How Do I Answer This Interview Question: How many Rubik’s Cubes fit inside an airplane?

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rubiks-cube-329546_1280

Umm wait what? I thought this was a job interview, not a test of my knowledge about the iconic puzzle cube invented in 1974. What in the world does this interview question have to do with measuring my ability to do the job in question? More than likely, the interviewer doesn’t even know the right amount of cubes that fit inside the plane, and probably doesn’t care to know. In reality the final answer isn’t so important; rather the interviewer is more concerned with how you got to that answer! This kind of question may be asked to gauge your problem solving ability and how well you deal with vague situations.

There are a lot of unknowns in this question, and that is the point. If you are presented with a situational question like this, clarify! Ask questions about the problem to help you better understand the answer you are about to give. Thinking “out loud” (sorry introverts!) in this setting will allow the interviewer a peek inside your thought process so they can follow along as you solve the problem. Remember, the math, and final answers may not always add up for this type of question and that’s ok!

Example:

You: Before I give an answer I feel is correct, I’d like to ask a few clarifying questions. What model airplane is this?

Interviewer: It is a Boeing 747.

You: Great, and could you tell me more about this 747? Is it fully loaded with passengers and luggage? How many seats does it have? Is it totally gutted and we are just filling the empty shell?

Interviewer: This 747 is totally empty. There is no luggage, passengers or seats in the plane. For this problem we are curious about how many cubes can fit in the hollow shell of the 747.

You: Perfect, can you tell me more about the cube? Is it a standard sized cube? Could you give me the specific dimensions of the cubes that we will be filling the plane with?

Interviewer: Sure, the Rubik’s Cubes are 3x3x3 inches.

You: Fantastic! So to summarize, we are assuming that this 747 is empty, with no people luggage or furnishings inside, and the volume of each cube is 27. With this knowledge, I my best estimate would be roughly 150,000 Rubik’s Cubes inside the 747.

And there you have it! Just remember that these types of questions are less concerned with the actual answer, but more about how you arrive at the answer. Happy interviewing!

Mike Ariale is the Assistant Director of Career Development & Social Media at Northeastern University. He specializes in disability employment issues, and works with many other diversity initiatives on campus. When not at work, you can find doing heavy bag work at the boxing gym, hanging out at the latest SoFar concert, or enjoying Boston’s foodie scene! Tweet him @CareerCoachNU

That end of the interview dreaded question…. Do you have any questions for us??

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Interview Questions

It would be easy to take this question literally, and think to yourself, I just want to get out of this interview, so you say “no, I don’t have any questions for you.”

Bad idea! You want to leave the employer with the impression you are the one for the job and that requires you to ask more questions!

Why does the interviewer ask this question?  To find out if you can step back from the long hours of interviewing and ask some broad processing questions. In a nutshell, the interviewer wants to know how you think.

This is a great opportunity for you to not only show them that you are a big picture thinker but you’ll also find out if your need to tell them anything more about yourself!

So, what are some good questions you can ask?

  1. Tell me more about the culture of the office or company? Or how would you describe the culture of the office or company? (You want to make sure this is the right fit for you too.)
  1. What are the opportunities for professional development? How do you develop your employees to take on more responsibilities?? (You are exploring advancement opportunities.)
  1. I read that your company is moving in X direction, or just made X acquisition; can you tell me more about that and how it might impact the company both short and long-term? (You’re showing them that you have done your research on the company.)
  1. What do you see as the greatest challenges for your company over the next 5 years? (Again, you want to learn more about the company.)
  1. Are there any special projects coming up that you’d want me to work on if I got the job? (You’re showing your interest in the job.)

And finally….

  1. Is there anything you need to know about me that will help you to make a decision?
  1. What happens next in this process? (You want to know the timing of their decision.)

Sharri Harmel works in career development at Northeastern University, acting as the liaison to the College of Engineering. She loves international travel, creative thinkers and good books, all with equal passion. Tweet at her about the article @careercoachNU!

