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.

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.

CO-OPS + CAREERS Neurodiversity in the Workplace Recap

By: Kristen Eckman

Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Workshop and Panel Discussion

January 22, 2019

10:00 – 12:00pm

On Tuesday, January 22nd, Wentworth Institute of Technology CO-OPS + CAREERS partnered with the Massachusetts General Hospital Aspire Program to host the inaugural Neurodiversity in the Workplace Summit.

Speaker

Most organizations have started to recognize the importance of diversity in the workplace. In 2018, neurodiversity gained the attention of employers who understand that neurodiverse candidates are a rich, untapped pool of highly qualified individuals who can be sourced for traditionally hard-to-fill roles.  People who are neurodiverse often have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  While many with ASD are highly competent, loyal, trustworthy, and demonstrate strong attention to detail, sometimes they struggle through interviews due to their challenges with social interactions and communication skills.

‘Neurodiversity’ means valuing the differences in how people think and work. A diagnosis of ADHD, autism/Asperger’s syndrome, or a learning disability may indicate a different set of strengths than someone considered ‘neurotypical.’ What makes these individuals different, may be the very characteristics that add value to a team. Since 10% of adults are either on the autism spectrum or have Asperger’s, ADHD, or a learning disability, most workforces are already neurodiverse. Companies like Microsoft, SAP, EY, HP and Dell EMC have recognized and highlighted the benefit of a neurodiverse workforce.

Panel discussion

Wentworth Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts General Hospital have created a partnership, ASPIRE@Wentworth to support Wentworth’s neurodiverse co-op students and their employers. The Summit allowed Wentworth to share our unique program and helped employers learn how to access and support neurodiverse talent in their workplace.  Our employer partners, Turner Construction Company and National Grid, spoke about their successes and challenges on-boarding neurodiverse candidates and two Wentworth neurodiverse students told their stories about succeeding in the workplace.

Student speakers

To learn more about autism in the workplace, please read: https://trainingindustry.com/articles/workforce-development/autism-at-work-hiring-and-training-employees-on-the-spectrum/

https://hbr.org/2017/05/neurodiversity-as-a-competitive-advantage

And to see how top organizations are embracing neurodiverse hiring, spend two minutes watching this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8SELIzv8Vc

To learn more about the co-op program and hiring Wentworth students please visit our website or email coopsandcareers@wit.edu.

Grad School FAQs Pt. 3: The Application

A guest series by WIT Faculty: Aaron Carpenter

In a previous post, we discussed the basics of graduate school, focusing on the differences between degree programs.  If you have not seen that post, check it out here.

application image

In this post, I will share some hints on how to apply to graduate school. I have personally reviewed graduate applications at other institutions, so some of these hints are coming from my own experience.  Other hints have come from a variety of other sources, including other professors, on whom you should rely to help. Through this process, make sure to talk to your career advisor and your academic advisors, as well as any professors willing to help.

Let’s get to the questions:

Before a student applies, how do they even know where to apply? Is it similar to applying to undergraduate programs?

  • First choose an area in which you want to study. Ideally this is more specific than your undergrad major, but might not be. For this, think about the most interesting experiences you’ve had in courses, projects, jobs, or just general curiosity.Given this information, talk to your advisor, peers who have graduated, and professors in the field to get a sense of quality schools/programs.You can use national published rankings as an initial feature, but be more focused in your search.
    • For example, department size in terms of students and faculty, location of the school, strength in specific areas, support structures and resources, and amount of research funding via grants).
  • Now start checking websites for school Unlike in undergrad, you won’t be applying to the University as a whole, but instead a particular program. Thus, quickly delve into parts of the site focusing on the department, the research areas/labs therein, faculty, and course offerings. Some of the important details to note for specific labs are where graduates work, size of the labs, publishing activity, time to graduations, student jobs after graduation, and funding sources.
  • As you narrow your programs to which to apply, choose those that have a specialty you are interested in, not just based on overall reputation.Be sure to have “safety” schools and “reach” schools: don’t reach with all your picks, but also don’t aim too low.

Now assuming students have a list of schools, should students send a resume? Similar to a job?

