Finding an Internship Without Prior Experience

source: collegefashion.net

source: collegefashion.net

This guest post was written by Sam Carkin, a middler studying Marketing and Interactive Media. This article was originally posted on The Works on February 24, 2014.

The “real world” can be intimidating; especially when you’re just starting out. Sure, that first job as a house painter or bus boy is great for earning some money and learning to work with others, but I am assuming if you came to Northeastern you are looking to do something within your major. Northeastern is special in the sense that co-op allows you to work within your major prior to graduation, but what if you want some experience for your résumé before applying to that first co-op job? A summer internship right after your freshman year is an awesome way to go, and something I had the opportunity to do last summer with integrated marketing firm GY&K. Below, is some strategies I used for landing that internship where I gained experience in the marketing and advertising field before my first co-op (which will begin in July).

1. Network, network, network:  I visited a family friend who worked at a huge marketing agency called Arnold Worldwide. He had been in the industry a while and agreed to introduce me to an employee at GY&K, the person who ultimately offered me the internship. Ask your parents, ask your friends, find SOMEONE that works in your industry of choice and ask them if they know anyone that you might be able to talk to or work for.

2. Informational Interviews are kEY: OK, so I had been introduced to this person from GY&K, but what now? An informational interview is a perfect way to demonstrate professionalism and interest, while also learning a great deal from someone who knows the industry well. If it goes well, you have a better chance of possibly working for the person you speak with.

3. Have confidence: Going in to speak with an industry professional can be extremely intimidating; however, setting up informational interviews shows that you are genuinely interested in what that person does and see them as a successful individual in their field. They will be just as excited to tell you what they know as you are to learn, and it should be treated as a casual conversation during which you can make a great first impression.

4. Do not be afraid to ask: If your interview went well, at the end feel free to ask if that professional’s company has any opportunities for you to gain experience, or if they know of any other companies that might have these opportunities. It will allow you to possibly find that internship position, or continue to grow your network.

Sam Carkin is currently in his 3rd year at Northeastern University. He is a dual major of Business Administration-Marketing and Interactive Media and will be finishing up his first co-op this month. Feel free to contact him at carkin.s@husky.neu.edu with any questions related to the blog post or his experiences.

What I Learned in Spain

spainThis guest post was written by Christina Kach, an NU alum who holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Engineering and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management at NU. This post originally appeared on catchcareers.com and was re-posted with permission for the author. 

I recently had the chance to go to Madrid for a two week work assignment and I loved every minute of it. The new group of people I got to meet and work with, a new city to explore, a challenging new work assignment.  During those two weeks, I learned a great deal – both personally and professionally. Here are a few of my reflections from the trip:

Experiencing life – For a long time I’ve been a believer of getting out into the world, exploring, and going on adventures to experience new things. This trip to Spain was no exception. I got out as much as I could to see the city of Madrid. We can get used to our everyday lives and forget there is so much more to explore and spark a curiosity for life.

Getting outside your comfort zone – octopus, blood sausage, anchovies…those are just a few of the new foods I tried during the trip. Our comfort zone may be our happy place, where we feel confident and at ease but it is so much more fun and so much better for our learning, in life and at work, to go beyond. I believe that part of my rich experience of the trip was my willingness to try the new (my first go at espresso) and my new stories to add to my life (of that time I had my first espresso).

Being grounded – With so many fun distractions in an exciting city, it can be hard to concentrate. At times the trip felt a little like a school field trip and a little like a vacation, but I was still there for work. I still had to remain focused at the task at hand to be a good teammate and employee. For me, I just reminded myself of why I was there, to do a good job for my team and the team in Spain, and any extra time to explore was just a wonderful bonus. I also made sure I stayed healthy by working out, eating well, and getting sleep.

Appreciating other ways of life – In high school, my Spanish teacher taught us not just the language but about the culture. While I knew a little of the culture going into the trip, actually getting to live right in it was eye opening. I think this was the most interesting part of the trip and my favorite learning – seeing another culture and a new country. I hope I get to do more of this world exploring in my life.

