Transitioning into The Spring Semester

 

If you are anything like me, the spring semester seems to be the unfavorable one. Sure, you have the summer to look forward to, but that’s six months away! While Valentine’s Day and my birthday in April, for example, are certainly fun events to look forward to, nothing seems to bring as much joy as the holidays in fall. Everything from Halloween to the end of the year festivities, the fall semester seems to go by a lot quicker once the sweaters come on and the leaves start to change. So as a student, how can we start off right, and make the spring semester just as strong as the fall? This is an exceptionally daunting question for students like me, last semester seniors. I mean, the finish line is so close! How can we be expected to learn for another six months? Well, we have to, so here are some tips that are going to help me ace this last semester, so hopefully they help you too.

 

Start Now!

The reason I am posting this a week before school starts is because it is important to get a head start on the semester. Everyone knows how hectic the bookstore can get when students come back into town, so if you are here before move-in day, get your books before everyone else! Make sure you also use online books stores like Chegg and Amazon for rentals if the required books become too expensive. This also means that you should be stocking up on school supplies. Remember when you only had one pencil and pen left after week two? I do, so make sure you stock-up before the rush to Walmart becomes unbearable.

This also means going on the NIU Bookstore website and plugging in your class schedule to see what books are required and what books say to wait until class starts to purchase them. Every professor is different, so take advantage of those who allow you to wait until the first week of classes before you purchase. Some professors may allow students to share books in a group or use the online version, meaning you may not have to bear the full cost after all.

 

Stay Ahead

This is probably the most common sense tip on this entire list, but common sense is not always common practice. If you stay ahead of your work, the entire process seems to move at a manageable, relatively stress-free pace. Here are some things you can do to keep yourself on track:

  • Buy a planner, or better yet, get the free ones they give out at the NIU Bookstore the first week!
  • Take an hour or two and go through the syllabus for each class, marking down when assignments are due and the dates of exams in your planner. Trust me, it is tedious but you will be thanking yourself when you know what is due while others wait until the last few hours to complete that assignment.
  • Check Blackboard at least once a week, maybe make it a Sunday night habit, and get yourself familiar with how that next week is going to pan out.

 

Time Management

How do you organize your time? For me, I personally use the iCalendar app on my phone to organize everything. I have my class schedule on there, along with my meeting times for organizations and clubs, and I also have my work schedule all in one place. This makes it easy for me to schedule my week and gives me some piece of mind that everything is in place. Don’t just use your memory to get you through the semester, you will forget things and that will lead to a negative snowball effect, which could be hard to recover from.

This also means you are going to have to make time for studying but do not forget to make some time for yourself too. Having too much stress on your mind throughout the day will bog you down. To combat this, give some time for yourself. Remember, this is supposed to be a reasonable amount of time. If you do not have three hours to lounge around, then be honest with yourself and get some work done.

A good example is with me, I personally like to set aside an hour or so each night to leisurely read something I am interested in, and I also like to wake up early to make some coffee while reading up on the latest news. I like to take control of my morning and evenings because I know the day in between is normally hectic. So between my normal school day and the time I use to study, I at least know the first and last few hours of each day are spent doing something I enjoy.

 

Find a Mentor

There used to some weird stigma with students who enjoy talking with their teachers to pick their brains on what they know. I am sure everyone has heard of the student who was labeled as the “Teacher’s Pet.” Clearly this is ridiculous, and in college, if you refuse to find yourself a mentor with the plenty of excellent professors within the College of Business, you are certainly missing out on not only a wonderful academic resources, but also someone to turn to when making big decisions, like choosing a job in their particular field or advice on post-graduation plans and ambitions. Long gone are the days of those silly stereotypes, it is called networking, and you should take full advantage of it.

This could be as simple as finding someone in the College of Business who you look up to, and schedule an appointment with them. I have never been to a college (keep in mind I have transferred twice) where the faculty is as willing to help and mentor students as much as they are here at NIU. So take my word and find yourself someone who you can idolize and ask questions to.

 

Start Looking for Internships

If you haven’t started looking for internships yet, getting a jump on it will benefit you immensely. Companies are now requiring more than your degree, they want you to have experience right out of college and one of the best ways to do that is with an internship. Maybe you know someone who can get you an intern spot, but if that is not the case, Huskies Get Hired is an excellence resource. That is personally how I got my summer internship at Apex Energy Solutions and I absolutely loved it. If you choose to wait until the Internship/Job Fair, that is fine, but getting a head start on that will be beneficial for you.

Internships are no longer fetching coffee and organizing papers, they are high paying outlets for students to gain real-world experience while getting a great look into an industry you might be interested in. Plus, with an internship, you do not have the risk of it hurting your resume if you choose not to stay afterward. Consider it like a trial run at an industry you may have your eyes on. On the other hand, if you do love the internship and that company fits with your personal values, most companies will make you an offer at the end of your time. Think about it like this, they basically trained you already, and you got acclimated with their work culture, why would they not want to hire someone who already fits in? This should certainly be something you do this semester, it can only benefit you.

 

Finally, Have Fun Learning!

Think about it, we are lucky to be in a position where such a wonderful schooling system is assessable to us. The power of knowledge is never going to be negative to your career. The more you know and the more you continue to learn, the more doors are going to open for you. If you graduate this year and you still don’t know what you want to do, there is no need to worry! If you don’t find a job right away, consider doing the Masters program at NIU. That is what I am doing!

Uncertainty is completely normal, but not wanting to continuously learn, is not acceptable. You should be constantly hungry for knowledge. Remember, your learning should not stop once you leave college, you should constantly be surrounding yourself with people who want you to succeed while you all learn from each other.

