Working in real estate helped me to improve skills and abilities in different areas!

Welcome to week five!!! The Career Fair last week was a huge success, and we’re inching closer and closer to the end of this academic year.  As we do, I’m inching closer to the end of my story of a Career Changer. Or maybe not the end, but I’m definitely inching closer to my present moment, where my career path is right now; though it’s always a living and breathing thing that can morph and change.

Last time we talked, I had just graduated from my MFA program and realized that I didn’t want to teach; I wanted to advise. Because of this switch late in the game, I decided to take the summer “off” from thinking about the future by working as an actor at the Creede Repertory Theatre again. It was great fun to perform again, be with friends, and regroup.

As the fall and the end of the season neared, my time was taken up by wedding planning for a September date. After the wedding (A great party, you should’ve been there!), I started to ask around town for possible winter jobs. If I could find something, we could just hang tight, work in Creede for the year, and I would job search for my advising dream job from there. In a small town like Creede, it didn’t take long. A couple of people approached me about work they needed done. I got my substitute teacher’s license so that I could work at the school. I was asked to work part time as the high school drama club coach for a small stipend. Then, rumor had it that one of the local real estate offices was looking for an office manager.

Now, I’d worked in offices before, but not in a long time and never for real estate. But my skills in writing were unusual, as was my facility with different software programs. I brought a resume into Broken Arrow Ranch and Land Company and spoke with Anne, the owner and main broker. The following Monday, I started at an hourly wage.

One thing I want to stress was that I was able to sell my skills to Anne, letting her know that I would be comfortable with taking on marketing, writing up advertising, filing, phones, etc., and also that I would be comfortable learning everything I didn’t know about her business. She trusted that my previous experience as an instructor would translate to managing her office well. And although it took me some time to learn the procedures of real estate, I jumped in to learning about a brand new field with both feet. As you move into a new industry, it is important to acknowledge what you don’t know and what you need to know in order to do the job well. I spent much of my first week studying the file folders on the computer network, learning how to use Microsoft Publisher, and asking a lot of questions. Soon, I started offering small suggestions for streamlining some of her processes and improving her advertising. I was in a totally new field, and it was really fun!

So, all this is to say, be flexible, be open, be a learner, and you never know what doors will open. Although my job at Broken Arrow Ranch and Land Company was not in the industry I hoped to be in, I was learning skills and honing abilities that would help me get that dream job someday.

Have a great midterm season, and I’ll be back Week Seven with the next chapter in my Career Changer life!

Jessica Baron is currently a Graduate Assistant in Career Services at OSU and a full time student in the College Student Services Administration Program. Before making her way to Oregon State, Jessica worked as an actor, waiter, online tutor, receptionist, college composition instructor, creative writer, gas station attendant, nonprofit program director, writing workshop leader, high school drama coach, Hallmark card straightener, substitute teacher, real estate office manager, and SAT tutor, not necessarily in that order. Her “Confessions of a Career Changer” will focus on her wavy career path and the challenges and joys of wanting to do everything.

Hulali Kaapana

I’ll keep this short and simple. Humor surrounds our everyday lives, some love it and others not so much, but the question is when is it okay and is it okay to use it in a professional setting. Some people are born natural comedians and others well, some may lack humor but when is it okay to make things funny.

Humor can have much positive effect on your work place such as:

  • Boosting morale, motivating and engaging employees
  • Reducing stress and conflict
  • Increasing sales or customer reaction and numbers
  • Strengthening teamwork
  • Building trust and communication
  • Keeping people AWAKE during meetings
  • Improving chances of personal success

The negatives of humor is:

  • If it is a personal joke it could hurt others
  • It can cause tension between employees
  • It can be too sexual, making the work environment awkward
  • It could not be funny at all (yikes)

According to Chris Robert, assistant professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia’s, Robert J. Trulaske Sr. College of Business “humor: it’s not just clowning around and having fun; it has meaningful impact on cohesiveness in the workplace and communication quality among workers. The ability to appreciate humor, the ability to laugh and make other people laugh actually has physiological effects on the body that cause people to become more bonded”.

With that being said, have a few laughs at work, make it an enjoyable place to work, but know when to play and when to work. Never lose your companies mission. Smile and enjoy life.


