Help, My First Job Is a Disaster!

raining

True or false: The major you choose in college will dictate what you do for your entire career.  Did you choose true?  Well consider this: a certain actor, prankster and ex-husband of an older woman majored in Biochemical Engineering in college. Would you have ever predicted Ashton Kutcher’s career from that major?

Don’t misunderstand: I am not saying that what you learn in college isn’t useful. It just may not be useful in the way you anticipated. Sure, in many cases the content of your major provides theories, facts and techniques that can be directly applied in the workplace. Often, that content is supplemented and enhanced on the job as a new employee is taught an employer’s way of doing things.  In many other cases, the content of what you learn is not as important as the skills you develop in the classroom and the lab, like critical thinking, logical writing, oral presentation or working on a team.

The same principle applies to your first job.  Obviously, it’s insanely great to be hired by your dream company for the perfect position right off the bat. But it is not a career-ending catastrophe when your first post-graduation gig is far from the ideal you envisioned.

Maybe another quiz will help make my point.  Consider the following list of jobs: Lion tamer, paralegal, congressional page, accountant, special needs teacher, mortuary cosmetologist, hair salon receptionist, high school drama teacher, party clown.

Who do you think held which job before the start of their “real” career? Christopher Walken, Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Gates, Ray Romano, Sheryl Crow, Whoopi Goldberg, Beyonce, Jon Hamm, Hugh Jackman.

(Answer: jobs are listed in the same order as the people who held them.)

It’s not too hard to imagine the transferable skills these rich and famous folks may have developed at their early jobs. Courage, patience, and humility come to mind; public speaking, relationship building, and detail orientation do as well.  After walking into a cage with a lion, or being responsible for applying makeup for a deceased person, a job interview might not seem that intimidating.

The reality for most new grads is that student loans are due, rent has to be paid and food put on the table. And even if you’re happy moving back to live with your family for a while, it’s a good idea not to leave a sizeable gap on your resume between your graduation date and your first job.  So don’t hold out indefinitely for the perfect job, and don’t stress if you need to take one that is second best.  Instead, challenge yourself to learn all you can while you’re there, even if your work wardrobe includes a red nose and floppy shoes.

Author Susan Loffredo began counseling NU students well before the iPhone was invented and owns socks that are older than the class of 2013. Email her at s.loffredo@neu.edu.

How to Thrive In an Introverted/Extroverted Workplace

image source: http://wildhairmedia.com/2011/10/30/introverts-vs-extroverts-who-benefits-more-from-social-media/

image source: http://wildhairmedia.com/2011/10/30/introverts-vs-extroverts-who-benefits-more-from-social-media/

This guest post was written by Jabril Robinson, a Career Development intern and graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program here at NU.

Personality is defined as “the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s unique character” (Psychology Today). Understanding one’s personality type is crucial, not only in adapting to a workplace environment, but also selecting a workplace to be a member of in the first place. One of the most common examples of personalities comes down to extroversion and introversion. Although these may be widely used terms, I’ve noticed in my experience that relatively few people actually understand what encompasses an introvert or an extrovert, and what essentially makes them different. If you are one of those individuals who find the subject to be perplexing (or just have a general interest), please read on!

Q: What is the difference between an Introvert and an Extrovert?

A: Introvert: Not surprisingly, introverts are re-energized by having “alone time”. Even when working with small groups of people, they can be quickly overwhelmed by unfamiliar situations or surroundings. Depending on the situation, a large crowd of people can be an instant red flag to an introvert. When it comes to work, introverts prefer to concentrate on one task at a time, and observe a situation (or group of people) in advance, before jumping in.

Careers that promote the strengths of introverts include scientists, writers, and artists. Famous examples of introverts include actress Julia Roberts, actor Clint Eastwood, host David Letterman, and author J.K Rowling.

