Communicating Professionally

How to tell your boss you disagree with an option without being disliked.


Knowing how to communicate in a professional setting is a skill that extends far beyond student employment and can really come in handy when entering the corporate world. Proper communication can even come in handy when you are asking for a promotion or recommendation from a boss or coworker. Here are a few simple ways to communicate effectively:

In meetings…
A strong handshake coupled with eye contact is a sure way to make a great first impression. When disagreeing with a higher-up’s perspective, remember that it’s important to always be respectful. Highlight any strong parts of their proposal, suggest any changes, and open the floor back up to their opinion. The key to gaining more responsibility and praise is to be trusted in a work environment, so make your voice heard while maintaining a constant level of respect for those around you.

In emails…
Reread an email aloud before sending it. This helps catch any grammatical mistakes, and it also ensures that nothing can be misread in a negative tone. Miscommunications occur very easily via email, so make sure nothing is ambiguous. When signing off, leave the “Sent via iPhone” out of the email. Your boss doesn’t need to know that you sent that you rushed to string together a cohesive email while you were rushing to class!

In letters…
Be neat! If you make a mistake, scrap that card and start over. Take your time to ensure your handwriting is as neat as possible – no one wants to spend twenty minutes trying to decipher your words. For more information on writing a thank you note, check out this article.

If you are unsure how formal you should be with a boss or coworker, always err on the side of caution and keep it formal and professional. You can never be too polite!

Sick or Sleepy?

When should you actually call in sick to work?

We’ve all woken up on a cold, rainy morning and thought, “there’s no way I’m going to work today.” Unfortunately, bad weather is not an excuse to miss work. So when exactly should you call in sick?

DO call in sick when you have a fever or flu-like symptoms. If you’re coughing, sneezing, or contagious enough to get your coworkers sick, stay home! Take a day to recover so that your entire office doesn’t end up with a terrible cold.

DON’T call in sick because you’re lazy. No one wants to wake up early and go to work after a late night in the library, but chances are you will need that sick day at another point in time. The last thing you want to do is miss too much work and risk being called out by management.

DO consider your mental health first. If you’re on the verge of a full meltdown and going to work will put you over the edge, take the day to recover. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and pushing yourself past your limits will result in a more difficult time down the road.

DON’T miss work to hangout with your friends. While it may feel like there’s never going to be another party like the one you’re missing, there will be! Your friends will be your friends once you get off work, so put professionalism first and miss that dinner downtown.

Remember that missing work is more significant than missing a class. Your boss relies on you to get things done, and if you’re gone she’ll certainly notice. Always miss work when you need to, but don’t risk missing an important deadline for a lazy morning in bed.

Meet DMC Veteran Giovanna M

Giovanna is a junior double-majoring in Writing Seminars and Film. She is currently in her fourth year of work at the Digital Media Center (DMC).

Giovanna is a junior double-majoring in Writing Seminars and Film & Media Studies. She is currently in her third year of work at the Digital Media Center (DMC).

Claudia G.: How did you get involved in student employment?

Giovanna M.: I started working at the DMC my freshman Fall. I went to the Student Job Fair which was was how I found out about the position. I’ve been working there since!

C.G.: Are you on work study?

G.M.: I am on work study, but you don’t need it to work at the DMC.

C.G.: What was your first job at the DMC?

G.M.: I’ve had the same job throughout the years, but the way the DMC works is you get slightly promoted as you go on based on the skills you develop. You start out you work at the front desk so that you can learn the ropes, but you get pay increments if you improve in certain skills that could potentially help patrons. They have different areas of focus. I came in knowing a lot about photography and video, but you have to complete special projects to prove those skills. The more advanced you get in those skills the more you get paid.

C.G.: Do you have to take tests along the way to earn those pay raises?

G.M.: You don’t do tests! The DMC has pro-staffers that are heads of each area, so if you have an area that you think you can go to the next level in, you just show them a project that demonstrates you know those skills.

C.G.: Do you feel like student employment has helped you in terms of your career?

G.M.: I think so! This job really helps me a lot for internships that I’ve done. The past summer I was working at the ACLU as a multi-media intern and since I do a lot of video editing for special projects for the DMC it really helped. This semester I’ve actually transitioned into doing just special projects because it works better with my schedule. We have a lot of videos that we make for patrons when they’re learning new equipment, so I help with that. Now that’s a specific skill that I put on my resume.

