College Study Hacks: How To Memorize Faster, Retain More, And Do Better On Exams

Studying is important. It’s how you got into college in the first place. But now that you’re here, things are a little different. High school tactics won’t do the job in a college class. Studying the night before or quickly looking over the key terms before a quiz won’t carry you to that “A” anymore. The classes are harder. They have fewer opportunities to get points. And the exams are longer and harder than ever before. Let’s face it: You need some college study hacks.

College study hacks are different than those entry-level methods used in high school. It’s the big leagues now, so you’re going to need to think differently. Some courses require mass memorization. Other professors will ask you to write an essay about any covered topic on the spot. Most exams will demand you do both. And there are three to four other classes demanding your attention.

We gathered all the best time-tested, gimmick-free study hacks to help improve your information access, retention, and exam performance. Here are the WayUp Guide’s five best college study hacks.

1. Form A Group ASAP

Studying with other people is a really powerful thing. Study groups combine the various strengths and different interests of multiple people. And, when done right, these groups can make each of their members fully prepared to get an A. There are a couple ways to do this.

You can study together in person. This way, you’re all forcing each other to be productive while you’re together. Plus, if any questions come up, you can talk to a real live person working on the exact same thing as you are. This is also a great social opportunity, too. You can make friends or connections you might’ve never met!

However, if you’re a lone wolf, like many people are, then there’s a way of group studying without meeting up. Just ask people in your class to put their emails into a shared Google Docs folder. After you’re all on the document, you can pool your knowledge, answer study guide questions, and have a solid understanding of what other people are studying.

It’s really important to do this ASAP, like during the first or second class. If you’re the person to pull out your laptop and say, “Everyone type their email in here and we’ll make a Google Doc,” then you’re in control. You can set up meetings, build a shared study doc, and benefit from everyone’s knowledge.

This can be especially important if you’re not so sure about the material. At the very least, you can organize the study group. That can be your contribution!

college study hacks

2. The Test Answers Are (Usually) Already Out There—Go Find Them!

This is one of the most surprisingly well-kept secrets of the college world. It’s true: Most of the time, test answers and questions are already available to you.

They usually take the form of practice tests, homework sets, practice problems, and other such student resources. If your school uses an online platform like Blackboard, you can usually find practice tests or problem sets on there. While the specific numbers might change (and that’s only a maybe), the stuff your professors and TAs have distributed was usually done so for a reason. They gave you practice problems because they thought it was important material. Don’t waste that opportunity to get a look behind the curtain!

Even if your teaching staff didn’t give you a practice test, your homework and problems that were done on the board during class are usually really important indicators of what’s going to be on the test. Tests are (usually) not deviously assembled to give you a hard time. The teachers are judged on your performance, too, and they want you to succeed.

3. Don’t Go To The Library If It Doesn’t Help You

This goes for any of the “classic” study tropes that might not apply to you. If sitting at a desk doesn’t work for you, then don’t do it! If writing stuff down doesn’t work, then don’t do it! You want to be comfortable, but alert, and definitely not anxious.

It’s hard to ensure that you’re going to be calm, cool, and collected because, you know, you can’t stop thinking about this looming exam. However, finding something that works for you emotionally, physically, and—of course—intellectually is the most important thing.

college study hacks
Just slide on out of that library!

If you live far away from the library and only plan on studying for 2 hours, don’t waste 30 minutes commuting there. Just go to your dorm’s lounge or a nearby Starbucks. Spending too much time thinking about the place is a waste of your own time. Just do what feels right and don’t feel any pressure to study the way someone else does—unless it actually works for you.

Same goes for methods of studying. Professors love to tell students how much research there is about the memory differences between typing out notes and handwriting them. But it’s just not the case for everyone. Many people excel with tools like Quizlet that don’t involve any handwriting.

Do what’s right for you!

4. Space Out Your Studying

There’s a well-observed phenomenon known as the “Curve of Forgetting.” Essentially, what the research concludes is that you’re much better at remembering stuff when you review it again later. This means leaving all your studying for one day (or even one session) is usually a bad idea in terms of mass memorization.

This also goes hand-in-hand with “chunking.” Also somewhat well-documented in the academic psychology world, the theory states that breaking up information into chunks of related ideas helps you remember it better in the medium-to-long term. For example, it might be easier to remember that Cookie Monster is blue if you also learn that he loves cookies and speaks like a caveman. The combined facts form a more cohesive story that is easier to remember. It’s not quite Sherlock Holmes’s famous “Mind Palace,” but it’ll do.

college study hacks

No matter what you believe, the point is that it’s best to study with a method.

5. Of All The College Study Hacks, The Best Is…Actually Study!

This one might sound snarky, but it’s true! It’s so easy to feel like you’ve spent a ton of time studying because you’ve been sitting in the library for hours or staring at your screen all day. But studying is the actual act of learning and memorization.

