Down at the Crossroads

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“Lifes Crossroads” by John Matlock

What do you do when you’re ¾ of the way through college and suddenly you’re not sure the major you’ve chosen is the path you want to follow?  Starting over and tacking on more years and thousands more dollars of debt is a very costly approach and still provides no guarantee.  Ducking into grad school until the picture becomes clear is even more costly.  How about another option?

Stephen Uram ’14 found one way.

As a mechanical engineering major, he was well into his degree track when he realized engineering wasn’t for him.  “I wanted to be an engineer when I took my first physics class and loved it.  I had a great teacher and learned a lot about process, prompting me to join the rocketry club and spend parts of a couple summers attending science seminars at Purdue and UC Berkeley. When I got accepted to Northeastern I was excited to become a mechanical engineer.”

The dream played out nicely for a couple years, as he loved his college courses and really enjoyed his first co-op.  After returning to classes and then heading out for second co-op, however, he started to realize maybe this path wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.  “I was doing more design engineering and really wasn’t seeing the why’s of the projects or using what I learned in classes on the job.  When I went back to class I realized I liked the project management side more than the engineering and got worried that I was in the wrong major.”

Fortunately, he kept a level head and researched career options that would allow him to parlay the engineering skills he had developed into a more project management-focused role. After doing some research and speaking with family, friends and career advisors he learned about Leadership Development Programs.  LDP’s allow new employees to enter a company and follow several tracks to learn about multiple areas of the organization to develop a well-rounded skill set and experience a more holistic career.  Programs last between 18-24 months and are broken into several 6-8 month blocks.

“When I got back to campus for my last semester I looked at which companies were coming to the Career Fair and looked for ones that offered a leadership program, preferably in a growing industry. I didn’t need a foosball table.  I wanted to be part of an industry that is growing and with a company I can grow with”  For Steve, this turned out to be Optum, a technology company under the United Health Group umbrella.

With healthcare costs on the forefront of the nation’s priorities, technology has become a major driver in mitigating costs and improving a damaged system. As a result, the demand for sharp college grads is very high and technology companies are progressively dotting the healthcare landscape. Through Optum’s Technology Development Program fresh grads are able to delve into several areas of the organization to develop skills and grow their professional network.  “I’m exposed to senior leadership quite often and my Navigation Coach has me organizing informational interviews with different people so I know what other parts of the company do and how it all fits together.“

“I was also able to use skills from my engineering background and apply them to the job.  Having worked on teams for class projects it allowed me to leverage resources each member of the group brings to a project and get the most out of everyone. I’ve also been able to use the problem solving skills from classes and co-op, along with time management skills, to balance projects and complete projects on time.”

Whether it be healthcare, finance, communication or human services, leadership development programs are available across all industries and can help kick start your career! If you would like to learn more about Steve’s experience and about other leadership development opportunities come to the Cultivating Leadership:  Leadership Development Panel and Networking Night, on Tuesday 10/07.

Don’t feel lost at the crossroads – come to the NU Visitor’s Center and get back on track!

Derek Cameron is a member of the Employer Relations team in Career Development and occasionally blogs on the in-ter-nets.

It’s Nothing Personal, Just Business

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This post was written by Derek Cameron, Associate Director of Employer Relations in Cooperative Education and Career Development.

It doesn’t take Luca Brasi or an ill-fated thoroughbred to successfully negotiate a job offer. As a matter of fact, most of the negotiating takes place from the first point of contact and candidates can improve their lot with just a little bit of homework.

“We’re going to invest a lot of money and time into this person so there’s a lot of risk involved”, says Brenda Mitchell ‘92, Senior Recruiter for Criteo, a Paris-based market leader in targeted online advertising, with a new office in Boston.  “When I’m talking with a candidate I’m looking for their value proposition, right from the first point of contact, so I know what compensation range they fall into. A student graduating college hasn’t really proven themselves in the workplace, like someone who’s been on the job for 2-3 years, so I look for the value they can bring in right from school. If I see a student has completed 2 co-ops or 3-4 internships I know they are going to take less time to ramp up and that’s important when bringing someone on board.”

When an employer picks up the phone or emails a candidate about an opportunity they’ve determined that there is value in reaching out to that person.  From that point on they’re trying to determine three essential qualities:

  • What skills and experience can the candidate can offer?
  • How quickly can they offer it?
  • How do they fit, personality-wise?

This comes in the form of a variety of tools such as: case interviews, behavioral questions, competency tests, team exercises or coding challenges. If a candidate has done their homework on the company and assessed their skills and experiences this goes a long way in making it a smooth process.  Making it even smoother is if the candidate has also done the necessary salary research.

“I like to soft-close the candidate along the way and will ask them up front what type of research they have done to evaluate themselves in terms of compensation.  If they state a number at the beginning that seems much higher than what the current range is I’ll ask them how they came to that figure and have them explain it in detail.”   If a candidate has done their homework ahead of time they should be able to provide metrics and specific examples to justify the number and in many cases this proves successful.

Considering the wealth of salary information available online it’s never been easier to run the numbers and get familiar with how much a position, in a particular market and company is going to pay, so by the time an offer is made there shouldn’t be any great surprises. Even if the employer hasn’t broached the subject in the first couple of discussions it’s still important to do that research early.

