Alumni Spotlight – Meet Helen Swank

Helen Swank

Eventually I came to realize that I wanted to build upon my undergraduate degree. When I returned to Ohio State, my supervisor allowed me to design my own unique graduate program. I turned to the departments of physics, speech and hearing science and the medical school to study acoustics, anatomy, engineering and more. I was a teaching assistant in the performance division and my advisor provided great freedom as I developed my thesis. The department of music asked me to stay on as a faculty member, but there was a lot to consider. I was married while I was in college and, by graduate school, had three small children at home. I wasn’t able to accept the opportunity right away. I continued my choral work, private teaching and cared for my mother for a year before the university offered the faculty role once more, on the schedule of my choosing. I taught in music education, in the performance division and chaired the voice performance area.

Go outside the box. The degree programs are wonderful, as is the option of independent study. Choose your academic courses judiciously and learn what you might not be getting in a regular program because it’s going to be important to you! I tell my grandchildren and great grandchildren that if the door opens, stick your foot in. Things happen unexpectedly and there’s a reason sometimes that they do. That opportunity is the opening to the next step, and the next. You won’t know where you’re going to end up, but it doesn’t matter. It will be all right, and very exciting.

The Helen Swank Research and Teaching Lab in the department of vocal music is a world-renowned learning center for Ohio State’s Specialization in Singing Health and voice pedagogy programs. She served as president of Phi Kappa Phi and as head of the voice performance area for 13 of the 25 years that she taught on campus. As two time recipient of the Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award and recipient of the School of Music’s Distinguished Service Award, she has made a distinct mark on The Ohio State University and the field of voice science and research.


Meeting New People

One of the most common asks by clients in our office is what are the best strategies for networking.  While there are a litany of tips that abound on the internet and in other career building resources, however, often you’ll find that those strategies don’t really work.  There are a few tried a true bits of advice that do work, however, whether you’re specifically in a networking situation, or just looking to meet new people in general.  This advice is as follows:

1.      – SMILE!

 Your smile is the first thing that people see when they look at you, and it should make a definite impression.  Think of your smile as your best accessory – it is the first thing that you put on and the way in which you present it says so much about you as a person.

 Smiling warmly allows you to give off good vibes and positive energy, and makes you more approachable to strangers.  The best thing about smiling is that it is free, easy, and requires no effort on your part!  Whether you have just started a new job, moved into a new neighborhood, or are just looking to meet new people, a smile and good attitude are the keys to making friends and getting to know people.

 2.      – Remember, people aren’t interested in you, they’re interested in themselves

 Now, that may sound harsh, but let’s be honest, it’s human nature.   Dale Carnegie said it best:

 “You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people thank you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”

 This actually makes meeting people easier because it alleviates the pressure of starting a conversation with your own interesting personal information.  All you really have to do is ask the people about themselves.  The more you can get others to open up to you about who they are, the better connection you will be able to make with them.  Try asking questions like:

 ·         What do you do for fun around here?

·         What was the best thing you did this weekend?

·         Why did you decide to live in this area/work for this company/join this group?

Of course, there are many different options for this – the most important thing is that you are able to strike up a conversation.  Listen well, and add input where needed.  This allows you to not only get to know the person, but also to become a better conversationalist.

3.      – Remember names

 This kind of sounds like one of those “duh” things, but it cannot be stressed enough how important this is.  How many times have you gone through an entire conversation and at the end realized that you had no idea what the person’s name was?  Or worse, how many times have you gone to speak to someone and realized that they had no idea what your name was?  This is the ultimate networking faux pas.  In order to avoid this situation, use the following tips:

 ·         Listen!

·         Repeat the person’s name back to them

·         Commit it to memory using a cue (“Shana has pretty eyes” or “Whitney had on killer shoes!”)

·         Write it down (back of their business card is best UNLESS you are dealing with someone of a different culture – then err on the side of sensitivity)

 4.      – Finally, know where to go

 How can you meet successfully meet new people if you don’t know where to go?  Maybe you aren’t beginning a new job, or you haven’t moved – you can still find new and interesting people if you know where to look.   Why not try joining a new club, group or class?  Some options could be:  your local YP organization, a book club or other interest group, Toastmasters, a volunteer agency, or a continuing education class (cooking, photography, pottery, etc.).  Any of these options will give you ample opportunity in a relaxed setting to meet and interact with others.

All of these are tips to help you find success in your networking on a personal and professional level.  Of course, through all of these, don’t forget to let everyone get to know you too!  You are a great person with plenty to offer – so get out there and show ‘em what you’ve got!

