Professor giving a lecture to several students in a classroom

5 Things to Do Before Declaring a Major

Some students start their college careers knowing exactly what they want to be when they grow up, making choosing a major an easy decision. But this is not the case for everyone. 

Plenty of students don’t know what they want to major in before starting college, and many are still figuring things out throughout their first year (or more). And that’s perfectly okay!

If you find yourself in the “undecided” camp, you’re not alone. Here are some things you can do before or during your first semester to help you make a more informed decision about your major. 

1. Attend info sessions and campus fairs

Keep an eye out for in-person or virtual info sessions or campus fairs being offered over the summer or at the start of the school year. They can give you some high-level information about what different majors are all about. 

If there are a few different majors you’re considering, see if each offers an info session for prospective students. They will help you get a better understanding of the topics that will be studied in that program and what kind of jobs graduates pursue. Be sure to prepare some questions before you go (see below) and take plenty of notes! Jotting down important details will come in handy later as you’re reviewing your options.

2. Visit the campus career center

Most colleges and universities have some kind of career center or department, and most are staffed with knowledgeable career counselors. Their job is to be a resource for students and help you better understand the career paths available with different majors. Many can also help you find internship opportunities or line up a job as you get closer to graduation. 

Your career center staff can provide a wealth of information about the options available to you, and can help you align your talents and passions with a major that suits you best. 

3. Speak with faculty advisors in each major

Each department on campus should have at least one faculty advisor who can tell you about everything their program has to offer. These advisors can be an invaluable resource, as they can tell you about all the required courses (and who teaches them), what specializations are available within the major, and what the culture is like. They may even be able to put you in touch with other faculty members or upperclassmen in the program to speak with.

Remember, these faculty members are busy people, so find out how to get an appointment with them and be respectful of their time. (They may end up being your professor one day!)

4. Talk with current students in the major

Get connected with other students in the majors you’re interested in learning more about and ask if they could spare some time for you to pick their brains. (Students are busy too, so again, be respectful and appreciative of their time.)

Ask them things like how they decided on that major, what their experience has been like in the program, and what type of career they’re interested in pursuing. Unlike faculty members, other students will be able to give you a first-hand perspective on what it’s actually like to take the classes and what the workload is like in that program. They can even give you insider tips, like the best professors to take and which classes fill up fastest.

5. Take a few intro courses

If you’ve narrowed your major of choice down to a couple of options, consider taking an introductory class in each of those programs. When you speak with a faculty advisor or student in the program, ask them for recommendations on a good class to try. 

Taking a class or two in majors you’re interested in can give you a real feel for what the program will be like, and if you’ll find it interesting. If you’re going to study something for four years (or more) you want to make sure it’s something you’ll love. And the good news is, you’ll already have a class done toward your degree for whichever major you choose.

Have your list of questions ready

ACT.org has a great list of questions you can consider while researching your options. Have these and any other important questions in mind as you talk to people or attend info sessions:

  1. Does the major match my interests?
  2. Does this major prepare me for the career I want to have?
  3. What courses will I take for the major?
  4. What will I learn?
  5. What degree types are available to me?
  6. What are the typical jobs available with my planned level of education?
  7. What specialties are within the major?
  8. What high school courses can help me prepare for the major?
  9. What type(s) of schools offer the major?
  10. What are some related majors?

The most important thing to remember when choosing a major is to be flexible. During your research, you may find one major that ticks all your boxes, or, you may change your mind and shift to something else entirely. Education is a journey.

A businesswoman points to a white board, leading a group of four other people in a brainstorming discussion.

How to Facilitate a Great Brainstorming Session, in Person or Virtually

Need some fresh ideas? Time to put on your brainstorming cap!

While brainstorming can certainly be done on your own, facilitating a group brainstorming session can be extremely helpful in generating new ideas and bringing fresh perspectives to a problem.

Read on for tips on bringing the right group together and facilitating creative brainstorming whether you’re in person or remote.

