Monday, August 10, 2015

Relax! It's Back to School Time.

Stressed about school? Relax!
As the time to begin classes draws nearer, many people find that their stress and anxiety levels ramp up in tandem. Let's look at some relaxation techniques to help you use less energy combating stress, thereby directing it onto tasks like school, work and family life.

Deep Breathing
As stress increases, we clench our jaws, and our shoulders ride up toward our ears — forcing our breathing to become shallow. Shallow breathing, or chest breathing, affects our productivity significantly because it prevents the brain from getting the amount of freshly oxygenated blood it needs to function optimally. Breathing fully from the diaphragm, or deep breathing, allows more oxygen in and more carbon dioxide to exit. Deep breathing counteracts the fight or flight, or stress, response so that we are no longer reacting defensively to perceived threats to our well being, eliciting the "Relaxation Response." Coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, the Relaxation Response is the body being in a state of deep relaxation which lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and relaxes muscles.

The technique for deep breathing is relatively simple:
  1. Place your hand lightly on your belly, whether lying down or sitting.
  2. Breathe in to the count of five, ensuring that your hand rises and falls with the inhalation/exhalation.
  3. Exhale to the count of five; most people need to deep breathe for twenty to thirty minutes for the full Relaxation Response to occur, but after even a few minutes of deep breathing, you will more than likely feel your shoulders start to relax — a positive step forward.
Muscle Relaxation
The best way to get your muscles to relax is to tense them. Sounds counter intuitive, but by focusing on tensing one muscle at a time and then focusing on relaxing it, you become more aware of where you are holding stress. For instance, if you raise and tighten your shoulders and then focus on relaxing them away from your ears, you become more aware that your shoulders were tense and tight. Doing a "body check" periodically through the day, you'll begin to see where you typically hold stress and you can be mindful of relaxing that area.

Body Check:
  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
  2. Starting at the feet, work your way up the body tensing and then relaxing feet, calves, thighs, stomach, arms, hands, and shoulders. Breathe deeply using the technique described above and as you exhale, relax each muscle group; spend 3-5 breaths on each area.
Exercise
We all have different ways of coping with stress; from talking with friends to eating, and from sleeping too much to grinding our teeth — coping strategies are as varied as the stressors with which we each deal. And while you may feel tired and depleted and think you couldn't bear to do cardio or lift weights, exercise is one of the best ways to deal with stress. Stress increases our sensitivity to pain through pro-inflammatory cytokines; and our brains process emotional "injuries" in the same way they process physical injuries. Exercise has been shown to reverse the production of systemic inflammation through an increase in endorphins — our bodies' own pain relievers that act much like morphine in reducing our perception of pain.

New research has also shown that exercise is linked to an increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which promotes brain nerve-cell health. Better nerve cells equate to increases in learning and memory and helps push the mood reset button. Exercise encourages better sleep, more energy and the release of sex hormones in the brain. Finally, exercise increases blood flow to the brain which encourages mental alertness and concentration. So get up off that couch!

These three methods are by no means the only ways to prevent or reduce stress, but used together provide a powerful recipe to enhance your relaxation efforts. Try any or all of them as you prepare for this semester and let us know how they worked for you!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Enjoying the Journey - Codee Burton

The journey to a college degree is not always an easy one, but Codee Burton is enjoying it every step of the way. He is fortunate...He has a strong support system, which can make you or break you during your college career. He also makes the most of his free time, which creates a good work-life balance. Too much work can be hard on the soul. 


What is your occupation?  
I work at the Drury Inn and Suites in Valdosta, GA.

What is your college major?  
My major is Organizational Leadership, emphasis on Public Relations.

Why did you choose to take courses through eMajor?  
I like eMajor because it makes college, with all of it's challenges both in and out of the classroom, just a little bit more convenient. More importantly the professors and advisors on campuses are what make it so easy and accessible to use. I haven't had one professor that hasn't been more than willing to do what it takes to see us succeed throughout the course.

Who is the biggest inspiration for your education?  
The biggest inspiration for my education is my family. Most of my family did not have the opportunity to attend a college or university; many of them that did, didn't finish. This pushes me to keep going and get that degree! My grandfather, Pappy, has told me thousands of times how he didn't finish school and how he wishes he could have. I don't like regret, and his advice has always been an inspiration for everything I have done in my life. My other main source of inspiration is my Mom; she never let me quit anything. At a very young age I did not appreciate that or a lot of the things my mother did for me. Now, I cannot imagine what, or more importantly WHO, I would be without her. She is the fuel that drives me to be better than I was yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

What is something cool you've learned this semester in your eMajor class?  
One cool thing I learned this semester was how to build a "blog website." I had a class where the entire semester was to make a website, specifically a blog, and we were to "make it our own." It was overwhelming at first but then as it started to fall together I was actually kind of surprised at the end product.