A: Extrovert: Often referred to as “social butterflies”, extroverts make a living through social stimulation. They focus on elements of the external environment (in contrast to an introvert’s inner mental realm), such as the people on activities around them. Extroverts thrive in active, fast-paced jobs, such as sales, teaching, and politics, where skills such as adaptability, problem-solving, and quick decision-making are critical. Extroverts learn firsthand by doing, and prefer to talk through ideas and solutions. Multitasking is an extrovert’s bread and butter.

Famous examples of extroverts include Oprah Winfrey, President Barack Obama, actor Tom Hanks, and former NBA player Michael Jordan.

Q: Are there misconceptions regarding Introverts or Extroverts?

A: Indeed! For instance, shyness is a trait commonly used to describe introverts. Firstly, both introverts and extroverts can be shy. Shyness is essentially a feeling of uneasiness of anxiety experienced in social situations. Here’s the key difference between shyness and introversion: while introverts prefer less social stimulation, shy people often desire social interaction, yet avoid it for fear of being rejected or criticized. Boom! Introverts rejoice!

A misconception involving extroversion is that all extroverts are loud, annoying, and talk too much. While this may be true for some individuals, not all extroverts are such. Extroverts simply prefer to think out loud, whereas an introvert may do more internal thinking before speaking–just a style difference.

There are several other misunderstandings when defining introversion and extroversion, which brings me to my next point….

To be a successful employee, it is crucial to understand not only yourself, but also the personalities of those around you in the workplace. Issues can arise when introverts and extroverts interact. Introverts may see extroverts as bossy, while an extrovert may see an introvert as shy or withdrawn. Whether an introvert or extrovert, here’s some advice that may help you understand what is going on across the fence:

What extroverts should know about their introverted colleagues:

1) If we need alone time, it is not because we don’t like you, rather because we need it–don’t take that as a personal insult.

2) If you want to hear our opinion, please be patient. We aren’t in a rush to speak up–we know we will have our turn eventually.

3) We are not lonely people, but we are choosy about who we associate ourselves with. If you try to turn us into extroverts, you will not be one of those people!

What introverts should know about their extroverted colleagues:

1) If we try to get you to loosen up, we aren’t doing so to annoy you. Honestly, we mean well.

2) If you are struggling with small talk, we can help with that–it is a useful skill, whether you like it or not.

3) We are not all the same–just like introverts. There are extroverts who have a quiet side too–you just have to keep an open mind.

Not sure where you fit on the extroversion/introversion spectrum? Set up an hour-long appointment with a counselor in the Office of Career Development! Utilizing personality assessments, we can help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, and what career paths may best serve your abilities.

Jabril Robinson is a Career Development Intern at Northeastern University. He has a growing interest in personality assessment, such as Strengthsquest, True Colors, and several others. Currently enrolled in Northeastern University’s College Student Development & Counseling Program, Jabril seeks a Master’s degree within student affairs. Send him an email at j.robinson@neu.edu!

What day is it? I haven’t slept in 4… Tips for Surviving Graduate School

carletonnow carleton ca comic re Grad School

I had this delusion when I entered graduate school that it would be similar to college. Mid-morning naps, late nights filled with cheap beer and equally bad pizza, all-night cram sessions in the library with friends… oh boy was I mistaken. Although some similarities did exist (I’m referring to cram sessions and cheap beer here), graduate school required a lot more self-discipline, drive and focus than I remember ever having as an undergraduate student. Compiled below are pieces of advice from myself as well as other former and current graduate students in my social network.