The four rules of brainstorming

Way back in 1953, Alex F. Osborn coined the term “brainstorming” in his book Applied Imagination. In the book, he outlined a system for generating ideas in groups, and laid out these four rules:

  1. Focus on quantity (over quality)
  2. Withhold criticism
  3. Welcome wild ideas
  4. Combine and improve upon ideas

For Osborn, and many who still use his methodology today, the more ideas the better in brainstorming. The more viewpoints and perspectives you can get, the more options you’ll have that you can then consolidate down into one (or more) really great ideas.

“It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one.” – Alex F. Osborn

Have a specific goal in mind

Before you begin a brainstorming session or even schedule one, make sure you have a very clear goal in mind. If you’re coming up with ideas for work or an organization you’re involved with, make sure to have a specific business or organizational goal to guide you.

Document what it is you’re trying to achieve, as well as how you’ll take action on the ultimate idea(s) that come out of the brainstorming session. Then, be sure to share that goal with the group, so they know exactly what problem they’ll be helping to solve.

Create an agenda for the brainstorming session to send out ahead of time, so people have time to prepare if they wish. Some people like to think about something on their own before they share their thoughts or ideas with others.

Create a distraction-free environment

If you’re meeting with your group in person, you’ll want to hold your brainstorming session in an environment that is conducive to creative thinking.

Choose a location where people will feel comfortable, and eliminate distractions as much as possible. Consider implementing a technology-free zone during the session, so people can really focus on creativity and not be distracted by their phones or laptops.

If you always meet in your office conference room or a classroom at your school, consider moving the meeting to a new location, like outside (if weather permits) or to a coffee shop. Caffeine and snacks may help get people’s creative juices flowing too!

Gather unlike minds

When it comes to brainstorming, it’s important to avoid groupthink. People who are very similar or have a lot of the same experiences tend to think about things in similar ways.

If you put together a more diverse brainstorming group with people who have different past experiences and worldviews, you’ll get a wider variety of great ideas to build upon.

People with different perspectives tackle problems in different ways, so when you start putting those unique ideas together, they’ll combine into stronger, more well-rounded ones.

“Create a judgement-free environment and you’ll unleash a torrent of creativity.” – Alex F. Osborn

Capture and combine ideas

Make sure you or someone else in the group is responsible for capturing all the great questions and ideas that will be floating around in your brainstorming session. If your group is meeting in person, writing them down on a whiteboard for everyone to see is a great option. Seeing the ideas that have already been shared may spur new ones.

The ability to erase is also helpful because it allows you to easily move different ideas around and group them together. This helps you identify any gaps, unanswered questions, or concepts you might be missing, so the group can think more on those areas and provide relevant ideas.

Leverage technology to brainstorm remotely

As we’re still feeling the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us are not working or learning together in the same rooms. But thanks to the amazing collaboration tools we have at our disposal today, creativity is still very much possible in a virtual setting.

Art Markman, a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas, shared some great tips for remote brainstorming in his recent article for the Harvard Business Review.

“Start your brainstorming process by having each person generate potential solutions on their own,” Markman writes, “or perhaps have them work in small groups to think about possibilities. What you want to avoid is having the entire group start throwing out ideas at one another — which isn’t ideal in a remote environment anyway.

According to Markman, it’s helpful to give everyone a chance to engage and work on the problem first before your live group session. You can do this by capturing everyone’s ideas in a shared document where they can reflect and collaborate.

Then, you can leverage a platform like Zoom or Google Meet to bring the entire group together to discuss the most promising ideas and narrow it down to a handful of options to consider further.

Get more creativity tips and resources on MyAKPsi

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How to Write a Great Résumé with Little to No Work Experience

If you’re a recent or soon-to-be college grad, you’re probably thinking quite a bit about your next chapter in life. It’s an exciting time with a world of possibilities, and you no doubt want every advantage as you venture out into the job market.

