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Life Skills College Doesn’t Teach You

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When entering the real world after college, many recent graduates are unprepared for the real world and lack basic life skills and knowledge. This isn’t always the fault of the education system or a lack of effort. There are simply some things that we need to know that we are not taught in traditional education. Rather we must make an effort to learn these skills ourselves and must ready ourselves for the real world. Here are five important life skills all students should be taught before graduating college in order to be ready for the real world.

How to Prepare for An Interview

life skills - interview

One of the most important aspects of the real world is knowing how to prepare for a job interview. It is important to know how to dress oneself properly and appropriately and how to behave within an interview. Although past experience and knowledge are very important in getting a job, the interview itself is how employers decide whether or not you are suitable for the job.  Before going to an interview it is of vital importance to do proper research on the company, the position itself, and the culture of the position.

How to Do Your Own Taxes

life skills - taxes

Although many people rely on personal accountants to do their taxes for them, it is important to at least have a grasp on how to go about doing your own taxes. Everyone has to do them and by learning how to do them, you can save money by not hiring someone else to do something that you can do yourself. If you are employed and earning money you will have to file taxes. Understanding how taxes affect your income and whether or not you are being taxed too much or too little is quite important.

How to Cook Proper Meals

life skills - cooking

In college it is possible to skate by with only knowing a couple basic meals or by relying on meal plans or the traditional ramen noodle diet that college students seem to go with quite often.  Once in the real world it is necessary to not only know how to cook for yourself, but to know how to prepare healthy meals that get you all the nutrients and vitamins that you need. By learning how to cook proper meals you can not only keep yourself healthy, but can also save quite a bit of money by cutting down on how often you eat out.

How to Manage Money

life skills - money

Many college students have never had much financial freedom and have had their parents either handle their finances completely or control them for the most part. In the real world, it is necessary to keep track of what you are spending and earning in order to ensure that you have enough to make it through the month or to do the little things you want to do. Investing in a basic finance course or enlisting the help of a friend to teach you how to handle money is a great idea. It is also a smart idea to learn a little more about banking and to learn to budget expenses monthly and weekly.

How to Balance Social and Work Life

life skills - work life balance

One of the worst mistakes that recent graduates make is focusing too much on either the social or professional aspects of their lives.  Some focus wholeheartedly on work, putting all of their effort into furthering their career without leaving time for relationships and friends. On the other hand, many do not know how to focus on their work without cutting down on the social life that they enjoyed during college, and struggle to either find a job or keep up with their work life. Just because you have graduated doesn’t mean your social life needs to be over. However, it doesn’t mean that focusing on work isn’t important. It is imperative to find a healthy balance between the two.

Although it is important to enjoy college and the freedom that you enjoy, it is also necessary to learn a few life skills that are of the uttermost importance.  Doing so will help you find success upon graduating.

Music at Work

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Yesterday my mom called me from work. She was having trouble being productive—the office was quiet, she had tons of work, it just didn’t add up! Then it struck us, put on some music. Even as background sound it can add something extra and get your creative juices flowing.

Now, some people hate distractions when they’re working. They would rather sit alone and work than ever be bothered by people, or worse music. But on the flip side, some people can’t work without it, they need music, or background movement to get anything done.

In fact, this summer at my internship, everyone had headphones in and was glued to Spotify as they completed their daily tasks. I loved it—but then again, I’m team music. It helps me focus while also letting my brain breathe. When it’s silent and I’m studying I feel like I’m boring myself to sleep!

But since the verdict is out, and there are supporters on side of the “to listen or not listen at work” debate, I was surprised to find that some companies are blocking free streaming sites.

My mom couldn’t pull up Spotify, Pandora, or even AOL music—all blocked. But why? Just because these sites exist doesn’t mean everyone at the office wants to listen to them, and just because music is involved doesn’t automatically mean it’s a distraction.

In my mind, the option to listen should be available—music isn’t like facebook, you don’t need to block it! As long as you are doing your work, or studying, or whatever your task list might be, then it doesn’t matter what else is going on around you. While I do agree with blocking shopping, and social media—music is pushing it.

But maybe I’m wrong? Where do you weigh in?

Do you listen, or shut it completely out?