What three words would you use to describe your online instructor?  
Dedicated, Sincere, Caring. eMajor instructors are how all college professors should be. They care about the well-being and education of each and every student they have. 

Where is your favorite place to visit in the USA?  
My favorite places to visit in the US of A is by far Atlanta, GA and Bristol, TN. This is where my ever so inspiring and supportive family live. My brother, mom, and stepfather are in Atlanta. I love seeing them when I get to come home. The rest of my family is in Bristol - my dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. I get up there once a year around Christmas and love every second I get to spend with them!  

What kind of mood are you in right now, and why?  
Right now my mood is wonderful. Haha! I am watching Christmas movies, I have the day off, just finished school, planned a hunting trip next week, fishing trip at the end of the month, and in a couple weeks it will be Christmas! Hard to be in a bad mood at this point.

What is your favorite study spot?  
I don't have a favorite study spot, but I do the majority of studying at either my or my girlfriend's house.  

What is something your online classmates don't know about you?  
Something my online classmate's don't know about me would be that I was President of the Delta Chi Fraternity, Valdosta State Chapter from 2011-2012. 

What are your career plans beyond eMajor?  
My career plans are loose at this point, but I do have a few options. I want to stay in the business/sales department. Ever since I can remember I have been told, "you were a natural-born salesman." I rejected it at first, I think because it was the "beaten path" taken by many friends and family of mine. But as I have realized, sales is a great way to go!

Is there anything interesting you would like to share about yourself?  
I am an avid sports fan, athlete, and live to play my favorite sports; football, basketball, baseball/softball, and tennis. I have collected over 20 championships at VSU over the past years and have even traveled around the state of Georgia and Florida for annual tournaments that we WON! Recently I picked up the game of Disc Golf and won a tournament earlier this year as well as placed in my first sanctioned tournament.   


All of this has been a remarkable journey that I could not have completed without my friends and family. Buddy, my step dad, has never let me think any less of myself than he does, and although he won't admit it,  I hung the moon to him. He and my brother, Maks, are so much alike, without them it would be hard to keep on going and finish this wild ride that we call college. Of course, Pappy and Bobba are always there for an inspiring, feel-good sentiment whenever I call. My mom, like mentioned before, has never let me quit and always pushed me to do better and be better even when I thought I was at my best or my worst. It would be impossible to say that I would be the man I am today without them. 

Thank you for all of your support!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Military Transition: Resume Concepts

Military Transition: Resume Concepts

What you don’t do in the military: write resumes, interview for a job (normally), and you never negotiate salary and compensation. What you will do during your transition is write resumes, interview for a job and negotiate salary and compensation.

Can you imagine negotiating compensation for your next tour of duty? “Ma’am I am really interested in your offer but can you arrange for me to telecommute on Fridays and get me a free membership at the country club?” And that is not the only hurdle you may have to overcome…some employers have a few ill-perceived notions about you and the military:
  • You are rigid
  • You don’t understand profit and loss
  •  You have had unlimited resources
  •  Leading is easy because you just give orders
These misled perceptions can create barriers, but a well prepared and focused resume will dispel all of these notions and set you up for success.

An effective way to create the building blocks of your resume is to produce a core or mega resume with 75 to 100 accomplishments. These accomplishments should include results, i.e., percentages, dollars, time and opportunity capitalized on. If possible, you will want to include how you achieved the accomplishment through leadership, restructuring, collaboration, etc. Your completed mega resume can be used as a source to draft each new resume for each specific objective or job interest.

So, how important is it to determine an objective, industry or specific job interest? Yogi Berra said “If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else.”  You will need to focus on an objective or a limited number of objectives. Consider what you want to do which should be some combination of your skill sets, what you like to do and what someone will pay you to do.  Before moving on with your resume draft there are two important aspects of job hunting that go hand in hand with your resume development, Networking and Research.

Network, network, network…we have all heard the buzz that networking contributes to job hunting success, but how important is it? According to Gevry Grispin and Mark Mehler, CareerXRoads, You are 54 times more likely to get hired if an employee of your target company refers you than if you posted your resume on every large job board at the same time! Networking also adds resources you can leverage during your resume draft and interview process. And along with networking you will want to build your industry knowledge-base through research.

Researching your objective industry for local, national and international trends and building an historical prospective will add to your depth and breadth of knowledge and allow you to capitalize on opportunity. As you build a more comprehensive picture of your objective landscape you will be better prepared to put down on paper or relate verbally how you uniquely solve your future employer’s problems.