By going into this semester with an open mind, you will be guaranteed to learn something new, and that is what makes all of this fun! You have an open invitation to be smarter by the end of this semester, but the only thing stopping you is you! Open up a bit and meet some new people, you never know what kind of connections you will end up making.

 

So hang in there everyone, this semester is going to be a fun ride for all of us. Stay positive and be sure to keep up with your work so it does not sneak up on you! If you follow these tips, you should be just fine!

Have any other suggestions? Feel free to send me an email and I can add it to the list! I am looking forward to talking with you all at lzmich1@niu.edu!

See you around,

– Louie

Part 4: Students of NIU Business

Editor’s Note (Louie here):  Here’s Part 4 of “Students of NIU Business,” our new and ongoing initiative project modeled after Humans of New York.  Remember if you’re an NIU Business student who wants to be featured in “Students of NIU Business,” send an email to Social Media & Marketing Intern extraordinaire Louie at lzmich1@niu.edu!!

Part 4: Students of NIU Business 

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untitledMaria is a transferred junior Business Administration major, with a Fashion Merchandising minor. She’s from Palatine, IL, and this is her first semester here!

She was really excited to have the opportunity to go to and transfer from, a community college before deciding on a major. Here is what Maria had to say about her transition to NIU, “When I got out of high school, I thought I was going to go to California, to a high-end fashion school. I decided to switch to business because I felt like fashion wasn’t the best fit for me to grow as quickly as I wanted. I was thinking of going to Minnesota or Indiana, but then I looked at NIU. When I was on the initial tours of the campus, Barsema Hall completely hooked me into the college. I picked Business Administration because it has all the aspects of business, funneled into one degree. I think the College of Business is going to personally fuel my goals by trying to get involved with Women in Business, Delta Sigma Pi, and CAUSE. I want to take the skills I learn and become a CEO of a company some day. My main goal there would be to reduce the carbon footprint the company leaves on the world. I want to be among the many women that have already achieved major success in the business world, I get that passion from my step mother Bobbie. She encourages me to be an empowered woman in business. So that has always been really important to me. My advice to others would be to take the initiative to do something today! Oh yeah, and a fun fact about me, I love cats!”

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Senior Accountancy Major, Sarahsara-woo Woo! Sarah took the time to share her story on how she came to NIU, and what kind of tips she could offer other students before she graduates.

“What really interested me at NIU was the Accountancy program here. It was always ranked in Business Week’s top Accountancy programs. When I came to visit NIU, I really got the sense that this is a community that helps develop the student body. When you compare universities of comparable competitive standing, professors have a focus solely on research. However, here at NIU, research is certainly important but the development of the students was the highest priority. That was immediately evident, and I was impressed by it.

As far as what I am up to now, I wrapped up my internship with BDO USA, LLP last semester. They asked for me to come back for a second internship during the spring semester and then offered a full-time position upon my graduation. I have accepted that offer, and I couldn’t be more excited to get started! I really commend the Accountancy program, the career fair, and the classes here, as they give me the tools to be able to find these opportunities for growth and success, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

My first internship was in audit, and the second internship will be in tax. The firm was really flexible in offering different accounting opportunities and they ultimately gave me the choice of what my full-time offer will be in, and I am excited to start my career in public accounting with them.

As I leave NIU, I think there are a few things I could say to those who are in or just entering the college. The College of Business offers so many rich opportunities for students to explore. One very important thing to do is to dive on in and get involved. Get involved with the student organizations around you and get to know your peers. These people are going to be your greatest resources and your largest support groups. Also, get to know your professors; you never know who could possibly be your next role model. The professors here really have impressive backgrounds. They all have accomplished really important and great things, and I’ve found they’re all willing to share their experiences. Ask questions, stay curious, and have a positive attitude. If you do that, nothing can stop you.”

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cordnei-gibsonCordnei is a Sophomore Business Management major and is planning on getting the Sales Certificate. Here is what Cordnei had to say about her life, and how she came to NIU!

“I’m from Canton Michigan, and a lot of people have asked me why I came to NIU, with all of the other universities around my hometown. The cool thing about NIU is, the school reaches out to a lot of students in the US, and the world for that matter, reaching a much greater audience. So, I checked out the website and it was really easy to navigate! The virtual tours and student resources were a huge help for my friend and me, and as a result, we both ended up applying. I called my dad all excited and visited campus 3 times to make sure it was the right decision. I ended up falling in love with the atmosphere here, the campus is gorgeous and the entire time all the advisors talked about internship opportunities at the COB. At NIU, the College of Business gives you hands-on, real-world experience and I couldn’t pass that up. I definitely made the right decision; it’s impossible to fail here. Anyone will be successful here, I’m confident in that.

I honestly feel like I have a leg up on people at other schools, simply because I’m in the College of Business. The opportunities they give us here are phenomenal. The way the COB does orientation is very uncommon, they make their students feel comfortable in all areas. Anyone is willing to sit down with you and go through your career plan. I haven’t seen that with any other college, so early in your college career. I’m only a sophomore, but I feel comfortable with my career choices, moving forward.

In high school, I was really involved, and that’s when my dad explained what project management was to me. He saw the leader inside of me, and how to achieve goals in teams, so I researched it immensely and decided that I should major in Management to fulfill my passion for driving people to achieve their goals. Management is going to allow me to motivate people and get team objectives completed.

After joining PSE, they encouraged me to network with others and gave me opportunities to meet managers and recruiters right away, my freshman year. That opportunity was and still continues to be an amazing experience. It’s always nice to get out and meet business owners and managers, no matter where you are in your professional career.