 

Being Professional Online

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While you’re interning this summer, you also want to keep in touch with all of your friends online. Your Facebook wall is full of curse words, your Twitter feed is all about partying and you have a ton of posted pictures that are seemingly less than professional. Your boss just friend requested you—not to mention potential employers are constantly looking you up online—so it’s time to clean up your online platforms.

One of the easiest things you can do is control your privacy settings. When friending your boss, it’s important to make sure your profile doesn’t have anything too scandalous. Keep your albums private—if necessary, don’t feel like your employer or colleagues can’t see anything you post, unless you just really want to keep your personal life and work life completely separate. If friends post inappropriate comments on your wall, you can either make your entire wall private or make individual posts private. Even easier, you can talk to your friends about what they post; hopefully, they can clean up their act, at least while you’re actively interning.

Besides privacy, you also need to be conscious of what you are posting. Watch how much personal information you put on your profiles. When tweeting, don’t post every single thing you’re doing every hour of the day. Not only could it lead to unexpected stalkers, but it’s annoying for everyone who follows you. This isn’t necessarily unprofessional, but it makes your profiles overall appear too simple and doesn’t necessarily show off your true self—at least as an employee or intern. Instead, try retweeting posts from your company (not every single one, or even every day) and other places that interest you. Post some interesting articles related to your school major or skills. The more variety you have throughout your online profiles, the easier it will be for employers—current and those seeking you out for interviews—to paint a picture of what you can bring to the company and also how they can cater to your interests.

Finally, and most importantly, to keep a professional Facebook or Twitter, don’t post negative comments about your work. Think or yourself as an ambassador for the company. If you’re posting that you hate your boss, you have an annoying colleague, or that you just hate what you’re doing, you shouldn’t expect to be working there much longer. If you feel the need to vent—about work, personal issues or anything like that—keep it off the Internet. It might be funny, it might lead to a lot of comments on your Facebook wall, but it’s not classy or professional. Besides, a good phone call or in person venting session is always fun.

Overall, just be aware of what you and others are posting on your profiles. It’s not hard to remain professional, it just takes active attention to your accounts. Good luck, interns!

– ToonyToon

Summer Budgets for the Frugal Intern

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A summer of interning can be expensive, especially when you have to move to a different city. Even worse when you’re unpaid or making hardly anything. Being in a new city can add to the stress of money problems, since you don’t know what’s an expensive store or where the best bargains can be found. But there are ways to easily save your money while learning a lot at your internship—without having to call up your parents to get you some money pronto. By the end of the summer, you’ll be a money saving machine.

The best way to insure saved money is setting up a budget for each week or month, whatever’s necessary. But don’t just set up how much you’ll spend here and there for show—you need to actually stick to it. To make a successful budget, you need to first anticipate the necessities. If you’re in a housing arrangement not already paid for, rent is obviously a first priority (and don’t forget about utilities if those aren’t included). After subtracting rent from the amount of money you can afford to spend, food is priority number two. Think carefully about how much you actually think you’ll need to spend on food. If you want to save money, you should plan on stocking up on groceries to cook for yourself and pack a lunch instead of eating out at every meal. Instead of stopping by Starbucks on the way to work everyday, make yourself some Folgers. Carry a water bottle in your bag for throughout the day. These little things add up to a lot of money left in the bank.

Within this budget, you should plan to have extra money—not spending it all until there’s $0 left. By including some savings, you’ll always have something to fall back on if necessary, and saving your money is a good life practice in general. You do not want to go into debt because you were in the city and just couldn’t resist going into every store and buying a little something. Even if it’s not a shopping spree, every purchase counts toward that budget and could eat into your next meal or subtract from your rent—neither of which will end well for you. Plus, you never know when the unexpected could pop up. What if you get hurt and need to go to the hospital (even with insurance, this can cost you and your parents might not be able to take care of it immediately)? Or it’s late at night and you feel a little freaked out by your surroundings so want to take a cab home to be safe. Having extra for the unplanned for events will make you feel better and more prepared. Besides, having a big 0 staring at you is not going to make you feel good about surviving the rest of the summer on your own, no matter how pretty the new outfit or how awesome the new video game is.

