Cathy Hernandez

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Internships Advice, Practical Advice

Managing Stress, Isolation, and Mental Health in the Remote Workplace

According to a Buffer survey, around 21% of remote workers stated that loneliness was their biggest struggle with working remotely.

Remote work certainly has its benefits. Many employees and interns enjoy the freedom, autonomy and flexibility of remote work, as well as the time saved each day that might have been spent on a commute to the office. Even just one extra hour a day can make a huge positive impact on our well-being!

In addition, the peaceful and quiet environment of working from home can boost our creativity and productivity. Without the endless distractions of the office, remote workers are often more productive.

However, when the world suddenly shifted to remote work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies and individuals were not ready for such a massive change. The reality is that despite numerous benefits like an enhanced work-life balance, working remotely is completely different from working in an office and thus presents its own unique challenges.

The end result can be increased difficulty in connecting to colleagues, often resulting in a sense of isolation, loneliness, and stress. Coupled with the physical distance, another issue is the cultural distance that can arise when working for an overseas company. Every country has its own unique work culture, which means that culture shock can still be an issue even as a remote intern or employee!

Keep this in mind as you complete your remote internship or search for remote work, and keep reading for our tips on managing isolation, loneliness and stress!

How to Manage Isolation and Loneliness

According to a Buffer survey, around 21% of remote workers stated that loneliness was their biggest struggle with working remotely. However, 90% of the same group also admitted that they intend to work remotely for the rest of their lives. Again, the benefits of remote work have been shown here to outweigh the potential negatives. However, 21% is not an insignificant number, and employers should ensure that isolation is addressed within their organization.

What are the differences, if any, between isolation and loneliness, and how can they be managed in the remote workplace? 

To put it simply: isolation is structural, and loneliness is emotional.

Reducing stress and taking care of our mental health is the most important priority right now more than ever.

Reducing isolation is the responsibility of the employer since it relates to a lack of access to the materials or information that employees need to perform their job. When workers’ development or achievements are ignored, they will begin to feel isolated from the business. Managers must address isolation by integrating remote workers deeper into their organization and involving them in strategic meetings. In addition, if remote workers are unable to access the tools and resources they need, managers should find a solution.

On the other hand, loneliness is the emotional response to a lack of personal connection with colleagues. Unfortunately, this phenomenon does not only affect remote workers but also plagues in-person offices. Managers can address this by creating low-stakes opportunities for meaningful connections within the virtual workspace. Individuals can combat loneliness by following these simple tips:

Change Up Your Workspace
  • Although working in a quiet room by yourself can be wonderful for your productivity (especially when engaging in creative work) the simple act of changing up your remote workspace can do wonders if you’re feeling lonely! If it’s safe and possible to do so, consider working remotely from a coffee shop, library, bookstore, or co-working space. This way you can be around other people while you work, even though they may not be your colleagues!
Go For a Walk
  • We know, this is probably the most basic and standard advice that you’ve heard time and time again. But that’s because it works! Next time you’re feeling lonely or emotionally overwhelmed at work, that means it’s time for a break. Take 10 minutes to walk outside and get some sun and fresh air. Not only will the physical movement help reduce stress levels, but you might see some friendly faces outside as well!
Keep Water Cooler Talk Alive
  • If your remote company is not already using an instant message platform like Skype or Slack during work hours, encourage them to start! Icebreakers, work-related discussions, and updates that take place in real-time can help everyone to feel connected. This form of communication is more casual than email and can improve collaboration, creativity, and innovation.
Turn Camera’s On
  • During formal and casual online meetings, keep your camera on! In the remote workplace, this is the closest we can get to face-to-face interaction. While it may feel alien or more intimidating than an in-person chat, seeing your colleagues will help you feel more connected.
Network
  • Social networks like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook can be great tools to get to know your colleagues or other people in your industry. Don’t underestimate the impact of using these tools to stay connected!
Have a pet be your “coworker”
  • This tip may not be achievable for everyone, but if you already have a pet or have the resources and capacity to adopt a furry (or scaly/feathered) friend – do it! When all else fails, having a pet around while you work can be very calming. Pet coworkers are the best emotional support, and you’re never truly alone when they are around!
Ask For Help
  • If you’re still struggling with feelings of loneliness, we recommend speaking to a trusted friend, family member, mentor, or even colleague. When that’s not possible, there are also countless online resources available at the end of this blog for support by trained volunteer counsellors. Reaching out to others for help is often the best solution.

Tips to Reduce Stress & Boost Mental Well-Being

The world has collectively lived through some of the most stressful times in recent history due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the end is in sight, we haven’t yet reached the return to “normalcy” that we all desire. Reducing stress and taking care of our mental health is the most important priority right now more than ever. 

While one could write an entire series of novels on how to reduce stress and boost mental well-being, here are a few of our tips to consider.

Limit Media Exposure
  • Can you relate to the feeling of constantly checking the news to learn all about the pandemic? While it helps to stay informed, try to reduce how often you check the news to once per day – or better yet, once per week! The ideal number will vary for everyone, but your stress levels will thank you for not dwelling on the situation.
Stay Connected
  • Not only do our remote work loneliness tips apply here, but staying connected to your friends, family and loved ones as much as possible is vital for reducing stress! Social support is so important for building resilience during stressful times. Think about ways you can stay connected to your loved ones, and set aside the time to reach out!
Move Your Body
  • You’ve probably heard that movement is closely tied to mental well-being. But how and why? Well, it has to do with our “fight or flight” stress response, as well as our modern lifestyle. In the past, when our ancestors encountered a stressful situation such as a dangerous predator, they had two options: fight the predator, or run away from it. Both responses involve strenuous physical activity, which is the body’s way of regulating excess cortisol (the stress hormone). 
  • Nowadays, stress is often triggered by work, school, and other non-physical stressors, leaving us to deal with the repercussions of excess cortisol. This is why exercise and movement are so important for stress relief. Studies show that regular exercise helps reduce how much cortisol is released due to stress. So stay active – but do something you love so you can stick with it for the long term!
Get Enough Sleep
  • Stress and sleep have a symbiotic relationship with each other. When we’re stressed, it can affect our sleep quality. And when we’re not sleeping enough, it can increase our stress levels. The typical advice is that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep per night – but 8 or 9 hours can be even better depending on the individual. 
  • Some simple techniques to help improve the quality of your sleep include: exercising for at least 30 minutes each day, reducing exposure to stressful news or other triggers around bedtime, stopping caffeine intake at least 6 hours before bedtime, and creating a nightly routine like turning off your electronics, reading a book, and drinking chamomile tea.
Practice Mindfulness
  • Mindfulness refers to the ability to be fully present in the moment, without attaching strongly to worries about the past or future. This ability can help us reduce stress, increase gratitude, and practice self-acceptance.
  • Some techniques to practice mindfulness include meditation, taking mindful breaks, gratitude journaling, creating art, and engaging in physical activities that induce “flow state” consciousness (ie. mindfulness) – many surfers, skateboarders, and runners frequently experience this!
Seek Balance
  • Are you overwhelmed with juggling school deadlines, internships, part-time jobs, and all your other responsibilities? Researchers at the University College London found that people who work more than 55 hours a week have a 13% greater risk of heart attack and 33% higher risk of stroke than those who work only 35-40 hours per week. Humans aren’t meant to constantly work!
  • As difficult as it may be, try to find ways to balance your schedule and devote more time to self-care, socialization, and fun. Burnout is a devastating result of ‘hustle culture’, so resist the narrative, and take care of yourself first!

Need Extra Support? Resources Here!