PS: Here is a great website to check out about more “humor” at your workplace

In honor of April as Workplace Conflict Awareness Month, I think it is important to discuss ways to avoid workplace conflict in the first place.

Of course, sometimes conflict is inevitable. Stuff happens. But there are ways to minimize the likelihood of conflicts. If workers take responsibility to act professionally, conflicts are much less likely.

So, what does it mean to be a professional? How do you act like a professional if you’ve never had a professional experience? Or how do you determine what it means to be a professional in a new career field or industry? Here are 8 tips to consider as you move into the workforce, whether you are soon graduating and looking for full-time work, taking on a part-time or full-time job while you finish school, or starting an internship. Professionalism is central in order to make a positive impression on your co-workers and supervisors. Then, those people will become a helpful part of your network as your progress in your career.

Professional Tip 1: Be enthusiastic and passionate about the work.

No one wants to work with someone who doesn’t care about what they do. One way to show respect for your co-workers is through the interest and excitement you bring to the work that goes on in the industry.

Professional Tip 2: Keep learning and wanting to learn from others and on your own.

You will be seen as a professional if you exhibit the qualities of a lifelong learner, if you keeping developing yourself, and if you truly want to learn from all those around you. A little initiative goes a long way toward professionalism.

Professional Tip 3: Be humble.

Although you needed to exhibit your confidence to get the job and maintain that confidence to become a vital and engaged part of the team, stay in touch with your humility. Understand everyone starts somewhere, and we all have a long way to go.

Professional Tip 4: Be an agent for change.

Fresh ideas and creative solutions to problems are welcome in the professional world. Don’t complain when something isn’t working, offer a potential way to fix it. Your co-workers will thank you!

Professional Tip 5: Help others.

Does the office fridge need cleaning? Does the printer cartridge need to be changed? Then do it! Small acts of kindness show a sense of responsibility for the workplace as a shared venture. Everyone wants to feel like all members are pulling their weight.

Professional Tip 6: Be flexible.

Change happens; it’s inevitable. So roll with it! Your co-workers and supervisors will appreciate your adaptability to new conditions.

Professional Tip 7: Show up on time and work really hard!

People will be impressed with your professionalism if you take your work seriously, focus only on work related activities in the workplace (no personal distractions), and arrive early and stay late. This doesn’t mean become a workaholic; it’s important to maintain balance with your work and your home life, but devote the time needed to do your job really well. If that means coming in a half hour early to prepare for a meeting or working one evening to get a project done on a deadline, do it.

Professional Tip 8: Be honest.

Finally, when you are having any kind of workplace difficulty with a co-worker or a supervisor, the most professional way to deal with the situation is to respectfully tell them. If you need to, go through the proper channels – talking to a mentor or supervisor when you’re unsure how to handle the situation. Professional people are honest and transparent while being respectful.

As you move into professional positions and work to grow as a professional, these tips will help you avoid workplace conflict and, when conflict arises, handle it constructively. Although these tips sound simple, they are difficult to do every day, and workers who are consistently professional stand out. If we all want a little more peace in the working world this month, it would be a good idea to remind ourselves how to be a professional.

You’ve been offered a job that sounds fantastic – it pays a very good salary and the workplace has a great atmosphere. You’re eager to take it, but wait: thoroughly evaluate the benefits package before you accept the job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2010, the average employee benefits package comprised 30 percent of the total compensation package, and the average value of benefits was $8.11 per hour. You can try to calculate the value of the benefits on your own, but some experts believe the best way to put a dollar value on benefits is asking the prospective employer to do it for you.

Example: Job A and Job B

Let’s say Job B pays $2,000 more per year than Job A. You take job B because of this, but maybe you don’t realize that Job A covers 100 percent of the health insurance premium and Job B pays 75 percent of it. With Job B, $200 per month is deducted from your paycheck to cover health premiums and there’s a $500 deductible you’ll pay before the insurance covers the rest of the cost. You’ll pay a total insurance premium of $2,400 per year and you may have to pay a $500 deductible if you need healthcare services during the year. Although Job A pays less in terms of salary, it may be a better financial choice just based on healthcare benefits. And then there are also the retirement account and other benefits to consider.

