6 Simple Ways to Grow Professionally This Summer

Whether you’re busy at an internship or looking to score one in the future, these six tips from Danny Damron, assistant dean of experiential learning and professional development, will help you get a head start on preparing for the workforce in whatever profession you choose.

Meet Danny

Danny Damron on a seven-day mountain biking trip from Durango, Colorado to Moab, Utah in 2019. (Danny Damron)

Damron has always thrived learning from experience, whether that was building a Huckleberry Finn raft as an 8-year-old, getting his teenage “sea legs” on a lobster boat off the coast of Maine, being tear-gassed while watching a mass protest in South Korea, completing an internship in Puerto Rico teaching English as a second language, or partnering with his wife in raising three children while they were both getting doctorate degrees. He has spent the past 20 years helping students get the most out of their internships and teaching assistant positions.

Damron believes internships provide unique opportunities for learning and growth and hopes students will make the effort to seek out and apply for internship experiences. To help students better for and get more out of their internships, he offers these six tips.

1. Prioritize with a time-management matrix

Working in a full-time internship requires you to fill 40 hours with meaningful work each week. It can be easy to get caught up in less important tasks or allow some things to take more time than they should. To make the most of your time in a professional setting, you can use the Time Management Matrix developed by Stephen Covey, bestselling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

The matrix consists of four cells: Urgent/Important, Urgent/Not Important, Not Urgent/Important, and Not Important/Urgent, and organizing your daily activities in each box may prove to be a revealing exercise.

For example, you may find that activities like answering email or checking social media, which so often carry the illusion of urgency, are eating away at your time, while items are actually more important to you in the long run, like preparing for graduate school or applying for internships online, are slipping through the cracks. The matrix may be a great first step in restructuring your schedule to reflect your true priorities.

Time management matrix popularized by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

2. Craft and refine a purpose statement, and test it out in professionally relevant settings

A purpose statement is a tool to create professional connections on resumes, in job interviews, while networking at events, on social media platforms, and many other avenues. It’s a short, 3-5 sentence opener that describes you and your professional interests in a way that invites a potential employer or colleague to give you a second look and say, “Tell me more.”

A solid purpose statement has three parts: professional intention, reflection, and connection.

Professional intention is what you’re passionate about and what you ultimately want to do with your career. For example, a sociology student might say, “I find it rewarding to understand and create solutions to common problems that face society.”

The professional intention piece of your statement doesn’t need to be niche, because what you want to do professionally can apply to different areas of work. For example, a student wanting to solve societal problems could become a social worker, but also a lawyer, legislator, nonprofit leader, therapist, or psychologist.

Reflection means articulating how your experiences or your understanding of a professional challenge have brought you to the place you are now. The same sociology student might say, “My sociology training at BYU has given me XYZ opportunities to learn and use the tools to help me solve problems.”

Connection is the “clickbait” part of your purpose statement. By finding a challenge you have in common with your potential employer/colleague, you can have a further conversation that will lead to professional connection. The sociology student might say, “I’m eager to apply what I’ve learned to help families come out of poverty,” or “I want to use my training to help low-income students.”

You can also approach the connection part of your purpose statement using an unanswered question you’re pursuing the answer to, a question you may have in common with another professional. For example, the sociology student may have the question, “How do we help people of ethnic minorities afford housing?” or “How do we improve racial relations between students in academia?” Effectively introducing a question that’s important to you will allow you to join forces with someone who is trying to solve a similar problem, or at least get some helpful direction on your career path.

3. Ask for advice, not feedback

Photography by Gabriel Mayberry /BYU © BYU PHOTO 2017

When asking colleagues, employers, or future employers how you can improve, it’s more effective to ask for advice than feedback. Recent studies published in the Harvard Business Review found that when professionals were asked to give feedback on an employee or applicant’s performance, their comments were vague and generally focused on praise. When asked to give advice, the same professionals gave more specific, actionable items for improvement.

