All posts by Tessa Gedatus

Keep Up The Good Work and You Will Succeed

How to Succeed In College, a blog post written for the New York Times by the co-directors of college counseling at Lawrenceville School is like many you will find when you search for college success in Google. The article starts with a salutation to high-school graduates, then goes on to provide tips to said graduate.

Some tips are useful; Live in the Academic Moment, suggests that you focus on the intrinsic benefits of your assignments rather than the end grade­—I agree with this.

But there are other tips that rub me the wrong way. Don’t Study In Your Room, suggests you find a quiet place out of your dorm room and somewhere quiet within one of the (presumably) many libraries on your tree-lined, sprawling, campus. My issue with this is that it comes from a very traditional, white, elitist viewpoint when it comes to the college experience.

David Brooks

The Atlantic recently published an expose on the usefulness (or not if you’re a white guy) of attendance at an Ivy-league school. This article sited work by Stacy Dale and Alan Kureger that showed that the SAT scores of a student is a more powerful predictor of future success than what school they go to. That is despite the fact that each year more than half a billion dollars is spent by parents trying to get their kids ready for the Ivy-League admissions process.

To me the takeaway from the Dale and Kureger study is clear. Being driven, having a strong work ethic, and studying for the SATs are more valuable qualities than attending a top-tier school.

You can succeed anywhere if you put in the time and effort.

David Brooks, who I introduced you to in my last post, explains what years of research has substantiated. “People who succeed tend to find one goal in the distant future and then chase it through thick and thin. People who flit from one interest to another are much, much less likely to excel at any of them. School asks students to be good at a range of subjects, but life asks people to find one passion that they will follow forever.”

I hope you all have found something to be passionate about, and will go out and pursue it! Congratulations on completing another semester here at Metropolitan State.

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Get Strategic to Succeed by Semesters End

Last time I talked about finding the connections within your course work and how that makes the work relevant to your life. I would like to add to that by emphasizing the philosophy of Work Smarter, Not Harder. This is the point: multi-tasking. Most college students have found a way to become efficient at time management and balancing the different demands of their courses and personal lives. Sure, sometimes there is a slip up and we forget to turn something in, but for the most part, our days are a calculation of how much we can get done in the allotted time or before our brains give out.

Multi-tasking

What I want to teach you is multitasking on steroids. I like to call it Strategic Learning Efficiency Engaged Purposefully (SLEEP). I’m just kidding, I have never called it that before. I call it, doing one thing for multiple classes. Does that mean I turn in the same paper, or the same work for each class? Of course not! Media studies does not have the same learning targets as web design or content strategy, or information studies. But that does not mean that I can’t work on the same project for all of them.

How it works

At least one class every semester will have some sort of self-chosen topic for a project that you will work. Perhaps it is a proposal for a business course, or a collection of activism posts for social media, maybe you have been assigned with creating videos for a design course, you get my point. Now, instead of just picking some random thing to write about or research or create, why not connect it to a cause or a dream or a family business. Something that has meaning for you in your real life, something that could use some attention and nurturing. Then you set yourself to creating for this cause.

Here is an example for you

For this Saturday morning MDST course we will need to turn in a learning journal (a portfolio of sorts). Meanwhile, in the very same classroom on Tuesday nights I have a Writing for the Web course that requires me to make a website. Now, I could make a lot of terrible websites, but I decided to be strategic. I decided combine them both by making the topic of my website for the WRIT course be the subject of my learning journal for MDST. Make sense?

Why it works

By using the same project for multiple courses lets you see the interconnectedness of disciplines. Remember that from last time? No field of study operates in a vacuum. Nor should it. Using the same project for multiple classes provides you with the chance to think about a subject, problem or project on different levels. This gives you the chance to end up with a really rich and layered analysis of a real world situation. It also allows you to build on your past work, thereby making each project a little more meaningful, which is a key to knowledge, not just memorization of the names of some theories which you will forget by next semester. You are integrating the prior learning and scaffolding upon it to form your shining tower of world conquering knowledge…I mean…ahem. Want to know a bit about the science behind why this works? Great!

Start by watching this video by David Brooks, author of The Social Animal. 

Need a little bit more?

If you are still struggling with juggling course loads, start with the basics. This page offers five solid strategies for multitasking.

Are you more of a put it off until the last minute operator? You are not alone. Procrastination is innate, and for many people, it works well.

