International Relations Co-op in the Middle East

teaching in middle east

Ryan teaching in the Middle East

For students who are thinking about doing an international co-op or who have a strong interest in Middle Eastern studies, this week we will be highlighting the challenges and experiences of working abroad from the perspective of a co-op student. Ryan Chaffin is a third year student majoring in International Affairs and Political Science currently working at the Hashemite Fund for Development of the Jordan Badia, which is an organization that aims at objective of developing the Jordan Badia, or, the arid areas encompassing much of Jordan’s land. Here is what he has to say about his co-op in the interview:

1. Can you tell us what a typical workday looks like?

There are two types of work day. On one hand, I will be in the office, formatting and writing business proposals, meeting local dignitaries from around the Badia, and colluding with your boss and coworkers on long-term projects and meetings. On the other, I will be doing fieldwork, which includes visiting parts of the “Badia” or desert regions that stand at a remove from Amman, the capital city. However, at the beginning of the co-op, I will mostly be teaching English in a remote town or village, with three- or four-day stints back at your apartment in between.

2. What is the biggest difference between working abroad and working in the United States?

In the United States there is a standard of work that permeates so much of our economy that it feels “objective”. Abroad, this isn’t always the case. Job descriptions are more mutable, and the goal is more subjective. Your expectations for this job may not hold up through the first few days of work or weeks. The needs of the job are also more “comprehensive”. If there’s something you’re asked to do, it’s because being an English speaker makes you the only person able to do it.

Also, it is only natural that you will feel a little homesick because you are abroad. However, if you have a good living space and make friends quickly, this will pass quickly.

3. Describe some of the challenges you encountered at work, and how you overcame them?

Feeling directionless; I asked repeatedly to be involved in projects until I was given more responsibility, and made sure to work quickly to submit any assignments given to build reliability.

Feeling lost and confused; I identified the people who spoke English better than I spoke Arabic and used them to understand my work environment in the first few days.

Lastly, just getting used to the workday takes some time as well. How I overcome that was bringing a laptop and training myself on grant writing until I finally run out of free time after a few weeks.

4. What kind of skills did you learn from this co-op?

So far, my writing skills have been strengthened through formatting international business and grant proposals. My Arabic language skills have also seen improvement through my translation of Arabic textbooks into English, which I hope to publish through the Ministry of Education someday. Lastly, I have learned how to conduct business meetings from being an assistant to my manager, which is particularly useful in improving my Arabic immensely.

5. Has this co-op helped confirm your career goal?

Yes and no. It’s made me very knowledgeable about Levantine business culture and that’s an asset in Middle East career paths. I’m also still willing to work at a government agency or NGO that promises advancement and a chance to impose real reform, although this experience has made me consider the private sector more seriously. What it’s changed is the perception that I need to do all the listening in my co-ops. At the United Nations or the State Department, talented policy architects have built an institution which I would need decades of training with which to contribute meaningfully. But here at the Fund, it’s very self-developed. I could sit at my desk and do nothing all day without reprisal; I could also design my own day around self-developed projects which aid the Fund, and increasingly I’ve done just that. My co-op has increased my confidence that my education at Northeastern is preparing me for the world in ways I didn’t expect.

6. What is some advice you would like to give students who are thinking about a co-op in the Middle East?  

Don’t expect a European co-op. This is a region with more grit and more dust in the cracks. You will be one of, at most, two or three people in the office who speak English fluently, and that means anything English-language eventually goes through you. Since most of the business proposals have been for USAID or other English aid agencies, you’ll be asked—expected—to understand the ins-and-outs of editing, formatting and submitting grant proposals for several hundred thousand dollars at a time. Since I Googled my way through the first month, you can too. But be firm about your needs, or they will not be addressed. Things get lost in translation.

