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Graduate Student Survival Guide

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You know those kids from high school, the ones who couldn’t decide what they wanted to do with their lives and got full time jobs straight after graduation? They looked at you with a twinge of envy as you headed off to college while they loaded up on dress suits and sensible shoes. They were certain they’d be following after you in a couple of years; you were certain they’d spend the rest of their lives picking up the boss’s dry cleaning and making coffee for high-powered executives.

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Now, however, you are beginning to doubt yourself. After four years of undergraduate life, a crummy part time job, and riding the bus everywhere, your friends’ lives are starting to look rather enviable. Their full time wages dwarf your measly graduate student earnings and their lifestyle clearly sits a few rungs higher up on the socioeconomic ladder than yours. Resist the urge to start comparing accomplishments because, at this point in your life, you won’t come out ahead.

Help me I'm poor

Your friends in the outside world have been working for a few years now, and they have the consumer lifestyle to prove it. They drive around in the latest hipster-colored micro car while you are still riding the bus on a student pass. They dine out at restaurants with tablecloths and menus that change with the seasons, while you subsist on microwave dinners and cafeteria food. Their clothes reflect the latest fashions and they hang out at trendy bars sipping expensive cocktails. You live in jeans and khakis, topped with t-shirts bearing such witty slogans as “Come to the nerd side. We have pi.”

Come to the nerd side, we have Pi

Your version of a night out on the town is Two Dollar Tuesdays at the student pub, where the antics of freshmen students reveling in their newfound freedom long ago ceased to be entertaining.

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Your friends rent condos in the heart of the city, furnished with matching sofas and chairs, big screen TVs, and bathrooms all to themselves. You, on the other hand, are possibly still living with your parents, accepting home cooked meals and complementary laundry service in exchange for house rules that haven’t changed since you were 15 and frequent interrogations regarding your study habits and social life. Or perhaps you are sharing a shabby rental house with five other students who are equally cash-strapped and lacking in domestic skills, and with whom you compete for hot showers and space in the refrigerator.

dorm life

Yes, compared to life as a graduate student, your working friends out there in the Real World seem to be doing very well. But trust me when I say that this is merely an illusion. What you need is a glimpse into the future to put things in perspective…

It’s twenty years from now and your friends are mostly married with children. The earnings that seemed like a windfall fresh out of high school aren’t so flush now that there are mortgages, health and life insurance premiums, and kids who need orthodontic work. Your friends long ago gave up their fancy bachelor pad rentals downtown and now live in cookie-cutter subdivisions way out in some far-flung suburb. They traded in their micro car for a minivan but they commute by public transit because it’s faster and less expensive. At work, they are still waiting for the fourteen guys ahead of them in seniority to either retire or die so they can move up the career ladder, but the most they can hope for is a lower management position because the upper ones are filled exclusively by those with—you guessed it—college degrees.

dead end job

Oh, they didn’t plan it this way. But you see, you were smart: it’s easy to decide on a few more years of student poverty when that’s all you’ve known since graduating high school. But when it came time for your friends to consider going back to college, they were already living lifestyles that were hard to give up. The idea of going back to pizza nights and dormitory life was too difficult to endure, so they put it off and put if off and now most of them are just looking forward to retirement so they can finally do something interesting.

grad student survival

So hang in there, graduate students. The grass may seem greener on the Real World side of the fence right now, but in a few years you’ll see that you made the right choice. You’ll find that, since your friends were too immature to save any of that money they were earning while you were in college, in the end they didn’t come out ahead of you at all.

What like it's hard? Harvard grad student

And while you now have an enjoyable and upwardly mobile career ahead of you, they are waking up to the realization that they inadvertently made a career out of a job that was supposed to be a holdover until they decided what to do with their lives. Try to keep that image in mind the next time you see one of your acquaintances looking all sharp and fashionable on their way to the newest club. You’ll have your revenge one day, I promise.

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5 Things To Do Before Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

As our economy changes, more people are starting businesses, developing and marketing product that will make a difference for the world, and reaping the rewards of being an entrepreneur. All entrepreneurs have the drive and passion but many lack the preparation. Without preparation, the largest hurdle for most entrepreneurs is the financial success. Many people start with great ideas only to crash and burn nine or eighteen months down the road. Here are five things that every entrepreneur must do before he or she charges down the leadership path of entrepreneurship.

1. Take care of your personal finances.

The key here is to pay down your personal debt. If you are carrying more debt than you can handle with your current employment, it is time to downsize and pay off or eliminate debt before you follow your entrepreneurial spirit. Develop a monthly budget that you can stick to and takes into consideration emergencies such as car repairs, medical bills, and extra household expenses. Make certain you have at least a 12-month reserve of money to pay your bills. As an entrepreneur, you might not get your first paycheck for many months so be prepared to pay your bills from savings.