Health Plans

Many employers are charging employees more for their health insurance than in the past, however employer-provided health insurance is still a bargain. Keep an eye out for potential costs such as:

  • Employee-paid premiums
  • Co-payments
  • Deductibles
  • Maximum annual out-of-pocket expense
  • Coinsurance, which requires you to pay a percentage of the total cost of healthcare
  • Healthcare services the insurer doesn’t cover


With a 401(k) plan your contributions are tax-deferred (except for social security taxes). Most employers match between 50 cents and 1 dollar for every dollar you contribute for up to 3 to 6 percent of your salary. For example, if you make $40,000 per year and you contribute $200 per month and your employer match is 75 percent for up to 6 percent of your salary, your employer is putting in another $150 per month, which works out to be $1,800 per year. Not taking advantage of an available 401(k) plan at work is like simply rejecting free money.

With a 401(k) plan you accept responsibility for the investment risks and potential losses due to fluctuations in the market. Typically, jobs which don’t offer a retirement plan are not worth considering unless the salary is high enough to allow you to easily contribute to your own retirement account.

Defined Benefits Plan

Some experts believe a defined benefits plan is better than a 401(k) plan because the defined benefits plan is not affected by market performance. Instead, the employer has all the investment risks and unless the company files for bankruptcy and can’t fund the benefit plan, your pension is guaranteed. Due to the costs and risks, fewer employers are providing defined benefits plans these days.

If a defined benefits plan is available, find out how long it takes to become vested. After you become vested you have a non-forfeitable right to benefits funded by the employer even if you leave your job and work for another employer.

Some people believe a defined benefits plan is risky because the employer may not be able to fund the pension plan. However, these plans are typically protected by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, an independent agency of the United States government. If the company goes bankrupt, your benefits may be reduced, but you are guaranteed to receive a minimum percentage of your promised benefits.

Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is a pre-tax benefit account used to help offset the costs of healthcare and dependent care for you and your family. Money deducted from your pay and going into an FSA is not subject to payroll taxes. However, there’s a significant disadvantage of an FSA – the funds not used by the end of the year are lost to you.

Benefits in Private Industry

These 2011 statistics will help you compare the types of benefits and employer financial contributions you’ve been offered compared to all workers in private industry:

  • 73 percent of full-time employees had access to retirement benefits, 85 percent to medical, and 75 percent to paid sick leave
  • On average, single coverage employers paid 80 percent of the medical care premiums for full-time employees and 68 percent for family coverage
  • 7 percent of unmarried domestic partners (same sex and opposite sex) had access to retirement survivors benefits
  • 29 percent of same sex unmarried domestic partners and 25 percent of opposite sex unmarried domestic partners had access to healthcare benefits

(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Compensation Survey, March 2011)

Here’s a laundry list of typical employee benefits you should be aware of when job hunting:

  • Medical, vision and dental insurance
  • Health and wellness programs
  • Life insurance
  • Short-term and long-term disability coverage
  • Paid holiday, vacation and sick leave
  • Disability insurance
  • Retirement plans
  • Stock options
  • Severance package
  • Employer-paid day care center
  • Prepaid legal services
  • Education assistance programs and scholarship funds
  • Adoption assistance
  • Maternity leave
  • Flexible work schedule
  • Health club

After you graduate from college, benefits, such as a retirement account and health insurance, may not grab your interest. You may think benefits are the concern of older workers, but there are a lot of older workers who wish they paid more attention to benefits when they began their careers. Besides, asking questions about the benefits package makes you look smart to the person offering the job!

Brian Jenkins writes about many different college and career topics for He has contributed content to BrainTrack’s career planning guide.

All over campus we hear the phrase “Dress for Success.” It is an excellent goal and obviously a good idea, but perhaps a little vague?  We all know we should dress professionally and that our clothes help paint the first impression picture that will forever be printed in an interviewer and future employer’s mind, but many students are unsure exactly what looks appropriate, what should be left off, and what will make us stand out.

The most important things to remember about dressing for an interview apply to both men and women: Continue reading

When I was six and growing up in Mexico my mom asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“A doctor!” I replied.

“That’s a very difficult job,” she said.

