All posts by Michael Kocourek

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year… FINALS: 5 Quick Stress Relievers!

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Ladies and Gentleman, it is once again, that time. Finals. Dum, Dum, Dum. I already feel the chills going along my body just thinking about these next two weeks. Part of me cannot believe this almost marks the half-way point of my last year, and the other part wants me to get the heck out of here! Anyways, there are some tips I’d like for you to really consider in trying to calm your nerves and jitters about these next two weeks. Plus I’m a senior, so this isn’t my first rodeo my friends. Let’s do this!

 1) Listen to Relaxing instrumental music

This is one of the most soothing things to do while studying or writing a paper for me. Now what works for me may not work for you, and that’s completely okay. Actually, listening to piano or classical pieces helps a person’s focus and relaxation according to “The Doctors” TV show. Give it a shot, see what works or doesn’t work for you.

2) Exercise

This is probably the hardest one to do out of the five listed. I actually had some good insight from a Men’s Health article that I read over the summer to help make the exercise become more meaningful during finals time. Make sure to clear your mind and worries when going to the gym. Focus on one thing, you and your exercise objective. Whether you’re going for a big lift session, a cardio workout, or a walk around the campus, these provide such crucial breaks to studying. I guarantee a lot of you feel that “you don’t have the time to workout now.” Trust me, if you do a short 30-minute workout, it’ll be a great refresher.

3) Do some cleaning

This is probably my favorite piece from the blog I’m currently using as a reference. “Cleaning serves as a stress management technique”, according to Prevention magazine. “All that stress accumulated by intense studying has to let out in some form and moving around will serve both as light exercise and a way to reduce anxiety by getting those endorphins going.” Plus your room won’t look like a stampede ran through it!

4) “Don’t trade sleep for caffeine”

I knew I could rely on Tracy for a good reference tip. I remember when she wrote her tips to finals week survival last year.  Some of us feel the need to stay up and study late hours by indulging in copious amounts of coffee, soda, or energy drinks etc. These caffeine highs come with very nasty crashes that can be tough to recover from. Tracy brought up a great point, “While you might think you’re sacrificing work time for sleep, it’s actually one of the best things you can do for yourself.” Maybe take a quick nap to help regain focus; 15-20 minutes should do the trick.


Take it from me personally, the more you freak out, the less focus and will-power you’ll have to actually get work done. If a sense of panic starts to take over, move away from your work; take some deep breaths; have a snack; and try to regroup. Leave the library or the space you’re working, clear your thoughts, and then come back. You might be surprised how much better you’ll feel.

I hope you guys take into consideration some of these recommendations. This finals week is no different than any of my other six I’ve had. It’s only a matter of different classes, projects, and tests. You determine your outcome. Put in your best efforts. Here are links to one of the blogs I used for references ideas, and a reference to Tracy’s as well. Best of luck everyone!

“The Skills and Qualities Employers Want in Their Class of 2013 Recruits”


“What skills and qualities are employers seeking in the graduates they’re recruiting from the Class of 2013? Above all, they’re looking to hire candidates with outstanding communication skills and who are team players, according to results of NACE’s Job Outlook 2013 survey.”

The top five skills and qualities employers are looking for are the same as 2012 but the order of importance has changed around. You’ll definitely want to check out this important article to give yourself that upper edge as a desirable potential employee! Make sure to check out the rest of the article here

“How to Be Happier at Home (and Work)”


This is a re-post of Alexandra Levit’s Water Cooler Wisdom Blog. According to her brief biography, Levit is a “former nationally syndicated columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a current writer for the New York Times. [She has also] authored several books.” Furthermore, she does consulting, writing, and exploring of leadership development, career and workplace trends for companies such as Microsoft, American Express, Intuit, and DeVry University. Now here’s some recommendations on how one can be happier at home by “noticing life” more.

“Gretchen Rubin has been a friend of mine since the early days of our blogs.  Her first book, The Happiness Project, became an international bestseller, and I was excited to read her latest effort, Happier at Home.  The new book focuses on ways we can make our homes places of greater simplicity, comfort, and love.

Since I specialize in careers and work, I naturally zeroed in on the part of the book that focuses on work/life balance.  Managing your time well is critical, because, as Gretchen points out, it only passes faster as we get older.  She cites poet Robert Southy, who explained:

“Live as long as you may, the first twenty years are the longest half of your life.  They appear so while they are passing, they seem to have been so when we look back on them, and they take up more room in our memory than all the years that succeed them.”

Since we don’t “notice” life as much once we’re in our twenties, thirties, and beyond, it’s especially important that we make an effort to be mentally present in each moment.  Happier at Home has dozens of recommendations to this effect, but here are a few that directly apply to the subject of work:

  • Do you have kids?  Even though taking care of them can sometimes be boring, resist the urge to check your phone in their presence.  In fact, put the phone away, as it’s admittedly hard to resist.


  • Don’t check e-mail at bedtime.  The stimulation of reading certain messages will energize you and you’ll have trouble falling asleep.


  • Don’t type away on your smartphone when traveling from one place to another.  Instead of forcing yourself to use this time productively, leave yourself open to new thoughts, ideas, and experiences.


  • Do understand when you are most efficient at doing different tasks, and work around that.  I, for example, get better quality writing done if I respect that my mental focus is sharpest in the late afternoon.”

For the full article just click here


Your Personal Brand. Don’t know how to showcase it? LinkedIn is the answer!