Here’s a fun fact for everyone: my mom decided to name me Cordnei to match my twin brother’s name, Cordell. We were born on Valentine’s Day, and we are two minutes apart (he is the oldest, and he never lets me forget that). And another fun fact is that we were both born on Valentine’s Day.”

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kenzie

Kenzie Niestrom is a senior Business Administration major with a minor in Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship! Louie had the chance to sit down and discuss all that she has accomplished in her time here at the CoB!

“When I first got out of high school I went to a different college and then transferred to College of DuPage after my first semester, so I could continue working. When I was at COD, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I chose Business to get the most out of my career. NIU has a lot of partnerships with community colleges, including COD, which means if you get your associate degree before transferring to NIU, you don’t need to take your Gen Eds. I really liked the transferability here; other schools were not as accommodating. I only applied to NIU for this reason. It worked out perfectly, I’m from Lisle so it was close, and I liked the accreditation and prestige the College of Business here has.

I choose business administration because it seemed like I could do so much with the degree, and once I got settled in; I realized I could get just about any job with the skills I would be obtaining.

When I got here I joined BASA (Business Administration Student Association). At the time there were about 5 members, 4 of whom were graduating that year. I was the only member left, so there was a lot of motivation to rebuild the organization and give Business Administration a voice. I helped rebuild BASA and now it has a full e-board with 35 members strong. I had to essentially redo everything last fall; I made a new vision and bylaws while working with Brittany Buis (my academic advisor) a lot to get everything finalized. We marketed it and with the help of BA majors being funneled into the same classes, the organization grew. By having all Business Administration students in one area, the organization had a chance to have people strengthening the major and getting to know each other at the same time.

Overall, my time here has been really awesome. I’m in BASA and MBSAB (Management and Business Administration Student Advisory Board). I’m also on DSAB (Dean Student Advisory Board) and Women in Business. Being involved in all of those has helped personalize my experience at NIU. I was able to network with so many people, which can be difficult when you come in as a junior. I love the classes I’m taking and the professors have been so supportive throughout my time here.

As far as my career after college, I am working in the professional development labs at Abbott. That was fostered in the ELC program where I worked for them and then landed an internship. I loved that internship, which ultimately led to my job there.

I’m a Business Administration major who went into IT, and I know of BA majors who went into retail, sales, logistics, distribution and a few who went into IT as well. It’s so cool how we can be marketed to so many different areas of business, simply because we took such a wide variety of classes.

If I had to reach out to students who are not ready to go away to college or do not know what they are going to do, so ultimately you go to a community college first; I would say that it’s okay not to know. College is scary and some people are ready to go away and some are not, it’s okay to not have a concrete plan. It’s okay to figure out what you like and what you don’t like when you take a wide range of classes, now you are better versed and immersed in so much more than you would be if you only had your mind set on one major.”

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phillip-wilsonPhillip Wilson, om&is major

“Junior operations and information management major Phillip Wilson of Chicago, IL, had a different start to his college career, due to the influence of his mother. Wilson went to work immediately after graduating from high school and was successful in his job, making good money. But even with this success, his mother continued to push him to enroll in college and to pursue the path of a higher education. ‘I thought I’d come out here and be a middle of the road student,’ Wilson said. He hadn’t excelled in high school and had mediocre grades. But things are different for him at NIU. ‘I didn’t think I’d be getting a 3.4-grade point average and joining honor societies.’ He maintains a high-grade point average and is going to be a mentor for incoming freshman through the John Henrik Clarke Honor Society. If it wasn’t for his mother, Wilson admits that he would have probably stayed where he was, doing the job he was working at, for the next 50 years. His mother is happy to point this out to Wilson. ‘She brings it up as much as she can,’ he said. ‘She drops it in every conversation.’”

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Learn what Prajakta Kale is up to after graduating with an MIS degree in 2015 from the Department of OM&IS! Presently, Prajakta is Lead QA Analyst/Business Analyst with Duluth Trading Company, in Belleville, Wisconsin.

“Grad school is far more academically intense than undergraduate study. Whether you’re a recent undergraduate student or a mid-career professional, you’ll need to set aside some of the preconceptions you have about college lifestyle and prepare for the rigorous and rewarding experience of grad school. While my peers and I were going through this life changing experience of grad school, I witnessed that the staff in the OM&IS Department made extra efforts to smooth the transition for students. The faculty were dedicated to helping all the students achieve excellence. I appreciate the way the department designed the curriculum to match industry standards. The knowledge you gain definitely makes you an efficient employee and gives you an extra edge over your colleagues. I am grateful to the OM&IS department — they were always concerned and committed to bringing out the best in every student. In terms of what the experience helped me learn about myself, I would say it brought out my confident side. I learned that if I want something, I shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions, raise concerns, and most importantly, realize it is okay to say ‘I don’t know.’ During my OM&IS project seminars, I understood that “the best way to learn something is having to explain it to someone else.” No matter how clear you are on a subject in your head, you always gain a new perspective on it when you try to explain it to a peer/colleague. I also found out that I can be more patient than I ever knew, work excellently and multitask under pressure.”

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Find the complete list so far of “Students of NIU Business” in posts labeled Part 1,  Part 2, Part 3,” and so on!

If you’re an NIU Business student who wants to be featured, let us know!  We love learning more about each and every participant!  Send an email to Louie at lzmich1@niu.edu!

