Category Archives: Work/Life Balance

What Makes A Great Professor?

Well folks, it’s been an amazing summer, but as the bell tolls for August 24 today, the literal and figurative honeymoon is over.

With the advent of the back-to-school season and the signs of life on campus, it has become very real that in, um, three days, I am teaching a college class for the first time. Call me Professor JB! (But actually don’t, because I don’t have a Ph.D. and people are really weird about that “professor” title).

But however you name it, someone has deemed me acceptable to welcome new freshmen into college life and stare into their “when will it end?” eyes every Tuesday morning for an hour. This will be one of my biggest professional challenges in my career and I want to do it right.

I’m not striving to be the coolest teacher in the building. Or the most inspiring one who gets mentioned as changing their lives when these students win their Nobel prizes or whatever grand award that business people get (ohmygosh, how am I teaching a business class??).

Basically, I don’t need to be the Dumbledore of the university. Though that would be awesome. Especially if I was a wizard and had wizardry. And a pensieve so I could go back in time. And do business teachers read Harry Potter?! THIS IS WHY I GET CONCERNED!

But anyway, I do want to provide value to my students through this one-hour class. I want to challenge them to work with their peers, contribute to a class discussion and connect with the personal goals they want to achieve while in school and beyond… you know, all those college-y things. While doing this, I want the students to walk away from this class feeling like they have built a strong (or at least middleweight) foundation for their business education and their college success. My biggest fear is that their evaluations at the end of the semester will read: “The instructor was nice and tried hard, but I didn’t really learn anything.”

Honestly, that one line of text that has yet to be written by anyone keeps me up at night!

So here is where I need your help friends and readers! Besides knowing the course material (which I figure I still have a whole weekend to learn, right?), what made your favorite college professor so powerful? What did they do to make an impact on you in class? Any tips are so appreciated!

If you’re a student, teacher, parent, or just have to start driving through school zones again, happy back to school!

UPDATE: I asked my friend’s 11-year-old nephew today what he believes makes a great teacher and this was his response: They are nice, patient, and don’t just call on the people who always raise their hands, but get the whole class involved. I thought it was so sweet and insightful, so I wanted to share. I appreciate everyone’s feedback!


A Freshman Again

Just like the children popping up on my Facebook news feed in their proud parents’ pictures that I skip past totally love, I, too, embarked on a first day of school this week (though JB surprisingly did not feel the need to capture this moment in photo).

After five years at the same university, I was part of the energy and excitement of a fresh school year at my new employer. While students start trickling in prior to the first day, seeing a campus turn overnight from the quiet of summer to the buzz of college life is like stopping by a bar at 3 p.m. and then going back at happy hour.

There is a vibrant rebirth for sure, but there are nerves too — from freshmen, transfer students, and new professors getting ready to face a group of 150 18-year-olds with the expectation of being enlightened. And for the first time in five years, from me. I was the new kid just like everyone else, so I thought I would share some tips for me and all the others feeling a little out-of-place as they head back to school:

Don’t rush home the first chance you get. I have never felt so alone and homesick as I did the first (maybe also 2nd, 3rd, 4th….) week of college. If I hadn’t been 1,000 miles away, I’m sure my laundry and I would have been tempted to seek the security of home as much as possible. And in a new job, before you develop a sense of community, it’s easy to leave when the work is done.

But so much of college (and working at one) happens outside the office or classroom. It happens at residence hall move-in, the welcome back barbecue or the volleyball game (What? Some schools don’t have football!). And you have to be there to experience it. Besides, the washer and dryers in the residence hall now text you when your laundry is done. They TEXT you.

Remember there was a time you felt lost and confused in high school, too. But by the end of that first year, you were a pro. And eventually, you will be at college too. No one starts out Van Wilder.

At my former employer, I felt comfortable walking into any meeting and answering student questions (why yes, I do know how to get to that building). I walked across campus and the faces were familiar, if not friends. But if I really think back, I remember the first year when I never wanted to go to anything alone and was hesitant to speak up at a meeting because I didn’t trust my knowledge and ideas yet. If you give it time, freshmen students quickly become next year’s orientation leaders and freshmen employees become veterans.

Be in the moment. Finally, don’t start counting the days until winter or summer break. My wedding date has been set and it’s basically a school year away. I’m so excited, I find myself wishing it was already June. But life is way too short for that — I need to enjoy everything leading up to that time just as much.

Students take so much AP and dual credit these days in high school that by the time they get into college, they only have a couple of years left. And I totally understand this for financial and other personal reasons. But sometimes I wish they would just slow down a little and take it all in. Your “first day of school” moments are numbered.

New Job, Old Friend

First of all, thank you to everyone for your well-wishes on my new job. I’ve now completed two weeks and I have yet to be fired or promoted, so my strategy for keeping under the radar and letting other people do the dirty work while I unassumingly win it all has paid off.

