NAU Athletes Gain Transferable Skills

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Many students scramble to find part-time jobs during the school year to help pay for necessities or even fully support their school expenses (massive props to you folks). While these students gain valuable job experience, there are others that are not able to hold even a part-time job due to extensive commitments. Our busy NAU athletes rarely have time to fit in a job in addition to their academic and sports obligations- yet they still gain valuable transferable skills.  How do they do it? Nicole Sherwin, majoring in biomedical science from San Diego, plays center mid on the NAU Women’s soccer team and shared her experiences with us.


What is an average day like for Nicole?

“Every day involves some sort of workout (sometimes two); whether that is a practice, weight-room session, or “day off” gym workout on my own. I go to my classes and usually stay on campus before practice. In the locker room we have a meeting room with a smart board and I like to go in there to study and sometimes watch a game that is on that day. Once 1:00 rolls around I get dressed for practice and head to the training room to get taped or do rehab exercises. Once practice is over, sometimes I have to go straight to another class so I either grab a snack from the HLC pharmacy or eat something I packed. After class (I usually get home between 8 or 9, depending on the day and the lab), I make and eat dinner, study, and then sleep. On the days I don’t have after practice class, I go home earlier and have more time to study.”

Needless to say, Nicole’s busy! When asked if time-management is an important part of being a collegiate athlete, she said:

“Most definitely. There are many things that a student-athlete has to learn to keep in balance to be successful. There are practices I can’t miss, weight-room trainings I can’t miss, classes I have to be at, and homework problems to do. Not to mention fitting in meals, and sleep that are essential for physical and mental success. I find that there are parts of my schedule that are more flexible, like when I choose to study and sleep, and there are the concrete factors like practices and classes that I can’t choose a time for… I find that I have to study in between my commitments and sometimes at weird times or in weird places, especially when on the road for competition.”

Time management is a major skill that employers look for. Being able to manage your time shows organization and ability to prioritize responsibilities. What about communication?

“Every game requires communication. In soccer, we don’t get timeouts. We have the game and we have half-time to solve any problems we come across. Communication on the fly is essential for the team to do well. We signal, point, yell, make eye contact, talk when the ball goes out-of-bounds, listen, watch. I remember a specific time when I just made eye contact with one of my forwards, (she was my roommate for a while so I guess you could say we didn’t need much more than that to communicate) and she made the perfect run behind the defense as I lobbed the ball over. I don’t think it ended up being a goal-scoring play, but it was definitely a successful one.”


Demonstrating to an employer that you have the necessary skills doesn’t always mean using previous jobs as an example. In Nicole’s case, her ability to communicate during half-time is a valid demonstration of her communication skills. Nicole told us how she feels her role as a college athlete will help her in her career:

“All the lessons that I have learned and the skills I have developed via soccer have made me a stronger person overall. I don’t give up, I can work with people, I take responsibility for my faults as well as my successes, I learn from every situation, good or bad, and know how to push myself to my limits. I know how to stay organized, punctual, and focused. I know how to manage my time and represent myself and my institution in a positive way. I know how to be humble, I know how to problem solve, and I’ve learned to appreciate every opportunity I get.”

Already, we have learned that Nicole has gained time-management, communication, focus, and punctuality from being on the NAU women’s soccer team.  These are all highly valuable, transferable job skills!  If you thought that sports were only about athleticism and Gatorade cooler dumps on coaches, you might be mistaken! Nicole has shown us that you don’t necessarily need a job or internship to gain career-relevant skills.

When Nicole brings her resume draft to our walk-in career advising session, we’ll be able to elaborate on all of her abilities! If you want to get some more awesome information on career-relevant skills you might not have thought of, be sure to check out our Professional Development Guide.


Summer TBT Series: Tips for Incoming Freshman and The Flagstaff Guide

Starting out at NAU, whether you’re a freshman or transfer student, can be intimidating. Read my tips for incoming freshman where I give important advice such as deciding whether you really need a job right away, not speeding on I-17, and how important ear plugs and an eye mask can be with a roommate in the dorms.


My roommates and I on a trip to Denver, CO

Once you get settled in, you have to take advantage of the beautiful city we live in, Flagstaff.  It’s kind of amazing living in a place surrounded by mountains, the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Jerome. There are also certain things best experienced – like eating at the best family-owned Greek restaurant at 11pm just north of campus or watching the sun rise over the Grand Canyon!