 

Students of NIU Business – Alumni Edition: Jeff Kamholz

I had trouble thinking of a way to integrate alumni into the posts that we do for students, here on the blog. When reaching out to young alumni, a lot of their stories are rather compelling and, on some level, can relate to a wide variety of students. I thought about doing an interview style of questioning over Skype or Facetime, but that seemed too scripted. I wanted people to simply talk, and I would listen. Then it dawned on me, this is just like the Student of NIU posts! So, we have decided to create the Students of NIU: Alumni Edition and the first entry is a recent alumnus, Jeffrey Kamholz! – Louie Zmich: Student Intern 13686626_1225983507425336_6391579270793294833_n

When I was a senior in high school, I started looking at colleges. I was on my own to pay for school, so I knew a mix of scholarships and work opportunities was a criterion I needed when looking for good business schools. I was also looking for a school relatively close to home that was simultaneously going to allow me a chance to succeed, as well as the opportunity to graduate in the best financial position possible. It was then that I found NIU and learned about the opportunities this university provides. I knew that I wanted a school with a good business program, and the proximity to home and financial opportunities on top of that were simply bonuses for me.

My first week on campus, I joined about 5 clubs. While I certainly didn’t stick with all of them, I found a few that welcomed me in and with which I was hooked. One of these clubs was Delta Sigma Pi, a professional business fraternity. That was truly the first step in my professional development. I met many of the people I was closest with through Delta Sigma Pi. Serving in other roles such as an ambassador for the college in the Northern Lights Ambassadors and on the Dean’s Student Advisory Board, I tried to find ways to help the college in any way I could. Even as a freshman and sophomore, the college had given me so much. I got to know former Dean Denise Schoenbachler very well, and she is one of the people who I consider to be my personal mentor.

I was extremely fortunate to have experienced so much during my time as a student. By getting involved in five clubs, working three jobs, experiencing two study abroad programs, and completing a research fellowship, I found myself with quite a few memorable experiences under my belt…and I was only a rising junior in college. I eventually declared marketing as my major with a specialization in sales. I chose marketing initially because I thought it would get me close to advertising, and I was fortunate enough to get to know and work with some of the faculty I originally met as a freshman. Their impact on me was profound enough for me to declare my major as marketing. As I progressed down the marketing career path, sales seemed like the best option in which to start my career; it allowed me the most freedom in a customer-facing role.

“Throughout my senior year, I was fortunate enough to interview with many companies. The sales program not only gave me real-world experience selling products but also taught me how to market myself in order to show the value I bring to companies.”

Throughout my senior year, I was fortunate enough to interview with many companies. The sales program not only gave me real-world experience selling products but also taught me how to market myself in order to show the value I bring to companies. Drs. Ridnour, Peterson, Groza and Professor Howlett all taught with different styles but similar messages. With everything from mock interviews, the sales Corporate Golf Outing, to bringing in dozens of real-world sales professionals to network with, the college’s sales program truly prepares its students for success.13227000_1176521745704846_3470934632335728426_n

I highly recommend that students interview with more than one company; only by speaking to employees of those companies and doing things like shadow days will you be able to realize truly what a ‘day in the life’ is actually like. While it certainly helps to have an idea of the industry you want to get into, it is okay to not know for certain. Interview with a few companies, and figure out where you think you would fit best.

Fast forwarding to present day, I’m in the middle of a year-long sales training program with Bloomberg BNA. Because of the experiences I had during my time in the College of Business at NIU, I was able to stand out enough and put myself into a position to succeed. I have been extremely fortunate to find a company that has been willing to invest so much in me. I chose Bloomberg BNA because of the career development opportunities and the long-term career potential. I felt that the year-long training was unmatched; additionally, the company’s commitment to its employees is rather unheard of at this level of business. I have always looked for that “something more” in a company, and I found it at Bloomberg BNA.

So far, I have directly used skills and techniques that I learned in the sales program. Anyone who has gone through the sales program recently has read both The Challenger Sale, as well as SPIN Selling. I have so far applied the principles of both books in my mock sessions. (Yes, sales students, you should actually read the books!) Learning how to ask the right questions and listening to what the customer says are two of the most important skills that I have developed so far.

“Moving across the country and knowing very few people in a new location was a step I didn’t think I was going to take. Once I thought of it as an investment into my own future, the idea began to grow on me.”

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Jeff, third from the left, with all of his colleagues in training.

Bloomberg BNA’s home office is located just outside of Washington DC, which meant I had to relocate for a year for the training program. Even though originally I had not anticipated leaving the greater Chicago area, I chose to accept a position that I felt was going to set me up for long-term success. Moving across the country and knowing very few people in a new location was a step I didn’t think I was going to take. Once I thought of it as an investment into my own future, the idea began to grow on me.

Recognizing the potential in the opportunity, I knew it would be the best decision and the best place to start my career. I view this year not only as an investment in my professional future but also in my personal life. Aside from a few months spent in Europe, I had never been away from Illinois for an extended period. I never thought I would be relocating- until the right opportunity presented itself, and I could see myself at that company.

If I was to give a bit of advice, it would be the following: It is okay to not know what you want to do; once you figure it out, however, be relentless in pursuing it. Overall, this was the best career move for me and for my future. While moving away from home certainly wasn’t easy, I knew that it was something I had to do in order to meet my own definition of success. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone in order to set yourself up for success.”

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Be Unreasonable … go after your dreams

Editor’s note (Michelle here):  In this Thanksgiving season, it brings me great joy to share this Life After Graduation profile from 2015 OM&IS alumnus Jacob Ferguson, another wonderful and recently graduated alumn.  Not too very long ago Jacob managed all things social media for the College of Business accounts, including the Student Voices weblog.  As you read this post, you’ll soon discover that Jacob continues to be true to who he is and what he believes. Thank you, Jacob, for sharing your wisdom and journey so far!  Keep living into your passions and making an incredible difference!  Happy season of gratitude!