Another important takeaway in doing this, is it also gives the candidate critical insight about how the organization may values its employees.  If an employer makes an offer far lower than research indicates or the entire benefits package looks shoddy then it could be a reflection of what the company may be like to work for.  “A poor offer package is a good indication of a poor company,” shares Jon Camire,  VP of Risk Modeling at Unum Group, a Tennesse-based disability insurance company. “A company that values its employees is going to offer the best benefits it can so if you’re getting a competitive package then it’s a pretty good indication the company cares about its employees.”

If you’re going through the interview process or think you’re about to receive an offer don’t forget that Career Development is also here to help you.  Feel free to set up an appointment with a career advisor or if you’re pressed for time come on in during walk-in hours.

Just remember:  It’s nothing personal, just business.

Derek Cameron is a member of the Employer Relations team and when he’s not helping develop jobs then he’s either out walking his dog or working the grill.

“There Are No Dumb Questions Here”

How many times have you sat in an interview and swallowed a question out of fear it may be the dreaded “stupid question”?   Wouldn’t it be nice to run a few of those by an employer knowing there’s nothing at stake?  Just once?  Well, you may be in luck!

step brothersCopyright: 2008 Columbia Pictures

Career Development has been offering the Employer in Residence program for several years, providing students the opportunity to meet with professionals in an informal setting. They are encouraged to share their apprehensions about interviewing, the job search process and posing those tricky questions they aren’t sure are appropriate to ask during a formal interview.   “It’s like a webinar in that students get information without getting tested on it afterwards,” shares Ezra Schattner ’93, New York Life agent and current Employer in Residence.  “It’s fun for me when students come in and have some good questions like, ‘I don’t know what to say when an employer asks me about a weakness.” (Tip: Repackage the question so references an area for development that complements a strength)

“When I’m interviewing a new candidate, I’m hiring for technical skills, but I”m also hiring someone who can be a fit within the culture of the group and company.  I want a student to ask themselves if they’re going to be in a position they’ll appreciate and grow in it.”

Thuy Le, recruiter for City Year, loves when students ask the “Day in the Life”  question, what motivates her every day and what challenges exist in her role or at her organization.  “I remember attending networking opportunities during my undergraduate years and feeling nervous about it.  ‘Networking’ is often associated with being aggressive and being out of people’s comfort zone.  I learned to understand that it’s simply having conversations and obtaining as much information as you can, and that employers want students to talk to them and ask questions. I always try to paint a realistic picture of what their experience will be like in City Year, because like all employers, we want to find the right people who will be the best fit.  I would also encourage students to relax and be themselves – we want to know the real you!”

Both Thuy and Ezra will be taking part in the Employer in Residence portion of the Senior Career Conference as well as also hosting hours throughout the semester.  If you’re looking for another voice to assuage your concerns and dispel some of the mysteries about the working world, head over to Stearns on Thursday, 1/23 or check out the programming calendar for upcoming dates.  Match Education, Peace Corps, Raytheon and Shawmut Design and Construction will also be on campus throughout the semester so be sure to come on by!

Derek Cameron is a member of the Career Development Employer Relations team and always looking for new ways to bring the employer’s voice to campus.

Rip van ‘Tastic: A Tasty Startup in San Francisco

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Rip van Wafels in action!

This post was written by Derek Cameron, an Associate Director in the Employer Relations Department of the Career Development office. He recently interviewed upperclassman Arun Basandani who is currently working in San Francisco at a “tasty” startup. 

The thought of moving to the West Coast and working for a startup is either a brave or crazy notion, depending on who you are, but that is exactly what Business major, Arun Basandani ’15, did when he embarked on his first co-op with Rip van Wafels, a San Francisco-based food company.

Founded in 2009 by Amsterdam native, Rip Pruisken, Rip van Wafels has sought to revolutionize how Americans enjoy their coffee time by bringing a piece European culture into the home and office with stroopwafels, a popular Dutch caramel-filled wafel.  The wafels are set atop a mug with the steam heating up the creamy filling. Because it takes a few minutes for the steam to warm the filling it creates a natural break, something that Pruisken hopes will provide everyone just enough time to slow down and enjoy their day.

As their Business Manager, Basandani helps execute their nationwide expansion strategy.  He has been involved in the planning and execution of an array of business verticals including:  sales, operations, finance, R&D and marketing.  “I made a deliberate decision to do my first co-op with a startup and I’m glad I did.  Every day is completely different from the day before, which makes this job interesting and exciting.  I have the ability to do work that actually has an impact and is relevant to the company.  It gives me the chance to be part of something that is fundamentally changing consumer behavior in the US and beyond.”

As far as choosing San Francisco as a potential co-op destination, Basandani fully endorses it, “San Francisco is one the most exciting, beautiful and vibrant cities in America. I love travelling, meeting new people and seeing new places so I loved the entire experience of moving to an unknown place. San Francisco has a lively art, music and sport scene with delicious cuisines from all over the world. Apart from the expensive real estate and chilly weather, there isn’t much wrong with this city.”

If you would like to learn about opportunities with Rip van Wafels or to hear more about their company, head over to the Curry Ballroom and meet them in person at the Startup and Entrepreneurship Fair on Wednesday, 11/20.  They will be on hand from 12:00-3:00 p.m. and eager to meet with Northeastern students!