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Alumni Seejking Knowledge Blog

In the ASK blog, SUNY Oneonta alumni share their insights and advice for their fellow Red Dragons. Read and enjoy some useful tips for everyday life! If you think you have some useful knowledge you would like to share, please fill out this form https://oneontaalumni.com/news/ASKbloginterest  and our blog coordinator will reach out to you.


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Respectfully Declining to Achieve a Healthy Work-Life Balance
3/26/2020

-Chereith Vincent, graduating Class of 2011

Living in a digital world can make people feel as though they need to be “on” at all times, even after the workday has ended. Therefore, in today’s current professional climate, with technology heavily infused in our day-to-day lives, it is becoming harder to say “no” and, in turn, find balance.

Shortly after schooling, whether it be high school, trade school, college, graduate, or doctoral work, the usual next steps most likely include completing an internship or apprenticeship, beginning either an easy or daunting job search, and hopefully, landing our first “adult” job. And so it begins for all of us, the struggle, to climb ourselves up the labor ladder, with the hope of finding new successes.

As shiny new professionals, we are constantly seeking acceptance, praise, and especially security in our new workplace. While searching for these qualities, one single “yes” can quickly turn into a pattern of many, slowly weaving its way into every corner of our lives, overtaking our evenings, and before we know it, we are sitting idly while our weekends fade into the distance. Soon, we have lost sight of the relationships that have not received the needed attention they deserve, our mental and physical health has either declined or worse, disintegrated, and in turn, the walls that we so confidently built, brick by brick, have crumbled down around us. But amidst the destruction and rubble, we somehow try to rationalize and tell ourselves that if we can get noticed by making a positive impact in our professional environment, our suffering would lend itself to the well-deserved recognition that these sacrifices allotted us. Therefore, in theory, this recognition would eventually lead us to a promotion, receiving a raise, or better yet, being given the promise of stability, such as tenure. Even if we accomplish all of these accolades, along the way, we most likely sold out and traded in our personal lives for this new version of normal. A tragedy that we continue to nurture, in a world where lost hours and minutes quickly slip between our fingers, where we unconditionally put others first before ourselves, hopeful that the rewards are worth it, right?

However, with time comes experience. Through experience and observation, the process begins, whereas professionals, we cautiously reflect on the years that flew by. We are in a constant battle against the clock, struggling to get it all in, from the moment our heads lift off the pillow in the morning until they are placed swiftly back down at night. From sunrise to sunset, for most likely and unfortunately years, we remember how we cried from stress, developed anxieties, watched health issues bubble to the surface, all becoming permanent fixtures in our lives, just because we were trying to give our absolute best. During this time, saying “no” was never a word in our vocabulary. Ultimately, this, over the expenditure of ourselves, led to an incredible imbalance between work and life. Therefore, in reflection, we should have asked ourselves, “Who were we giving our absolute best to?”, “Was this individual or these individuals deserving of our best?” and if we were genuinely giving our best selves to everyone else, “Why didn’t we think we deserved the best for ourselves?”

If we could reverse time and tell ourselves what to have done differently, or even what to do now, we might simply advise that “If we are not at our best, we cannot perform at our best. Ideally, this applies to all facets of our lives, whether this is as an employee, a sister, a friend, a husband, or a parent. More importantly, we cannot perform our best for ourselves.” Although this might sound cliché, or “easier said than done,” there is much truth in this advice. So, the million-dollar question remains; “How might one be able to achieve this?”

The First Step is Simple yet Hard: Recognition.

When you begin to recognize when things are falling apart -- when you are falling apart, this needs to strike you as the moment when change is necessary. Subsequently, this could essentially be something as little as becoming disorganized or forgetful in spaces where normally this would not happen. Falling apart can also reveal itself through changes in physical or mental health. Other signs might include withdrawing from relationships, acting out recklessly, or losing value in things around you and in yourself. Any of these examples, and possibly others, should alert you that something in your life demands attention and change. If you are in a state to recognize this urgency, then you are ultimately steps closer to gaining back the real you.

Find Your Breath. Find Your Confidence.