That’s because, when people are asked to give feedback, they focus on evaluating a past performance, rather than on looking forward to future improvements, according to the authors of the study. When asked to give advice, people will focus on the future development of the person being examined, rather than on past mistakes the person can no longer change.

Make it a point to ask current or potential employers for advice, and then implement their suggestions.

4. Talk to people who are successful in your field about how they got there

David Hart’s Class in the Marriott School of Business, 2017 © (Nate Edwards, BYU PHOTO)

You can learn a lot from successful people indirectly. When networking or at another professional event, it may be less effective to ask a professional in your field for direct advice, and more effective to ask them about their own personal journey. People are often comfortable talking about themselves, and you may pick up some of your best advice for finding jobs, interviewing, acquiring skills, and more through the personal stories of those who are currently doing what you’d like to do yourself someday.

5. Role play

It’s awkward, but effective. Prepare for interviews, first meetings with supervisors, public speaking assignments, and other potentially terrifying professional situations by practicing them beforehand. It’s best to practice answering and asking questions with someone you don’t know, or even someone who will make the experience more difficult (like an obnoxious uncle). You can set up a mock interview with a mentor through BYU Career Services here. Simulating the interview environment will allow you to access how you perform under pressure and help you target areas for improvement.

6. Read a professional development book or series of articles

Choose a specific strength you want to develop — like leadership, public speaking, conflict resolution — and read up on it! Need to know where to start? The Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University surveys employers about skills they wish college graduates had and they publish annual reports with college recruiting trends. Traits employers said will be important for students in the wake of a global pandemic include persistence, adaptability, the ability to balance work and protect personal time, and a positive attitude.

Books we’d recommend are:

Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better

What the Best College Students Do

The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills

Just Listen

Get Started

Put these professional development tips into action with an internship! Check out what internships are available in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences here.

Love Like Your Life Depends on it

One day after she delivered her TedxBYU talk on the importance of social relationships, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, professor of psychology and neuroscience at BYU, found out her father was hospitalized with a terminal condition. She dropped her professional work to spend every day with him before he died two and a half weeks later.

Then her mother passed away.

“I lost both of my parents within two and a half weeks. But I had that incredible time with them before they passed that I’ll treasure forever,” Holt-Lunstad says, becoming emotional. “Really, the most important things in our life are our relationships.”

Holt-Lunstad’s extensive research focuses on the long-term health effects of social connection. Her professional portfolio includes providing expert testimony in a U.S. Congressional hearing, advising the U.S. Surgeon General in the Emotional Well-Being in America Initiative, and serving as a scientific advisor for the Australian Coalition to End Loneliness.

Andy Proctor, a member of the TedxBYU curation committee, said Holt-Lunstad was chosen as a speaker because of her significant contribution to health and psychological sciences as well as the relevance of her message. “Her idea that social connection is one of the most important things we can do for our health is novel and the committee believed deeply it was an idea worth spreading,” Proctor says.

In her talk, Holt-Lunstad says that a lack of social connection poses a health risk similar to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.

“It’s time to prioritize our relationships like our life depends on it — because it does,” she says.

Holt-Lunstad began her research by looking at the effects of stress on health. She found that when experiencing the same levels of stress, blood pressure spikes were lower among people with supportive relationships, but more exaggerated in people with few supportive relationships. Expanding their research, she and her colleagues analyzed data from over 300,000 people worldwide and found that those with social connections increased their chance of living longer by 50%. On the other hand, the likelihood of death is increased 26% by being lonely, 29% by social isolation, and 32% by living alone.

Holt-Lunstad points to several ways we can improve our social connections.

1. Make time for relationships

Although making time for relationships can be challenging, there is no substitute for the benefits everyone gains from positive social relationships. They are as important to health as diet and exercise.

2. Discover your preferences

And just like diet and exercise, individual preferences for social interaction varies. People should find the type of social interaction that works best for them, whether that looks like informal gatherings or planned social activities, and whether it’s in large groups or more intimate settings.