 

Quick Career Bio

 (Start date: 3 months after graduation.) I currently have the honor and privilege to serve as a Corps Member at City Year in Chicago along with over 200 other individuals in an effort to help students and schools succeed. We work to bridge the gap in high-poverty communities between the support that students need, and what their schools are designed and resourced to provide.  With City Year, I work full-time on a team with other Corps Members and our Team Leader. Together, we provide students with academic support and after school programming focusing on the areas of attendance, behavior, and course performance.

You chose a different path after graduation…

I decided to choose a job that allowed me to make a difference and give back to my community right after college because it is something that has always been important to me and close to my heart. At a young age I learned the importance of volunteerism.  That value has remained important to me through the years. Another reason is that I personally know there will never be another time in my life when I have as few commitments as I do now. Also, I’m of the belief that if I serve now, I am increasing the odds that these types of issues will not be around when I am older.

Who is your hero and why?

This answer changes daily. There are probably a million people that I can say come to mind when asked this question, but the one that sticks out the most in mind my is my mother Cheryl.  My father passed away when I was in high school, and she really took it upon herself to ensure that we got everything we needed to succeed. She has always
challenged me to do my best and has been an intricate part in helping me to become the man I am today. I honestly don’t know where I would be without her and all that she has done for me.

Describe your most meaningful/favorite experience at NIU.

I would have to say being involved.  There were so many opportunities and experiences that I was able to take advantage of simply as a result of being involved. NIU already has a student organization for nearly everything, and if they don’t, they highly encourage you to create your own. In many ways, being involved is also where I learned and grew the most during my time at NIU. It provides a great opportunity to apply the skills that I learned in the classroom. It’s something that I believe every student should take advantage of.

What did you learn about yourself at NIU?

I learned a lot about who I am and the person that I aspire to be. I had the opportunity to experience a lot of different things: from traveling to other countries to taking a stand against social issues. Each experience has made me better in some way. I think a lot about what my life would have been like had I not attended NIU, and I can honestly say that going to NIU was one of the best decisions that I ever made.

Name three things you want to do in life:

1.  Hike the Appalachian Trail.  An alumnus and friend from NIU actually did this after graduation.  Ever since I talked to him about doing it, it has moved to the top of my bucket list. The thrill of being engulfed by nature, having time away from the world to reflect and grow as a person and building relationships with people you would otherwise have never had the opportunity to meet really resonates with me. I am actually considering doing this after my year of service with City Year is up.

2.  Paddle board in Bora Bora.  This is a recent addition to my bucket list, but I mean come on…how awesome does this sound? Plus, sleeping in an over-water bungalow sounds like an extraordinary experience.

3.  Sky dive. This is probably the most realistic item on my bucket list of the three. I think it is fair to say that I will have this one crossed off by next summer.

Tell us your “WHY?”

I’m just a young individual from Chicago trying to build my legacy and be remembered for the impact that I have on others and on the world. I view my life as a series of adventures. Some are longer and far more thrilling than others, but they all ultimately help to depict the journey. And they all are guided by a mantra that we followed as students in an NIU student group—NIU CAUSE—that I participated in with so many friends and kindred spirits. That mantra is “be unreasonable.”  Be unreasonable enough to believe that you can make a positive impact in the world. Be unreasonable enough to go after your dreams.

Realize your Potential

Editor’s note (Michelle here):  I’m delighted to share another Life After Graduation profile from yet another wonderful and recently graduated alumnus.  In this post, you’ll catch up with 2015 business administration alumnus Robert EnRicco Ramos. Thank you, Ricco, for sharing your insights and journey so far!  I know how busy life is, so truly my gratitude to you for taking the time to share with me how life is going on the other side of your NIU Business experience! 

Quick Career Bio

I am currently a business development representative at Groupon.  My main goal is to cold call organizations to see if there is a fit for their business to be featured on the Groupon platform. Groupon is a great customer acquisition tool.  My main objective is to go through a process with merchants to gauge their costs, capacity, current customer traffic, and business goals. Once I’ve gone through this process with merchants we determine if there is a fit.  If there is a fit, I structure a campaign that will be beneficial to both the merchant and Groupon.

Describe your future-self, 10-20 years forward.

Many people look at money as a measure of success.  While money is a factor, I think my definition of success goes a little deeper.  In 20 years, I need to be able to look back on those years and know that I did everything I could to reach my full potential.  If I can look back and know that I didn’t leave anything on the table, then that to me is success.  My dream situation is to operate independently in 10 years.  I’d like to make a living through my own business and have a team under me.  Entrepreneurship runs in my family, so I have that entrepreneurial spirit.  In 10 years, I most likely will be a full time entrepreneur.

What words of wisdom would your future-self share? 

I can share some now.  Never outshine the master.  Robert Greene says this in his book “48 Laws of Power.”  In the past, I haven’t been the best at listening. This is one of the most important things to learn – the skill of listening. I listen to my mentors, family, managers, etc.  And I hope that I can build enough credibility in business so that I will be able to share words of wisdom in the future with young business minds.

What makes NIU Business uncommon? 