When life is seemingly falling apart in our work and life, and recognition of this has begun, note that this is most likely due to either experience, observation, or even both. Through experience and observation, not only do we gain confidence, we learn to pause and breathe. This idea then allows us to understand what matters most, permitting us to sift through the things that do not. Any job, especially when we are first starting, requires much from the individual. However, we must learn to prioritize our needs and then choose where we would like to take on additional tasks. The key to these decisions, however, comes through recognizing when taking on more is either a necessity or something you personally want. You need to be choosing for yourself, something many of us are uncomfortable with.

When our work and outside life is imbalanced, “storms” ensue. Instead of evacuating, we catch ourselves hunkering down and preparing for the worst. Sometimes even hearing, “it gets easier” ignites a fire inside of us that expels anger due to our tunnel-vision to see no light. But again, with time, and exposure, comes observation and growth, and so does our ability to see the other side. Ultimately, through the struggle, we gain confidence in who we are. We learn to adapt to our surroundings, and in return, not just to learn how to survive but slowly breathe and live again.

The Power Behind “No”

Why is it we so often feel like we are unable to say “no”? Is it guilt? Failure? Insecurity? All of the above? At the end of the day, we are habitually our biggest critics. If we are the ones feeling as if we haven’t given enough, chances are we have. Not only are we giving enough, but we are also probably giving too much. Subsequently, and in support of the idea of giving too much, one must realize and accept the idea that sometimes tasks will and must go unfinished. Reassuring yourself that this is okay and knowing your character can help you with this acceptance.

In your work environment, alongside your co-workers and leaders, you are continually building your character. Hopefully, you are positively building your character by practicing professionalism and making sure to establish yourself in the role you earned. Building a strong foundation that is positive, reliable, independent, flexible, and one that can effectively communicate provides you the power and the freedom to, unapologetically, say “no.”

When your character is established, and your true-self has developed the tools and confidence to say “no,” please also tell yourself that there is absolutely no shame in saying it. Ripping off the “I don’t want to do this” or “I don’t have time for this” bandaid by saying, “no” can be beyond challenging the first time. The best advice for respectfully declining something, anything, is to be polite, attack it with brevity (less is more), and then walk away without second-guessing your decision. Of course, this comes with limitations, but we all know the difference between obligation and choice. As a professional, you need to remember you deserve a life outside of work, and that there is no guilt in acknowledging that. In fact, it is the complete opposite; it rejuvenates you and allows you to be an even better asset to your colleagues and yourself.

Make Your “Yes(s)” Matter

One of the biggest challenges is determining when to say “yes”? First, allow yourself the time to evaluate adding any additional tasks or activities to your work and or life. Ask yourself, “Does it hold value?” When additional tasks or activities are offered to you, life can become overwhelming, so, place a value on each task from most to least important. Furthermore, don’t be shy to ask yourself, “What is in this for me?” Questionably, this could sound selfish, but ultimately, this question allows you to defend your rationale or motive as to whether or not this decision will play an impactful role in your work or life.

If multiple endeavors come across your plate, and you find that all ideas are worthy of the investment of your time, you must be cautious that accepting everything can be just as detrimental as when you say “yes” to tasks and activities that you don’t want to do. Therefore, making choices is imperative, which is why an evaluation process helps to eliminate the indecisiveness that some of us grapple with periodically.

Take Back Your Life.

It is never too late to hit the “restart” button. Make sure to set work and life boundaries for yourself. Make self-care a priority! Create alarms to remind yourself when to turn off your devices and shut down your brain. Consider counseling as a means for your mind to get the exercise it needs so that you can perform at your best. Aim to workout throughout the week. Working out can constitute as anything, as long as you are active. Don’t get trapped into feeling that you have to go to a gym to meet your needs. Pick a pace that works for you, sign up for yoga, take a walk, or find a quiet place to meditate. If you don’t have the money or means, sites such as YouTube is both free and convenient and offers many ways to achieve extreme or subtle exercise. Drink water and lower your caffeine intake. Pick up a new book. No time to read? Listen to one during your car rides. You get the idea.

The reality is, many of us cannot achieve all of these suggestions when we are beginning to attempt a balance between our work and life. However, if you can choose one activity or one boundary and commit, you will notice a change, subtle or not. Either way, applaud yourself for the change because you are taking back your life, one step at a time.