  1. Don’t procrastinate/Get your stuff done. This one came up multiple times and I can certainly attest to it. If you’re a procrastinator, for the sake of your sanity, you may want to rid yourself of that quality for the next two years (or however long you plan to be in graduate school).  Many classes base your final grade on just a few large projects/papers and that whole “extra credit if you go to the school play thing” does not exist. Schedule in the time to do your assignments, get into a routine and buddy up with a peer- it keeps you accountable. Sadly, there is no hand holding in graduate school.
  2. Be responsible and realistic. Yes, I know this is very vague, but this applies to many things that have to do with grad school and life in general. For example, be responsible and realistic about your financial situation. Create a budget (trust me this is not my strong point), it would really stink to just run out of cash when you need to buy that book or make a payment on your credit card. Understand your loan situation and don’t be afraid/intimidated to ask questions, it will save you a headache and lots of money in the long run. On a related note, take charge of your schedule and credits- don’t rely on just your advisor. If you’re interested in going abroad (as I did) or taking a class at a another university make sure you have your paperwork in order and that you’ve cleared this with the appropriate offices. This is your education, take control of it!
  3. Stay positive. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and down on yourself. At one point I was working up to 60 hours a week, attending classes four nights a week and still had homework and a fiance to tend to (he did not see me much).  If you asked me now how I did that, I honestly have no idea. Blind ambition would be my best guess. I was, however, determined to maintain control of my schedule so I could at least attempt to budget my energy and time well. In the end, my saving grace was my peers and the certainty that this would all be over  in “insert-number-of-days-here.”
  4. Take time for yourself. This was definitely the most popular tip I got from my network. Grad school is HARD, especially if you’re working full time, completing practicum hours, serving on professional boards (something else I would highly recommend but I’ll save that for another post- along with the importance of developing and maintaining a network) interning and teaching. If you don’t take time out to just chill, your head is most likely going to explode, or you’ll have random crying outbursts triggered by spilled coffee—yes this happened to me. Even if I was exhausted after class on Thursday, I tried to muster up the last bit of energy I had at least every two weeks and go out for a drink with my classmates. It was fun to commiserate with each other and I developed lifelong lasting relationships with many of them.

grad school someecardIn the end, looking back, graduate school wasn’t too bad and- dare I say- it was even nice to be a student for a short time once again. Although I won’t lie, every time I stumble upon my final portfolio—I wince a little.

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.

Why Networking is a Lot Like Dating: Let’s Go Steady

Image source: tower.com

Image source: tower.com

So many of my clients have heard that networking leads to a job, but still many of them don’t understand how. My last four posts got down to the nitty gritty of networking and how the etiquette is similar to dating somebody new or making a new friend. So what happens next? Sometimes something great and sometimes nothing comes from it. Similarly, you go on a couple dates, and initially it’s great and then it kind of fizzles over time. So why do all this work if there’s a possibility that nothing happens? Because, like dating, it’s a necessary evil to secure something long term.

So what happens when it does lead to a job, what does that look like? It can take many forms and you could be the initiator or you contact could, but it’s always beneficial to be proactive. After that initial conversation or two, keep checking the company website and reach out when you see something that you’re interested in. You can frame you language to sound something like:

“Hi Amelia, I hope all is well with you. You gave me some great advice and insight a few months back and as you instructed I’ve been checking the company website every few days looking for entry level positions that fit my experience.

Something just opened up in auditing and I was writing to see if you had any insight on the position or could connect me with somebody who did. I am eager to get my application in, but I want to make sure I’m an attractive candidate. Thank you for your help.”

Amelia will hopefully write back with some advice and say that she’ll “put in a good word for you”. This generally (not always) guarantees that the hiring manager will at least give your application a closer look. You’re one step closer to “going steady” with that company. It’s important to recognize that despite all your networking, the job may just not be a good fit for you, but at least you got a shot. In many cases however, it tips the scale greatly in your favor.

The best case scenario is that you’ve been keeping in touch with your network and a contact sees a position that, based on your conversations seems like a great fit, and reaches out encouraging you to apply. This will almost always get you an interview because it is safe to assume that you contact already sang you praises to the hiring manager.

Regardless of the scenario- the benefits to networking far outweigh the cons and the understandable “uncomfortable” feeling that comes with the process. Even if you don’t consider yourself a dating connoisseur, I’m confident you can master the simple rules of networking etiquette.

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.

You Worked There How Long?

This guest post was written by Tina Mello, a co-op faculty member in the College of Science and former Northeastern University Career Development Associate Director.