With your completed mega resume you can pick and choose from the list of your accomplishments that best support your objective. Each job you apply for should be supported with a unique and focused resume resulting from your research, job description, and duties.

One common resume challenge for military members is writing in the proper language, i.e., non-Department of Defense terms. Avoid acronyms and ensure that you translate your accomplishments and duties into business related terms according to your objective.

Resumes have one purpose…to get you an interview! According to the McLean Group, your resume should SHOUT from the mountain tops: I know what you need, I can do it, I can prove I did it, I can tell you how I did it, and I can do it again. It is not just about your responsibilities. It may sound impressive to state that you were responsible for $100,000 in operating capital but the reader does not know if you squandered it or improved your organization with it.  Remember it is more about your accomplishments; what did you do that resulted in improvements or how did you save money or time? You restructured, changed processes, empowered teams, motivated, collaborated, etc.

There are several resume formats: chronological, functional and combination. Your choice may depend on your particular objective and target industry. The combination resume works well most of the time because the first page states your accomplishments that support your skills sets and objective while the second page details chronological or professional history, and describes your work history and experience. It is recommended by several job hunting agencies to keep your resume down to no more than two pages in length. If you wish to make it any longer…don’t.


There are many resources available that offer resume templates and formats. You may even hire someone to write it for you, but be advised there is valuable learning in the process of developing your own resume. An objective is needed to give you a goal or direction, strong networking and research builds a solid industry knowledge base, and creating a mega resume can assist in drafting multiple resumes, not to mention giving you an interview resource. Never lose sight of the purpose of your resume...to get you an interview!

Randy Blackmon is Senior Enrollment Manager for USG eCore and eMajor, and is a retired U.S. Navy Captain.
rblackmo@westga.edu
678-839-4898

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Meet Tara Brown: Working Mother and eMajor Student


Tara Brown with her husband and two children.

Tara Brown, 39
School: Dalton State College
Major:  Organizational Leadership
Expected Graduation: May 2016

Why is completing your college degree important to you?
I feel that having a degree makes you more competitive in a job search. It’s also a sense of accomplishment to finish my degree because no one else in my family has a degree.



What are your career goals?
I am lucky that I already have a great job. My degree will allow me more opportunities in my field.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A secretary in a doctor’s office. I actually took my dream a step further and am now in leadership with physician practices.

Why did you choose to take online classes through eMajor?
To have the flexibility to do my schoolwork when it’s convenient for me. It also allows me to take more credit hours at a time and still work a full time job and have a family.

What eMajor class has been your favorite?
I like all of my eMajor classes because they are relevant to my day to day work.

How would you describe the instructors you’ve had in your eMajor classes?
They have all been extremely helpful.

Besides being a college student, what do you spend your time doing?
I work full time, am a mom to two kids and I’m a wife. I love to travel, shop, and read.

How and when do you make time to spend on your school work?
I have designated hours each day to do work. Most of the time it is evenings and weekends.

Who inspires you and why?
My husband inspires me. He finished his 4-year degree and has a great job. He is a hard worker and has an excellent work ethic.


What would you say to someone who is considering taking their first online class?
Be diligent about spending time on the assignments. It’s so easy to fall behind if you allow personal stuff to get in the way. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Get the Job you Want! Four Steps to Using LinkedIn in your Job Search

If you are currently, or soon-to-be in the market for a new job, then you have probably heard the saying – it’s all about networking. Employers today receive stacks and stacks of resumes for open positions, making it harder and harder to stand out as an applicant.  Sure, you may have impressive work experience and a killer cover letter, but odds are that there is at least one applicant in that stack who already has name recognition within the company – and that person is much more likely to get an interview. When searching for a job – it’s all about who you know. If you don’t know the right people, and the right people don’t know you – then you need to change that. The way to do that is through networking.

Ten years ago, networking had a completely different meaning than it does today. Sure, joining and being active in professional groups is great, but today we have a much more powerful professional networking tool right at our fingertips – LinkedIn. To a beginner, LinkedIn can be a bit overwhelming. You may have already created an account, even added “connections,” but are still unclear about how this platform can actually help you get a job. The key is – you have to be strategic in your approach. Here is my four-step process to effectively using LinkedIn in a job search.