“No, I just have to give the people pills and they get better!”

Seven years later I was in Portland at the Benson Polytechnic High School Open House for future students. I wanted to check out Benson’s Health Occupations Program, so I went into a classroom full of curious students and countless diagrams of the human anatomy. I spotted a solitary scalpel on a table in the corner. I toyed with it for the few seconds, then I shivered and the hairs on my arms stood straight as I imagined what it would be like to operate on a human being.

“Hey you!”

I turned around to find a guy in scrubs and white blood-stained gloves standing behind a table. On the table was a pig head.  He placed one hand on the pig head and removed the top of the skull in the same manner that a fine chef would remove the lid from a boiling pot.

“You wanna see a pig brain?” he asked.

And that was the last time I held a scalpel.

Why am I telling you this story? Because many students think that they have a good understanding of what holding a job in their field of study will be like based on the classes they’ve taken and whatever knowledge they’ve acquired online or from speaking to others. And while these are good ways to learn about a career, you will not truly understand what everyday life in your chosen field will be like until you get out there and do the job yourself. The best way to really understand a career is through hands-on experiences such as part-time jobs, summer jobs, internships, or even volunteering. The best way to figure out what a professional in your desired field of study does on a daily basis is to do it yourself.

Last year through the MECOP program, I had the opportunity to go on a six-month internship with Daimler Trucks North America. DTNA is the largest heavy-duty truck manufacturer in North America and it is known for its leading brands Freightliner and Western Star. Being a mechanical engineering student with a main interest in the automotive industry, I was very excited to have received this opportunity. However, I was also nervous because I was afraid I would find out that engineering, like medicine before, was not really something I’d enjoy doing for the rest of my life.

I worked on several projects during my time at Daimler, and through each I gained experience in doing the tasks that mechanical engineers do on a regular basis. Some of these tasks I had done in school before, such as sketching my design ideas, performing engineering calculations, and creating technical drawings of the concept using computer software. Others however, were new to me: I made regular trips to the manufacturing plant to speak with the workers about the feasibility of my designs, worked with finance to create the required report needed to get the money to create prototypes (long, ugly process…), communicated with manufacturing development on a regular basis to ensure that my designs were being manufactured correctly, contacted vendors, consulted other engineers, attended meetings . . . I could keep going but I think you get the point. Through my internship with DTNA I experienced some of the aspects of engineering that can only be learned by actually doing the job. And once I finished my internship the nervousness was gone, because I had enjoyed the entire ride and was more sure than ever that mechanical engineering was the right field for me.

So my advice to you is this: There are certain things that you cannot learn from books, so make the effort to get a summer job or internship that will allow you to experience first-hand what it is like to work in your field of study. I assure you it’ll be worth it.

Posted by Fernando Ramirez, Career Services Assistant

How to Lose a Job in 10 DaysWhen it comes to applying for a job, we often mull over the do’s and don’ts of a job interview. Most of us are familiar with thing like DO show up to the interview on time and DO come prepared having done your research about the company or organization. Similarly, when it comes to a job interview, we also know a lot of don’ts such as DON’T wear inappropriate clothing to your interview and DON’T badmouth past employers.

Sometimes it’s easy to think that once we have secured employment, the days of worrying about Do’s and Don’ts are over. Many of us forget to recognize that once we are in our new position, there are still many Don’ts that we rarely pay attention to, which could lead to harsh consequences and ultimately losing a job.

So, what are those ultimate Don’ts? What is it that people do that makes them lose their job? How, really, do you lose a job in 10 days?

  • Constantly arriving late, leaving early or taking long lunches without approval
  • Sending personal E-mails, Facebook-ing/Tweeting (for non work-related reasons), or surfing the web (again, non work-related)
  • Updating your online statuses while at work with complaints about your job and/or colleagues
  • Making excessive personal calls and sending and receiving lots of text messages
  • Engaging in office gossip and tattling on co-workers
  • Constantly sharing about your crazy weekends or the reasons you feel tired, lazy, or unproductive
  • Dress code violations
  • Talking about the new job you’re applying for or the job you really wanted instead of your current one

If you would like to learn more about the Do’s and Don’ts of interviewing and employment, come meet with one of our career counselors @ Career Services!