2. Make certain any of your contractual obligations will not affect your focus.

Look over previous employment contracts and make certain what you are deciding to pursue will not be in violation of that agreement. Review all current agreements you are involved with and if you plan on working part or full time as you follow this dream, make certain you can explain to your current employer how this will not affect your work performance.

3. Limit your distractions.

We all need to have our “fun” and have time for family but it is critical that anything outside of family time be evaluated for how it may take away from your focus on entrepreneurial activities. Keep in mind that you need a few diversions to help you balance your health and mental welfare but you just might have to give up a few of the extra-curricular activities. As a good way of planning your time, limit those extra activities to no more than 90 minutes a day on average.

4. Clean up your social media look.

You are going to be meeting with investors, bankers, potential partners, and of course, those who will purchase your product/idea/service and you need to look professional. Of course, you will dress the part but many of the people you will meet might check out your Facebook or Linked-In profiles, stop by your Instagram or Twitter accounts, and even read your blog. Sometimes when we are having fun, we might post pictures or say things we do not want to share as an entrepreneur. Clean up that image and show your best side.

5. Have a 12-month plan.

This plan needs to include your personal as well as entrepreneurial/business budget. Write, rewrite, edit, review, and seek counsel from trusted friends, colleagues, or professionals on the business plan. Include your vacation, medical appointments, and important events on the calendar portion of your 12-month plan. All of these ideas are very important for people setting off on entrepreneurial projects. The important thing to note is that these ideas also apply to anyone wanting to apply for a new job, write that first book, or set out on any new adventure.

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Authors Anonymous Official Trailer (2014)

Finally another movie about authors – a topic that not enough authors write about and not enough movies are made about! We think authors are pretty fascinating people!

Here’s the movie synopsis: When a dysfunctional group of unpublished writers accept Hannah into their fold, the last thing they expect is her overnight success. Can these lovable misfits achieve their artistic dreams and avoid killing one another in the process? Starring Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Chris Klein, Dennis Farina, Dylan Walsh, Jonathan Bennett, and Teri Polo.

We think it looks really fun and cute — what do you think? Leave your opinions in the comments!

 Authors Anonymous Movie

How to Write News Stories

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Do you want to pitch strong, timely news stories to papers and magazines? Looking for ways to sharpen your accuracy, credibility, and professionalism? Here are a few pointers to give you an idea of what publishers are looking for and what editors love to see:

  1. Timeliness: In the print media, particularly newspapers, most of news reaches readers several days or even weeks after it’s written. This means it’s important to emphasize the elements of your story that will still be current. Instead of leading with: “On December 5, Ourtown Ministries held a conference on homelessness,” begin: “Homelessness is an epidemic in Ourtown,” says the director of a local ministry that hosted conference on homelessness in December.”
  2. Lead: The lead is the heart of the story. It should grab the reader’s attention, be in the present tense, and sum up the story in 30 words or less. Writing the lead is half the job. A hard lead contains all the facts. If you use a more oblique approach to catch attention, (known as a soft lead) the key information should follow immediately.
    1. Hard lead: “A family in Ottawa’s Westboro neighborhood fled their house in a panic early Monday morning when the roof started to collapse under all the snow that fell over the weekend.”
    2. Soft lead: “The little town of Bethlehem may be overshadowed by a wall 24 feet high and crowned with razor-wire, but it’s home to a small beacon for peace. Wi’am is a grassroots conflict resolution centre in the Bethlehem devoted to building peace in the Middle East using principles of traditional Arab peacemaking.”
  3. Direct quotes: The reader should have encountered a direct quote by the second or third paragraph. Quotes should be colorful descriptions, convictions, or gut responses rather than plain factual information.
    1. Weak quote: “Last year 1,000 cars were stolen in this city,” said the mayor.
    2. Strong quote: “I’m horrified at the way car thieves in our city are thumbing their noses at the law,” said the mayor.
  4. Active verbs: Use every opportunity to turn passive constructions (A plan for a new shopping mall is being discussed by city council) into an active construction (City council is discussing plans for a new shopping mall.) Subject – verb – object. It’s snappier, and more effective newswriting.
  5. Shorter is better: I’ve found that my stories almost invariably are stronger and tighter after I trim them down. When I’ve edited a story, it almost always ends up shorter. If you’re over your assigned word count, go over your story and see where you can tighten it up without losing any content.
  6. Always use “said”: When quoting someone avoid using charged words like “admitted,” “claimed,” or “suggested.” Stick to “said” or “says.”
  7. Get both sides of the story: It does not matter whether your story is about abortion, same-sex marriage, freedom of expression or whether the Holocaust really happened or not, there are always two sides to present. As a reporter, it’s your job to find intelligent voices who speak for both sides. If only those people who already agree with our position want to read our paper, we won’t have much of an impact in the world.
  8. Sources: A news story is not well researched unless you’ve interviewed at least three people. For example, if you’re writing a profile, interview the person’s mother, colleague or employer.