You can survive without Wi-Fi –I had Wi-Fi in the hotel – so I was able to stay connected to family, friends, U.S. news and emails.  When I ventured outside the hotel – Wi-Fi no longer, I was on my own. That meant navigating the Metro, streets, menus, and everything else without having my phone available to check. And I was fine. I knew enough Spanish I was able to translate words, the metro map was easy, and the bus tour I took helped me recognize landmarks for navigation. It felt good to do it all on my own without googling every question that came my way. And it reminded me of when people actually talked out issues vs. just looking them up immediately.

Do you have any travel experiences that have enriched your life like Spain did for me?

Christina Kach is an Associate Consultant on the Continuous Improvement team for a financial services company in Boston, MA. Prior to this role, she spent five years at a Government Defense Company focusing on Lean and process improvement in a manufacturing environment, while also completing an Operations Leadership Development Program. Christina holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Engineering from Northeastern University and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management, also from Northeastern.

Christina invites you to connect with her via Twitter (@ChristinaKach), email (Cfkach@gmail.com) or at her blog for young professionals www.catchcareers.com

Image source: Selfemployedinspain.com

How to Work or Learn Remotely

laptop_park-18973In 2014, there is no longer a traditional classroom or workplace. One can write, design, interview, build, create, connect, trade, etc. from the comfort of their own home or in a coffee shop or hotel lobby behind a familiar laptop screen. University degrees can be earned without ever physically meeting a professor. While this may all seem daunting or exciting, structure is still necessary to be productive in a flexible environment and schedule.

1. Have the connection basics toolkit

This includes having at least two email addresses – one for school and one for work that you check regularly. Since no face-to-face contact is being made, email is the number one mode of communication and should be checked and updated multiple times a day. Install an email application on your phone so that emails can be sent and received when you’re on the go. A working cell phone number and Skype username are also two important tools to have to speak directly and conference call with multiple people if necessary.

2. Set up a designated space

Have a clutter-free area where you regularly return to study or work. This space can also be outside of your home if you can guarantee you can access that space regularly like in a library. If at home, utilize memo boards and post-it’s to create an organized and inspirational environment.

3. Follow a schedule and stick to it

The freedom that working or studying from home provides can be deceiving. With deadlines and online exams or assignments and no professor or supervisor to remind you in person, you could lose track of time. Designate a work day or time frame. For example, if assignments are usually due Sunday, promise yourself to work and submit by Friday. The balance of work and personal life is delicate in these situations as well.

4. Don’t forget to check in!

You can still participate in a community presence online! Take advantage of discussion boards when you have a question in class and post questions and interact with fellow classmates. Ask for help from co-workers or team up using many of the new applications out there that facilitate virtual transactions of work and knowledge like GoToMeeting. There are features like recording and the use of a planning board to give participants a truly interactive experience.

5. Take advantage of Lynda and Skillshare

Lynda is online software training available for free for all Northeastern students via MyNEU. Want to learn how to use InDesign but don’t want to take a formal class? Lynda is the way to go.

Skillshare is an online community where experts teach project-based classes in subjects as varied as marketing to guitar. Boost your resume with skills in design or pick up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try. Anyone can access the site for free and members can pay a small additional fee for unlimited and bonus access. Complement your current work or class with a new skill.

Angelica is a fourth-​​year nursing student with a minor in English hailing from New Jersey. She has studied or worked in all the major Boston hospitals. Angelica is also a columnist for The Hunt­ington News and enjoys writing creative non-​​fiction.

Image source: Virgin Entrepreneur; Nearly half of UK office workers can now work remotely

Company Holiday Parties: A Survival Guide

allow-apologize-advance-going-christmas-ecard-someecardsThis guest post was written by graduate candidate and full time professional, Kristina Swope.

It’s that time of the year where everyone’s full of joy, love, and gratitude. It’s a time to reflect on the last 12 months, be thankful, and let others know that they are appreciated. Considering you spend 40+ hours per week with the same people, why not share that appreciation with your coworkers at a holiday party?

It sounds innocent enough. You say, “it’ll be fun”, “I won’t drink that much”, or “I’ll be careful.” It always sounds like a great plan, yet before you know it, you wake up the next day and realize you sang Lady Gaga karaoke with your divisional leader in front of the whole company. You’ll hide under the covers in shame, convinced you can never emerge from the depths of cotton. You don’t realize there are more details coming Monday that will further shame you. For example, hearing that you stood in front of the artificial smoke machine screaming “HOOOOOOO!” a la Michael Jackson. It might sound amusing, but that’s only because it happened to me instead of you.

