Thursday, June 25, 2009

Interns: Don't work from home!

Seems crazy right? The minute I started my internship, I wanted to bring my work home so I could get more done and show how committed I am. Everyone knows that working from home is the best way to play a quick catch up with things you might not have been able to finish while clocked in. But bringing your work home can be detrimental to your internship for a number of reasons:

1) It's healthier- Coming home is supposed to be the start of something else. Taking time to rejuvinate, and hang out with your family is healthy, and if you leave your work at work, you will be able to sleep better because you won't think about it. At least I don't

2) Balance is key- Any working professional will tell you that they most important/difficult part of being in the work world is maintaining a healthy balance of work life, family life and self. Bringing your work home distrubs that balance. Like my dad always said growing up, "There is a time and a place for everything."

3) It's not billable- This is not meant to sound mercenary but the fact of the matter is that billing work is a part of our (PR) profession. It is expected that we learn how to do it, and it results in us accurately accounting use of our time for clients. Also people should be paid for the work that they do, and you don't get paid for things you do on your own time. (Likewise, don't do on your work time what should be done at home)

Now since I've gone and ruined your fun, I'll share a few ways to increase productivity at work without bringing work home:

1) At the end of the day, make a to-do list for the next day before you leave. That way, there's no dilly-dallying (love that word) while you try to figure out what's on the agenda for the day, you can jump right in!

2) Keep a notepad or word doc open throughout the day to jot down random ideas that are not applicable to what you are working on. That way, you don't lose them, but you can keep on task.

Any other ideas? What do you do to keep productivity up while at your job/internship?

Monday, June 1, 2009

NCORE 2009: Traces of the Trade: A Story from The Deep North

The viewing of this film was incredibly packed, and rightfully so. Katrina Browne’s story is one that hails from the heart of our country. She is descended from the DeWolf family, the largest slave trading family in America. Through their endeavors, they brought more than 10,000 Africans from the coast of Ghana, to the New World. Millions of Americans can attribute their ancestors’ displacement to this one family. 

In the film, Katrina and some of her family members retrace the trade route their elders traveled and dig up old, long buried family secrets. Their trip is far from superficial, no matter how much they seem to want it to be initially. One of the most inspiring things about the film is their willingness to be transparent and deal with the guilt, anger and pain that they confront while travelling. They speak of the privilege that they have from such treacherous business. They also go in depth into the business aspects of the trade. 

One of the things I found most interesting is that while watching the film, I was not even mad at their forebearers for what they did. I found myself calculating the money they were making, thinking about conversion rates and how rich they would be today. It is chilling to think that anyone, even a descendent of one of the worst crimes against humanity ever, could think about the money to be made from it. But it helps me realize that, like the guy said in the film, I cannot villify these people. What they did was evil, and they knew it, but who, when presented with the opportunity, wouldn’t do something similar? People do it every day. I guess the potential for depravity is within us all, and we have to find some way to quell that instinct. For me, it’s Jesus.

The other thing that really stood out to me about the DeWolf descendents was not only their compassion and remorse, but their drive to do something about what they had seen. They did not just read old slaver ledgers and visit old plantation ruins. They had conversations with Ghanaian people, who asked them questions like, “Don’t you feel shamed to even be here?” They faced it head on and when they returned to the States, they made further attempts to make things right. They have pushed for reconciliation, written books, and traveled all over the country to help right some of the wrongs done during slavery. You can find out more about what they are doing on their Web site: http://www.tracesofthetrade.org/

What NCORE Did Wrong

This past week I attended the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education, held is the lovely city of San Diego, California. It was incredible and I gleaned tons of new information from the sessions I attended, as earlier posts on my blog demonstrate. However there are a few things that I feel could be improved for future NCOREs.

Disclaimer: This is not a gripe by any means. I loved the conference!

