University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
Career Center for Science and Engineering

Announcements from August 2010

10 Questions to Ask Before Picking a Major

August 27, 2010

According to the US News and World Report - after picking the college itself, picking a major is the biggest choice you are going to make in college. But as often as not, students have almost no idea what they are getting into when they declare a major.

To help you be an informed consumer, here are 10 questions to ask yourself--and others who might know--before signing on the dotted line:

7 Factors to Career Success

August 8, 2010

Regardless of the type of job that you are seeking, the following seven areas are of utmost importance to not only landing the job that you want but also holding on to that job for the long haul. So what are the skills that employers value and seek in potential employees? This same question was asked of hiring managers and their responses may surprise you! Below are the most common skills mentioned, whether the employee happens to be a manager, network engineer, or a cook. Here are seven In-Demand Skills for Success in the workplace:

BASIC SKILLS: Employers are seeking employees who can read well, can write coherently, and who can calculate mathematics in a business environment (fractions, percentages, etc.) Also, the ability to use the appropriate computer tools specific to the job round out the basic skill sets needed for employment success.

PERSONAL SKILLS: Can a potential employee speak well? Can he or she answer questions of customers in a positive, informative manner? While not everyone has an outgoing sales personality, successful employees can communicate in a non-confrontational, positive manner with their coworkers, subordinates, managers, and customers. Being able to work well with others is a vital skill for success in all jobs.

JOB ATTAINMENT: Job search is a process that requires a great deal of dedication and attention to be conducted successfully. If you put in little effort, you will receive little results. Employers are seeking employees who know how to present themselves in a positive manner and who display enthusiasm and knowledge about the companies they approach. Not only do candidates get evaluated on their skills and experience, but also on how they are approaching the job search. Enthusiastic candidates that follow up and show true interest will win success above equally qualified candidates.

JOB SURVIVAL: It is true that who gets laid-off and who does not is often a matter of numbers, but it is also often a matter of performance. Employees who have consistently demonstrated their worth and made themselves a valuable asset have lower incidences of being downsized than employees who put forth average effort. Surviving in a company during layoffs is a skill that makes a candidate stand out among peers.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Successful individuals are constantly attending seminars, taking classes, attaining training, and otherwise learning new skills that will keep them marketable in their careers. Successful people are lifelong learners. Employers are looking for people who understand this.

CAREER DEVELOPMENT: Career Development differs from Professional Development. Professional Development is learning while Career Development is a planning and goal setting process. Successful individuals design a career plan with written goals for short term and long term. They lay out the steps needed to move their careers from Point A to Point B within Time Frame C and plan how they are going to achieve those steps. Employers seek individuals who (believe it or not) wish to commit to the company for a long period of time. Good career progression is a high selling point of candidates to prospective employers.

HEALTHY ATTITUDE: Employees who approach their work with passion and energy certainly have a leg up on those who simply go through the motions each day. By coming to work each day with a smile on your face and a song in your heart may seem like a cliché, but these are things that communicate to others your attitude towards work. Those with a healthy attitude are valued by employers over those who always seem to be down in the dumps.

By focusing on the seven areas throughout your interview process will certainly show the potential employer that you are a candidate worth their investment. When you do get a job, is even more important to focus on these seven areas every day.


Sending a Message That You Don't Care

August 7, 2010

Sending a Message That You Don't Care, by Christine Pearson. Published in the NY Times on May 14, 2010.

As technological devices have become more portable and more popular, they have enhanced our connectedness at work. But they have also led to a greater degree of incivility -- a trend that is damaging our workplace relationships.

For more than a decade, my colleagues and I have gathered data on incivility from more than 9,000 managers and workers across the United States, and we are continuing this work internationally. We have learned a great deal about the problems causes and consequences.

I define incivility as behavior, seemingly inconsequential to the doer, that others perceive as inconsiderate. Electronic devices lead to more incivility because of their powerful ability to claim our attention -- no matter where we are or what we are doing. No one likes to be snubbed, of course, but the offense can take on a new edge when the winner is a machine.

Some younger employees may not be as concerned, as they are already more likely to communicate electronically. Indeed, if everyone is texting at once, it may seem like no harm, no foul.

Chances are, however, that if you ignore your colleagues while jabbering on your cellphone, keep others waiting for an appointment while you check your e-mail or send something electronically that should be delivered in person, some people will see you as inconsiderate.

One of the most annoying examples is texting and checking e-mail while working with colleagues. Some workers would call this disruptive; others would say it is downright insulting.

I have given lectures on incivility around the globe. When I ask audiences whether anyone considers sending e-mail or texts during meetings uncivil, almost everyone raises their hand. Then, when I ask whether anyone in the audience sends texts or e-mail during meetings, about two-thirds acknowledge the habit. (Presumably, there are still more who do not want to admit it.) Clearly, many of us recognize the problem. So why do we perpetuate it?

I often hear this rationalization: It is a way to multitask and increase efficiency. But neuroscientists tell us that dividing our attention between competing stimuli instead of handling tasks one at a time actually makes us less efficient. Still, the illusion that multitasking can aid productivity is powerful. And it is abetted by the fact that splitting our attention between real and virtual worlds can produce a kind of neural intoxication, research shows. Through our devices, we find a way to disappear without leaving the room. By splitting ourselves off and reaching out electronically, we fill empty interpersonal space and ignite our senses. We can find relief and a fleeting sense of freedom.

Decades ago, the sociologist Barry Schwartz commended the group-preserving functions of dissociating. Everyone, he said, reaches a threshold beyond which working with others is irritating, even unendurable. Finding a mental escape can help us deal with the problem. But electronic devices have led to a serious overuse of this strategy -- to the detriment of everyone. Count how many times this happens each day, and you begin to understand the cumulative effect of electronic incivility in the workplace. For one thing, other workers need to pick up the slack caused by the wandering attention and diluted energies of their e-cruising colleagues.

Not only that, when people disappear from formal or informal meetings via their electronic devices, their colleagues interpret it this way: You are less important to me than my cellphone; P.D.A.; laptop; or latest gizmo.

In my research, I have learned that when employees behave in an uncivil way, their colleagues may take retribution. They might withhold information -- for example, by forgetting to include the offenders name on a final product. Or they might see to it that he or she ends up with a less desirable task next time. Or they might even refuse to work with the person again.

Although electronic departures are irritating, they will surely continue. So how can you minimize their impact?

  • Keep your own use of electronic devices at a minimum when interacting with others. If you have an urgent need to use one, let others know.
  • If you are on the receiving end of an electronic disappearing act and want face-to-face attention, politely ask for it.
  • If you are a manager, emphasize that such face-to-face time is valuable. Consider imposing a moratorium on devices during some meetings, but allowing more breaks so that everyone can check their e-mail, texts and networking accounts. And, most of all, set guidelines about what is and is not reasonable, and hold everyone to them -- including yourself.

Author: Christine Pearson is a professor of international business at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Phoenix and a co-author of The Cost of Bad Behavior.