While it was fun, in hindsight, I wish I had just been a normal person at that party. Instead, I started off my career with embarrassing party behavior that will haunt me forever. Reason being, it completely changed the dynamic in the office afterwards with coworkers now seeing me as the fun, silly, goofy one instead of as a committed member of the team.

To prevent this from happening to you, here are a few a suggestions for surviving a company holiday party:

  1. Don’t “go hard”. If you’re old enough to have a big kid job, you’re old enough to drink responsibly and be aware of how much you can consume without making a complete fool of yourself. Excess consumption is just not worth the risk of saying something you won’t remember or being unsafe; stay within your limits.
  2. Don’t completely let loose verbally. Your coworkers don’t need to hear you swear 1,700 times or hear about super personal events just because you aren’t in the office. Remember that, despite the casual environment, you’re still with coworkers and need to keep that line of respect if you want the dynamic to be normal on Monday.
  3. Don’t sing or dance “seriously”. Just don’t. Unless you are the second coming of Adele or you are an adorably awkward dancer like Taylor Swift, just avoid it entirely. Chances are you think you’re doing way better than you actually are, and you don’t want to ruin a song for yourself by linking it to your corporate humiliation.

  4. Do thank your CEO before either of you leave. Company parties are not required. It’s extremely generous for CEOs to throw a party with free food and beverages for his/her employees, and it’s incredibly important that they are thanked by everyone for it. Just as we appreciate positive reinforcement, they should also hear how much their efforts are appreciated.
  5. Do get to know new coworkers. Whether they’re new to the company or just new to you, this is a perfect opportunity to get to know one another in a less buttoned-up environment. Mingling outside of your comfort zone makes the party more fun and overall more interesting – and who knows, you might even make a new friend!
  6. Do keep the buddy system. It’s a common assumption that because it’s a company party versus going out with friends that you can abandon the famous buddy system rule – this is not true! In fact, without friends you intentionally came with, it’s even more important that you’re looking out for one another. Always let a coworker you’re friends with know when you’re leaving the party and when you’ve gotten home safely, and ask the same of them.

Kristina is a full-time Market Research Project Manager in Philadelphia and a full-time student at NU pursuing a Master of Science in Organization and Corporate Communication, with a concentration in Leadership. Check out her LinkedIn profile here.  

10 Mistakes Millennials Make in the Job Search (and how to avoid them)

whoopsThis was originally posted on LinkedIn November 24, 2014. Re-posted with permission from author and NU alumna Alexandra Anweiler Stephens. 

This month, two recruiters from two very different industries visited our staff meeting to share their insider perspectives on hiring millennials. Katie Maillet, campus recruiter at Waltham-based Constant Contact, and Veronica Thomas, vice president of talent acquisition for commercial programs at RBS Citizens, discussed strategies for recruiting new talent in the digital age – from using social media to increasing diversity – and how we can better prepare our students for success.

I wanted to share the takeaways from this discussion more broadly, so I’ve compiled a list of 10 common mistakes that millennials make during the recruiting process – and how they can be avoided.

1. You don’t follow directions. The job/internship application is your first opportunity to show a potential employer what you’re made of, so read the instructions carefully! Usually, employers will require a resume and cover letter, but other times you may be asked to complete a project, respond to short answer questions or make your way through another screening mechanism. Read the job description and the application requirements thoroughly to avoid getting weeded out in the first round.

2. You don’t do your research. Rule of thumb: If the answer to your question can be found on the About page of the company website, don’t ask it. Recruiters talk to applicants all day long about their company, open positions, and why it’s a great place to work. Make their lives easier – and show you’re a serious contender – by doing your homework on the company, role and field/industry ahead of time. The company’s website, social media accounts and Google alerts are great places to find interesting information you can reference in your interactions. If you are invited to interview, request the names of your interviewers in advance so you can look them up on LinkedIn – you might find you have a connection in common. Another lesser known resource is Glassdoor.com, a growing database of six million company reviews, salary reports, interview reviews and questions – all shared by current and former employees.