Networking Essentials: What You Need to Know About Student Business Cards

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The Works- Student Business Cards pic

With July fast approaching, students are either finishing up or starting their co-ops and summer internships. However, one thing that never changes is the ample opportunity to network in events and coffee sessions- it is practically year-round. Well, we all know the usual ‘prepare your resume’ rhetoric, and we have tons of advice and articles on how to craft the perfect one. But other than that, is that enough to let you stand out among a horde of applicants, in say, a career-fair or a pile of applications? How do you fare against the Ivy-Leaguer next to you, or the genius student in other universities who got 4.0? Sure, it’s not about grades or the school you go to necessarily that gets you the job, you might say, it’s about how memorable you are, and how much of a connection you made with the recruiter or interviewer.

For striking a connection, sometimes it is by chance that you have something in common with that person, for instance background or interests. For the former though, it is something you can act on. Having a unique business card to present to recruiters/ interviewers, or just someone you are grabbing coffee with, can make a lasting impression. Plus, in a world of adults, swapping business cards is commonplace, and you don’t want to be ‘that’ networker who looks like they are still not ready for the workforce. With that said, what should you include in your business cards?

1. Basic Information

It’s no-brainer, include your name, school, and graduation year. Since you are still a student (and that should be your title), be sure to include your husky.neu.edu email address, but feel free to put down your professional sounding non-academic email as well. Whether or not you want to include your phone number is up to you, but my advice is leave it for the resume since the people who have them tend to be more serious about giving you an interview.

2. Online Presence Links on Social Media Platforms

If you have a personal website, LinkedIn, make sure to put the links there as well, as it gives potential employers a different dimension of you than just on a black-and-white piece of paper. Depending on your major, it might be relevant to include your twitter handle, online portfolio, or even tumblr. But caution against putting too much info that would overwhelm them. Be mindful that your card should evoke simplicity and professionalism. If there are things you want to add but can’t fit them on the card, put that on your website or elsewhere, they will dig more into it when they are interested.

3. Design and Format 

There should be a balance between getting creative and conservative. You want to stand out but more importantly make people take you seriously. There is no standard type of business cards as it really depends on your major and what kind of image you want to evoke. Many business cards companies let you personalize or even design your own brand, such as Moo, or Minted, and Tiny Prints. It only takes a few minutes to customize it, then you can start ordering it in small batches at a cost-friendly price starting from $20.

Lastly, handing out business cards to the right people and when to do so require etiquette and skills. Normally, at a networking event, you should hand it out with both hands to the other person at the end of the conversation, if you see the value in following up with them. Whereas, for an interview, it should be given at the beginning with the card facing them, and if he/she hands one to you as well.

Now, you are ready to go, make a lasting impression and forge useful connections!

Scarlett Ho is a third year International Affairs and Political Science major with a minor in Law and Public Policy. During fall 2014, she studied abroad in Belgium where she interned at the European Parliament. The summer prior to that, she interned for Senator Warren on Capitol Hill, and previously Congressman Lynch in Massachusetts. She can be reached at ho.sc@husky.neu.edu.

3 Summer Activities When You’re Not Looking For a Job (Yet)

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summer

The summer, especially the summer after graduation, can be a stressful time of networking and job hunting. But what if you’re not quite in the thick of it? What if you’re not quite looking for a job yet?

Maybe you already have an internship lined up for the summer, but you want to gear up for your next one. Maybe you’re graduating in December or May and you want a head start on your job search. While it’s probably too early to send applications or resumes, it’s never too early to set a strong foundation for your future job hunt.