I saw the value in attending NIU’s College of Business when I was there.  However, I feel like I see the value even more now that I am in the business world.  What makes NIU’s College of Business great are its intense programs, like the undergraduate cross-discipline business classes UBUS 310 and UBUS 311.  These classes create a mental discipline.  UBUS 310’s valuable content and UBUS 311’s real world application both make NIU Business unique.  UBUS 310 simulates the business world because a lot of things come at you at once and at times you don’t have a lot of time to register it.  The business world is demanding and there are no “due dates.”  Due dates are “right now.”  UBUS 311 helped me build my confidence when I speak in front of people.  It also simulates real world meetings, which are constant in business.  The mentors at the college are probably the biggest thing that makes NIU’s business college uncommon.  People like Dennis Barsema – his level of achievement and success and the fact that he teaches at the college, that students can actually talk with him on a regular basis and learn from him, well that’s not something that happens at other schools.  All of the mentors and great staff at the college have taught me to be humble.  NIU’s business college builds great business minds.  It also builds strong character.

What did you learn about yourself at NIU?

Going into NIU, I actually had some doubts about whether I could pass.  I’m the first in my family to graduate from college, so at first, the idea of a university was very intimidating.  I didn’t know what to expect other than I expected the material to be challenging.  And I wasn’t sure if I was “smart enough.”  However, I learned more and more that I could do anything I put my mind to. NIU’s business school is extremely demanding and challenging, and I realized that if I can get through it, that I could put myself in the same position mentally to get through anything I want to in life. I learned going through the business program that I am indeed made for business.

Tell us your “Why?”

I’ve always been a go-getter.  Multiple things motivate me, but the main thing that motivates me is potential. I feel like I have the potential to reach a high level in business.  If I don’t give it my all, I feel like there will be a lot of potential wasted.  I also am motivated to be an entrepreneur.  I find this to be one of the aspirations that set me apart from other students at NIU.  Because I don’t have aspirations to “climb the ladder”. . . I have aspirations to actually build the ladder.

Follow your Purpose

Editor’s note (Michelle here):  I’m delighted to say that a number of recently graduated alumni are graciously sharing their journey so far with me. Thank you to each and every one!  In this post, you’ll catch up with 2015 accountancy alumnus Elyse Jares. Thank you, Elyse, for sharing your insights and journey so far!  I know how busy life is, so truly thank you again for taking the time to share where you’ve landed and what you’re doing on the other side of your NIU Business experience! 

Quick Career Bio

I graduated with NIU’s Bachelor of Science degree in accountancy in 2014 and then earned the NIU Master of Accounting Science degree in 2015. I started my job with KPMG in New York City at the end of September 2015 (approximately 3 months after graduation). KPMG is one of the Big 4 public accounting firms. I am an external auditor in the Financial Services industry.

What’s your best memory of your years as an NIU Business student?

My best memory would be pledging Delta Sigma Pi, which is a co-ed international business fraternity. I was a transfer student at the time, so it wasn’t easy meeting new people. Joining DSP helped tremendously with that. Many of the best friends I made in college came from DSP. I met a diverse group of people who are driven and motivated to succeed. They also liked to have a lot of fun. I would highly recommend joining some sort of organization. It’s a great way to meet people you might never have crossed paths with otherwise. It makes your college experience all that much better.

What is one piece of advice that has stuck with you and helped you throughout the years?

After high school, I participated in a 10-month volunteer program overseas. During the first week, one of the leaders said something along the lines of “when you love your purpose, you will succeed.” We had to fund-raise for the projects we wanted to do in the islands. Fundraising is not easy or fun at all, but I believed in what we wanted to do in the islands and that’s what kept me motivated every day. I started to apply that same philosophy in my life. If I was given a project at work that was mundane or that seemed to be of little importance, I would try to see the bigger purpose behind it. I constantly try to remind myself what my main purpose is. That’s truly what drives me.

Tell us your “WHY?”

I wouldn’t be where I am today without my two mentors. They saw something in me before I saw it in myself. They believed in me and have supported me from the moment they decided to be my mentor. That was five years ago. They have invested their time, commitment, and resources to help me succeed. They are my why. I want to be in a position where I can give back and change someone’s life just like they have done for me.

 

 

 

 

Grow from Challenges

Editor’s Note:  From time to time throughout the semester, we’re delighted to catch up with recently graduated alumni.  In this post, we’re delighted to share words about life after graduation from 2014 OM&IS alumnus Liz Peters. Thank you, Liz, for sharing your insights and journey so far!  We know how busy life is…not only in college but also at the beginning of your career.  So truly thank you again for taking the time to share where you’ve landed and what you’re doing on the other side of your NIU Business experience!

Quick Career Bio

After graduation, I began my career at AbbVie in a two year development program, rotating through three diverse divisions and job functions in AbbVie’s IT Organization. My first rotation included the implementation of a reporting tool that generates annual reports to be submitted to the government. My second rotation included the implementation of a Patient Support Program for a new drug in the Latin America (LATAM) and Japan and Asia-Pacific (JAPAC) Regions, respectively. During this rotation I was able to travel to Italy, Taiwan and Malaysia.

How do you continue to learn now that you’ve graduated?

The first year out of college was an entire year of learning for me. I’ve learned a lot about the industry and my company.  I’ve worked with different personalities and have grown my skills by listening to what others have had to say.  I try to network as much as possible to learn about others’ experiences and to help focus in on areas I would like to learn more about.  My company does a great job of offering training classes that I try to attend when my schedule allows.  I also plan to return to school soon to obtain a Master of Business Administration. (Side note: my favorite learning activity to date was an improv session I did with Second City. It was extremely eye opening…every exercise we did was applicable to the business world.)

What do you want to do with the education you received at NIU?

I hope to become a senior leader within a large organization one day.  This is a career goal that I developed in college.   NIU’s College of Business helped me to get leadership experience, whether that experience was in the classroom or in an extracurricular activity.  By having leadership experience, I was able to get my foot in the door at a company that focuses on developing young professionals.