3. You don’t update your privacy settings on social media. Millennials have grown up with social media and remember when it was used for only social purposes. Those days are long gone, and employers are doing their research, too. Despite the many warnings out there, employers still see negative posts about former employers, photos of candidates with red solo cups, and other no-no’s. Think twice about what you post on Facebook and Twitter, and don’t forget about other searchable platforms like Instagram, Vine and YouTube. Then take a few minutes to look at them through the eyes of a potential employer and adjust your privacy settings accordingly.

4. Your email address / voicemail greeting is weird. Your email address itself is a part of your professional brand. Keep it professional by using your college email address or creating an account through Gmail with your first and last name. Though so much communication happens via email, don’t forget about the phone. Your voicemail is also an important part of your professional brand and as such you should treat it with care. In your greeting, clearly state your full name so that callers know they’ve reached the right person. It may go without saying, but ring-backs are a no-no (yes, some people are still using ring-backs). One recruiter suggested using Google Voice to customize and manage your phone number(s), voicemail greetings and messages.

5. You hand out your business card at a career fair. Resume? Yes. Business card? No. This isn’t the worst mistake in the world, but many recruiters don’t want your business card. It is small, it gets dropped, and it is redundant if they already have your resume. Hold on to your business cards for networking nights and other professional events where dishing out your resume isn’t appropriate.

6. You do phone screens on the go. We’re all busy – and millennials are the consummate multi-taskers – but the line needs to be drawn somewhere. If you conduct a phone screen with a recruiter as you’re walking to class, they can hear you huffing and puffing on the line. And it’s never okay to ask the recruiter to hold because you’re getting another call (yes, this has happened). Your interviewer is dedicating valuable time to evaluate your candidacy. Show respect and interest in the position by giving them your full attention. If your mobile connection can be spotty, use a landline to conduct your interview. Many career offices have interview rooms that you can reserve for this purpose.

7. You sell yourself short in interviews. Unfortunately, this is particularly true for females. Our recruiters reported that women have a tendency to use “we” when describing their accomplishments, and men tend to use “I.” While it is important to convey your ability to work as part of a team, it is even more important to understand and communicate your individual contributions, responsibilities and accomplishments. One recruiter even suggested leaving phrases like “contributed to” and “collaborated with” off your resume.

8. You treat your recruiter like your new BFF. A recruiter often communicates with a candidate throughout the recruiting process, from first meeting at the career fair to making the job/internship offer (if all goes according to plan). These communications may be frequent – especially if there are a series of interviews – and the recruiter may coach you on what to expect at different parts of the process. This doesn’t mean that you’re friends, or that your interactions can become more casual as time goes on. Our recruiters have found that millennials tend to use slang in email and over the phone as they become more familiar. Instead of fostering a stronger relationship, it can lead to the opposite. Always err on the side of professionalism.

9. You don’t ask for your interviewer’s business card. As mentioned above, recruiters may tell you about next steps in the process, and are often open to answering questions you may have along the way. But there is one question they don’t appreciate: “What was the name of the person who interviewed me?” This is a big no-no, and is most certainly avoidable. When the adrenaline is rushing, it’s easy to forget your interviewer’s name. The solution? Always ask for your interviewer’s business card. You’ll need their email address to send them a thank you, too.

10. You forget to say thank you. Saying thank you is a must after every interaction in the hiring process, but which is better: email or handwritten note? Our recruiters recommend sending both, and here’s why. Email is the most efficient means – it arrives instantly, doesn’t get lost in the mail, and is easily forwarded to hiring managers and other influencers. Send an email within 24 hours to thank the interviewer(s) for their time and confirm your continued interest in the position. Be sure to reference an interesting anecdote from your conversation, too. While it may seem obsolete, a handwritten note as a follow-up to your email can set you apart from the rest. Our recruiters said that handwritten cards show that a candidate has gone the extra mile, and also serve as a subtle reminder to follow up with the candidate. Mail a handwritten note about a week after your interview, and use it as an opportunity to remind the recruiter about your candidacy and reference a new piece of information, like a recent article you read about the company. Because they are few and far between, our recruiters said they save these notes and even show them off to colleagues. Who wouldn’t want that?