  • Most schools will want a résumé or CV (curriculum vitae), to get an overall sense of credentials and course/work/project experience.For industry jobs you likely received the advice of keeping it down to a page –for graduate applications,it can be quite a bit longer (2-5 pages). The CV should contain: education history, job history, all relevant projects from courses or extra-curricular, memberships (IEEE, ACM, SWE, NSBE), all skills/qualifications, research interests, relevant courses taken, and any other academic/professional elements that will strengthen your candidacy (probably exclude “hobbies” unless they are relevant).While the base content will probably be the same across applications, you should reformat based on individual schools/labs as appropriate; you may want to reorder projects or skills to be tailored to a specific school/lab.There are numerous templates and examples online, but you should talk to available resources on your campus (CO-OP +CAREER Center and advisors).

What else do people need when they apply?

  • There is usually a personal statement or a statement of purpose.  This is somewhat like a graduate school version of a cover letter.  It is your opportunity to explain why you want a graduate degree from that school in that topic, and why YOU are suited to it.  Use this document to provide details on resume items (like, what a project taught you, how it prepared you, how it applies to that program/lab). Try to stand out a bit; these get boring when faculty read a bunch of them at once. Grammatical errors are a non-starter; readers will just put it down and move on, so PROOFREAD.
  • Again, the base can be quite similar across applications, but you will likely specialize at LEAST the school/lab name (be sure not to forget!), but ideally also call out individual faculty that might offer a course (Master’s) or advise research related to your interests (PhD). This specificity will help the graduate committee steer your application to the right people for evaluation.

Will students need references?

  • Yes, and the writers are usually 3-4 academic people (professors, instructors, department chairs, research advisor, academic advisor). You can get a boss or supervisor, if they can speak strongly to your project/research experience, but focus on academics.  A good letter gets into specifics at length – so choose individuals that know you and your work/abilities beyond attendance or a grade in a class.
  • Give time for this; don’t wait until the last second. Ideally meet with each writer a couple months out, provide them with the list of programs and associated deadlines, as well as best drafts of your supporting materials. You may offer points for them to focus on. As the deadlines approach, be sure to monitor progress and respectfully provide infrequent reminders (faculty get busy and can forget!).

Most programs will require GRE scores (also TOEFL for international students). How should students prepare for these?

  • Think of this as the SATs for grad school. Take it as early as you can, and you can take it more than once (though you will need to pay for each time). As with SATs, you will have the scores sent to the schools directly, but you may also list the scores on the resume/application as well.
  • These are taken on a computer, so you will know some scores by completion of the exam. The test is also adaptive based upon your responses – be sure to read up on the test and practice ahead of time.For technical fields, the Math component matters more (and will likely have higher requirements), but verbal/writing ability is also important (especially for PhD).  The verbal scores could impact your placement in terms of teaching assistantships.
  • You will also need your school to send official transcripts to each program.

When should students be applying? When should you start?

  • If you are potentially interested in research, try to find an opportunity as early as possible in undergrad to gain some experience. Talk with professors in your classes as a starting point.
  • In your junior/early senior year you should focus on finding schools of interest and taking GREs.
  • In the fall of your senior year you need to arrange for recommendation letters early, and expect to submit all the materials by November/December.

In the spring of your senior year you will begin receiving acceptance/rejection notices (typically January-March). Many PhD programs will offer visits to try to convince you to join their program, although sometimes there may be intermediate interview stages. Official decisions typically occur in early-mid April.

If all works out, you’ll be attending a graduate program in the coming Fall!

What do you do after you have submitted?

  • Sort of like getting a job, you should follow up. Keep your eyes open for emails or phone calls; reach out to faculty and departments.
  • In the end, choose based on school reputation, job opportunities, research opportunities, funding/cost, and overall feel – trust your gut 🙂

For more questions regarding the application process, make an appointment with your Co-op + Career Advisor by calling the front desk at 617 989 4101.

