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Three Things I Learned: Painting Pottery

I landed my first job at Feats of Clay, a paint-your-own-pottery place in my hometown when I was 15. Here are three things I learned:

1. Responsibility can be taken or given, regardless of whether or not you want to take or be given it. Let it give you perseverance.

Within three months, I had a key to the store. Soon after, I was not only counting the drawer and tracking our daily profit, but also dropping the deposit off at the bank. At 16, I often opened and closed the store alone and would run the store like a mullet: regular business up front and sometimes hectic, crazy toddler filled parties in the back. I typically didn’t mind running the store alone; on slow days, I would paint display pieces and empty out the kiln. I learned that autonomy and responsibility are incredibly gratifying things from a job. But I also learned how crushing it can be when you have too much responsibility and not enough leadership. There were times when the store would run out of small change. There were times when my boss said she had to run a quick errand and not come back for three hours. There were times when people would get impatient and pissily ask me how old are you again? Are you the only one here? I sometimes would go home and cry to my mom complaining I was too stressed…but then I would just wake up the next Saturday and open and work and close again. Nothing wrong with a little perseverance. I had that job, with a few raises, for almost four years.

2. There’s always room to teach yourself something new at any job. And it’s not a chore.

My typical responsibilities were helping customers, cleaning, running parties, and handling the cash register. But eventually I did window displays, planned and budgeted summer camps, and even created one or two advertisements for the local papers. I did this because I love creatively designing things: events, images, displays. I was able to explore my own talents and my own design aesthetic. I was 17, it was fun, and business jargon labels it as the highly sought after “initiative.”

3. It’s so easy to see how much better you can run things than your boss.

But if that’s the case, rather than complaining (ugh), do what you can to improve what you have responsibility over. Then request time to sit with your boss and offer up constructive feedback. We’re all humans and no one is perfect. Having the opportunity to step back from your work and criticize it isn’t an opportunity to bitch about your job – it’s an opportunity to help someone see the larger picture when they’re most likely totally consumed by the dirty details. Or in my case, maybe they don’t have the time (or don’t care) to see the bigger picture. I always wished I had stepped up and had more serious conversations about ways to improve that job.

BONUS: Coffee in large quantities is totally fine (probably).

Ah coffee. How I used to loathe thee and that strange bitter flavor. Then I became slightly less dim and started enjoying coffee ice cream in middle school. True genius status arrived once I started at Feats of Clay and I began to consume more coffee than a high school student should need. There’s something reassuring about being at work with coffee in hand. It’s like it gives you power. You know it’s supposed to kick start something, so then after you take those first few steps, all you need is to believe. That’s when you get your grind on (punny). Coffee + work = accomplishment. The only time I’ve ever found coffee to be a problem was when I was painting custom pieces…which were most often birthday or wedding gifts with lots of fine typography. Jittery hands were not the greatest thing. And yet me and my coworkers would fall to pieces laughing  over the fact that we were trying to paint something delicate while our hands were just shaking all over the place.

Photo of Meredith painting a ceramic mug.

Pro painting tip: always place your brush where you want the heaviest paint line first. Other pro tip: don’t shake.

How to Enjoy Alumni Weekend…as a Student

For a link to the official schedule of all the UDel Alumni Weekend events, scroll to the bottom of the post.

I only know about Alumni Weekend for two reasons:

  1. I work at the UD Student Phone Program, part of the Office of Development, which works closely with Alumni Relations.
  2. The University of Delaware thinks that I am an alumni.

Or at least I can only assume, since they send me random alumni-related mailings and emails every once in a while.

UD Alumni Weekend 2013 Header

Alright, three reasons why I want to go to Alumni Weekend, which is May 31st – June 2nd:

  1. Free stuff and good deals.
  2. Networking opportunities.
  3. Blue Hen Pride.

Alright, so here’s a breakdown of how I’m going to address each of those things.

Free Stuff and Deals

$40, Mug Night Dela-bration: Live music, about 2,500 people partying on the Green, free mug, free t-shirt, and endless food and drinks. Also, how often do you get to chug beer on the Green (before a Public Safety guy shows up)?

