Investing in your future can be a bit overwhelming... we understand!
Whether you’re a first-year business student at Fisher who’s just learning about all of the amazing resources and opportunities Ohio State has to offer, or a third or fourth-year student who is feeling a little stressed about landing that perfect internship or full time position, trying to stand out and set yourself apart from your peers can feel overwhelming. Being one amongst many business students can sometimes make you feel incredibly small, aside from the fact that you are also attending one of the largest universities in the country. It is easy to feel a bit buried by the pressure of maintaining your grades, staying involved in clubs (inside and outside of Fisher), keeping an impressive resume, staying sharp on your interviewing skills, applying for that internship you’ve really wanted, running for leadership positions, and more. Aside from all of that, just having time to take a breather and to make time for ourselves can sometimes get forgotten in our busy schedules. If you have ever felt a little lost and unsure about your goals or where your time is spent most effectively, you are not alone! In this blog post I hope to break down the phrase “investing in your future” into more bite size segments and to help make the hectic life of an undergrad student a little less overwhelming and more manageable. With the help of some insightful advice from UBWA’s founder, Beth Blue, as well as another valued alumna, Nicole Balkenbusch, I hope to make investing in your future sound less intimidating, more approachable, and even a little fun!
Setting Personal and Professional Goals for Yourself, One Step at a Time
To begin, goal setting is probably something you do every day, and something that comes naturally to you. No matter your major, we all had to set goals and work hard to be accepted as a student at Ohio State. Today, we all work hard to stay on top of our grades, gain leadership positions, and stay involved. You probably set goals for yourself all the time, without even thinking about it! Whether these goals are small, such as making sure you attend the weekly UBWA meetings each Wednesday, or as big as preparing for an interview for your dream internship, setting personal goals for yourself each week is a big part of investing in yourself. Have you ever been asked to write down three goals that you have for yourself at a club meeting or in class? Sometimes it can be a little confusing to articulate exactly what those goals are, especially if they are long term, such as getting that job you’ve been wanting or making the Dean’s List. An easy way to break down your goals is to look at them on a smaller scale. For example, at the beginning of each week write down three things that you want to accomplish. This can be getting an A on a paper, making sure you catch up with a friend, or getting to the gym that week. When you’re feeling overwhelmed about your goals, think of them like this: First, think about what you are most passionate about and where you want to spend most of your time and energy. Next, execute a plan to reach the goal that you are aiming for, break your goal into a step-by-step process, and go from there. For instance, let’s say you have a big interview coming up. Your first step could be to research the company, then you could practice your interviewing skills (using many of Fisher’s great resources for this), and lastly you could practice in the mirror and come up with some questions to ask your interviewer. Breaking up a large goal, such as landing a job or internship, into smaller steps can make this task feel less daunting and overwhelming.
I was lucky enough to gain some advice on goal setting from one of our valued UBWA alumnae, Nicole Balkenbusch. Nicole served as Secretary, VP of Alumni Relations, and President of UBWA during her time at Fisher. She now works as the “America’s Customer Service Operations Finance leader” at Amazon, after spending more than 11 years at Procter & Gamble. Nicole explained that time management and prioritization are two very important aspects when goal setting for yourself. Using time management skills to decide what tasks need to have the most time dedicated to them or using prioritization to get the most important jobs done first is crucial to reaching your goals in both college and in your professional life. Nicole shared that, “Learning time management and prioritization is the only way to succeed in the business world without working 24/7 (which is not healthy or sustainable!). I had a mentor tell me once ‘we know a person is ready for promotion when it looks like they are handling their current workload with ease. The person working 60+ hours weekly to get their base scope done likely can’t cut it at the next level, when there is more work/pressure.’” Nicole’s advice is very useful when determining what goals you want to focus on and making sure to not put too much on your plate at once. Learning how to prioritize a healthy amount of work and getting it done in a timely manner is key to making sure you reach your goals and don’t spread yourself too thin.
Nicole also mentions that when you are setting goals, it is important to know yourself and what you need to gain out of working towards your goal. Nicole said, “As a strong female, you likely will have multiple options come your way throughout life and it’s important to be clear about what you want and what you don’t want – clear, consistent, communication is the only way to make sure your needs are met and you don’t just jump at the first opportunity offered to you.” Make sure you are pursuing goals that are authentic to who you are as an individual and a professional. Making sure to set goals that are true to your personal values and not just because of how they look on your resume is important, as it keeps us aiming high and being passionate about what we are working towards.