At the end of the day, our mental health and well-being is our most precious asset. We hope that this blog has given you some helpful tips and advice that you can implement right away. 

However, we’re certainly not the experts, and there are countless resources available to help you manage stress, isolation, and mental health in the remote workplace and life in general. Some of our favourite resources are listed below, including links to free and instant chats with trained volunteers who can provide support right away. Take a look and be well!

Watch
  1. Student mental health: Depressed and living in a bubble of one – BBC News
  2. How To Prevent Burnout While Working From Home – A Day in Time
  3. Self Care Video Playlist – The School of Life
  4. Pagoda Projects Mindfulness Webinar (with Meditation Session)
  5. 5 TED Talks to help you manage stress
Read
  1. Information & Support – Mind.org
  2. Tips for Managing Isolation
  3. COVID-19: Managing Stress in This Anxious Time
  4. My whole self: supporting your mental health while working from home
  5. What are the 5 stages of burnout?
  6. Self-help and Self-care Resources – LifeLink
Relax
  1. Free Audio Resources for Mindfulness Meditation
  2. Self-Compassion Guided Meditations and Exercises 
  3. Headspace App
  4. Calm App
  5. Insight Timer App
  6. Wake Up / Wind Down Short Podcast  – Spotify
LGBTQ+
  1. MindOut LGBTQ Mental Health Service
  2. Workplace Mental Health for LGBTQ+ Professionals
  3. Rest for Resistance
BIPOC
  1. Mental Health Fact Sheet with Resources – Rethink.org
  2. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students’ mental health support – Mind.org
  3. Free Subsidised Services – BAATN The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network
  4. Free Mental Health Services  – Black Minds Matter
  5. TherapyforBlackGirls
Instant Support
  1. Student Space (UK): Free text message, webchat, phone, and email support for students from trained volunteers
  2. Together We Are Strong: International helplines
  3. Time to Change (UK): Several mental health help and support service lines
  4. Crisis Text Line (UK, Ireland, Canada, USA): Free text message support from trained crisis counsellors 
  5. Beyond Blue (AUS): Free instant 24/7 chat and phone support by trained counsellors 
  6. MindSpot Clinic (AUS): Digital mental health clinic for Australians with free mental health assessments for anxiety, stress, depression, etc.
  7. Eheadspace (AUS): Free online and telephone support and counselling to young people aged 12-25
  8. Lifeline Australia: Free online text and phone support for emotional distress
  9. Togetherall (NZ, UK): An online community where members can support each other
  10. Empower Work (USA): Free text support for Americans who need help with work-related issues

Sources

  1. How to Manage the Loneliness and Isolation of Remote Workers
  2. How to Combat Loneliness and Disconnection as a Remote Worker
  3. Water Cooler Talk: 6 Benefits For Your Remote Team
  4. Does Running Help Reduce Cortisol?
  5. How Simply Moving Benefits Your Mental Health
  6. How Much Sleep Do I Need?
  7. How Does Stress Affect Sleep
  8. The ‘Rise and Grind’ of Hustle Culture
  9. Only the overworked die young
Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story – Alice O’Donnell, Cardiff Metropolitan University

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that completed our Easter Skills Programme. This is Pagoda participant Alice O’Donnell, from Cardiff Metropolitan University!

Keep reading to see how Alice improved her cultural awareness and intercultural communication skills, gained digital fluency, and learned some valuable insights about China through conversations with her cultural mentor!


I am Alice O’Donnell, a third-year Fashion Design student studying at Cardiff Metropolitan University. I decided to join the virtual Easter Programme as I believed that it would help me to gain a better understanding of cultures, and also provide me with important and knowledgeable information to prepare me as a graduate.

Throughout the past three weeks, I have enjoyed completing all four courses that Pagoda had to offer, each course providing me with different information. The first course that I took was called ‘Cultural Fluency’. I particularly enjoyed this course as it taught me all about intercultural communication which is a really valued skill. I can now say that I have some awareness on how to interact with people from cultures different to my own. This course made me more aware of communication differences which will benefit me in the future, as I can avoid misunderstandings when communicating with overseas clients in a potential fashion design role in the near future. I then found it particularly interesting to learn about the culture of Greater China, Mexico and Vietnam, specifically their cuisines as I am one to try new tasty foods.

I can now say that I have some awareness on how to interact with people from cultures different to my own.

The next three courses that I took were more focused on employability skills and digital communication, therefore setting me up for the workplace after graduation. These courses were educational, in particular the digital competency course. This is because a lot of the fashion industry is promoted through imagery and so understanding the best times to post on certain platforms and how long a caption should be on certain platforms was very useful.

I have also been in contact with my Chinese mentor, Aubree, over the past three weeks. The conversations with Aubree have been insightful and it has been lovely spending time on the weekends to communicate with her. We have discussed the topic ‘communication’ and how it differs between our cultures. I found it interesting that in China a manager may ask “have you eaten” as a way of greeting their employees. Aubree explained that this is because in China they like to make sure that everyone is well-fed. She also explained that in China they have an app called ‘Wechat’ which is used as a central hub for communication between friends, lecturers and colleagues. In England, we do not have an equivalent to this app, and we spread ourselves across multiple platforms such as Snapchat for friends, Microsoft Teams for education, and communication via email for colleagues.

This has been a very enjoyable experience for me and I am glad that I took it upon myself to get involved.

We have also discussed the environment and a lot of the issues that arose were mutual across both of our cultures. Single-use plastic is a big issue in both of our home countries, and I explained that there has been a new law introduced where you now must purchase a plastic bag at the supermarket for 5p. I was surprised to hear that in fact, China has also introduced this law too.

We both discussed how canvas bags are popular, particularly among teenagers, and Aubree mentioned that canvas bags are also used as school bags in China. We then had a very interesting chat about how we can reduce buying cheaper goods that break easily, and instead buy items and clothing with longevity. The issue that we both concluded here was that cheaper goods are more accessible, resulting in a never-ending cycle as items with longevity are often more expensive and therefore less accessible to many.

I am an individual that cannot wait to explore the world, and speaking with Aubree has made me excited to one day visit China and pick up on some of the things we have discussed.

The final topic that Aubree and I discussed was the arts. This topic was interesting to talk about as I am a creative individual and we both agreed that the arts deserve more credit. Aubree discussed that in her family art is very important, and they have a sentimental vase that has been passed down through the family which they really value. We also agreed that we are both individuals that are confident when around friends, but lack some confidence talking and performing in front of people that we do not know.

I had a lot more in common with Aubree than I had originally thought. I am an individual that cannot wait to explore the world, and speaking with Aubree has made me excited to one day visit China and pick up on some of the things we have discussed. The interaction on the app was really useful for me to keep track of weekly discussion points, and I also interacted with some of the games and events that were held. This has been a very enjoyable experience for me and I am glad that I took it upon myself to get involved.

Internships Advice

Professionalism

What Exactly is Professionalism?

“Professional: A person willing to play the game with every intention to win and willing to accept defeat.” – Chinmai Swamy

Professionalism is the conduct, behaviour, and attitude of someone in a work or business environment. It is defined by a certain set of rules that you must abide by to be considered professional.

Having high professionalism in your workplace means demonstrating personal accountability, time management skills, and acting responsibly with the larger community’s interest in mind. Other aspects of demonstrating high professionalism include interacting with others appropriately and respectfully, communicating clearly and directly, and having good interpersonal skills.

Professionalism leads to workplace success, a strong professional reputation, and a high level of work ethic and excellence. Everyone has a role to fill in any organization, and professional behaviour helps separate business from the personal.