Share something you learned about yourself at NIU.

When I started at NIU, I had no clue that I wanted a career as an IT professional.  NIU’s College of Business helped me explore different opportunities in the business world until I found the major that was right for me.  Now I love working in IT.

Tell us your “WHY?”

On a personal note, when I was 16 years old, my family environment changed.  I was forced to grow up at a young age and very quickly.  This made me realize that I am in charge of my life and only my actions affect my future.  I was able to take a negative situation and use it to fuel my desire to build a successful life for myself.  It helped me realize the kind of life I want for myself and fuels me every day to be a better person and to fight for what I want.  I feel like I saw that same type of message of overcoming adversity reinforced during my four years at NIU.  I had a chance to meet so many inspiring women — most of them NIU alumni — who have helped shape the business world to be more accepting of women in leadership positions.  If it wasn’t for women like them, I can’t imagine where I would be in my career today.  Meeting those women and hearing how they overcame significant challenges has truly inspired me to keep fighting for women in the workplace so that one day women will be viewed as equal partners.

 

Be Better Every Day

Editor’s Note:  We’re delighted yet again to share words about life after graduation from yet another recent NIU Business alumnus:  2013 & 2014 accountancy alumnus Daihee Cho. Thank you, Daihee, for sharing your insights and journey so far with all of us!  We know how busy life is…not only in college but afterwards when your careers begin.  So truly thank you again for taking the time to share where you’ve landed and what you’re doing on the other side of your NIU Business experience!

Quick Career Bio

Upon my graduation from NIU’s College of Business in December 2014, I quickly dove into the public accounting profession, starting in January 2015.

It was my first busy season experience in the public accounting profession, and it was quite an adjustment after being a college student.  It felt like a boot camp!  I was involved with different clients in different industries — it was all a great learning experience.  At the same time that I went through my first busy season experience, I finished the CPA exam.  I passed all parts on my first attempt with the great education that I gained from NIU.

I am an Assurance Experienced Associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers and currently, I am participating in a rotation program between the Core Assurance – Financial Services and Risk Assurance practice.

What does success look like to you?

For me, success is when I can help the next generation by encouraging, motivating, and assisting with any resources that I have to further individual dreams – especially those that improve society.  I believe I will be able to accomplish this by doing things that I have a passion for and by becoming a role model to the next generation of talented individuals.  Life is full of fun and excitement.  I would like to do anything that I can to help by sharing the same generosity of spirit with others, much like other people did for me.

What do you want to do with your NIU education?

I want to show and encourage everyone to further seek out their education and face challenges that they may or may not be afraid of.  I came from a different country and received my degrees (undergraduate and master degrees in accountancy) from NIU, where I gained excellent education and faced challenges that were scary to me at first.  NIU’s business education has provided me opportunities to learn, to grow up as a professional, and to expand my horizons in my life, and I want to show others that this is what NIU has to offer for them.

Why did you leave South Korea to come here? 

My dad graduated with an NIU degree but not with a business degree.  When I applied for colleges in high school, NIU was the best option with a highly respected business program and the best return on investment.

Tell us your “Why?”

Each morning when I wake up, I wonder what will happen today.  I always want to see what kind of opportunities are out there for me and what I will learn from them.  There are times when I get overwhelmed and frustrated, but, at the end, I find the challenges interesting and I enjoy them.  I am thankful for being given this amazing life.  This motivates me to keep pushing myself to be a better individual and professional.

 

Editor’s note:   If you’d like to share your story about your life after graduation — or life in school! — send an email to mdejean@niu.edu with the subject line “Life!” and together we’ll figure out the next steps!  Thanks!

Set Ambitious Goals

Editor’s Note:  We’re delighted to share words about life after graduation from yet another recent NIU Business alumnus:  2013 finance grad Jordan Near.  What…we’re just at the threshold of the fall 2015 semester you say?  True, true but remember that even if your graduation is a few or more weeks away, it can still be enlightening to see how life is shaping up for those who graduated before you.  So before the rush of the Fall 2015 semester begins, check out Jordan’s path after graduation so far.  And *thank you, Jordan* for sharing your story with us!

Quick Career Bio

I am a Consultant at Ryan, a tax consulting firm. I’ve been with Ryan since June 2013, and I was actually an intern for Ryan in the Chicago office during the summers while I was at NIU. With Ryan, I work on a team with other consultants and our manager on issues related to sales and use tax audits for large corporations. Our team specializes in the healthcare industry, specifically healthcare providers in Texas and Georgia. We work on behalf of our clients during the audit process to try to limit their tax assessments and maximize their refunds to get them to a net refund position. It’s allowed me to learn about the healthcare system, and also helped me to get to know about all the different medical items and crazy technological advances that are being used to treat patients. I also work on a few manufacturing projects for clients with operations in Arkansas. Our team is considered the subject matter expert on sales and use tax regulations in that state. I’ve been lucky enough to work for a manager who shared his knowledge and that has allowed us to work on numerous Arkansas audits. We usually get the first offer on these projects, which is nice because you always want to be known for your work product and your ability to deliver.  I think our niche allows our team to stand out.

What are three things you want to do in your life?

