3 LinkedIn Tips for Job Hunters

source: socialmediaforstudents.com

source: www.socialmediaforstudents.com

This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works.

Everyone knows LinkedIn is a great tool. LinkedIn makes it easier for potential employers to find you, boosts your online presence, and allows you to take full advantage of the strength of your professional network. Here are a few tricks and tips to maximize LinkedIn for your job search.

LinkedIn Stalking: It’s a thing. Actually, it’s a great thing. Looking at other professionals’ profiles on LinkedIn is an excellent resource for students and job searchers. Start by finding your career crush. Digital marketing manager at your dream firm? Good for you. Check out her experience section: Where did she start? What skills does she have? Where did she intern during her undergrad years? Looking at other peoples’ timelines can give you an idea of what entry-level jobs look like in your industry, which can help you visualize your own career goals.

Freelancers: Okay, this is also kind of about LinkedIn stalking. No big deal. If you are interested in becoming a freelancer, check out the experience section of other freelancers’ profiles. Chances are good that there will be a list of publications for which this person has written. This will give you some good ideas of who to contact within your industry space for writing opportunities.

Companies: Looking at companies on LinkedIn is an especially great tool for students and recent graduates. While you are still in school, make a list of companies that interest you. Your list may only include five or six for now, but this list should be dynamic. Add to it as you go. Having a list of potential future employers will help you avoid sitting in front of a blank Google page a month before you graduate, trying to figure out what to do with your life. If you start early and add to the list whenever you stumble upon an interesting company, you could rack up 50-100 companies to contact before you graduate.

Here’s where LinkedIn comes in.

Company pages on LinkedIn provide recommendations for similar companies in the area. Looking for an education technology startup in Seattle? Find one, check it out on LinkedIn, and aha! Now you have discovered five more. Good for you. Searching through LinkedIn company recommendations can greatly expand your list of dream companies.

LinkedIn is a powerful tool for the modern professional. Take advantage of all of its features and make your life – and your job search – a whole lot less painful.

Lindsey Sampson is a middler 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.

Finding an Internship Without Prior Experience

source: collegefashion.net

source: collegefashion.net

This guest post was written by Sam Carkin, a sophomore studying Marketing and Interactive Media.

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 things to consider when choosing a graduate program

This guest post was written by our new student blogger, Emily Brown, a graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program.

We’ve established that going to grad school isn’t always a good idea and that it is a huge commitment of time, money, and energy. Once you’ve made the decision that grad school is right for you, you’re still faced with the daunting task of choosing a program. There are a few key things to keep in mind when working through the process:

  •  Location. An easy way to narrow your choices at the beginning is by location. Are there places that you are simply unwilling to live while pursuing your degree? Do you plan on continuing a job in your current location? I knew I wanted to keep my full-time job as long as possible, so I only researched graduate programs in the Boston area. Conveniently, Boston still has a lot of options, but narrowing my search that way made it feel more manageable.

    Image from fastweb.com


  • Reputation. Just like when applying to undergrad, it’s easy to get caught up in schools’ reputations. Meeting your own academic goals and needs should be your top priority so remember that just because it’s an Ivy League doesn’t mean it will be a good fit for you. Graduate programs can vary greatly within the same school so it’s important to research programs and faculty members specifically to determine a good match.
  • Requirements. There are admissions requirements, and then there are program requirements once you get in. Before applying, you’ll have to compare the program requirements with your own credentials. Is there a minimum GPA requirement or certain prerequisite classes? Do you have to submit GRE scores? Make sure you meet these requirements and include all required documents before hitting send. Additionally, most graduate programs will require some sort of experiential learning outside of the classroom. It might be research, an internship, or other practical experience. Think about what will be most beneficial to you and how you can balance your coursework with an unpaid interning or researching.
  • Passion v. Realism. As a career services groupie, I am all about following your passion when it comes to education and career. However, when making an investment in that passion, it’s important to consider what kind of opportunities will be available to you once you complete the degree. Talk to alumni of the programs you’re considering and ask about their experiences in the program and how it prepared them for their current job. Do their jobs appeal to you? You can find alumni to speak to by asking the admissions office or searching on LinkedIn (it’s not creepy, I promise).
  • Cost. Once you’ve hit send on the applications and the acceptances start rolling in, you’ll have more decisions to make. Of course the financial aid a school offers will be a factor in your decision, but it’s smart to also consider the cost of living where the schools are located. Maybe that school in New York City offered you more financial aid, but are you going to spend those savings on one trip to the nearest Whole Foods? You have to be realistic about the cost of school as well as living expenses and make decisions that make sense for you financially.

