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)

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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Make Dreams Happen

Editor’s note (Michelle here):  I’m thrilled to post the latest installment of “Life After Graduation.” In this post, marketing alumnus (student-athlete alumnus!) Troy White shares his thoughtful insights on his journey to date after graduating from NIU Business.  Thank you, Troy, as always for taking the time to share your very thoughtful words of wisdom with me and all of us!  Keep making a difference as you so truly do!

Career Bio

Sometimes the journey isn’t a straight line—but you grow a lot and gain a lot by persevering.  My path to the Chicago White Sox had a couple of twists and turns.

When I graduated I began to communicate with various professional sports organizations about my desire to work in the industry. I was informed by many that there weren’t any positions available at the time. After receiving this disappointing news, I began working as a Staffing Consultant at an employment services company in downtown Chicago. Approximately 10 months into this position, I was offered a business development opportunity with a business intelligence firm, which I accepted.

Then in July 2013—I’ll never forget this—I navigated through my email inbox and stumbled across a message I had sent to a professional sports team. It was like a wake-up call…I realized again how passionate I am about working in sports.

I contacted my former NIU baseball coach, Ed Mathey, and informed him of my goal and dream to work in sports. Ed was supportive and stated that he would assist in any way possible. My family has supported my passion throughout my life and helped me to tailor a new message, which I sent out again to professional sports organizations.

The revamped letter garnered a reply from Christine O’Reilly, Vice President of Community Relations with the Chicago White Sox. She indicated that the White Sox organization has yearly internships and said it’s a great way to “get your foot in the door.” I was instructed to let her know if an internship was of interest, and then she would forward my resume and message to Moira Foy, the Vice President of Human Resources. Without hesitation, I responded “YES, I would greatly appreciate it if you would forward my credentials.” It was an opportunity I could not pass up, even with the risk it posed.

Mind you, I was still employed at the business intelligence firm and performing well. To go from a secure opportunity with great benefits to a paid internship with no certainty, exhibits my passion and confidence in my work ethic.

In August, I interviewed for one of the 10 sales internship positions and earned the opportunity. Let’s fast forward to the month of February 2015, when a full-time sales employee accepted a position outside of the company and another employee assumed his position. This meant that there was now ONE full-time opportunity available within the Client Services division of the White Sox organization. All sales interns were informed of the opportunity and invited to apply. This was an exciting time, because one of us was going to earn a full-time position. After the interviews were conducted, we all patiently waited for our individual meetings to find out who earned the position.

Through all my hard work, dedication and previous experience I was chosen to join the Client Service team. So two years into my journey, I had finally achieved my goal! I wouldn’t have accomplished this without the constant support from my family, friends and Ed Mathey. It’s also important that I believed in myself and took the risk to start as an intern with the White Sox.

Did you know right away as a student what you wanted to do in business?

I only knew that I wanted to have a career in the sports industry. My exact position and responsibilities were not as certain. And even though my career didn’t begin in sports right away, the skill set and knowledge I obtained from my previous experiences proved to be instrumental to my current successes.

How do you show up in the world?

It’s important that I’m seen as reliable, hard-working, competitive and authentic. I want people in my life to know that if something needs to get done that I’m the person capable of making it happen. My participation in sports and family upbringing has instilled a desire to achieve greatness. In whatever endeavors I undertake, I’m going to work hard to achieve success otherwise I’m wasting my time and everyone else’s. No matter what level of success I achieve, it’s important to retain authenticity and to remain humble.

With your background and now a career in sports, you’ve seen good teamwork up close.  What components make a team good or even great?

As a former collegiate athlete and now working in sports, teamwork is crucial to success. Teamwork in school, business and on the field has similarities. Every good team must have accountability. If a member is deviating from the plan, it needs to be addressed and that individual needs to understand that it’s not personal but rather realize the importance of his/her contributions. Good teamwork requires picking up or covering for a teammate to ensure that the group doesn’t miss a beat (i.e. selflessness). Lastly, no individual can be “bigger” than the goal. No matter what your title or position is, everyone is contributing to the team effort and no one person is more important than the group and its goal.