Another counterpart of Professionalism, intimately linked with this notion, is leadership. The success of one very much affects the success of the other. Professionalism entails acting in a manner that’s in the best interest of the project: being efficient, keeping a focus on business, and separating your personal life from your working life. Acting as a leader means taking and accepting charge and control of the project, as well as making sure that your team members are fulfilling the tasks they’ve been given. It is very difficult to be an efficient leader if you are lacking in professionalism, and vice versa.

How to Demonstrate Professionalism in Your Internship

We’ve covered that professionalism doesn’t just concern how you look. It’s mostly about how you speak, how you behave and even how you think – these are all undeniable variables to a successful and professional workplace. And, needless to say, there is great payoff and gratification in maintaining a professional workplace.

Therefore, to demonstrate some professionalism, start by showcasing your understanding of workplace rules and expectations. You will of course have a hierarchical superior to supervise you, but you will demonstrate initiative and self-management skills. An employer expects you to work independently so they can focus on their own work, on their end.

This leads to responsibility in the workplace – you need to own it! Personal responsibility is critical to your success in the workplace. Your personal responsibility represents the level of commitment you have in identifying and achieving your goals. Another way to put it, your responsibility means being responsible for your actions, words and, ultimately, your performance at work. You’ll have to take credit for your successes, the easy part, and ownership of your failures, the harder part.

And responsibility itself leads to workplace ethics. It is as important to be ethical in day-to-day life as it is mandatory to be ethical in the workplace. Ethics correspond to moral principles that guide you when deciding between right or wrong. Ethics are tacit rules you refer to during any decision-making process. Exercise ethics in the workplace to assert your professionalism skill!

Last but not least: Mind. Your. Language. 

There is a reason your mother kept telling you when you were growing up to be polite and address people the proper way. Language is the single most important notion of communication – whether you are conversing with a colleague or with a client. Exercise using language that is proper for the workplace in your day-to-day discussions – this way, you get into the habit of sounding professional. Note that many people are denied a job because of their language level, written or oral!

Our 7 Tips for Achieving Professionalism

There are many ways to demonstrate professionalism in your working life. We’ve put together this list of seven ways that you can achieve this goal in your internship and future career!

1. Show Respect
  • Showing respect to others is one of the ultimate ways to show professionalism. Respect should be offered to everyone – your superiors, your co-workers, and those who work below you. You also need to show respect for the people you serve, they are your harshest critics, after yourself!
2. Communicate Effectively
  • Most disagreements, misunderstandings and arguments have a root problem: lack of communication. Good communication takes practice, but can, and will, save you from misunderstandings. Your ability to communicate effectively must be on par for you to keep operations fluid and running smoothly.
3. Be Proactive
  • Being proactive means anticipating needs, issues or changes before they arise. This is a great trait of professionals. Rather than reacting to events and getting flustered, you can try to anticipate what will happen and be prepared in advance. Professionalism is very much so linked with proactivity, and you can only be considered professional by also being proactive.
4. Be Positive
  • All jobs have their advantages and disadvantages. Try your utter best to limit or get rid of your complaints. Very few people want to work with someone who complains all the time. Rather than complaining, be a problem-solver who comes up with solutions for matters that are frustrating. If you need help with this, check out our Critical Thinking & Problem-Solving blog!
5. Remember Your Manners
  • A simple “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” go a long way to showing that you are a professional and human being. Being polite is the best antidote to rudeness and will set a perfect tone for teammates around you to follow. By taking the time to think of others – holding a door open or offering a hand – can earn you a great amount of respect and appreciation.
6. Keep Learning
  • Learning never stops, don’t forget that! Most career paths are continuously evolving and shifting. There are always new things to learn about in your field, as new discoveries are made. If you are well informed about your field of work, you can become a valued go-to person for your team members.
7. Forget About Your Screens
  • People get so sucked in and absorbed by their mobile devices that they forget to interact with other people, even when they are right in front of them. Demonstrate your professionalism skills by resisting that temptation. Of course, you can check your texts and email, but only a few times a day and during the appropriate moments. Remain present in the moment and provide your teammates with your full attention – it goes a long way.

Online Courses to Improve Your Professionalism Skills

Employability Skills

This course aims to improve employability skills through self-awareness, skills awareness, and enhancing career readiness. This course will equip the individual with the tools to identify their current skill set, understand those that need development, and transfer their skills to different job specifications using personal examples to showcase these. The aim of this course is to build confidence when applying for the next career step as well as provide a broader set of skills and attributes to ensure success throughout their working life.

By completing this course, students will be working towards the following key competencies: #Professionalism #CareerDevelopment and #Leadership!

Digital Competency

This course introduces the fundamentals of digital networking, digital marketing, and digital presentation skills. This course will introduce LinkedIn features and making the most of the LinkedIn profile, key differences and benefits between a variety of social media platforms, basic knowledge of SEO and SEM and techniques, and improving public speaking skills in a digital context.

By completing this course, students will be working towards the following key competencies: #Professionalism #CareerDevelopment #Teamwork&Collaboration and #DigitalFluency!

Additional Sources & Resources

  1. TEDx Talk: Professionalism, start small! – Dr Kyi Kyi Thinn
  2. TEDx Talk: Being a Professional – Dale Atkins
  3. TEDx Talk: Bring Your Whole Self to Work – Mike Robbins
  4. TEDx Talk: Own Your Behaviours, Master Your Communication, Determine Your Success – Louise Evans
  5. What Does Professionalism Look Like?
  6. The Limits of Professional Behavior
  7. 3 Traits of a Strong Professional Relationship
  8. Professionalism and Leadership: Be the PM That Has Both Skills
  9. Professionalism: Tips for Being Your Best on the Job

 

 

Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story – Jessica Herbert, Cardiff Metropolitan University

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that completed our Easter Skills Programme. This is Pagoda participant Jessica Herbert, from Cardiff Metropolitan University!

Keep reading to see how Jessica worked on her self-development, gained new skills, and formed connections with a cultural mentor from Taipei, Taiwan!


About Me

My Name is Jessica Herbert. I am a second-year student at Cardiff Metropolitan University, studying Business and Management (Law). During my course, I am required to do a work experience module. Originally, when I applied for my degree course with Cardiff Met, one of the main things that interested me was the opportunity to study abroad and learn about different cultures and ways of life. However, due to Covid-19 and the global pandemic, this opportunity began to slip away. When a tutor introduced us to Pagoda Projects and the programmes/opportunities they had, I was not going to let this one pass me by.

After doing some of my own research about Pagoda Projects and reading some of the testimonials of other students, I thought this would be the perfect way to use the work experience module to my advantage and use the time for some self-development. I applied to the Easter Programme, secured a place, and was so excited to get started and be paired with my Cultural Mentor.

Pagoda couldn’t have matched me with a better mentor, and I am so pleased to have met Meredith and believe I have made a friend for life.

Beginning My Programme

Before I knew it, it was time to start the programme. The team at Pagoda were helpful when it came to starting. We had a meeting on the first Monday about how the course will work, what’s really involved, and how they can help us. When I applied, I wasn’t quite aware of all the courses that were available to me. It was interesting to see just how much was available, and it’s amazing having access to these courses even after the 3-week programme is finished, meaning there is no pressure to feel like you need to complete them all as soon as possible. It was also nice to see all the events the Pagoda team have set up during the programme such as movie night and a cook along, bringing a social aspect to the course.

On starting the programme, we had access to the Pagoda App, which we were then paired up with our cultural mentor, with an option to chat online and join groups with other individuals on the programme. I began speaking to my cultural mentor ‘Meredith’ via the app platform, where we arranged our first video call via Zoom.