I worked for Northeastern’s Career Development office for over 11 years, before starting a new position this past February, working with biology students in the co-op program at Northeastern. In this day and age, it’s rare for someone to stay in one job for as long as I did. Taking a new job can be exciting and scary and energizing and nerve-wracking all at the same time, but especially for someone who’s been in the same job for as long as I had. Staying at the same University and already knowing some of my new colleagues made the transition easier, but it’s still an adjustment.

Things that you sometimes take for granted when starting a new job:

  • The people. Without question, Career Development is filled with AMAZING people who make wonderful colleagues – collaborative, creative, and dedicated to Northeastern students (there’s a reason The Princeton Review regularly ranks Career Development #1 or #2 nationally). I worked with some of the same people for 11 years – they weren’t just coworkers, they were friends. We had lunch together regularly, knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and knew the names of spouses/significant others/children.
    My husband's bird Kiwi- glamour shot!

    My husband’s bird Kiwi- glamour shot!

    Which isn’t to say we didn’t butt heads or sometimes drive each other crazy – that’s bound to happen when you see someone day in and day out. My new colleagues are great, but we’re still a relatively unknown quantity to each other. I’m still learning people’s quirks and personalities, and sometimes I have to explain my sense of humor or perspective. Though it does also mean I have a new audience for stories about my husband’s Amazon parrot Kiwi and how crazy she can be…

  • Space and location. I was settled into and comfortable with my own office. I knew where everything was, whether it was the bathroom or employer gifts or paper to refill the printer. It’s been 5 months since I moved into my new office, and I still don’t remember where I put everything. And have you ever been to Mugar? Some days I walked in circles trying to find my office. It took me months to figure out which building entrance was closest, and then they shut down that entrance due to construction. Ugh. It’s not a big deal per se, but these kinds of things can be disorienting and slow you down.
  • Knowing how to do your job. I was a core member of an experienced group of staff in Career Development, and was sought out for my knowledge in particular areas, such as the social media for the office. I knew my job well, and I had a rhythm going. Now I’m the one asking all the questions and wondering how I can make a direct and immediate contribution to the group. My skills with resumes, cover letters and interviewing are easily transferable to my new position, but I’m also learning how some of these things vary in the context of co-op, and more details about policies and procedures. I’ve collaborated with alumni and employers when doing programs for Career Development, but I’m new to job development and relationship management, and rely on my colleagues for strategic advice. It’s not unusual to take 6 months to a year to completely settle into a job, especially with something as cyclical and time sensitive as co-op – I haven’t seen the cycle through from start to finish yet.

Adapting to a new job has its growing pains, but it’s also exciting. Learning new things is a challenge, but it’s also energizing, and is what motivated me to change jobs.

For additional tips on adjusting to a new job, read this post from my favorite blogger, Alison Green, writer of AskaManager.org.

Tina Mello is now a Co-op Coordinator for the Biology program at Northeastern, having left Career Development in January. She’s currently busy deciphering phrases like “in vivo” and “assays,” and trying not to get lost in Mugar.

Northeastern Career Services Ranked #1 by Princeton Review

No one hearted his co-op more than Spencer Small (left), who was hired by Amazon after an eight-month co-op stint there.

No one hearted his co-op more than Spencer Small (left), who was hired by Amazon after an eight-month co-op stint there.

All we can say is: Thank you, Huskies! The annual Princeton Review Col­lege Rank­ings came out Monday and ranked Northeastern Career Development #1 in the country for “Best Careers Services.” For seven con­sec­u­tive years we’ve been ranked in the top four in the U.S., including four years at No. 1! What makes this such an honor is that it is the students that determine the ranking.

While many grad­u­ates begin their pro­fes­sional careers after grad­u­a­tion, most Huskies start their first co-​​op sopho­more year and can have three pro­fes­sional expe­ri­ences under their belt by grad­u­a­tion. That said, it’s no sur­prise that 90 per­cent of them are working full time or in grad school within nine months after grad­u­a­tion. And 51 per­cent of our grad­u­ates receive a job offer from a pre­vious co-​​op employer.

