How Do I Answer That Interview Question: Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?

Do you know what your career path looks like for the future?

For many of us, this is such a tough question.  We’re just not sure exactly where we want to go, or what kinds of opportunities will present themselves.  But, sometimes we get asked this question, which means you need to be ready for it before you walk into the interview.

First, take a step back and think for a moment about the kinds of things that you enjoy most related to your past/current work, and take some guesses on what kinds of things you’d like more of in the future.  Next, look closely at the job description, and provide an answer that would be in good alignment with that role.  For example, if you are interviewing for a job in sales, but you are really hoping to go into PR someday, you’ll want to share an answer that is truthful and that also fits well with the job you are applying for.

In this particular scenario, here’s what you might say:

“While I’m not sure of the exact job title I’d like to have in 5 years, I can say that my goal is to further develop my client relationship building, writing and presentation skills. I’m excited about this job in sales. I’d like to really dive in and learn how to be successful in this role at your organization, then eventually branch out and see in what other ways I can assist the team. My work satisfaction comes from being challenged, pushing myself and seeing what new things I can learn and contribute to along the way.”

Sabrina Woods is an Associate Director at Northeastern Career Development and also has a private practice as a Holistic Career / Life Coach & Linkedin Trainer.  She has been in this field for 15 years and is a Husky (BA in Business) plus has a Masters in Holistic Counseling from Salve Regina University in sunny Newport, RI.  When not working at NU, teaching Linkedin or coaching private clients, Sabrina loves to hike, bike and kayak.  For more about Sabrina, go to www.sabrina-woods.com.

How do I answer this interview question: What are your weaknesses?

AD I dont understand the question

This interview question is often asked in conjunction with “What are your strengths?”. That part of the question should be easy to answer since it essentially is asking you why you’re a good candidate for the position. But weaknesses? Does the interviewer want to know why you’re NOT qualified for the position?  No. Is it a trick? Probably not, but  perhaps the interviewer wants to see how well you know yourself, or how thoroughly you’ve analyzed the requirements of the position and your ability to perform them,  or to see if you’re serious enough about the position to really spend time thinking about it instead of offering the throw away “turn a negative into a positive”. I beg of you, don’t follow that advice, it is just so much “blah blah blah”. BUT if you do go with that, please give it some substance – provide some good examples of why it is a positive.

A different strategy for answering this question is to re-frame it as though the interview question is, “What are your weaknesses in regard to this position?” this will give you a focus to work from.  Maybe the job or internship you’re applying to is a little bit of a stretch (which is a good thing), but maybe that means there are some gaps in your skills/experience? It can’t be anything central to the position, but there will probably be some areas in which you’ll need a little bit of extra support. Those are your weaknesses. Don’t stop with identifying them, think about what support you’ll need to fill the gaps and how long you think you’ll need it.

Examples of a good response:

For a position that requires significant participation in two teams:

I prefer working independently, but I appreciate the value of working in teams, so 6 months ago I volunteered to participate in a team that is working on a small research project. I’ve been surprised that I’m becoming accustomed to and enjoy this work model. For this position I think it would be helpful if I could begin by working with one of the teams and then in a few weeks add in the second team.

Conversely for a position that requires working independently:

In my classes and activities I have most often worked with other students and enjoyed close faculty or leader supervision and was uncomfortable making decisions and carrying them out on my own. I realized that I might not always be able to do that, so this semester I completed an independent study project.  My professor was out of the country for a portion of the semester so we had 2 meetings early in the semester, then while she was away we had 2 Skype appointments and a few emails. As I result I have started to enjoy and become more comfortable making decisions on my own. For this position I think it would be helpful if my supervisor would remind me to work on problems and develop solutions on my own before seeking her advice. I think it would take a few weeks before I will be comfortable working independently.

This post was written by Kate Famulari. Kate is an Associate Director of Career Development here at Northeastern. She is our in house government job guru and is passionate about helping Northeastern students find meaningful careers! Tweet her about this post @CareerCoachNU.