Once you’ve made it past step one, deciding to go to grad school, make sure you do your due diligence researching programs to find the one that is the best fit for you and will propel you toward your career goals. Location, reputation, curriculum requirements, cost and career opportunities are all key factors to consider and will help narrow your choices and ultimately select the right graduate program for you.

Emily Brown is a Career Development intern and a graduate student in Northeastern’s College Student Development and Counseling Program. She is a lifelong Bostonian interested in the integration of social media into the professional realm.  Contact her at e.brown@neu.edu.

How I Became a Part-Time Soldier

Part-time Solder, full-time student Source: northeastern.edu

Part-time Solder, full-time student.
Source: northeastern.edu

The following article was written by a Northeastern student and Army ROTC cadet.

When I first entered college, I did not intend to become a cadet, an officer in training. I come from a family with no military background and did not have close friends in the military. During my first semester of college, my focus was adjusting to the new environment, so I did not take much time to explore opportunities.

Then, towards the end of my first semester, I realized that I was in the wrong major. This led me to talk to a variety of professors, advisors, students, and Career Development staff to get more career information. One student I ended up talking to was a classmate who is in ROTC. She told me to give it a try.

After a summer of introspection, and again meeting with more advisors, I started the semester not only in a new major, but also in a new program: Army ROTC.

Liberty Battalion Army ROTC, the program I now belong to, is hosted at Northeastern University. It takes students from 14 different area colleges including Boston College, the Colleges of the Fenway, Suffolk College, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, and more.

Before starting ROTC, I met with the Liberty Battalion’s senior recruiter to get my questions answered. Although his title is recruiter, he does not earn commission for bringing in students, and his job is really to increase awareness of the program. My first question was whether doing ROTC meant I had to join the Army. To my surprise, he told me that when students first start, they can leave freely if they find out ROTC isn’t right for them. Only after accepting a scholarship or entering their third year do cadets have to commit to service in the Army.

After establishing that I did not have to join the Army right away, I asked about the time commitment involved. The ROTC staff told me that ROTC places academics first, so cadets can be excused from activities if needed. Otherwise, cadets attend three morning workout sessions, a two-hour lab, and a class worth 1 to 3 credits each week. They are not required to attend activities during co-op semesters.

I was also curious whether ROTC would impose restrictions on where I could study or co-op, since I am interested in co-oping abroad. I found out that they allow study and co-op abroad. Moreover, ROTC can make it easier to go abroad by offering Department of Defense-sponsored cultural exchange programs at no cost to students.

Finally, I learned that ROTC offers scholarships covering up to 4 years’ full-tuition, for cadets of all majors. After graduation, cadets can enter into a variety of fields such as aviation, civil affairs, engineering, finance, law, and healthcare. Cadets also have a choice in joining the Active Duty Army, Army National Guard, or Army Reserve. About 60% of cadets in Liberty Battalion choose to go active-duty, which requires serving in the Army full-time for four to seven years. Active-duty soldiers get many benefits such as a guaranteed job after graduation, free housing, top-notch health insurance, and opportunities for free travel to locations worldwide such as Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Hawaii.

Cadets who join the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, which are collectively known as the reserve components of the Army, also receive benefits such as discounted healthcare and insurance. However, the primary benefit for most is the ability to hold a civilian job while drilling one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer, close to home.

So I decided to join ROTC, and my experience has been nothing but extraordinary. Since joining, I drastically improved my physical fitness, leadership capabilities, and confidence in myself. I also established close bonds with a variety of college students with whom I train, take classes, and attend lab. Finally, I developed leadership, organizational, and interpersonal skills which employers value. Because of my terrific experience with ROTC, I ultimately committed to joining the Army National Guard in order to serve my community as a part-time soldier, while still being a full-time student.

So if you are even remotely interested in what ROTC has to offer, find out more. Talk to the students in uniform you may find around campus, or in Rebecca’s Café. Ask one of your friends or classmates about ROTC. Come to one of Northeastern ROTC’s open physical training sessions, or open labs. Drop into the ROTC office on Huntington Ave. Or do some exploring online at rotc.neu.edu and armyrotc.com .