Step 1: Start with a complete, professional profile.
This is NOT the first impression you want to
give employers on LinkedIn.
First things first – you have to have a complete profile to be taken seriously on LinkedIn. Think of your profile as your digital resume – it is the first impression you are giving to potential employers, and it should reflect your PROFESSIONAL brand. Just like your real resume, you don’t want to leave the crucial parts empty. The main components of the LinkedIn Profile are:
  •  Profile Photo: Starting at the top, you need a professional – looking photo of just you. Again, this is not the appropriate place to use your St. Patrick’s Day photo, or a photo of you and your kids. Remember – you are branding yourself professionally. The photo should be high resolution, and in a professional setting.
  • Contact Information: Some people are hesitant to post contact information on social networks. But, if you are trying to appeal to potential employers, you want them to be able to contact you if they see something they like. Even if you only share an email address, you should have something here. Another great tip – you can customize your profile’s URL so that it is easier to share in job applications. Once you get your profile completed, you are going to want to share it as much as possible!
  • Employment History and Education – You can use the same information from your resume here. Several Companies and Universities have LinkedIn Pages, so link to those in your profile so that the logos will show up, and other employees/alumni will then be included in your “network.”
  • Recommendations – This a way to enhance your resume by asking coworkers and supervisors in previous positions to write a recommendation specifically related to your work at that company.
  • Optional Areas: You can also add areas for volunteering, projects you’ve worked on, certifications, specific interests you have, and many other things.
Step 2: Build your Network through Groups
Once you have your profile completed, it’s time to start building your network. You’ve already done some networking by connecting with others at companies you’ve worked at and schools you’ve attended. Another great way to extend your network is by joining groups. You want to join groups that are relevant to you both by your background and your professional interests – so if you are seeking a job in Human Resources, look for HR industry related groups to join. This will help you to stay in the know in that industry, and will also extend your network to include people already working in the field. Also, if there is a specific company you want to work for, look for groups related to them that you can join.

Step 3: Join the Conversation
You have an awesome profile, have joined very relevant groups, and have 300+ connects. You’re done, right? Wrong! Just like a physical networking group, if you sit in the corner and don’t speak to anyone – you will not be noticed or taken seriously. You have to be active and participate in conversations. A good way to do this is to subscribe to different “channels” through LinkedIn Pulse, which will funnel articles and blog posts to your news feed. You can then comment and share as appropriate. You can also subscribe to companies of interest, who often post news and updates to LinkedIn, that you can then interact with.

To subscribe to channels: Interests – then Pulse. Discover, will show you recommended people and channels to follow. Stories will show in your news feed, making it easy to comment, like, and share. This will position you to your connections as knowledgeable within the industry. Plus, it will actually help you to become more knowledgeable about current events and topics within your fields of interest.

Step 4: Find and Utilize Meaningful Connections within your Network
When you go to any networking event, you should go with a goal in mind – “I want to meet someone that works at XYZ company,” or “I want to introduce myself to someone working in XYZ industry.” The same is true on LinkedIn. Think about – where you want to work, what type of profession you are seeking, then we’re going to see who in your network has an “in” and can help you get there. To do this, we’re going to use the University Pages, and Advanced Search.

  •     University Pages: The great thing about established colleges and universities is that you are automatically adopted into a vast network of students and alumni who are quite often willing to help fellow alum get a “foot in the door.” LinkedIn does a great job of helping these networks to connect digitally through their “Youniversity” section. To find yours, go to Interests – Education. Here you can search people connected with your school and look at them by industry, location, company, and in several different ways. If you have a connection to a company you’re interested in – reach out to that person!
  •       Advanced Search: This feature searches for people within and connected to your network, so it is important that you have  already made those connections through groups and companies. The advanced search option givse you the ability to search your network by current and previous company, among many other things. Results will either be 1st connections, 2nd, or 3rd connections, or by a group you have in common.  If a prominent 2nd or 3rd connection shows up – Click “shared connections” to see who you know that can introduce you to that person. REMEMBER – If you click on someone’s name and actually view their profile, they will see that you looked at them. So just be aware of that before you click onto a profile.


So now you have it, 4 steps to finding your “in” through LinkedIn. You can view our previously recorded webinar at the link below for a walk-through of LinkedIn and how to specifically access some of the functions mentioned above.

I hope you found this helpful, and I encourage you to log on, buff up your profile, and start networking! 


Access a walk-through of these 4 easy steps here. 


Jessica Blakemore
Associate Director of Marketing for Collaborative Programs
jblakemo@westga.edu 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Career 101: Is that REALLY the job you want?

Have you wondered what it might be like to be an Emergency Nurse? How about a Computer Programmer?  If you are gleaning all of your knowledge of what a Crime Scene Investigator actually does from watching reruns of CSI, you may encounter a rude awakening when you go for your education and actually land yourself in that job.


Informational interviewing is a foundational step within career exploration. While you are in your own investigative place as a student you would be wise to conduct informational interviews of people within the potential careers/jobs that you think you might enjoy. The informational interview communicates the first-hand experiences and impressions of someone in the occupation, and is directed by your questions. 

