Friday, April 14, 2017

The Final Countdown: Tips for Avoiding Senior Burnout

With less than a month left of the academic year, the class of 2017 is getting ready to say goodbye to Tufts. However, I think I speak for many seniors when I say that some goodbyes were said long ago: goodbye motivation, goodbye work ethic, goodbye ability to focus. Senior burnout - also known as senioritis, also known as "exhaustion due to 4 years of intensive academic study - is a pretty common phenomenon for college seniors across the nation. In my first post of the year, I wrote about embracing your inner SWUG during senior year, and trying to lead a worry- and regret-free lifestyle for the last year of college. While that still holds true, there's a very fine line between living up senior year and jeopardizing your GPA or future job prospects. Now is not the time to lose motivation, especially if you don't have a job yet. Here are some tips I'm trying to live by to ensure that I stay on track until the very end.
Leslie Knope in the episode where she gets recalled is me during senior spring.

Keep your eyes on the prize.
Right now, everything I do seems so insignificant. Why do I have to finish this problem set? Why do I need to write this paper? I have a job, nothing else matters! This may be true, and it's certainly okay to cut back a little bit on the stress of schoolwork, but I try to remind myself that the only reason I got a job was because of my commitment to my academics. If I let my GPA slip in the last few weeks of my college career, it could have long-term implications on both my career and grad school prospects. There's a light at the end of the tunnel, but I'll still have to work to get there.

Appreciate college while you can. There are times when I'm so over college - the erratic schedules, the constant workload hanging over your head, the STRESS - but there's a lot about the college lifestyle that is so unique, and that you'll never really get back. You're surrounded by people in your age group, who are all on similarly strange schedules that allow you to spend time with them throughout the week; you have (some) control over planning your schedule, and you can change it every few months; and you get to be immersed in an exciting and constantly changing academic institution that encourages you to think critically and actively about the world around you. I'm trying to embrace the full college experience, good and bad, before it ends.

Live a balanced life. With midterms weighing us all down, and finals looming in the not-too-distant future, we're all under a lot more stress than we'd like to be in our last weeks at Tufts. I'm trying to utilize all the time management skills that four years of college taught me to make sure that I'm staying physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy. Take lots of study breaks, try to do things that make you happy, and now that the weather is (finally) showing signs of spring, get outside and soak up some sun!

Find your people.  I have come to appreciate my friends so much in the past four years, but more than ever this past semester. In addition to being generally fantastic people, they're all experiencing what I am (at least, those who are seniors). Having people to talk about shared experiences is such an important part of getting through times when your motivation is low. And in the end, it's much easier to cross the finish line if you have someone to support you.

Alright, now that this menial task of writing a short blog post about myself is over, I'm going to take a quick 2-day nap. Keep up the energy as you head into finals, and to the class of 2017: we can do this. Look at how far we've already come.

Until next time,
Sean Boyden
Class of 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Personal Finance 101: Notes from Talking Money, Part 2

Last Wednesday night, I went to one of the most informative Career Center events that I've ever attended - which is saying a lot, considering that I've worked here for 3 years now. Stuart Paap's second installation of his "Talking Money" series - a group of events focused on personal finance for recent college graduates - finally demystified some of those ethereal concepts that I've never really known much about, like "401(k)" and "investing" and "surviving on a first job salary". Stuart was not only an engaging speaker, but an incredible source of knowledge on subjects about which many members of our generation know little. Since some of this information is crucial to a healthy and secure future, I thought I'd share my biggest takeaways from the evening:

The extent of my financial knowledge before this event.

Allocate your income. When it comes to determining how much to spend and how much to save, it seems like everyone has a different rule: put 20% of every paycheck in the bank, put 30% of your income towards your rent... it's hard to keep up with all of them. Stuart broke it down pretty simply, and gave a few hard-and-fast rules that everyone could follow, regardless of income. He sketched out a rough breakdown of your income: 50% goes to necessities (rent, bills, food, etc.), 25% goes to priorities (paying off debt, saving up for big purchases, grad school nest eggs), and 25% goes to wants (things you could in theory go without). These percentages could change over time - for example, cut back on the "wants" spending if you're going through a tight financial period - but lay the foundation for keeping yourself in check when it comes to your income.