Photo from Visit Flagstaff facebook

Wherever you choose to explore, so many good adventures await you! We’re glad to have you at NAU and with us here on the Flagstaff Mountain campus. Be sure to read my list of Top 10 Things to Do in Flagstaff, AZ to make the most of your experience here.

NAU Part-Time Job Fair is almost here!

STUDENT FLIERS PTJOBFAIR (2)Have you thought about or searched for a job for the upcoming school year? Make sure you grab your resume and stop by the Part-Time Job Fair on August 22nd from 1pm-4pm! There will be 30 employers attending, all hiring on the spot for on and off campus part-time positions.  Last year, we had about 100 positions available and 600 students in attendance– so it was competitive.  Help yourself stand out and make sure you dress sharp, get there early, and bring your resume. Even if you aren’t looking for a job right away, this is a chance to see how a job fair works and maybe even network.

If you’re wondering what the difference between a job and career fair is, learn more here. As always, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for reminders up to the event. See you on Friday at the South Gym in the Health and Learning Center!


Understanding Multi-Level Marketing Companies

Perhaps you’ve received a message or seen a Facebook status about opportunities with companies like Wake Up Now or Vector Marketing. Maybe you’ve even been recruited to a presentation about WorldVentures with the promise of free pizza (who could pass that up?!). If you felt confused or suspicious after claims of working your own hours, taking extravagant vacations, and making $15/hour or more, let’s clear that up.

Multi-level marketing is a networking strategy in which IBO’s (Independent Business Owners), also known as the salespeople, are compensated not only for the products they sell, but also for the sales of those they recruit, referred to as the recruiter’s downline. This means that the person who signed you up can make more than you, hence the term ‘multi-level.’ Multi-level marketing, sometimes called pyramid selling, is completely legal and its business model is similar to a pyramid scheme, which is illegal, with a few differences. Pyramid schemes rely on sign-up fees from new recruiters rather than compensation from selling a product. This model is unsustainable because eventually it will become impossible for those at the bottom to make any money (or get their sign-up fee back).


At a certain point in a pyramid scheme, the newest recruits at the bottom would have to equal the world’s population in order to sustain the business, which is impractical and unsustainable

Do Your Research

It is possible to make money working for a multi-level marketing company. If you care more about flexibility and/or developing work experience than making a guaranteed salary, do your research and decide if it’s for you. In addition to conducting the necessary Google search, sites like GlassDoor provide reviews on companies by their employees. The Better Business Bureau helps consumers and potential employees identify trustworthy companies and sets standards for ethical business behavior. Consider checking if the company is Better Business Bureau accredited and read the BBB’s report on why. Also keep in mind that public companies legally have to publish Income Disclosure Statements and checking up on these might give you a better idea of how much you could make. For example, in 2013, 54% of Wake Up Now IBO’s made $0 on average a year.

On a similar note, using these research tactics can also help you when working for or donating to a charity or non-profit. Sites such as Charity Navigator evaluate non-profits based on how much they actually invest in their stated cause versus how much is spent on overhead such as CEO’s salaries.

Align Your Values

Many companies are notorious for using the bait-and-switch method by recruiting candidates based on promises of $14/hour but then telling you in the interview that this could be based on performance/commission. If a company reveals terms like these during an interview, decide if you can trust them and how important transparency is to you. On the other hand, if autonomy and flexibility are important to you, the right opportunity may be a good fit.

Be Prepared to Answer Questions

If you choose to be affiliated with one of these companies, be prepared to answer questions about it in a future job interview.  Understand that an employer might have heard something negative so it’s your job to explain why you took the position and what you gained from it.


While multi-level marketing companies are legal, know the signs when you are actually being scammed. If a company sends you a check before you fill out any official tax documents (W-4 and I-9 in particular) there’s a good chance it’s a scam and they’re actually just phishing for information from your financial accounts.  Mystery Shopping positions with promises of being able to buy and keep products as well as ridiculous compensation are also common scams, as talked about in an earlier blog post. Remember to never to give out information such as your credit card number, bank account information, or social security number early in the search process or via phone or email. Organizations can legally ask for your social security number as part of a formal application process, and will need it if you are hired. All jobs, no matter where you find them, need to be investigated, and ultimately, it’s a matter of personal opinion as to what’s “right” for you. Don’t forget, you can always call or email NAU Career Development if you’re unsure of a position and need a second opinion.