Alexandra Stephens is the associate director of alumni career programs and engagement at the Hiatt Career Center at Brandeis University. Prior to her transition into higher education, Alexandra worked in marketing and communications at Rosie’s Place and Constant Contact. She graduated summa cum laude from Northeastern University with a B.A. in Communication Studies.

Image Source: UT Austin Career Center Bits, 3 Big Career Mistakes Millennials Make 

Be Thankful- 10 Jobs Worse Than Yours

I-hate-my-job-20It is officially the holiday season, a time to reflect on our blessings, be thankful and give back to the less fortunate. What does this have to do with career development you ask? What we do for a living directly affects our happiness and all of us are guilty of complaining about our jobs. Even people with “dream jobs” (I’m looking at you Giuliana Rancic) aren’t always happy and vent about the less appealing aspects of their daily duties. However, in the holiday spirit, whether you love your job/internship/co-op or not, take a moment and be thankful. It is likely your job isn’t that bad. In fact, there are a lot of less appealing jobs, which I’ve taken the liberty to list for you here.

Sherpa. Yes, you may love hiking but do you love it enough to die? One in every twenty Sherpas perish and the pay isn’t great either. We’re talking around $6,000 for the three month climbing period. Add that to the fact that you’re schlepping rich people’s stuff up 27,000 feet. No thanks.

Garbage Barge Skipper. Hope you can’t smell anything. You may love the water, but unless you’ve lost all sense of smell, be thankful you don’t do this. For that reason, everyday is unofficial “hug a garbage man” day.

D-List Reality TV Star Assistant. Maybe you think it’s pretty cool to hang out with the likes of Flava Flav, Bret Michaels and Heidi and Spencer Pratt, (you might get a free appetizer or something when your out in public), but would you really want to assist them? Didn’t think so. Also, what exactly are you assisting them with?

Road Kill Cleaner. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this. Nobody wants to touch anything that’s dead, never mind something that’s been run over by multiple vehicles.

Mall Santa. Yes, they make for some amazing holiday memories your mom likes to relive santa_tantrum300x447every Thanksgiving/Christmas around the dinner table, but being the Santa is a dirty job. There’s no worse feeling than having a baby/child actually frightened of you, not to mention the screaming, crying, drooling and squirming kid on your lap. Smile for the camera because you’re not miserable.

Driver’s Ed Instructor. Remember when you were in drivers ed? Remember how scared you were pulling onto the highway for the first time in rush hour traffic? Now imagine being in the passenger seat.

Revolutionary War/Civil War Reenactor. Disclaimer: Some people love this, but man, it is expensive. Your uniform (depending on the era) can cost upwards of $300 and no, the company does not foot the bill. Also, I hope you’re an early bird because the battle of Lexington and Concord started at the crack of dawn… literally.

The Before Guy. You know, the person in the commercials and infomercials that models what you look like before you try this miracle, diet/food/surgery/product. Say goodbye to your self esteem.

Restaurant Bathroom Attendant. Not only is this job slightly awkward (nobody wants to give a dollar to somebody handing you a towel you could have just as easily picked up yourself), nothing says horrible job like tending to people’s bathroom needs. Extra points go to those who work in night club bathrooms where there is a higher likelihood of debauchery.

Horse Poop Parade Cleaner. Probably not the official title, but none-the-less, the person who gets stuck cleaning up animal dung during the parade route. If you’re lucky maybe you land the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade gig where at least you’ll be on TV.

There you have it- so when you’re around the dinner table tomorrow giving thanks for your blessings, let’s not forget to be thankful that you don’t have any of the jobs above. And if you do, feel free to pop by career development, we can help you find something that will make better use of your transferable skills.

Happy Thanksgiving- have a fun and safe holiday!

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

Image Source: Someecards.com; Holland’s Jewelers blog

Actually Talk to Your Relatives- And Other Things You Should Do On Break To Help Your Career

sit on the throne of liesWith finals quickly approaching and the semester wrapping up, everyone is looking forward to the relaxation of winter break and more immediately, the mini Thanksgiving break. But before you melt into a puddle on your family’s couch watching three weeks of Netflix, winter break is a good time to catch up on some career-boosting stuff that gets pushed to the wayside during the craziness of the school year.