Fall 2018 WITwear Hours: Mon – Thurs 5 PM – 8 PM, Fri 10 AM – 3 PM

Graduate School FAQS PT. 2

A guest series by WIT Faculty: Aaron Carpenter

In a previous post, we discussed the basics of graduate school, focusing mostly on Master’s degrees.  If you have not seen that post, you can find it here.  In this post, we will instead focus on PhD programs, with some touches of other degrees.

phd comic

General PhD FAQs:

  • What is the structure of a PhD program? What are the basics?
    • A PhD is definitely a large undertaking than a master’s and needs to be considered carefully. A PhD can take 4-7 years full-time beyond the Master’s, possibly more depending on the topic and the advisor, or if you choose part-time.  Because of the difficulty and the time commitment, you need a good reason to go into a PhD program.  The main reasons to pursue a PhD are because you want to go into academia, say as a college professor, or if you want to get into really cutting-edge research either at a university or at a large research lab.  Both of these positions typically require a PhD.  If the reasons you are thinking of a PhD are more like, “I want to be called Dr.” or “I don’t have a job, so I am thinking of grad school,” or “My family wants me to,” those are reasons that often result in burn-out.  PhD is a long, difficult road, so it is important to have that pure motivation to help you through the harder days. Having that light at the end of the tunnel is key.
    • You will build a network of fellow graduate students, typically your lab, that will become friends and “academic family” for life. The head of this family will be your advisor – the relationship you have with this individual, unlike an “academic advisor” in undergrad, will greatly determine your level of personal happiness, time to completing the degree, and job prospects upon graduation.
  • What role does a PhD advisor have?
    • Your advisor will help determine your specialty, your projects, and your day to day activities. You will choose your advisor, and he or she will also choose you, often helping to pay you something through stipend.  When you apply to PhD programs, you want to research potential advisors. Everyone has different experiences with their advisors, but the key is to have a strong working relationship.  You will spend a lot of time with them and they will determine your project and your classes, so you need to be able to work with them.
    • The advisor is also the source of funding. If accepted to a PhD program, you will want to be fully funded. This means tuition and fees fully paid for, as well as insurance and a small living stipend. By small, we mean enough to share an apartment, feed yourself, and very little else.
  • Would I be taking classes within the PhD?
    • You will take some classes, but mainly in support of your PhD research, which is chosen by you and your advisor. You may audit, or just sit in some classes, or actually take them for full credit.  But, after any mandatory coursework, expect that you will spend 60-80 hours a week doing research in a lab of some sort.  Most of your research time, you are learning how to do literature searches, conceptual and practical research, how to think critically and deeply about data, question assumptions, and basically learn how to be an independent researcher.  You will also do presentations, write papers for journals and conferences, disseminate your research to the community. All of these will hopefully lead to your dissertation and defense.
  • What is the dissertation like?
    • The main component of PhD activities revolves around doing original research and publishing it. The dissertation is a basically a medium sized text-book on your field and your specific topic. I have seen theses at 200 pages or some over 400.  You will then defend your thesis in public, but mainly to a committee of faculty of 3-6 people.  Your advisor should help to prepare you the whole time, so when you get into the defense, you are prepared.  In that defense, you are proving that you are the foremost expert on that topic, regardless of how esoteric the topic might be.
    • In many programs, the PhD is a superset of the requirements for a Masters in that program. This means that after completing mandatory coursework, and possibly modest additional requirements, you will receive a Master’s degree on the road to a PhD (typically after the first 2 years). If during your (long and hard) pursuit of your PhD you realize that you don’t want to pursue research in your career, this path allows for a reasonable departure. Consider this when choosing the type of program to which to apply: you’ll probably pay for a Master’s, but not for a PhD. However, do NOT apply to PhD programs if you have no intention of continuing past the Master’s – this is an ethical gray area, and can easily lead to burned bridges (such as lose you a recommendation letter for employment after receiving your graduate degree!)
    • In the end, getting a PhD means having a passion for a particular topic, a reason to gut through the hardships and time, and the grit to continue. My PhD was trying, but I don’t regret it as it has led me to where I am now.  You need to love the research or aim at a job that needs the PhD, otherwise it is tough to make it through.
  • Other than Master’s or PhD, what other degree options after a Bachelor’s are there?
    • Other degrees are out there: MBA, law, medical. I can’t necessarily speak to all of these here, but other podcasts/seminars will discuss how to go into these different fields.  There are also plenty of resources on campus, including the co-op and career center and instructors/professors.
    • It is easier to transition than you might think to pursue graduate education in a field different than your undergrad. Essentially, you might need to take some bridge courses to give you a new foundation, but that should only add 1-2 semesters, and depending on your background, should be fairly straightforward.

