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Make Your Next Move: Advice from 2016 Award Winners Samantha Collier and Dr. Brad Striebig

What is the Make Your Next Move Award?

Career & Academic Planning recognizes faculty and staff for their “outstanding work helping students move forward with their career goals and plans” through the Make Your Next Move Award. This award acknowledges those who have invested in students’ success from finding an internship, deciding on a major, pursuing a career path, to preparing for graduate school.

Meet the 2016 Award Winners

The 2016 winners Samantha Collier, Director of Experiential Learning in the College of Business, and Dr. Brad Striebig, Professor of Engineering, have advised your fellow JMU classmates with their career plans.

Now they have advice to help you!


Why this Year’s Award Winners Were Nominated

About Sam: “She encouraged me to get involved, which has led to me joining Massachusetts Society of CPAs and Beta Alpha Psi. If it wasn’t for her, I would still be unsure of what I want to do with my accounting degree and where I see myself in just a few, short years. I feel a lot better about where I stand and look forward to pursuing a degree in Accounting.”

About Brad: “Dr. Striebig was essential in helping me to determine my career path and next steps after graduation as well as for helping prepare me during my time at JMU. He mentored me as well as many other students and assisted us to gain skills and unique experiences that would distinguish us in our field and make us competitive in the job market and future endeavors.”

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Were you surprised to receive this award?


I was very surprised to receive this award.  I enjoy working with students and helping them with developing their professional goals.  I am honored that College of Business student Alicia Rosen nominated me for this award.


Yes, I was surprised. So many JMU faculty are outstanding teachers have a tremendous impact in and out of the classroom, so it is an honor to be recognized and represent the impact on students, as many JMU faculty spend a tremendous amount of their personal time invested in the students and I don’t believe any of us do it with the expectation of receiving an award. We invest that time in students because we are invested in the relationships we establish with our students and we have the ability to help them achieve their goals.

Why do you feel called to mentor students in preparing now for their lives after JMU?


I am passionate about helping people find their strengths and reach their goals.  I chose a career in higher education so that I could help students succeed, personally and professionally.  I had amazing mentors in high school and college who helped me find my passions and I am happy that I can now do the same for our students here at JMU.


I’ve spoken to quite a few audiences recently about the power of education to transform lives, as I have personally experienced it. Once upon a time, I was an undergraduate who struggled with more than one engineering subject. It was the extra time in office hours and support from my professors that allowed me to achieve professional and personal goals, which I could not even imagine as a freshmen engineering student. I’ll be forever indebted to my mentors and the education they provided along the way – some of which was very tough. Anything I can do for students today may help towards paying that debt of gratitude to the mentors in my life.

What is your best piece of advice for students in regard to making their next move?


I encourage all students to GET INVOLVED and NETWORK!  Join a club, attend a lecture, and try and meet a new person each week.  Take advantage of all the resources that JMU has to offer.  These resources help prepare students for life after college!


Reach out to your professors early and often in your JMU career (but it is never too late, even after graduation!) The JMU faculty are the best professionals and have a great deal of experience students can learn from. However, the students have to take the initiative to engage in conversation and follow-up opportunities. For instance, I put a call out each year for students interested in Earth and Environmental Systems Engineering Research. Students that respond early on can participate in undergraduate research and plan a curriculum to help them gain unique skill sets as an undergraduate. I also frequently get questions in the last few weeks of a student’s JMU career about how to find job in environmental engineering, in which case I can connect them with job listings and sometimes employers, but when they discuss this so late in their careers they do not have the time to gain the experiences and skills that really make their applications stand out to potential employers and graduate opportunities. Early or late in your career spending a few minutes talking to the expert faculty at JMU will really help students “Make Your Next Move!”

Why is it important for students to get involved, and in what ways should students get involved for career success?


I encourage all students to get involved, personally and professionally, while they are in college. Joining an organization on campus can help a student hone their leadership and teamwork skills. Joining a professional organization as a student can help a student identify career paths, as well as provide them with more knowledge about their field of study.

What are a few ways JMU students can make themselves competitive now for their professions?


I’m only qualified to speak for engineering students, since I’ve been an engineer for over 25 years, but I think the answer may be relevant for other fields as well.

  1. The “How” is more important than the “What” and much harder to achieve; students need to learn not just “What” should be done, but also need to put in the time gaining experience learning “How” to accomplish a goal or task.
  2. Jump in and don’t be afraid to fail by trying both old and new ideas. New engineers should be supervised by more experienced professionals and they will be able to help new graduates become experts with traditional approaches and will appreciate the entrepreneurial attitude of new attitudes who try to bring new ideas and technologies with them.
  3. Look for intersections of your work and extra-curricular experiences. In my 25 years of experience, I’ve observed that the most successful students are those that combine their technical skills with their personal interests to bring something special to their work, it might be additional skills with languages, art, or compassion for people that allow students to “be the change.”