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

Interview Questions

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

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

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

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

So, what are some good questions you can ask?

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

And finally….

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

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

Don’t Panic: How To Make The Most of Your Last Semester

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So it’s your last year of college. Nervous about being unemployed yet? Yeah, being unemployed in college means more time for fun stuff, but it’s not so cute a year after you graduate. Starting your job search early in your last year of school will put you a step ahead when graduation rolls around.

Make a company list. Make a list of your top 5 to 10 target companies. This allows you to focus your networking efforts on a specific crop of companies. First, check on their website for any openings. Then it’s time to start the leg work.

Check LinkedIn for people in your network who work at your target companies. If you have a contact there, go grab coffee and talk about the company. They can be a valuable resource for you, providing tips for your application and contact information of someone in the department you are looking at. If you talk to your contacts early in your last year, they will let you know if a position opens up in a few months.

Go to Career Services. Their job is to help you find a job. Take advantage of that service while it’s free and available to you. Stop by with an idea of what you want to do. College career advisors have network contacts in almost every industry, so don’t be afraid to come in just for a chat. Your advisor may have contacts in your companies of choice, so make sure you let your advisor know about your job interests.

Talk it up. If your professors don’t know your career goals, they can’t help you even if they want to. Be sure to talk to your professors, especially if you are in a small class or you have lots of contact with a professor. Find an excuse to stop by their office hours, and mention your job search. Professors are usually professionals in their field, so they have an extensive network of upper-level management and may be able to help you out.

Career fairs. Career fairs are an incredible resource for soon-to-be grads. Instead of strolling in with your resume and mindlessly walking around the tables in hopes of finding something interesting, check the attending companies ahead of time if they’re available. This will allow you to prepare for networking with specific companies.

On average, it takes a college grad between 3 and 9 months to land a job. The best to start is November of your senior year or earlier. This gives you plenty of time, and allows you to avoid the June unemployment freak-out.

How to Excel in Your Co-Op

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As most people jet off for spring break or head home, co-op students remain at their jobs. Whether or not you are enjoying your work, it’s a reality check that half of 6 months is gone- time really flies! So how can you make good use of the remaining time to excel and succeed at your co-op? Seize the opportunity to push yourself and make a lasting impression, from getting a callback to using this experience as a leg up, you will never know how this job will evolve in the future. Here a few tips based on my personal observation on how to do well:

1. Ask Questions

There are no stupid questions, so ask away if you need clarification on your assignments. Employers actually appreciate it, because first, it means you are thinking and proactive, as opposed to just performing the task passively. Second, it leads to fewer mistakes and unnecessary confusion that eventually lead to greater efficiency and productivity. Moreover, questions don’t have to be related to the tasks in hand. After assignments are completed, you can also ask how the project you were working on is being utilized in the company. What is good about asking these types of questions is that it allows you to understand more clearly your role and the impact you are making in the overall functioning of the company. Plus, this knowledge can also enhance the bullet points on your resume!

2. Make Friends with Co-workers

Do not underestimate the power of allies and friends in your office. This is very important, because having a good relationship with them will help you down the line, be it learning their ways of succeeding or observing office etiquette, culture, etc. Moreover, who knows, one day if you were sick, they will be the one feeling you on the details of a meeting or helping you out in something. It’s all about connections and networking after all. Even after you leave your job, they might be able to recommend you or say a few good words to enhance your career.

3. Dress the Part

Just as Oscar Wilde has once said, you can never be overdressed or over-educated. While there is some truth in this, my advice will be to dress the part, and to dress smart. Observe how your boss/supervisor dresses and follow suit. Each office is different, and the dress code differs by industry, so be sure you don’t stand out in a bad way. If you are not a morning person (like me), consider preparing the clothes you want to wear the night before, so you don’t have to spend time ironing it or deciding in the morning- when you are not fully awake, and it also saves time too.

 4. Ask for Feedback/ Evaluation

This is related to asking questions. Be sure to ask for feedback from time to time, and after an assignment is completed to reflect on your performance. Since it is mid co-op season, now is a good time to do that. Not only will it be useful for you to gauge yourself, but knowing how you do will also help you improve and add value to the remainder of your co-op.