For more questions regarding the application process, please check back later in the semester for Part Three!

Fall 2018 WITwear Hours: Mon – Thurs 5 PM – 8 PM, Fri 10 AM – 3 PM

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

Graduate School FAQs Pt. 1

A guest series by WIT Faculty: Aaron Carpenter

Aaron Carpenter Headshot

Meet Aaron Carpenter, he received a bachelor’s (2005), master’s (2006), and Ph.D. (2012) from the University of Rochester, all in the field of Electrical and Computer Engineering, focusing on computer architecture and VLSI design.  Prof. Carpenter then taught at 3.5 years at Binghamton University, teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses and supervising his own PhD and master’s research lab.  In 2015, he joined the ECE department at Wentworth Institute of Technology, focusing on computer engineering and engineering education.

Professor Carpenter will now introduce us to the first part of a three-part series on graduate school:

Graduate school is an important facet of STEM education.  While it is by no means required for your career, it is often a significant addition for long-term employment and promotion. But, here at Wentworth Institute of Technology, students have no academic contact with graduate students or graduate school, at least not yet.

Students often have curiosity regarding graduate school, and the goal of this article is to answer some frequently asked questions.  We will discuss some introductory information regarding graduate school, including various motivations for graduate studies, some details on various degrees, specifically in engineering and science.  The discussion will mostly be around the STEM fields, but could apply to other fields.

Before going into the questions and answers, let me describe some of my qualifications.  I have a bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degree from University of Rochester, all in Electrical and Computer Engineering.  I then taught at Binghamton University for 3.5 years, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, advising master’s and PhD students doing research, and helping to review graduate applications at the request of the graduate director.  While I have some level of insight into graduate school and applications, please note you should consult your academic advisor, professors, and coop and career advisors for your specific graduate school goals.

General graduate school FAQs:

  • Why should people consider graduate school?
    • Undergraduate programs teach students an ability to analyze problems, think critically, learn skills pertaining to a particular field. The education is often broad, with your major classes provides some depth.
    • Master’s programs teach you a specialty within your field of study, developing a deeper knowledge and understanding, often aimed at more state-of-the-art areas.  Master’s will often push students toward the cutting edge, but not delve into deep research level more than a little bit, depending on the school and program.
    • PhD programs make you innovate in your field. You will learn about the cutting edge, and then add to it, becoming the expert in your field.  It builds on the skills learned in undergraduate and possibly Master’s work.  You will also learn about how to research on your own.
  • So why should someone get a Master’s or PhD?
    • There is a growing reliance on a Master’s degree in the industrial marketplace. Employers want employees that know the state-of-the-art and can think deeply and critically in their field.  They also want to see a dedication to your field.  So, to be more employable or upwardly mobile, or even to increase your salary, it is a good idea to pursue graduate studies.  That could be full-time, part-time, right after your undergraduate, years later, but you should look into it seriously at some point
  • What is the Master’s program like?
    • Full-time master’s work can range in length of time, averaging about 2 years. Different programs have different lengths, depending on if you are doing a thesis, or how many classes you take per year.  If you are pursuing part-time study, you would probably count on closer to 4-5 years, taking 1 course per semester, 2 semesters per year.
    • Programs range in number of classes, but most will be between 8-12, depending on the field. These courses will be of a higher level, beyond the basics learned in undergraduate programs.  Think of a technical or specialized elective in your junior or senior year, and that is roughly the starting point.  Depending on your program, some of the credits typically reserved for classes would be replaced by either a project or a thesis.  A project would be about 1 semester of dedicated time, often in support of some larger research goals of the professor.  Similarly, you could have a thesis, which is often 2 semesters of more dedicated research, again sometimes in support of larger research goals.  The thesis would require you to write a dissertation and defend it to a committee, although it would be must smaller than a PhD thesis, which we will discuss later.
  • Do students need to have research before they apply to graduate school then?
    • You don’t need undergraduate research going into grad school, but it does not hurt to have a little bit of experience. You can get that kind of experience by talking to professors about getting involved in research work as an undergrad.
  • Students often need to worry about cost of education. What should students expect for financing graduate school?
    • As a baseline, you should assume that you will likely have to pay tuition/fees/etc. while pursuing your Master’s degree. This is a big difference between the Master’s and a PhD. Master’s students can get scholarships, fellowships, or assistantships like teaching or research assistant. However, these funding opportunities are typically reserved for PhD students.  You can inquire at individual programs regarding these opportunities.  There are also external grants you can get, such as from NSF or DoD.  Some companies may partially or fully fund a Master’s degree, though typically in exchange for a mandatory employment period.
  • How should students try to find these programs and opportunities?
    • For funding, that would be based on the program or the school. But picking a program or school is a whole process. You want to choose a school or program based on the specialties you are interested in.  If you don’t know yet, that is ok also.  But if you are interested in a particular field, say artificial intelligence, make sure you find a department that has those classes and research available.  That means looking at department and faculty websites prior to application.
    • There are online programs out there. Be cautious of their quality. Do your background research and speak with faculty or the co-op and career center to check their quality.
  • Once a student has found a program, what is it like to be in graduate school? Is it similar to undergraduate programs?
    • Once you get to the program, you will be surrounded by like-minded people, pursuing graduate careers. This community of students will be similar to your undergraduate, but now it is a self-selecting group of scholars, all choosing to dive deeper in their field.   This can be a great advantage, as many of you are now in it together, creating a support structure
    • It can also work against you in something called “imposter syndrome”. This happens when you are surrounded by people who are smart and driven, and can often make you feel like an imposter. Students and faculty no matter how accomplished, are susceptible to it.  It is the feeling that if someone wanted to, they could prove you are not worthy of your opportunities, like you are an imposter in your field. It is important to remember that everyone feels that way once in a while.  It is less common in MS, but is more common in PhD.