(Why do I watch so much reality TV in the summer?)

But seriously, it has been an exciting two weeks and I’m starting to shake off the “new kid in town” feelings. Being clueless has also left me pretty exhausted, which explains my lack of blog posts lately. When I have had a free moment online, it’s shamefully spent catching up on the live Casey Anthony trial. I can’t miss game-changing tweets from Nancy Grace like this:

Investigative legal reporting at its best.

Amid all of the new experiences these last two weeks, however, there was one that stood out because it… wasn’t.

From a simple Facebook status update and a friend’s comment, I learned that a once close mutual friend from growing up who I had lost touch with had just moved back to Dallas and started working at the same university. (So that, Facebook haters, is one of the reasons people are on it even though you might “already keep in touch with everyone I want to keep in touch with.” It’s time for a new line!)

Even though we hadn’t spoken in years, I immediately felt like I had a buddy on campus.  We quickly set up a lunch which happened this week. It was wonderful catching up on life: the big — I heard she had gotten married, but it wasn’t until I got in her car and saw the car seat that I discovered she had a child! — and the small.  Had we not both ended up at this employer, I might have never known she was a mother. That seems weird to think about after being so close for so long at such formative times in our lives.

Long ago, this dear friend’s dad coined the phrase “I Don’t Caryn” to denote my indecisiveness fickleness fear of confrontation agreeableness when asked what I wanted to eat or what I wanted to do.  And while certain people would probably argue that I’m overly more confident now in sharing my preferences than I used to be, I’ve thought about this nickname often when I would hear myself say “I don’t care.” It always reminded me of how close I was with this friend and her family. Of course, almost 20 years later, she still had to make the final call of where we ate lunch.

I know I’ll make new friends at this job, but it’s especially nice to reconnect with an old one.

What has been a big (positive) surprise for you at a new job?

Retirement Living

Yesterday was my last day of work. And I don’t start my new job until Monday. So for two whole days, I am not an “employee.” There is no parking decal on my car (crying when you drop that off at your employer’s parking office is awk-ward, by the way), no company ID in my wallet, and no emails piling up that I will have to respond to upon return. This is different from vacation. For two days… I am retired, baby!!

While my retirement is short-lived, I was able to celebrate two real professional farewells this past week — American Airlines Captain O’Neil (can’t confirm the spelling) and Oprah (pretty sure babies coming out of the womb know the spelling).

When flying back from vacation on Sunday, we were informed this would be the last flight for pilot O’Neil after 33 years. As we pulled away from the gate (and again when we landed), the traditional water salute for retiring pilots and planes commenced. This isn’t a picture from the actual occurrence, but to give you an idea of what it looks like:

It was a moving tribute. Even more special, as we flew, we learned that Captain O’Neil’s wife was making this last voyage with her husband. The pilot thanked her in flight for her support, despite a work schedule that includes many missed holidays and birthdays over 33 years. Needless to say, I was emotional.

Upon touch down, all of the passengers immediately broke into applause. The women, if comfortable, were asked by the flight attendants to give Captain O’Neil a hug on the way out. Every woman I saw, myself included, did just that. All the while, his adorable wife was snapping pictures.

Another moving tribute happened earlier that week, though I didn’t watch it until I returned from vacation. Ms. Oprah Winfrey said goodbye to her viewers as the last “Oprah Winfrey Show” aired. Now, I am not a huge fan of the show. I have nothing against it, but it’s on at 4 p.m. which isn’t exactly conducive to my weekday schedule and my DVR has a “no vacancy” sign.

But I did record her very last episode, as any self-respecting pop culture junkie would do. I knew it would be no-frills, but I was a little taken aback by the simplicity of the episode. Oprah stood on her stage, speaking to her ever-adoring audience both in the studio and watching in their living rooms about what the show and the fans have meant to her over the last 25 years. Needless to say, I was emotional.

Her last episode touched on some of the themes her show addressed, but I’ll leave the rundown to bigger Oprah fans over at Salt and Nectar.

While Captain O’Neil and Oprah might be retiring from very different environments, it was interesting what they had in common. They both profusely thanked and shared credit for their success with staff, family and friends. Stedman affectionately sat  in the Oprah audience just as Mrs. O’Neil sat in the front row of the plane, just a step outside the cockpit where her husband was addressing his audience in his own way. Clearly, no matter your job, your ultimate success comes down to those who support you along the way.

As if she knew about my future blog post, Oprah said she told her team that they were finally going to “land this plane.” And as she concluded the show and walked backstage through her entire staff lined up on either side cheering and hugging her, it reminded me of the two streams of water forming an archway of recognition. Recognition for, at its most simplest, a job well done.