  1. Go to meetups in your field. If you haven’t been to a meetup yet, it’s basically a group of people who live in the same area who meet up to talk about something they love. No matter what you’re interested in, there’s probably a professional association or at least a meet up group for that thing. After my sophomore year of college, I started going to meet ups for people interested in social enterprise and I met some incredible people. One of those connections led me to an awesome summer job. The best time to meet people and network is when you’re not looking for anything. No pressure, no time crunch, just time to meet people with similar interests and build an organic network.
  1. Read. Very few activities in this world will make you a more engaging person than reading. If making a summer reading list sounds daunting, just stop by a bookstore, find a section you like, and find one book. Just one. GoodReads is a great place to find recommendations based on books you have already read and loved. Filling your mind with new knowledge is a great way to spend a summer and get you prepared for interview season.
  1. Have coffee. Reach out to all kinds of people this summer. For most of us, asking someone we don’t know to get coffee is outside of our comfort zone. But the people you meet and the lengths you will go to exchange ideas and get to know someone will go so far during your future job search. If you have your eye on a specific company, find a few people on LinkedIn who work there and offer to buy them coffee. The summer is fairly relaxed in the workplace, so people have more time in their schedules to grab a quick cup. Because you’re not in the middle of a full-on job hunt, there won’t be any expectations or assumptions. No pressure, just coffee. Talk about their job and their interests and what they think your field is going to look like in the next few years. Whatever you want to talk about, the summer is a perfect time to make new connections. This summer, get coffee with someone new in your field twice a month. You will be amazed at the people you will meet and how it will affect your future.

The summer is a perfect time to set awesome goals – try something new. Go to a new class, learn a new skill, or just unwind from a busy few months. Take advantage of this rare downtime and you will be more than prepared to tackle the job hunt.

Lindsey Sampson is a junior International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Find her Tweeting at @lindseygsampsonand blogging about travel & career at http://moreawesomerblog.com/.

Changing your Life Plan (and why it’s okay!)

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Here it goes: I’ve had five different majors since I’ve enrolled at Northeastern University. Their range is from different concentrations of business to mathematics and the sciences. In case you’re curious, here’s the list: (1) Marketing (2) International Business (3) Business Administration (4) Mathematics and Finance and (5) Mathematics and Biology. It may have taken a year of switching around and being unhappy to determining what I love and want to do. At the end of the day, isn’t that what really matters?

You should be able to fall asleep at night comfortable with the decisions you’ve made. From an academic standpoint, I was having a crisis my first year. I was a business student, enjoyed what I was learning, but was not having that deeper connection and passion that I wanted with it. A year later, I made a switch to a completely opposite discipline: mathematics and biology.

So what was that process like?

In one word: stressful. If you’ve been in a position where you’ve had to change your major, I’m sure you can understand where I was for my entire freshman year. I was unsure, confused, and didn’t really know where I was heading. I felt as if I was a regular in academic advising. I was researching all different majors and careers at night. I thought about it for a few months, letting the idea of being okay with a complete mashup in my life plan. Then, it just clicked one day. Just like that, I knew I was unhappy and needed to do something about it.

I was dragging out the process. In all honesty, it’s scary being that unsure about your academic career. And I was scared to make the leap to switch out of business to the sciences. But I am beyond glad I did.

The best part: it’s 100% okay. If you’re unhappy with where you are going in your career, press pause. Think hard to find what is the cause of your unhappiness, and act on that need to be happy. You deserve to be happy.

So, if you’re thinking about making a change in your life plan, here’s a few tips on how to get the wheels turning, from someone who has been in your shoes:

Stay calm. Relax, drink a cup of tea, and take deep breaths. It is completely normal to ponder this and you are not alone in wanting to make a change.

Talk it out. Make an appointment to speak with your academic advisor or even an academic advisor of a major you are considering. Both ends will help you make the decision by educating you and providing you with more resources to consider and reach out to.

Be confident. Have faith in the switch you’re making. You’ll feel it in your heart when you are making the right academic switch. Yes, it is scary, but let your heart drive you to learning about what you are passionate about.

Photo courtesy of forbes.com.

