Louis Zmich – Student Intern Farewell Address

CAUTION: This is a longer piece than normal. I have a hard time saying goodbye. Enjoy!

Here we are, the final weeks of my undergraduate career. It seems like everyone tells you, “These years will fly by so fast” and you think to yourself, “Yeah, whatever.” But five years later, and here we are. I remember walking into the main halls of Elmhurst College, working late hours as a custodian and thinking to myself how the days were dragging along. Fast forward to my first semester here at NIU, walking down the street from the boarding house, which I shared with 12 strangers on Augusta Ave., to the Art Building basement auditorium for Business Calculus.

Does anyone else remember that class? I seriously thought I would never pass, and I started having thoughts of changing my major because, if being a business major was anything like that class, I didn’t think I would make it. But something happened that made me work through it, and I’m not entirely sure what that “something” was.

Once I got my bearings of NIU, I started to feel like I was actually growing as an individual. I began to take more classes at Barsema Hall, classes like OMIS 259 and MGMT 217, soaking up as much of the College of Business as I could. I knew this place was going to be my home, and I wanted to race through my classes in other areas of campus, just to come to Barsema.

A lot of memories have been made here. I remember barely squeaking by in ACCY 206 and 207, literally getting a B by the exact number of points needed, in both classes! Man, I will never forget the moment I calculated my scores, what a rush of relief. Then came UBUS 310, the class that kept me, and many others, up late at night. This was the class that fostered my love for Marketing. From there, it seems like I blinked, and now I’m writing this. I got involved in a lot of different clubs and organizations and tried to volunteer my time whenever I could. The struggles, successes, failures, trips taken, countries visited, and competitions attended, all contributed to who I am today. In a way, the College of Business morphed me to who I now portray to the world. The College of Business helped me identify my personal brand. Wow, I never really thought of that before. I didn’t want to be left out of making a difference, which led me to Social Entrepreneurship, CAUSE, DSAB, DSP and my current internship, for which I am writing this article. These organizations allowed me to do so many things, and get involved in making others’ lives, and the world a better place. All of those organizations are more than just acronyms, they’re an opportunity, a chance to grow, learn, and set yourself up for success.

From sales role-plays to class presentations, every moment seems so small. Every obstacle seems to be a burden, and we tend to race to the finish line to then look around and realize we didn’t enjoy the ride. This last reflection for me as an intern is unique because I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many wonderful people. People, who come from all different walks of life, have different reasons for being at NIU, and most importantly, have different opinions and lessons to share with others. This internship has allowed me to meet the many individuals who have shaped my life. I urge you to press pause on your day and look around. Enjoy your little victories and relish in the beauty around you, what you have, what opportunities you should capitalize on; because if you don’t, you may run too fast and realize you didn’t enjoy how you got there. Or worse, realize you chose the wrong direction to go! Enjoy this journey, you have the opportunity to be whoever you want to be, so embrace yourself and who you are. I promise there will be other people who like the same things as you do. Don’t succumb to a specific agenda, instead, write your own and others will follow. Love the skin you’re in, and people will love you for you, and not a fake representation of you. You do this, and these next few years will be some of the best of your life.

I want this farewell address (wait, he’s not done?) to serve two purposes: to let me say goodbye, for now, to this position and the school I have come to love, but to also say welcome to those students who are new here, traditional or not. Yes, yes, your time will fly by, (insert any other cliche thing to say), but I want to let you know what college is all about. Well, from my perspective anyway, and hope you get something out of this. If nothing else, enjoy it here, don’t let the small things get you down. My biggest piece of advice, if you read nothing past this line, is to step back and ask yourself, “Does this make me a better person?” If the answer is no, don’t sweat over it and walk away. Naturally, you ask, “Well, does Louie’s article make me a better person?” I’m glad we both agree that you should keep reading.

 

Your competitive advantage

In business, we often times talk about competitive advantage, what do you have that separates you from your competition, and your answer cannot be a degree anymore. When you look around at graduation, everyone is on the same playing field, we all have our degree. What separates you are the things you do, what you were involved in, the jobs you held and connections you have made. You have a choice to make, and the only force stopping you is you.

The biggest resource you have as a student is just that, you are a student, not competition. Companies are more than happy to tell you what they know, offer up shadow days, and make connections. You never know when you’ll use those connections down the line. Find the time to contact companies and be proactive on going after new businesses. Once you go on those trips and meet those people, do the unexpected! When was the last time you received a hand-written letter? Or a thank you email, just for sacrificing your time for someone? Those things matter and they seem like common sense, but let me tell you, they are not common practice. Do the extra steps and buy someone lunch, or a drink, and continue to do small kind things for others. I promise it will pay off.

We all are creatures of habit, we get up, go through the motions and then, when it’s too late, realize all of the things we should have done. In funny memory of Shiah Labuff’s “Just do it!” video, he has a point. What is the advantage of sitting around? You never want to look back on your life and say to others that you should have done X, Y or Z. You want to look back on your life with accomplishment, something to hang your hat on, and be a role model for others to come. But I can’t convince you to do those things, you come to school each day, you have the student loans, you know your reasoning as to why you’re here, reading this right now. Battle through, take the time to do things right and do things once.