5. Make a List of your Tasks

It is always wise to keep track of your tasks and assignments. When your co-op is completed and you are looking for a recommendation letter from your supervisor, this will be helpful in aiding them write it. Moreover, as you are compiling the list of things you have done during your co-op, you may find some areas, say social media, that you have not fulfilled according to your learning objectives. With the remaining time, if possible, you can ask for new ways to get involved.

Good luck everyone!

Scarlett Ho is a third year International Affairs and Political Science major with a minor in Law and Public Policy. During fall 2014, she studied abroad in Belgium where she interned at the European Parliament. The summer prior to that, she interned for Senator Warren on Capitol Hill, and previously Congressman Lynch in Massachusetts. She can be reached at ho.sc@husky.neu.edu for any questions ranging from resume writing, job searching to her experiences. You can also email her for article ideas, suggestions, and comments. 

Photo source: Young Upstarts

 

Don’t Fall Asleep At Your Desk! How To Keep Your Energy Up At The Office

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This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works. It was originally published on April 30th, 2014.

Pulling five eight-hour work days in a row every week is a far cry from the typical college student’s schedule. You have to wake up early, get yourself together just enough to pull of the “I’m employed” look, and run out the door to get to work on time. You spend a long day at your desk or in front of your computer, and come home exhausted. You shlump your way through dinner, watch an episode of TV before falling asleep like you just got back from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. However, it is possible to keep yourself feeling energetic during the week, even with a full-time schedule.

Hustle in the morning. Maybe you have a goal or two. Maybe you want to step it up at work and get a raise, or put more work into your side hustle, or maybe you’re just looking to recover from the twelve coffee cakes you ate on Easter. Whatever your goals may be, it’s hard to have the energy to get things done after a long day of work. If you start your day strong, that energy will translate into higher productivity for the rest of your day. If possible, work out in the morning. Even though you have to get up earlier, the energy you get from a morning workout far exceeds the energy you get from the extra hour of sleep.

Shop right. I’m sure you have never heard that eating right is important to your energy level. What an original piece of advice. Eating right is one of the most important parts of a high energy level, but it’s important to know how to shop right first — otherwise eating right is nearly impossible. When you walk into the supermarket, keep most (or all) of your shopping in the outer ring. That’s where the fresh stuff is. If your cart is full of mostly fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grain, you’re going to be fine. Keep snacks like apples, bananas, and yogurt in the fridge at work so your stomach isn’t eating itself all the way home on the T.

Keep yourself busy. After work, grab coffee with a friend. Take a yoga class. Check out what’s happening in your city for free on a Tuesday evening. While down time is crucial for a balanced (and sane) life, too much can cause sluggishness and unnecessary boredom, depleting your energy level in a big way. If you keep yourself busy, you will appreciate and take advantage of moments of relaxation much more. As an added bonus, a busy and active day leads to better sleep at night, which means more energy in the morning. So treat your body to a busy schedule because you deserve it.

If you hustle in one aspect of your life, that mentality tends to spread to other aspects of your life. If you keep your energy high during the day and keep your mind focused on your goals, those New Year’s Resolutions you haven’t thought about since January 2nd will seem like a piece of cake.

Lindsey Sampson is a junior International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and tweet her @lindseygsampson.

How To Find A Co-Op: My Journey As An International Student

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My name is Maria from Venezuela and I am doing a Master in Project Management through the College of Professional Studies. I am writing today because I want to help the international community at Northeastern fight the odds that all foreign students face in the United States.

I have heard many times that finding a good paid coop for an international is very difficult. Well, I disagree with that statement. I will give you a few tips that will help you to find a Coop/Internship.

Set your goal ahead of time. If you put your mind and energy in finding a coop you will get it.

Start four months before the date you want to begin. The earlier, the better.

Write a resume with the USA standards. I highly recommend you to go the Career Development Office. They will also help you with cover letters.