Be comfortable, don’t waste your own time, and study in bursts during which you can actually focus. Break it up with some light exercise to get the blood flowing and stimulate brain activity. And finally, don’t agree to any plans during your designated study time. However, on the flip side, don’t designate all your free time for a whole week or weekend to studying, because you’re just setting yourself up for failure.

College study hacks are great, but nothing beats the real thing! You can break it up however you like, just make sure you actually do it. If you’re someone who over-prepares for things, try not to. The stress of studying more than you need to can actually make you perform worse if you lose sleep or concentration.

Finally, when it comes to the critical moment of test-taking, just breathe, relax, and answer what you can.

For more back-to-school tips, tricks, and college hacks, be sure to check out the WayUp Guide!

Choosing College Classes 101: How To Pick The Right Schedule (Even If You Don’t Know Your Major)

The college experience is about a bunch of things. It’s about growing up, forging friendships, finding love, and charting a path for yourself. But more than anything it’s still school! Just because you’re not in high school anymore, doesn’t mean you don’t have to make academic decisions. So, choosing college classes is one of the most important things to get right while you’re there.

The right set of college classes can mean the difference between falling in love with a new subject or field or absolutely dreading (and failing) your 9 a.m. Organic Chemistry for Non-Majors class.

How do you go about choosing without knowing your major? Can you find out if a class is too hard? Can you really get good classes for your freshman year?

There are so many questions when it comes to choosing college classes. The WayUp Guide is here to answer them for you. If you put these five steps on your to-do list, you can walk away with the best possible schedule guaranteed.

1. Know What You Need

Choosing college classes is something that takes a method and a mission. You’ve got to know what you want and why you want it. It doesn’t mean having a 30-Year Plan or anything like that.

When You DON’T Know Your Major

You can even pick the right classes without knowing your major.

As long as you make a plan for your general education or school requirements ahead of time, you don’t need to know the fine points right away.

If you’re enrolled in the school of arts and sciences at your university—sometimes called “the college” or “general studies”—then you probably have a slate of required, across-the-board classes you have to take. However, it’s also likely that many Advanced Placement (AP) tests, SAT subject tests (sometimes called SAT IIs), or International Baccalaureate (IB) tests will get you out of those requirements.

For example, an AP test score of 5 on the AP Statistics exam will usually get you out of the math requirement. The same goes for a humanities requirement with the AP English exam.

When You DO Know Your Major

If you do know what you want your major to be, that’s when more careful planning becomes necessary. When it comes to choosing college classes for decided majors, the same rules apply for general education requirements: You need to plan ahead. But now that you know what your major requirements will be, too, you should plan those out as well.

This is especially true for double majors and people with minors. Now is the time to make the dreaded four-year plan. It can be intimidating thinking about planning that far ahead, but it will really pay off in a big way. And it absolutely does not mean that you can’t leave room for taking fun classes. Get everything required out of the way. That way, you’ll have time left over for fun classes like Creative Writing workshops or The Business of Space Travel.

2. Know What You Want

This part is a bit trickier, but a LOT more fun. Now’s the time to decide what it is you actually want to take.

Once you know that you need to take, for example, a history class, you can make a more specific decision. Like whether you want to take The History of Hip-Hop or Analyzing Wheat Output During The American Civil War. Both schools of thought are completely valid, but planning ahead of time lets you dive in to what you’re most interested in. Plus, when you take classes you like, you’re generally going to do better in them. Good grades mean a great GPA, which is always a plus for employers and grad schools!

You should also look into the teaching styles of your potential professors using sites like Rate My Professors or school-specific review systems like Boston College’s PEP system. Do they give a lot of homework? How are they with class participation? Are they supportive? Do they really challenge you? There’s so much to know (and find out) about a professor and a class beforehand.

Beyond knowing what you want in terms of actual subject matter and teaching styles, you have to know yourself and what you want. It’s awesome if you can wake up at 8 a.m. everyday and go to the earliest possible classes…but most people are not like that. Be realistic with your self based on your social schedule and habits about what class times and workloads actually work for you. There’s nothing wrong with having your day start at noon!

3. Weighing the Options

Now that you’ve found the classes you want and planned out the classes you need, you need to make some calls. Is it worth taking that 9 a.m. if you get that legendary professor? Is it too much of a hassle to put three general education classes in one semester?

Now that you’ve done your research, you should balance out your interests. Make sure you leave enough time for friends, fun, and perhaps even an internship during the semester. It’s never a bad idea to get more work experience. However, it’s a terrible idea to take on more than you can handle. Be ambitious, but not so much so that you end up disappointing yourself with absurd expectations.

4. Doing All This BEFORE Registration Opens

This is really the key to the castle.