Cultural Mentor

My Cultural Mentor was a girl called Meredith. She lives in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, and this was her first time being a mentor in the programme. We were both quite nervous when we first video called, but it only took a couple of minutes and a discussion about dumplings to get us on the right track. The hardest part of the cultural mentor experience for me was the time difference factor. The time difference for Meredith and me is about 8 hours, so it was easy to miss that perfect time for both of us.

During our first video chat, we exchanged Instagram accounts to make it easier to speak and keep each other updated with photos about our day/week during the programme duration. We arranged to have another call at the same time the following week, but without meaning to we started talking more over social media, getting to know each other better. It has almost become second nature to speak to Meredith every day, and it feels as though we have known each other for a long time. Pagoda couldn’t have matched me with a better mentor, and I am so pleased to have met Meredith and believe I have made a friend for life. We are even discussing a visit at some point next year, which would be amazing.

Finishing My Experience

The three-week programme has flown by. This experience has been amazing, I would 100% recommend it to other students and I will definitely be looking into other Pagoda Project programmes. The programme couldn’t have come at a better time for me, alongside my University work, it has given me time to reflect on my self-development and pick up some new interests. I am looking forward to finishing the courses I have access to and developing my knowledge and skills. I would like to thank Pagoda for matching me with a great mentor and thanks to them I have a new friend for life.

Internships Advice, Practical Advice

Guide to Getting Your First Job

“Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back.” – Babe Ruth

We’ve all heard that the stereotypical path to career success follows these steps: 1) go to college, 2) graduate, and 3) get a job. But the reality is that the job application process after college is not always so straightforward. In fact, obtaining employment is often difficult for various reasons that may be out of the applicants’ control.

For example, many employers these days demand more skills from their employees and are less invested in training those skills. This means that young adults are largely responsible for acquiring those skills on their own, and they are often not taught these skills in college as higher education struggles to meet the rapidly changing demands of the market. Cost-cutting has also resulted in Fortune 500 companies abandoning their “rotational training programs” that allowed new hires to learn about different departments and jobs within the company.

“We’re asking 23-year-old new graduates to act like 35-year-old experienced workers.” – Phil Gardner, Director of the Michigan State Employment Center.

In addition, approximately 60% of all jobs are now found through networking, or what is referred to as the “hidden job market.” Gone are the days our parents enjoyed when they could apply to a dozen newspaper job advertisements, land several interviews, and receive a few job offers. In the sea of thousands of online applicants and over-educated yet under-experienced college graduates, it is now possible to apply to a hundred jobs and receive exactly zero interview offers.

Job Search Statistics & Recommendations

While it’s not all gloom and doom, it helps to be aware of the current state of the employment market for job-seekers. Awareness can help you realize the best course of action in order to land that first job.

  • 60% of jobs are found through networking: So we recommend growing your network as quickly and authentically as possible.
  • 75% of resumes are rejected by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) before they even reach the hiring manager: Take the time to read through a job description and the terminology used, then put those words into your resume! Steer away from confusing resume formats or designs, although this may not apply if you are in the creative industries. Simpler is generally better in order to comply with ATS.
  • 77% of recruiters rely on LinkedIn: Create a LinkedIn profile, and learn how to optimize and tailor it for recruiters.
  • 54% of employers have rejected candidates based on their social media profilesKeep it professional! It might be a good idea to Google yourself to see which information is out there for employers to see.
  • Professionally written resumes can boost your earning potential by up to 7%: Consider reaching out to your school’s Career Center for help with writing a professional resume.
  • Only about 2% of applicants actually get an interviewDon’t take it personally when you apply for a job and don’t get an interview. Only about 5 out of every 250 applicants actually get the interview, so keep applying, and remember to tailor your application!

How to Get Your First Job After Graduation

Graduating from college is an exciting time. By this point, you’ve gained an officially recognized education, started to build your network, and perhaps even gained some job experience in an entry-level position or internship. These experiences will certainly help you when transitioning into your first job within your career field. If you’re not sure where to start, we have a few tips to share!

Start Networking

We can’t stress this point enough: networking is vital! Remember the hidden job market that exists. Many jobs never make it online but are rather spread through networks. There are many methods to start networking, starting with creating a LinkedIn page. Here, you can add any previous classmates, mentors, volunteer contacts, internship supervisors, etc. Contact professionals in your chosen field that you look up to, and ask for advice or information. Alumni networks and events can also be a great opportunity to network, as can professional organizations and networking events. Get creative! But remember to be respectful and not overly pushy.

Polish Your Resume/CV and Cover Letter

Your resume and cover letter are the first impressions you get to make on a potential employer. There are countless blogs, websites, and guides on the internet dedicated to this topic alone! It can be overwhelming to sift through all the advice about resumes and cover letters, but we recommend doing some research to learn about the best resume tips. Your college’s Career Center is another great resource! Generally, if you tailor and target your resume to the job description, you will get the best results. And although it takes some time, avoid sending generic cover letters. Instead, take the time to write a cover letter targeted to the specific role you are applying for.

Consider an Internship

Remember that employers value experience and skills. Think about their perspective – if they receive hundreds of applications for one position, it is in their best interest to hire someone whose skills most closely match the job requirements. Education alone simply won’t cut it anymore. Although there are plenty of service-industry employers eager to hire students, and the soft skills gained from those roles are 100% valuable and transferable in any field, an internship is still the best opportunity to build the specific hard skills that most employers want. Talk to the Career Center at your school to see which internship opportunities are available to you, and consider a remote internship to expand your reach!

What Else Can I Do?

These are just a few suggestions out of dozens of potential tips to help you land that first professional job right out of college. If you’re still feeling lost and want the advice of experts, try reaching out to organisations such as  Elite Career Direction (ECD).

The experienced career coaches of ECD have worked with hundreds of international students and clients to help them land their dream jobs. They understand the recruitment process inside and out and have extensive knowledge of FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies.

Pagoda Projects also offers our very own course which is designed to help students and recent graduates develop skills directly related to their employability.

Find out more about our Employability Skills course here

 

 

Internships Advice

Career Development

What is Career Development?

“You can’t just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream. You’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself.” – Diana Ross  

Career development refers to identifying and articulating one’s skills, strengths, and experiences relevant to personal career goals.

Students and employees with career development skills should be able to independently navigate and explore job options, as well as self-advocate for opportunities in the workplace.

Individuals that have these skills are more likely to move into roles where their skills are most suited and their aspirations are best met. Employers also invest in career development because it prevents employee turnover within organizations, and leads to higher engagement and productivity. 

Career development can also be defined as a process that spans the entire lifetime of an individual. From early childhood through retirement, our career aspirations and identity are constantly evolving.

Why is it Important? 

On the individual level, career development is a significant factor in developing a successful career. By focusing on opportunities for growth, learning, and progression, individuals are more likely to meet their individual career goals. Without a focus on career development, it is more likely that employees may become stuck in roles that offer little advancement, leading to higher employee burnout and dissatisfaction. 

Career development is quickly becoming important for organizations as well. This is because organizations are now aware that career development initiatives benefit their needs as well as the needs of their employees. 

Here are some more reasons why career development is so important!

Identifying and Resolving Business Needs
  • With career development, organizations can plan more effectively with regular audits that highlight any potential need for internal restructuring. These company forecasts allow organizations to identify which skills are lacking in their operations and subsequently offer additional training to up-skill their employees.
Ensures a Steady Supply of Qualified Talent
  • Quite often, the most qualified and aspirational job seekers tend to apply to companies that are known for their career development and progression programs. Thus, when organizations prioritize career development, they will inevitably attract some of the best candidates.
Guaranteeing a Good Fit Between Employer & Employee
  • Different careers require different skillsets. To advance in their career and perform the job well, employees must pursue their own career development. This will ensure the best fit between the company and the employee.
Enhanced Job Satisfaction & Productivity
  • When organizations prioritize and encourage career development, employees will feel more supported and motivated. They will often stay with a company longer since there are opportunities for growth and career progression. This stability and upward mobility can lead to higher rates of overall job satisfaction and productivity.
Promotes Equity in the Workplace
  • Career development programs in the workplace provide equal opportunities to employees to improve their skillsets and advance their careers.