Summer TBT Series: Career Journey Year 1

Whether you’re new to NAU or unsure where to start your career, the best time to prepare yourself is now.   Use this summer to think about your career and start with small steps such as gaining experience and developing skills through a part-time job and extracurricular activities. Whether you sit out by the pool creating a “career to-do-list” and reflecting on your strengths and values, or picking up applications from places in Flagstaff while attending orientation, you’re on the right track!


Read “Starting Your Career Journey: Year 1” to guide you on the beginning of your career path. Make sure to create an account on Jobs for Jacks, develop your resume using our online resources, and explore careers.   In between all that, be sure to enjoy your summer and soak up the sun before fall starts – it will be here before you know it!

What company should you work for?

Imagine you quit your college part-time job and are now searching for a full-time job. When conducting a job search, it is easy to be attracted to a high salary and benefits. While these are very important aspects of choosing a job, workplace culture is also another part of the job to keep in mind.

What exactly is workplace culture? It is the “sum of a company’s values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes.” For example, when the CEO of Alcoa fired a high-performing business unit manager who didn’t report a safety incident to the rest of the company,  the rest of the managers were not surprised…not reporting violations went against the norms of the culture, and was widely understood to be a capital offense. At ZocDoc, the ‘work hard play hard’ motto is evidenced every day. Employees who work late can order in take-out, and charge it to the company. Trips to the company beach house are frequent. With the high expectations on the staff, these perks create a culture that shows hard work is rewarded. Some companies keep a fridge full of organic snacks, available to employees anytime; Kaboom has tire swings and ping pong tables so their employees can de-stress; and Hubspot values individuality and honesty. These are all examples of the types of environments these companies create for their employees to thrive.

The Internship gave a glimpse into the workplace culture of Google

The Internship gave a glimpse into the workplace culture of Google

One value that matters to most millennials – 97% of them, in fact – is working in a job that allows them to have an impact on the world. Companies are responding by making service an established part of the culture, giving employees paid time off to volunteer, or matching contributions make to charities. By providing opportunities for employees to make an impact, these companies attract top level candidates and promote job satisfaction. In turn, job satisfaction leads to more productivity!

net impact

Net Impact gives their employees 1 paid day off/year to volunteer in their community

How do you find out about a company’s workplace culture?

To get insight on how a company operates and what its workplace culture is like, take 30 minutes to do a web search. Conduct a Google search using phrases like, “What is the workplace culture of (company)?”, “How does (company) treat its employees?” and “What is a day in the life at (company) like?” You can also use GlassDoor to read actual reviews from employees on their own personal experiences. Last but not least, consider conducting an informational interview. During the interview, asking the interviewee these types of questions about their employer can get you some insight on what it is like to work there:

  • What does everyone here do at lunch? Meaning, do people sit quietly at their desk or do they socialize with one another?
  • Do people ever get together after work? Is everyone friends here?
  • What types of traits in employees does your company value? What do you want from a candidate other than competency?
  • Does this company support any causes? Is philanthropy an important part of your mission?

When you find a company that aligns to your values and where you feel you fit in, you will be in a place you can thrive. Decide if aspects such as reaching out to the community, getting lunch together with coworkers, or honesty and integrity are important values for a company to have and make your decision from there. Even checking out the body language of the employees when you interview can be a good indicator if the people seem happy there. Workplace culture is just another great example of how salary isn’t everything!


Summer TBT Series: LinkedIn

Everyone can agree that we’re all a little bit obsessed with double-tapping to like our friend’s Instagram post of her Macy’s special, tagging ourselves in at our vacation destination on Facebook, or even adding a million dog pictures to our Snapchat story. While social media is great to connect with our friends and family and let them know what we’re up to, we can also use it professionally with LinkedIn.


Another one of the tools LinkedIn has – see where NAU students and alumni live, where they work, and what they do!

LinkedIn is basically an online professional networking and job search tool; the “Facebook” of the professional world as others call it. As it continues to grow and more and more professionals use it, you don’t want to be left in the dust. It’s better to start building your profile now as opposed to later! Don’t have one? No problem! In these blog posts, I go over the basics in Part I  such as how to set up your profile and the ‘good stuff’ such as how to network and add personalized messages in Part II.

Increasing membership is yet another incentive to join this social network. LinkedIn has just reached a milestone of over 300 million members! Did someone tell you only people in tech or finance use LinkedIn? That’s no longer true and LinkedIn’s industry membership now includes healthcare, construction, and education management in addition to technology and finance. I encourage you to create an account sooner rather than later so you can be a part of these milestones!