There is also some concrete advice I’d like to give to anyone seriously considering or committed to this particular co-op. Use Expatriates.com for housing; look for other expats under “Rooms Available” so you have a support network. Don’t pay more than 300JOD/month unless you’re homeless otherwise. Until you find a supermarket nearby, the Taj Mall has a Safeway and numerous kiosks for a Jordan phone.

Bio-pic_scarletthScarlett 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.

 

First Impressions of Uganda

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Riding a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) to the source of the Nile

When I first told my family that I was thinking of volunteering in Uganda for my first co-op, the responses I received were of fear and apprehension. I assured them that Ebola was far, far away (some 3000 miles or so), and that the country is, in fact, civilized and not at war. I informed them that the people in Uganda don’t live in huts and can speak English, contrary to the African tribal people characterized in BBC documentaries.

Nonetheless, I was still unsure of what to expect myself. Although I knew Ugandans don’t live in huts, I didn’t quite know if my host home would have Internet access, running water, or electricity. I went in with an open, but cautious, mind, equipped with my bottles of hand sanitizer, bug repellant, and anti-malarial drugs.

I found this volunteer program in Uganda through an organization called ELI, abbreviated for Experiential Learning International. It seemed to be the most hands-on and culturally immersing program, as well as the most affordable, out of all the ones I researched prior to applying. It offers experiences in microfinance, women’s empowerment, environmental care, orphanages, and hospitals, and I was immediately attracted to the opportunity to work in a hospital. Although there are countless hospitals in the Boston area, I wanted to combine my love for traveling and experiencing new cultures with a focus on healthcare in a challenging environment.

When I reached the airport in Entebbe and subsequently, my host home, I was very pleasantly surprised. I could buy 3G for my phone and a modem for my laptop for Internet connection, and my home had running water, electricity, and even mosquito nets to keep the bugs away during the night. Upon arrival, I met my local coordinator and his lovely family, as well as a couple of other American volunteers – one completing her last year of medical school in the US and another working in Uganda developing her bowtie manufacturing company Lion’s Thread. The area around Iganga is beautiful and green, with goats and chickens hanging around the red dirt roads, women selling homegrown vegetables behind their small roadside stands, and children playing in groups by the water pumps. When evening fell, I was amazed by the vastness of the sky and the clarity of the stars that were unclouded by the air or light pollution of a big city.

Although I’ve only just begun my adventure in Iganga, Uganda, I have the feeling that this will be an incredible educational and cultural experience. While Uganda’s economy is still emerging and stabilizing in terms of employment and education, there is so much opportunity in any field for people and organizations to grow and become a part of. At this point, I have only been working in the hospital for a few weeks, so I’ll write more about the work environment in future blog posts. This is just a quick summary of my first impressions, but if you or someone you know is planning to travel to or work in this part of Africa, rest assured and know that you/they would have a wonderful time.

MikaBioMika White is a second year biochemistry major at Northeastern expecting to graduate in 2018. This semester she’s on her first co-op in Uganda interning at a rural hospital in the town of Iganga. Mika loves to travel, read, and run. Feel free to reach out to her at white.mik@husky.neu.edu and check out her personal blog for more a more detailed account of her experiences. 

Biology and English: Making a Combined Major Work

duel major

This guest post was written by Sarah Sherman, a combined English and Biology major here at NU. 

Choosing a major is a unique experience for everyone. For a lucky few, it is barely a choice at all. There are those who have wanted to be doctors or teachers or business managers since they were young, and who understand what academic roadways they want to travel to get there.  However, for many people, (including myself) the journey is rarely straightforward.

I entered Northeastern as an Undeclared student, and although I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted, I knew that I was fascinated by  Biology and English.  For a while my thought process alternated between trying to figure out which one I wanted to focus on and trying to figure out if it was possible to double major in Biology and English.  I soon found out that the latter wasn’t feasible without overloading classes for at least one semester or by taking classes for more than eight semesters, neither of which appealed to me. Despite this realization, I still felt no closer to making a decision.  This brings me to my first bit of advice-never underestimate the value of figuring out what it is you don’t want to do.  Sometimes a decision doesn’t come in a flash of inspiration or from a deep inner knowledge of what it is you want.  Sometimes it’s as simple as exploring around and figuring out the things you don’t want to do, until you hit on something that ignites your enthusiasm.

