September 18, 2017
by Ellen

Finding Balance

“Work hard, play hard” is a phrase we often throw around, but what’s interesting is that research actually supports the idea of playing just as much as you’re working.  A recent article in Forbes recommends not working more than 50 hours per week:

“…productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and it drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more. That’s right, people who work as much as 70 hours (or more) per week actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours. Those extra hours are wasted.”

Work on finding a good balance while you’re still in graduate school — you can’t study all the time! Then when you’re in the workplace, you’ll already know how to be more productive. Check out the article for more tips:


September 1, 2017
by Ellen
Comments Off on Welcome!!


Welcome!  Hope your fall semester is off to a great start.

Please stop by the LPDC (BH339) to grab a cup of coffee and say hello to our new consultant, Stephanie Huwe. As you can see from her introduction, she is a very interesting person:

“My name is Stephanie and I am excited to join the team at the LPDC! I am a second-year graduate student in speech-language pathology here at NIU. I am originally from Rockford, IL, and I completed my undergraduate studies at Elmhurst College. I am passionate about running and will (hopefully) be completing my first marathon in September with my sister. I am also a vegetarian who loves comparing new recipes with other food enthusiasts! I will be in the center on Monday from 9-11am, Wednesday from 9-11am and 3-5pm, and Thursday from 9am-6pm. Stop in and see me for coffee, conversation, or a consultation!”

Our consultation hours for the semester:

Mondays: 9am-11am

Tuesdays: 10am-3pm

Wednesdays: 9am-11am and 3-5pm

Thursdays: 9am-6pm

Friday: 10am-1pm

As always, we are available for walk-in appointments, but we strongly encourage you to schedule an appointment ahead of time because we get booked up (usually at that time in the semester when you really need us!).  Please schedule appointments by e-mailing us at

Very Important Reminder:  Coffee or food CANNOT leave the LPDC!  We have been put on notice that if students take coffee out of the LPDC and into classrooms, we will lose the privilege to eat and drink in the Center.  Don’t ruin it for everyone else – finish your coffee before you leave.

Don’t Miss These Upcoming Events:

Pizza with BarryTuesday, September 12, 12pm-2pm in the LPDC.  Enjoy a free lunch and hangout with Barry.  This is a great opportunity to come and ask questions before the ACCY Career Fair or simply pick Barry’s brain about leadership or professional development.

The Second City Workshop:  If you are in ACCY 675, don’t miss this trip on Friday, September 8 or 15 (depending upon the section you are enrolled in).  See Jen Ellis or Mark Riley for details.

Tuesday TreatsSeptember 26 (10am-3pm) stop by for coffee and cookies

Hope to see you soon!


June 14, 2017
by Ellen
Comments Off on How NOT to Answer Interview Questions

How NOT to Answer Interview Questions

As many of you are getting ready for interviews, you are probably preparing answers to some of the routine questions potential employers ask. For example, “What is your greatest weakness?” The most common answer is something along the lines of “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too hard.” You have probably given that answer yourself, right? I think I have, too, actually!

Well, according to Alison Green, author of How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager, it turns out this answer is just the sort of thing that receives an eyeroll from potential employers. Yikes! Want to know the right way to answer this and a few other common interview questions? Read Green’s recent piece “5 Interview Lines That Make Employers Cringe”. I guarantee you will change your answers!

And don’t forget, the consultants in the LPDC are also available to help you through the process. From resumes and cover letters to interview prep — we can get you on the right track!

About Group Projects

April 24, 2017 by Jonathan | Comments Off on About Group Projects

Written by Mark Taylor, center consultant.

This week I talked with Dr. Ellen Stuart and center consultant Alex LeBrun about group projects. At the center we constantly have student groups come in for meetings and consultations, and so I wanted these two to talk a bit about how to approach these projects, what their purpose is, and why they’re important. Here are some of the main points they made:


Work as a group

Students commonly approach group projects by making them as similar to solo assignment as possible. Instead of truly working together, they cut the project into its disparate chunks, assign each student to a part, and then split off to work separately. When each part is done, they attach their work together in one big document and call it a day. Alex calls this the “Frankenstein” approach. There are a number of problems with this method. First, it doesn’t help you learn to cooperate and coordinate with others; you won’t develop the communication skills these assignments are designed to inculcate. Second, it leads to a disjointed presentation. If you do these parts on your own, it’s very unlikely you’ll independently choose to use the same format, style, and tone. This leads to jarring transitions for the audience when you move from one section to another. Third, working on your own leads to a bad synthesis. If everyone in the group works individually, no one person will be capable of answering every question from the audience, and you may have to embarrassingly defer to someone else if you’re asked a question on a different section. More importantly, however, your presentation will not have the benefit of varying viewpoints; it will not have been the product of comparing the merits of different perspectives and opinions. This leads to weakness and disunity in the final product.


Specified Leadership

Alex suggested that the best way to split up work—while maintaining group cooperation—is to have each person take leadership over an individual section. The leader of a section will have the final say and responsibility over what goes into it, but they are still the leader, leading other members within the section with shared contributions. No one needs to be in charge of the group as whole, but giving people charge of their own areas makes sure that at the end of the day every section will be covered.