Mug Night on the Green

If you think about it, just dinner, dessert, and three drinks would probably cost about $40. So I’m claiming this as a Great Deal.

$30, Dela-Brews 101: Even though the wordplay in the title is weak, this beer taste testing includes Dogfish Head Brewery, Twin Lakes, Iron Hill, 16 Mile, Stewart’s Brewing, Argilla, and 3rd Wave. So far. Plus extra prizes are up for grabs. Good Deal.

$5, Inside Scoop on UDairy Creamery: This is the only time of the year that UDairy Creamery opens its magical and mysterious doors to let worshipers like us come see how to make ice cream…straight from the UD cows themselves. Plus, free taste tests. Decent Deal.

$5, Greening Your Landscape: Before you start snoring, just know that you get a free native plant and materials about environmentally friendly landscaping practices. Decent Deal.

FREE, College Receptions (except for CEHD & AGNR, which are $5): My college, the College of Arts & Sciences, is offering free food and drinks, plus live music, to celebrate not only the college, but the study abroad programs here as well.

I would also like to stop by the Alfred Lerner College’s reception, though, since they’re offering cocktails, desserts, and coffee. They’re skipping dinner. They’re geniuses. Good Deal.

FREE, “Imaging Biology” talk by Roger Wagner, Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences: 3D glasses. Popcorn. I guess you’ll learn about imaging biological specimens, including 3D and modeling stuff. “Come learn and enjoy some fantastic images.” I’ll just repeat 3D glasses and popcorn. Good Deal.

Networking Opportunities

Uh, duh! The whole thing is a networking opportunity. However, since people are there to relax and relive glory days, reserve the eager beaver elevator pitches for these times:

UD Regional Alumni Club Volunteer Training: a bunch of alumni who are coming together to exchange ideas about leadership, events, and connecting alumni with one other.

Blue Hen CareerTube: people who want to be featured giving advice to us starry eyed students will be filming at the Career Services building on Saturday. I suggest dropping in and seeing who’s there.

Backyard Gardening: Grow Your Own Food, by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources: So, I know a lot of people with gardens. A lot of them also have awesome jobs. Give back to your community by supporting the Food Bank of Delaware, and give back to yourself by stopping by and meeting up with other UD alumni. What better way to get a job than by bonding over weeding?

Career specific events: Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering Alumni Golf Outing, Tracking the Perfect Storm with the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, Healthcare Theatre Performance with the College of Health Sciences, Biological Sciences Showcase, the Buzz on Beekeeping and Honey with the College of Agriculture.

Plus, hello, those awesome College Receptions where they give out free stuff. Give away your own free stuff by bringing contact cards.

Blue Hen Pride

Cool events I want to attend because I’ve spent the last three years of my life here, have another year to go, and because I care about the future of this place. Group awwww. Somewhere, a baby blue hen was just born.

State of the University: part pomp and circumstance, part good stuff to know about the well-being of our school. President Harker will go over current and future projects, what cool stuff some recent graduates are doing, and how smart the incoming class is (I already hate any of them who got over a 2040 on the SATs. Go home. Just kidding. Welcome).

ISE Lab tours: Um, the Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Lab’s construction has been keeping me awake in the mornings for months, so I think I deserve to see the inside before I graduate. Plus, I’m curious how much of it is lab versus classroom space, plus which students will be using the space.

UD Slideshow & Historic Walking Tour with Professor David Ames: Alright, our campus is gorgeous. It’s pretty much why I came here over Lehigh. I just want to know its history and the architectural history of our buildings, mmkay?

Memorial Hall -- image of when it was first built.

To look up the location and date and times for all of these things, since I have inconveniently not listed them, go here: The Schedule

That’s also where you go to register. After you register, you become a part of the creep list. The creep list is the list of all the alumni who have already registered, plus their @Twitter names so you can tweet at them. What up, more networking opportunities!