Colette Biro is a 3rd year Biology and Mathematics major with a minor in Chemistry. She is currently on her first co-op in a biology lab at Northeastern working on transgenerational immunity in social insects. Colette is passionate about running, November Project and being a Husky Ambassador. Feel free to reach out to her at biro.c@husky.neu.edu.

What Running Taught Me About My Career and Success

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Image via Huffington Post

Image via Huffington Post

As I entered my twenties, two big things happened: I went on my first co-op and I started running. These pivotal moments shaped not only my career, but also how I perceive my successes and shortcomings. Luckily for me, my co-ops and my running have always seemed to be in tune together. They’ve gotten more challenging, more exciting, and more frustrating all totally in sync with one another over the last few years.

Going from my first 5k to half-marathons and now training for the big 26.2, running has given me lessons on how to achieve on the road and in the office.

Schedules Are Necessary

Raise your hand if you have ever, and I mean ever, said, “I just don’t have time for… X,Y, or Z.” I definitely have. But when you’re training for a race, you have to schedule your day out a week or more in advance. Life and work can’t go on hold just for you to get in that 5 mile run, so you have to plan. Writing things down in a planner works or put it all together in your Google Calendar.

By making time and making schedules, you can cut down on the time spent distracted or stuck in one project. Planned days and weeks will help you be mindful of importance and force you to prioritize your projects.

On top of day-to-day prioritization, schedules can let you keep the long-term goal in mind rather than keeping your head down stuck in the daily grind. The goals that may seem distant become far more motivating when there is a plan, schedule, and strategy on how to get there.

Not Everything Will Go According to Plan

As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, this was the hardest lesson for me to grasp. I would go out for a long run, not hit my goal paces, and come back grumpy or frustrated (but usually both). Talking amongst running friends, I discovered I wasn’t alone in these feelings. It wasn’t long before I drew the connection between how I felt after a bad run and how I felt after a bad day at work. The frustration wasn’t always because of what happened, but because it wasn’t in the plan.

Learn to let go of the things that go awry and run with the new direction. While you may see the whole picture as “bad”, take a few minutes to think about something good that is coming from it. Sure, it’s never fun to be in a less than ideal situation, but by breaking it down into a few good takeaways can help you to learn, appreciate, and go forward with the new direction.

Rest Days Should Be Restful

Whether it’s your legs or your mind, you have to let them rest. Your weekends and nights are yours! Or if it’s Monday night and The Bachelorette is on, turn your thoughts away from work worries and try to predict who’s getting the final rose. I’m a worrier, I don’t like taking time off from anything. But despite that, I learned that if I don’t take a day off from running, my workouts would suffer. Similarly, if I’m working or worrying even after I’ve left the office, my work the following days becomes sub-par.

Let your mind take a break from work and you’ll be able to return the next day fresh and able to attack problems with a sharper mind and new perspective. Sometimes we get too close to the work and too close to the problems. Taking time away can help you stand back and see it all from a new light. Rest days from the work world can not only feel refreshing for you, they can also help to bring about new ideas and energy each week.

Celebrate Success

The end goal is always the most exciting, but never forget the little successes along the way. Have a killer 2 mile run? Ride out that happiness! Learn something new that will make your workday easier? Have a little solo dance party! If you neglect the celebrations you owe yourself along the way to the big ultimate goal, you’ll lose your fire and joy in the project. But if you can take moments to appreciate the work you do, or the work others around you do, you can have a lot more fun in the process.

Tatum Hartwig is a senior Communication Studies major with minors in Business Administration and Media & Screen Studies. Tatum brings experience and knowledge in the world of marketing and public relations from her two co-ops at Wayfair and New Balance. Her passion revolves around growing businesses via social media, brand development, and innovation. You can connect with Tatum on Twitter @tatumrosy and LinkedIn.

Stepping Back: How to Troubleshoot Workplace Mistakes

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Taking-a-Step-Back

As someone who currently works in research, it involves a critical thinking, especially when something does not go as planned. I’m constantly asking the question of “why” to every step I take in my workday. But just because I work in a research lab does not mean that I’m the only one who faces this trial-and-error process: we all do.

