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Archive for 'pave your career path'

the only advice in college

Get some sleep. Your health is the most important thing. Sacrifice some sleep. Your grades matter.

Cram. It works. Don’t cram. It doesn’t work.

Sit in the front of the class—ask questions, get known, discuss. Sit in the back of the class—you’re the most comfortable there and you can listen and read.

Meet anyone, everyone, anytime, every time. Network—the more the merrier. If you’re happy with the small group of friends you have, stick with them—they’re the ones who matter.

Pick the best and toughest and/or most well-known professors. They’re the most inspirational and you’ll learn the most and probably get a better recommendation. Pick the easiest professors. Are you really stupid enough to ruin your GPA by choosing good but tough professors?

Talk to your roommate about dorm issues you’re having. They’re gonna get worse. Ignore the issues. Is the conversation really worth it?

Keep in touch with your hometown friends—they know you best and they’re an important part of you. Cultivate college friendships—you’ve changed and you’re in a new place.

Party, go out, explore the town, stay in to laugh with friends. This life is about people and about having fun—right here, right now. Study, focus, lock yourself in the library. This life is about work and planning for the future.

Start a club, get an internship, get involved. When you graduate, job interviewers will ask you what you’ve done, not be picky between your 3.0 or 3.5. Be on track with good grades, good relations with professors, and good research experience. When you graduate, grad schools you apply to want to see solid academics.

I guess the only advice in college is:

Listen to yourself. What’s your mission? What’s your purpose? What’s best for yourself? What makes you happiest? Only you know what’s best and only you are in control of your life. Stay true to yourself—but when something whispers in your ear that you might be wrong, don’t be afraid of listening to it. Change a bit, experiment, balance.

- by Nathan Chow
Boston University Class of 2009

let’s stop asking all the wrong questions

let’s stop asking our kids what they want to be when they grow up and start asking ourselves how they should grow up.

let’s stop asking high school graduates where they’re going to college and start asking where they’re going in life.

let’s stop asking college graduates if they’ve found a job and start asking if they’ve made their purpose.

let’s stop asking workers if they’re climbing up the ladder and start asking if they see that the ladder is endless.

let’s stop asking our grandchildren if they know how the world used to be and start asking them if they know how the world still needs to be.

let’s stop asking all the wrong questions and start asking all the right ones.

- by Nathan Chow
Boston University Class of 2009

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I hate that question.

I’m very goal-driven with the things that I think need direction. And I have a strong sense of my personal and career-related values.

But I still hate that question.

So years ago when the teacher in charge of my high school yearbook asked it to me and everyone else in the Top 10, our conversation was quite interesting:

Nathan: I don’t know.
Yearbook Advisor: You have to know.
Nathan: No, I don’t. I don’t know.
Yearbook Advisor: Everyone else has something listed.
Nathan: And that means I have to follow the crowd?
Yearbook Advisor: Yes. The Top 10 should be setting an example for everyone else.
Nathan: Well, I’m sorry, but I really don’t know and I think this is as much of a good example as everyone else’s answer. If you’re that desperate, you can pick something for me and include it in the yearbook.

Well, months passed and the yearbook was finally published. I flipped to the career plans page for the Top 10, and apparently the advisor wrote “Engineer or pro wrestler” under my photo.  (Yes, this is a true story.) I’m Asian and had a reputation of being good at math, but an engineer was possibly the only thing I knew I didn’t want to be.

I found this story funny, but I think there was an important takeaway for myself and for others:

Okay, back to that ugly question and all its flaws. What do you want to be when you grow up? If you’re aspiring to be something like a writer, musician, anthropologist, chef, teacher, mechanic, or social worker, you better own up to it and correct your interviewer. You already are that writer, musician, anthropologist, chef, teacher, mechanic, or social worker. It’s not something you want to be when you grow up. It’s something you live and breathe already.

If you want anyone to consider your seriousness for a career, you need to give a role to yourself. You could say you’re a “teacher” if teaching others is what you often informally do, even if you don’t stand in front of a chalkboard every day. I suppose you can’t really say you’re a doctor or politician to people yet, but you could still say you’re a healer or a liar…

Instead of asking yourself what you want to be, ask yourself who you are and what you value. Take an inventory of your strengths and personality traits. Then reflect on what kind of effect and difference you’d like to make in the world. While the answers to these questions are open to change throughout your life, they will stay a lot more consistent than “what you want to be.” In addition, they’ll invite you to explore a lot more opportunities that will help you act on your values.

Years after my high school graduation, I finally figured out part of my life. Some of my main values are educating people, inspiring people, and empowering people. When I leave this world, I want it to be a more loving, compassionate, understanding, forgiving, and connected place. I act on these values by mixing some careers together: teacher, counselor, consultant, writer, filmmaker, juggler, entertainer. These titles may change—and I may encounter new ones I like—but my values will always stay the same. My values are soaked into all of these fields. In all my art, I’m always teaching about love and compassion. Even as a juggler, I strive to dazzle my audience and make them laugh together. In a sense, I hope they are connected during my act and can forget about their differences or worries for the day.