To under­score a little fur­ther how valu­able the co-​​op expe­ri­ence is, 87 per­cent of those working full time after grad­u­a­tion are doing some­thing closely related to what they studied.

North­eastern is all about inte­grating class­room learning and real-​​world expe­ri­ence. And we pride our­selves on giving our stu­dents the help and resources they need to build suc­cessful careers and become global cit­i­zens. And it’s also nice to be recognized.

Keep Calm and Body Language

Image Source: http://www.quickmeme.com/

Image Source: http://www.quickmeme.com/

This guest post was written by Mike Ahern, a Northeastern University Career Development intern and graduate student studying higher education at Salem State University. 

Body language; it’s important. Stepping into the hiring manager’s office, shaking his/hers hand and sitting down you have an invaluable opportunity to impact your chances of landing the job. Whether those chances increase or decrease is entirely up to you and how you present yourself. Below you’ll find a few simple but effective ways to leave a lasting impact and project your brand as a potential employee. Let’s talk body language strategies.

Smiling: Too often candidates will miss this incredibly easy way to leave a lasting impact on the hiring manager. Due to the gravity of what getting a job “means” sometimes candidates will approach the interview in a very serious manner, which is understandable. But consider this; would you want to hire a candidate who’s stuck in Blue Steel mode during the interview? (…yes that was a Zoolander reference, you’re welcome…) Smiling can convey a variety of messages in our society not the least of which can be confidence, calm and last but not least a friendly demeanor.  Studies have even shown that smiling can greatly affect your self-perception, with more smiling leading to a happier psyche.  Also keep in mind it’s impossible to smile 24/7. Ever have to stand for a photo and keep smiling through multiple takes? Not the most comfortable feeling in the world, it’s ok to stop smiling or display a neutral facial expression. Just don’t frown your way through the conversation.

Posture:  Job interview or not, you should sit up straight. For a variety of reasons correcting bad posture will work wonders for your overall health. As far as body language is concerned, slouching or other displays of poor posture can negatively impact a hiring manager’s impression of you. More often than not leaning back or slouching down can portray boredom or disinterest. Conversely leaning too far in can crowd the interviewer and possible invade their personal space. Try to settle for a happy medium with a straight back and attentive expression. Sit up in the seat and position your feet evenly apart in a comfortable manner. Also pay attention to your arm position. Don’t cross your arms as it can imply that you are uneasy or closed off. Understanding the impact of posture on body language can go a long way to projecting your brand as an invested potential employee

Eye Contact: In Western culture eye contact is an important part of any conversation. It can portray respect, attentiveness and understanding. Equally important, it shows the hiring manager you can focus on the task at hand. Making eye contact and following the conversation is vital. If you are distracted and taking time to consider the generic artwork on the walls, chances are good you’ve missed an opportunity to connect with the interviewer or even worse, missed a question. Similar to the concept of neutral posture, there is a fine line between too much eye contact and not enough. Intently staring at the interviewer without breaking eye contact can be seen as aggressive or, quite frankly, awkward. On the other hand shifting your eyes back and forth between the interviewer and the floor isn’t a good look (pun intended). Consider following along with conversation, frequently making eye contact with the interviewer while briefly breaking eye contact to consider a point or take time to think of an answer.

Ultimately there are hundreds of body language strategies to subtly impact your chances of landing the job. These are three simple yet often overlooked aspects of body language that can portray an invested potential employee. Another thing to consider is that if you are an NU student or alumni (which you probably are if you’re on this blog) log into Husky Career Link on our website www.northeastern.edu/careers. Navigate to “Interview Stream” at the bottom of the home page. Here is a tool provided at no cost to current and former Northeastern University students where you can literally film yourself during an interview then reel back the tape and take in how you present through body language. After all, keep in mind that only you can prevent frowning, poor posture and a lack of eye contact when interviewing for a position.