My first breakthrough came when I was attending an Undeclared event, and I had the opportunity to talk to the head of the English Department. I mentioned how I’d been struggling to decide whether I wanted to study Biology or English. She replied, “Why not do a combined major with the two?”  “I can do that?” I asked.  “I don’t see why not” she said.  I would later learn that a combined major was different from a double major in some important ways.  A double major is two degrees, and involves completing all of the courses for each one.  A combined major is one degree, and some of the courses from each discipline are removed to make a more compact curriculum. It also includes an interdisciplinary “bridge” course, making it easier for the student to understand how their two fields of study connect and interact. This brings me to my second piece of advice-don’t be afraid to talk to anyone and everyone at the university about what it is you’re interested in or looking for.  They are likely to be much more familiar with the resources and opportunities that are available than you are.  You may end up learning about possibilities that you didn’t even know existed!

This five minute exchange started me on an almost two year journey to pursue the education that I was passionate about. Although the combined major I wanted did not yet exist, I knew there was a process in place for creating it.  This process included countless meetings, paperwork, curriculum revisions, and several roadblocks.  This brings me to my third piece of advice.  When you find what it is you’re looking for, pursue it with persistence, patience, and passion. The idea that I was so excited about-a new major combining English and Biology-often came across to others as strange and sometimes even nonsensical.  However, I knew it was what I wanted.  I stood my ground even when I could sense disapproval from others.  I may have been met with skepticism at first, but I wasn’t met with a “no” or “we simply can’t do that”.  So I kept pushing forward. The journey was long and sometimes discouraging, but it was worth it because I had found my passion.

Your own journey to declaring a major might be more conventional than mine, or perhaps even less so.  No matter what the case, it is important to keep in mind one overall truth-there is no one “right way” to land yourself a certain future.  In talking with professors and with other adults in the working world, I have learned that there are multiple paths that lead to the same destination.  The important thing is to do something that you get excited about, and to do it well.

Sarah is a third year student at Northeastern University pursuing a Combined Degree in Biology and English. She has completed one co-op at the Boston Center for Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine. She traveled to Italy in the summer of 2013 for a Dialogue of Civilizations, and is looking forward to traveling again during an ASB trip to the Dominican Republic this March.  Contact Sarah for more information about her combined major or her experiences at sherman.sa@husky.neu.edu.

Image Source: Carol Simpson Cartoon Work and Illustration; I want to graduate with a dual major…fiction writing and corporate accounting.

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

lawyerWhat do you want to be when you grow up? It is a question all of us have had to answer and many still struggle with long after they walk across that stage, degree in hand. If you had asked me that question 10 years ago, I would have told you a lawyer; 5 years ago, I wanted to work in PR. What am I doing now? I’m a career counselor and digital marketing professional. What happened? Well, a lot actually.

Our career choices are impacted by a number of things: family, friends, what we see on TV, our values, and that’s just the short list. Sometimes we make a career or major decision because we think it’s what we want to do without really doing the necessary research of what that career/job actually is.

Let’s take my “I want to be a lawyer” example. Seems like a good idea. I had a solid GPA, I am interested in law, politics and civic engagement, I’m a great public speaker and wanted to choose a somewhat lucrative profession. To top it off, I really enjoy watching legal dramas (I’m still sad USA’s Fairly Legal is no longer on- look it up) and could see myself as the ambitious, crime fighting, do-gooder characters. Fast forward to freshman year of college: after doing some research and talking to professors I found out law is really hard. Understatement of the year, I know, but as I continued to explore the option, it seemed less and less like a good fit for me, and there are a few reasons for that.