C.G.: What’s the most beneficial thing you’ve gotten out of student employment?

G.M.: I think working at the DMC specifically is nice because it is both a job and a community. The point of the job is to help you advance certain skills on your own, because they encourage you to level up in those skills. While you’re working at the front desk helping patrons come in and check out equipment, you’re also learning about the equipment and getting concrete skills. They’ll encourage you to learn Photoshop or InDesign or how to use the audio studio and they’re all skills that are beneficial.

Free Popcorn and Gift Basket

The last few days to enter the Student Employment Raffle are here… don’t miss out! 

The last few days to enter the Student Employment Raffle are here… don’t miss out!

Stop by the Student Employment Office in Garland Hall, Suite 72, by the end of the work week to buy a $1 raffle ticket (or 7 for $5). This gets you a bag of freshly-popped popcorn and a chance to win a Movie Night Basket valued over $75. The basket includes movies, popcorn, toppings, candy, and more.

Making Connections

Guest post by JHU Alumnus Anand Narayan, ’04, who graduated from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2011 and currently works at Massachusetts General Hospital. 

Guest post by JHU Alumnus Anand Narayan, ’04. He graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2011, and currently works at Massachusetts General Hospital. 

Many people hold the view that there is an irreconcilable conflict between work and academics—the more time one spends working, the less time one spends studying for classes and engaging in extracurricular and social activities. Put crudely, the more you work, the more your academic and social life will suffer. Naturally, many students view work as an unwanted intrusion on their precious free time. For parents who can afford to finance their children’s education, in what ways can working benefit their student?

Before the beginning of my freshman year, my parents and I harbored similar concerns—I sincerely questioned whether or not I would be able to work and take classes at the same time. In my situation though, I wasn’t able to decide whether or not I wanted to work. I knew that I would have to work in order to help finance my education.

I began to work in the month of June, approximately 3 months before my first day of classes. I worked throughout the entire summer, 2 days a week at the Student Employment Office and 3 days at the Center for the Social Organization of Schools. After registering for my fall class­es, I filled up practically all of the remain­ing time in my weekly schedule with approximately 10 hours of work.

The semester began in early September and I began my new work schedule. For the first few weeks, many of my fears seemed to come to fruition; I slept irregu­larly and performed poorly in my classes. With time however, things began to change.

Because I had to devote time every week to work, I began to organize my time in a way that I never had done before. I thor­oughly scrutinized every hour of my day and plotted out my schedule weeks in advance. I began to use the hours when I was not in class or work much more effi­ciently, with focus and determination.

Thanks to my newfound discipline, I was able to adjust to my classes within a few weeks. The workload associated with class­es no longer appeared as daunting and my grades began to improve.

At the Office of Student Employment Services, I handed out paychecks, answered payroll questions, and helped Homewood students find part time jobs. With 10 hours of work in between classes, I was able to break up the monotony of a back-to-back class schedule. In doing so, I have been able to learn about different cultures from a diverse group of stu­dents and staff members, make a lot of friendships with student/staff members, and gain a lot of profes­sional experience in the process.

My work at the Student Employment office was extremely helpful to me in finding my second job as a Research Assistant at the Department of Radiology. In part due to the favor­able recommendation of the Director of Student Employment Services, I was accepted in a radiological research group, even though as a freshman I had no research experi­ence. At the Radiology Department, I helped conduct studies evaluating the clinical applicability of film digi­tizers in general radiology and mam­mography. One of the most reward­ing aspects of my work at the Radiology department over the last 2 1/2 years is the fact that. I have been involved with every single aspect of a medical research study from the arduous task of writing a grant proposal to the satisfaction of publishing and presenting a paper. In doing so, I have had the opportunity to get an in depth look at medicine from clini­ cal researchers and technicians. These experiences have piqued my interest in academic medicine and have given me valuable insights into scientific research and the field of Radiology.

With the passage of time, I began to participate in a variety of other activi­ties including volunteering at soup kitchens, local hospitals, political cam­paigns, etc.. These activities have enriched my undergraduate experi­ence and have given me the opportu­nity to learn about and give back to the community.

I have also been invited the last two years to speak to parents and students at Orientation on behalf of the Office of Student Employment Services. The concerns I heard from parents and students were familiar ones—Is there enough time in the week to work? Will I be able to work and have a social life? Will my son/daughter have time to work and do well in classes? These were the same con­cerns that my parents and I had at the beginning of my freshman year.