For me, it means re-evaluating all my protocols, every last detail written in my lab notebook, and a lot of critical thinking of what may have caused things to go awry. It’s looking at everything super close-up to catch that one tiny detail that may have caused an error. However, it is more than just the details: it’s the big picture.

We can break everything we do down into its components, which may point us in the right direction of solving the problem. But if we are looking to troubleshoot for the future, it’s important to not only observe the details, but look at them in regards to it’s bigger picture.

Take a walk. Take a little escape from your workday. If you hole yourself up and delve immediately into what went wrong, there’s a good chance you are not going to see it. You might, but it’s going to be that little detail. Some fresh air, a cup of coffee (or tea), and just a different view for 5 minutes will give your mind a break so you can go back and troubleshoot with a fresh pair of eyes.

Ask for help. Someone who is not at all involved in your project may be able to give a different perspective on a problem. I tend to think of something in one way when a fellow colleague thinks of the same thing from an entirely different perspective because we are not working directly on the same project. It’s nice to have that different vantage point and someone else to think aloud with about both the details and the whole picture.

Get some paper and a pen. In a world full of technology, our computer, phone, tablet, etc. is our go-to for almost everything. But I find that when I’m faced with a error at work, it’s best to pull out paper and write down whatever comes to mind. That way, it’s written down and I can start to connect the details I’ve written down to formulate troubleshooting in regards to both details and the larger, connected picture.

Take a step back. Like I said earlier, I am detail-orientated. Recently, however, I learned to literally take two steps back and look at whatever I may be working on from that angle. It does give a new view and instigate new thoughts, as silly as it may sound.

Dealing with trial-and-error processes does not have to be dreadful. Find what works for you and go with it.

Colette Biro is a 3rd year Biology and Mathematics major with a minor in Chemistry. She is currently on her first co-op in a biology lab at Northeastern working on transgenerational immunity in social insects. Colette is passionate about running, November Project and being a Husky Ambassador. Feel free to reach out to her at biro.c@husky.neu.edu.

How Do I Answer This: Tell me about a time you failed.

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help me

Ahh, the good old’ behavioral interview question, the key to mastering interview prep is understanding why they’re asking you that particular question. What is the employer trying to get at exactly? If you keep that in mind, you can usually come up with a much better, more impressive answer. In this case, the employer doesn’t really care that you failed (everyone screws up sometimes), but rather how do you handle things when they don’t work out. They’re also confirming self-awareness, the ability to be humble and a little bit of your problem solving abilities here.

Like all behavioral interview questions, employ the STAR method to keep your answers concise. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Also, don’t spent too much time on the failure as much as you do on the reflection of why you think you failed and what learned/would do different next time. That’s really the important stuff the employer wants to know. Finally, try and pick an example that is professionally related, whether that is an example from co-op or an internship or even your part-time job. It tends to resonate more with the employer than a classroom example.

Example: A recent example is at my last co-op I was tasked with increasing out social media engagement by 7% across multiple platforms. To do this I brainstormed and implemented some really creative, out-of-the-box social media campaigns. To my disappointment, only one of the three really caught on and as a result I was three points shy of my 7% goal. My tendency is to dive right into projects, but what I learned from that experience is I should have spent a little bit more time researching our customer base and audience. I think a few relatively minor tweaks to the less successful campaigns would have really made a difference. I was sure to communicate this to my successor and had good, constructive conversation with my supervisor about this at my review. Looking back, it was a great learning experience for me as a young professional.

Kelly is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach. She is also the “blog master” for The Works. A self-proclaimed social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she likes experimenting with new technology to help clients define their personal online brand. Kelly graduated from Northeastern University (Go Huskies!) with a BA in communication studies and a MS in college student development and counseling. Tweet her @kellydscott4.