Planning ahead gives you the ability to make backup plans. Knowing how badly you want something means knowing your first, second, and third choices. You won’t always get your #1, but you can usually get one of your top 3 classes.

Another pro tip: If you really, really want to take a class, then email the professor ahead of registration and let him/her/them know you plan on enrolling. If you share your enthusiasm, then they’re more likely to bump you up off the waitlist if you can’t get in.

If you’re only making last-minute decisions about registration, you’re going to end up having one option in your head and no backup plan, if that. That means you have a higher chance of getting into trouble.

5. Get Lucky With Registration Times

Even after all the prep work in the world, choosing college classes can be hard. You still have to get lucky with registration times. Colleges assign registration times somewhat randomly, although they usually consider seniority, athlete status, and a variety of other factors. If you go to a small college, then registration time can be particularly important.

It’s also important to do as much prep work as possible in terms of preparing for the actual act of registering. Many schools, like NYU, will let you pre-select your classes in their online system so you can just click “register” when your time comes. Those valuable few seconds lining the classes up could mean the difference between taking your dream class and your nightmare!

While this is luck-based, it’s also possible to game the system to your advantage. If you’re an athlete, a transfer student, or someone in a highly specialized major, then you can probably get a better registration time just by asking for it. Many schools also have accommodations for people with more difficult situations. If you’re one of those people, then make sure you get your due.

Choosing College Classes 201: In-Person Meetings

No matter how far away registration is, one of the best resources is your academic advisor. They can help answer questions like, “Does this AP test satisfy this requirement?” And many, many more like that.

You also might have a major advisor. They can help you understand which classes best align with your interests and which professors have the best reputations. Don’t sleep on these incredibly valuable resources.

If you do all that, then you’re more than ready to handle registration not just for now, but for the rest of college to come. Thirty minutes of work can make 4 years of school SO MUCH BETTER. For you, choosing college classes should be a cakewalk.

For more back-to-school hacks, tips, and tricks, be sure to visit the WayUp Guide!

Cheap Textbooks 101: 5 Hacks To Save You Cash On College Textbooks

College is expensive. With tuition, food, housing, and all the other unexpected costs, you can easily run up quite the bill. Plus, even if your parents, scholarships, or far-off loans are covering your college expenses, any of those entities will sometimes leave the cost of textbooks up to you. However, finding cheap textbooks isn’t as easy as it seems. With so many options online, really cheap textbooks can easily elude you.

That means it’s time to get crafty and save where you can. That way, you can have money for fun stuff, like dining hall chicken fingers or F’reals—or like, a salad, I guess.

Here at the WayUp Guide, we’ve gathered the five best moneyhacks guaranteed to secure your college textbooks for the best price.

1. Used College Textbooks Are Cheap Textbooks

Given that being able to write in, highlight, and otherwise abuse your textbooks is a useful thing, buying is your best bet. However, buying new is often extremely pricey. That’s why buying used college textbooks is generally your best move.

But it’s easy to end up paying more than you should even for a used book. That’s why it’s important to use an online price tool like CampusBooks.com or BookFinder.com before going to your bookstore. You should make a note of the lowest online price and then check (or call) your college bookstore as a final comparison. Usually, you won’t find the price of a used textbook from your campus bookstore online, so you need to call or check in person to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

Campus Books Price Comparison For Cheap Textbooks
Most price comparison tools will look like this one from Campus Books.

With a used copy of the textbook, you can beat it up however you like during the semester. Plus, if you find that you’re not using it that much, you can always resell it to recover your investment! This is why buying used textbooks is the best option, if you can afford it. You have the option to mark up your book, but you can also resell online or on campus.

2. Rent Cheap Textbooks

Sometimes, even a used book is outrageously expensive. When the price of a used book is too high, it’s time to rent.

Those two sites above (Campus Books and Book Finder) both offer rentals on used books. Another great site for rentals is CampusBookRentals.com. Sometimes, renting through Amazon can be a better deal, because you can get a bundled-in Kindle version (or just a normal Kindle version), which is usually much cheaper. You can also read those without having a Kindle, but more on that in the next section.

Rentals can be tricky, though. You have to be VERY careful not to do too much damage to the book. You should also read the reviews for each renter VERY closely. Certain renters will basically always charge you for damages and others are the exact opposite. You’d definitely prefer the latter kind of renter. If you end up paying exorbitant fees for damages or lateness, then you’re not saving any money!

3. Get E-Books

Ah, e-books. Many people love e-books and their complementary e-readers. But most people usually feel pretty negatively about them for textbooks. Textbooks can be big books, with lots of text per page. They also often feature a ton of images, charts, and other edifying graphics. You don’t want to try to fit all that on a Kindle screen. However, if it’s just text, then an e-reader is usually fine.

But there is one important truth about e-books that we haven’t covered: Buying e-books is the easiest way to get cheap textbooks.