Steps to conducting an interview of this type consist of:

1. Identifying a person who is currently employed within the field.
2. Calling to request a visit with them while they are on the job.  

The amount of time together is negotiable. You could spend an hour or you could plan to spend a day, but please be respectful of the professional’s time when making your request. On your initial phone call, determine if you might like your visit to include a departmental tour or perhaps a day long “job shadow” appointment.  These may be items that your contact person can arrange.  Also, regard the time together as a business appointment.  Dress should be business casualand you should be sure to have a planned set of questions to ask.

Questions can vary based on what you wish to learn.  Sample questions include: 
  • What are the best and worst things about this career? 
  • Why might someone leave this career? 
  • What are the things it takes to be great in this career? 
  • What is the smartest way to obtain training in this field?
An extensive list of possible informational interview questions is available here, but this is your chance to ask anything you'd like about your desired career. Plan to take notes while during your interview, being careful not to detract from the conversation. After your appointment, create an outline of themes from your questions asked. This can then carry you forward into next steps with your career exploration.

Now that you know about informational interviewing, get out there, do some networking, and make an appointment to speak with someone who is doing your dream job! 

Karen M. Lingrell, M Ed
Assistant Director of Collaborative Programs
USG eCore and eMajor
klingrel@westga.edu
678.839.5278

Thursday, February 5, 2015

60 Seconds with eMajor student Nate Wright

What is your home institution and major?
Currently, I attend Valdosta State University, and I am pursuing a degree in Organizational Leadership.

How many eMajor courses have you taken?
To date, I've taken 7 courses with eMajor.

Why is completing your college degree important to you?
 I think a college degree is a necessity in today's society. The job market is extremely competitive, and so many of my peers are seeking top notch positions. When I look back on my life, I want to know I finished everything I started; I want to check the box on paperwork that asks if I graduated. If I do not finish, that box will haunt me with any application I submit: Mortgage, jobs, insurance, etc.

When is your expected graduation date?
My expected graduation date is June of 2015,  however, I am completing a concentration in Public Administration. This will be complete in December of 2015. Go big or go home.

What are your career goals?
Currently, I work in Human Resources. My goals include finishing this degree and moving to a Master’s program. I hope to obtain the Senior Professional in Human Resources certification as well.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child, I first wanted to be Batman. When I found out that was not a possibility, I dabbled in multiple majors or career paths. No matter what major I would choose, I realized everything came back to people. Every path came back to assisting others. So... This is why I work in Human Resources and seek a degree in Leadership.

What eMajor class has been your favorite and what class are looking forward to the most?
So far, I really appreciated ACE2050 (Communications for Business). This course touched tremendously on the tasks that I complete on a day to day basis. The information accurately depicted the things everyone will need in the workforce. Also, it reviewed certain grammatical skills that one may forget over time. The refresher definitely increased my confidence with professional writing. I most look forward to ENGL 3030 (Professional Writing). Two reasons: First, this is my last English course. Second, I feel this will make my writing even better.

How would you describe the instructors you’ve had in your eMajor classes?
 I have so many friends who seek a degree but opt out because of nerves. I had friends explain horror stories of professors who were unjust. I've yet to experience this in eMajor. Every professor has executed all courses with understanding and offered assistance in any way possible. I've had the most pleasurable experience.

Besides being a college student, what do you spend your time doing?
 When I am not working or working on homework, I really love restoring trash objects into treasure. For instance, turning an old dresser into a Pottery Barn inspired television stand. I also love to spend time with friends and family. Also, I really love sport and especially college football and NASCAR.

How and when do you make time to spend on your school work?
I worked full time while I completed 19 semester hours. I earned a GPA of 3.9. People look at me as if I'm an alien or not human. The fact is, I am human. When I'm on lunch break at work, I read the chapters. I take several road trips with friends, and I write my papers in the back seat between destinations. Also, I push myself to do school Monday through Friday, so I still have a social life on weekends. I think the key in maintaining homework is to stay ahead. I sit every Monday and map out any assignments due and create a schedule. I think about what I can do even if I am not on the computer. I use technology to my advantage. I can access the site from my mobile phone or IPad. This saves so much time while posting discussion posts, etc.

Who or what inspires you and why?
Abraham Lincoln stated, "The best way to predict the future is to create it." I believe if I want a comfortable life and career, short term sacrifices equal long term happiness. The thought of vacationing in the Caribbean, buying a dream home, and my family make me strive to be the best I can be. I can't change the past, but I can change my future. I push myself and try to set an example for younger siblings.