The Career Development Process

There are many different stages and steps in the career development process, and knowing these stages can help you to ultimately be successful in reaching your goals.

  1. Self-Assessment: Before the career development process can even begin, we must first develop and identify our personality and self-concept. This stage commonly spans from childhood through young adulthood and is a time when we explore our interests, career values, skills, abilities, limitations, and work styles. By assessing these qualities, we can develop an understanding of which occupations match our unique preferences.
  2. Career Awareness: This stage involves learning about the career paths that are available to us. Each career requires a certain set of skills and knowledge that can be gained through experience, education, and qualifications. We must learn about the opportunities that are available to us, as well as which next steps to take.
  3. Goal Setting: Once we have sufficient background knowledge of ourselves and our chosen career, then we can begin to set specific goals. Consider developing a career action plan with an outline of the steps you must take to achieve your short and long-term goals. In addition, a vision statement can help you articulate your overall purpose and mission.
  4. Skill Development: Now for the fun part! Developing your skills is an ongoing process that begins before employment starts and should continue throughout your entire career. UC Berkeley suggests a 70-20-10 rule for skills development:
    1. 70% should come from on-the-job direct experience
    2. 20% should come from interactions with others (such as with a mentor)
    3. 10% should come from training, classes, conferences, etc.
  5. Career Management: As your career progresses, it is important to build relationships and create a network. In addition, continuous career planning and goal setting are common as priorities change. The career development process is not always on a straight upward trajectory, and in fact, that is quite rare! Career development is typically a lifelong journey with many unexpected twists and turns along the way.

Career Development Tips

“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and if they can’t find them, make them.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

You probably have a better understanding now of the career development process and why career development is so important for both individuals and organizations. As a student, graduate, intern, or employee, there are so many different ways to develop your career and advance yourself professionally. Here are some of our top tips for your career development:

Make a Plan, and Write it Down
  • We recommend setting aside some time to think about your career goals for the next 5 years, as well as the steps you must take to achieve them. The most important thing is to write down your plan! You will remember your goals and priorities much better if you take the time to put pen to paper.
Become More Self-Aware
  • Self-awareness is one of the most important aspects of your career development. There are many different ways to cultivate self-awareness, but the first step is introspection. Set aside time to be alone with no distractions – perhaps by taking a walk outside, doing some stream-of-consciousness journaling, or mindfulness meditation. The goal is to objectively understand your strengths and weaknesses so that you can set the right intentions moving forward. Personality tests and asking for honest feedback from someone you trust can also be helpful. But don’t solely rely on these methods, as introspection is still the most important tactic for developing self-awareness.
Expand Your Network
  • Consider joining a professional association relevant to your chosen career field. Attend conferences and events to meet your peers and stay up to date with the industry. 
Find a Mentor
  • Your mentor can be a current or past manager, co-worker, or someone within your professional network whom you look up to. They can provide you with the experienced perspective that will help you define your career goals. Monthly meetings can focus on sharing accomplishments and establishing career milestones.  
Pursue Opportunities to Develop Your Skills
  • Look for opportunities both within and outside of your company. There are a variety of online courses and certificates that can be useful to your career development if you aren’t sure where to start. For example, Pagoda Projects offers our Employability and Digital Competency Skills courses!
Take Advantage of Career Centers
  • If you are a university student, chances are that your campus has a career centre that can assist you with career development planning, resumes, mock interviews, job applications, and more. Take advantage of these resources if they are available to you!

Overall, career development is a lifelong process that requires intention, vision, and purpose. While your goals may adapt and evolve throughout the course of your lifetime, understanding the fundamentals of career development will aid you in every professional endeavour.

Additional Sources & Resources

  1. What is Career Development?
  2. 5 Tips to Improve Your Career Development
  3. Self Awareness: How to Be More Self-Aware
  4. Five Career Development Tips: Be Your Own Best Advocate
  5. TEDxTalk: How to Find the Person Who Can Help You Get Ahead at Work – Carla Harris
  6. TEDxTalk: The Secrets of People Who Love Their Jobs – Shane Lopez
  7. TEDxTalk: Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling – Emilie Wapnick
Internships Advice

Leadership

Leadership Explained

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” – John Maxwell

Leadership skills are the skills you use when organizing other people to reach a shared goal. Effective leaders use their empathetic and interpersonal skills to guide and motivate, organize, prioritize, and inspire others to become their best selves. Leadership is an important professional skill because it empowers others, and encourages teams to reach their highest potential. 

Good leaders practice active listening, empathy, strategic thinking, and effective communication with their teams. Students demonstrate leadership skills when they care about and listen to the thoughts and concerns of others in their group.

What is often misunderstood about leadership is that you don’t even have to be a CEO, director, manager, team lead, or mentor to demonstrate leadership qualities. While we often hear and use phrases like “…he/she is a natural-born leader…”, the reality is that leadership is not some magical innate quality that you’re either born with or aren’t. True leadership is a set of skills that can be learned and a mindset that anyone can acquire. However, it takes commitment to develop and master these skills, and developing leadership skills is a lifelong learning process. The best leaders remember to “exercise” their leadership muscles daily, and receptive skills like listening and learning are an integral part of this process.

Important Leadership Qualities

What exactly are the qualities that make someone an effective leader? Knowing how to be a good leader starts with discovering the specific skills and qualities that you need to develop. It is important to remember that there is a difference between leading and managing others. While the best managers surely possess leadership qualities, many more are lacking in their leadership skills. Effective leadership is more difficult and time-consuming to cultivate than simple management of others. However, the payoffs are richer and can lead to happier, more effective teams.

Being a People Person
  • The best leaders are people-oriented and take the time to get to know their team
  • Leaders take a genuine interest in their colleague’s needs and overall mood, knowing that relationship-building is a vital component of success
Making Difficult Decisions
  • An effective leader can help offer guidance when faced with difficult choices and inspires trust in their team by taking charge and determining the best course of action
  • Being able to handle complex issues under pressure, whilst utilizing creative problem-solving
Inspiring Confidence
  • The best leaders remain positive, optimistic, and confident about their team’s efforts
  • Leaders must facilitate confidence in their team and can do so by publicly celebrating milestones and successes, while privately discussing potential criticisms and areas for growth
Visionary Thinking
  • Leaders must have a vision and purpose to inspire their teams
  • Through a clear mission and vision, leaders can develop strategic thinking that allows them to stay focused on their future goals
  • Mission and purpose will imbue leaders with the strength to overcome obstacles and challenges
Leading by Example
  • The best way to lead others is to set an example that they can follow, and leaders who are looking for a specific quality within their team would do best to exhibit that quality through their actions
  • Effective leaders also realize that training and education are paramount to achieving their vision, whether that means by pursuing additional knowledge themselves that can later be shared, or by facilitating collaborative learning opportunities for the wider team
Growth Mindset
  • One of the most important indicators of whether a business will scale and succeed is the mindset of its leaders
  • A growth mindset is different from a fixed mindset because it focuses more on the process and progress of a company than solely on the outcome
  • Leading with a growth mindset creates a healthy atmosphere where colleagues are allowed to develop their talents, abilities, and skills in a supportive environment
  • A fixed mindset hurts organizations by creating a culture of fear that stifles creativity and innovative risk-taking
Effective Communication
  • Leaders must be effective communicators who speak clearly and correctly, with no issues getting straight to the point
  • An important aspect to effective communication as a leader is also knowing how to listen and ask for feedback from their team

How to Demonstrate Leadership

Now that you understand the basics of leadership and the qualities needed in an effective leader, let’s review the ways that you can develop and demonstrate leadership skills in the workplace.