So take the time out of your summer day, log out of Facebook, and use my tutorials to get your profile started. You will be glad you did once you start connecting with other professionals and get your job search started!



NAU Students Network Like Pros

March 2014, a group of NAU honors students were able to attend the Arizona Higher Education Sustainability Conference.  Alana Weber, an NAU environmental sciences major about to start her third year, describes it as:

“…a conference that hopefully will go on every year [hosted at] different universities in Arizona. This conference is all about looking at sustainability efforts on university campuses as well as businesses here in AZ. There are networking events and presentations that go on about how universities have incorporated sustainability through teaching styles, clubs, and student involvement.”

Cassandra fifth from the right, Alana fourth from the right

Cassandra fifth from the right, Alana fourth from the right

What surprised these students at this conference? How beneficial networking is. Alana noted the most important take away she took from the conference:

“NETWORK! I had never networked before and I was a bit nervous to go up and talk to adults who had jobs in the ‘real world’. However, everyone was so nice and wanted to talk. I met some people that I never thought I would talk to until I was on the business side of things.”

Cassandra Leone, an environmental studies major about to start her second year, also reflected:

“The networking available at the conference …will be crucial to my future in both friendships and work relationships. I cannot imagine going into an event like this taciturn! In any job it is important to make connections early, but especially in quickly evolving fields, as you never know what business will need you next.”

Networking can be a daunting task. Many of us are uncertain when we have to go up to people we don’t know and start a conversation. However, once you get past the introduction and handshake, it’s completely worth it to have a meaningful conversation and connect with an experienced professional. We asked Cassandra if she made any networking connections at the conference and she said:

“I certainly made connections at the conference! LinkedIn was heavily emphasized throughout the days, as was Twitter. People were making digital and face-to-face connections left and right. In fact, I just started my internship with Green Living Magazine, an opportunity I would have missed out on had I not started talking to the publisher, Dorie Morales, at the event. Most of us managed to talk with or connect with higher up individuals that directly related to future careers or interests. “

Bravely speaking with strangers- or networking- led to Cassandra landing an internship in a career field that interests and excites her! Not only can networking help you learn about a job or internship opportunity, Alana further described how it can benefit students:

“I now know not to be afraid and get out and talk to the people that are a part of something that I have a passion for. This networking experience has definitely made me more courageous and excited for the future.”

Still a little nervous about networking? Cassandra offers some advice to those new to the networking game:

“…simply be polite. The past few years of my life I have learned to never be angry or annoyed in public – the person who has spilled their iced tea on the floor may turn into your next employer, and regardless, you should help clean it up… Smile at everyone you see, especially when you’re among a sea of employers. Also, carry a bag with you – you never know what sort of swag will be given away!”

Cassandra showing the power NAU students have to directly participate in sustainability

Cassandra showing off her poster at the AZ Higher Education Sustainability Conference

Once you network and make these meaningful career connections, don’t forget to grab a business card or jot down your new connection’s first and last name. Connect with them on LinkedIn after the event when you’re able to loosen your tie or take off the painful heels.

One final thought: although this group of students attended the conference to learn about sustainability, one major take-away was  how beneficial and simple networking is. Whether at a sustainability conference, a career fair, or any other type of event relating to your career path, networking is a valuable skill.

“Don’t be shy. Get out of your comfort zone and talk to the people who interest you.” –Alana

Summer Throwback Thursday (TBT) Series: Informational Interviewing

New to NAU? New to the Smart Axe Blog? Welcome!

Summer is a great time to get your bearings and we want to help by throwing back to some key posts that you shouldn’t miss.  Check back on Thursdays for more oldies but goodies!



Not too long ago, we talked about informational interviewing: what it is, how it differs from a job interview, and steps to take. Now that it’s summer you hopefully have time to really reach out to professional contacts and set up coffee or phone meetings to conduct informational interviews and further develop your thoughts on your future career. Consider setting up informational interviews this summer and read how to do so here.

Next Steps for NAU Seniors

Our seniors are graduating and taking their next steps. We cheered them on as they turned the tassel and now we’re rooting for them as we watch where they go next! Let’s meet a few of our newest alumni and see what their plans are.

Robert Grad Pics-4 (2)Robert Valenzuela is an environmental studies major, electronic film and media minor interested in environmental public relations and being a documentarian. Robert’s career mission is his “passion for change.”

