The Accidental Networker
Weíve all heard it before, networking is crucial.If you want to reach your employment and academic aspirations, you need to build relationships with people who can help you get there.It seems easy right? Networking is a kind of game; identify your target, make yourself noticed, then get opportunities. You put your best self forward, and ta-da, the hidden job market opens to you with riches for the taking.
But what if this type of networking just isnít for you?
That is my struggle because I donít like networking. The idea of getting close to someone so they will help you later always felt so mean-spirited and fake to me.I prefer to earn opportunities fair and square.I like to think that this makes me noble because Iím doing things the hard way.Then again, it may make me naÔve because everyone else is networking; therefore, not doing it only puts me at a disadvantage.Nevertheless, I stick to my principles. I do not actively network; I have no explicit associations with people who can get me a job.As a result, Iíve never had ďconnectionsĒ that can open up these mystical, invisible doors I have heard so much about.
At least, I didnít think I had connections.
After three years of university I have become a networker. I just didnít know it because it has been a gradual, unintentional process. It was accidental.
It has only been this term that I have begun to notice something change in how faculty interact with me. I now receive regular emails from my department asking me to participate in an assortment of things such as helping at the WLU Open House.It was also suggested that I apply to TA next term because I was considered a strong candidate for the position. When ďMeet the ProfsĒ night rolled around in January, I had name recognition among professors I had never had met before.That same night, a professor congratulated me.
ďFor what?Ē I asked.†
ďI canít tell you, but something good is coming your way,Ē he mischievously said.
Later that week, I learned that I was the recipient of a generous scholarship.The things I have just described were the kinds of prizes I had heard that networking provided. I had never networked; I thought to myself, how the heck could this be happening?
Ladies and gentlemen, the lesson here is that networking happens in different ways.I thought networking had to be a purposeful, conscious effort, but this is not the case.It turns out that you can network and be yourself at the same time.What does that look like?Itís embracing your curiosity and not being afraid to stand out.If you have a question, share that with your professor in the classroom or elsewhere.Passion canít be faked, so when you find it, have fun with it, and share it with others, especially your teachers.Networking isnít about finding the important people and impressing them because the truth is, those ďimportantĒ people are standing in front of youóyou just donít know it. You may not see it now, but opportunities can arise from the most unexpected places. Be genuine, be you, be comfortable and something good may come your way.
You don't want to miss this blog post about Mendeley!
You Donít Want to Miss This Blog Post about Mendeley!
Do you write papers? I bet you do. Have you heard about Mendeley? I think you probably havenít. Like the title says, this blog post is about my experience using Mendeley. I have just one more question before we dig into the details. Have you spent hours stressed out from making a list of references, say in APA or any other styles? Even if youíre a master of citation, and you know all the styles, there is still something for you to learn from Mendeley. Stick to the end of this post. Iím not exaggerating that this post is going to change your life. At least my life was changed once I fell in love with Mendeley. Itís so beautiful that I feel I have to share with you.
Thatís enough of setting up the scene. Now I will talk about some handy features. Hereís a brief explanation from Wikipedia about Mendeley: ďMendeley is a desktop and web program for managing and sharing research papers.Ē This definition is short, right? But thereís a lot to the word managing. Managing is a very broad term, which includes sorting, organizing and even highlighting the sentences from the articles that you want to use for future reference.
First, I think I should talk about the handy reference feature in Mendeley because, like I said a million times already, this program will make your life easier. Like many other online reference programs, Mendeley not only does the generic reference work for you, but the most important thing is that it is SO EASY to use. In the past, I used Refworks, and I personally had some frustrating experiences with it. I ended up creating many references manually. In Mendeley, it doesnít matter if youíre a Mac or PC user, itís very easy to make Mendeley generate all your references automatically. Itís a one key procedure. Once you click on the word-reference installation, youíre all set. The next step is simply selecting the articles you want to cite. Both in-text citation and a bibliography will be inserted into your paper, but you still need to download PDF articles before you do the citation (you need to do some work J).