First and foremost, the will and desire to take on more leadership roles and responsibilities is the number one prerequisite to developing your leadership qualities. It is possible to be an effective leader without a strong desire to lead, but this can be an incredibly difficult and draining task. That is not to say that it is impossible. As Joelle Charbonneau states, “…sometimes the best leaders are the ones who have no interest in leading. Those are often the ones who are most interested in doing what is right, not what is popular.” Ultimately, the desire to make a difference will generate the most fruitful leader. Remember, being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean you are directly responsible for managing a team.

  1. Think Positively and Be Solution-Oriented: When something goes wrong or miscommunication occurs, leaders don’t dwell on the negatives or assign blame. Demonstrate your leadership capabilities by creating a positive atmosphere at work or in your internship host company, as well as thinking up solutions to any potential problems.
  2. Listen and Learn: Great leaders listen to others and understand that collaboration and teamwork yield the best overall results. Remain open to new ideas and listen to your coworkers, boss, peers, and customers to understand the bigger picture. 
  3. Find a Mentor: Think about your career goals and find a mentor in your company or industry who can share professional knowledge and insights with you. Many successful leaders started with a trusted mentor. For example, Bill Gates, the world’s richest billionaire, credits his success to the guidance of his mentor, Warren Buffet.
  4. Master Your Work: Focus on your duties and constantly find ways to improve your efficiency and output. The best leaders lead by example!
  5. Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses: Self-awareness is key to developing your leadership abilities. Spend time reading books and articles about self-development topics that interest you, set aside time to journal or meditate, ask for feedback from others, or take a personality assessment or two. Myers-Briggs’ 16 personalities is a great free resource to start with! Gallup’s StrengthsFinder is another popular test, although there is a small fee.

Another great resource you can use to develop leadership skills is by taking one of Pagoda’s online Skills Courses! Our Employability Skills course is a great place to start and is full of relevant activities, examples, videos, and additional resources that will aid you in developing and improving your employability, career development, professionalism, and leadership skills.

Why Are Leadership Skills Important?

“Leadership listens, inspires, motivates, and gives a direction, a common goal to aspire to.” – Jerome Taillard

Leadership matters because when more individuals take initiative, show interest, and pursue their personal mission to serve a greater purpose, society can benefit from solving its most complex problems. Good leadership benefits the individual as well as the collective. With the many different problems facing humankind today, we need more leaders who are motivated to make a positive impact.

Sources & Additional Resources

  1. How to Be an Outstanding Leader
  2. 8 Qualities and Skills to Develop for Effective Leaders
  3. Growth Mindset: Why It’s Needed for Successful Leadership
  4. 18 Best Ways to Improve Leadership Skills in the Workplace
  5. Three Famous Billionaire Entrepreneurs and Their Mentors
  6. 10 Ways to Demonstrate Leadership at Work
  7. Why is Leadership Important?
  8. TEDxTalk: How Great Leaders Inspire Action – Simon Sinek
  9. TEDxTalk: Listen, Learn…Then Lead – Stanley McChrystal
  10. TEDxTalk: A Life of Purpose – Rick Warren
Internships Advice

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving

What are Critical Thinking & Problem-Solving?

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” – Albert Einstein

Critical thinking and problem-solving are core skills that teach students to question or reflect on their own knowledge and information presented to them. These are essential skills for students working on assignments or conducting research. They are the ability to actively use reason to analyze issues, make decisions, and ultimately overcome problems.

Developing critical thinking skills in the workplace is important because it helps students, interns, and employees more effectively diagnose problems and identify possible solutions that aren’t entirely obvious at first. It encourages curiosity and is one of the most valuable skills when it comes to working on a team.

Problem-solving consists of using more general or more precise methods in an orderly fashion to find solutions to problems encountered in life or work. The phrase has a varying meaning depending on the discipline it’s acknowledged under. For example, it is a cognitive process in psychology and a computer-operated process in computer science.

Solving Different Types of Problems

There are two types of problems: imprecise and explicit. Of course, different problem-solving methods are required for each. Explicit problems have specific aims and clear solutions, while imprecise problems do not. Explicit problems permit much better planning and preparation than imprecise problems. Solving problems revolves around dealing with pragmatism, the way that context contributes to meaning, and semantics contribute to the clarification and interpretation of the problem.

The ability to understand what the objective is, and what rules must be implemented represents the key to solving your problem. Sometimes, the problem requires abstract thinking or coming up with a creative solution.

7 Ways to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills

  1. Ask basic questions
    1. Most of the time, seeking a solution becomes more difficult and complex than the question or problem originally is. Keep going back to the root of it all and keep yourself grounded on that original issue for better clarity.
  2. Never assume
    1. When unsure of something, set aside your assumptions and question them. That is exactly where innovation and ground-breaking discoveries happen! Ask Albert Einstein!
  3. Be aware of your mental processes
    1. The human brain naturally uses mental shortcuts to interpret our surroundings. A critical thinker is aware of this cognitive bias and how it evidently influences decisions and solutions that originally appear to be objective and neutral. We all have biases in our thinking process. Being aware of those is precisely what makes critical thinking possible.
  4. Think in reverse
    1. A fun yet efficient way to find a solution to an issue is to try and reverse things. It may appear crystal clear to you that A causes B, but what if B caused A? Even if you end up noticing that the reverse isn’t true, nor is it a solution, considering it can still help you on the right path to discovering a solution.
  5. Evaluate the existing evidence
    1. When trying to solve an issue, it’s always insightful to look at other people’s work previously done in the same discipline or area of expertise. There’s no purpose to start solving a problem entirely anew when the groundwork has already been laid out for you! Mind you, no copying, only inspiration!
  6. Think for yourself
    1. Thinking for yourself is one of your most powerful tools, yet not so easy to do, precisely because of the outer influences we are constantly subjected to. Of course, do rely on outer sources when lost and in need to build up your knowledge, but remember to do your thinking on your own as well: it is essential in order to answer your difficult questions.
  7. Remember: you can’t think critically all the time
    1. You can’t critically think all the time and that is perfectly fine. Critical Thinking is merely a tool you whip out when needed: for difficult problems and important decisions.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristotle

7 Tips for Effective Problem-Solving

  1. Clearly identify the issue
    1. Understanding your problem clearly is the key to solving it. But that’s not all, you also need to consider that your teammates will have different perspectives on this same problem. Your first mission is to be crystal clear on your issue at hand.
  2. Identify and understand everyone’s interests
    1. This is a critical step that is very often forgotten! Interests represent the needs you want to be satisfied by any sort of solution. Hence, the best solution to your problem is the one that satisfies everyone’s interests. The point here is to understand everybody: where they’re coming from and where they’re going.
  3. List your options
    1. This is brainstorming time! Let your creativity run wild and list all the solutions coming to mind. There are no good or bad answers, only solutions that work out or don’t.
  4. Evaluate your options
    1. Now that you’ve listed your options, you’ll need to analyse them. Honestly, review all your proposed solutions but mind not to step on the selection of your options! Here, you are only discussing which option is best and balancing the scales.
  5. Select your option(s)
    1. Scale your elected solutions: which is best? Can they be jumbled together to better solve the issue at hand?
  6. Write it down
    1. While this may seem like a very simple tip, you can’t rely only on memory, as it is a very fickle thing! Better to be safe than sorry and write your solution down. Besides, it will help you finalize the details.
  7. Mind contingencies, monitor, and evaluate
    1. Last but not least, you will need to think up some contingencies because circumstances may change: plan for the foreseeable future. You also need to think up how to monitor the efficiency of your solution, and finally, evaluate this same solution: does it need to be better tailored, or rather widened?