Finally, remember to find beauty in the life that you almost let slip by because you forgot that you deserved it. When you find beauty, you find balance, and then saying “no” to people, tasks, or activities that hold no value to you becomes more effortless. When “no” becomes easier, you will begin to feel lighter. By making these changes, your life will start to shift, and you will notice that the person inside who has been fighting to get free will emerge. Thus, stop fearing “no” and regain your balance by loving yourself because you are worth it, every little bit.

 
You and Only You can Determine Your Happiness and Your Future
2/26/2020

Sarah Coykendall, class of 2015, is the current Managing Assistant Director at Kean University’s Holocaust Resource Center. In September 2019, she was honored as one of 30 honorees in SUNY Oneonta’s inaugural 30 Under 30 Awards Celebration.

Sarah Coykendall

I am very excited to be writing an article for the Alumni Sharing Knowledge Blog. I want to use my time today to talk about two scary words: student loans. Before I begin, there are four things I want to make clear: I am not claiming to be an expert on student loans; I do not work for a student accounting service; I am not a loan lender; and I am not trained on giving financial advice. I am, however, a two-time college graduate with a current student loan debt of approximately $120,000. That’s a lot of dough when you are a 26 year old young adult trying to figure out the next phase of their life. I am hopeful that using this platform to share my experience will help someone else as they tackle the quite difficult “Should I do it?” question. 

Whenever I share my current loan amount with others, a standard array of responses emerge - “Why would you borrow that much money to go to school?” “How will you ever pay that back?” “You know you could have bought a house with that, right?” The list goes on. So, how did I get to be in this position? Well, if you take a high schooler eager to go to college and explain to them that they did not receive financial aid, but rather, could take out student loans, they’re probably going to want to do whatever it takes to go. That eager high schooler was me. My parents made too much money for me to qualify for financial aid, I did not receive any substantial scholarships, and I had my heart set on my dream school (Go Red Dragons!). The summer after graduation, I went to a well-known bank and took out my first $10,000 loan. I’m going to college! Fast-track seven semesters and a study abroad later, I now owe $80,000. Yikes! Don’t worry, I’m not finished. I then go to an out-of-state university for my master’s and tack on another $40,000, ‘cause “go big or go home.”

There I was, 24, fresh out of college, with a figurative house on my shoulders. What’s a girl to do? I started by getting my first full-time job (which was outside my field) and waited tables on the weekend. Let us not forget students have six months after graduation to start paying off the loans. I was working almost every hour I was awake, trying to save money for when the grace period was over, and the dreaded repayments started. Luckily, and I am very aware of how lucky I truly am, I got a job in my field one month before the grace period ended. Rather than losing all my wages each month to loans, I only lose half. What does this mean? It means that I was able to move out of my parents’ home and into a shared apartment, I am able to go grocery shopping, pay my cell phone, insurance, and electric bills, and that’s about it. I do not have the luxury of saving for my first home, investing for retirement, or other important life events that all require a bit of extra cash. Instead, I make the same monthly payment of over $1,000 to a bank that only knows my name if I miss a payment. Why did I do it?

I chose to take out more than 100 grand before I turned 25 because I deserved a quality education studying a topic that I enjoyed and wanted to pursue. To answer the same questions I always receive, I decided to make this life-changing choice because money comes and goes, but no one can take away my education; I will pay it back dollar-by-dollar until it's done and then something else will come along that takes the funds; and I am aware that this amount of money could have been applied to other things, or just not taken out at all. My point is that my life was profoundly changed because of my student loans. Without student loans, I would not be in the job I love, I would not have met colleagues and classmates that later became life-long friends, I would not have the skills necessary to succeed, I would not have traveled the world and back. Most importantly, I would not be me. If I could go back in time and make this decision all over again, my choice would remain the same. 

If you’re concerned about your future and how much student loan debt you have, talk to a financial aid adviser/officer, talk to your family, and most importantly, ask yourself what matters most to you. You and only you can determine your happiness and your future. Good luck!

 

Maintaining a Balance Between Work, School, and Life
2/6/2020

Kevin Sutton (’16) just transitioned to a new position at Virginia Tech to continue his career focusing on enhancing college students’ financial wellness. He worked at SUNY Oneonta as an undergraduate student supervisor in the Call Center and held an internship in the Student Accounts office reviewing student loan debt borrowing information prior to his full-time employment at SUNY Oneonta. 