Start saving for retirement immediately. I've always heard my parents and other real adults talk about saving for retirement, and throw around seemingly random combinations of letters and numbers in reference to different ways of doing it, but I've never really paid attention to the conversation. Now that I'm on the cusp of entering the working world, I've realized how important it is to start investing in your future. Stuart encouraged all of the workshop's attendees to start putting up to 20% of our monthly income into a retirement account - whether it's a 401(k), a 403(b), or an IRA. (Google all of these to find out the differences and which one is right for you!) This is such an important action, particularly for our generation; now that people are living longer and retiring younger, and the future of Social Security is questionable with the aging Baby Boomer generation, it's more important than ever to ensure that you have money to live on in the last stage of your life.

A popular reference during the workshop - and a real fear of mine on most days.

Get insurance. Being of the "Young Invincible" breed that insurance companies and health policy professionals detest, insurance has always seemed like an afterthought rather than a priority. But Stuart put it this way: insurance is meant to protect you from devastating loss. That protection is worth more than spending money on frivolous purchases, or even saving up for emergencies (which you may not be able to cover with your savings alone). He encouraged everyone to obtain health insurance, renter's insurance, car insurance (if applicable), and liability insurance. It may seem like a drain on your income, but it will be worth it in a worst-case scenario.

As you might be able to tell, Talking Money, Part 2 covered a lot of ground, and I've just scratched the surface here.There's a lot to know about personal finance after college, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming. A 2015 Tufts grad came with Stuart on Wednesday, and she emphasized that small steps, one at a time, will get you to a place of financial well-being. To all the soon-to-be graduates like myself: make sure that you are educated on financial literacy before you enter a world powered by money.

Until next time,
Sean Boyden
Class of 2017

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

5 Reasons to Work for the Career Center

Welcome back, everyone! With spring break behind us, we are in that final stretch of the 2016-2017 academic year - and less than two months away from Commencement 2017.

While I'm so incredibly excited to graduate and enter the workforce and undertake a whole new adventure, there are a few loose ends that still need to be addressed before I can leave. One of the biggest is finding my replacement(s) for the role that allows me to type up my career-oriented thoughts every week in this digestible blog format. The Career Center is currently recruiting for Social Media Interns. The applications are due 4/14, so time is running out to apply! The Career Center is also hiring fall student assistants.

While I will maintain a deep state of denial towards my upcoming departure from the Career Center for a few more weeks, I do want to share why I've stayed here for the past three years. Here are (only) five reasons why I love working for the Career Center:

1. Get connected with the Tufts community. As a Career Fellow, I've been able to co-host events with RAs, Greek life organizations, and on-campus clubs. I've held drop-ins in dorms and several of the Group of Six houses, I've spoken at campus-wide Career Center events, and overall I have met, emailed, or interacted with countless members of the Tufts community. My blog posts have (hopefully) reached hundreds of Jumbos, and I still get the occasional recognition from a friend who comes across our blog. It's a really great feeling not only to be able to ingrain yourself into a unique space like a college campus, but also to be able to become an active member within that space. If you're searching for ways to get involved, I highly recommend connecting with the Career Center.

2. Apply what you do to your own life. You'll go through some serious training if you become a Career Fellow. Through workshops on resumes, cover letters, internship searches and resources, and choosing a major, you'll quickly become an expert on personal career development. While this will definitely prepare you for one-on-one meetings with students, you can also apply your knowledge to your own resume, cover letter, or internship search. One of the proudest moments of my life happened a few weeks ago, when during a job interview, a recruiter complimented me on how "impressively formatted" my resume was. For a resume nerd like myself, this was the equivalent of her telling me my child was adorable.

3. Join a collaborative and creative team. The Career Center is filled with some pretty incredible people. I cannot stress enough how much I've enjoyed working with and getting to know my co-workers, both adult and fellow student (an important distinction to make, in my opinion, since I still do not consider myself a real adult). Not only have I gotten some great career and life advice from my colleagues, but I've also been able to work alongside some supportive, friendly, and caring humans.