  1. What transferable skill do you feel most confident in after your time at NAU?

After my time at NAU, I have learned many transferable skills. The most valuable skill I received from NAU is the ability to market myself to professionals. Whether it is for a job, internship, or volunteer work, NAU has given me the skills to make connections with people and build a professional work profile.

  1. Where will you be in August 2014 and what do you think you’ll be doing?

In August 2014 I will still be in Flagstaff. I will be working with a local start-up production company. I will also return to NAU to pursue a master’s degree in communications, focusing on documentary studies.

  1. What experiences have helped you to develop professional skills?

Throughout my experience at NAU, I have many wonderful experiences. Some of these experiences have helped me develop professional skills. The most important of these experiences is my internship with Green NAU and the Green NAU Energy Initiative. My internship experience allowed me to work with professionals, develop and build a professional portfolio, and receive real world working experience.

  1. Where do you see yourself in two years?

In two years I see myself receiving my master’s degree in communication at NAU. I also foresee the local production company taking off and proving to be a fruitful investment.

  1. What tips do you have for other NAU students as they prepare for their careers?

I advise them to work hard and be open to opportunity. In my experience, working hard will reward you with a variety of opportunities. So keep a positive attitude and don’t give up, an opportunity is waiting for you to grasp it.

morgan barhnhart

Morgan Barnhart is a biomedical science major, chemistry minor interested in research, physical therapy, or being a physician assistant. Her career goal is “to ultimately help better people’s lives and to help them live a healthy, happy life!”

  1. What transferable skill do you feel most confident in after your time at NAU?

My willingness to learn and try new things as well as my ability to think critically are two skills I feel confident in after being here at NAU.

  1. Where will you be in August 2014 and what do you think you’ll be doing?

Living in Washington, interning with different doctors, enjoying a break from school, and hoping to find a job in the medical field.

  1. What experiences have helped you to develop professional skills?

Many classes have required me to write professional papers, present topics in a professional manner, and have given me an idea of what to expect in the professional world.

  1. Where do you see yourself in two years?

Hopefully graduate school or medical school depending on the career path I choose!

  1. What tips do you have for other NAU students as they prepare for their careers?

Explore all your options! Talk to different people in your field of interest to get an idea of what it is like and if you can really see yourself loving that profession. Do something you have a passion for and don’t settle for anything less.

WP_20140503_011 (2)

Justin Bigelow is a history major, international relations minor interested in non-governmental organizations and non-profit organizations. His career goal is “to do work that I can be proud of that will help others at a basic, human level.”

  1. What transferable skill do you feel most confident in after your time at NAU?

I would consider the ability to communicate effectively to be the greatest skill I’ve been coached on while here. Additionally, the many group projects have helped to hone my collaborative skill set which will be extremely important for my chosen career path.

  1. Where will you be in August 2014 and what do you think you’ll be doing?

As of August 2014, I will be in Washington, D.C. beginning one year of service through AmeriCorps VISTA with the National Human Services Assembly. My job there will be to assist the organization as they strive to expand their network of non-profit organizations and formulate effective policy to assist low-income communities with access to health and human services.

  1. What experiences have helped you to develop professional skills?

The extensive research and writing I’ve done while at NAU as a student in the College of Liberal Arts and Social and Behavioral Sciences has been extremely beneficial. However, if I had to choose one course or professor it would Dr. Mike Childers. He was an amazing professor that helped transform my writing. The HIS 205 course was instrumental in my development as an effective writer. In addition, the numerous group projects and presentations have sharpened my abilities to communicate both in collaborative and informational settings.

  1. Where do you see yourself in two years?

In two years I will be beginning graduate school or preparing to leave for a service term with the Peace Corps.

  1. What tips do you have for other NAU students as they prepare for their careers?

Regardless of your career, you must be able to communicate. Whether it is through emails, reports, or face-to-face conversations, you must be able to communicate effectively and professionally. So, when you take English courses PAY ATTENTION! 

Photo from NAU Facebook

Photo from NAU Facebook

NAU Career is proud of our nearly 5,000 graduates/newest Alumni! You made it through undergrad and although we’re sad to see you go, we are rooting for you! Remember, you have free access to Gateway Career Services for one full year after you graduate…we’re still here to help!

Instead of referencing “Oh! The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss I’ll leave you with this quote:  “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” –Henry David Thoreau

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