I think it’s perfectly fine, and probably even normal, to not know what you want to be. You have plenty of choices in the future, and you wouldn’t want to trap yourself into just one. But you need to always think about what gift you can give to the world.

Life is about acting on values, not chasing titles.

- by Nathan Chow
Boston University Class of 2009

How to Be a Student of Life and for Life

5. Read a lot and often.

- Books YOU’RE interested in should be a supplement to the books you’re told to read.

- Browse the bookstore and library at least twice a month. Make it a habit.

- Go to your university bookstore’s textbook section and read / skim / browse through the books required in classes you want to take but can’t fit into your schedule. “Take” the class on your own.


4. Be passionate about your classes.

- Take classes you’re actually interested in. (That usually starts with choosing a major you like—not one your parents chose for you or one that sounds impressive.)

- Take classes you’re curious about. Be adventurous and expose yourself to new fields.

- Visit your professors during their office hours. Be honest with them. You don’t need to bring in an organized conversation agenda for them to see your passion for the class and academic field. You can talk to them about things you don’t understand, about contrasting ideas, and about your confusion. Wanting to talk about something and explore it deeper demonstrates as much passion as knowing something already.

- Read the books your professors recommend but don’t require. Even better, read the books your professors wrote! Cite any of these in your papers. It’s not ass-kissing. It’s simply learning more from the person you’ve been listening to all semester.


3. Learn from people.

- Remember when you were choosing colleges and you told yourself you wanted to be in a place surrounded by other smart students? You’re here now. Take advantage of your environment. Talk to your friends about academics, the news, the world, philosophy, and life. You’d be surprised by the depth of such conversations and how much you can learn in just a 45-minute lunch.

- Listen to and think about real conversations you have with friends or overhear from strangers. Not all learning is academic. There is lots to be gained from everyday informal conversations (even gossip!) about relationships, friendships, and work. These are parts of life too!

- In addition to visiting your own professors, you can even email professors you never had and ask if you can talk to them during their office hours (if they have time when none of their actual students are there). This is particularly useful if you need a bit of guidance in a field you enjoy and study on your own but don’t have the time or prerequisites to take courses in.

- Listen to those special people who love you unconditionally and want the best for you: your parents!


2. Seek out other ways of learning

- Attend special lectures organized by your university, other universities, or your town. Use your university’s calendar webpage to browse such events. (BU’s: http://bu.edu/calendar)

- Visit museums. Go on guided city tours. Watch films.

- Every day, jot down the things you encountered that you were curious about. Then JFGI. (Just f’in Google it!)


1. Learn from experience and life.

- As much as you’ll learn from books and people, at the end of your life, would you rather have read about and heard about life or experienced it? Dare to make your own mistakes. Dare to experiment. Skip your business class and go out there and teach yourself what works and what doesn’t work in serving people. Close your psychology book and go out there and find out for yourself how humans behave. Forget perfecting your Writing101 assignment and practice your own craft by writing in a journal, writing letters to friends, and starting your own blog. You’ll learn from it all. What is failure anyway?

- Remember that whether it’s academics or life in general, you are the only person who can decide which “classrooms” you want to enter, you are the only person who can decide what experiences will count as lessons, and you are the only person who can decide how well you do. You are your own best teacher and you alone are fully in charge of your own learning.

- Remember that you can learn anything you want. It won’t show up on your transcript or resume, but it will show up in your life. You won’t be graded on it, but you will gain from it. That’s what real education is about and that’s what real life is about.

Be a student of life and for life.

- by Nathan Chow
Boston University Class of 2009

Writing resumes and cover letters

As the summer and graduation date approach, the economy may seem too depressing for those who are still struggling looking for a job or internship. But even in these tough economic times, students can improve their odds of finding a job with an appealing résumé, BU advisors say.

Deborah Halliday, the Assistant Director of Boston University’s Office of Career Services, gives some pointers.

She says:

  • Because a résumé is often the only chance to show a company one’s strength and experience, résumé writing is critical in job searching.
  • “Employers go through the résumés very quickly and they’ll screen you out if the résumé doesn’t appeal to them.”

Some of her advice:

  • Write customized résumés. Consider the expertise a particular job is looking for and keep the résumé relevant.
  • Don’t list courses that are obviously in your territory (for example: Microeconomics and Macroeconomics if you’re an Economics major).
  • Create a master document including ALL your work experience and pick the items relevant for each particular job you’re applying for.

Some resources she suggests:

  • The website of Career Services provides tutorials and templates to help students organize their résumés.
  • The Office of Career Services helps people format and write resumes.
  • Some BU schools, including COM and SMG, have their own career center.

Her tips on cover letters:

  • A good cover letter may help overcome a thin résumé.
  • “Employers understand that you don’t have a lot to put on your résumé if you are a freshman and they will be very forgiving about that, but you need to show a strong interest in your cover letter.”
  • Every cover letter has to be different because an effective cover letter has to draw connections between you and the employer.
  • “Talk about what you know about the company, why you want to work there and why you would be a good fit.”

- by Yue Huang
Boston University student
http://huangy07.blogspot.com/