Mindfulness and Your Career

By: Kristen Eckman

This week on WIRE Radio, the CO-OPS + CAREERS team sat down with Bridget McNamee, Associate Director of the Center for Wellness and Disability Services to talk about mindfulness as it relates to your career. Listen to the WITworks radio episode on demand, anytime here.

Cartoon about mindulfness

To better understand the topic of mindfulness, we asked Bridget the following questions:

What is the difference between mindfulness and meditation?

Mindfulness is defined as “the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” (Kabat Zinn)

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition).  You can practice mindfulness anywhere at any time with anyone by simply being present and engaged in the here and now.

Meditation is an intentional and inward practice of mindfulness. Kabat Zinn says meditation is a systematic form of paying attention.

Ways to practice mindfulness include:

  1. Integrated mindfulness. Try bringing more awareness to your day-to-day.

By brushing your teeth:

Pay attention to the taste and texture of the toothpaste; mindful of the sensation of your feet on the bathroom floor; mindful of the way that your arm moves to direct the brush across your teeth; mindful of each and every tooth.

Or standing in line:

You set off mindful and quietly prepared for what you’ll need; mindful of how your mood changes when you first catch a glimpse of the line at the dining hall; mindful of how you stand, your breath and where any tensions are as you scan through your body; mindful of the tendency to distract yourself from the present moment; and mindful of how you interact with the people around you.

2. Dedicated-set aside time each day to practice meditation.

Think of your brain like a wild horse. Let your thoughts run and then rein them in a little, let them run and then rein them in a little more, and keep continue this process until you are focused.

Start with trying this for 2 minutes every day and slowly build up.  Your mind WILL wander and all you need to do is notice that your mind has wondered. Do not judge yourself for it, just notice and bring it back, notice and bring it back.

Counting breaths can help (in for 3 seconds out for 3 seconds up to 10 breaths and then start over). You can also use visualization strategies. Imagine each breath brings in the warmth of the sun starting at the tips of your toes and work your way up to the top of your head through breath.

Brain strength workout

There’s a lot of reference to the present when talking about mindfulness/meditation.  Why is being present so important?

A Harvard study found that people spend 46.9% of their time thinking about things other than what they are doing. They’re thinking about what happened in the past, what will happen in the future, and what might never happen. This has a detrimental effect. The study found a direct correlation to the amount of time not focused on the present and the level of unhappiness or dissatisfaction.  The brain is wired to scan for threats and anticipate danger, a trait leftover from early evolution.  This default to the negative combined with too much dwelling on the past or anticipating the future is a recipe for unhappiness.

A regular mindfulness/meditation practice can rewire the brain.  A Harvard study showed an increase in gray matter in different parts of the brain that control learning and memory, emotional regulation, focus and concentration, perspective taking and empathy, and stress response. This was found among study participants who practiced mindfulness an average of 27 minutes/day over 8 weeks. Long story short, treat mindfulness like you treat exercise; a little bit most days of the week can make you stronger and healthier and better equipped to handle.

The key to this is regular practice-the same results have not been shown for people who practice mindfulness sporadically. While 27 minutes seems like a lot (and it is!), there is some evidence that even 10 minutes/day can produce results. More research is needed to confirm brain changes but study participants report positive results after daily 10 minute sessions.

Are the benefits of mindfulness physical, emotional, social, or all of the above?

All of the above!  We already talked about how it can change the brain, but it can also change the body.  A regular mindfulness practice boosts serotonin (the happiness chemical), melatonin (the sleep chemical), and endorphins (the feel good chemical) and reduces cortisol (the stress chemical).

Low serotonin has an impact on our mood and can be a symptom of depression; regular mindfulness practice increases serotonin and therefore creates a better environment for brain cells to do their job.

Melatonin is essential for recharging the body and enough melatonin is essential for sleep health, immunity, and healthy aging; regular meditation has been shown to increase melatonin levels by 98%!  We have to work extra hard for our melatonin these days because a primary enemy of melatonin production is light/screens and we all know how much we stare at screens now.

Endorphins cause that happy, Zen-like state of alertness and overall feel goodness; sometimes referred to as “runners high”. Meditation has been shown to have the same effect on endorphin levels as going for a long run.

Too much cortisol can cause inflammation, high blood pressure, brain fog, anxiety, etc. Regular mindfulness practice has shown to reduce cortisol levels by 50%!

What are some mindfulness tools I can bring to work?

“The Upside of Stress” by Kelly McGonigal discuses when you change your mind about stress, you change your bodies response to stress.

How do you change your mind about stress? Be present in your stress. Tune in and notice your bodies response to stress (racing heart, sweating, rapid breathing, etc.); notice your beating heart and think about how it is getting more oxygen to your brain to help you with this challenge, think about sweating as your bodies way to detox so you can more clearly tackle this issue, notice your rapid breathing and think about how it is reminding you to take in more air and silently start to count your breaths trying to make each breath a little longer than the last.