4. Utilize and refine your existing skills. I joined the Career Center back in 2014 because I wanted another avenue to pursue writing, something I've always been passionate about. My work has allowed me to maintain this passion while strengthening my skills as a writer - all while getting paid to do it. But don't limit yourself to the job description - if you have a certain skill set, don't be afraid to mention it on your Career Fellow application. We've had Career Fellows use their graphic design skills to strengthen our marketing materials, even though this was never something a Career Fellow was expected to do. There's always room for what you can bring to the table!
In this metaphor, "girls" is really "The Career Center," and "boyfriends" is "student workers".

5. Support your fellow Jumbos. At the end of the day, meetings with students are the bread and butter of a Career Fellow's job. Truthfully, I've found this part of the work to be the most rewarding. Since resume/cover letter writing isn't exactly a subject taught in school, almost every student is starting from scratch when they apply for their first internship. It's so gratifying to be able to help a first- or second-year student get that internship they have their heart set on, or to be able to see the relief a student feels after they've gone through a resume critique and finally know that they're on the right track. Not to mention that the skills you'll gain in interpersonal communication and rapport-building will assist you in any future career field.

In case you didn't get the message, I really, really, really love my job, and think that any student would feel the same. With the fast-approaching deadlines, don't miss out on your chance to enhance your Tufts experience and further your career journey.

Until next time,
Sean Boyden
Class of 2017

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ready for Launch: Notes from the Young Alumni Panel

Earlier this month, I went to the last installment of the Senior Launch Lunch Series, and it may have been my favorite of them all. The event featured a panel of recent Tufts graduates offering advice to the current senior class as they (we) prepare for the big post-graduation leap. While the panelists had so many incredible pieces of advice to offer us, I took away some key themes common to all of their post-Tufts experiences, and I think that these themes are important for any Tufts senior to hear.
My thoughts on graduation.

Don't stress.
Of the four panelists in attendance, only one of them had a job the March before their graduation date. They all reassured us not to panic at this point - there is still plenty of time to find a job, get into grad school, or make a plan. All of the panelists expressed that regret over worrying away weeks of their senior year, only to have it all come together in the end (for one of the panelists, on the day of graduation). The effect of this message was like a collective sigh of relief from the entire room - let's try to keep that sigh going throughout the next few weeks.

Life after Tufts - there's a learning curve. One of my favorite questions that the panelists answered had to do with the transition from college student to full-time worker. To my surprise, everyone seemed to agree that working 40 hours a week is far less stressful than the college lifestyle. It's easier to leave work at work, to come home and relax without the constant specter of papers, exams, and assignments with fast-approaching deadlines. However, the panelists also agreed that too much free time can be a bad thing. They recommended finding some hobbies to ground your daily life in - whether it's running, regular meetings with old friends, or volunteering at a charity on the weekends. Being the overachieving Tufts students we are, it can feel uncomfortable to slow down sometimes - but there's more to do out there if you go looking.
Don't be a Patrick. Find some hobbies.

Your first job is temporary. Two of the four panelists had graduated last May, and already were into their second or third job. They both took jobs out of college that they thought would be exciting, or would lead to new skill development and networking connections, and realized that it wasn't what they wanted to do. But this wasn't a mistake in their eyes - they did learn a lot from the experience, and overall they felt that they needed to take that first step to know for sure that they wanted to do something different. We may feel like the next step is the endpoint, but really, it's just the beginning.

Maintain your connections to Tufts. One of my biggest fears about leaving Tufts is the imminent isolation - once college ends, we'll no longer be surrounded by people in our age group at all times, with friends whose schedules are as flexible as ours to enable frequent hang-outs. But, as the panelists so eloquently put it, you'll maintain the connections that you're committed to keeping. One panelist still contacts her professors regularly, and has frequently relied on them for recommendation letters and career advice. Another lives with a former Jumbo, who has since become a close friend."You may not miss everything about Tufts," one panelist explained, "but you will definitely miss the people you met and the friendships you made while you were here." So to all my friends and professors who think they'll finally be rid of me after May 2017 - you're dead wrong.
Sorry for all the Spongebob references - all this talk of the future has me nostalgic.
With less than 100 days to go, the launch into the "real world' is closer than ever. If anyone can prove that it's possible, however, it's those who have gone before us. If you know of any recent grads, reach out to them to learn any sage advice, or to reconnect with old friends. And, be sure to stop in the Career Center if you're still unsure of what the future holds!