For more questions regarding the PhD program, please check back next week for Part Two!

Fall 2018 WITwear Hours: Mon – Thurs 5 PM – 8 PM, Fri 10 AM – 3 PM

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

How to WORK the CO-OP + CAREER Fair

By: Caitlin Brison

Image of a smiling leopard.
TFW you nail the CO-OP + CAREER Fair

An approach for everyone, whether you are low-key or EXTRA!

Low Key EXTRA
RESEARCH
  • Find the list of employers attending on the “Fairs App” and research the ones that interest you.
  • Look to see if they have positions posted so you can find out more.
  • Create a spreadsheet, categorizing employers into A, B, and C lists.
  • Write down a few questions you might ask them at the fair. Refer to them before each conversation.
RESUME
  • Write, review, and edit your resume.
  • Come to Drop-Ins to make sure it is ready for the Career Fair.•  Print out 10-20 copies and tuck them in a folder to hand out.
  • Make an appointment with your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor to go over your Resume.
  • Print 10-20 copies and carry them in a professional padfolio.• Make your own business cards.
PLAN
  • The plan is to go, shake some hands, meet some employers, ask good questions, and hand out some resumes.  Go with it!
  • Locate the employer booths on the Fairs App ahead of time and map out your route.
  • Maybe talk to a couple employers on your C list to start before moving on to your first choices!
DRESS
  • Gather your professional attire.
  • Visit WITwear to borrow any items you may still need!
  • Iron, steam, fresh haircut!  Look your best.
  • Also…visit WITwear to borrow any items you need!
PITCH
  • Build a 30-second pitch and practice it in the mirror so you come across relaxed and professional.
  • Practice a firm handshake.
  • Record yourself and watch it back.  Be mindful of eye contact, fidgets, and filler (“um, like”).
  • Pitch with a friend and practice your handshakes!
THANK YOU
  • Shake their hand and thank them for their time answering your questions and speaking to you.
  • Collect business cards so you can write thank you notes the next day.
  • If they requested your application electronically – pass it along or let them know you applied!