Diversify Your Knowledge Portfolio

In my last blog, we touched on gratitude and the importance of fostering the connections we make while in school. This idea, seeing connections, cannot be understated. The human brain is powerful in large part because of its ability to see and make connections—be it people, patterns, or thoughts. And while I’d love to toot my own horn about how great the benefits of connection and appreciation are (and they are), I have to counter myself a bit. While humans have always been drawn to the predictive power of familiarity, it is not necessarily to our benefit. We can become entrenched in familiar ways of thinking and acting that do nothing to enrich us. In fact, in evolutionary terms, variation is the goal. I would argue, that while networking helps you find a job, embracing diversification will bring you the greatest success in college and your career.

Many of us will stagnate and become dissatisfied when courses begin to rehash the same tired theories we have been covering since freshman year. We are complex, thinking beings. Robots are made for repetition, not us.  While there is a benefit to looking at theories from different angles, there is a balance between reviewing ideas and beating a dead horse. If all of your courses are in the same discipline, you will begin to get tunnel vision or worse, tune out to the lessons. So, rather than sign up for one more “easy A,” why not push yourself to try a new type of class. Maybe biology, computer science, or philosophy? They will give you a view of the world that could open a whole new way of seeing things.

Tip: Find ways to think about your course work from outside their home academic fields. How does human evolution relate to user experience? What about ethics and business communications? These new neural pathways will make your brain more elastic, agile, and creative .

Careers are no longer a straight climb up a ladder. Today, versatility and multi-faceted skill sets are in demand. And that is not a bad thing. The truth is, very few jobs will fulfill your head, heart and stomach. And those jobs that fill you with love, often don’t fill your fridge. As more and more people realize this fact, the popularity and acceptance of modular careers will continue to increase. Use your time in college to gain some transferable skills by broadening your academic focus.

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If you end up with a career path that jumps around, you will be glad of your diverse coursework. You will have gained knowledge and skill in areas that will become relevant in financial ways. Having a diverse course load will make you a more complete, interesting person. Don’t sell your time in school short by going only for those courses that are required for your degree. If you don’t take the time to explore now, you may never get the chance again.

Teamwork Makes Your Dream Work

groupwork-652547-unsplashAt this point in the school year, most students find themselves full swing on one of the most-dread-of-all class assignments: the group project. We bemoan navigating group dynamics, schedule conflicts, and technology shortfalls. Wouldn’t a simple paper suffice? But remember, you will collaborate in your future career.

HINT: Educators create these assignments because teamwork, problem-solving, and communication are requirements in virtually any job.

According to the career experts at Glassdoor, many of the soft skills you hone during group work are the exact skills employers look for. Remember last time, when I told you about Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg’s policy of focusing on natural strengths? That’s code for soft skills. Working with others will help you succeed, both in class and on the job.

Know when to say thank you

 

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Equally crucial to (grudgingly) sharpening our collaboration muscle is remembering to say thank you to our teammates for those ways they contribute to the project. Besides helping you to become a better communicator, they bring valuable alternative views to projects.

Moreover, your classmates today may be your coworkers tomorrow. After all, if you are in the same class, you likely have some career goals in common. Why not use these professor imposed connections to forge real world contacts?

TIP: Consider group work as networking 101.

Create a network of nice

Studies show that practicing gratitude can change your outlook for the better and help foster a community of people who support each other. Researchers published on the University of California, Berkeley’s site, Greater Good, asked, “Is Gratitude a Moral Affect”? They concluded—yes—gratitude is more than good manners; it motivates and reinforces empathetic behavior in the person practicing and the person receiving thanks.

The article noted that “the emotion of gratitude might also have motivational value, prompting grateful people to behave prosocially themselves…[motivating] reciprocal altruism.” In other words, gratitude can start a pay-it-forward-style social movement on campus and in your everyday life.

You never know when common courtesy could pay big dividends—in friendship or while networking. So, in the spirit of the season, go out and flex your “thank you” muscle. The Metro State community will be all the better for it.


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Glassdoor is a site that allows you to search millions of jobs. They have an impressive portfolio of blog topics covering virtually every subject related to careers.

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Greater Good, hosted by the University of California, Berkeley, offers tips, quizzes, videos, and articles on the human quest for happiness.

If you missed my last post, you can find out why knowing yourself is the key to school success here.

Know Yourself

 

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Writer James Joyce extolled, “A man’s mistakes are his portals of discovery.” It’s great to know it’s okay to try and fail. However, focusing on your strengths can be the actual key to success in the classroom and beyond.