One, law is extremely detail oriented, research heavy and entails a lot of independent work. Immediately I am turned off. Two, apparently I’d be working a million hours. One of my strongest values is work/life balance, so this was pretty much the deal breaker for me. Finally, law school is very expensive and at the time, the job market looked pretty bleak for new lawyers. As much as I thought I could kill it as a lawyer, I questioned how happy I would really be going to work everyday. So, what’s my point?

Beginning Thursday, Career Development will be launching a new series entitled Career Confidentials: What It’s Like To Be a “Enter Job Title Here” which will be real people talking about their jobs honestly and candidly. Get an inside look into what it is really like to be in a certain industry and profession and use the info to help you think about if it is a right fit for you. Our first post on Thursday is a doozy: What It’s Like To Be a Consultant- one of the most popular and sought after positions for new grads. Stay tuned!

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: The Daily Chelle; Day 21: It’s Only Funny If It’s You

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

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

Honoring All Who Serve- Careers In The Military

veterans day 2013

Northeastern honors its veterans in the 2013 Veterans Day Ceremony.

The face of the military is the warrior on the front lines. A man or woman in uniform patrols under the hot desert sun, protected by a helmet, ballistic eyewear, and body armor, and armed with high-tech weaponry.

Warriors on the front-lines are known as Infantry. Infantry undergo rigorous training in close combat, and dedicate themselves to overcoming all obstacles in order to complete the mission.

However, only a fraction of service members serve as infantry. In order to understand the unique skills which a veteran can bring to the workforce, it is important to understand the different ways in which soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen have served. Below is just a sample of the career fields available in the military, not specific to any branch.

Artillery are responsible for anything from mortars positioned directly over the battlefield, to long-range missiles on off-shore battleships.

Aviation assets in the military include helicopters, fighter jets, and increasingly drones. Aviation’s roles include engaging targets, gathering intelligence, transporting supplies, and evacuating wounded personnel.

Band members entertain civilians and service members at home and abroad. Each service has their own band, which attract talented singers and musicians.

Chaplains hold different religious beliefs, but share a common dedication to assisting soldiers with their spiritual needs, by providing confidential counseling services.

Engineers use materials on hand to build whatever structures are needed. Engineering projects include roads, bridges, wells, and village schools.

Finance is crucial in the billion-dollar defense industry. Financial managers track millions of dollars in assets, while delivering pay to soldiers in the remotest parts of the world.

Health professionals such as doctors, nurses, dentists, and technicians provide care to soldiers on the battlefield, in aircraft and ambulances, and in military hospitals around the world. The Army also has a veterinarians, who take care of animals in all services.

Information Technology is a key part of the modern battlefield. Technicians maintain and operate electronics ranging from radios, to computers, to nuclear missile guidance systems.

Intelligence experts include imagery analysts, cryptologists, linguists, and security experts that turn data into actionable information, and protect sensitive information.

Logistics and Transportation manage and move crucial supplies such as food, water, and medicine to wherever they are needed, overcoming great obstacles along the way.

Public Affairs is the link between the military and civilian populations. Some members of Public Affairs work behind the scenes on news productions while others interact directly with local populations.

Security Forces are usually called Military Police. MPs provide security for military bases, ships, and occupied areas, conduct criminal investigations, and perform other tasks to maintain law and order.

Special Operations Forces include Navy SEALs, Air Force Pararescue, Army “Green Berets”, and Marine RECON.  Special Operations missions differ, but members in Special Forces share a tireless dedication to the mission resulting from intense, specialized training.

Much more. The military trains service members for a wide variety of jobs. It is common for service members to receive training in multiple career fields.

Veterans’ work differ drastically in function and scope. However, some skills are common to all veterans. First, service members accomplish missions under extreme pressure, leading to proficiency at project management field, and process improvement. Second, they have experience working with a variety of people, sometimes across cultures, making them ideal members of global teams. Finally, each veteran enters the workforce with thousands of dollars’ worth of technical training, provided courtesy of the government. Those who serve part-time in the National Guard or Reserve receive opportunities to continue developing their skills.