Improve your Critical Thinking & Problem-Solving Skills with a Course!

Skills Course: Workplace Basics for Graduates (Now Available!)

This course is designed to equip all students and recent graduates with the basic skills needed when entering the workplace. There will be a large focus on understanding how to adapt from in-person to remote work in regards to productivity and time management, communication and the use of digital platforms. The course will also provide learners with the skills needed to identify their current skillset, recognise the skills they’re lacking, and provide actionable examples of how to improve these and meet employer’s demands.

Sources & Additional Resources

  1. TEDx Talk: Encourage Critical Thinking with 3 Questions – Brian Oshiro
  2. TEDx Talk: Critical Thinking: The Next Step in Human Evolution – Vegard Møller
  3. TEDx Talk: How Languages Shape the Way We ThinkLera Boroditsky
  4. TEDx Talk: The Surprising Secret that Solves your Problems Quickly – Collins Key
  5. TEDx Talk: Find Problem, Solve Problem – Arian Glantz
  6. TEDx Talk: Working Backward to Solve Problems – Maurice Ashley
  7. What is Critical Thinking?
  8. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Critical Thinking
  9. 3 Simple Habits to Improve Your Critical Thinking
  10. What is Problem Solving?
  11. Seven Steps for Effective Problem Solving in the Workplace
  12. The Skills of Problem Solving
  13. 7 Ways to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills
Internships Advice

Digital Fluency

Digital Fluency is the knowledge and skills that every person needs. But what kind of knowledge and skills are we talking about? This question, in the era of digitalization, is important for almost every person.

Today we are all in one way or another surrounded by a huge number of gadgets and Internet services, which are designed to simplify our life and make it more efficient. Just think, what a huge part of our life is spent online or using any digital devices (at work, at home, in transport and other public places). But are you sure that you know exactly how to behave on the Internet or when using digital technologies? How to solve your problems using services quickly and efficiently? How can you protect yourself, your data, and your digital devices? How to recognize online fraud? The answers to these and many other questions are at the core of digital fluency.

What Do We Mean By Digital Fluency?

Very often, when speaking of digital fluency, people equate it with computer science, computer literacy, or even programming and other specialized knowledge and skills that IT professionals have. But they are wrong. Of course, digital fluency includes knowledge from the field of computer science, computer, and media literacy, but to equate it with only these concepts is fundamentally wrong.

Digital fluency is a basic set of knowledge and skills that are necessary for every person (not only an IT specialist) in order to safely and effectively use digital technologies and Internet resources for solving their problems. 

Here, for example, we are talking about working on a computer (creating presentations, text documents and spreadsheets); using online education services; online appointments with a doctor; communication in social networks; about making purchases in online stores. And this is just a small fraction of the tasks that involve digital fluency.

Let’s talk about the structure of digital fluency in more detail. What does it consist of?

Every person’s digital fluency is built on three key dimensions:

  • Digital consumption
  • Digital competencies
  • Digital security

What is Digital Consumption?

In a broad sense, this is the use of various digital resources, as well as the availability of basic knowledge and skills of computer literacy. It is important to understand that consumption is not limited to online shopping and online financial transactions. Digital consumption occurs at the moment when you want to solve some of your problems and use technologies for this. What can be attributed to digital consumption? For example, using search engines to search for information, using social networks to run communities and organize events, using cloud services for storing photos, downloading mobile applications, using mobile subscriptions, and more.

What Competencies Are Considered Digital?

Here we are talking not just about use, but about skills and abilities to select and apply technology in different areas of life confidently and effectively.  Like with digital consumption, if we have a problem, we ask ourselves the question: what service or technology should we use to solve it? When we talk about digital competencies, we ask ourselves the question: how should we use this service or technology to solve our problem effectively?

Digital competencies, for example, can include skills in using search engines, social networks and instant messengers, digital mail services, mapping and navigation services, a public service portal, skills in online financial transactions and online shopping (including online stores, product aggregators, etc. services, message boards and mobile applications), skills in content creation and distribution, as well as the critical perception of information received on the Internet.

What Do We Mean About Digital Security?

A combination of all those tools, precautions, and habits that users need to ensure their safety in the digital world. If we formulate the question like the two previous aspects, here it will sound as follows: how do we solve our problems using digital technology not only efficiently, but also safely?

Digital security skills include the ability to protect personal data, the skills to recognize phishing sites and messages, the ability to protect accounts in social networks and instant messengers, and skills to counter cyberbullying, etc.

Why is it Important to Pay Attention to Your Digital Fluency?

Digital technologies and services have not only become an integral part of our life, but they are also very dynamic, especially in the formation and development of a digital economy. 

The digital world is constantly changing and expanding, and at the same time, it forces us to change too. Thus, it’s necessary to constantly improve your digital literacy in order to remain in demand at work. Here we are not even talking about a possible replacement by AI, but about remaining a competent specialist who is ready to think flexibly and quickly learn new necessary skills. For example, new digital tools are being created every day that can help us accomplish simple and time-consuming tasks with more efficiency. Through implementing these tools, we can free up time to spend on more important tasks.

The main problem that arises for a person who wants to develop his digital competencies is not understanding what it is and where to learn it because this is not taught in schools and universities (except for a few). Therefore, the main tool for teaching now is online and offline courses on certain aspects of digital fluency. Therefore, we urge you not only to improve your digital fluency, but also to share this knowledge with your colleagues, friends and loved ones (children, parents, grandparents) so that they, just like you, are not only unafraid to use digital technologies, but so they also do it as efficiently and safely as possible.

Tips For Developing Digital Fluency

Whether you are completing an online course, remote internship, or simply applying for jobs – digital fluency will enhance both your skills and overall success. In many ways, 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic marked the beginning of a remote work from home movement that is showing no signs of slowing down. We want to share some of the best tips we have that will help you develop a digital fluency necessary for success in the “new normal” as well as beyond into the future. 

Familiarize yourself with common digital tools
  • Messaging apps like Slack, Skype, Discord, and Microsoft Teams help teams stay connected while working remotely
  • Video conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet are commonly used for meetings and training sessions
  • Learn how to use Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and Excel at the bare minimum
Practice your digital communication skills
  • Once you are familiar with the tools available to you, begin practicing with those tools in order to learn their best uses
  • Create and share original content online through social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook
Learn a new skill online
  • There is an abundance of digital skills that can help you in your future career, whether that be in web design, programming, IT, CRM, or something more specific to your unique career path. Look at some internship or job descriptions that you’re interested in to learn what other skills are in demand in your field
  • The great news is that there are a variety of free and low-cost online resources available to help you learn new digital skills. For example Udemy, YouTube, Lynda, edX, Grow With Google, and more!
  • Pagoda Projects also offers four pay what you can online skills courses here! Check out our Digital Competency course for more specific information on how to develop the digital skills that are now necessary in the modern world
Never stop learning
  • The truth is, technology will always be changing and improving throughout your lifetime. The best way to stay digitally competent and fluent is to remain a lifelong learner

Sources & Additional Resources

  1. 6 Practical Tips For Improving Your Team’s Skills
  2. Digital Literacy in Practice
  3. Articles on Digital Literacy
  4. The Uses of Digital Literacy
  5. Digital Literacy Practice Test (Quiz)
  6. Digital Literacy Multiple Choice Test (Quiz)
  7. Digital Literacy (Quiz)
Internships Advice

Teamwork and Collaboration

What are Teamwork and Collaboration?