ROTC is the only program that lets you experience the military without prior commitment. So take advantage of this opportunity to improve yourself and your career. See if you too want to become a part-time soldier.

Last Call: Senior Career Conference Today!

SCC_logoThinking back to my last semester of my senior year of college, I was actively avoiding what graduation meant for me and kept myself blissfully unaware of what I should be doing/needed to do to prepare for life after graduation.  I didn’t graduate THAT long ago (to give you a time frame, Facebook had been invented by the time I got to college) so I can relate to what many graduating students are feeling. One of my biggest regrets was not taking advantage of the people at my university who had tried to prepare me for the future, and not taking advantage of the opportunities to help me figure out what I wanted to do.  If I had done so, I believe my transition from student to new professional would have been a lot easier than it was. I eventually made it, and I was fine, but I could have saved myself a lot of turmoil if I had started earlier rather than later.

The Senior Career Conference, today in Stearns from 12-6PM is here to do JUST that—give you everything you need to prepare yourself for the job search and beyond. The workshops range from Salary Negotiation to Managing Stress on the Job Search and you get to meet with a lot of cool employers at the event—Liberty Mutual, TJX, Philips, Procter & Gamble and City Year are just a few of the employers who will be there to critique resumes, serve on panels, and co-teach workshops with our Career Development Staff.  An added incentive for dropping by is that we have some really cool prizes. Microsoft and TJX have donated special prizes that you can win by submitting your resume, and other prizes will be given to the first 100 students just for showing up.  There is no registration required and everyone is welcome, so stop by to attend a workshop, get your LinkedIn picture taken, or to get your resume critiqued—anything you do at the conference will help you on your way to becoming a new professional and being prepared to the transition.

 

Ashley LoBue is a Career Advisor at Northeastern Career Development. A Boston College graduate, Ashley has over 3 years of experience working in higher education and is a proponent for international and experiential education.

 

“There Are No Dumb Questions Here”

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

step brothersCopyright: 2008 Columbia Pictures

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

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

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

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

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

Why would complete strangers be willing to talk to me?

Whether you’re job searching or generally trying to learn more about different careers, I usually suggest talking to individuals who already work in your fields of interest (aka networking). It’s a great way to learn more about typical career paths, get insight on which skills and qualifications are the most important, and figure out if a particular career path or industry is a good fit for you.  The process should include talking to people you already know, but should also include introducing yourself to and developing relationships with new people.  Once the look of horror on their face goes away, the most common question that students/alumni ask me is “Why would complete strangers be willing to talk to me?”

Image from www.cod.edu

Here are some reasons why professionals in your fields of interest would be willing to talk to you:

  • Networking is a pay-it-forward situation. Chances are, anyone that you contact for advice has had someone help him or him in a related fashion, and this is their chance to return the favor to the larger professional community.
  • When people like what they do, they often like discussing it with people who share their interest. And not just the same old people they talk to every day at work. It can be interesting to get a different perspective on things.
  • Networking is a lifelong career process, and it’s just as important for an experienced professional to continue building their professional community as it is for a college student or recent grad. One day, you may be able to give them some useful information on a particular company or contact. Maybe their son or daughter is considering Northeastern, and you can give your opinion on what it’s like to be a student here. It also gives that professional a chance to promote their organization and create a pipeline of talent for future positions.
  • People are genuinely helpful. If you are polite and genuinely interested in hearing what the person has to say (and not aggressively trying to push someone into hiring you), people are more often willing to help than you might expect.  You just have to ask. Career Services hosts workshops, panels and networking events all the time, and I am often amazed at how many people are willing to help out and talk to students/alumni about their experiences. And I don’t only mean Northeastern alumni and employer partners.  Professionals who are completely unrelated to Northeastern, that I have no personal connection with and sometimes have never even heard of before, have agreed to come to events, just because I asked.
  • Some people just like to talk about themselves!

As wonderful as the internet is, and as much career and job information you can find online, there are some things that you can only learn by speaking to someone who actually does the job.  Be thoughtful and deliberate when identifying people you’d like to talk to, clear and polite when you contact them, and appreciative of any and all advice they give you, and hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised by people’s responsiveness. You have much to gain and little to lose by asking.