In what way is NIU Business uncommon?

There are multiple aspects that make NIU Business unique. However, the support that the faculty provides its students is astounding! The NIU College of Business does a tremendous job of supporting their students’ extracurricular activities and taking a genuine interest in their lives. Many times I would have conversations with faculty members about things that were unrelated to what was mentioned in class or even NIU or the College of Business. This personal touch and genuine interest is what I will always remember.

How do you stay hungry?

Simply, I set goals. It’s amazing how impactful it is to your success when you write down your goals or create a vision board. I like setting some lofty goals, because every day I wake up, I know it’s time to go to work if there’s something to be accomplished. As odd as it may sound, I appreciate failure. I’ve failed all throughout my young life, but that helps to provide motivation. There is much to learn from an individual who has failed, including how he/she reacts to failure. Will they pity themselves or is he/she going to use that failure as a motivating factor? The latter is my mindset, which is why I set goals that I truly want, without watering them down into what I can ”more than likely” accomplish. The knowledge you gain on the journey to your goals is invaluable…even if it takes 1, 2 or even 10 years longer to get there than you originally expected.

Tell us your “WHY?”

Many factors motivate me in my life; some internal and some external. The greatest external factor is my drive to show my family and friends appreciation for all of the support and love they have shown throughout my life. I want my family to take pride in the way they raised me and the type of young man I have become and the man I will become. I can never repay them for all the time, money, love and energy they expended on my behalf, so showing them that it wasn’t in vain is my way of paying them back. In terms of internal drivers, I simply want to become successful in every aspect of my life. My competitive spirit won’t allow me to become complacent. There is always another goal to achieve.

 

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.

Tips On Studying For Midterms and Finals

Caption: As I was following the 45/15 rule the other morning before lecture (explained below), I came across this familiar view looking out at Dad’s Pond behind Barsema Hall. What a cool sight to see. Posted on my Instagram @louie_zmich. Also be sure to follow @NIUBusiness on Instagram!

Editors Note: With this collegiate semester almost over (I know, it’s crazy), we seem to realize that getting to the half way point sometimes isn’t the hardest challenge. All the material goes in your brain and you recall it when you need it, but now midterms are here and you have forgotten everything you’ve learned! Fortunately I have done some research and put together some simple tips to get you back on track so you can ace your midterms and finals. These are tips compiled from students themselves and some studies done on other college campuses, so let’s dive in! As always, if you like what you read, feel free to comment on this post and follow me on Facebook & Titter @LOUIEZMICH and Instagram @louie_zmich. Enjoy!

First off, I want to say that by you following these tips it should help you in multiple ways. To begin with, you’re simply going to retain more information. As you become better at studying, you are going to actually learn the material and not just memorize it. Second, you will also begin to develop good habits so cramming won’t be the worst of your worries. These both may seem like a long shot because cramming and memorizing can be the normality sometimes, but as you start to follow some of these rules ahead of time, you will  notice improvement without having that be your initial intention. With that being said, let’s take a look at what this article is going to contain:

  1. Tips from students and an explanation for those tips
  2. Tips from various research, along with an explanation for each tip  and a all to action, how you can starts right away to ace those exams

As we start off, this is interesting to say that all of these student tips are from students who are in the business school right now at NIU and are taking classes here just like you, so if they can achieve excellence, so can you!

Making flashcards early, and continuing to make and review a few, each day. 

  • This one might be one of the most effective because making flashcards not only stimulates your brain, but also lets you make visual progress when you can throw the ones you know away over time. Once the exam comes, you’ll be a pro on the material.

Review the material by re-writing it.

  • This was a tip that multiple people told me, many also paired up this tip with another, reading your notes out loud. It’s the same concept of meeting someone, and then immediately saying their name out loud, your chances of remembering that name increases dramatically. Once you visualize it, and hear it, the information sticks much easier. So as you re-write your old notes, you should then go and say them out loud to double your chances of remembering!

Study in groups and teach each other the material.