See you guys there!

LinkedIn for Newbies: Yes, You Need One

Ah yes, LinkedIn. The social media for professionals. To start us off, here is a very favorite clip of mine from 30 Rock:

So Jack Donaghy may believe he’s above LinkedIn, but not everyone feels this way. I’m writing this post in response to Undercover Recruiter’s (@UndercoverRec) tweet that I retweeted:

https://twitter.com/UndercoverRec/status/319025280574423041

To not get hired because you’re not on LinkedIn would be awful because it’s actually an excellent resource that everyone, regardless of whether or not you are a job seeker, should be using.

Here are five tips that I would suggest when it comes to LinkedIn:

1. Have a complete and accurate profile with an appropriate picture.

Example of a profile picture.

Simple jewelry, clean hair, and just so happy to be here. Note that I’m not daging or showing off.

LinkedIn not only makes initial set up easy by allowing you to upload your current resume, but it actually is constantly encouraging you to update your profile and provide more details.

While you may only include two to three previous jobs on your current resume, your LinkedIn profile is an appropriate place to list literally any and all work experience that you’ve had. You never know what qualities someone else is looking for, even if you may believe it to be unrelated to a job you’re seeking.

While filling out your information, be consistent in your voice, have your page be free of typos and grammar errors, and use your summary section to present what you can contribute, not what your goals are!

2. Recommendations are important. Endorsements are more like likes on Facebook and Instagram or favorites on Twitter.

Endorse people within or out of your network genuinely. You should not be endorsing people for things you don’t know they’re successful at. However, endorsements are a nice way of flattering and gaining attention.

Recommendations are incredibly important. You may say that you are a forward thinker that drives results, but to have another person go out of their way to announce that to others gives you serious credibility. How do you get recommendations? If someone you work with has given you an accolade or complement, thank them immediately. If the conversation deems it appropriate, mention how great it would be if you were able to include that on your LinkedIn.

Another way to gain recommendations? Try giving one! If you work with someone who is truly amazing and has gone above and beyond in a project or career that you were directly involved with, recommend them.

3. Network with purpose, and know who you’re networking with!

Funny story: I requested to connect with my dad on LinkedIn when I was just starting out. I didn’t bother to change the generic message that says,

“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

– Meredith Greer”.

I received a message back saying that he was refusing to connect with me because it looked like spam, and in the future to always cater my message to the person I’m reaching out to. At this point in time, I am still not connected with my dad on LinkedIn.

And, like the Undercover Recruiter article states, not knowing who you’re interacting with on LinkedIn is a huge mistake.

I connect with students I would say hi to.

I connect with professors whose classes I enjoyed and was successful in.

I connect with professionals who I’ve reached out to for classes, extracurricular, or internship purposes.

I connect with coworkers.

If there is someone on LinkedIn that you want to connect with, but you don’t know them personally, change that! Reach out to them in a message, on Twitter, via email, or call them up! Ask for a quick interview, ask for advice, mention something you have in common, or be completely honest and say that you admire their career path. Once you’ve gotten your (positive) response, connect on LinkedIn saying that you’d appreciate staying in touch professionally.

4. Join groups that are of interest to you and engage.

I am currently a part of PRSSA, PRSSA Delaware Chapter, Social Media Marketing, and three different University of Delaware networks. Like forums, I’ll follow along posts and get a feel for the conversations. Once I understand the dynamics of the group, I contribute either with meaningful comments or ask questions. Asking for advice from a network of hundreds of professionals in an industry is a good idea.

5. Creep.

I’m so serious. You guys thought Facebook stalking was fun? Well, here’s the work version. If I am even remotely interested in applying for a job, I immediately follow the company on LinkedIn and begin looking up contacts at the company. What could be better than finding out a recruiter had the same first job as you? Or even just being well informed before an interview can make all the difference between getting a position or getting rejected.

To cap everything off, feel free to follow me on twitter and check out this amazing and inspiring article filled with career advice from the founder of LinkedIn himself, Reid Hoffman.