Here’s how you can get around the limits of an e-reader. Most e-books are available to use in your browser on your laptop, phone, tablet, or whatever. This is especially true for Kindle versions from Amazon. Kindle has a pretty robust in-browser e-reader that you can use to look at images and text without missing a beat. You still can’t write in it, but c’est la vie, they’re still cheap.

However, sometimes the only e-book versions available are from the publisher. These can range from totally amazing with a billion features to total, unreadable garbage. If the publisher is selling it on their own, potentially wonky platform, check out a review to make sure it’s not unusable. If you can’t find a review, then ask someone you know who might’ve taken the class before.

4. College Textbook Scholarships

This suggestion is a bit of a pipedream for most people, as textbook scholarships are often need-based and extremely limited. Most scholarship funds go to stuff like tuition, room and board, or even research. But there are some scholarships out there willing to help you with the cost of your books.

Check out this helpful list from CollegeScholarships.com to see what you might be able to qualify for.

Hey, you never know.

5. Plan Ahead, Don’t Get Caught Needing The Book Overnight

The most important lesson of the college scholarship hunt is to never get caught in a situation where you need the book overnight.

For example, you delay getting the textbook until it’s the night before the exam, therefore leaving you with the sole option of buying from the campus bookstore at a crazy markup. You could also burn up all your social capital with your new class friend, but judging from this behavior, you’re probably going to need that for later.

All jokes aside, this is the biggest mistake you can make. Buy or rent your books online as soon as you get the list. That way you’ll have access to the widest possible range of price options and you’ll have time to order the $20 copy of the $250 textbook from Germany that takes three weeks to ship.

Letting valuable time slip away means having to buy whatever the campus bookstore has on stock—which is usually pretty expensive.

Give yourself time to make the right decision for your budget! Finding cheap textbooks isn’t always easy, but it’s almost always worth it. Paying full price is usually a waste.

With these five hacks, you should be ready to save a ton on textbooks this semester. Don’t spend it all on milkshakes! Or do! It’s your money.

For more college hacks, career advice, and more, be sure to check out the WayUp Guide!

Can I Work While Studying Abroad? Everything You Need To Know About Students Working Overseas

Can I Work While Studying Abroad?

Getting a job while you study abroad is sometimes possible. But it depends on a whole mess of legal issues that depend entirely on the country you’re in and the country you came from. Here at the WayUp Guide, we’ve put together the ultimate explainer to make sure that you can navigate the murky waters of getting a job while studying abroad. We’ll answer all your big questions so that you can get the most out of your time as an expat. You’ll have plenty to consider when it comes to deciding whether you want work while studying abroad.

Is it legal to work while studying abroad?

It can be, yes. A few of the biggest hot spots for North Americans studying abroad do actually allow foreign students to work while they’re there. But many of them have restrictions that make it impossible to do so legally—especially if you’re only there for one semester. And nearly all of them limit the hours you can work to 20 (part-time status).

For example, Australia and New Zealand allow you to work 20-hour weeks while you’re on their student visas. (That said, New Zealand has for more conditions for that work, so please check their local laws here before you go.) 

However, countries like Ireland and the United Kingdom—the latter of which, of course, includes Top 5 Study Abroad location London—limit working under student visas to students spending at least one academic year in the country. That means most one-semester-abroad students are out of luck.

Other countries still have more complicated rules. Take China, which technically allows students on visas to work, given that they fill out a mountain of paperwork and get permission from their university. Some countries require you to take a job that’s in your chosen field of study.

As you can probably tell from this brief list, the laws for working abroad are complicated and region-specific. Check out this neat resource from Go Overseas, which features a table with some laws from the most popular regions. As always, though, be sure to check with the embassy’s site for the final word on current regulations and restrictions.

All of this is for legal working. But many do freelance work like teaching English (or another language), translation, or part-time restaurant/bar work under the table (taking money off the books without official permissions or paying taxes). However, working illegally in a foreign country can constitute tax evasion and violation of other laws. That can carry harsh penalties like huge fines, expulsion from your school, and even jail time. (In case it needs to be said: You obviously shouldn’t work illegally.) Which brings us to…

Can I volunteer while I’m studying abroad?

The short and long answer for this one is YES! Because there’s no exchange of paychecks or taxes involved, volunteer work is largely available to folks with student visas. You might have better luck finding certain types of charities and missions in certain countries or regions. But, generally, whatever country you visit will have charitable organizations ready and willing to accept your help.

If you study abroad in places outside of Western Europe—especially in Africa or South America—where international non-government organizations (NGOs) like the Red Cross and OxFam have an active presence, then it’s going to be easier to find volunteer work and to get involved on a larger scale. However, if you’re jetting off to cities like London, Shanghai, or Prague, your options are going to be more closely aligned with things like soup kitchens and shelters, as they would be in most U.S. cities.