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Well Here we are with my second blog! This is a big deal, isn’t it? I have recently come across one of Lindsey Pollak’s blogs from her LinkedIn blog page. Pollak is a global spokesperson for LinkedIn, as well as, an expert on career and workplace trends with Generation Y. She actually came and spoke at Illinois Wesleyan in March of 2010. The topic of the blog was about how you can “showcase your personal brand on LinkedIn.” What I’m going to do here is basically just give you my understanding of what a personal brand is and then highlight two of the eight tips showing how LinkedIn can showcase one’s personal brand. If you want to read the other six, I’ll attach the link with this post. Here we go!

According to Pollak’s blog, a man named Tom Peters in 1997 first developed the term “personal brand.” This term “includes your professional reputation, online image and personal characteristics such as your work style, community engagement and worldview.” This is pretty much how you’re seen by others in person and online along with personal qualities that define your work, views, and involvement. Furthermore, “it incorporates the particular skills, talents, and areas of expertise you’ve cultivated.” I like to think of it as your value. What are you bringing to this company or organization that others do not have? What makes you, you! Yet, sometimes this is not the easiest thing to come up with off the top of your head. You might want to sit down, grab a piece of paper and a pen, and start writing your ideas down.

One vital question that allows you to start defining your personal brand is: how would your colleagues describe your strengths? These strengths are your essentials. With the help of LinkedIn, after you discover your personal brand, you can show recruiters, bosses, and others what makes your brand the best. Here were my favorite two tips for improving your brand on LinkedIn.

1. Be Authentic.
She says it so well. The best personal brands are those that are very honest and genuine in person, as well as, online. Use your LinkedIn to really highlight certain skills you have along with your personality. The example Pollak gives is incorporating “a balance between detailed accounting skills and [for instance if you had a] friendly personality. Your LinkedIn profile can include both your technical credentials and the fact that you belong to several networking groups.”

2. Give Generously.
Sometimes you forget about others while trying to constantly improve and better things for yourself. Giving to others is a great way to build your personal brand substantially. There are countless ways to help others: give recommendations, introduce others to potential employers, share advice, or even a simple gesture like saying “congratulations” to someone on a recent success they’ve had. My favorite line of the entire blog comes at the end, “When people know they can rely on you, they remember you and recommend you to others.”

The final statement of the blog may be one of the most overlooked aspects of helping others. Don’t forget to help out others. It’ll be a lot more memorable than you actually think. Now start working on your personal brand and showcase it on LinkedIn!

PS– Don’t have a LinkedIn account yet? Visit to get started!

Go here for the rest of Pollak’s tips

This is a link to an older post back when Pollak visited IWU’s campus

“14 Things You Should Do On Your Break Every Day”


From the article on Forbes about the “14 things you should do on your lunch break every day.”

A couple of days ago I came across a very interesting article on some tips for what people should try to do during their lunch breaks. It occurred to me that I had never thought about this topic before. This makes sense because I am a student and I have allotted time throughout the day for lunch or dinner. Yet, with me being a senior and graduating soon, these are actually some very insightful tips to help ease the stresses that may arise in the work place. If there’s one mistake I’ve constantly made even as a student here, it’s been that I have skipped lunch on numerous occasions to get work done. Here are my top 5 favorites from the list of 14 tips. Take a quick read; maybe you’ll learn some new tips for your own lunch break or future ones!

1)    “Get up from your desk or workspace.”

After reading this piece of advice it really hit me how important it is to distance yourself from your work place during that lunch period. There’s a good chance if you stay at that spot during your lunch break, you’ll never get out of there. Some of the article’s tips include: going outside for a walk of fresh air or even just moving to a different space in the building. By moving away from that space, “it will help you clear your mind.”

2)    “Eat.”

Make sure that your body gets filled with a source of food. As I mentioned earlier, there were several times here at Wesleyan where I skipped lunch and really paid for it towards the evening. Why? Well, to put it plain and simple, my mind was sluggish and my body felt pretty horrible. Those other tasks that need to be taken care of will be taken care of after lunch. Food is your fuel source to having energy later.

 3)    “Catch up with old friends.”

The moment I saw this piece of advice, I smiled immediately. If there’s something that can always put me in a better mood, it’s hearing from my friends! Sometimes there will be days where the “going gets real tough.” So, what do you do? Call one of your friends to help cheer you up. Even if you’re not in a rough spot, your personal life deserves as much attention as your work life… or at least I think so. So, contact a friend or two!

 4)    “Don’t take too long or too short of a break.”

Now this piece of advice is a bit tricky. Depending on the length of the break, try to take full advantage of it. Use that amount of time to “get out, eat, exercise your mind or body, or tackle items on your personal agenda.” There’s an additional piece of advice that this article makes a point of in this tip, and it’s if everyone else in the organization takes shorter breaks quite frequently, avoid constantly taking longer breaks than they do. “Follow suit so you don’t stand out.” This could vary on how high in the ladder of the organization you are, as well as, company policy. Over more and more experience with jobs, you’ll learn what is best for you but also what’s best for the company.

5)    “Avoid All Screens!”

I think if I had to choose a favorite out of these 5 choices, besides eating of course, this would be the one. The article states to “give your eyes a break.” Stay away from your iPhone, iPod, or whatever devices you use during the duration of your workday. This lunch break is a time to get away from the screens! Lots of office jobs require looking at a screen all day. I know I wouldn’t mind a break for my eyes. That’s why I try to minimize the amount of time I use my phone and computer throughout the day and instead save that time for homework or other work purposes.

There we have it! Use the link to look at the additional tips that Forbes suggests for you to use during your lunch break. So here’s to better use of your lunch breaks in the future!