There are a number of different avenues for finding new opportunities, like online job sites (e.g., Indeed, ZipRecruiter), career fairs at your school, LinkedIn, or personal referrals from your network. But no matter how you hear about or apply for a job, you’ll need a professional résumé during the recruitment and/or interview process in most cases.

What is a résumé  (and why do I need one)?

The French word résumé means “to summarize,” and while its origins are debated, the résumé dates back nearly 500 years! Leonardo Da Vinci has been credited as an early résumé writer, when he sent a letter to the Duke of Milan highlighting his qualifications as an inventor of war technologies.

Our use of the résumé today is pretty much the same as it was in Da Vinci’s day; it summarizes and highlights our relevant skills, education, and experiences. It’s meant to communicate our abilities and qualifications to a potential employer. 

Think of your résumé as a marketing tool for your personal brand. It should clearly communicate what value you can bring to an organization, and sell them on your unique skills and potential. 

Writing your résumé 

For an early career résumé, you want to keep the content to one page. (Later in your career as you gain more experience, it might require two pages.) 

A great résumé is concise, easy-to-read, and skimmable. A recruiter or hiring manager may spend only 60 seconds (or less) reviewing each résumé they receive, so it’s important they’re able to see your qualifications right away.

An example resume to illustrate how a resume could be formatted and organized.

Have different versions of your résumé for different opportunities

A common mistake people make is having one version of their résumé that they send to every potential employer. A great way to stand out from the crowd of applicants is by submitting a résumé that is tailor-made for the job you’re applying to.

You can use the job description as your guide, and highlight your relevant skills and experiences that align. So for example, if the job description says they’re looking for someone who is “detail-oriented” and you’re someone who pays great attention to detail, make sure you have that competency listed on your résumé.

Craft a summary that sells your potential

The summary at the top of your résumé is a key place to highlight your skills and show why you’re qualified for the specific job you’re applying to. 

A good summary:

  • Highlights your relevant skills
  • Mentions the industry and type of position you’re seeking (which should match the job you’re applying to)
  • Specifies what you bring to the table for that role

Let’s look at Sara’s summary example:

 “Computer Science graduate passionate about machine learning and engineering. A competent leader, who has led student organizations and award-winning robotics club programs.”

You see that in this summary, Sara is able to communicate how her school experiences and education make her a qualified candidate for a junior engineering position.

Your résumé should be 100% typo-free

Probably the most important thing to do before sending a résumé to a potential employer is proofread, proofread, proofread! And get an extra set of eyes (or more) on your résumé to catch any mistakes you might have missed.

Mistakes on a résumé are a big red flag for employers, and many recruiters will immediately throw out a résumé if they see a typo, misspelling, or poor grammar. You only get one page to show them your stuff, so make sure it’s flawless. 

Use powerful words and show results

Words have tremendous power if wielded correctly. Beef up your résumé with powerful action verbs and follow them up with strong results. Companies want to hire people who can not only do the job but who can improve their performance and productivity. 

When showing their experience on a résumé, people often share what they did, but forget to add what the outcome was. Use powerful action verbs as the foundation of your bullets to demonstrate your impact. Then tie those experiences to numbers or percentages to emphasize results whenever possible.

Here’s the formula: Action + Result 

Action: What did you do?
Result: What was the outcome?

Let’s look at this experience example from Sara, with the power words and outcomes highlighted:

ND Robotics Club, Project Manager
– Successfully led a team of students in developing an award-winning submission to the highly-competitive state robotics tournament
– Personally dedicated 45 hours of research and lab time to the project
– Developed a creative and compelling presentation for the judges
Was awarded 2nd place among a field of 35 talented groups

Highlight the skills an employer is looking for

Even with limited or no work experience, you can still tout both your technical skills and soft skills. If you have proficiency in any software programs or foreign languages, be sure to list those.

You can see in Sara’s example, she’s looking for a software engineering position, so she has listed her internship experience and highlighted the programming languages she knows in her summary. 

Note: Never lie or exaggerate about your skills on your résumé. You could end up severely damaging your reputation, or at the very least, end up in a job that isn’t right for you. 