 

What if I fail?

Do it quickly and keep moving. Learn from your mistakes but don’t let them define you as a person. In fact, embrace failure! That’s the only way you get better. Ever met a perfect person? Me neither, so who cares! Be ready to run for positions and lose, be ready to volunteer an opinion and have it shut down, be ready to submit an assignment and get it torn to pieces! It’s life, and if you’re ready for it, embrace it, who can get you down? No one. Be yourself and embrace who you are, never live your life in the light of which another casts you in. If you’ve been labeled the “Lazy Person” in your friend group, prove them wrong, if your parents have said that education doesn’t match a well-paying job, prove them wrong. Invest in yourself today, so you reap the rewards of a great career down the line. You are laying the building blocks of your life right here and now. You’ll be glad you took the time to do so.

 

Closing Thoughts. 

Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to publish work and interact with all of you. This journey has been fantastic and completely turned my life in a new direction and had made the person I am today. There is so much I could tell you about college, but really, it boils down to being yourself, getting involved in as much as your can, and be curious. Ask questions and continue learning, even when you leave college. Keep improving yourself intellectually, and don’t be afraid to stand out. It’s never too late to go after your dreams, and just remember, the only one who will ever stop you from doing great things, is you.

 

Thank you again, and I hope to speak to all of you again, sometime in the future.

~ Louie Zmich (05/01/2017)

My Personal Reflection on my College Career

 

I finally made it. Last semester of senior year… and yet, time seemed to slip through my fingers even when I thought it was going to take an eternity to pass. Life seems to do that to us, doesn’t it? The old cliché rings in my head, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” As that may be true, I often find that time flies when we’re busy and mindlessly suffocated by our daily routines. There were countless occasions when I didn’t know what the time was once I made it home, simply because when we go class to class, meeting to meeting, we tend to lose track of what’s around us.

That being said, I tried to make more time for myself in this past year, simply because I thought I was going through my daily grind and not really experiencing life. “Experiencing life” can be a bit vague, I’m talking about the little things, like looking around when I walk to and from class, or taking the time to mentally detox in the mornings and evenings. Normally, I would wake up in a rush and then that anxious feeling would continue all throughout the day. I would finally lay down in bed and immediately fall asleep, never having a chance to reflect on my experiences.

So this reflection is more of a piece for those who feel the same way as I, stressed and too busy for our own good. This is for people to take a moment to look back on the years we have spent at NIU, reflect on how we have grown as adults, while also looking forward to the future. I want this to serve as a reminder to everyone, not just seniors, that you do not have to know exactly what you want to do with your life. You don’t have to be a traditional student to be successful. Being honest with yourself and doing what your heart desires instead of what others want you to do, is the best way to your own personal happiness.

So I urge you to please kick back and do a personal reflection on yourself, it may just be what you need to get through your final semester.

 

First/Second Year

When I first came to NIU, I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my career. I originally thought I wanted to be an architect when I was in middle school, but that quickly changed to wanting to be an engineer. Unfortunately, I had a pretty nasty physics teacher in high school who changed my opinion on engineering in just one semester. Isn’t it a shame how some teachers in high school can really alter your view on a subject? Oddly enough, it turned out to be okay in the end. Once I graduated high school I thought I wanted to be a Psychologist, so I majored in psychology and philosophy at Elmhurst College (in Elmhurst Illinois) my freshman year. I started to come to terms with the reality that I could not afford Elmhurst College, nor were my majors something I wanted to make into a career.

Sure, the majors were interesting to me, but I didn’t want to take traditional classes on them. I would rather read about Psychology and Philosophy in my free time and make a hobby out of those subjects.

With all of that said, I wanted to go to a school that was close to home, but far enough for me to live on my own. The cost of school, in general, was an issue, so I spent my second year at Harper College (in Palatine, Illinois) where I could save some money, while also finishing my second year of Gen Eds at a community college. It was after taking all of those introductory classes that I decided to use my interest in psychology and bring that into the business world. That’s what lead me to NIU.

 

Third Year

My first year at NIU was spent in classes all around campus, which was fun for me to see the campus in its entirety. At the time, I only was taking one class in Barsema Hall, and I remember myself feeling anxious to finally spend my time there. I actually spent most of my studying in Barsema Hall, even when I had exams for other classes. The building felt like the place where I could build a future, an area that encourages scholarly success. Something about that feeling made the College of Business seem refreshing and inviting.

I have to admit that in high school I thought I needed to get my hands in everything. I played four sports while also being in multiple organizations, so once I got to college I told myself I would only play golf and that was it. Naturally, once I stopped playing golf at Elmhurst College and came to Northern, I thought I would simply go to class and come home to study. Luckily, I snapped out of that way of thinking, because I immediately felt like I had wasted two years by not getting as involved as I should have. I felt like I was at a disadvantage to other students by not being in organizations, but at the same time, I was working until five in the morning at times at the police department on campus. That was the only job that would allow me to work more hours than normal while working at night when my classes were over. Regardless, I thought getting involved would not only bring me around likeminded people but also make friendships, both of which I didn’t have at that point in time.