Of course, certain rules and regulations apply in some countries, especially in Asia, so be sure to check with the embassy’s site and your school counselor to make sure any and all programs are safe and legal.

Should you work while studying abroad? Here are the pros and cons.

Working while studying abroad can be an excellent way to meet people outside your normal bubble of “foreign student vacation life.” It can also help you immerse yourself—genuinely—in the culture of wherever you’re staying. Plus, foreign travel is rife with unforeseen costs and expensive vacation plans, so who couldn’t use some extra cash? This kind of entrepreneurial spirit is valued by future employers and gives you a type of life experience most people will never have. That, in turn, can shape you as a person.

However, adding another weight to your scales when you’re already trying to balance making new friends, staying in contact with people at home, going to school, and making sure you get everything you can out of the experience can be tough and take a toll on your mental and physical well-being. Who wants to miss out on that awesome weekend trip to Italy, that amazing party in the warehouse club, or that unforgettable museum exhibit because you have deadlines and shifts to pull at work?

Working can be an awesome way to add depth and authenticity to your experience. But truly relying on a part-time job for money while abroad can severely detract from your ability to enjoy your time there. It can also interfere as you try to forge strong connections with your peers. You don’t want to be scrubbing tables while your roommates are making friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. Yet that doesn’t mean you can’t learn something interesting or talk to someone you never would have because of a unique work experience, either.

It’s best to plan (and work as much as you can) ahead of time, so that you can have all the money you need BEFORE you arrive. That way, working is just another optional, enriching part of the experience, and not a cruel necessity robbing you of your precious time abroad and stressing you out.

For more study abroad tips, FAQs, and questions, be sure to check out the WayUp Guide!

How to Set Great Internship or Job Goals

Goals are critical to succeeding at your internship or entry-level job for several reasons.

  1. They help you focus on what matters and avoid spending time on fruitless endeavors.
  2. They enable you to track your progress and ensure you’re having the impact you want to have.
  3. They help you align expectations with your manager and stay on the same page.
  4. They allow you to document and demonstrate your effort and impact at the company, which can help you get a raise, promotion, or recommendation.

What Makes a Good Internship or Entry-Level Goal?

First, all goals should be several things:

  1. In your direct control.
    There’s no point in holding yourself accountable for things you can’t control. For example, if you’re in a social media marketing role, you should create a goal around growing the number of engaged followers by 50% instead of a goal to increase the revenue you get from each social media follower.
  2. Measurable.
    Avoid vague goals like “Grow our brand awareness.”. You’ll never know when you achieve vague goals. The easiest way to make goals measurable is to ensure there are numbers attached to them.
  3. Ambitious.
    Your goals should push you. They shouldn’t be easily accomplished. Goals don’t exist to make you feel accomplished. They exist to help you accomplish great things.

In addition, internship goals should have a specific focus on learning. That learning focus can be on you learning whether you want to pursue a career similar to the internship, learning a specific skill, or learning to succeed in a particular professional environment.

Good entry-level job goals aren’t so different in that there should be an emphasis on learning. However, learning cannot be the only goal as your impact is critical to your ability to maintain your career.

How to Choose Your Goals

Setting the best, achievable goals for your internship or entry-level job largely depends on knowing what you want, what you’re capable of, what your role will enable you to reasonably do, and what the company is trying to do. When setting your goals, it’s important to ask yourself a few key questions.

First, ask yourself why you accepted this internship or job. This should help you figure out what you should try and learn from it. Understanding your own personal motivation for taking the job should help you set a good personal learning goal.

Second, consider what the company is trying to do. Your goals should benefit you and the company. If your goals don’t align with the company’s goals, then your efforts likely won’t have any impact on the company’s success and you won’t be able to demonstrate your value to the company.

Third, ask yourself what type of impact you’d like to have on the company. What would you be most proud of achieving?

Fourth, examine the responsibilities of the role you have at the company and determine what your role will enable you to achieve. If you’re a sales intern, you probably won’t be super successful at helping the company achieve their engineering-related goals.

Setting the Scope of Your Goals

If you’re a summer intern, you probably shouldn’t have a yearly goal. Instead, you should set a goal for your summer internship.

Entry-level employees should start by trying to set 5 year goals. If you have absolutely no idea where you’d like to be in 5 years and what you’d like to be doing, that’s totally fine; start with 1 year goals instead. From those 1 year goals work backwards into quarterly and monthly goals. Some companies set quarterly goals and some set monthly goals. The scope of your goals should match with your company’s scope.