For an entry-level position, employers aren’t expecting you to come in 100% proficient in every skill. A good job will give you the opportunity to learn and improve.

Here are a few additional tips for promoting your skills, from career sidekick:

  • List your “hard” skills. If you’re proficient in any relevant tools, technologies, etc., you can include those in your résumé summary. But don’t list 20 things; that’s what your “skills” section is for. Pick the three or four top skills that are most relevant for the job you’re applying for to highlight.
  • List your “soft” skills too. Are you great at analytical thinking? Do you love working as a part of a team? Are you great at multi-tasking and handling a fast-paced team environment? These are worth mentioning throughout your résumé, especially if you see them mentioned in the job description.
  • Add statements that will grab the employer’s interest and make them want to ask you questions! Think about the things that make you interesting and unique and what you want the chance to talk about during the interview process.

What matters most when crafting your résumé is that you are confident in your abilities and what you bring to the table. Never feel you need to apologize for your lack of experience. Everyone has to start somewhere, and the more you show you’re up to the challenge and ready to learn, the more likely you are to get the gig.

Check out the career resources on MyAKPsi

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The Benefits of Having a Mentor and How to Find One

Transitioning from college life to your professional career is an exciting time full of growth and possibility. It can also be a little bit scary (in a good way!). 

You’re making big decisions about where to work and what path to take, developing new professional relationships, and maybe even learning how to be financially independent for the first time.

While it’s important to have an existing support system to lean on — parents, siblings, friends, etc. —  it’s also incredibly valuable to have a mentor who can help you navigate your career and develop professionally. 

What is a mentor?

A mentor is someone who cares about your wellbeing and wants to see you succeed in your career and in life in general. They’re someone who has been where you are and can be a role model for where you want to be professionally. 

A mentor can help you set up an action plan to achieve your career goals.

They can also share their own experiences and help you avoid some of the mistakes they’ve made — or simply be there to support you when you make your own.

A mentor could be a supervisor or experienced colleague at your company. They could also be someone who works in the field you’re interested in breaking into. Mentors can also be former professors, faculty members, or any other person in your life who is willing to put in the time to support you, provide constructive feedback, and challenge you when it’s needed.

Why should I have a mentor?

According to mentoring.org, quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic, and professional ways. Mentoring can help you connect to personal growth and development, as well as open doors to social and economic opportunities.

Image with statistics on young adults with a mentor Source: mentoring.org

Having a mentor can give you a leg-up in your career and in life. Mentors have no ulterior motive or financial interest at stake (you don’t pay a mentor); they are simply in it for the satisfaction of paying it forward and seeing you succeed. 

A mentor can be a knowledgeable, trustworthy sounding board throughout your career, and provide you with: 

  • Professional references
  • Network connections
  • Honest/constructive feedback 
  • A fresh/different perspective
  • Guidance and encouragement
  • Challenge (when you need a push)

What makes someone a good mentor?

Different types of mentors will make sense for different types of mentees. You have to find one that complements your personality and communication style. But while personalities differ, there are certain qualities that every good mentor has. 

According to MasterClass, a good mentor should:

  • Listen and act as a sounding board. 
  • Question your plans, goals, and aspirations (with respect).
  • Offer constructive criticism of your choices and behavior.
  • Provide emotional support and encouragement.
  • Model good behavior, ethics, and values.
  • Push you outside your comfort zone and challenge you to excel.
  • Encourage independent thinking and decision-making.
  • Facilitate your success and provide you resources through networking and active promotion of your career.
  • Have no ulterior motive that is not in your best interest.

How do I find a mentor?

For some people, a mentor-mentee relationship develops naturally with someone they’re already acquainted with. But this is not the case for everyone. Sometimes you have to seek out a mentor. 

Ideally, this person will be in your life for the long term, so it’s important to find someone who is a good match for you and can help you get where you want to be in your career.