I knew I wanted to join something, and so in my second semester of my first year at NIU, I choose to join Delta Sigma Pi, the business fraternity. It was through Delta Sigma Pi that I was introduced to my current position, being the Student Intern for the College of Business marketing director. I finally started to feel a connection to the College of Business with this position, and it also allowed me to get a feel for a business oriented job, instead of one in Public Service. After leaving my supervisor role at the Police Department, I started to spend more and more time at the CoB, which was certainly a benefit, becoming acclimated with traditional business culture. The first year I spent here was certainly a wild ride, but it was after that second semester that I really started to call NIU my home.

 

Fourth Year

It was in my fourth year when I finally declared my business major in marketing. It took me a while to finally decide because the decision felt so daunting to me. How are we supposed to decide the rest of our lives at 21 years old? It was crazy to me, but UBUS 310 brought my vision into focus, and marketing was certainly something I could see myself doing in the long run. It just felt right, and I think that’s something important here. Sometimes you don’t necessarily know why you want to pursue or do something, it just feels right, and that’s okay.

Neil deGrasse Tyson said something rather profound on a Podcast I was listening to. He was talking about how our society, rather, our language insists on all of us coming up with words to describe our actions and how we feel. Is it black or is it white? Are you male or are you female? We demand to know exactly what people are feeling, and we don’t accept that sometimes there is not an answer for something, it just feels right. Sometimes words simply cannot describe our feelings, but we are demanded to come up with something to say, so we settle on what to think based on what we can articulate. Instead of limiting your thoughts based on the words you know, people should make decisions based on logic, reasoning, and how you feel about the situation. Of course, we can’t make decisions based only on feelings, but there is something to be said about listening to that feeling in your stomach, telling you if a decision is right or wrong.

Going back to Delta Sigma Pi, the fraternity also lead me to my love for Social Entrepreneurship, the first semester back in my fourth year of school. A brother in DSP was talking to me about my outlook on life and how my ideas matched up really well to Social Entrepreneurship, so I talked to a couple professors and I immediately fell in love, knowing that would be my minor. Social Entrepreneurship lead me to CAUSE, where I was able to pursue my passion of making the world a better place.

That fourth year was wonderful, I was taking classes I loved and making connections with professors that would eventually lead me to bigger and better things. I was working for the college, while also getting really involved with organizations and sitting on boards that were making real decisions for the College of Business. It felt like I finally found the right place to be.

 

Fifth and Final Year

Well, after all this hard work, I’m staying here even longer. I thought all I wanted to do was be in sales and make a living on my own hard work, and don’t get me wrong, I would still love to do that, but not at this current stage of my life. It wasn’t until the first few weeks of this academic year that I came to visit a professor I had a few semesters ago. She sat me down and we talked about my plans for the future. I honestly was feeling a bit uneasy about my future at the time. I really wanted to do something that would make an impact on people, but I simply didn’t know what. She asked me if I had considered teaching in higher education, and that’s when the “lightbulb” went off in my head. Yes, yes I had, but why didn’t I fully think of that before? I guess I never really took the time to think about it clearly. I was always moving so fast through my undergraduate degree that I never really evaluated my true feelings about my future. I never stopped to reclaim my days as mine and reflect on what had happened that week, analyzing what stood out to me. It wasn’t until I had someone else slow down my crazy life, that I began to see the last puzzle piece I was missing. After thinking more about it, teaching would be the perfect career for me. Constantly learning, the opportunity to impact young minds, and continuously being progressive through the power of education. It was then that I decided to stay and be a GA while obtaining my Masters at the College of Business here, the home I have come to love. It couldn’t have worked any better for me.

 

Final Thoughts

So what now? Well, more school. But I was trying to get at the constant change in my career path. I changed my major more times that I ever would have expected, but I think it was my open-mindedness that allowed me to audit so many different majors, and experience such a wide variety of subjects to finally make up my mind.

There seem to be many people who know what they want to do with their lives right out of high school, which is completely fine. However, it’s the student who doesn’t, who may feel a bit behind, like they are missing out by not knowing exactly what they want to do with their future. I’m writing this to tell you, that’s okay. You don’t have to know. Be open with the fact that there may come a time when you figure it out, and then it changes. That’s the beauty of enrolling at a wonderful school like NIU, you get to choose your future.

At the end of the day, I’m happy with the way everything turned out, and if you are too, good luck moving forward. For those of you who are looking deep down inside yourself wondering if your choices so far are really yours or something someone else told you, it’s not too late. Take the extra time to evaluate your life and do what truly makes you happy, because, in the end, it’s not anyone else’s decision but your own. Your way to true happiness and fulfillment is gaining control of your life.

I hope this inspired someone out there, and for those of you graduating this semester, cheers to you and see you in May!

–   Louie

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

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!