Check out ALL our helpful guides on resumes, networking, pitches, and more on our website: https://coopsandcareers.wit.edu/resources/

Fall 2018 WITwear Hours: Mon – Thurs 5 PM – 8 PM, Fri 10 AM – 3 PM
Fall 2018 All Day Resume Drop-ins: Fri 9/28 & Mon 10/1 10 AM – 4 PM
CO-OPS + CAREERS Office + Douglas D Schumann Library & Learning Commons

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

Harassment in the Workplace

By: Lauren Creamer

“The change I want to see is a start-up environment where everyone, regardless of gender and background, feels welcome and safe; where sexual harassment or discrimination will not impede great talent from producing great impact.” – Christine Tsai (2017 Silicon Valley Business Journal article)

“Be an upstander, not a bystander. If you see harassment happening, speak up. Being harassed is terrible; having bystanders pretend they don’t notice is infinitely worse.” – Celeste Ng (2017 Teen Vogue article)

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What is harassment and why should you care?

Workplace harassment has existed for as long as the workplace – but it has recently garnered a swarm of media attention (rightfully so). I’m writing today to share some background about what constitutes harassment, how employees (co-op students included) are protected under the law, what support Wentworth can offer you should you experience or witness harassment in the workplace.

Harassment occurs when someone is treated differently, or some engages in offensive behavior based on their membership of a protected class. I.e. making a joke about race, or an inappropriate comment about how someone is dressed based on their gender. Harassment differs from discrimination in that discrimination involves making decisions (hiring, firing, promotion, assignments) based on one’s belonging to a protected class.

Harassment can happen anywhere – and you could be the target or the perpetrator. If don’t know what harassment looks like, how would you know? This post will hopefully illuminate the issues and give you the tools necessary to prevent and address harassment while on the job.

 

You keep using the term “protected class” … what does that mean?

Protected classes are the groups protected from the employment discrimination by law. These groups include men and women on the basis of sex; any group which shares a common race, religion, color, or national origin; people over 40; and people with physical or mental handicaps. Every U.S. citizen is a member of some protected class, and is entitled to the benefits of EEO law. However, the EEO laws were passed to correct a history of unfavorable treatment of women and minority group members.

Massachusetts has widened the scope of protected class to include employers are prohibited from discriminating against prospective employees based on ancestry, gender identity, criminal record, retaliation, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, active military personnel, and genetics.

 

What is non-retaliation and how are you protected?

Before we define the types of harassment, you need to know that you are protected from it in multiple ways.

You are protected from retaliation (a.k.a. “getting even”). It is illegal to punish or take action against a person who has brought forward a concern of harassment or discrimination. Examples of retaliation include taking away responsibilities, transferring to new location or shifts, not hiring/promoting.

You are also protected by Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, relationship violence/intimate partner violence, and other gender-based and sexual misconduct. Co-op is considered an educational experience, and so you are protected by Title IX.

And, as an employee (which you will be considered when you are on co-op) Title VII protects you from discrimination against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Finally, The Americans with Disabilities Act (more commonly known as the ADA) protects individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

Basically – these laws protect you from discrimination and harassment in the workplace and at school on the basis of any of those protected classes listed at the beginning of this presentation.

 

Two Types of Harassment

“Quid Pro Quo” is the most commonly recognized form of sexual harassment, more simply stated as “this for that”. For example, your supervisor says to you “meet me for drinks later…..you are looking for a regular job here after graduation, aren’t you?” thus implying that you need to get a drink with them because that is the only way you could advance at that company. (You may see this in movies quite a bit… re: Legally Blonde).

The second type of recognized harassment is the “Hostile Work Environment” – unwelcome conduct based on protected characteristics (gender, race, national origin, gender identity, etc.) that interferes with an individual’s ability to perform their job. Persistent jokes or comments about women’s inability to be an engineer is an example of this type of harassment.

It is also important to note that harassment MUST BE PERVASIVE. If it happens once, it’s still a problem that needs to be addressed, but it is not defined as a pattern of harassment. Pervasive – repetitive, pattern, constant.

 

Where does harassment happen?

In the office (or at a work off-site), online (email, social media, texts), during social events or after work hours. Are you interacting with people from work? Yes? It’s still considered workplace harassment, no matter where you are. Even if the experience is unpaid (ex: a volunteer on-site or an unpaid intern) – you/they are still legally considered an employee (at least, this is what our HR department would argue).

ANYONE can perpetrate harassment. Supervisors, co-op workers, contractors, CEOs, visitors, other co-op students or interns.