Mike Ahern is a Career Development Intern at Northeastern University in Career Development. Currently he is pursuing a graduate degree in Higher Education in Student Affairs at Salem State University. Connect with Mike on LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikeahern1 or on Twitter @MIkeAAhern 

Why Networking is a Lot Like Dating: The Courtship

image source: comefillyourcup.com

Old School Courtship image source: comefillyourcup.com

Courtship [kawrt-ship, kohrt-

noun

  1. the wooing of one person by another.
  2. the period during which such wooing takes place.

In other words: the period of a time you spend dating, trying to figure out whether or not you think that the relationship will go long term. The courtship is the most exhilarating and exciting part of the dating timeline, but it can also be filled with confusion and anxiety. Similarly, when trying to cultivate a networking relationship with a dream employer, it’s difficult to navigate the social niceties without shooting yourself in the foot.

Let’s go back to the dating example. It’s the day after a successful first date; there was great conversation, delicious food and most importantly, a connection. You sent a text that night saying that you had a great time. Now what? “Should I call him/her? Is it too soon? What if they think I’m annoying?” Not surprisingly, these are similar to the questions I get from clients after they have a successful informational interview. “When should I follow up? Will they think I’m annoying? I don’t want to come off too needy.”

Since my last post, we know that the first step to keeping the networking relationship alive is to send an email thanking the person (scroll to the bottom of the link) for their time and citing conversation bits you found especially helpful and/or interesting. I would also suggest including a closing sentence that says you’ll update them on your progress over the next few weeks/months. Like dating, it’s easier and feels less awkward to follow up with somebody when you have a reason to and it confirms that you were actively listening at the meeting.

Dating example: “Hey Kelly, Are you free Thursday night? You said you love 90’s movies when we met and they’re playing Terminator 2: Judgment Day at the Hatch Shell, want to go?” Why yes, mystery man, I would (but seriously, I would).

Networking example: “Dear Amelia, Thank you again for taking the time to talk to me a few weeks back. I took your advice and followed up with Fred in accounting. He gave me some great insight on how to navigate the finance job market at some of the larger firms and much of what he said complimented the advice you gave me. I’ll be certain to keep in touch with you as I continue my job search and I appreciate all of your help thus far. If you have other suggestions for me or hear of an opportunity that may be a good fit, I’d appreciate it if you kept me in mind. Thanks again!”

While the thank you email should be sent within 24 hours of your initial networking meeting, your follow up is dependent on you. If you met with Fred just a week after meeting with Amelia, it’s fine to follow up with Amelia after speaking to Fred, and in fact, I’d highly suggest that you do, even if it’s only been a week. Use your common sense and just don’t be a stalker. Follow up with Amelia in 4-6 weeks after your Fred email to update her on your progress from there. It doesn’t have to be a long email, just a short, check-in.

Image source: www.condenaststore.com

Image source: www.condenaststore.com

Although it may seem slightly redundant and simple, following up is the most important part of the networking relationship for a few reasons. First, it keeps you fresh in their mind in case something opens up or if they hear of anything elsewhere that they think you’d be a good fit for. Second it demonstrates politeness and professionalism. Now that you’ve had a solid conversation and a of couple email exchanges, they’ll feel more comfortable vouching for you. Finally, it gets the person to care, even just a little bit more, about your career. People generally like the feeling of helping out somebody else- thanking them and following up confirms that they were helpful. The goal is to get them invested in your career so you have them as a lifelong contact. Amelia is probably feeling pretty good about herself at this point.

All in all, the key to the courtship phase of the networking/dating relationship is to follow up! Just use your common sense and don’t be rude about it. You wouldn’t ask somebody to be your boyfriend or girlfriend without going on multiple dates first, so don’t expect that your contact is going to go out on a limb for you and hand you a job right away. Like any relationship, it takes time to foster and grow. Your network should serve as an information resource and it’s important to be patient and know that not everything is in your (or their) control when it comes to the job market. Embrace Forrest Gump-esque serendipity and know that most people are willing to help, but you need to do the work.