Life Will Sometimes Throw You Curveballs and That’s Okay!
Sometimes, no matter how much you prioritize or plan for your goals, there can be bumps in the road where things don’t happen exactly as you planned for them to. Although planning and setting goals for yourself is an important part to investing in yourself and staying on track throughout your undergrad years, sometimes things don’t go exactly as you thought they would. It is important to be flexible when obstacles occur, both in your college experience and in your professional life after graduation. While gathering information for this blog post, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to gain some insightful advice from UBWA’s founder, Beth Blue. Beth has worked at Cardinal Health here in Columbus since 2012 and has had an impressive six different roles in her time there! Beth currently works as the VP of Finance at Cardinal Health. I thought it would be important to incorporate the story that Beth shared with
me regarding how UBWA was founded in the section pertaining to goal setting, and why sometimes you might have to turn failure or disappointment into an opportunity. Beth reminisced about founding UBWA by sharing this story:
“During my Sophomore year I was in the honorary, “Mirrors,” and late in the year I applied for a Junior year honorary. I didn’t get in! I was hurt and angry for a couple days, but then admitted to myself that I was overly confident and hadn’t taken the application seriously…and maybe I didn’t have enough content for that application. So, I accepted that failure as feedback and thought, well, if I’m not cut out for that organization…I’ll start my own! And that’s where UBWA began…in my dorm room, after some tears and frustration evolved into energy. I was going to prove that group wrong, do something big, fill a need at the business school, and create an inclusive environment for anyone to benefit and learn. No applications necessary! And to think, if I had gotten into that honorary, I would have been focused on my exclusive little club, would have patted myself on the back, and wouldn’t have realized how much more I had to grow and how much harder I had to work.”
Setting big and small goals for yourself throughout your undergrad is important to your success and staying on top of your schedule. However, sometimes no matter how much you plan and prepare, setbacks happen and things don’t always go as planned. Keeping a “big picture” frame of mind will help you to remember that some failures or a change of plans can end up leading to an amazing accomplishment, such as Beth’s. While setting goals for yourself, remember to let things play out organically and when you aim for a goal, but sometimes don’t succeed, use this as an opportunity to re-group and better yourself!
How to Stand Out as an Undergrad and Set Yourself Apart to an Employer
At a university the size of OSU (there aren't many larger!) it can be difficult to set yourself apart and market yourself to an employer or an organization. Much like goal setting, sometimes it can be confusing to decide what organizations to join or what leadership roles to run for to set yourself apart from the other 50,000 some undergrads at Ohio State. The best way to market yourself amongst so many other students is to stay true to yourself and to put your time and energy into things that you are passionate about. Beth shared some advice on setting yourself apart and she explained that it is important to show a variety of skill sets and to have diverse experiences while you’re in college. Beth states, “Think about the type of work you want to be doing when you graduate and try to identify experiences at Ohio State that will help you to develop and showcase the skills you need to be successful in that role. For me, I was able to demonstrate that I am innovative, thrive in a diverse and collaborative environment, and have senior leadership potential. UBWA was able to help me with things. But it was also important to me to show that I am balanced, have a variety of skill sets, and can be successful in a whole host of situations. So I made sure to have diverse experiences on campus, too, and participated in a number of activities outside of the Business school.” While staying active in Fisher is definitely impressive, also try to explore the endless opportunities that OSU offers outside of Fisher. Having a multitude of skills and being able to work with a diverse group of people who problem solve and think differently than you is a great asset to have when preparing for your professional life. Being able to work with groups of people who have different backgrounds, values, and experiences than you is a great skill that will help to showcase how you work with others and tackle problems that you may not be familiar with.
Another tip on setting yourself apart is to get involved! Since we are all members of UBWA, I am sure that most of us understand how important it is to be involved on campus outside of your academics. I wanted to touch on a point regarding this that Nicole mentioned about being involved on campus. Nicole said, “You do not have to be involved in every student org – just a couple and show you have an impact. A company would rather see someone who is very involved in fewer orgs than a student who attends lots of meetings across campus but does not actively participate or take a leadership role.” It is important to remember that an employer would rather see you take on more difficult and time consuming leadership roles, to show your dedication to a couple of organizations, rather than to just be involved as a general member in multiple.