Of course, you also need to think of the wants and needs. Obviously we all want a killer wardrobe and to go to an amazing concert, but we don’t need these things—you need clothes, duh, but not items that come with a $100 price tag. That doesn’t mean you can never splurge a little, but make sure you have room in your budget for it first. Keep your paycheck (if applicable) in mind and think about what you can actually afford to splurge on. If you already ate out several times this week and rent’s coming up, don’t tempt yourself with shopping trips No one said being frugal was easy, but to survive as an intern, sometimes we have to make sacrifices on the more fun aspects of life for a bit.

Saving money can be hard, especially with an itty bitty paycheck, but it can be done. If you’re serious about having money always available in the bank and not spending your summer entirely broke because you can’t stop spending, you need to carefully weigh your purchases. Buy groceries instead of dining out—you’ll save money and you’ll learn a lot of great dishes to prepare. Try not to buy new clothes or video games unless you really have the money to spare or actually need a new dress for a special work event. Don’t let yourself fall into debt because you decided to buy a new TV for your summer apartment. It isn’t worth it, and it’s better to get into good spending habits now so you’re prepared for when you’re alone in the future. Be strong, be smart with your money and try not to stress too much—it is summer after all.

Happy saving!

– ToonyToon

Don’t Get Taken Advantage of as an Intern

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In an Anthropology class at California State University last semester, a professor was teaching about power dynamics.  Each student made a list of the people who have power over us.  Then, we made a list of power we have over others.  In every instance where a person has power over us, we have power over them as we are giving them power.  For example, in a classroom, the professor holds power as it is his job to conduct the class, but the students have power as well.  They have power in numbers.  They can get the professor fired if they feel the instructor is being disrespectful, dishonest, unprofessional or what have you.  As we head into internships this summer, paid and unpaid, let us remember the dynamics of power.

Many companies, especially large corporations, have been accused of taking advantage of interns.  Sending students off on coffee runs day after day without any interest in helping them grow in their professional lives is not an unpaid internship; that is an errand boy.  It is true that we all need to start somewhere.  Be sure to know and see the difference between starting at the bottom and getting taken advantage of.  It is up to you to decide whether you are being treated fairly, no one will do this for you.

Some unpaid internships are worth your time and energy if you are honing your skills and learning under experts.  To be sure that you are not wasting your time, be sure to ask your future employer what exactly your responsibilities will be.  Being asked to take lunch orders is a red flag.  Answering phones however, is a task that falls under the “do what you have to do to get started” category.

There are early signs that can indicate if an internship is going to kick start your career or turn you into a barista.  How long does it take for the company to contact you?  If you ask your future boss a question, a month should not go by before you figure an answer.  On the same note, do not expect the world to stop what they are doing to cater to your every beck and call.

A word on payment: do not be fooled by the words “paid internship.”  Paid internship does not necessarily mean well-paid internship.  It is like when you see those sales racks in the mall of things $5 and up.  Theoretically, they can put a $50 tee shirt there and not be lying.  Will you be getting hourly pay, making commission, per article or per whatever it is that you will be producing?  Will you be getting paid as a stipend at the end, receive monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly payments?  These are all important questions to ask when speaking with a future employer.

Sometimes after the internship begins, red flags arise.  Do you constantly feel as though you are being talked down upon?  Do you feel the people you are working with have any interest in helping you?  Don’t get me wrong; the person you are interning for is not a Guru, a teacher, nor a babysitter, but they should show some interest in helping you learn the ropes, especially to start.

If you feel as though you are getting mistreated, your first step toward solving the problem should be taking a deep breath.  Not much good comes from anger.  Talk with someone you trust to figure out if you are being played or need to suck it up and get to work.  Once you have decided that you need to talk with your boss, you then need to choose how to do so.

If your check is late, a polite email is appropriate.  If you feel you are being disrespected or degraded in some way, an eight-page text is not the way to go.  Ask for a meeting with your boss.  Calmly explain your situation.  Be sure to have a plate full of moxie before you sit him or her down as it will be one of those times in your life where you almost pee your pants.  Deep breath, talk calmly but make your point clear.

Let’s try to fix things before we blow them up, although if you come into problem after problem or feel completely disrespected, be sure to do what is best for you.  It is easy to get wrapped up doing what’s best for others, and generally you are ultimately benefitting, but remember that if your not happy yourself, you won’t be able to please anyone else.

-TravelBug