This is a great question, because it makes you put pen to paper (or in this case keys on a laptop) and force you to be real with what you want out of life.  This list is in no particular order:

  1. Travel. I am lucky enough to travel for work, but it’s hardly to exotic locations.  I usually go to Arkansas, Georgia, or Texas. I’d like to go to a lot of different places and experience new cultures. It really can change your perspective on things and give you a new adventure. I would really love to see every Major League baseball stadium because baseball was one of my family’s biggest connections. We all loved baseball and loved going to games together.
  2. Own my own business. I am a big proponent of creating your own path and future. I think owning your own business allows you to provide jobs for others and value to society. I also think it’s the single best way to create wealth for you and your family, which for me is a huge part of my drive every day.
  3. Write a book. As long as I can remember, I have been a voracious reader. Novels, business books, biographies, you name it. I have no idea what I would write about, but it seems like a daunting challenge that is worth pursuing.

What makes NIU so special?

NIU is definitely a special place for my family due to the fact that my two older brothers also attended NIU.  I have been an NIU fan since I was 10, because in 2001, my oldest brother started at NIU. I also think it’s a great combination of return on investment and education. However, the thing that makes NIU the most special is the people. I met many lifelong friends in DeKalb and had so many great interactions with awesome people who have helped me personally and professionally.

How do you show up in the world every day?

I try to be known for my work ethic. One thing I learned growing up was that whatever you do, you better give 100% or you’re letting people down. I grew up wrestling and if you wanted to be successful in wrestling, you had to practice at home and put in extra effort day in and day out. I try to bring that mentality to my daily life even though I’m no longer an athlete. If you can show people that you will fight on even with a difficult task, you will earn their trust and respect. I want to be known for giving 100% and for being a person you can count on.

Tell us your “Why?”

My “Why” comes back to two things: making my family proud and trying to set lofty goals. My first “Why” — making my family proud — comes from the fact that I have a close family and I am extremely grateful for everything my parents provided for me. Not many things are more satisfying than hearing your family say they are proud.  My second “Why” keeps me motivated.  If you set ambitious targets, it’s likely you will not achieve 100% of them.  Which only means that each day you have a reason to go out and try to hit the target you haven’t hit yet. Once you define your own success and you realize some sort of failure is eminent, it kind of clears your thinking.  It allows you to strive for more.  And it helps you realize that when you do hit a target, you have done something worth celebrating. I heard this quote from the movie the Trouble with the Curve that sums it up pretty well for me.  Justin Timberlake’s character says “As you know, to hit the magical .300, you fail seven out of ten times.” A friend did point out to me that with advanced baseball metrics “.300” isn’t the best any more, but batting average still is important. The point is that if you continue to try to get a hit in every at-bat, you won’t see those seven outs as failure.  Because you will have persevered, learned and grown.

 

Life after Graduation

Editor’s note:  We’re a bit quiet on Student Voices during the summer semester.  Jacob graduated in May (congratulations again Jacob!) and so we’re currently in between Social Media and Marketing interns.  But have no fear!  A new Social Media and Marketing intern is lined up to take over the helm of this blog.  We won’t steal his thunder by introducing him now.  Just stay tuned for his introduction in the upcoming weeks.  Until then, we caught up with some freshly-minted NIU Business graduates to learn how they are showing up in the world…starting with Zach Fiegel  (2014 NIU marketing alumnus) who landed a job with the NBA organization (that’s right, the National Basketball Association’s management team in New York City).  (Thank you, Zach, for working with me on this and for sharing your story!)

Quick Career Bio

In my first year after graduation, I did four rotations in the NBA’s management associate program:  Global Media Distribution — International Business Operations; NBA Development League — Business Operations & Marketing; Global Marketing Partnerships — Business Development area, and; Global Merchandising Group — Licensing.  Along the way, I’ve had the opportunity to work for and with some incredible people, make trips to some really cool places (Berlin, Santa Cruz), and show the Big Apple a little bit of that Huskie pride!

How do you define success?

I honestly think there are seven billion+ ways to define it.  It’s up to each individual to decide what success means in his or her mind, and that can change at different stages of life.  I like to set shorter term (1-3 month) goals that I measure myself against, but for me, it really comes down to evaluating myself daily on “the little things.”  Above all, I aim to bring a positive attitude and a work ethic to whatever I’m doing every day.  I know those are two things that I can control no matter what.  Those two items branch out to things like “Did I do things to make the days of the people around me better?”, “Did I give the groups I worked with my full attention and energy?”, “Did I add some smiles to the world?”, etc.  For the Bulls fans out there, I think a Stacey King (Bulls color analyst) mantra sums it up best:  Did I bring the “HeartHustleN’Muscle” today?

What’s your best memory of your years an an NIU Business student?

I had an incredible experience at NIU — one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.  In reality, the answer to this question is a 600 way tie.  This answer embodies a lot of memories, but I’ll say everything we built in the NIU student group CAUSE (Collegiate Association of Unreasonable Social Entrepreneurs).  Because of the efforts of a lot of great people, all of whom happen to be my friends, we pulled off some really cool stuff.  Through it all, we exposed a lot of people to a different way of thinking, raised a ton of money, and were able to make some significant contributions to some great organizations.

Tell us your “Why?”

Fantastic question.  If you happen to read this, head to YouTube and type in “What’s your Why?”   It’s one of my favorite videos.  I have alot of “Why’s,” but the most deep-rooted ones come back to my family.  I won’t dive deep into my story, but my mom and dad, despite their differences, made some pretty incredible sacrifices to give me opportunities that they never had.  Thinking about that gives me a kick in the rear to be better on a daily basis, but even more than that, I’d say my four younger siblings are my “Why?”  They inspire me and motivate me more than they’ll ever know.  I want to be a positive figure and a rock in their lives, while helping them surpass any level of “success” that I’m able to hit.

Editor’s note:   If you want to share your story about your life after graduation, send an email to mdejean@niu.edu with the subject line “Life after graduation” and together we’ll figure out the next steps!