Before you click the “X” box, don’t worry, nothing I’m listing below will take too much effort, but can still make an impact on your career.

1. Actually talk to your family members. Yes, Aunt Sally can be super annoying, but wait, doesn’t she work in finance or something? Before she has too much champagne, try to get some information out her. Us career counselors would call that, an informal informational interview. If you’re interested in the corporate world, she may have people she can connect you with but just never knew you were interested. If she’s a yapper, think of an escape plan ahead of time so you’re not cornered for two hours listening to her after dinner’s over.

2. Set up an informational interview. I know, you hate networking. But it is a rare occasion that you have as much free time and flexibility, so why not take advantage of it? You can tap your immediate network (friends, family, parents of friends) or use LinkedIn to find somebody working at a company of interest and send them a LinkedIn message/email to see if they wouldn’t mind meeting you for coffee or setting up a 15 minute phone call. You could get some valuable information from a pro that’s already in the field. Good questions to ask would include:

  • “Could you walk me through how you got to where you are?”
  • “What are the qualifications/skills your company looks for when hiring co-ops/new grads?”
  • “Could you provide me with some suggestions of how I could stand out as a candidate?”
  • Check out our informational interview guide for more questions.

Don’t forget to send a thank you note!

3. Volunteer or Job Shadow. If you have community service roots, this may be second nature, but volunteering is a great resume booster, even if it’s just for a day or two over break. If you’re going home for break, find out if there are any community organizations or shelters looking for short-term volunteers. Idealist is also a great what to find volunteer opportunities. Employers are looking for well-rounded candidates and volunteering can help you out in that department.

If you had a great conversation during an informational interview, ask them if you could job shadow over break. This will give you an inside look into what the day-to-day life of that professional is really like.

4. Speaking of resumes, update it! Did you just finish co-op? Add your experience to your resume before you return to class, get expectantly busy and then forget all the great things you did. If you’re getting ready to go on co-op, use this opportunity to update your LinkedIn profile. It is likely your new co-workers will be investigating who you are, so not a bad idea to put out the best version of yourself online. We have a LinkedIn guide to help you build your profile if you need a little guidance.

5. Start your job search. If you’re graduating in May, it is NOT too early to start job searching. We have a job search guide to help you get started, but a few things you could do over the break include familiarizing yourself with the basic job search boards (HuskyCareerLink, indeed.com, simplyhired.com), update your resume, LinkedIn, portfolio and/or other social media and develop a target list of organizations you’re interested in working for. Excel is great for developing the target list. You can track job titles, when you applied and anyone you know/have contacted at every organization on your list.

6. Apply to jobs. To answer the question I know you’re asking yourself, no, it’s not too early to apply to jobs, even if you’re not graduating until May (if you graduated in December, there is no time like the present!). Newsflash: the average fulltime job search takes anywhere between three and nine months. The good old days of the co-op schedule are gone and you are now at the mercy of the employers’ schedules and they are very unpredictable (check out Avoiding the Pitfalls of Online Job Applications too).

If you see a job you love, apply now, even if you’re graduating in May. The employer has your resume and can see when you’re graduating; if they’re still interested then they’ll call you. If you’re really concerned whether or not you should apply, don’t be afraid to call the company’s HR department and ask. You don’t have to give a name, they’ll never know.

So after you catch up on House of Cards and have watched enough SVU that “call a bus” is part of your everyday speech, try and take advantage of your time off. You’ll thank yourself come April.

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

Image Source: knowyourmeme.com

5 Reasons You Should Work at a Start-up – And Tips For Doing So

green lighbulbThis post was originally published on The Works November 21, 2013. Zachary graduated in January 2014 and is still working full time at CustomMade.

This guest post was written by Zachary Williamson. Zack is a 5th year Comm-Media Studies Major. He recently accepted an offer from CustomMade as a Creative Associate for the Marketing Team. Zack also freelance as a photographer for the Northeastern Athletics Department.

While many people go on co-op looking to work for a large, well know brand, I encourage people to consider smaller, less established, start-ups. These kinds of companies tend to be a good fit for self-motivated people, or someone who wants to work in a fast paced environment.