Tina Mello is Associate Director of Northeastern Career Development, and has worked at Northeastern for 11 years. Nicknamed the “information guru” by other members of the staff, she loves to research and read about various job/career/education topics. For more career advice, follow her on twitter @CareerCoachTina.

Swimming Against the Tide: Alternative Careers after the PhD

source: wisciblog.com

source: wisciblog.com

Sometimes we find ourselves caught in a current, headed toward a known, but undesired destination. It takes a little effort to reset our course, a few strong side strokes to pull us out of the momentum of the moving water until we are picked up by another stream.  For the last six years, I have been training to be a professor.  The English PhD program at Northeastern has taught me to be an astute reader of culture, a critic of discriminatory ideologies, an observer of systems, a writer skilled in argument, and a teacher ready to pass on these skills to a new generation of learners. As I moved along the stages of coursework, exams, and dissertation writing, the tenure track carrot dangled before me. But, half way through, disillusion set in.  I’m not here to share the doom and gloom that clouds today’s academic job market (you can find plenty of that here).  While I enjoy teaching, I wanted to engage with a wider community beyond the university boundaries. Finding an alternative career path takes some effort, but can lead you to promising horizons.  Here’s what I learned along the way.

Search Your Soul, Then Do Your Research

After many years pursuing a PhD, it felt like defeat to turn away from the professor Holy Grail.  But, I could no longer ignore my feelings of disconnection.  Coming from rural Maine, I want to mediate the gap that divides the world of academics and the working class in which I grew up. I brainstormed careers that would serve my goals of public engagement in the arts, community building and cultural education.  After some research, I realized my skills could find a home at cultural centers, publishing houses, museums, historical societies, nonprofits, research and philanthropic foundations. Be open to alternatives if you want your career prospects to widen.

Tap Your Network

When I initially approached my dissertation committee with my career doubts, I feared I would be ostracized for ‘dropping out’ of academia.  My announcement was met with some caring resistance. Trained as professors themselves, my advisors worried they would be unable to give me the alternative career advice I sought.  As my career goals solidified, they helpfully suggested colleagues working in publishing and nonprofits that I could contact for informational interviews.  I also discovered a burgeoning online community of PhDs like me seeking alternative academic (alt-ac) careers. Following the #altac community and tapping my network gave me the language to articulate my growing interests. 

Create Opportunities for Growth

To learn more about arts administration, I began to seek opportunities to test those waters.  I volunteered with the English Graduate Student Association’s (EGSA)  annual conference doing administrative tasks like booking rooms, creating marketing materials, and setting up receptions.  Finding I had a knack for organization, I proposed the EGSA add an art exhibit to the conference.  The first exhibit was a modest two day show featuring local artists, yet, in my mind it was a success as I watched an idea come to fruition.   The next year I dreamed bigger and secured a space in Gallery 360.

Photograph by Genie Giaimo

Photograph by Genie Giaimo

That same year, I dabbled further in arts development by creating an online journal, The OrrisThe Orris was a collective of graduate students, writers and artists who sought an outlet for our creative work.  Eventually, The Orris team disbanded as dissertations, families and careers took precedence, but during our time, we created a media brand, crafted mission statements and editorial policies, developed work flows, strategized marketing plans and hosted community events with a volunteer team, little funds and few resources.  With a little extra effort, you can create your own opportunities to learn new skills and make career connections.

Seek Out Mentors

The Orris experience solidified my desire to work in the arts and culture industry, but it also showed me where I need further training.  Entrepreneurship is a much touted value in today’s world, but to be an idea maker, we must first learn the logistical intricacies of putting ideas into action.  Mentors play an essential role in providing leadership guidance for young professionals. Though I am blessed with a supportive academic committee, in the year ahead I look forward to gaining a new set of mentors to teach me how to be an effective manager and leader.

As I begin my final semester and finalize my dissertation, I am eager to see where this new current will carry me. In this blog series, I’ll share my experiences on the alt-ac job market as I count down to graduation. From now until May, join me on the First Thursday of each month for resources on turning CVs into resumes, identifying transferrable skills, the value of networking, and developing your professional persona online.

