Studies show that students participating in collegiate athletics on average have higher grade point averages than students who do not.

That being said, there have been many cases where coaches, boosters, athletes, and universities as a whole seem to have forgotten that the “student” precedes “athlete” in the word “student athlete.”  Ultimately, student athletes are in college to receive an education.  Some argue that academic constraints on student athletes are too harsh and that they do not receive enough compensation for all that they do, which is the reason an increasing number of student athletes are choosing to graduate early and head to the pros.  The debate over student athletes is one that requires balance; a happy medium, and that is exactly where the NCAA is now.


Monday, February 3, 2014

January 31 OOTD

I know I'm behind on this OOTD because today is not the 31st of January, but posting about the Super Bowl seemed more important to me.  What should have been a very competitive game looked more like a massacre as the Seattle Seahawks crushed the Denver Broncos in a record-breaking Super Bowl loss.  The Broncos offense turned out to be no match for the Seahawks defense.  So to move on and think more pleasant thoughts, I have my OOTD from late last week...

I tucked my J.Crew tissue turtleneck tee into my J.Crew leather-tipped bell skirt in beige (no longer available, but you can find similar items here) and tied my Anthropologie wishing well belt in a bow just above my natural waist for a belt.  Attending college right on the water means it's almost always windy, which makes it very cold, so I wore tights under my skirt to keep me warm.  My tights are from J.Crew (similar), but are no longer available.  They always have the best tights though!  And of course, duck boots are always a practical addition to an outfit.  My earrings are from the Stone Flower, one of the most unique stores I've ever been to.  The shimmery brown headband that is difficult to see because of lighting and the angle of the photograph is an old accessory from J.Crew.