Create a good LinkedIn profile. Here is a link to mine.

Make business cards. This is a technique that can help differentiate yourself from others candidates. You can use Vistaprint to make them.

Start the job search: MyNEU COOL, NU Career Development website, companies’ websites, networking, career fairs, etc. You should try all of them. The university has partnerships with many companies that you can apply to. You can also speak to your friends, classmates and professors and let them know you are looking for a co-op. You will be surprised.

Apply, apply, apply and apply. Many students think that applying to just 10 companies is enough. There is no enough. You end your co-op search when you find the correct one.

You need to work harder. Remember that domestic students have two advantages: English as their first language and infinite job permission. So, it is time to show how good you are.

You will need to find your co-op with time. After you get your co-op, you will need your co-op advisor’s permission and then the ISSI permission to issue a new I-20.

Many students ask themselves what the difference between a coop and internship is. An internship is part-time job (paid or unpaid). On the other hand, a co-op is full time and, in most cases, is paid.

All these tips may look very similar to others you can find online, but they really worked for me. If you focus in what you really want there will be no obstacles you cannot overcome. Lastly, you will really need a positive attitude because you will receive rejections from many companies until you finally get your co-op.

Maria Martin is a Venezuelan Master’s Degree student. She is currently doing a full time paid coop at NSTAR in the Marketing and Sales Department. You can contact her at mariajesusmartin13@gmail.com

On-Boarding Documents, Or How To Make A Great Last Impression

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People generally understand the importance of a great first impression – you want to kick your first day off with a smile and a firm handshake and a solid, confident grasp of office small talk. But we don’t often talk about creating an awesome last impression. What do you do during your last week to make your employers remember you?

Hint: Make their job easier by creating on-boarding documents for your replacement.

Here are a few tips for making your on-boarding documents awesome:

  1. Walk through your day. This is best done a couple of weeks before the end of your internship. Walk through your day and make a note of everything you do – what does your schedule look like? Who do you talk to? What projects do you prioritize? Break down your day into any and all tasks the new person might not know how to do and add them to a running list.
  1. Take your time. Mark off a day on your calendar for making on-boarding docs. This will allow you to sit down, put on some pump-up jams, and do a killer job. This is a working document, so send the file to your replacement so they can edit it and send it to their replacement. You’re leaving your legacy right now.
  1. Be specific. Assume nothing. What emails do you send in a day? When I worked in events, I wrote an on-boarding doc with a whole section for how to keep in contact with caterers. I took screenshots of spreadsheets I kept, email templates, suggestions for how much to order from where, and the name and number of any contacts I had established. This ensures that anything and everything is accounted for.
  1. Include anything they might find useful. This might include: common abbreviations no one explains to you, office acronyms, or an “email decoder” (this is important especially for tech co-ops or companies where jargon runs rampant).
  1. Include a contact sheet. Basically, a whole sheet should be dedicated to who does what around the office. Question about this? Ask Tom. Question about this? Ask Victoria. Question about this? Ask Kate. This proves incredibly helpful and will prepare the upcoming co-op for success from day one.
  1. Be appropriate. Duh? Your employer can (and probably will) read this. Be classy.

On-boarding docs are a good way to refresh your memory and reflect on your responsibilities throughout the past six months. They also show your employer that, yes, you were working for six months. In fact, you were doing an excellent job for six months. And you’re going to make sure your replacement also does an excellent job because you’re just that kind of person.

And that last impression goes far.

Lindsey Sampson is a junior International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and on Twitter @lindseygsampson.