 

What can you do if you experience or witness harassment?

  • When in doubt – call your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor! We can help you formulate a plan.
  • Speak directly to your manager/supervisor to share the concern.
  • What if it involves your supervisor?
    • Reach out to Human Resources, the division head of your organization, or your boss’s boss.
  • Center for Wellness is a confidential resource – you can receive support from one of the counselors on staff to help you work through the experience.
  • Speak directly to the person whose conduct was inappropriate/offensive. You have the power to address that person directly! (And again, your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor can help you craft that response).
  • Review your organization’s policies for complains/concerns. There may be a clearly defined process for addressing harassment documented on the company’s external or internal website.
  • Engage Wentworth’s Title IX Coordinator, Linda Shinomoto. She is the resident expert on Title XI and gender-based harassment.

When you work with us we will ask you how you want to address the issue, if at all. Your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor will help you reach your ideal resolution. There is no statute of limitations on harassment. Two weeks, two months, two years – you can still report it.

 

Harassment can happen anywhere.

Harassment is unfortunately not uncommon. It can happen to any gender, any ethnicity. You will likely experience, observe, and possibly even perpetrate it at some point during your career. But now you know how people who experience harassment are protected and supported, both on a legal level and at Wentworth. You have support and you are not alone.

 

You are not the cause.

If you do experience harassment, it is so important for you to know that you are not the case of someone else’s inappropriate behavior. Nothing you did caused it, and you don’t deserve to be treated this way by anyone.

 

Co-op Action Guide

By: Kristen Eckman

Wentworth offers one of the most comprehensive cooperative education (co-op) programs of its kind in the nation. A co-op is full-time, temporary employment in your field of study that enables you to apply classroom learning to professional work experience. Unlike most schools, co-op at Wentworth is a requirement: all undergraduate day students must successfully complete two co-op semesters in order to graduate.

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To prepare for your co-op semester, we suggest that you follow the Co-op Action Guide detailed below:

4-5 Months Before Co-op

  • Familiarize yourself with the Co-ops + Careers resources
  • Prepare a draft of your resume
  • Submit Co-op Terms & Conditions on WITworks
  • Meet with your Co-op + Career Advisor for WITworks access
  • International Students: talk with International Student Services about CPT requirements
  • Attend Co-op Institute to learn how to:
    • Create and edit your resume & cover letters
    • Develop an elevator pitch
    • Create/update your LinkedIn profile
    • Conduct informational interviews
  • Begin to create a Portfolio of completed work/projects
  • Join professional and student organizations
  • Identify companies with early application deadlines

3-4 Months Before

  • Meet with your Co-op + Career Advisor to finalize your application materials
  • Upload your resume to WITworks
  • Set up email alerts on WITworks and other job boards for positions of interest
  • Begin applying for co-ops, customizing your application to each opportunity
  • Schedule a mock interview with your Co-op + Career Advisor
  • Create list of references
  • Register for your co-op semester on Leopardweb
  • Make sure your interview attire fits, and is clean and pressed or visit WITwear to borrow items as needed

1-2 Months Before

  • Continue applying and interviewing
  • Meet with your Co-op + Career Advisor if you are not getting interviews
  • Send thank you notes to each employer 24 hours after an interview
  • Review co-op offers
  • Accept a co-op offer and notify any other employers you’ve interviewed with to withdraw your candidacy
  • Once you accept a co-op offer you MUST stop applying and interviewing
  • Report your hire on WITworks
  • International Students: Complete all CPT paperwork, get it signed by your Co-op + Career Advisor, and submit it to ISS
  • Thank your references and let them know you accepted a co-op

During your Co-op

  • Create work plan with your supervisor that outlines your responsibilities and addresses your learning goals
  • Meet regularly with your supervisor about your progress
  • Network with people across the organization and conduct informational interviews
  • Create a portfolio of accomplishments, including deliverables, skills acquired or honed, and any recognition you received making sure to receive permission from your employer to share any company information
  • At the end of your co-op, ask for a LinkedIn recommendation
  • Complete your self-evaluation to receive a passing grade
  • Ensure your employer evaluation is completed to receive a passing grade

Whether you are preparing for a co-op search or a job search, the Center for Cooperative Education and Career Development has the resources you need to be successful. If you haven’t met with a Co-op + Career Advisor yet, give us a call at 617-989-4101 to schedule an appointment and we’ll get you started on the right track.

