Tools For Success As A #SAGrad.

I am just two weeks into my first year as a #SAGrad and I already have a list of things that I believe all #SAGrads should know coming into this experience.  I am sure that as the year progresses I will have things to add to this list, but right now here are a few things that I think every #SAGrad should become familiar with.

Microsoft Excel.

I have only recently been a computer user.  By recently, I mean since being a college student.  Yes, I know, I am a millennial and my generation grew up with computers…but that does not mean that I am tech savvy or great with computers.  I know how to type a paper, Google “Computers for Dummies”, Tweet, and send an email.  That is about it.

Since starting my position as a Fraternity Graduate Assistant, I have used Excel more than ever before (which isn’t hard because I can count that on one hand).  We use this program to track our Sorority and Fraternity members for Recruitment events, mandatory trainings, and departmental programs.  Excel helps us to assess attendance and keep all of our data all in one place.

I’ve been provided a quick crash course in Excel by my coworkers and supervisor and have been learning how to use it as I go along.  However, I still look at it and all I see is a never ending grid.

I still don’t know how to sort and label things or how any of the shortcuts and functions work.  I am not sure if other offices around campus or at other institutions use Microsoft Excel, but I know that it is something that I will be using a lot in the next two years.  I hope to become more familiar with it, but I wish I would have known how to use this program before diving into this position.  I feel like I am not contributing as much as my coworkers and I am letting my team down.  So do yourself a favor, and learn the basics before you start grad school so that you can shine at the office.

Calendar & Email Merge.

I know you’re all reading this and thinking “Joel, we all know how to use those things.  That’s easy”.  Having a calendar and actually using it are two different things.  Knowing how to use a calendar in an organized manner is an entirely separate issue.  Writing everything down and scheduling time to eat, sleep, and exercise are things that are often forgotten.  Seriously, organizing every minute of your day is so important as a graduate student.  If you are balancing a full class load, work, social life, and time for self care, you must schedule all of those things out.  If it’s not scheduled it will not get done.  I know.  It has happened to me for the last two weeks.  Because of that, I am now making this change in my own scheduling and organizational strategies.  I have now budgeted time for exercise and time for myself.

As for the Email portion of this bullet, I think that it’s pretty straight forward.  Know how to craft a professional email and how to create a signature that looks good.  You will send and receive thousands of emails as a #SAGrad.  You don’t want to be the one that sends the email to your professor at 2am saying “Yo Prof!  What’s good?”.  Leave that in your undergrad.  Know how to write out a proper subject line, who to address your email to and what their name is (and spell it correctly), and how to sign off at the end of an email.

Be straight and to the point in the body of your email.  Ask your question or share your comment in a way that your reader will understand it.  Leave out unnecessary information or questions.  And always be professional.  Never use emoji’s or chat lingo.  That will get you nowhere.

OK, I think you get it.  If you are going into Student Affairs, I am sure you already know all of this.  So onto the point that I actually want to make about calendars and email.

My supervisor this year has shown me how to create calendar invites and to link your calendar with your email.  I love it!

Have a meeting with your supervisor?  Set the time and date.  Is it a reoccurring event?  Set the parameters of the event and send the invite to your supervisor.  They receive the invite via email, accept it, and your calendar is now filled.  You’re good to go for the rest of the semester.

Whether you use Outlook, Google Calendar, your IPhone calendar or another app.  Find a calendar/mail merger and use it!

FullSizeRender (1)To Do Lists.

Ok, you have your calendar.  You have your email.  You know how to use Microsoft Excel.  You’re on your way to becoming an organized super genius.  But is everything getting done?  Check off the things you’ve done.  Whether you write everything in your calendar and cross it off as you go, you use an app like Wunderlist or Trello, or you have Post It notes scattered across your desk, you need to know what you need to do and the tasks you’ve accomplished already.  My staff uses Trello.  I am still getting the hang of it, but I do like it.  Fellow #SAGrad and blogger Amanda Koslow uses Wunderlist and she RAVES about it.  Both are great tools.  I use both Trello and Wunderlist on my phone.  Whatever your style, find something that works for you, and stick to it.  Build a list, cross items off, and be efficient and productive.

Social Media.

Yes, I know I sound cliché right now.  But I am being serious.  The students that we work with are all connected to technology.  They know it better than we do.  They will be teaching us the ropes and we will be learning from them.  But we must be willing to do so.  We also need to meet them where they are.  We are not going to be the effective #SAPros that we could be if we don’t have some sort of social media presence.  Universities are quickly learning that they must use social media to connect with their students.  The same goes for us as professionals.  Does this mean we have to like, friend, follow, snap, and poke all of our students all the time?  No.  Not at all.  Please don’t, actually.  But by knowing how to use these platforms, and the tools and applications that each offers is important to working with our students and reaching them and their needs.

In addition to our students, networking with other professionals, keeping up with organizations that we are involved with, and staying up to date with current events is so easy and convenient with social media, and we all know how vital this is to our field!

PowerPoint, Prezi (or another presentation platform).

We as #SAPros will definitely have to give a presentation at some time in our career.  Whether it is for class, our job, or another reason entirely.  It is better to familiarize ourselves with these platforms before it’s presentation time.  Why not start now?

I am giving a presentation next week on Time Management and Goal Setting for my university’s Leadership Seminar Series.  I have been putting together notes and working on my PowerPoint presentation so that it is attractive and fun.  I want my students to be interactive with my presentation.  I want them to be engaged.

I got my bachelors degree in Communication Studies, so I may or may not go a little above and beyond when it comes to presentations and engaging with an audience…but that doesn’t mean that everyone in my position does.  You don’t have to have a flashy presentation or be the world’s best public speaker, but you should know some basic functions of presentation platforms.  So start playing around with them now.

I know this list is pretty basic, and I am sure many of you are way more prepared than I am.  These are just a few of the things that I’ve found helpful in my first two weeks of struggle.  If you have any tips or tricks for any of these tools, or have a different tool you think #SAGrads should know how to use, please reach out to me and comment below.