Internship Goal Examples

  1. Grow Twitter followers by 25% by the end of summer.

    Social Media Marketing Intern

  2. Demo 5 new accounts each week.

    Sales Intern

  3. Write 10 new articles each month.

    Content Marketing Intern

  4. Learn Ruby on Rails and deploy 1 new feature by the end of summer.

    Software Engineering Intern

  5. Have coffee with 1 full-time employee each week.

    Anyone

Entry-Level Job Goal Examples

  1. Create 2 new icons and add them to the icon font each month.

    Visual Designer

  2. Reduce expenses each quarter by 5%.

    Financial Analyst

  3. Retain 80% of part-time volunteers each quarter.

    Non-Profit Volunteer Coordinator

  4. Shadow a different person in their role at the company each month.

    Anyone

Tracking Your Progress

Once you have your goals set, you’ll need to be diligent about tracking your progress. A good rule of thumb is to check in on your status one time dimension below the scope of your goals. For example, you should check on your progress towards any yearly goals every quarter. You should check on any quarterly goals every month. You should check on any monthly goals every week.

Keep track of your progress somewhere digital (a spreadsheet or Google doc are good options). It’s not only important to know whether or not you’re making good progress, but at what rate you’re making progress. This can help you tie the progress to specific actions you took.

Assessing Your Impact

The final, and perhaps the most critical part, of effectively using goals in your internship or entry-level job is to ensure that you take time to reflect on the goals you set. You may have achieved them, or you may not have. Regardless, you should take time to think about:

  1. Did this goal actually measure the impact that you had? Was it a good goal?
  2. Why did you or did you not meet your goal?
  3. Was this goal effective in motivating you?
  4. Should you use this goal again?

Now that you know why goals are a critical part of any internship or entry-level job and how to set good ones, go use your new knowledge! Your manager will be impressed. We promise.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Internship? and find answers to common interview questions such as What’s Your Dream Job?

3 Ways To Be More Productive At Work

Whether you’re just starting your first internship or you’re already settled into a full-time job, being productive is something that should be at the top of your mind. Why? Because productivity not only makes you a better employee, it also ensures that you can be successful in your role and advance in your career.

Here are three things you can do to be more productive at work.

1. Have a consistent morning routine

If you’ve ever read about the daily routines of successful entrepreneurs, then you know that most of them have very specific things they do every morning, from answering their emails right when they wake up to making sure that they take the time to exercise. Although you might not consider yourself an entrepreneur like Michael Dell (yet) having a morning routine is important even when you’re just starting out. A good way to create your routine is by figuring out the things that are most important in your day and then prioritizing them accordingly. For example, if you know that creating a to-do list and answering emails first thing in the morning will make your more productive throughout the day, make these tasks part of your morning routine and tackle them before you move on to anything else.

2. Focus on one thing at a time

While multitasking might seem like a great thing in theory, studies have consistently shown that it doesn’t work. What does work is focusing your attention on specific tasks by dividing up up your day into blocks of time. For example, if you’re a social media manager whose day involves creating social media posts, analyzing campaign performance and attending meetings, blocking off time to work on each of those tasks will ensure that you’re able to focus on each one individually and accomplish them effectively. A quick way to do this is by closing out all the tabs and programs you have open on your computer, leaving open only the ones you need for the task at hand.

3. Take breaks and know when to unplug

Taking breaks might seem counterintuitive to productivity, especially during a busy day when you have a lot to do, but they’re actually a great way to recharge your body and reset your mind. A good rule of thumb is to take a 5-10 minute break every hour to stretch your legs and look away from your computer screen. Methods like the Pomodoro Technique can come in handy here, since they’ll help you stay mindful of the passing hours and remind you to take breaks when you need them. Even more important is the idea of totally unplugging once you leave for the day. Although it may be tempting to keep checking your email, doing so will only keep you in work mode longer, making it harder to relax and making you more tired in the meantime. To truly be productive, it’s important to have some time offline every night to focus on other things and recharge for the following day.

Being productive is a great way to be successful in your role and to show your manager that you’re enthusiastic about your job. By following these steps, you’ll be able to get all your work done and still find time to have fun.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Negotiate a Job Offer and find answers to common interview questions such as What Motivates You?

Here’s How To Make A Great First Impression At An Entry-Level Job

You’ve worked hard to earn your degree and even hard to lock down that first job after college. You should recognize and celebrate the successes you’ve had, but don’t underestimate the importance of starting your first entry-level job off on the right foot.

Here are 5 actionable tips to help you succeed beyond your wildest dreams in your first entry-level job:

Prepare for your first day. 

When given a start date for your new job, it can be extremely tempting to relax and passively wait for that date to come before you start getting familiar with your new job. That’s not a good idea. You should spend an hour or so each day getting more familiar with the company, the role, and the people you’re likely to work with. Here are some tips for getting on top of the job before it begins:

  1. Ask your hiring manager for any guides or information to ponder before you start.
  2. Get familiar with the industry you’re working in and your company’s place in it. What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  3. Do some additional research into the professional history (best to avoid personal history) of the other team members you’ll be working with. Where have they worked? What have they done?
  4. Ask the company to help you get in touch with previous entry-level hires in your role. They will have fantastic advice for you on succeeding at the company.
  5. Get coffee with your coworkers before you start.