Both Beth and Nicole also touched on how strong communication and networking skills will set you apart and are essential to success in both your professional and personal life. Being able to explain to an employer, colleague, or peer what you are thinking is crucial to being successful in almost any setting. When you walk into an interview, an employer will be able to tell right away whether you can easily communicate your skills to them or not. Excellent communication and being able to advocate for yourself is crucial to landing a job. Once you have the job, communication skills will help you to maintain good standings in your workplace or it may even help you explain to your supervisors why you deserve that promotion or bigger role. Making sure you can communicate clearly and concisely is one of the best skills that you can have to stand out among others. Nicole explained how vital good communication is by giving a couple examples of where communication skills may come into play. She advised to, “Learn how to say hi to someone who you don’t know (even if it feels awkward) and when a mentor or company asks you what you want to do over the summer or why you are interested in their company, have a clear, concise answer (make sure you are specific about why you want to work for that particular company / industry – do not make it generic!)”
Beth also explained how utterly important being able to communicate and network in both professional and everyday settings is. She stated, “There is no off switch, every interaction is practice and every interaction can be an interview for something, and every interaction affects another person.” I think this is a very important bit of advice that we all could use to practice confident communication skills in our everyday life. Just the way that we interact with our friends, professors, peers, or strangers can help prepare us for an interview. Being able to market yourself and confidently network with those around you is a sure way to set yourself apart. Remember that you can never make another first impression!
Remember to Take Time Out of Your Busy Schedule to Recharge and Take Care of Yourself
I know the advice above can be a lot to take in at times and can sometimes feel overwhelming. While we all try to balance our busy schedules with school, work, and staying involved, it is just as important to make time to recharge and relax throughout our busy weeks. It can sometimes feel impossible to cut this time out of your schedule as you’re trying to balance exams, extracurriculars, projects, and a social life. However, it is just as crucial to spend time doing things that you enjoy and to take time to relax. Everyone’s version of this is different! Personally, I need to make time in my week to read a book that I enjoy or cut out time to get to the gym. Whether your definition of “recharging” means going on a run, watching Netflix, or hanging out with friends, we all need to make time for self-care and inflection in order to perform better when it is time to work hard. When I asked Nicole how she is able to find time to practice self-care throughout her busy week, she said, “I really enjoy working out, as it’s typically my only ‘me time’ throughout the day where no one bothers me. I can choose to read a book, listen to whatever music I want, read a magazine, stretch, etc. and it’s my 45 minutes. The other thing I like to do is take off early on a Friday for “me time” – I find that while the girls are still at daycare and my husband at work, I can relax a bit more – meet a friend for coffee, do my nails, take a bath, sit on the couch and watch a bit of TV. It relaxes me heading into the weekend when I go from being a professional business woman to being full on Mom.” I think her advice is crucial to us as full-time students, as it is just as important to unwind and destress for a little, in order to stay on top of our game when we need to.
Beth also gave insightful advice on taking a little time out of our schedules for relaxing and recharging. She touched on all of the opportunities that we have as college students to do so. Beth explained that, “Things become a lot more routine after college, so you really need to focus on carving out the time for life outside of work. Taking a walk, joining a young professional group, heading to a yoga studio, volunteering with a non-profit, etc. Find those things that make you, you. Everyone is multifaceted, so whether in your university life or your future professional life…diversify your interests and experiences, invest in yourself and others, take life a little less seriously, and lay off the cell phone.”
In conclusion, marketing yourself is more than just having an impressive resume. It is being able to find what you’re passionate about, setting goals for yourself, creating a plan to reach those goals, and being able to articulate your ideas to an employer or even just to a peer. Setting long and short term goals help you to get started in a certain direction, even if your goals change along the way. As long as you stay motivated and passionate about what you are doing, you will be able to differentiate yourself and reach the goals that you have been working so hard for!
Thanks for reading this blog post! If you have any specific questions about investing in yourself and your future or would just like to chat further about the topic of this blog post, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com. If you want to learn further about me or our featured alumnae in this post, click on the Blog Committee button and the Featured Alumnae button on the blog's webpage! I would like to thank both Beth Blue and Nicole Balkenbusch for their amazing insight and I look forward to writing further blog posts for you all in the future!