Kevin Sutton

After graduation, I was fortunate to have an amazing opportunity building SUNY Oneonta’s “Making Cent$” financial literacy program. I found myself in a position with a lot of fulfillment meeting with students, planning events, and coming to the residence halls in the evenings to give presentations about many topics including student loan repayment, what to keep in mind as you move off campus, and credit scores. My days were long, yet fulfilling. The topics I covered with students were areas that were ALSO pertinent to where I was in life post-graduation. 

Paying off my student loans was a primary goal for me before I even considered pursuing more education. I finished paying my loans off in just under 2 ½ years after graduation. Having two roommates and monitoring my spending allowed me to “practice what I preach” in aggressively tackling that debt. Don’t get me wrong, I still found time to eat out at least once a week and found time to go on long-weekend trips to visit my friends in New York City. I managed my time and my money to have the quality of life I wanted while also prioritizing my goal of getting out of debt. 

 

Working at a college, I felt this desire to pursue further education for myself. However, the cost of attending more school was a deterrent to me. I had JUST gotten out of debt; why would I take on such a huge financial burden? Luckily, one of my employer’s benefits covered almost the full amount of the cost to take a class each term, saving thousands of dollars! This made the decision to enter into a Master’s program feasible. 

 

The grad program is entirely online, which was ideal for my situation. I took one course in each term (Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer). The semesters were intensive in that they were shorter (10 weeks) than a traditional undergraduate semester (14 weeks). The winter term was only 3 weeks in length and covered the same amount of content and assignments as a full semester course.Balancing that with my more than full-time work life, personal life,etc. became a challenge. 

 

I found myself staying in my office to do my grad school work after working my traditional work day. I had two computer monitors in my office, and after hours it was easy to stay focused with less distractions than if I were to do my grad work elsewhere on my laptop. Some nights I stayed in my office until 11pm to do my reading and writing for school. Saturdays and Sundays also became “grad school” days and I would return to my office. Work and grad school consumed my life to the point where I’d feel guilty even playing a videogame, which used to be one of my favorite leisure activities. I perceived it as taking time away from my grad school work.

  

I found this impacting my life in other unhealthy ways as well. I sometimes did not eat breakfast so I could sleep longer (partially due to my late nights in the office) and would only eat lunch if there was a catered lunchtime meeting. Otherwise, I would take my lunch break to respond to a classmate’s post for school so that all I had to do was read or work on one of my ever-present essay assignments to get home earlier that night. I frequently stayed to work on my schooling during the times where I should have been eating dinner. My diet consisted of almonds throughout the day in my office, spaghetti on nights I made it home prior to 10pm, and ice cream when I got home from work after 10pm. I would also occasionally order Pizza Hut pizza delivery to my office for dinner, but was always amazed at how costly it was. 

 

My supervisor was aware of my pursuit to further my education and encouraged me to find a balance and limit the evening work events. I was fortunate to have a supervisor that had my own best interest in mind, and made me consider what amount of time I could realistically split between all my obligations. She also was aware of my…abysmal…diet and encouraged me to eat healthier as well. Having that external intervention was beneficial to me.I realized that I had lost that balance I previously found while trying to pay off my loans while maintaining the quality of life I wanted.Transitioning into grad school imbalanced my “life equation” and my quality of life was suffering. 

 

I incorporated going to the gym into my schedule as well as seeing friends. Instead of focusing my life around grad school and seeing everything else as “extra,” my perspective eventually shifted to be more holistic. My time spent doing grad work was more focused and productive as I had built in other aspects of my life to limit the time I spent on assignments. I realized that if I forced myself to have my work done by 7:30pm in order to meet up with friends, I was completing almost the same amount of work that I would have completed if I left myself unchecked until 10pm. I go home earlier and am now eating at least two meals a day (baby steps). Now that I am almost halfway done with my Master’s, I am finally getting into the swing of things in balancing all aspects of my life.

 

 

 

 

New Year, New You, New...Job? by Kimberly Adler '04
1/17/2020

Kimberly Adler is a 2004 graduate of SUNY Oneonta’s Music Industry program. Having spent 10+ years as a project manager for large and small corporations in NYC, she has been responsible for the hiring and onboarding of numerous employees. Kimberly is currently the Student Employment Coordinator in the Career Development Center at SUNY Oneonta.