  • When you study in groups you get the perspective of people who don’t think like you. This is important because you may see a problem one way, but cannot figure it out without the help of someone else who sees the problem from a different angle.
  • This also is effective in reducing the work load of a big study guide, if everyone divvies up the material and then teaches the group the material they had to cover, everyone is much more likely to retain the information because if you can teach it, you’re more than likely to have a great grasp on what ever it is you’re teaching.

Keep the material fresh by bouncing around on related topics.

  • This tip wasn’t brought up too much by students, but I thought was very accurate from when I study. If you immerse yourself in a lot of material in the same subject, you start to get board and tired of the same old thing. By bouncing around from different chapters, all the information is relevant, but in the same token stays fresh and new so you’ll learn more by staying engaged.

Now that we have the student’s point of view, I think it’s time to look at my top three researched topics that the experts say will boost your learning capacity and increase your test scores!
Apply the 45/15 rule when you’re studying

  1. According to the Pomodoro Technique, your brain can stay focused for about 45 minutes, with the first and last 20 minutes being the height of your learning capability. Once the 45 minutes is up, you tend to drift off and sometimes retain none of the information you were studying. Once the 45 minutes is up, surf the web or go for a walk outside for fifteen minutes. This will keep your mind fresh and give you an incentive to work for, every time you sit down to study you’ll know a nice break is coming soon.

Get a change of scenery when you study

  1. I always thought when studying you should wear the same kind of clothes you had on in class, and wear the same fragrances, and while those two things do have benefits (especially smell and taste, chewing gum in class and wear a specific fragrance too. Then, come test time do both of those again and watch your scores increase! It’s true!), studying in the same place every time may not help you as much.
  2. A New York Times study indicated that the old time ways of studying in the same place have been kicked when college students who studied a list of vocab words in two different rooms performed much better on a vocab test than students who studied the words twice in the same room. Researchers think that our brains make subtle associations between what we’re studying and what’s in the background while we’re studying. Those unconscious associations help you remember what you’re learning. So the more you change it up, the more your mind has something new in the room to associate that certain formula with.

Space out review sessions

  1. In 1885, German scientist Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered the spacing effect. The spacing effect shows that humans remember facts and figures for long periods of time, when you space out the time you study instead of cramming the day or night before an exam. He also discovered that we all have a “forgetting curve.” The rate at which we forget things depends on several factors, but the wonderful thing is it’s possible to figure out how long it will take to forget something. “Knowing how long it takes you to forget new information allows you to strategically plan your next review session for maximum performance on your exams.” – AoM
  2. SuperMemo is a fantastic program that can actually find what your forget curve is. You create flashcards of information you want to memorize and work through them on your computer. SuperMemo then uses an algorithm to figure out when you should be presented with the material again after you review it. How amazing!

Studying doesn’t have to be something that is always associated with stress and anxiety. Studying can be satisfying and efficient, everyone knows that feeling of leaving an exam and knowing you’ve killed it. At this point there isn’t anyone in this college that likes to fail, we all want to succeed so why not take the steps to become successful and ultimately save you a ton of time in reality.

I hope this has been of some help to you, and if you have any study tips that I have missed or would like to share, please leave a comment or contact me directly and I will share it on the “study tips” link on the blog!

Thank you everyone, and don’t forget to be awesome,

Louie

 

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!

Mastering the art of note taking

Editors note: Hello everyone, Louie again. I figured the beginning of the year would be a great time to talk about the power of taking good notes in class. The quality of your notes greatly reflects on how well you do in class, and with classes getting more and more difficult as you get closer to graduation, there’s no better time than to brush up on your note taking skills. After taking a whole seminar over the summer on note taking, (I know, riveting). I wanted to share some information I had learned. As always, I hope you enjoy, and feel free to reach out to me @LOUIEZMICH on all social media.

 It seems simple enough, but taking notes that are efficient and effective is not a simple task. If you’re anything like me, professors talk so fast and everything seems so important, you end up writing so much down but never getting it all because your hand can’t write that fast. Note taking doesn’t just begin when you sit down in the classroom; it actually begins before you even go to class.