Going to the chapel and we’re going to get married. Final post of the series next week: Let’s Go Steady.

How have you followed up with your networking contact? Has anyone ever connected you to somebody that’s helped land you a full-time position or internship?

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.

Call Me Maybe: 5 Phone Interview Strategies

Honey Boo Boo hates phone interviews image source: http://giphy.com/gifs/TFMoOxjnAAMbm

Honey Boo Boo hates phone interviews
image source: http://giphy.com/gifs/TFMoOxjnAAMbm

This guest post was written by Career Development intern and aspiring Career Counselor, Mike Ahern.

Phone interviews are becoming increasingly popular as hiring managers look for new ways to separate desirable candidates from the rest of the pack. Throughout multiple job searches as an undergraduate and graduate student I’ve relied on a few intentional strategies to carry my candidacy through to the second round. Here are 5 strategies to make sure you have a successful phone interview.

1. “Dress for the job you WANT …”

Just because the interviewer can’t see you, doesn’t mean you should take the call in your pajamas. Studies have shown that the type of clothing you wear can greatly impact how you perceive yourself in any given work space or environment. Putting on your business clothes will put you into a professional mindset and better prepare you for the interview. Wearing workplace attire can even correct posture, in turn altering how you sound over the phone. So take the extra time to pick out a professional outfit and dress for the job you want.

(Note: this doesn’t mean you should show up on your first day dressed as an astronaut…)

2. “Before anything else preparation is the key to success”

For any type of interview, whether over the phone, on Skype, or in person, you should be spending a significant amount of time preparing. A large part of efficiently preparing for a successful interview will be anticipating thetypes of questions you will be asked. Be prepared to answer a variety of questions and have answers with specific examples. Take notes on ruled paper or better yet, a personal favorite, utilize note cards. There’s no rule stating that you can’t have your note cards spread out around the desk while you are on the phone. Just be sure not to sound like a robot if you have to read off of them.

3. “Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing”

The phone interview can be a great opportunity to show your level of enthusiasm and knowledge about the position or the industry it is in. Be sure to take the initiative to research the company. How many employees does it have? How has it been performing? Are there any new programs or products the company/business/organization is releasing? Showing that you understand the trends and status of the company will show the hiring manager your level of understanding about the business and that can help push your application into the second round pile.

4. “The only stupid question is the question that is never asked.”

At the end of practically every interview the employer will ask if there are any questions you want to ask. Think of this as one more opportunity to leave a lasting impact. Ask about that new project you researched. Ask what skills the ideal candidate would have (I’ll personally use this one then try to tie my experiences to what the employer is looking for) Simply replying “No I don’t have any questions” doesn’t show a lot of enthusiasm and leads to a missed opportunity to wrap up the conversation in a meaningful way.

5. “Practice… We’re not talking about a game… we’re talking about Practice…”

You can increase your chances of having a great phone interview before you even pick up the phone; through practice. This can be one of the most over looked strategies for prepping for any kind of interview. Taking the time to sit with a friend and parse out possible questions you might encounter will get you in the right mindset. If you can’t find a willing participant to interview you, try utilizing a smartphone to record your answers to preselected questions. Play back the tape and notice how you respond. Do you say “um” a lot? Did a few of the questions make you pause and think? Consider practice as an invaluable strategy to increase your chances of sounding professional on the phone.

Overall these five strategies will help set you up for a successful phone interview. As always keep in mind that as a current undergraduate, graduate or alumnus you have innumerable resources at your fingertips, courtesy of the Northeastern University Career Development office.

Mike Ahern is a Career Development Intern at Northeastern University in Career Development. Currently he is pursuing a graduate degree in Higher Education in Student Affairs at Salem State University. Connect with Mike on LinkedIn or on Twitter @MIkeAAhern 

 

 

 

 

Why Networking is a Lot Like Dating: The First Date

 

Girl: "I like you" Boy: (after pushing her) "You smell like dog poo."