Veterans have proven success on the job in the world’s largest military. Thus the biggest challenge for veterans leaving the service is not usually obtaining new skills, but relating their existing skills to the civilian world. A military skills translator, such as the one available on vaforvets.va.gov, can help veterans translate military experience into key words on a civilian resume. However, it is more important for Americans to understand the different challenges veterans overcome, and experience they bring to the workforce.

Thank a veteran for their service today, whether it be in the jungles of Vietnam, on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, flying above the sands of Kuwait, or at home with the National Guard or Reserve. Regardless of when and where veterans have served, each veteran has signed a blank check to their country payable to any amount up to, and including, their life.

Career information from goarmy.com, airforce.com, navy.com

The article was written by an Army ROTC cadet at Northeastern. Northeastern’s Army ROTC program produces officers for every branch of the Army, from Infantry to Nursing. Visit rotc.neu.edu for more info.

Image Source: Northeastern News

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.

 

What I Learned From Applying to Fellowships

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Class of 2015. I have been looking forward to those words every day since freshman year. This is going to be my year. Well, mine and the other 1.8 million students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in the US this year. Throughout my college career I thought we were all on the same road with only two exits, a job or grad school, until someone told me about graduate fellowships.

Many fellowship programs exist to fund studies, research and teaching abroad, while others offer ways to embark on long-term journalism projects or short-term positions at successful organizations after graduation. Falling somewhere in between a first job and a graduate education, fellowships are a great option for recent graduates to develop crucial career experience without going down the traditional career path.

I’ve spent my summer applying to several graduate fellowships and now consider myself something of an expert in the field of Getting Your Act Together. Here’s what I learned:

There are lots of post-graduation options. Apart from the default options of getting a job or enrolling in graduate school immediately after undergrad, fellowships exist across all disciplines that allow you to continue studying, travel abroad, conduct independent research and teach with other passionate individuals.

Northeastern has a department dedicated to helping you find the right fit. The Northeastern University Office of Fellowships is here to not only inform you of all the opportunities, but also to help you formulate a clear proposal that articulates your ambitions, talents and projects.  Northeastern’s Department of Career Development also has a resource page on fellowships that you can review.

Organize your Northeastern experience and develop an entirely new elevator pitch. Speaking of articulating your ambitions, talents and projects, it’s helpful to sit down and condense your Northeastern experience into a coherent elevator pitch. Five years at Northeastern looks quite different than five years anywhere else. Streamlining classes, dialogues, co-op’s and personal experiences into a story that aligns with a proposed program is a challenge, but it can be done.

Get over your fear of networking. The idea of asking people I didn’t know to offer me advice and suggestions on post-graduation opportunities and potential careers always scared me. But it turns out what everyone had been telling me was true―people love talking about how they got where they are, and are willing to help out a sincere student. They were once in your shoes, after all.

Start early, but take your time. The number of options available to college graduates is overwhelming. Odds are you won’t find the perfect situation the first time you sit down and start looking. So start early and map out some options of where you could see yourself in 5, 10 and 20 years. Keep an ongoing list of postgraduate possibilities, never deleting any of your ideas. Having too many options may be just as panic inducing as not having any options, but keeping a list and taking your time will give you somewhere to start.

So as you begin to wrap up your studies and see the “real world” looming up ahead, remember that you aren’t trapped on one exit ramp. There is a world of options after graduation, and exploring them just takes a little extra planning.

Madeline Heising is a senior Communication Studies major with a passion for food and food policy. She enjoys cooking and writing for her recipe blog, The Collegiate Vegan, while drinking copious amounts of coffee. Connect with her on Twitter @MadelineHeising.

Image Source: Cafe Workspace with Diary, picjumbo

Down at the Crossroads

lifes-crossroads

“Lifes Crossroads” by John Matlock

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

Stephen Uram ’14 found one way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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