The next neat feature in Mendeley is comment. Tell me if this has happened to you in the past. You come across an article and read through it. As you are reading, you find some really strong sentences that you want to cite for later use. But after you read the whole thing, you just canít find the sentences you want. Even worse, after you read a whole bunch of papers, you forget which sentences are from which articles. I know- life sucks, but this is where Mendeley can step in to save you again. With the comment feature embedded in the program, you can highlight any sentence you want as you read. If you want to jot down something, go ahead and click on comment. A cute little box will come out to greet you. In the box, you can type your notes. This little box will always be there when you need to come back later to read your comment.
There are many more features in Mendeley, but for someone like me whoís not so good at computer, I try to stay away from the more complicated parts. Mendeley is so easy, and I bet you will say the same thing after you try it out. Good luck writing your paper!
Red Ink and the Wounded Ego: My Experience with Critical Feedback
Red Ink and the Wounded Ego: My Experience with Critical Feedback
When professor ďDr. GĒ returned my paper last December, I was less than thrilled. Dr. G had given me a ďB+Ē and a page full of typed, single-spaced critique.Among other things, he told me that my argumentation was weak, and that my grammar and punctuation needed some serious work. He also said that I had depended on too few sources that were not effectively integrated. He even suggested that I visit the Writing Centre to get some assistance with my punctuation.
I bussed home stunned as I tried to make sense of what had happened. Who did this professor think he was, telling me my grammar was bad? I was a Writing Centre tutor for crying out loud! Of all people, I was someone who knew how to write well. Dr. G was wrong, I told myself, and I was going to prove it.
When I came home, I pulled out one of ďAĒ assignments that had only two words gleaming on it in black, clean, ink: ďGreat job!Ē It was a glorious paper; I had used the same argumentation techniques as I had done with my B+ paper. This paper was a reflection of my competence, something that Dr. G did not see. I spent an hour comparing the two papers and made all sorts of elaborate explanations for why Dr. G had given me such a terrible mark. I tried very hard to convince myself that my paper had been marked incorrectly.
In a few days, anger melted into sadness when I realized that Dr. G not had given me a poor mark. It was the mark I deserved. In my ďpre-Dr. GĒ undergraduate era, I had never been penalized for single sourcing arguments. It seems obvious now; you canít depend on one source to support each argument. At the time, however, I was dumbfounded. The magnitude of my error later dawned on me; I had been ordering sources into neat linear lines rather than integrating them together. My research was not shared, engaged, or discussed; it was being marched off into an academic abyss with no chains to link any of the ideas together.
I donít know why a professor had not told me earlier in my undergraduate career that I was making such grave mistakes (this would certainly have me laughed out of any scholarly discussion). Perhaps professors did tell me, and I ignored their comments. My retrospection didnít matter because the point was to not repeat the same mistakes again now that I understood them. During my Christmas break, I made a promise to myself to change how I approached essays. I stopped treating Dr. Gís comments as lunacy and saw them for what they had been all along: constructive criticism.
January, a new semester, brought on a new slew of assignments. While I was worried that I would do poorly, I told myself that this semester would be different. As I wrote papers, I committed to doing more research and reassessed how I used that information to compose arguments. It was not easy because it meant spending more time doing research, but I felt more comfortable with the material and believed my arguments would become more sophisticated as a result. I ended my premature pity party and got down to work.
A month later, I was rewarded with my first returned essay; it was given a well-deserved A. The professor congratulated me on my research, which he said I used to create a well-sourced essay.
Dr. G had been right.
I Canít believe I Wrote My First Literature Review and I Feel Gooooood
By Guanglong (Zack) Pang
In English, I remember thereís a saying: ďconstant grinding can turn an iron rod into a needleĒ. We have exactly the same saying in Chinese and my mom has been grinding my ears about it since I could hear.The saying indeed has beautiful words but I know, and I bet you know too, things are usually easier said than done. I canít generalize for everyone, but when Iím not good at something, for example writing a long essay, I tend to back off and then procrastinate.
Before university, I never considered myself a good writer. I thought beautiful sentences never wanted to flow into my head, instead they escaped to those kids who wrote love letters. Nevertheless, I was very chill and I told myself I could live my life equally happy as long as I was good at something else.