Show up early and prepared.

There are going to be a lot of moving pieces on your first day. There will be new people to meet, new processes to learn, routines to establish, and the list goes on. Arrive early and create structure for yourself to make it less overwhelming. Here are some suggestions for creating helpful structure on your first day:

  1. Write everything down. It doesn’t matter where. What’s important is that writing things down helps you retain them.
  2. Start a to-do list and be diligent about checking items off as they happen. This will help you when your boss asks what you’ve done lately.
  3. Take breaks to reflect. Take 15 minutes at the end of the day to make any additional notes.
  4. Create a routine. Get lunch at the same time every day. Create structure in your daily agenda.

Be a humble sponge.

Recognize that there’s going to be a lot for you to learn and that your coworkers have a lot to teach. Be patient, respectful, humble, and curious. If you don’t know or understand something, ask for some guidance and help, listen intently, write it down, and take it to heart.

You might find yourself not agreeing with the way certain parts of the company or processes are run. That’s fine. However, it’s always a good idea to attempt to understand why the current processes exist before attempting to change them. You want to work in a place where your voice is heard and respected. Your fellow employees will listen and respect you only if you’re willing to listen and respect them first.

Set goals.

If you remember one thing from this list, let this be it. Nothing is more important than setting good goals for yourself. Ideally, you’re creating these goals with your manager so that you’re both on the same page with respect to the expectations for you in your role. Only once you know what you’re working towards and how you’ll be evaluating your success can you truly start making progress in your job. Good goals will help you push yourself to learn new things, meet new people, tackle new challenges, and get the absolute most from any job.

Learn to Set Good Job Goals

Be introspective.

Truly knowing yourself and attempting to understand what you find challenging and rewarding about your job will pay dividends. The better you know yourself, the easier it is for you to set great goals for yourself and achieve them. You’ll get more meaningful results faster in almost every aspect of your work.

So being introspective is important. Great. Now how do you do it?

  1. Consider what you’re hoping to get out of your first job. Are you assessing whether or not you want to continue a career in marketing? Or are you trying to figure out whether or not the industry is interesting to you? Why are you here?
  2. Ask yourself, how do you feel at work? Are you upbeat and happy? Or are you distracted and bitter?
  3. Dig into what you’ve actually learned each day. Is what you’re learning what you want to be learning?

Start using these actionable tips.

Sometimes success in a new job comes naturally and sometimes it requires a great deal of effort. Regardless of what situation you find yourself in, these tips should help you start taking control of the situation and ensure you make the most of your first job after college.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Entry-Level Job? and find answers to common interview questions such as What’s Your Dream Job?

Mastering Your Summer Internship

Summer internships are special. While interning during the school year can offer a phenomenal experience, a summer internship is typically full-time, allowing you to put your full focus on developing professional skills and impressing your boss and peers. It can also help you line up a full-time job after you graduate. Many summer internships are also part of an internship program that can involve a number of other students as well as unique mentorship events like brown-bag lunches, and fun activities like company baseball games.

To make the most of your summer internship you should come into it with goals and have a strategy to make sure you succeed. Goals can be anything from getting way better at a certain professional skill like sales, or front-end engineering; or, a goal can be to network and meet as many other people as you can. To help you get the most out of your summer position, we talked to hundreds of students to learn more about what they wished they knew before their first internship and made a summer internship blog series covering key topics and activities you should study and complete. Our list is below:

Week by week advice to make the most of your summer internship: 

Pre-Internship:
Setting Summer Internship Goals

Week 1:
10 Tips on Setting Goals with Your Manager

Week 2:
How to Accelerate Your Learning Curve

Week 3:
Get Productive and Learn to Manage Your Workload

Week 4:
Learn to Network With Peers and Co-Workers Early

Remember the 10 Must Dos of Networking

Explore these 7 Online Resources Perfect for Networking

Learn to spark more thrilling conversations

Week 5:
Build Your Personal Project

Week 6:
Check Yourself and Reorganize Your Space

Week 7:
Look Ahead to Maximize Your Impact

Week 8:
Learn How to Land Your First Job

Week 9:
3 Steps for Asking for a Letter of Recommendation

Week 10:
5 Things You MUST Do Before Leaving Your Summer Internship

Advanced Tips for Writing Memorable Thank You Letters

What’s Next?

Once you’ve knocked your summer internship out of the park, you’ll be on the hunt for another internship or an entry-level job. If you’re moving on to entry-level jobs, here are a few suggestions for starting your search.
If you’re think you’ll be looking at jobs outside of your major focus, we’ve got a few tips for you here.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Internship? and find answers to common interview questions such as What’s Your Dream Job?