What do you love most about being a part of the JMU community?


JMU is a large school, with a small feel.  I am blessed to work with amazing faculty and staff who care about students and their success.  The College of Business mission, vision and values are ones that I live by daily.


JMU’s emphasis on goal-oriented learning that allows students to work on projects that have real-world implications is an ideal place to develop innovative engineering education curriculum. As a point in fact, myself, Dr. Maria Papadakis in ISAT, Dr. Adabayo Ogundipe and several other JMU engineering faculty were able to develop a curriculum for sustainable engineering and development that has resulted in an award-winning textbook. 

Congratulations, Sam and Brad! Thank you for all you do for JMU students!

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Customer Service Do’s and Don’ts

Are you are thinking of a career in the customer service industry? Sometimes it can be hard to keep your cool, and respond appropriately to difficult situations. Even if you’re not in retail, it is important to keep your clients happy.   Here are some tips that can make you the best customer service reps ever.

Don’t: “Let Me look into that.”
The is too vague, and makes the customer feel put off.  Instead, provide  a clear plan of action.
Do: “I’m going to do some more research.  I will call you back my 3pm today.”
This also gives the customer a time frame to hear back from you.

Don’t: “Unfortunately, no…”
There is always a better option than “no.”
Do: “Although we can’t provide that, here’s a better/similar option.”

Don’t: “There’s nothing I can do.”
There is always SOMETHING you can do.
Do: “I understand your frustration, what can I do to help?”
This gives the feeling that you are being understanding and actually trying to help.

Don’t: “Let me correct you on that.”
This automatically puts people on the defense.
Do: “I must not have explained that fully, my fault!”

Don’t:There must have been a miscommunication.”
This is passive aggressive, and puts the blame on the customer.
Do: “I misunderstood your request.  Let me fix that!”

Remember to be patient, and kind.  It goes a long way to having loyal customers.

Find the full article here.



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How to Fake an Outgoing Personality

Introverts: remain calm. You are fantastic—smart, observant, focused, responsible, flexible, all-around a joy to work with. However, you know as well I do that when working in an office, there are times you’re required to step out of your comfort zone and go the extra mile for the sake of “being social” or “seeming like a team player.”   Here are some tips to help you “Fake it til you make it.”

  1. Reframe your perception of office social gatherings.

While some people see getting together as a way to unwind, introverts see it as work, but often feel guilty for doing so. Instead, introverts should embrace the fact that yes, workplace social gatherings are a facet of work—and an important one at that. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do in order to push forward.

  1. Do a little prep-work.

Speech and communications expert Ita M. Olsen says that people who find small talk exhausting would be well-served by having a few practiced phrases on hand.

  1. Go for the one-on-one.

Most introverts are more comfortable speaking to people one-on-one than in groups, so  try to put yourself in those situations as much as possible

  1. Do what you do best: listen.

When you really listen to people it makes them feel good, which provides an important foundation for productive and positive relationships.

  1. Ask uncommon questions.

Introverts tend to find small talk trivial—and they are most often correct. To make chit-chat more interesting, she recommends asking uncommon questions about topics you are genuinely interested in.

  1. Give yourself time to re-charge.

Trying to seem outgoing at work is undoubtedly exhausting, and too many social encounters can leave introverts depleted. Socialize, reward, rest, repeat. You can do this.

For the full article click here.

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Mastering Small Talk

You’ve heard it a million times: First impressions are everything. Small talk is key to getting off on the right foot with someone new.

1. Remember names.
There’s no such thing as being “bad with names.” Pay attention when someone says their name, and repeat it back to them (i.e., “Nice to meet you, Sarah”)

2. Give the long answer.

When someone asks what you do, don’t say “I’m a doctor.” Instead, say, “I’m a doctor at NYU Hospital and I mostly work with children.” You’re giving the other person more to draw from—now they know that you live in New York City and specialize in pediatrics, giving you more to talk about.

3. Ask more questions than you answer.

Draw the other person out. Ask them questions. Give compliments.

4. Keep it positive.
Don’t complain. Ever! Even if the other person doesn’t seem put off, they’ll associate you with negativity long after they’ve forgotten what you talked about.

5. Know when to stop sharing.
Share personal information that’s not too intimate, but is still relateable enough to keep the conversation going.

For the full article, click here.