Think about all the other benefits we already talked about; better learning/memory, better emotional regulation, better ability to focus/concentrate, better perspective taking/empathy, and a better response to stress all come in handy in the workplace. If you can learn and retain, not scream at your coworkers, stay focused in meetings or while working on projects or with clients, and have a better sense of connection with people you are an asset to any work environment. And you’ll feel better!

For more information on mindfulness, check out the following resources:

Mindfulness Courses on Lynda.com (free with Wentworth network login)

https://www.lynda.com/Business-Skills-tutorials/Mindfulness/418268-2.html?org=wit.edu

https://www.lynda.com/Business-tutorials/Practicing-mindfulness-Its-all-about-meditation/751311/787321-4.html?org=wit.edu

Apps:

Calm
Headspace
10% Happier

Books:

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
The How of Happiness by Sonia Lyubomirsky
10% Happier by Dan Harris
Mindfulness for the Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris

People to Google:
Sharon Salzberg
John Kabat Zinn
Jack Kornfield

If you have questions about mindfulness and meditation, I encourage you to stop by The Center for Wellness and Disability Services, lower level Watson Hall.

Spring CO-OP + CAREER Fair is Tuesday, March 19th! For events leading up to Career Fair, check out our Prep Week Schedule.

To make an appointment with your Co-op + Career Advisor call the front desk at 617 989 4101 or stop by during spring 2019 Drop-In Hours: Monday, Tuedsday, and Wednesday 1:30pm – 4:0pm while classes are in session.

Using WITworks for your co-op and full-time job searches

By: Abbey Pober

So, you’ve heard that WITworks is where you’ll find co-ops and jobs or learn about events being hosted by CO-OPS + CAREERS. But what is WITworks exactly? We hear this question a lot. WITworks is Wentworth’s on campus job board where employers specifically looking to hire Wentworth student’s post co-ops and jobs. Ever position posted is reviewed by a member of the CO-OP + CAREERS team and we do not accept any postings that don’t meet our standards. WITworks is also where you can find and register to attend networking events organized by CO-OPS + CAREERS, like the upcoming CO-OP + CAREER Fair, and workshops like Employer Panels.

To access WITworks head over to https://wit-csm.symplicity.com/students and login using your Wentworth email and network password (I recommend you use Google Chrome or Firefox to access the system). Or, download the WITworks App “Symplicity Jobs and Careers” on the App Store and Google Play. For those curious readers wondering why it’s not called the “WITworks App”, the system is created by Symplicity, an industry leader in providing support tools for career services around the world. That said, WITworks is managed by me, and my role is dedicated to ensuring the system works properly for students, employers, and the Co-op + Career Advisors.

Here are some tips on using the system and finding what you need.

Search for Posted Co-ops and Jobs

You can customize your search using filters and save your search, so the system emails you when new jobs get posted. To search for co-ops or jobs, select Jobs > Search from the left-hand menu.

 

 

To access search filters from the WITWorks Jobs screen select “See all jobs”.

Add your position type from the header filters: 

*Note: employers do not use “Industry” in their job postings, therefore the most relevant jobs will be found by searching your major. Do not select an industry in your search.

Add your major and work term via “More Filters”
(Expand the drop down using the arrow to select your major) 

Saved Searches

A saved search allows you to save the search criteria you entered so you can run the same search again and again. You can also set your saved search to run automatically and email you when new jobs are posted. To save your search once you’ve customized the results, select “Create Job Alert”

Your saved search will be added to your “Job Alerts”. To edit the notification settings of your new saved search, select “Job Alerts” and change the frequency an alert is sent to you using the drop-down menu. You can also click on this saved “Job Alert” to replicate the search criteria the next time you login to search.

 

Register to Attend Networking Events

To search for events, select Events from the left-hand menu. Then select the event type you are looking for.

 

 

 

 

 

Register from the event listing page or click on the event to learn more information like the location of the event or the employers attending.

If you have questions about using WITworks I encourage you to stop by drop-in hours or make an appointment with your Co-op + Career Advisor. Or come see me at the Info Booth during Prep Week before the CO-OP + CAREER Fair.

To make an appointment with your Co-op + Career Advisor call the front desk at 617 989 4101.

Spring 2019 Drop In Hours: Monday, Tuedsday, and Wednesday 1:30pm – 4:0pm while classes are in session.

Informational Interviewing Tips

By: Kristen Eckman

One of the best ways to find out what an industry, company, or position is really like is to talk with individuals in the career you are considering. It is also an excellent way to expand your network and prepare for future job searches.

What is an informational interview?

An informational interview is a highly focused information gathering session with a networking contact designed to help you choose or refine your career path by giving you the “insider” point of view.
Through the process, you will gain a better sense of the real life experiences, challenges and opportunities, specific and perhaps hidden demands, as well as the drawbacks and limitations of the career field.
An informational interview can be in-person, over the phone, or via Skype (or another video platform). You should dress professionally and be prepared with a list of questions.