For my second co-op, I was fortunate enough to be hired at CustomMade.com, a start-up that had already secured some venture capital funding, and had been a member of the marketing team during a time of incredible growth. Every co-op is a different experience, but if you want to try something less traditional, a start-up is the way to go.

1. Work at a start-up for at least one co-op.

Working to build a company is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have early in your career. Working at a smaller company means that you are making a far greater impact because you make up a significant portion of the staff. It also means that you have to be flexible, oftentimes wearing many “hats” or serving multiple roles, depending on the needs of the company. That said, you will most likely have a lot of skills to leverage and market when looking for your next co-op, considering you were both the HR and IT assistant.

2. Be ready to make mistakes, and own them when you do.

Part of working at a start-up is building something new. Depending on the field, it’s possible that a company is the first to ever attempt something at a particular scale or in that way. Being cutting edge means you’ll inevitably make mistakes, both personally and as a business; and you’ll most likely make a lot of them. Learn from and take ownership of your mistakes to avoid them in the future. But don’t let fear of making mistakes prevent you from… (see #3).

3. Take risks and force yourself to learn new skills.

One of the co-founders of CustomMade told me they would rather a project fail, than not push it far enough or try at all. Trying out new projects makes you more versatile–and versatility is one of the best skills you can bring to a start-up. Specialization is important, but don’t allow yourself to settle into a comfort zone. All co-ops should be about seeking new opportunities, but small companies in particular have more work than they have employees. Stepping up to a task, and then figuring out how to complete it, will make you that much greater of an asset to the company as a co-op, and a more appealing full time hire in the future.

4. Start-ups move quickly– very quickly.

Most start-ups have limited funds to operate, so they need to be incredibly agile and quick to try new ideas. While it’s all well and good to work out how to complete a task, many are time sensitive. Start-ups have to be quick to adjust and find a viable solution if something isn’t working. Things have to change quickly in order to conserve funds, and sometimes projects have to be abandoned in order for this to happen. This leads into my next point, that…

5. Start-ups don’t have room for egos.

Since speed is critical for a start-ups’ survival, they need to build teams of people who can quickly switch gears and go with the new flow of the company. A negative attitude won’t get you far, every challenge must be approached not with a “this won’t work attitude”, but rather a “how can I make this work, or work better” mindset.

Start-ups require a lot of work, but they can also be incredibly fun and rewarding. They force you to make incredible career developments because you have opportunities to do everything and anything. A lot of start-up culture revolves around the concept of work really hard, play really hard. If you like a new challenge every day and never want a dull moment, consider working at a start-up. It was the best decision I’ve made to kick start my career.

Zack has spent the last four years as a coxswain on NU’s Men’s Rowing Team, and is rounding out his final semester at NU as Comm-Media Studies Major, with minors in Cinema Studies & Production. He has co-oped at the New England Conservatory as a Video Production Co-op and at CustomMade as a Marketing Co-op for 16 months (he never really left). He recently accepted an offer from CustomMade as a Creative Associate for the Marketing Team. Zack also freelance as a photographer for the Northeastern Athletics Department. You can find him on the sidelines of a home game or on twitter @ZackWVisuals. (PS CustomMade is always looking for awesome people to join our team in Cambridge, MA, so feel free to reach out if you’re interested!)

Image Source: AlltopStartups.com, Do You Have a Start-up Idea? 29 Questions to Determine its Viability

What I’ve Learned from Managing a Social Enterprise in South Africa’s Townships—And Other International Co-op Lessons

heart capitalOn Aug. 26, I boarded a plane destined for Cape Town, South Africa. Twenty five hours later I arrived at my new home for the next four months.

A week later, I started my co-op at Heart Capital, an impact investment firm on the outskirts of Cape Town that manages a portfolio of social enterprises in local townships. So what have I learned so far from this incredible opportunity to learn about social enterprise management in one of the regions of the world that needs it most? Read on.

1. Printer ink, Internet access, phone calls, and meetings are luxuries—not necessities.

 

In Cape Town, I’ve realized that you can still conduct business without a formal corporate infrastructure in place—it’s just a little more difficult. No technology on site? Better make sure you bring everything you need with you. Deliverymen didn’t drop off your compost in the right place? Time to revamp the work schedule so that you can account for manually hauling your supplies to a different location.