Happy New Year, fellow Red Dragons! We’re roarin’ into 2020 with a clear vision for the future! (Has that joke run its course yet?) If you’re like me, you’ve resolved to binge less television, read more books, and crack better jokes. Perhaps you’re one of the many whose resolution list involves finding a new job. Whether that professional shift involves a new employer or signifies a departure from your current line of work in favor of something completely different, we have some tips to assist in your transition!

Reflect on the Past to Prepare for the Future

“Study the product you are going to advertise. The more you know about it, the more likely you are to come up with a big idea for selling it.” As the “Father of Advertising,” David Ogilvy knew how to sell just about everything because he studied just about everything. When you’re in the job search, you are the commodity. Arm yourself with knowledge about who you are, the areas in which you excel, what you enjoy, and the values you hold dear. Knowing the answers to these questions will serve several purposes: they will allow you to narrow your search to companies and positions that match your interests and strengths and will also provide the foundation for developing your personal brand. When you know just what you’re selling, your application materials will be stronger, and you will be better prepared for the interview process when that perfect opportunity arises.

Perform a Document Tune Up

The dreaded résumé.We spend so much time on a document that is typically reviewed very quickly. There is recent data to suggest some are given just six seconds of review time by recruiters and hiring managers!  This race to stand out from the applicant pack makes it more important than ever to have an effective résumé. Ask yourself the following:

  • Is it current, including any recent professional development details? If you’re switching careers, is there evidence to support your commitment to this change?
  • Does it accurately reflect your skills and achievements and how they pertain to the job to which you’re applying?
  • Are you properly incorporating language from the job posting to show that your abilities align with what the company is seeking?
  • Have you steered clear of résumé templates that make it difficult for applicant tracking systems to look for key words in your document?
  • Have you had multiple sets of eyes review it for errors?

Let’s consider the ever-important cover letter.

  • Are you using proper cover letter format?
  • Are you telling the story of you and selling yourself as the best candidate for the job, citing examples of your achievements to reinforce your proven effectiveness?
  • Are you calling out ways in which different work experiences can help you be successful in this new role?
  • Does your narrative have a clear beginning, middle, and end and make use of proper grammar, spelling, and syntax? (Companies want proof of your ability to communicate effectively.)
  • Do you thank them and reiterate your excitement for the opportunity to speak further about your candidacy?

Got references? This is an often-overlooked part of the application process. Be sure to maintain a document with the contact details of at least three recent professional references who have agreed to speak to your best qualities. The document can be simple, but each reference should be laid out in the same format and include the person’s name, title, company, email address, telephone number, and relationship to you. Keep them apprised of any time you share their contact details. You don’t want them ignoring a call or email asking for the reference! It is especially important to prime these folks if you are looking to change careers. Talk with your references about your decision to make a change and why you feel it is the right move. When speaking about you to hiring managers and recruiters, references can help frame you as a qualified candidate by highlighting your transferrable skills. This is something you will also need to do to effectively sell yourself in the interview.

Work the Network

How is your LinkedIn profile looking these days? Consider sprucing up this part of your digital persona. It is your professional landing page on the Internet and should be treated as such. Be mindful of your personal brand, ensuring the messaging you’re using in your cover letters and résumés is consistent with what you're writing on your LinkedIn profile. Use the site to follow organizations and leaders you find inspiring – especially those in the industry you wish to join. Take note of what makes their messaging effective.

Customize your LinkedIn URL. This is a quick and simple way to instantly make your profile a little more professional and on-brand. Once you have customized it to your liking, you can include it in the contact information block on your résumé.

Don’t treat your LinkedIn feed as just another place for passive scrolling while waiting in line for coffee. Remember that it is first and foremost a powerful networking tool. Check to see if you have any connections currently employed in companies or industries you are considering and reach out to them to gather information or ask for introductions. Remember that it’s important to put the human relationship first. Only ask for information or an introduction from someone with whom you have maintained a professional relationship. No one likes to feel as though they’re simply part of a transaction, so nurturing your network is just as important as leveraging it. Keep in touch with folks and check in from time to time. It’s the right thing to do and will help you cultivate meaningful professional relationships in the long run.