How to Be a Team Player

Learning how to work well with others is a crucial part of driving an organization towards success. If you’re working at your first paid or unpaid internship or entry-level job, it’s also a great way of showing that you’re committed to the position and to the company.

Here are a few qualities that can make a team player really shine in the workplace.

Identify your strengths, but try to be a utility player.

Know your strengths and use them to your advantage. A good team has people who can help out wherever is needed, but who also specialize in one area. Find out what your strength is and you will quickly become a revered member of the team. But be willing to jump in when someone on the team needs help or if the company faces an unforeseen challenge.

Be flexible.

Being flexible is a big part of the reason you were hired. Lots of employers prefer hiring interns and recent grads because they have yet to become “set” in their ways. Being flexible and useful is going to be valuable to everyone around you, so make sure that you demonstrate that flexibility by finding out where you can be helpful and then doing your best to make a positive impact.

Added bonus: Being flexible means that you’ll likely be exposed to different opportunities and learn a lot more than you anticipated.

Avoid falling into the trap of “playing politics.”

If you haven’t worked in an office before, you might not be familiar with office politics. However, one of the realities of working as part of a team (both large and small) is that team dynamics can be tricky. If you want to give yourself the best chance of success, be situationally aware and sensitive to everyone’s needs. More importantly, don’t fall into the trap of gossiping about your co-workers. This can seem harmless in the moment but it can create a lot of problems for the team and the company. Instead, be real and be confident in what you contribute to the team on a daily basis. Your work should and will speak for itself.

Be prepared with solutions, not problems.

Good leaders are looking to hire people that will one day replace them. It’s your job to always come prepared with solutions to a problem, rather than just talking about the problem itself. Many times people fall into the trap of going to management with an issue and hoping it will be fixed for them, but it’s very important to address each problem or pain point you see with a possible solution. Being a key member of a team means offering solutions not only to your own problems but to problems other team members might be facing.

 

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as Mastering Your Summer Internship and find answers to common interview questions such as What Are Your Hobbies?.

How to Be Effective in a Remote or Virtual Job

The concept of working remotely has become popular in many industries including engineering, customer service and sales. This doesn’t just mean occasionally working from home, but actually living in a different city or even a different country from the company you’re working for. In a survey of college students and recent grads, working remotely was the top factor they considered when looking for internships and entry-level jobs. To do it effectively, it’s important to remember that working remotely is more than just opening up your laptop while you’re still in bed.

Here are a few tips on how to be effective at your remote job.

Set work hours

Depending on your job, it might also be helpful (or mandatory) to set your work hours around your company’s core business hours, so that you communicate easily with the rest of the team and be available as new situations crop up. Even if that’s not the case, consistent work hours help your body and mind get into work mode, allowing you to focus and be more productive. Working the same hours every day also makes it easier for co-workers to get in touch with you since they know when you’re available.   

Set up a workspace

Set up an area in your home just for working. This area should be separate from the bed or the couch. Working from your bed might be super comfortable, but you might just end up falling asleep halfway through the day. If you don’t have space, an alternative is to go to a local coffee shop or bookstore. Most of these places offer free Wi-Fi and a quiet place to sit and do your work.   

Take breaks

When you work in an office, you often take short breaks to get a refill of coffee, walk to meetings or even just walk over to a colleague to chat. However, while working remotely, it’s easy to get bogged down in work and forget to take those breaks. But taking a break can actually make you more productive. So make sure to stop working and stretch your legs a few times a day.

Communicate early and often

It’s already difficult enough to create a healthy flow of communication in the workplace, and it is way harder to do it when you are working remotely. Always be sure to let those you work with know what you’re working on, how it’s progressing and any issues that come up. The more information you provide to the rest of the team, the easier it will be for them to work with you and help out if you get stuck.

Build relationships

Successful careers are not just based on the work you do, but also on the relationships you build with your managers and co-workers. Make sure you take the time to build these relationships by having regular video calls with team members, being active on internal communication platforms like Slack and talking about your interests outside of work. Many companies also regularly have team meetings and parties, so even if you love working remotely, take advantage of these opportunities to meet the team in person.   

Network locally

In an office environment, a lot of ideas are exchanged with people within teams and across teams. Working remotely, you miss out on a lot of these ad-hoc conversations and meetings. Even though you can gain experience from the work you do, to really grow your skills, it’s important to learn from others. Finding meetups and work groups in your area is a great way to network and to learn and share ideas.

Working remotely is a trend that will continue to grow as the tools companies use for communication improve. If done right, a remote job can be a healthy balance of freedom, flexibility and productivity while still advancing your career. If you’re reading this and it sounds awesome but you don’t work remotely, head over to WayUp.com and filter your job search to look for remote and virtual jobs.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as 40+ Ways to Find the Right Internship and find answers to common interview questions such as How do You Handle Pressure?.