A Guide to Personal Branding

By: Hadley Hopkins

Hi there! I’m Hadley Hopkins the marketing intern here at CO-OPS + CAREER. As an advertising student, I am very concerned with branding. Not only of the brands I work for but also my own personal brand. Below I am going to walk you through the steps of how to brand yourself by using my own professional life as a model, so you can learn a little about me and a lot about creating your own personal brand.

You may be thinking, ‘what is a personal brand and why do I need one?’ A personal brand is a combination of your skills and experiences that make you who you are. So technically, you already have one, but by shaping it into a clear message you will be more confident in your strengths and potential employers will easily be able to see who you are and what you stand for.

Find Your Strengths

The first step to creating your brand is to evaluate your strengths. I did this by making a list of my best qualities including character traits as well as industry related skills. I tried to think of traits that are unique to me and would make me stand out:

  • Teamwork
  • Flexible
  • Multi-tasking
  • Teachable
  • Strategic thinker
  • Logo design
  • Making GIFs
  • Branding

Once you have you have your list of attributes it is important to think of evidence to support these claims. Recall situations or experiences that prove these traits are a strength, for example:

Multi-tasking/flexible – At my past internship, I was working on a design project that was interrupted because my supervisor realized a flyer needed to go out to print by the end of the day to be done in time for the event. So, I began working on that project but then had to stop in the middle to go take pictures of an event that was taking place. Although I took on many projects at once I was able to prioritize to give each one the attention it needed to finish everything in a timely manner.

Logo design – I have created various logo designs for different companies, clubs and organizations

Share Your Story

Another aspect of your brand that you will want to focus on is your story. How did you get to where you are? What makes you passionate about your field?  This allows people to know you on an emotional level and not just as a list of your accomplishments and skills. For me, I like to tell the story of how I decided to study advertising:

Advertising and graphic design have been a passion of mine since I created, branded and marketed my own energy drink “Spazz” for my 7th grade technology class.  I found the balance of creativity and logistic to be the perfect mix for my analytical yet artsy mind.

Show Off Your Quirks

An additional way to make your brand seem more personal is by showing off your quirks. These habits make you who you are and can add some “spice” to your brand. For me, the fact that I am a southerner now living in Boston makes for interesting tidbits, as well as my passion for different cultures:

I may be from Georgia, but I have definitely adopted the New England lifestyle. You can catch me sporting my Red Sox hat, and ‘Bean Boots with a Dunkin’ in hand but I will never give up saying y’all. I love all things food, travel and art.

Find Your “Take-away”

Once you have figured out the main aspects of your brand you will be able to create a key take-away that embodies everything you want to express to potential employers:

“I am an analytical, yet creative thinker who is flexible and has a passion for creating meaningful work that helps enhance a brand.”

Although you will probably never be asked in an interview what your mission statement is, this key takeaway can give you direction for materials that future employers will see such as your resume, cover letter, portfolio and LinkedIn profile.  When creating these materials, it is important to ask yourself: ‘does this align with my brand and is my mission statement well represented?’

Another way to strengthen your brand is through the look of your materials. It’s important that your resume, cover letter, portfolio, and LinkedIn profile are cohesive. I suggest sticking with the same font across all materials and make sure you use the same header for both your resume and cover letter. This will help future employers recognize you better across all platforms.

Here is an example of my LinkedIn profile:

Example of LinkedIn Profile

And an example of my resume that I feel represent my brand:

Example Resume

Creating a personal brand takes time and effort but is totally worth it!  With these steps I hope you can create a brand that is uniquely your own and will help you stand out to employers.

As always, we encourage you to stop by CO-OPS + CAREERS to discuss your questions with a Co-op + Career Advisor. You can make an appointment or swing by fall drop-in hours every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 1:30 – 4:00 PM. Our office is located at 101 Wentworth Hall.

Feel free to contact us via email at coopsandcareers@wit.edu, or call us at 617-989-4101. We look forward to connecting with you soon!