1. Read beforehand.

Unfortunately, you heard me correctly; you will have to read the book before you go to class. The reason for this, simply put, is your brain cannot function and comprehend brand new material when you’re being lectured simultaneously. Think about it, how many times have you been extremely focused in class and never had your mind wonder at all? Odds are, not many, so when you’re in class you want to have some idea of what is next to come.  This way you can write down topics that clear up what you didn’t understand before you came into class, and not write down concepts you already understood while reading before hand.

Now, before you go to class you do not have to read the entire chapter word for word, but what you should do is the following.

  • Read the first and last sentence of every paragraph, and make headers for each new topic in your notes.
  • Read and understand every bolded word.
  • Read the entire summary at the end of each chapter.
  • Make note of concepts and words you didn’t understand before the lecture.

See, that’s not too hard to do, but it is exponentially important before you go to class to have this mental mindset in place. You will never be caught off guard if you follow those steps because you will know what is coming, and have an idea of what is being talked about before you listen in on the lecture. This is also helpful because if you do doze off, or your mind wanders, you will know right where your place was in class as marked by your notes.

2. 24 Hour “Shot Clock.”

Now that you did all this preparation before class, it is crucial that you get into a routine (foreshadowing for the next post) of reviewing your notes no more than 24 hours after lecture. This is very important if your goal is to learn and comprehend the information. Unless you’re trying to memorize something to then forget it later, you what to actually learn the material from class. By going back and re-reading your notes, you still have a mental image of the lecture in your mind. Research published in the Teaching of Psychology Journal in the ’80s concluded that students were messing up on their tests not because they’d taken bad notes, but because they weren’t re-reading them before the exams. If you have the opportunity, and choose to record your lectures, make sure you follow along in your notes as you re-watch the lecture. This act of visiting your notes within 24 hours of your lecture is a great way to remember what you were thinking as you were writing in class. Make sure you ingrain that information in your head while it’s still fresh, that way the next time you have class, you will have already reviewed the material. By the time of the exam you will be able to recite your notes without looking at them. Which means no more cramming either.

3.   Be OCD with your notes, and be creative. 

You want your notes to be as professional and organized as possible. It will not benefit you at all if your notes are all over the place. You need to be able to sit down again and again and know exactly what you wrote down and when. Simple things like headings, dates, and titles are perfect with keeping on task with your notes. Your notes should have a variation for your own style, but should look slightly organized like this:

How to become a better person                             09/02/2015

  • Read good blog posts.
    • Louie Zmich has great ideas
  • Go to a great college
    • Northern Illinois University has great degree programs

Why becoming a better person is crucial in life

  • Better people have more friends
    • Studies show, this is because people will like you
  • Better people, are healthier people
    • You wont be stressed about how people don’t like you

Summary:

In order to become a better, healthier, and more popular person, you must be enrolled with NIU and read Louie’s blog posts.

With notes like these, all joking aside, you will be more organized and know right where your thoughts were on every topic. You also want to include pictures in your notes as well. Drawing releases a lot of your creative side and inspires your mind to capture the thought better when something is drawn out. Make an image on paper to enhance the idea that you are trying to capture in your notes.

 4. Take Breaks.

The typical meeting format of continuous talking and     simultaneous scribbling might not be ideal for optimum note taking. It turns out that everyone might not listen and write well when trying to do both at the same time. The Journal of Educational Psychology researched lecture structures and found that incorporating periodic short breaks greatly improved the quality of notes taken. One way to approach this would be to have little moments of quiet writing reflection in between meeting agenda items. Wouldn’t that be pleasant?

I think it’s time for everyone to stop cramming before exams and to start being prepared before the exam date comes around and sneaks up on you. Even though that is a loaded statement, hopefully if you follow these tips you will eventually be a master note taker. Everyone has had that feeling of accomplishment when walking out of a lecture actually understanding what went on. You feel secure and ready for the exam, and that was just after one lecture. Imagine having that feeling all the time because you were ready before, during and after the lecture by being prepared and great at marking down your lectures.

I hope this has been some help to you, and hopefully this year has been made a bit less stressful by the power of note taking.

As always, thank you and don’t forget to be awesome today,

Louie