How to Make the Most Out of Your Summer

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DeathtoStock_Wired8

With summer classes mid-way through and spring co-ops left with about a month, college students’ minds are inevitably shifted to a long-overdue summer vacation. After a semester long of hard work, we all deserve a nice break, where we enjoy the warmth of sunshine and good company with friends — after all, post-graduation this will all be a luxury for young working professionals. But while it is important to have fun and wind down, college students should also be taking advantage of a summer when they have fewer obligations with schoolwork to make the most out of it.

Here are a few possibilities you can try to keep yourself busy this summer:

  1. Find a Summer Internship/Job

It’s a no-brainer that summer internships ensure career success after graduation. After all, isn’t what Northeastern’s co-op program is for, to make sure that Huskies graduate with ample work experience to get ahead in the game? Regardless of your co-op experience, an extra summer will give your future employers an impression that you are driven, ambitious and willing to learn. Plus, who wouldn’t want extra cash even if it is part-time? Or even if it is just a summer job, be it in a coffee shop, restaurant or a country club, the skills and experience that you will learn to be crucial to building your character and financial success.

  1. Travel

When scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed or Instagram pictures, it is not unusual to see pictures of friends traveling for fun, studying abroad, and doing a dialogue. After all, “life is a book and those who don’t travel, read only one page.” Moreover, travel is crucial for us to understand and make sense of the world around us. The experience, history, culture and the people we encounter will help us discover ourselves and appreciate people different from us. If you are really serious about it, many travel agencies and companies with great deals, such as EF College Break, TravelZoo, and Expedia might be good sources to check out. Moreover, with the vast amount of Northeastern alumni and friends across the globe, it is easy to get connected or even crash at their places so you can save money here and there.

  1. Learn a new skill

Have you ever get passed over for a co-op because you didn’t know Adobe Photoshop or excel? While soft skills such as communication and writing are important in the workplace, hard skills are equally important in helping your application stand out. Consider spending this summer taking classes on acquiring or polishing a new skill (or even mastering a foreign language). From publishing, coding, building a website, to learning Adobe Photoshop, endless online courses and tutorials are at your fingertips. All you need is just a willingness to learn!

And of course, don’t forget to relax and wind down, because you deserve it! Just remember: Work Hard, Play Hard.

Scarlett Ho is a third year International Affairs and Political Science major with a minor in Law and Public Policy. During fall 2014, she studied abroad in Belgium where she interned at the European Parliament. The summer prior to that, she interned for Senator Warren on Capitol Hill, and previously Congressman Lynch in Massachusetts. She can be reached at ho.sc@husky.neu.edu.

How Do I Answer This: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

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dont know what i'm doing

“Uhh, good question”: A great way to buy yourself a second to organize your thoughts, not so great when you actually don’t know the answer to the interview question. Every Thursday, throughout the summer we’ll tackle a hard-to-answer interview question as part of our Summer Interview Crash Course series on the blog.

This week’s question:  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

“Um, working here?” Well, yes and no. This question is really trying to gauge how much you’ve thought about how this job will align with your long term goals. It should also speak to your professional ambition as well as your ability to think about both the short and long-term. Even if you picture yourself running your own business or perhaps in the interviewer’s shoes, you can’t really say those things out loud. I’d still suggest being honest about your ambition, but focus it more on how this position would support your long term goals. You can keep you answers relatively general, but be prepared if they decide to push for more details.

Example: Eventually I would love to be leading my own sales team. Based on my research and from talking to others in the industry, *name of company* really invests in the career growth of their employees and many people who start off in this position eventually move into a more managerial role.

You could then ask the interviewer to expand on the career trajectory of this role, but it is likely that they will take the lead and agree with you and tell you some success stories.

Kelly is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach. She is also the “blog master” for The Works. A self-proclaimed social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she likes experimenting with new technology to help clients define their personal online brand. Kelly graduated from Northeastern University (Go Huskies!) with a BA in communication studies and a MS in college student development and counseling. Tweet her @kellydscott4.