Informational Interview

How to Informational Interview :

Identify someone to interview

  • Consider family, friends, professors, advisors, alumni, and contacts from LinkedIn already in your network.
  • Get correct spelling and pronunciation of the contact’s name. Know their job title and whether they prefer a salutation.
  • If you are on co-op, consider conducting an informational interview with your supervisor and/or ask them for potential leads.

Contact that person

  • Reach out to the contact via email (see end of page for email templates).
  • State the reason you are reaching out and how you learned about their work.
  • Request a short (20-30 minute) in-person, phone, or Skype interview.
    • If the meeting is in-person, you should go to them.

Schedule the interview

  • Prepare yourself to be flexible. Consider when it is convenient for them to meet with you.
  • Professionals prefer that you suggest a few dates and times to meet. It takes the work away from them and makes the decision easier.

Confirm your appointment

  • Be sure you agree on a date, time, and format for your meeting. A brief note of confirmation will serve as a helpful reminder to you both.

Research the individual and career field

  • Research and read about the career field, the company, and the individual before you meet. This experience should not be a starting point for your career research, but supplement what you have already learned.
  • Your interview should focus on the individual and their experience; it is not a time for you to talk about yourself. Should the interviewee ask, be prepared to share a bit about your experience.

Prepare a list of relevant questions (and your resume)

  • You are the interviewer, so be prepared.
    • Find example questions at end of page.
  •  Bring an up-to-date copy of your resume to share only if the interviewee asks for one.

Be on time for your meeting!

  • Arrive 10-15 early if you are meeting in-person OR be sure your landline/internet connection is properly working. Be ready-to-go 15 minutes before the interview.
  • Be sure you are professionally dressed, equal to or exceeding the level of dress required at the interviewee’s place of work.

Follow-up with a thank you

  •  Always follow-up with a short note thanking the interviewee for their time. They may be a critical part of your network in the future. NOTE: consider how you will continue to stay in contact in the future.

Business Card

Don’t Forget To…

  • Take control of follow-up. Don’t leave the response open to the individual you have contacted. Let them know when you will reach back out, if you haven’t heard from them by the designated time.
  • Mirror the behavior of the professional you are interviewing.
  • Don’t forget your professional introduction. They will inevitably ask you to tell them about yourself at some point, so be ready with that important information.
  • Keep records of your contacts. Consider keeping a journal or creating a spreadsheet to track the names, contact information, and notes from your interviews. It is also helpful to keep the dates of contact and follow-up.
  • Maintain contact with the individuals you interview, but realize that some contacts might not be a good fit for the relationships you are trying to cultivate right now (or perhaps, ever). Label as: forget, hold, keep.
  • Connect on LinkedIn. Remember to always send a personalized message with your invitation.

Sample Questions 

  • Who would you consider the leaders of this industry (companies or individuals)?
  • How do you see this industry changing in the next 5-10 years?
  • What is a typical day/week like for you?
  • What challenges do you face in your position?
  • What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
  • Why did you choose to work at your current company?
  • What was your preparation for work in this field?
  • How did you get into this field? What special skills did you have before entering it?
  • Are there any skills you wished you had before starting the job?
  • What educational preparation would you recommend for a new hire in this field?
  • What experiences/skills do you expect new hires to have for this position?
  • How would you describe the culture of your organization?
  • What values does your company highly regard?
  • How do you know you are successful in what you do?
  • How does your company develop leaders?
  • With your current perspective, what additional skills would you have developed while at school to prepare you for this role?
  • What do you like the most and the least about your job?
  • What are the greatest rewards of your work?
  • What are the greatest frustrations? How do you deal with them?
  • What professional associations are beneficial to this job?
  • Is there anyone else you suggest I contact?
  • May I remain in contact with you? 

Sample Email Language 

Utilize the sample emails below as a guide to contacting your first interviewees.

(No prior connection)

Subject:  WIT student seeking industry knowledge

Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,

I am a sophomore at Wentworth Institute of Technology studying Biomedical Engineering. I found your name through the LinkedIn WIT alumni page. As a sophomore seeking my first co-op, I am hoping to learn from current professionals in the field. In viewing your LinkedIn page, I feel like I could gain valuable insight from what you have to share about your experience.

I wondered if we might be able to set a time for a quick 20-30 minute meeting where I could ask you some questions that will help me prepare for the co-op search ahead of me. We could meet in person, or speak over the phone/SKYPE.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Your first and last name

 

(From referral)

Subject: WIT student referred by Professor Christiano

Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,

I am a sophomore studying Facilities Planning and Management at Wentworth Institute of Technology.  Professor Christiano encouraged me to contact you. I would like to learn more about the field of Facilities Planning and Management before I begin my co-op search. I am particularly interested to learn about your own experience at (insert name of company).

I hope to meet with you at your convenience. Please email me with times and dates that are compatible with your schedule. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Your first and last name

 

Spring 2019 WITwear Hours: Mon–Wed 4PM–8PM, Thurs 5PM–8 PM, Fri 10AM– 12:30PM

Make an appointment with your Co-op + Career Advisor by calling the front desk at 617 989 4101.