Until next time,
Sean Boyden
Class of 2017

Friday, March 3, 2017

Accepting an Offer (or, How Three Years of Working at the Career Center Paid Off)

Sorry for dropping off the radar for a few weeks everyone - between the snow day and the holiday weekend, scheduling has gotten a little funky lately. While I was MIA, I made some pretty big headway on my post-graduation plans - you are reading the blog of a newly-employed Jumbo!

I will officially start working full-time at Massachusetts General Hospital in June. I'm so excited and happy, but more than anything relieved - finally, the anxiety nightmares about living in my childhood home at age 22 will come to an end!

There were a lot of factors that went into my decision to accept this job. I spent about a week with the offer on the table, weighing all the pros and the cons, thinking about the repercussions of either action. In the end, though, I knew as soon as I replied with a "yes" that it was the right call for me.

For all my fellow seniors out there who are grappling with job offers and other big life decisions, I'll give you a peek into my mind this week to see how I handled the decision - what I considered, why I considered it, and ultimately why I made the decision I did. (A quick disclaimer: all of these decisions were made just for me, with my specific background/circumstances in mind. Not everyone will come to the same conclusion, and that's more than okay!)

Location, location, location.

One thing I've constantly asked myself over the past few months, when thinking about what I want to do next, is where I want to do it. Having grown up in Massachusetts and gone to college right outside Boston, I wasn't sure if staying in the area would be a good or bad thing. I know my way around, and I have all my friends and family here, but would staying in Beantown feel like too "safe" of a move? Why shouldn't I take the first opportunity I have to go somewhere new, like California or New York City or somewhere outside the US? In the end, I realized that I was looking to leave Boston for the wrong reasons. I wanted a travel adventure - not a relocation for a job. When it comes to medical research, Boston is a premiere city in the field; it's one of the reasons I chose to come to Tufts. Leaving such a gold mine behind - especially one where I'm already comfortable - would be a hard sell.
The Schuyler sisters may have been singing about NYC, but the greatest city in the world is actually Boston. (Don't worry, you're all still my heroines.)

Build that network.

There's a lot more to a job than the starting salary or the location. Particularly for a first-time job, one of the best possible perks is the opportunity for networking. I was fortunate enough to find a job that involves meeting and working with a lot of different professionals, and I see that as a huge benefit. I also knew that I wanted to work somewhere with lots of other young people, in a collaborative and social environment. While perhaps a less formal medium of networking, this consideration crossed my mind as well - and ended up being one of the many "pros" of the offer.

"How's the money?"

In the past two weeks, I have learned that this is every person's first question when you tell them you have new job offer. And there's a reason - money is, after all, what makes the world go 'round, and it's no secret that new college grads are facing immense student loan debt nowadays. Having done some research prior to my job search, I knew going in that the work I wanted to do would not provide the funding for me to live a glamorous lifestyle. And while the starting salary for a lot of new graduates may be low, the biggest thing that everyone has told me is that it's manageable. While there's no doubt that I'll have to make sacrifices in the next few years, I know that the benefits of this job (see above) can make up for it.
The Joker, while misunderstood, is actually the source of all my career advice.

In a matter of months, I'll go from barely-functioning college student to totally-dysfunctional young professional. And while it certainly wasn't an easy decision, I am so glad that I took the time to think about my offer and really consider it in full. If you're ever looking for a friendly face to talk about a job offer (and maybe even offer a few words of wisdom), the Career Center's door is always open! Speaking from experience, they are some of the best people to talk to when it comes to these decisions (huge shoutout to all my bosses for the incredible support they gave me throughout the process!). Alright, now time to celebrate with some midterm-cramming.