1. NO Wifi!!

OK, they really did have wifi in the hotel, but it was $6.95 an hour, $13.95 per day and as a student with limited discretionary funds, free wifi is a must. Having free wifi potentially grows the audience for NCORE exponentially, due to the many social networking and social media sites that are accessible online. Free wifi would provide NCORE participants with multiple outlets to share what they are learning in sessions, keynote addresses, and whom they are meeting, with the world. For example, NCORE did have a twitter handle (@NCOREonsite) but there was little to no engagement. 43 followers and not one that they followed, plus they only tweeted like 10 posts for an entire week??? I tweet more than that during a #cavs game (smh). Also, most people were texting and using their cell phones (I was still without) but I didn’t notice much social media engagement via cell, especially not tweeting. I also did not notice a Facebook I also saw people carrying around laptops (including me), but we were rarely able to use them, since no one was willing to pay for Internet access. Were there free wifi, I’m sure people would have been able to create a larger presence online for the conference.

2. Rooms and sessions

I noticed many sessions that were overcrowded and a couple that were sparsely attended. My suggestion to remedy this situation is to preview the sessions with a small, objective audience/committee before the actual conference. Then they could maybe predict which sessions will be the most popular, so that they can fit them in appropriately sized rooms. Obviously films are going to be well attended, and anything on hip-hop, the N-word, and Obama. Make room for these sessions, and save conference-goers a bit of disappointment.

All in all, this was an incredible experience. There were just some things that could have made it even more impactful. The subject matter of race, ethnicity and equity in higher education is one that I think all schools should be working to address, and I am really glad my school is willing to address these issues. I am truly blessed.

NCORE 2009: Grad Testing

I will be taking the LSAT but in the presentation these tips were expressed as help for all of the graduate tests. The most interesting thing that was said was that the tests are not meaningful. At all. They are however, important. Grad tests show only that you are good at that particular test. That’s about all. The keys to being successful on grad tests are:

  1. Be aggressive, for some reason, it’s rewarded on the test.
  2. Laugh regularly when preparing for the test.  (No, I’m serious) 
  3. Use books, the internet, and one-on-one tutoring in your preparation
  4. Take a course! Studying on your own is much harder because you have to find the materials, study, and teach yourself. In a course, you only have to study, they find materials and teach you.

Also, they provided a “work-out” plan for prepping for the test, which I found incredibly helpful.

Prep minimum: 2 hours a day of high quality practice

                            5-6 days/week

                            7-8 weeks, right up until the official test day

                            Take 4-5 practice tests, one every two weeks

While this may seem like a very intense schedule of preparation, the presenter pointed out that this schedule is equal to only ½ of a season of a high school sport!

Lastly, practice tests from Kaplan and the Princeton Review are good, but find prior released tests. You can get these by simply purchasing them from the testing company here. I'm planning to start my studying in a few weeks. Happy testing!!

NCORE 2009: Your Graduate School Application

Another of the earlier sessions that I was able to attend was about preparing to enroll in graduate school, which is one of the options I have been weighing. The presentation was insightful, as I had not done very much to bring my law school ambitions to fruition. I had been studying for the LSAT, but only on a limited basis (bored in the bathroom). The first point they stated was that you need at least 2-3 letters of recommendation. 

Also, you will be asked to write a personal statement and a statement of purpose, and I found the difference between these two interesting. A statement of purpose should simply tell, why you want to attend that particular grad school, and your intentions for your degree. A personal statement is more in depth, and it connects your unique life story and experiences to your intended field of study. Like any piece, it should be well written, with accurate grammar and correct spelling. The presenters suggested proofreading and having it looked over by at least 4 people, with three being professionals outside of your major. This is to provide objectivity, because many grad school application committees pull from across the university, for the same reason; objectivity.

Also they suggested adding a CV (Curriculum Vitae) to your application, in addition to your resume. Many people (including me) tend to see the resume and CV as the same thing, but really the CV provides the room to describe your experiences in more detail than a resume allows. It should also show the results of your experiences, i.e. what you learned while working for Wal-Mart. You can actually start this now, by making you own virtual CV. Here's mine!

I really think it is great how NCORE provides these sessions for students, as I know even with all of my involvement in pre-professional organizations that there are still things that I might not know about post grad life.