Beyond the web, seek out opportunities to get face time with folks currently in your field of interest. This could be anything from an industry mixer event to a more casual interaction. One of my most memorable career moves resulted from a chance networking encounter. A new executive was joining our team at work. Upon reading his press release, I learned an interesting fact: we were both graduates of SUNY Oneonta. When I introduced myself to him in the hallway, I made sure to mention this fun bit of trivia. That instant connection led to a trip down memory lane and the opportunity to interview for a newly created position on his team. Working for a fellow Red Dragon took my career to the next level and provided me with a lifelong mentor. Sometimes, networking is as simple as that.

Hit Up Your Career Development Center

If all of this seems like a lot to remember, you need not worry. The Career Development Center at SUNY Oneonta is at your disposal! Our department exists to support not only the professional development of the current student body, but also lend support services to our alumni network! You can email or call us anytime for assistance with everything from document review to interview and negotiation tactics. We are conveniently located in 110 Netzer. If you would like to set up a time to speak with a member of our staff, you can contact us via email (career@oneonta.edu) and/or telephone (607-436-2534).

We hope to hear from you soon!

 

 

Budgeting Basics by Kevin Sutton '16
6/13/2018


Kevin is a graduate of the Class of 2016, and is the coordinator of the Making Cent$ Financial Literacy & Wellness program on the SUNY Oneonta campus.
Kevin Making Cent$ logo

Hardly do I ever need to make the argument to people that budgeting is important, or at the very least it is a positive skill to have! Having said that, there is a huge difference between people philosophically agreeing with the benefits of budgeting and (literally) putting pen to paper to make a budget themselves. This “call to action” may seem like the most trivial thing, but there is typically some form of resistance for people to do so. A lot of people may believe that somewhere out there a “better” version of themselves is making slightly different choices. Perhaps this alternate version takes the stairs in lieu of the elevator when arriving at work, or makes it a habit to call their family every week. This version is probably also taking an active role in budgeting their money. All of the above are actually achievable with just a slight adjustment to our behavior.
           Creating your first budget is going to be the biggest step. Even though people may have an idea of a budget in their head, in order to be truly effective there needs to be a focused effort on doing it. It is recommended to make a budget one month at a time and to make a new budget each month. Keep the following five steps in mind when it comes to creating your budget:

Step 1 - Identify money resources. This is your income and other sources of money. To make things easier, use the “after tax” value.

Kevin Note: Do not include prospective gifts as income here; be conservative and only account for anticipated earnings.

Step 2 - Identify all expenses. This is the more time consuming phase. List out all your expenses. Common areas include rent, phone, loans, food (grocery and eating out), and utilities. Go through each area and write out how much you think is a realistic amount to spend for you in that area in a month time-frame.

Step 3 - Compare resources to expenses. Add up all your expenses from step 2 and then subtract that from your income in step 1.

Kevin Note: If this number is negative, stop here and go back through your expenses and find ways to cut back your spending in some areas.

Step 4 - Identify an amount to save. This is a very important step. You want to find how much you can afford to save. Look at the amount left after you’ve subtracted your expenses from your income. Take a portion of this and mark that as your amount to put into savings each month. When in doubt, shoot for 10% of your monthly income. For your first budget I do stress to only use a portion of your leftover amount for savings because you want to give yourself a buffer in case you underestimate some other expenses.
Once your savings amount is decided, you want to give yourself a “savings bill.” Treat this just like any other expense and move it to the top of your budget. This simple change in mindset of prioritizing saving can help you make behavioral changes that can benefit you financially.

Step 5 - Track, track, track! Follow through and hold yourself accountable. This will help you make more realistic future budgets as well!
This is an example of what your budget sheet may look like at the end of your first month. The $108 buffer left was useful as some areas were over budget.

 sample budget

             Keep your budget sheet in an easily accessible place so you can accurately track your expenses. Your refrigerator or bedside table may be good places to keep it in your daily view. It is also important to reward yourself, especially after your first month budgeting! Give yourself that positive reinforcement to keep making those healthy decisions and eventually you may turn into the “better” version of you in no time!