Lana Cook - HeadshotLana Cook is a PhD candidate in the English department at Northeastern University. Her dissertation traces the development of the psychedelic aesthetic in mid-twentieth century American literature and film. Lana is a 2013-2014 graduate fellow at the Humanities Center.  She received her bachelors of arts at University of New Hampshire.  You can follow her on Twitter @lanacook or Linkedin

Finding the Perfect Internship

I can do more than get coffee source: www.collegerebellion.com

I can do more than get coffee
source: www.collegerebellion.com

Tricia Dowd is a Career Development Assistant at NEU Career Development, and has a MS in Higher Education from Northeastern. She is interested in helping students gain practical experiences to complement what they’re learning in the classroom. 

During my time here at Northeastern Career Development, “How do I find an internship?” has been one of the most common questions students ask me. Northeastern students are known for their drive and desire for practical experiences so it hasn’t really come as a surprise. Typically, I advise students to turn to one of the following three avenues for finding an internship.

1. HuskyCareerLink & Other Job Board Websites: If you haven’t already, check out our internship listings on HuskyCareerLink. These are companies that are interested in working with Northeastern students, which means that you will stand out more in the applicant pool. My favorite way to search for internships on HuskyCareerLink is to click “More Search Options” at the bottom of the job search box that is found on the home screen and then select “Internships” from the list of one- click searches on the left hand side of the page. This will pull up a list of all the internships we currently have posted; as I write, that number is 500! You can narrow your search down using the options in the menu on the left hand side of the page if you want. Once you identify some potential internships, make sure to personalize each resume and cover letter based on the job description.

If your perfect internship isn’t on HuskyCareerLink, don’t fret- there are other options. You can use websites like Indeed or SimplyHired to do a basic internship search. These websites essentially function like the Google of job searching, pulling results from other web pages. You can also get a little more specific to your major by identifying some job boards that are used by your industry. Take a look at your major’s Career Guide, where there is a list of these websites towards the bottom of the page.

2. Networking: Sometimes your perfect internship isn’t even posted! That means you’ll have to find out about it another way- through networking. As an introvert, networking used to sound like a scary word. I worried that I didn’t have a big enough network to be helpful and I was too shy to reach out to new people. Then I started informational interviewing and realized networking doesn’t have to be scary! As a matter of fact, it can even be fun.

You should start your networking process by setting up a LinkedIn profile. We offer a workshop here at Career Development called “LinkedIn 1: Building Your Profile” that’s awesome and I highly recommend it. If you’re just starting out, your profile probably won’t be that developed at this point- that’s OK! You’re already ahead of the game just by being on LinkedIn. Make sure you have a good picture and a catchy headline and you’ll be all set. Once you have a LinkedIn profile, use the advanced search to identify people who work at your target companies or in your target industries. From there, you can reach out to people you found and try to set up informational interviews. Knowing people in your industry can help you to find out about internship opportunities or potential mentors.

3. Stick Your Neck Out: Sometimes looking at job search websites or networking just isn’t going to work. I got my first internship by doing my research and reaching out to the Director of an Academic Advising Office near my undergraduate college without knowing her or anyone else in the office. Not only did the internship confirm my choice of career path, but it also helped me to build my network! If I hadn’t taken a risk, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be working in Career Development now. That being said, there are right and wrong ways to reach out to potential employers. You should always be respectful and formal in your emails- use formal titles like Dr., Mr., or Ms. Explain why you are trying to gain experience and make it clear you are asking for an unpaid internship. Finally, always make sure to give the person an out- some people won’t have the time or space to take on an intern and others may want to interview you first before deciding to hire you.

Whether you’re looking for your first or fifth internship, finding the perfect one can be a difficult and confusing process. Thinking in terms of the three avenues I discussed above can help make your search more organized and streamlined. Let us know any other strategies that have worked for you below!

Tricia Dowd is a Career Development Assistant at NEU Career Development, and graduated from Northeastern with a Master’s in Higher Education Administration in September. She is interested in helping students gain practical experiences to complement what they’re learning in the classroom. You can reach her at p.dowd@neu.edu

5 reasons you should work at a start-up — and tips for doing so

This guest post for The Works was written by Zachary Williamson. Zack is a 5th year Comm-Media Studies Major and has co-oped at the New England Conservatory as a Video Production Co-op and  at CustomMade as a Marketing Co-op. 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!)