 

Being innovative and flexible are essential in the social space—you often won’t find well-oiled business machines in under-resourced townships.

2. Sometimes, the needs of the business don’t go hand in hand with the needs of beneficiaries. And that can be challenging.

 

The difficult thing about managing social enterprises is that they don’t operate as for-profit businesses, but they aren’t nonprofit either. In this space, we spend a lot of our time wrestling with wanting to help people directly while still trying to progress the business. These tough decisions make this space incredibly challenging. What’s important is that you figure out the best way to cope with the situation. For me, I’ve found that leaving work at the office and exploring the area allow me to clear my head and face the challenges ahead. Figure out what gives you inner peace and capitalize on that.

3. Creativity is key.

 

When there isn’t a clear procedure on how to do something, that presents an opportunity for innovative thinking. Past and current interns have developed new systems for inventory management, sourced free materials from willing companies, and launched crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for supplies. Success in this industry—and especially in an international environment—relies on drive, creativity, and innovation.

4. Working internationally is different than working at home.

Sometimes you might forget that cultural norms you took for granted aren’t the same in other countries. Email may not be effective, the laws and regulations for donations may be different, and common words and phrases may not be present in your new space.

 

Like any new job, it’s important to take each lesson in stride. Sometimes, working in a different country can be frustrating and confusing. It may make you want to tear your hair out, find the nearest McDonalds, and try to un-block Netflix. But by using each experience as a learning opportunity, and then reminding yourself about the lessons you’ll be able to take home with you, you’ll survive—and, even better—thrive.

 

Sarah Silverstein is currently managing Heart Capital’s ongoing Indiegogo campaign to raise $15,000 USD to purchase a bakkie, or small vehicle, which will drastically improve the organization’s operations on the ground. Check out the campaign page to learn more about the campaign.

Preliminary Thoughts on Graduate School

gradSchool2

There are so many different types of graduate programs to explore once you have your undergraduate degree under your belt. It’s common knowledge now that graduate school education translates to higher earnings. If continued education is a goal you want to pursue, here are some thoughts to consider.

1. Part-time or full-time?

Consider where you are in your life and whether splitting time between work and classes is something you need or want. A lot of programs offer online degree tracks, part-time over a few years, or an accelerated and intensive 36-month option. Some won’t even consider you for admission if you don’t have at least a year of work experience. The timing of your degree completion could affect personal and professional pursuits in your life.

2. In what field?

A common misconception is that certain bachelor’s degrees lead to certain graduate degrees. That’s not the case at all. A Spanish major could go to medical school with the right pre-requisites and other admissions criteria. If you find your path suddenly changing after college, never fear, the possibilities and combinations are endless further down the road. Unique pairings like an MA/MBA or MSN/MPH could broaden your job opportunities and encompass a wider array of interests.

3. Where in the world?

The right graduate program for you may not be in the United States. The array of stellar schools in Canada, Europe, and elsewhere are too many to count and with resources like the U.S. News & World Report one has rankings on the best.

4. Exams

Usually the rule of thumb is that the LSAT is for law school, MCAT is for medical school, GMAT is for business school, and the GRE is for everything else. Each school is different and some may require one of these tests or any of these. Take advantage of free exams offered in the area like the ones Kaplan host. Dates/times of these free exams can be found on Career Development’s calendar. See where you stand before seeking professional tutoring.

5. Admissions criteria

Start thinking about that personal statement. Write a draft about everything significant that happened to you post-high school – academically, professionally, and personally. Evaluate your growth as a well-rounded person and start to craft the person you want be. Reach out to past mentors and employers on writing letters of recommendation. For portfolio requirements, gather your best pieces and work and compile your pride and accomplishments. Create a platform for yourself on who you are so far and where you plan on going next.

Angelica is a fourth-​​year nursing student with a minor in English hailing from New Jersey. She has studied or worked in all the major Boston hospitals. Angelica is also a columnist for The Hunt­ington News and enjoys writing creative non-​​fiction.

Image source: Salisbury.edu/CareerServices