When I got into university, I intentionally avoided courses that required writing major papers. In order to avoid writing, I would only stay in those courses that had exams - mostly multiple choice. Unfortunately, that didnít go as smoothly as I thought. As my education proceeded, I was regularly stressed out when I realized I couldnít simply avoid writing. Even those courses that only had multiple choice exams would require writing an assignment once in a while. In addition, some of the core courses I took in the past were pure writing and I had no option but to take them.
Again, I was in the same situation I always ran into when I was a kid; when Iím not good at something, I back off and then procrastinate. Until one day, probably after so many times my profs repeated how useful writing skills are in higher education, I finally decided to challenge myself to overcome this writing procrastinating cycle. I just couldnít avoid writing no matter how much I wished and tried.Therefore, I decided to take a push and see how it would turn out. I started writing random blogs first and would visit people at the Writing Centre to get help.
I havenít written lots of essays, but with each one done, I felt extremely accomplished and relieved. No kidding, sometimes I wear my superman shirt and dance like a professional when I hear the sound of my finished paper being printed. Itís the same type of feeling I get when I have a breakthrough in my life. A literature review is just one part of writing a thesis. Getting my lit-review done is only the beginning of the thesis project but Iíve been told itís a fat chunk that takes the most effort. To be honest, I still donít know how the rest of my thesis will go but at least Iíve got it going on the right track. Sometimes I find it interesting how I can cheer myself up by writing, even just a blog about myself. After all, when I see my improvement, I can appreciate more the saying that: ďitís never too late to tryĒ. Itís never too late to improve your writing.
4 Steps to Making the Most of Reading Week
4 Steps to Making the Most of Reading Week
The temptation of Reading Week is hard to resist; as we head into this weekend, it stretches before us enticingly, promising days of relaxation and pleasure with no responsibilities, deadlines pushed to a distant horizon and finals even further. Itís far too easy to fall into the fun of Reading Week and end up going back to class even further behind than you are now! With this 4-step plan, however, you can avoid this pitfall and propel yourself to a strong finish this semester.
1.Allow yourself some guilt-free celebration
Letís be real Ė youíve been working hard for weeks, so you deserve a bit of fun. Allow yourself a celebration; set aside this weekend to do all those things that youíve been denying yourself. Go out for drinks with your friends! Spend an entire day in bed, getting up only to order take-out! (You have been denying yourself these things all semester, right?) Only once youíve truly rewarded yourself for making it this far can you begin to think about getting ahead.
The first step to accomplishing anything this week is to get organized and stay organized. Without a structure, itís possible that you will fall into a Netflix coma and wake up on Sunday the 21st wondering where all the time disappeared to. I like making to-do lists to keep myself on track, but you should use whatever system works for you, whether itís a calendar or picking tasks blindly out of a hat. Just make sure to set some goals for yourself, and make sure that you stay realistic. Youíre probably not going to be able to have a final draft of every paper due for the rest of the semester ready at the end of the week, but getting ahead on reading, researching, and planning will leave you in a good place once classes start back up.
3.Make a work day
This is the most important part of my 4-step plan. All of the goal-setting and task-listing in the world wonít get you anywhere if you donít actually sit down and do work. My suggestion for this is to treat every day like youíre going to work. Get up, get presentable, and get out of the house. You donít have to spend a full eight hours every day on your tasks, but spending a few hours dedicated to working in the library or a coffee shop can be surprisingly productive. Three hours a day of work leaves 21 hours a day for the relaxation that is your Reading Week Right.
Do you want to go back to class feeling worse than you did at the start of Reading Week? Absolutely not. Unfortunately, itís too easy to drift into unhealthy habits over the course of a week off. You find yourself staying up later and later each night until your sleep schedule is destroyed; or your diet degrades until it consists entirely of bottom-shelf liquor and greasy take-out; or you make it your apparent goal to move as little as possible until you discover next Sunday that all of your muscles have atrophied through lack of use. If you want to avoid showing up in class feeling like you never had a week off at all, try to keep up the bare minimum of healthy living. Get a reasonable amount of sleep, most of it while itís dark out. Eat a vegetable and drink a glass of water sometimes. Walk down the street to pick up your take-out instead of ordering delivery. Youíll end up feeling like a living human being!