Being a mentor is a big responsibility. By asking someone to mentor you, you’re asking them to volunteer their time to help you, so don’t rush into things. Get to know potential mentors first. Meet with and interview different people to find the right person who is willing to make that commitment. 

You can start by figuring out what you’re looking for in a mentor and what you hope to learn from them. Here are a few things to think about and jot down:

  • List three specific skills you’d like to learn from someone in your field (or a field you’re interested in).
  • Are you looking for someone just a few years ahead of you in their career, or someone much more seasoned?
  • Do they need to live in your area or are you okay with a mentor you only meet with virtually?
  • How much time would you want your mentor to spend with you? (Monthly meetings? Weekly phone calls?)
  • Write down the names of three potential mentors to reach out to and interview.

If you aren’t aware of any potential mentors in your network that fit the bill, you’ll have to expand your search. Reach out to colleagues, friends, or former classmates to see who they might be able to connect you with. Dig into your LinkedIn network and search for people in the companies and fields you’re interested in.

If you’re an Alpha Kappa Psi alumnus, your fraternity network can be an excellent resource in the business world. And who knows, your future mentor might be a brother too!

Connect with your local alumni chapter to meet members in your area and get involved.

At 90 Years Young, Hal White Has Created a Lasting AKPsi Legacy

Harold (Hal) White was initiated as a faculty member of Alpha Kappa Psi 61 years ago. He was instrumental in the founding of Arizona State University’s Iota Xi chapter, and has made an impact on countless students, faculty members, and friends across the country. This article is about Hal’s professional life in academia and his involvement with AKPsi.

It’s also a love story.

Hal’s early life

Hal was born in 1931 in northeastern Washington in a town called Colville, near both the Idaho and Canadian borders. His family later moved to Walla Walla for his father’s car dealership business.

In the 7th grade, Hal met Lucille (Lucy) Angell, the girl who would later become his wife and the love of his life. “Lucy was just one of those girls in class, you know. Our freshman year of high school, I was smitten, and she was the only girl in class,” recalls Hal.

At the end of Hal’s sophomore year of high school, his father passed away. His mother remarried and the family moved to Pendleton, Oregon, about 45 miles away. Hal and Lucy went off to college in two different towns, but he had finally worked up the courage to ask her out.

“I want you to be my girlfriend, but you do not seem to be interested,” Hal told Lucy. “But if you ever want to see me, I’m gonna come running. And she called, and I came running.”

Hal and Lucy dropped out of college and were both 21 when they married. The next year they had their daughter, Angela. Hal joined the family business. But this wouldn’t last long, as Hal saw the need to continue his education.

A harpist and a Ph.D.

Hal returned to school at the University of Oregon and received his master’s degree at age 29. He went on to teach at Idaho State College. At Idaho State, Lucy completed her degree.

Idaho State had an active Alpha Kappa Psi chapter, which happened to be one of the top chapters in the country at that time. In 1960, they invited Hal to be initiated as a faculty member of AKPsi, and he served from 1960-1963. Then in 1963, Idaho State College was renamed Idaho State University. To teach at a university, Hal would need to have a Ph.D.

The family moved to Gainesville, FL and Hal received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida. At Florida, his first scholarship was under Russ Jordan, the director of the school’s teaching hospital and clinics. Hal was selected because he was an AKPsi alum and Russ was a past national president.

During Hal’s years in school, Lucy was employed as a legal secretary, university secretary, and grade school teacher. Then the family moved once again to Arizona (where they would remain) in 1966, where Hal became a professor of management in the college of business at Arizona State University.

While Hal had become an academic, Lucy was a musical talent. She was an accomplished violinist, and eventually learned to play the harp. She played the harp professionally for 30 years, and played at many ASU events.

“People would say, ‘are you the husband of the harpist?’ not was the harpist my wife,’” Hal recalls with a smile. He reflects lovingly on the fact that she was a harpist with the maiden name “Angell.”

Lucy White pictured with her harp.

Iota Xi becomes a chapter

At the time Hal joined ASU, there was not an AKPsi chapter. But he recalls there were about 18 or more student groups in the college of business, including Delta Sigma Pi.