Monster Releases Top 10 Best Companies for Veterans List

November is the month for veterans.  Veterans’ Day is this month, and in recognition of that, and of the wonderful people who have chosen to serve our country, we choose to focus on some of the specific needs and interests of those who are currently or formerly serving in the armed forces.

For those who have left the service and are looking to begin a career in the civilian world, there’s a new article on that may be of interest to you.  Monster has released its list of the “Top 10 Best Companies for Veterans” for 2017. Take a sneak peek at which companies made the list below, or get the scoop on why each company was chosen by visiting the full article here.

Mantech International – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  46%

Intelligent Waves – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  47%

US Customs and Border Protection – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  29%

Lockheed Martin – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  23%

Booz Allen Hamilton – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  30%

Schneider International – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  28%

USAA – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  15%

BAE Systems – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  16.5%

Union Pacific Railroad – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  17.5%

Boeing – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  15%

What is perhaps most interesting about this list is that it is comprised by a high number of federal contractors, as well as many transportation and logistics companies.  This means that there is a high chance of being able to easily convert many of the skills veterans were trained on in their time in the service to practical application in the civilian workplace.

Remember that Alumni Career Management offers one on one support for all alumni of Ohio State, and welcomes veterans who are in search of advice while planning a career transition.  Additional resources can be found on our veterans’ resource page located here.


Communication 101 – Speaking Mistakes You Should No Longer Be Making

Have you ever been in the midst of a conversation with someone, and been so completely distracted by the way that they speak that you completely missed what they were trying to say?  Their delivery somehow muddled their message for you, and the effectiveness of their words was cut short by the way they were communicated to you.

Differences in communication styles have a significant impact on how well we are able to understand and work with one another.  People often make judgements and assumptions about others based on the way that they speak, and many times we draw on diction and inflection as ways to infer and build connections with others.

While we can’t always help certain things about the way we speak – like our accent, innate vocabulary, etc. – we can avoid a few of the most common communication pitfalls that affect people in the workplace.  So, whether you’re preparing to give a presentation, gearing up for a networking event, or simply looking to speak to a colleague or superior, being cognizant of eliminating these from your everyday speech will help ensure that your message is being conveyed clearly, and that the person to whom you’re speaking takes you seriously.

  1. – Vocal Fry

You know that thing that people sometimes do where they make their voice sound like a deflating balloon?  That’s vocal fry.  It can best be observed among people who bring their voice to a lower register as they complete a sentence – examples of famous people who use this communication style often are Britney Spears and any of the Kardashian clan (see below).

Unfortunately, people (particularly women) who use this speaking technique are often perceived as less competent, less educated, and less hireable in the workplace.

  1. – Upspeak /Uptalk

Upspeak (or Uptalk) is one of the most contentious trends in communication over the last 20-30 years.  A quick search of YouTube will foster results from as early as 1994, where people were lamenting the use of the technique even back then.  While there is little agreement to be found on where upspeak itself originates, what is clear is that it is a vocal trend that is almost universally considered annoying and unprofessional.  It can be most easily characterized as ending declarative statements with an “up” sound, giving the indication that you are asking a questions instead of stating something outright.

Upspeak is often considered to be unprofessional because it undermines the speaker’s level of competence in the eyes of the listener.  Ending each statement by appearing to ask a question gives the impression that the speaker is not confident in what he or she is saying, and that impression of lost confidence (whether accurate or not) often causes the listener to lost confidence in them as well.

  1. – Crutches

“Ah” – “Umm” – “Like” – “You know…” – How often do you use one or more of these words when speaking to others?  Words like those above are considered to be “fillers”, and are typically seen as crutches that help a person when he or she is at a momentary loss for words, or is not entirely sure of what he or she is speaking about.  Often we use them without thinking, and don’t even notice when they escape from our lips.

But other people notice them.

As with the other two speech patterns discussed here, crutches can have a negative impact on your ability to communicate well with others because their use conveys a lack of confidence and/or competence.  Often people who overuse crutches give the impression that they are either lying outright or that they don’t have a clear grasp on what they are talking about.

The key takeaway from each of these communication killers is that it is crucial to display confidence and competence when speaking with others, particularly in the workplace.  If you give the impression that you are unsure of yourself and what you are saying, you run the risk of being passed over and not being taken seriously.  Be cognizant not only of what you are saying, but also of how you are saying when speaking with others.