It’s Co-Op Application Time – Here’s What Your LinkedIn Profile Needs

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It’s that time of year, everyone. Resumes are out in the world and the competition is heating up – during co-op application season, you should make every effort to edit your social media profiles and make your LinkedIn a little more awesome. Let’s get going:

  1. Make your profile headline stand out. This is the first thing an employer will see after your name — make it good. Instead of “Northeastern University Student,” try something like “Student and Personal Trainer Looking For Opportunities In Consumer Brand PR” or “Northeastern Student Interested In Engineering Project Management.” Make sure that the companies you apply to understand your interests and your skills up front.
  1. Beef up your previous jobs. Ask for recommendations from previous employers. This tells a future employer that yes, you really did work there, and yes, you did a fantastic job. The best time to ask for recommendations is at the very end or right after you finish your internship, but no time is a bad time to get a recommendation. So send a nice, brief email to your last co-op or job supervisor: let them know you are applying for co-op and are working on your LinkedIn profile. If you want, you can give them an idea of the positions you are applying to so they can personalize your recommendation. Most of all, don’t be shy. You want future employers to know you’re an incredible candidate, and your previous bosses are the best people to speak to that.
  1. Deal with the numbers. If you worked in the events department, how many events did you coordinate? If you worked at a marketing firm, how many different clients did you work with? How many hours a week are you dedicating to your part-time job currently? Numbers stand out, especially in a text-heavy LinkedIn profile. Even if you don’t know an exact number, try to estimate. This tells a reader the extent of your workload and responsibility.
  1. Connect. Especially at a university like Northeastern, chances are good that most of your friends, classmates, and colleagues are on LinkedIn. Find these people and connect with them. This will expand your network significantly, increasing the chance that you have a connection in common with an employer. It also shows that you put effort into your profile – 10 connections means you probably couldn’t care less.

Your resume might be awesome, but it probably doesn’t quite do you justice. One page is great for brevity’s sake, but it’s not great for going in-depth into your experience and skill set. LinkedIn is the place to show off your skills and stand out in the co-op applicant pool.

Lindsey Sampson is a junior International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and tweet her @lindseygsampson.

 

Working From Home? Tips For Staying on Track

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Score!

You get to work from home today.

Your home is your safe space where you are free to wander into the kitchen whenever you want, lounge in front of the television, and walk around all day in your pajamas. But unfortunately, working from home doesn’t cut down on your to-do list. Working from home can introduce into your life a difficult balancing act, so it’s important to actively monitor your productivity to get the most out of your workday.

  1. Set up your space: Establish a specific space for work (Hint: Laying in bed with your laptop on your stomach is not it) and try to limit yourself to only working that space. Eliminate clutter, turn off the television, and move your grocery list into the other room. This will improve your focus and allow you to feel some sense of a productive workspace.
  2. Start the day strong: It’s definitely okay to go for a run in the morning or go to the gym. But when “work from home,” sounds a whole lot like “10am brunch,” it might be getting out of hand. If your morning is pretty empty in terms of productivity, that motivational rut tends to carry over into the afternoon, eliminating the possibility of a productive workday. So wake up at your normal time (or earlier), get dressed, and cross some items off of your to-do list in the morning when your brain is fired up and ready to go.
  3. Don’t wander: When I’m at home, I wander. I will mosey from the living room to the kitchen, forget why I came, then next thing I know I’m sitting in front of the TV with two hours of House Hunters under my belt with no recollection of how I got there. When you are working from home, imagine you are actually at work. When you want to go up to see if the contents of the fridge have changed, stop and ask yourself, would I get up from my desk at work to check the fridge? If the answer is no, stop. No need to wander.
  4. Check in often: Staying in touch with the rest of the office will keep you accountable for your tasks throughout the day. Err on the side of checking in too often, rather than falling off of the radar. Staying in contact with the rest of your department will force yourself to stay on-task and develop your communication skills.
  5. Know thyself: Know what you need when it comes to working from home. Everyone works differently. Maybe you work the best in a busy environment like a coffee shop. If so, head to a coffee shop or other public spot with wi-fi one or two afternoons a week. Being around people without talking to people can be an effective motivator. Maybe you need the complete silence of a home office instead.

Working from home can provide freedom and flexibility that working from the office cannot. For some, working from home makes it possible to juggle a career with other priorities. If you allow yourself, you can easily build a comfortable, productive routine while working from home.

Lindsey Sampson is a junior International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and tweet her @lindseygsampson.