Until next time,
Sean Boyden
Class of 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Real Deal: Why I Attended the Career Fair as a Senior, and Why You (Really) Should Too

For those of you who have faithfully followed my meteoric rise to blog fame from my humble beginnings as a sophomore, you may recall one of the first posts I ever wrote: it dealt with my first Career Fair, which I attended in the fall of my freshman year. Reading through that post, I can sense the anxiety and general confusion that pretty much characterized my first few years at Tufts when it came to career planning and general thoughts about the future. A lot has changed since then, and while my future is still not entirely defined, I like to think that I've gained a little bit more expertise when it comes to Career Fairs - especially when it comes to unfolding those plastic tablecloths (working for the Career Center will give you all kinds of weird skills).

This week, having just attended the 2017 Spring Career Fair last Friday, I thought I'd pay homage to that post I wrote back in 2014, not only in the title of this post but in a similar Q&A format as well. While my old post featured more "nuts and bolts" questions for a Career Fair rookie, I think I'll dedicate this one to future seniors who attend the Career Fair, with the hopes of gaining some networking connections or even a full-time job. Here's a true-to-life account of my last Tufts Career Fair.
Older me (right) looking at younger me (left). (All this reminiscing has got me nostalgic, which is probably why I've been watching so much season 1 Glee lately.)
Who should I talk to?

Short answer: as many people as you can. Longer, more realistic answer: do your research beforehand to figure this out. Look on Jumbo Jobs or download the "Tufts Career Fair Plus" smartphone app to get a list of companies in attendance - you can even search by position type, field of industry, or desired majors. Narrow down a list of companies you're interested in, and try to hit as many of their tables as you can. A frequent comment I get when talking to students in the Career Center is that "there's no one at the Career Fair who I'd be interested in working for." Don't be took quick to assume this, however. Last week at the Fair, I started a conversation with a representative from Harvard Medical School, and when I told her I was interested in clinical research positions, her first response was "Oh, I don't know if we have any of those." At first I was disappointed, but immediately after that she offered to take a copy of resume and pass it on to other recruiters in clinical research departments. You never know how a conversation will go until you actually have it.

What should I say?

At every Career Fair before this most recent one, I had a pretty similar elevator pitch. It went something like, "Hi, I'm Sean, I'm a freshman/sophomore/junior majoring Biopsychology and Community Health, I'm interested in exploring research in a public health or biomedical setting, are there any internships available that I should look into?" Now that my internship search days are behind me, I've had to modify this script a little bit. Years of working Career Fairs, and speaking unofficially with lots of employers, has taught me a lot about the ideal Career Fair student. In general, I've come to find that recruiters are looking for articulate, personable people with a pretty clear idea of what they want to do both short-term and long-term. This can be a daunting thought for some seniors (myself included), but there are ways to express your goals while also conveying your uncertainty. Last week, I found myself saying something like this: "Hi, I'm Sean, I'm a senior majoring in Biopsychology and Community Health. I'm interested in going to graduate school someday, but I really want to gain experience in clinical research before pursuing a higher degree. Do you know of any openings that could be of interest to me?" I like to think this is a little more polished, but remains true to my interests and plans for the future.
Channel your inner Rachel when it comes to Career Fair preparation.

But really, will I actually get a job out of this?

In true SWUG fashion, I find myself embracing cynicism more and more every day. So I totally get this question. But, then I remind myself that I'd never actually applied to one of those internship postings I got in an email blast before I got my internship at Brigham and Women's. Working in the Career Center, I hear from both students and employers about lots of internships and jobs that came from a visit to the Career Fair! So, I need to remember not to discount the Career Fair before I've really given it a chance. The only way you'll get a job out of the Career Fair is if you go and give it your all. (*leads team in morale-boosting locker room chant*)

So, it's with a single tear rolling down my cheek and a craving for coffee and sandwiches from Dave's Fresh Pasta that I bid farewell to the Tufts Career Fairs. Realistically, I will probably be back, because the Career Center is never ever ever getting rid of me (pardon the musical reference, but I saw Waitress on Broadway last weekend and couldn't not incorporate it into a post). To the future seniors reading this, I hope you attend the Career Fair this fall and/or next spring, and make the most out of one of the Career Center's biggest and best resources for Tufts students every semester. And if nothing else, you'll get tons of free water bottles and key chains.