Communication in Confrontation

The most frequent concern students have going into projects is: What if a group member won’t do their share of the work? This is bad for the group, Ellen said, but it is especially bad for that lazy member. Laziness in projects like these sets a pattern of laziness for the future. If someone is allowed to get by on others’ work now, they will continue to do so even once they have a job. And there that behavior will not be tolerated. So it is important, not just for the quality of your project, but also for the sake of the underperforming member that you speak openly with them about how you see their effort. Communicate rather than merely criticize. It’s with this goal in mind that Ellen mentioned she has students who come to her with complaints about group partners meet her in her office with the person they have complaints about. Few students are actually willing to do this because they’re afraid of giving negative feedback to face-to-face. It is this silent fear which allows groups to become dysfunctional. Don’t wait till a project is over to speak out; talk while there is still time for prevention.



April 7, 2017
by Jonathan
Comments Off on Writing is Hard and Homophones Aren’t Helping

Writing is Hard and Homophones Aren’t Helping

Written by Mark Taylor, center consultant.

I recently heard a speaker point out that we shouldn’t be surprised at how difficult it is to write well. People might think that writing should be a natural skill because it’s communication just like talking, and talking is easy. But this isn’t true. For most of human history the vast majority of people could neither read nor write. This is because reading and especially writing, like woodcarving or playing basketball, are skills that take a great deal of time to learn and perfect. Writing doesn’t come naturally to us the way speaking or walking does.

The difficulty in writing can actually be exacerbated by the comparison with speaking because one of the big ways the two differ is in their use of homophones. Homophones are two or more words that sound identical but which have different spellings and meanings. For example, “too,” “to,” and “two” all sound identical but have very different meanings. When we speak these words there is, obviously, no spelling involved, so you don’t need to be able to distinguish between them. Given that we disregard homophones in the natural way we talk, it’s little wonder new writers are easily tripped up by them. There is no way to get around these kind of mistakes except through practice and study, just like every other learned skill. To help catch these kind of mistakes, here’s an article that focuses on many of the common homophones we accidentally slip into our writing.

March 29, 2017
by Jonathan
Comments Off on Ethics and Bad Management

Ethics and Bad Management

Written by Mark Taylor, center consultant.

Here’s an article title that ought to make managers nervous: “9 Things Bosses Do that Make Great Employees Quit.” The article, by Business Insider, talks through some of the basic mistakes managers can make and how to avoid them. Articles of this sort are useful not just for students who will become employers or managers, but also for future employees who should be able to recognize an unhealthy work environment.

Before you read the article, I’d like to draw attention to the way several points on the list describe the importance of ethics in a managerial role. Managers who don’t give credit to their employees, which is a kind of dishonesty, are likely to discourage them; a boss who doesn’t care about the well-being of his workers will wear them out beyond use; and supervisors who don’t honor their promises won’t be trusted by anyone. Treating people well and acting with integrity isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s an essential part of good management.

Take a look at the full article here.

March 3, 2017
by Jonathan
Comments Off on Straightforward Writing

Straightforward Writing

Written by Alex LeBrun, edited by Mark Taylor

Writing is hard—especially when you’re trying to sound smart. The truth of the matter, though, is that trying to sound smart has the opposite effect on people; it makes you look unintelligent.

To remedy this, write straightforwardly, as if you’re having a conversation with the reader. When I consult with students on their writing, I often come across a sentence which seems off somehow. Sometimes it’s trying to do too much; other times, it’s not really saying anything. At this point I’ll ask the student what he or she was trying to say with this problem sentence. Their answer is almost always lucid and complete. You know exactly what you’re trying to say. So I tell them: Write what you just said to me, word for word.

This is a lesson that everyone can learn. Write like you speak. Writing is an extension of speaking, not a different form of communication. As writer Elmore Leonard said, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

Here are some tips to keep your writing clear as a polished beer glass:

  • Avoid adverbs like the plague. (Yes, I’m looking at you, bigly.)
  • Avoid the thesaurus. It’s radioactive. (If I want to say “bad credit,” the thesaurus might tell me to say “unpleasant credit.”)
  • Avoid adjectives like the common cold. (Why say “the young boy” when “the boy” says the same thing?)
  • Let what you’re saying guide the sentences. You don’t need transitions—however, next, etc.—if it’s clear to your reader what is going on. (Don’t put a transition just because you think you have to.)
  • Make sure you know precisely what you’re trying to say before you begin writing.

February 28, 2017
by Jonathan
Comments Off on Automation, Creativity, and Leadership

Automation, Creativity, and Leadership

Written by Mark Taylor, Center Consultant

In a recent interview, businessman Mark Cuban addressed what he takes to be a very pressing economic concern: automation. The continual growth of artificial intelligence and smart machines with inevitably disrupt job industries, he argues, especially once the processes that produce automation are themselves automated (think software that can create code on its own). The solution is not to adjust infrastructure to preserve old jobs like mining or manufacturing—though such changes may ease the transition—the solution is to train people differently. Those who can merely perform algorithmic tasks will not be able to compete in the new economy. What students and workers need is creativity, the ability to look at situations from a new perspective.

Here at the Center we emphasize the importance of approaching tasks with a well-round mindset. The goal for students shouldn’t be merely to learn how to accomplish a task, but to learn how to do so in a way that provides the most value for employers. This means providing analyses which communicate ideas clearly and carefully; it means crafting reports which provide insight in a way others has not previously considered; and it means taking imitative in examining areas that seem important to you even when others have overlooked them. In the coming age of automation, we need more than workers who can do as they’re told: we need creative thinkers who lead.

Watch the full interview here.