Girl: “I like you”
Boy: (after pushing her) “You smell like dog poo.”

Your phone buzzes, and yes, you got a response from that online dating inquiry. “Sweet, now what do I do?  Do I text back right away?  Maybe I should wait a few so I don’t seem too eager, wait, or maybe he/she will think I’m ignoring him/her?”

We have come to the most exhilarating and frightening part of our journey down the dating/networking path: the first date.

The first date, full of mystery and anxiety… luckily in the networking world, it’s a little more straight forward. Unlike dating, if the person you requested to informational interview writes you back, you should respond promptly. Keep in mind, they’re doing you a favor, limit the back and forth scheduling emails. If they suggest a time/place, try to accommodate them, if that time/place doesn’t work, suggest a couple alternatives. Do the work. I can speak from experience, it’s annoying going back and forth five times trying to schedule a meeting with somebody with whom you’ve never met.

“So this weather we’re having…” Getting ready.

You’ve set the time and location, now it’s time to get ready. It’s going to be slightly awkward, just accept it – they’ve already agreed to meet you, so you’ve got that going for you (you go Glen Coco).

"Uhh..." image source: http://giphy.com/gifs/5BmShfY6bqOvm

“Uhh…”
image source: http://giphy.com/gifs/5BmShfY6bqOvm

Let’s start with the conversation prep. It is essential that you prepare questions to ask. Again, they’re doing you a favor, so you need to go in there with multiple conversation starters. Similar to a date, we want to avoid as many awkward silences as possible. You always know that it was at least a decent date if you left having good conversation- the same goes for the initial informational interview. People, as a whole, love talking about themselves, so asking questions about their career path, their current position and what their success tips are is always a good way to start. It’s an easy way to break the ice and connect with them. Similar to a first date, you want them to like you and feel a connection (or dare I say, a spark), so that down the line they feel comfortable recommending you to their superiors and/or think of you when a job opens up. Feel free to answer their questions as well- this is a two way street, and you need not pretend you’re not looking for a position if asked, but NEVER ask them for a job- it’s rude and they may not be in a position to offer you one. Cue the super awkwardness.

Let’s talk about dress, baby.

First rule of thumb, whatever you do, don’t roll in to the meeting looking like a slob-ka-bob. First impressions matter. I once went on a date where the guy showed up in a baseball hat and gym shorts. Glad you cared enough to dress up.  Know your industry. If we go back to the Google example from last week, you probably don’t need to rock your designer suit, but looking like you care about the meeting and you put some effort into your appearance is important. If you’re info interviewing somebody that works in a profession where suits are commonplace- wear a suit.

Additional tid-bits.

These are the things you learn only through experience. One, don’t show up too early, but don’t show up late. If you are going to be late, send a quick email, just like you would send a text to your date.

Two, once you’ve hit the designated time marker, stop talking. If you asked for twenty minutes, but are having awesome conversation, stop at the twenty minute mark and say something along the lines of, “We’re just about at 20 minutes, I don’t want to take up much more of you’re time, I’m sure you’re really busy.” Let the employer determine if they can stay and chat longer.

Three, isn’t nice when get a lovely text message after your date that says something along the lines of, “hey, I had fun, let’s get together again soon”? Super sweet right? Same goes for after you have an informational interview- send a thank you email and let them know that you’ll keep them updated on your progress. We have samples on our site.

image source: http://giphy.com/

image source: http://giphy.com/

Finally, keep the goodbye as normal as possible. The dating world makes goodbyes uncomfortable and weird and I honestly believe that it has scarred our interactions with others. Ask for a business card, say “thank you for your time”, and finish off with a firm handshake. That is all.

Just like dating, some interviews will be good, and some will be eh. Being prepared and making a good impression will set you up for future success.

Do you like mind games? Because next week we’ll be discussing the Courtship.

What advice do you have for those conducting informational interviews? Are there any other parallels you can pull from going on a first date?

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.