Cornerstone conversations can be the basic building blocks for many discussions with your advisor. They'll help you understand the importance of connecting with your community. They can help you find your way around, even when you're not lost. Even when the path is not obvious or intuitive.
Cornerstone conversations can help you transform the things you don't know, and make them familiar. They offer a sense of confidence and security to express your needs effectively, explore your own interests, and learn to communicate professionally.
What getting involved really meansFrom day one, the University tells freshmen to get involved and become part of the community as a way to grow their resumes and create their career paths. But students do not hear us until they have their first “cornerstone conversation.”
The benefits are best explained by working backwards:
Have you thought of the type of job you want after graduation? Or are you thinking you’d like to attend graduate school? Either way, you will need a strong resume and it’s never too early to start on it.
Do you want to include internship experience on your resume?To land internship interviews, you will need “experiences” on your resume. (i.e., project management, teamwork, leadership experiences). You gain “experiences” by participating in activities and organizations on campus.
Do you want something to say during these interviews?Having experiences with clubs or organizations on campus gives you stories to tell, and unique references to pull from when your interviewer asks questions. These stories lead to give-and-take conversations with your interviewer and make you stand out amongst your peers.
Where do you get started?Just try one new thing. Sign up for some organizations and you will start to see what is happening around campus. If you are nervous, try a community service group, where participants have a shared interest in helping others. Take a look around the campus—there are posters and flyers and monitor displays everywhere. See an advisor to get ideas about groups and organizations on campus. It’s your education and your college experience. Participate and be proactive.
Do not sit back and let others tell you what to do. Be a part of the process. If you do not know something, then ask.
Get to know the faculty, and not just because “we told you so”
Students are reminded to talk with their faculty members, use office hours, and meet regularly with their faculty advisors. They often do not understand why this is important.
The conversation: Tell me about the faculty you’ve met. It is not just when you have a problem. Getting to know your faculty has many benefits, from understanding your classes more deeply, to learning about your faculty member’s area of research and specialties, to building stronger professional communication skills.
In the end, you will have multiple people to turn to when you need a letter of recommendation and other career related advice. In fact, these individuals can become a source of advice and guidance for years after you graduate.
- Getting to know faculty members provides you with the forum for gaining solid references for your future.
- Faculty members often provide letters of recommendation for graduate school, scholarship opportunities, study abroad programs, internships, and jobs.
- Get to know your faculty by routinely speaking with them during office hours. Ask them why they teach the subjects they teach. Ask them about their backgrounds and research.
- Ask them about their career paths and about the field you are studying.
Plan ahead - It makes all the difference
How’s your schedule this semester? Have you given any thought to planning next semester and the years ahead? There are so many choices that you may not know where to begin. The more you plan, the more options you will have. The Undergraduate Academic Advising Center provides multi-year academic planning. Some students make multiple appointments for this type of planning because they want help drafting out their tentative course schedules from now until graduation. Once you start to learn this scheduling language at Suffolk and you can visualize the path of courses you would take to get to graduation, you can also plan to include the enrichment activities that we consider critical to your resume. These items include:
Ideally, you will draft an evolving plan that fits your needs. You might need to consider when and where you study abroad in conjunction with your local living arrangements. Internships are not easy to get; it is your first job search. Fitting all the puzzle pieces together can be overwhelming, but it gets easier when you make a plan and then re-write that plan as you go along.
- Study Abroad
- Travel Opportunities
- Clubs and Organizations
- Your unique areas of interest
Communicate with your support system
Your support system is unique to you. It may consist of family members and guardians, friends and employers and former faculty. Communicating with your support system is key to decision making. Who do you go to for support? At Suffolk, we will answer as many questions as we can, provide you with paths for obtaining information, and help you try new things and gain knowledge in many areas, but we cannot make your choices for you. We will provide you with a lot of information and tools to help you sort that information, but your support system knows you best. Sharing information with your support system is powerful.
- It draws your personal community closer to you.
- It reduces your stress, keeping those who care about your wellbeing informed keeps them free from worry, and in turn, will reduce your stress.
- Sharing your current Suffolk experiences will help your support system see your growth and change. This will help them provide support to you as needed.
- Keeping your support system tuned into your needs will become critical when you turn to them for advice on future choices.