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8 Things Successful People Do Right Before Bed

The very last thing you do before bed tends to have a significant impact on your mood and energy level the next day, as it often determines how well and how much you sleep.

  1. They read.

Experts agree that reading is the very last thing most successful people do before going to sleep.

For example, some successful people use this time catch up on news stories from the day, others enjoy reading fiction novels and ancient philosophy just before bed.

  1. They make a to-do list.

Clearing the mind for a good night sleep is critical for a lot of successful people.

  1. They spend time with family.

It’s important to make some time to chat with your partner, talk to your kids, or play with your dog.

  1. They reflect on the day.

Taking a few moments to think about what went right over the course of the day can put you in a positive, grateful mood.

  1. They meditate.

Many successful people use the 10 minutes before bed to meditate. It’s a great way to relax your body and quiet your mind.

  1. They unplug and disconnect from work.

Truly successful people do anything but work right before bed. They don’t obsessively check their email, and they try not to dwell on work-related issues.

  1. They lie down on a positive note.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of replaying negative situations from the day that you wish you had handled differently. Regardless of how badly the day went, successful people typically manage to avoid that pessimistic spiral of negative self-talk because they know it will only create more stress.

  1. They picture tomorrow’s success.

Many successful people take a few minutes before bed to envision a positive outcome unfolding for the projects they’re working on.


For the full article, visit: Business Insider

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Ultimate Reference List

After combing through job boards, finally finding one that interests you, and getting your resume and cover letter ready, the last thing you’re probably interested in is assembling a reference list. You may even think: “this hiring manager will never reach out to my references because they never do.”

We know the power of an awesome reference list, so we’ve put together a list of do’s and don’ts to help you update. Get those names organized, then go get it!


Before you add your former employer or professor to your reference list, be sure to ask them for their permission. We’ve all heard this rule before, but it’s harder than it sounds when you’re strapped for time or uncomfortable with asking. Give them a call or shoot them a quick email with some specifics: explain the type of jobs you are applying for, why you’re choosing them, and then ask if it would be okay to list them as a reference.


This may also seem like a given, but it’s definitely an important one to reiterate. If you left a job on less than great terms, lacked a good working relationship with any former employer/employee, or question what that person may say about you when talking with a recruiter, even if you’re just not sure how well they remember you—then don’t add them to your reference list.


If your current place of employment is unaware you’re seeking new job opportunities, listing them as a reference would be a horrible way for them to find out. It’s not only unprofessional, but it will damage your relationship and possibly cost you the company you’ve applied to.


Your future employer wants to see variety in the types of employment, employers, contacts, and professional references they see listed. If you have six people listed from the same company, the hiring manager might think that you lack connections and successful partnerships throughout your career.

Those six references might be awesome, but limit it to one or two per workplace. Mix it up.

And one last don’t: leave off any family members from your reference list no matter how aware of your work experience they may be.

For the full article, visit here.

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7 Finacial Steps for Young Professionals

If you’re a young professional, chances are you’ve started to think about paying off debt, like a school loan or a credit card, and saving for your future, be it long-term goals like retirement or short-term goals like a new car or a house. When you only have so much disposable income, what should you to contribute to, and in what order?

Step 1: Create a Budget

Before you can make any financial decisions on paying off debt, saving, or making purchases, you need to put together a budget that considers important factors like your income, your monthly expenses, and any debt you may have, like student loan debt.

Step 2: Build an Emergency Fund

The predicament of an illness or a job loss can worsen if you don’t have the savings to support yourself, so it’s recommends putting away three to six months of your living expenses for such an event.

Step 3: Contribute to your 401K

Unfortunately, many young professionals don’t think they need to save for retirement this soon, but it can be one of the smartest ways to protect yourself from taxes, so you can keep more of the money you earn.

Step 4: Pay Off High Interest Credit Cards

You may have signed up for a credit card with an introductory low- or no-interest rate. If so, you’ve probably seen that introductory rate expire, and your interest rate jump to anywhere from 10 to 25 percent. All of a sudden that credit card is costing you big bucks, and you should pay it off as soon as you can

Step 5: Pay Off Private Student Loans

These private loans often have higher interest rates, between five and 12 percent.

Step 6: Contribute more to your Retirement Savings

If you’ve gone through the previous steps and you still have money to spare, you may benefit more from growing your long-term investments than you would from paying off that lower interest rate debt, like mortgages, government student loans, and car payments.

Step 7: Tackle Low Interest Loans

The last step is to tackle those low-interest loans. Until you’ve covered all of the previous steps, it is recommended making just the monthly payments on lower-interest loans such as mortgage loans, car loans, and government student loans because these types of debts carry lower interest rates.

For more tips, visit here.