Seriously, go see Waitress. It'll change you.

Until next time,
Sean Boyden
Class of 2017

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

This Is It (Like, Really)

Senior spring motto.

With my last spring semester underway, it's time to admit that my time at Tufts is coming to a close. And as I look around me, it seems like everyone in my position is facing the same question that Hamilton faced at the end of Act I: what comes next?

Some of my fellow seniors are lucky - they've been accepted to grad school early, they got a job during the fall recruitment season, or they're participating in year-long fellowships like Teach for America. But, the overwhelming majority of us (or at least the ones that I know) are still searching, applying, or waiting - of course, while trying to enjoy our last few months of college.

A big part of the application process - both for graduate programs and for full-time jobs - is interviewing. This is a topic particularly close to my heart, as I'm currently in the throes of my own job search and I've been scheduling interviews for weeks now (before you think, "wow, he's interviewing that much? He must be right on track," just remember that I still haven't found a job yet). Luckily, I always know where to turn for career-related advice - Oprah. Just kidding. (Not really.) The Career Center has tons of information on their website, and they even provide mock interviews for you to practice with someone who can give you immediate feedback. Here are some words of wisdom from the Career Center when it comes to interviews:
Same, April. But it's the only way we'll get a job. (If you're wondering, I watched a lot of Parks and Rec over break.)

Always be prepared. Like any good Boy or Girl Scout would do, it's always important to know your stuff before an interview. Fortunately, since the overwhelming majority of an interview involves you relating your past experiences, the most important thing for you to know is yourself. Be sure to brush up on your resume and past experiences, and reflect on the ones that have been the most meaningful and applicable. Have a few examples in mind for common questions like "Tell me about a time you had a lot of things to do and managed to do them all," or "Tell me about a challenge you overcame." In addition to this self-reflection, it's always a good idea to do some research into the employer with whom you're interviewing. Know what sorts of projects are going on, what type of work they do, and be aware of the company's broader goals or mission statement. Look on LinkedIn to see if any Tufts alums work there. The more you know about an organization, the better prepared you'll be to demonstrate how you'd be a good fit within it.

Beat back the nerves. An interview is the first chance you get to make an impression on someone who could be your future colleague - it's crucial to make a good first impression. One of the easiest ways to mess this up is by getting too nervous and coming off as flustered or unprepared in the interview. Of course, everyone has different reactions to interview stress, and thus there are many different ways to conquer these feelings. The time-honored tradition to guarantee stress reduction is to practice - out loud, in front of someone (or in the mirror), until you have a really good idea of what you're going to say. A word of caution from a past personal tragedy of mine - be sure not to memorize an exact script. You want to know what you're going to say, but also be prepared for unexpected questions or different ways to word your responses. If you over-rehearse, your answers to questions may become stilted and repetitive. There's a good amount of wiggle room between underprepared and overprepared - find your sweet spot!
Breathe through the pain.

ALWAYS follow-up. Remember to ask for your interviewer's contact info if you don't already have it, and send them a thank-you within 24 hours of your interview. This will show the interviewer that you're serious about the position, and at the very least will improve the chances of them remembering you when it comes to hiring decisions. Most interviews will conclude with a few words about the next steps in the organization's recruitment process, and you should leave with a good idea of when you'll next hear from them with a decision. (Be sure to ask if they don't say so!) It's important to wait until this time to follow up on the status of your application; this way, you'll avoid looking overbearing and can reiterate your enthusiasm for the position.

As you can see, a lot more than choosing an outfit goes into interview prep. Like any part of the job search, you'll get out of it what you put in - so be sure to prepare thoroughly for this important step in the process! So press your suit, practice your self-pitch, and get ready to get hired.

Until next time,
Sean Boyden
Class of 2017