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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Common Career Myths

Common career myths-page-0

Did you know that references DO NOT belong on your resume? In fact, they should be separate from your resume and submitted only when a potential employer asks for them.

5 Ways To Build Your Skills

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Building skills for your resume doesn’t mean you have to have your dream job today.  Planning community service projects or working on a group research project for class develops your transferable skills and allows you to express those abilities on your resume!

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Look What Your $5 Does for NAU

Earth Week is coming up! We interviewed a member of the NAU Green Fund Committee in honor of this awesome week filled with events like our Careers with Impact Panel and Networking event, activist Bill McKibben speaking on campus (which is sold out already so ask a friend for an extra ticket!) and the 2nd Annual Eco Fashion Show.

What is the Green Fund Committee, you ask? Well, it’s comprised of a group of students and faculty that vote to decide what projects the student funded (your $5 fee) Green Fund will support to reduce NAU’s negative impact on the environment. They are dedicated to promoting student participation in NAU’s campus sustainability.

Let’s hear what David Miller, a first year member of the Green Fund Committee, has to say about what he does at the Green Fund and his impact:

Name: David Miller

Position: Chair Elect

Major: Computer Science

Year: Junior



David was excited that his family only used recyclable wrapping material for Christmas!

1. What do you like to do when you’re not working on the Green Fund?

When I’m not performing duties in the Green Fund Committee, I like to make electronic music, build simple remote control robots, and read. Right now my favorite book is Stephen Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science.

2. Can you tell us about your favorite Green Fund project?

I try not to pick favorites when it comes to student projects, but I co-authored the computer program that runs the Bike-Powered Charging Station project. I guess it’s natural to say that one is my favorite. The concept is pretty simple. There’s an old Yellow Bike whose back wheel drives a generator. It provides enough power to charge a cell phone and a very small computer that tracks your power output. Unless it’s been moved since the last time I used it, it should be on the second floor of the Engineering building overlooking the grass area in front of the College.

3. What opportunities have you had because of your position on the Green Fund committee?

Through my work in the Green Fund, I was presented an amazing opportunity to go the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (ASHEE) Conference in 2013. I learned more of the ins and outs of operating within a greening committee and what other universities are doing to improve sustainable behavior. I also got to practice talking to professionals and making new professional connections. Of course, I also have to mention the conference took place in Nashville, TN, so there was great food and music just about everywhere.

4. Can you recall a specific time you felt your work with the Green Fund had an impact you could take pride in?

It brings me a great sense of pride and joy when I see student projects succeed. I live on campus at the Historic North Quad, so I get to see the beautiful results of the Sustainable Landscapes Maintenance project every day. The grass outside my front door is cared for without the use of toxic herbicides, and as a result, is thicker, healthier, and greener

Side note from Carissa: FYS 111 “Healthy Landscape, Healthy You” focuses on healthy sustainable landscapes in relation to what David just mentioned. If you are an incoming freshman or have between 30-45 completed units, talk to your advisor or the class instructor to get permission to enroll in this class! Just another example of the amazing work the Green Fund does.

5. What can workers in other NAU departments do to make a positive impact?

In everyday settings, departments can engineer their procedures and processes from the ground up to be smarter. For example, it’s not enough to throw used paper in the recycling bin instead of the trash can. Use both sides and do everything you can paperless. It takes a commitment from every individual to make a more sustainable system.

6. What are the ways NAU students can get involved with the Green Fund?

Students who wish to get involved with the Green Fund can propose new projects by applying on our website ( Students can also read our blog ( and email us questions (

7. What do you think you will most benefit from in the future based on your time with the Green Fund committee?

Aside from professional development, working with others, and being responsible, which are benefits from almost any job, I think I have benefited most from feeling more connected to NAU, thinking critically and creatively about solutions to a problem, and being a moving part in an ever-growing machine of sustainable actions.


David has definitely shown us the direct impact he makes through his work and the career-related skills he’s developed through his experience at the Green Fund. If you want to hear more from people using their time to make a positive impact through their work, make sure to attend Careers with Impact, Panel and Networking Event next Thursday, April 24th!

Does this interview with David make you more excited to learn about Careers with Impact during Earth Week? It should; the amazing work David Miller and the Green Fund committee do inspires us at career services!


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Start Your Career Journey

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Are you lost on your career journey? Don’t worry – Career Services is here to help! Begin by creating an account on Jobs for Jacks, connect with us on social media, and check out some awesome NAU clubs to join on True Blue Connects.  Then create a draft resume, get it edited during Career Services drop-in times, take a wide variety of classes, and be smart about social media.

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