3. Make the first move

Loneliness can be a vulnerable, stigmatizing feeling. And those feelings can make it difficult to make the first move when trying to build social relationships. But Holt-Lunstad says that feeling is normal and can be overcome. “One really empowering way to break the ice is to look for others who might need help or who might need a friend.”

4. Serve others

One of the best ways we can help ourselves is by helping others. Holt-Lunstad shared, “There is significant research that shows that providing support to others or doing small acts of kindness for others actually significantly reduces our own loneliness and increases a sense of social bonding between you and the other person. That’s something any one of us can do.”

Holt-Lunstad is currently working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Community Living (ACL) to create a national clearinghouse for interventions to address loneliness and social isolation. She is also working with the Gravity Project to make recommendations for national standards for representing social isolation in electronic health records, and serving as the scientific chair of the Foundation for Social Connection and the Coalition to End Social Isolation and Loneliness.

Learn more about Julianne Holt-Lunstad’s research.

Niwako Yamawaki Joins College Administration as Associate Dean

July 1 marks a new beginning for several faculty members in the Dean’s Office for the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. While Laura Padilla-Walker, professor of family life, assumes her role as dean of the college after four years as associate dean, Niwako Yamawaki, professor of psychology, joins the office as associate dean for faculty development. 

“I had the privilege of working closely with Dr. Yamawaki on the college Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion committee and I appreciate her thoughtfulness, responsiveness, and organization,” says Padilla-Walker. “She has a passion for helping students and faculty to succeed and I am delighted she agreed to join our college team.”

Padilla-Walker believes Yamawaki is well qualified to serve as the associate dean over faculty development because of her dedication to the mission of the college and university, her strong research and teaching record, and her fierce dedication to mentored student research. 

Yamawaki was most recently an associate chair in the Department of Psychology and received the college Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion award in 2020 and the Martin B. Hickman Achievement in Teaching Award in 2019. She conducts cross-cultural research to investigate cultural factors — such as stigma, discrimination, and collectivism — that influence attitudes toward mental health services and violence against women. Along with that, she is interested in the role of psychological resilience in Eastern and Western populations and is affiliated with both the American Psychological Association and the Japanese Association for Mental Health.

Specific responsibilities Yamawaki will have as associate dean of faculty development include overseeing faculty research awards and grants, faculty leaves, reviews for the college’s institutes and centers, and the use of space in the college. She will head the Marjorie Pay Hinckley Endowed Chair committee, the Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference, and lead the college Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion committees for race and first-generation students.

Padilla-Walker is enthusiastic about the team of associate and assistant deans she’ll be working with. “I am confident that together we will be able to continue the positive trajectory of our college. We are here to support our wonderful faculty and students and hope you will feel free to seek us out to help in whatever ways we can. We look forward to working with all of you.” 

Mikaela Dufur, professor of sociology and associate dean, has new responsibilities too as she shifts from overseeing faculty development to now focusing on faculty evaluation.

“Dr. Dufur is well qualified for this position after serving as the college rank and status chair for several years, and I look forward to continuing to benefit from her wisdom, careful attention to detail, and her strong desire to support faculty and students,” says Padilla-Walker.

Dufur’s specific responsibilities now cover college rank and status, stewardship Interviews, and faculty profiles, university awards, and the university faculty development meeting. She will lead the Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion committees for gender and health/disabilities and continues to manage computing services, technology, and capital equipment. 

Sam Otterstrom, professor of geography, will continue in his role as associate dean for curriculum and teaching where he oversees academic advisement, assessment, education preparation, American Heritage, the bachelor of general studies, graduate studies, writing instruction, international study, online and independent studies, the BYU-Salt Lake Center, and scholarships. He also leads the Student Career Development Council and the University and College Curriculum Council, and remediates student complaints. 

“Dr. Otterstrom has been such an important asset to the team for years and we will greatly benefit from his continued expertise,” says Padilla-Walker. “He is a team player and I appreciate his patience, his perspective, and his desire to support our students through our many college efforts surrounding curriculum and experiential learning.” 

Find our contact info at the Dean’s Office Directory.