Choosing a major is NOT easy
Many students want to meet with an advisor, express some of their likes and dislikes and be directed down a path. Unfortunately, it is just not that easy. It is work. You need to gather as much information as possible, sort through it, and discard what you don’t like. That is the beginning. Here is how you gather information:
- First, have you thought about a major? What areas interest you?
- Do you know what majors are available to you?
- Do you really know what they are all about? Do not make assumptions, and do not assume classes in high school or one class in college depict an entire discipline.
- Learn what the majors involve: go to the “majors fair” and ask questions.
- See the Undergraduate Academic Advising Center for a list of faculty that you can make appointments with in order to learn more about their disciplines.
- Visit or email businesses or other student groups. These students are often passionate about what they are learning and will be able share their experiences.
- Self-assessments are available at Career Development Center to help you sculpt your areas of interests.
- Take a course that will help you explore your interests.
- Select a major you enjoy studying.
Next, turn that area of study into a career path. Try not to pick a career first; there are many paths to a single career. Your job as a student is to learn to speak, write, think, and communicate well. Your major should be something you truly look forward to learning more about and digging into deeper.
Asking for a letter of recommendation
Letters of recommendation aren’t just for applying to graduate school or getting a job. You may need them for an internship or other opportunity during your college years.
First, you need to know the person you are asking. More important, they need to know you and specifically about your academic performance or some other area of experience they can attest to on your behalf. Remember, a letter of recommendation is not only about you; its worth is in the reputation or status of the author, as well as what he or she says about you. And, your performance once hired reflects back onto the person who wrote the letter on your behalf.
Second, you need to make an appointment to discuss your request; do not drop by during office hours.Third, arrive at the appointment prepared with your resume, a list and description of unique accomplishments and experiences about which you are particularly proud and would be appropriate for inclusion in a letter of recommendation, and your transcripts, if relevant. The more information you provide about yourself, the better the letter will be.
Fourth, write a thank you note to the faculty member for his/her time, even if he/she declined writing the letter. This is just good business. You never know when you may need that contact again in the future.
Use your summer to build up your resume
Most Suffolk students use summers to work to save money they need for the academic year or take courses to get ahead in their degree requirements. But if your summer job is not growing your skills and your coursework is required for your degree, you really need to consider adding additional summer activities that can build your resume.
Job shadow in another department
If you have already been working, large or small, there are likely to be multiple departments or at least multiple job types. Will your boss let you spend a day working with a different department? You can learn a lot from seeing a company through someone else’s role.
Ask for more responsibility
If you’ve got a summer job, try to get the most out of it whether you are working in a bank, Starbucks or a clothing store. Yes you might be folding shirts or cleaning up after customers. You might even spend your days photocopying or running errands. But if you do your job and any tasks assigned to you well and take them seriously you can always ask for more tasks. Asking for more tasks not only leads to more skills on your resume but it will also show your supervisor that you are self-motivated. Many people will use the phrase “self-motivated” on their resume, but if you prove it, you may have a supervisor who will write you a recommendation letter attesting to that fact.Join S.O.U.L.S. and then look for opportunities to volunteer
Most volunteer work is part-time; yes you can fit this into your summer plans. Choose to look for opportunities based upon your community’s needs or your own interests. SOULS is a Suffolk student organization that can keep this activity going all year as well as get you started with ideas. It is the largest student organization on the Suffolk campus.
Take a class, seminar, or workshop
Everyone has a need to build up technology skills from time to time. How well do you really know Excel or data-basing? Technology skills are always in demand in the workplace and you can take seminars or workshops at local community centers, high schools or even online from your own home. Learning something new over the summer could mean a new software like Microsoft Publisher or a seminar in professional writing. Are you an accounting major that secretly loves history? Never underestimate the ability to discuss historical and current events in a professional and educated manner with future employers and supervisors.
Practice networkingIf you have a field of interest or a couple of areas that appeal to you then you should meet people in that field. Arrange informational interviews or a job shadow. If you need a place to begin, call Career Development Center at Suffolk. Career Development Center can teach you what an informational interview is and how to complete one. Are there conference or meetings being held by professional organizations in your field of interest? Staying current is often key in a future interview and getting in the habit now will allow you to grow this skill long term.