In a New York Times interview, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, explained, “We try to be a strengths-based organization, which means we try to make jobs fit around people rather than make people fit around jobs. We focus on what people’s natural strengths are and spend our management time trying to find ways for them to use those strengths every day.”

Strengths-meeting-Needs

Luckily, Metro State’s Career Services Center (CSC) has fantastic resources to help you uncover your talent and channel it into a successful career. As a student, you have access tools like, FOCUS, online assessments created to help you discover careers and majors that use your strengths. You will need to create an account the first time you sign on. Use the access code: “METRO” and fill in your information to gain access to career planning, academic strengths identification, and a multitude of self-assessments. You may find out something you didn’t know about yourself.

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TIP: Even if you think you have yourself pretty well figured out, you can still utilize assessment keywords as a resume database!

  1. Start a file on your computer (or use a notebook if that’s more your style), and copy down all of the skills, strengths, and personality traits.
  2. Write down examples of them in your work or school life. Think objectively about difficult situations or mistakes you’ve made. What qualities did you rely on to get past those pitfalls? Acknowledging your strengths can provide insight when choosing a major or a career.
  3. When the time comes, integrate those words into your resume, portfolio, and interviews.

TIP: FOCUS offers an easy way to create a report from your results, just click on the Review and Print My Portfolio button, toward the bottom of the home screen.

Now that you know a little about me, and how I harness my strengths, go find out how to harness yours! I’d love to hear about your strengths and how you use them in the comments below!

Tessa Gedatus’ strengths: Activator, Strategy, Ideation, Adaptability, and Intellection.

 

Top Tips for a Successful Journey Through College

I am a Metropolitan State University student, pursuing my BA in technical communications. I consistently make the dean’s list and have been given a Student Leadership Award from my peers. I carry a 4.0 GPA while working, mothering, and participating in my community. I recently completed an internship with a company that offered me a position as a technical writer when I complete my degree program. When I interviewed with the company they asked why I chose Metropolitan State, rather than the U of M, or some other school. In truth, I was accepted to the University of Minnesota, and Hamline, and St. Kate’s (with scholarships at all three). But I turned them down.

metropolitan_state_u.pngI chose Metro State because they work hard to help students (many of who are just as busy if not busier than me) succeed while providing curriculum that prepares us for careers in the real world. Metro State gives students options. The degree programs offer classes that are relevant and current for the fields those majors go into. The advisors reply quickly and personally to questions. Most of the Metro State faculty are actively involved in professions that use the skills their classes teach. In short, Metro State treats it students as they should be treated, as valued adults who expect an education that prepares them for career success.

Over the next six weeks I am going to share with you some tools and strategies I have found helpful on my path to a career. I believe these tips will help you too.

NOTE: Do not expect tips such as: Do the Readings, or Keep Up on Your Homework. Those are tips everyone knows by now.

I am going to outline some specific tools, apps for your mobile phone, and novel, useful ways to see school success.

I will also touch on some of the wellness strategies I use to keep my cool while juggling all that life throws my—and let’s be honest, all of our—way.

Finally, I will share some of my strategies for making and keeping connections, both through *gulp* networking, and also the connections you make in your own brain, helping you synergize the education process (who says your assignments have to stay in the classroom?).

Sound like something you want to spend a few minutes on each week? Great! Read on.

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Tessa’s Interests

Happy Saturday morning MDST 485 classmates. In the interest of interesting blog posts, here are some of my favorite topics:

  • Content Strategy.  Organizing and planning cohesive documentation is a big career goal for me. I love the blog written by Kristian Halverson of Minneapolis-based Brain Traffic.
  • Traveling. I love researching and planning trips almost as much as I love going on them. While I was pregnant with my son, I spent a month traveling through Europe with my partner’s band. I have upcoming trips to San Francisco, Florida, and Ireland booked as of now. I am anxious to find out if jet lag is a thing for four-year-olds. Lonely Planet has a travel site I enjoy exploring.
  • Environmentalism. I work with a small, neighborhood group working to improve the air quality and create racially equitable “Green Zones” in Minneapolis. You can learn how Minneapolis is trying to integrate some of our suggestions on the City of Minneapolis site.
  • Gardening. I am a member of the Minnesota Horticulture Society and the Iris Society of Minnesota. I am singlehandedly removing every blade of grass from my yard and replacing them with native, pollinator friendly, water conserving plantings. I also help my friends at Squeaky Willow Farm when harvest time comes.

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Taragona, Spain. 2013.
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Ramen Fest, Minneapolis, MN. 2014.

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San Diego, CA. 2016.