But I no longer harbor any of those concerns. Working has made me become a much more mature, focused student who is much more capable of handling numerous com­mitments at the same time. The numerous activities I have participat­ed in, in turn, have made my experi­ence here at Hopkins varied and interesting.

Misperceptions and Reality: The Benefits of Student Employment

Guest post by JHU Alumnus Wagas Butt. 

Guest post by JHU Alumnus Wagas Butt. 

Before coming to JHU, I had a number of typical pre-college concerns, ranging from whether or not I would find a group of people with whom I was comfortable to which classes I should be taking. Now, if you ask me whether or not having a job at college was a concern, I might say “yes” for the purposes of this article, but in all honesty, I, like the majority of incoming freshmen, was not worried about employment in college.

Granted, I signed up for federal work-study and remembered my older brothers both having some sort of job throughout their time at college. However, I did not sit in bed at night thinking about whether I prefer to work at the Athletic Center or the MSE. Slowly but surely, the summer went by and I arrived at JHU to go through the college experience. I was immersed in all the Orientation events, the first couple weeks of classes, and all the other memorable times of first semester, freshmen year.

Somehow, I managed to remember that I was on federal work-study and would need to find some sort of employment. So, the search began.

I applied for everything and anything: numerous office positions, several monitor jobs, and other random ones that I quite frankly do not remember. I received quite a few interested replies to the emails that I sent. Yet, in the end, I put all my eggs in one basket and decided applying for a position at the adjacent Baltimore Museum of Art as an Office Assistant in the Department of Rights and Reproduction. After going in for an informal interview, I received the position within a few days and started soon after. The majority of tasks that I performed consisted of sorting, labeling, and filing photography of the various works found in the museum. Although I am not a learned scholar or even an avid admirer of art, the plethora of images was admittedly quite appealing and enjoyable. After a while, however, viewing the usual pieces that most curators demanded with some sporadic and novel requests became somewhat monotonous and repetitive. I do not wish to bore people with the mundane goings-on of my life at the BMA, but I ended up working at my office position until the end of my sophomore year.

The next logical question might be why I decided to work at a place that does not exactly seem to be the most glamorous and thrilling one in the world. While the BMA as I’ve described it may not be perceived as enthralling, it was an enjoyable environment with friendly and diverse co-workers as well as a casual work atmosphere. It was also a tremendous experience because all aspects of my job were rewarding and pleasing. At the same time, I learned an immense amount about how to improve different facets of my life. I mentioned earlier that I worked with a whole assortment of individuals, which exposed me to vast range of differing opinions about and approaches to work and the world, in general. Being at JHU, one does meet people from all walks of life, but, unfortunately, the college environment does place people into a situation where they can become unaware of the world’s intense heterogeneity. Luckily, by discovering this opportunity outside the University, I was regularly around people that were quite distinct from anyone on campus, and thus, I was able to greatly improve my ability to communicate with and relate to others. As far as “people” skills, this was not the only gift of student employment. I became more capable of understanding and appreciating an entire array of persons, and as a result, further my insight into others, due to my employment opportunity.

A number of students are apprehensive about having a part-time job at school. Undoubtedly, JHU is academically quite intensive and challenging. I do not want to paint a false picture of JHU; holding a job or being involved in extracurricular activities while also completely your academic responsibilities is not a simple endeavor. However, neither is it unbelievably laborious. The key to any student’s success at JHU or any other institution is time management. This is where I find having a part-time position during the semester to have been the most worthwhile to me. In high school, I was involved in several extracurricular clubs and had a relatively vigorous schedule, but all this involvement did not cultivate a proper working habit. I was only able to generate such a work ethic once I arrived at college. Having to go into work on a regular basis throughout the semester fostered a situation where I could not shirk either my scholastic or my non-academic responsibilities. Thus, I created a daily routine where I would attend class, go into my job, and then, come back to the dorms or library for my schoolwork. This schedule also allowed an abundant amount of personal time for hanging out with friends, going out, and being involved around campus. Not only is having part-time employment completely feasible, but it actually contributes to a student’s ability to deal properly with the pressures of a demanding institution such as Johns Hopkins.

During this past summer, I was given the chance to conduct research at the University, which is, itself, an extracting venture, and I also maintained positions as head student assistant at the Student Employment Services Office and a monitor at our athletic center. While one may think performing independent research and holding two jobs that exceed forty-hours a week may be unfeasible and intolerable, a solid regiment, consisting of academics, extracurricular activities (be they, a part-time job or campus club), and profuse personal time, allows any student at any institution to fully take advantage of the countless opportunities available to them.