“A few years later, there were two transfer students from Idaho State who came to ASU and they were outraged that there wasn’t an Alpha Kappa Psi chapter. They looked to faculty to help start one and I discouraged it! There were already so many clubs. But they didn’t pay any attention to me and went on to sign up 40 students,” recalls Hal.

One of the students recruited was Steve Vasquez. “Hal really helped us organize as a colony early on and put together the Iota Xi Chapter. He was and always is so open to helping the students out,” Steve says.

The Arizona State chapter was founded in the spring of 1972. Steve remembers how involved Hal was right from the start. “Our first year as a chapter, we had regional meetings and the southwest regional meeting in Tucson at the University of Arizona, and Hal volunteered to take a bunch of us down in his car and helped us out with some of our expenses. That’s just one of the ways he dedicated himself to the chapter.”

Steve ended up becoming chapter President, and in 1975, his chapter awarded Hal with the Silver Distinguished Service Award, which still hangs on his wall today.

After three years as a faculty advisor, Hal decided to step down and asked his trusted colleague, Elmer Gooding, if he would be willing to step into the role. He agreed, and asked another colleague, Lonnie Ostrom, to be co-advisor. Together, they helped the students build Iota Xi up to a 100,000 points a year chapter.

Hal went on to become president-elect of the ASU faculty senate in 1980, and president the following year. Then in 1982, Iota Xi approached him again to be faculty advisor and he agreed, going on to serve for three more years. In 1994, the chapter presented Hal with the Second Degree Silver Distinguished Service Award. “I was quite honored,” he said.

“He and Lucy were very supportive of all our activities, and always went above and beyond. He was more than just a chapter advisor,” Steve recalls. “For me personally, he was very supportive when I was in college. I worked full-time at a local supermarket, and Lucy would shop there every week. I always felt that I had an extra ear to listen to my concerns or help me in my own professional development. That’s just the type of guy he has always been to all the brothers.”

He’s still that guy, even in retirement

Upon his retirement 28 years ago, Hal was inducted into the ASU College of Business Faculty Hall of Fame. He and his family remained in Arizona and their daughter Angela went on to have a son and a daughter. His granddaughter went on to have a son and daughter of her own, Hal’s beloved great-grandchildren.

20 years ago, Lucy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and she passed away of complications in 2012 at age 81. Hal says that she always maintained her sweet and kind disposition throughout her illness.

Today, Hal lives in an assisted living community, where, despite his degenerative muscle disease, he stays active in his community and keeps his mind sharp. He exercises twice a day, 6 days a week. Every morning he drives his power chair half a block away to his parish for mass. He’s also involved with the men’s Catholic service group, Knights of Columbus. He’s an avid reader, and a member of a monthly book club in his assisted living community.

“It’s all women and me. They like to read fiction and I’d rather read history and biographies, but it’s a social opportunity. They were so encouraging to me to continue and said “‘we’d like a man’s point of view!’”

Hal still stays in regular contact with AKPsi brothers, like Steve. He has attended several events over the years, including anniversary celebrations for the ASU chapter and the Convention in Phoenix in 2011.

Steve Vasquez pictured front center with Hal White to the right at the Alpha Kappa Psi Iota Xi chapter’s 45th reunion in 2017.

“One of the biggest things about Hal is he is an exceptional active listener. At just the right time, he will provide advice or other ways to think about something. He’s that way even to this day,” Steve says of his longtime friend and mentor.

How You Can Support Organizations Important to Hal

Donate to the Alpha Kappa Psi Foundation to help create impactful educational programs, scholarships, and grants that empower members to live with purpose and exceed their potential.

Learn more and donate to the Alpha Kappa Psi Foundation here >

Currently, more than 180,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in Arizona and southern Nevada. Consider making a donation in Lucy White’s name, to help provide education and support to all those facing Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Donate to the Alzheimer’s Association Desert Southwest Chapter here >