Life is a team sport, and the professional world is no different. Teamwork is all about effective collaboration with others, usually to come up with new ideas or make decisions together to complete a goal.

Good team players have achieved a mix of interpersonal, problem-solving, and communication skills. They are able to work, negotiate, and manage conflict within a team structure. Teamwork and collaboration skills are important in the workplace because teamwork solves problems – by working together, teams build morale and help organizations operate more efficiently.

Teamwork and collaboration also take into consideration intercultural management, all cultural differences, and deals with them. An efficient and healthy team makes for better work, increased productivity, strong interpersonal relations, and mostly, less conflict between colleagues.

Both teamwork and collaboration require a group of people to operate together to fulfill a common objective. The key difference between collaboration and teamwork is that teamwork merges the individual and single efforts of all team members to complete an objective, whereas collaboration has team members working together – collaboratively – in order to complete a collective project. In collaboration, there is usually a sense of community; people tend to work together as equals to come up with ideas and make decisions. Meanwhile, in teamwork, leaders emerge. They oversee the projects’ advancements and delegate tasks to team members in order to reach the team’s end goal.

Ways to Develop Your Teamwork & Collaboration Skills

The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.
― Phil Jackson

Set Team Goals and Rules
  • First and foremost, it is important to set a strategic overview of your team’s goals and objectives. Having clear team goals, discussing them, and adapting them is what allows for the team to stay focused and smash the objectives!
  • Basic rules are also unmissable when it comes to teamwork. The same way parents usually impose a “no-phone-at-the-table” rule, so can you! Discussing rules with your team and implementing them will create clear expectations and boundaries, making it comfortable for all!
Listen More Than You Talk
  • Listening is important because it allows for you to leave enough room for quieter team members to voice their opinions and creates a safe place to share ideas. Listening is also about reading the room and being aware of everyone’s personalities in order to understand your teammates.
Communicate
  • Communication is paramount. Keep in mind that communication is a two-way street: getting your idea across clearly is as important as clearly getting a teammate’s message. Don’t hesitate to use silly drawings or pictures to clarify your point and bring down possible barriers!
  • Communication is most efficient when it is anticipatory as well. Presenting your ideas in advance of any calls/meetings so that your team can better understand your aims in advance will make discussion and decision-making much easier.
  • Vary your communication mediums. Everyone is different and everyone has preferences. Playing on those preferences and juggling between different communication modes can satisfy everyone. Zoom calls, text messaging, in-person meetings… Take your pick!
Strong Sense of Group Commitment
  • Group commitment is essential: without it, teamwork becomes virtually impossible because team members’ individualities will eventually get the upper hand.
Play to Your Team’s Strengths
  • Recognising your team’s strong skills, planning around them, and then splitting the workload equally will allow your team to operate smoothly. Ensuring a clear role for everyone whilst playing to their strengths is a recipe for success!
  • Keep in mind, however, to be open and encourage diversity in tasks!
Creativity and Innovation Are the Norms
  • Innovation at the service of teamwork can open unsuspected fields: you can innovate on various aspects in order to always push the cohesion further.
Check-ins and Team Cohesion
  • Check-in with your team regularly, formally or informally! It is important to do so and it builds trusting relationships with team members.
  • Sharing successes, celebrating, and being open-minded will create team cohesion! To further the cohesion, you can go for team-building exercises as well.
Solve Teamwork Problems and Conflicts
  • Problems and conflicts are lethal to a team. If you don’t address issues when they arise, they will make your team implode in the long run.
Practice Participative Leadership
  • Participative Leadership is the tip you want to implement: by allowing your teammates to participate in executive decisions, you demonstrate the trust you have in them.
Be Flexible!
  • When it comes to teamwork & collaboration, being flexible and adaptable is essential. Whether it is flexibility with colleagues or situations, adapting to anything and rebounding further develops teamwork skills.
Feedback
  • Ask for feedback and give some! Feedback isn’t critiquing, but an improvement process: it allows you to learn and outgrow mishaps.

An efficient and healthy team makes for better work, increased productivity, strong interpersonal relations, and mostly, less conflict between colleagues.

Developing Teamwork & Collaboration Skills During Your Pagoda Projects Programme

During your programme, regardless of the type of programme you are on, there are ways to develop your teamwork skills.

  • On a Skills Programme: Why don’t you team up with some of your fellow participants to put together a group challenge entry?
  • Working with Colleagues on a Project: Is your communication working well? Have you set clear expectations that you can all hit in terms of deadlines? Have you established some team rules? 
  • Completing a Remote Internship Programme:  Make sure to ask all the questions you need during your time with your Host Company!
  • Paired with a Cultural Mentor: Express yourself clearly for a successful shared cultural experience! Don’t forget teamwork is based on communication.
  • Struggling with a Course whilst Completing a Skills Programme: Create a study group and play to each other’s strengths!

Develop Teamwork & Collaboration Skills Through Our Courses

Digital Competency

This course sets out to develop your digital skills and gives you the basics to learn, work, and interact efficiently using digital tools. As interaction is a huge part of teamwork & collaboration, this course is essential to build up your skills in different online collaboration softwares.

  • Pagoda Competencies: Teamwork and Collaboration, Professionalism, Digital Fluency, Career Development
Intercultural Fluency

This course sets out to develop your cultural fluency and adaptability when working in a multicultural environment. When it comes to teamwork & collaboration, understanding how to work with your colleagues from different backgrounds will make for great collaboration skills. With this course, you will gain an understanding of what cultural fluency is and how to apply your knowledge of working across cultures to different workplace scenarios.

  • Pagoda Competencies: Teamwork and Collaboration, Intercultural Fluency, Communication
Workplace Basics

This course is about providing you with all the workplace skills needed to meet your employer’s demands. In terms of teamwork & collaboration, you will gain a clearer understanding of how to communicate effectively within a professional team.

  • Pagoda Competencies: Teamwork and Collaboration, Communication, Professionalism, Digital Fluency, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Sources & Additional Resources

  1. Understanding the Differences Between Teamwork and Collaboration
  2. 10 Tips for Better Teamwork
  3. Teamwork & Collaboration Skills
  4. TEDx Talk: Cultivating Collaboration: Don’t Be So Defensive! – Jim Tamm
  5. TEDx Talk: Teams Start With Human Connections – Matt Eng
  6. TEDx Talk: How to Turn a Group of Strangers Into a Team – Amy Edmondson
  7. TEDx Talk: The Power of Collaboration – Dr. Shelle VanEttten de Sánchez
  8. TEDx Talk: How to Build Teams That Win – Prakash Iyer
  9. Shannon Waller’s Team Success Podcast: This podcast series is all about teamwork. Shannon Waller, a leading team expert with Strategic Coach since 1995, hosts and offers her expertise: from switching your worry into creativity to strategies in order to nail collaboration within a team. She tells us everything.
  10. Outback Talks – The Employee Engagement Podcast: This is a great resource for business professionals who want to better understand how to build an engaged team in the workplace. Each episode is filled with tips and advice on team building. There are some interviews with experts in business as well.
  11. The Secrets of Great Teamwork
  12. Teamwork, collaboration, coordination, and networking: Why we need to distinguish between different types of interprofessional practice
  13. The Impact of Collaboration among Members on Team’s Performance