As one can see, the benefits of finding employment during one’s stay at JHU are numerous. Although I have only enumerated a handful, each student gains a whole set of precious lessons. As the JHU Student Employment Services motto goes, student employment is more than a paycheck. It is an avenue for students to learn not only about the dynamics of the working world, but also further appreciate the diversity of peoples and ideas that they will certainly encounter throughout their life.

Student Employment and Learning: A Symbiotic Relationship

Guest post written by JHU Alumnus David A. Lefcourt, ’03, Student Employee of the Year and Maryland State Student Employee of the Year.

Guest post written by JHU Alumnus David A. Lefcourt, ’03. He was named the JHU Student Employee of the Year and received the NEASEA Award for being the Maryland State Student Employee of the Year in 2002. David is currently employed by SIGMET Weather Radar Data Systems in Westford, MA.  

Student employment provides students with an opportunity to learn things outside the classroom that directly enhance their in-class experience. Moreover, it offers the opportunity to apply what is learned in the classroom in a real world work situation. This symbiotic relationship truly enhanced my educational experience at Hopkins.

In the fall of 2001, I was enrolled as an undergraduate in a technical communications class at Johns Hopkins University. The final project was to write a proposal to improve one facet of campus life. Having always been interested in technology, I wanted to propose that every course have a web site. It was through my research for that project that I learned of a new center on campus geared towards connecting education and technology, the Center for Educational Resources (CER). I met with Candice Dalrymple, Assoc. Dean and Director of the CER. Thanks to her, I walked away from that meeting realizing that properly enhancing education with technology is a complex endeavor, and that requiring a course to have a web site might not necessarily add value to the student’s experience. Nevertheless, I was more intrigued than ever in the work that that the center was embarking upon.

Later that semester, I inquired about student employment opportunities in the field of educational technology with the hopes of working with Candice at the CER and was hired in January of 2003. Over the course of the last two years, the CER has grown tremendously and has helped to enhance the experience of students and faculty in many courses across the campus. During my employment with the CER I always believed that being a student employee was just as valuable as my academic endeavors. Some might question my reasoning — wasn’t I at Hopkins to learn… shouldn’t my courses come first? My priority was to learn and learning can happen in many different arenas. During my employment with the CER, I learned to work with different groups of people and handle many different situations. I was a little short for time every now and again, but because I had responsibilities to the CER and to my academics, I felt as though I managed my time more effectively than if I was involved in one and not the other.

Some people might have this perception of a student job as being mundane or a place where some extra studying can be completed, but in my situation and I am sure in countless others, there is an overlap of the learning process. Things I was learning at the CER and in my classes were transcending the boundaries of “school” and “work”. Specifically, I was involved with CER’s Technology Fellowship program — a mini-grant program that partners students and faculty to enhance a course with technology. The greatest part of being involved in this program was learning about all of the innovative ideas that students and faculty created to enhance their courses. One of the Technology Fellowship projects was to create a geographic information system (GIS) tutorial. I had never heard of GIS, but after the graduate students working on the project explained how GIS provides a graphic representation of data using some type of mapping system, I was intrigued and wanted to see if I could use it in one of my sociology classes. It just so happened that the next semester, in my Environmental Sociology class, I was able to use a GIS to investigate whether the racial makeup of a neighborhood determined the proximity of environmental hazards in Baltimore City. I used what I had learned at work to directly enhance my learning experience in the classroom.

In addition to a job expanding academic opportunities, things learned in the classroom can enhance a work environment as well. For example, during the fall semester of 2001, I was enrolled in an IT management course. Instead of focusing on the bits and bytes of technology, the course emphasized how to properly manage technology to produce the best results in efficiency and/or productivity. That course taught me about total cost of ownership and managing hardware and software assets, and that knowledge prompted me to create a technology plan for the CER to assist with it’s short-term technology planning.

The most important part of my experience was working with those University professionals who fostered the development of the relationship between my work and my classes. Student employers offer students an opportunity for growth and development, which complements their experience in the classroom. In my case, all of the people with whom I worked were my colleagues, my friends, and most importantly, my teachers. I cannot emphasize enough the value of opportunities offered through student employment that directly support academic studies and enhance a students overall college experience.