Good luck to Captain O’Neil, Oprah and your families! I’m not quite ready to land my plane yet, but I hope when I do, I can leave with similar support and the knowledge I’ve had a career where I gave all I could to make an impact.

And then I’m sleeping in.

To The Left, To The Left

Everything I own (in my office) is in a box to the left. And to the right. And some of them are still flat because this doesn’t help me:

But the point of this post is that Beyonce, infinitely wise, said it best“Don’t you ever for a second get to thinking you’re irreplaceable.” 

In her song, Beyoncé is of course referring to her no-good ex-boyfriend she is kicking out for being untrue and not appreciating the Jag she bought him. Since JB doesn’t buy me Jags (rude), I don’t relate to that part. However, leaving a job is an astute reminder about just how replaceable we all are.

Clearly, I never believe my absence anywhere is going to shut down production. I am pretty sure my bathroom floor is learning to self-clean due to months of neglect. But there is a humbling feeling when you realize the meetings, the plans for next year, the committees, and everything else will be going on just peachy without you. And colleagues are excited about these plans — even though I won’t be there!

Even while cleaning out my files, I find it so hard to throw away old documents. As if, surely, at some point, someone in the office will need my notes about the random meeting I attended two  years ago. Won’t they?? As I fill up the recycle bins, I know the answer is that they have their own notes and the paper trail proof of my existence is diminishing. (You also never know what you might find when you clean out your office.)

Obviously, the meetings, the committees and the excitement of plans to come should absolutely forge ahead. Any first-year Psych 101 student could tell you that this is about my own feelings of leaving my professional nest. Of wondering what I will be missing, of already feeling like an outsider. Luckily, I have a great new opportunity to look forward to. Soon enough, I’ll be part of new meetings, making new plans and wondering why there are so many committees.

But for these last few days, I’m just going to enjoy the familiarity and the goodbyes. I’m also going to enjoy the ocean because I’m going on vacation, in case you’re wondering why you haven’t heard from me. Remember, I’m fragile, I have to pretend you will notice my absence!

In other news, I have realized in writing this post that I can’t wait for a Beyoncé greatest hits album.

Have you ever been reminded that you are “replaceable?” Where do you feel irreplaceable?

It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye (And My Guest Post!)

In my job as a career counselor, I (along with other bloggers) often link the job search and networking to dating. College students can understand this analogy.

And just like networking is similar to courting,  leaving a job is a lot like a break-up. I recently gave notice at my current university after five great years. This is the first time I have changed jobs for no other reason than a new opportunity. The two previous resignations were expected — I was moving cities and I was starting a brand new career path.

This move is the same career field, just a different type of position at a new university. My colleagues and supervisors have been so supportive of this opportunity, for which I am eternally grateful. And like any nervous dumper fumbling for the right thing to say when announcing their goodbye, I heard myself resorting to a variation of some of the classics:

  • I wasn’t actively looking for this to happen. It just did.
  • It’s not anything you did, it’s me.
  • This just feels like the best thing for me at this time.
  • You’ll find someone else.
  • I hope we can keep in touch and stay friends.

Unlike a break-up conversation, however, I meant every one of these things — no one more than staying in touch. Leaving my work family is the toughest part about all of this.

I’m going to write more about this transition in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, check out my guest post at Balance in Me about finding and keeping balance in times of change. I was excited for the chance to one again contribute to this site and share with a new community of readers.

What are some of your favorite cliché break-up lines? Does this translate to work situations?

Things I Will Absolutely Not Do This Weekend


1. Secretly hope that LC and Lo are visiting their parents and will walk into the local Laguna “hot spot” (so I’m told) where we are eating dinner Thursday night.

2. Hum Hilary Duff’s “Come Clean” in my head while NOT secretly hoping to see LC and Lo.

3. Jam to Phantom Planet’s “California” while I get ready in the morning. (again)

4. Kick myself too hard for not living in CA at a point in my life when I didn’t care about things like “cost of living.”

Yes, I am headed to Orange County tomorrow! And yes, I will, in reality, do all of these things no matter how hard I try!

I’ve been to San Diego and LA, but never this quaint little county in between so it’s been left up to TV shows about high schoolers and “real” housewives to shape my impression. As a pop culture junkie, this excites me, but I’m most looking forward to seeing and experiencing all the great things I have heard from actual people. It’s been a long two weeks and a coastal vacation is just what I need. I wonder if it will be a similar balance conundrum as the other coast.

Hope everyone has a great weekend. And if you have any OC recommendations, please let me know!

For those who were Laguna Beach and/or The OC fans, let these songs take you away to a simpler time… 🙂 And if you were not a fan of these, you probably have no idea what the hell this blog post was about. So put down your book or stop spending time with your family and watch some crap television!