Next Stop: The Real World

Despite the fact that I’m in my fifth year at Northeastern and graduating this upcoming May, the thought of a real-world job offer seemed so far in my distant future. Yet when I was approached recently about full time positions after graduation, it seemed as though the real world came and hit me like a ton of bricks. Cue the panic.

Wake Up, Neo

While I did allow myself a few moments of total “What is happening?”s and “What am I going to do with my life?”s, I decided to buck up and prepare.

Prepping for your job search doesn’t have to be miserable. Here’s how:

  • Stay organized. If you’re anything like me, you find making charts in Excel to be extremely therapeutic. While I realize most of you probably aren’t like me, just make sure to stay organized. Keep note of what company you’re applying to, the title of the job you are applying for, any information they provide you, who your contact at that company is, and a record of your correspondence. It sounds overwhelming, but it will be absolutely worth it in the end.
  • Nurture your network. You’ve done amazing co-ops and internships, but don’t let all the valuable connections you made during those experience lay dormant on LinkedIn. A friendly email never hurt anyone, and it helps to show that you’re interested and proactive.
  • Be a little bit selfish. Job searching can be overwhelming and some people (read: loving family and friends) love asking about your search and telling you what they think is best. While they may have valuable advice, really think about what you think is best for you. Has it been your life dream to move to Seattle post-grad, but your friends want you in Boston? Evaluate your goals versus the goals that others set for you. It’ll hugely impact your happiness in the long run.
  • Most importantly, get excited. Don’t let stress shadow the excitement of these next few months. You’re going to be so prepared to take on the world, so get excited.

While the real world comes and often catches you off guard, it doesn’t have to a horrible and scary place. Have any tips to add? Leave them in the comments below.

Happy job hunting!

Jessica Mertens is a senior studying Communication Studies, Business Administration, and International Affairs. With experience in PR, internal communications, and CSR from Metis Communications and Staples, Jessica is now in an eternal state of wanderlust at Travel + Leisure. Offline, you can catch Jessica exploring NYC, binge-watching Scandal, and planning her next world travels. Connect with Jessica on Twitter @jessica_mertens and LinkedIn.

10 Tips for New Interns

 My name is Dodie Fontaine, and I have recently been afforded the opportunity to Intern for the Career Development Center at Northeastern University. Similar to many college students actually leaving the classroom setting, entering the work force can be a daunting experience. Not to worry, I have 10 tips for you!

giphy (3)

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

There really is no such thing as a stupid question,.. OOkay, maybe there are silly questions but when it comes to an internship and a task that you are unsure of make sure to ask, re-clarify, and ask again. It is better to be safe than sorry!

2. Always ask if there is anything else you can do.

Whenever you finish an assignment or project make sure to ask your supervisor if there is anything else you can help them with. This shows initiative, and that you are willing to go above and beyond your call of duty.

3. Make sure to dress appropriately.

Some offices are more casual than others so it is important to ask your supervisor what the office protocol is when it comes to dress code.

4. Introduce yourself

Although working in a new environment can be intimidating make sure you introduce yourself to everyone in the office.

giphy (4)


5. Learn everyone’s names.

Whether you work in an office with 5 colleagues or an office with 50, you should make it your mission to learn everybody’s name.

6. Be on time, or even early.

Whatever you do, don’t be late! Being prompt is so important and shows that you are reliable. I suggest being 15 minutes early so you can get settled before your day begins.

7. Network, network, and network some more!

Networking is key to landing a job these days so you might as well start with the connections you have made in the office.

8. Be proactive.

Take initiative and get something done without asking, whether it be a project or your own research.

9. Make the most of every minute of the experience.

Even if you’re not getting paid or getting paid very little be sure to make use of the time that you have at the internship. With every opportunity comes experience!

10. Write thank you notes.

Last but not least, make sure to write thank you notes to your supervisor and colleagues – basically anyone that has helped you throughout your time there. Trust me, this goes a long way!


Dodie Fontaine is an Intern at the Career Development Center. She is working towards her Master of Education in Counseling at Providence College. You can find her exploring Boston on the weekend and getting way too many parking tickets in Southie. Tweet her @CareerCoachNU!

How Do I Answer That Interview Question?

giphy (2)

What would you do if you were on a flight for a business trip and there was a crying baby seated right behind you?

Believe it or not, this question has actually been asked in interviews. So have even more off-the-wall questions like “if you were a kitchen utensil, what would you be?” or “if you could have a superpower which would you choose?”  According to the website Glassdoor (via Career Development web page), other recent interview questions include “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?” and “What song best describes your work ethic?”

For those of us with a snarky sense of humor, many possible replies will probably spring to mind; obviously, these are not the answers you want to offer.  It is important to be prepared to hear quirky interview questions so you can avoid replying “Take This Job and Shove It,” for example, when naming a song about your work ethic.

Why do employers ask this type of question? Reasons include testing your ability to think on your feet; gauging your reaction to the unexpected; getting a glimpse of your personality in a possibly unguarded moment; and finding out if you have a sense of humor.

How should you answer quirky interview questions? Almost any response will be okay; showing grace under pressure is the first step.  The next step is to reply in a way that actually answers the question without being offensive in any way. If your reply demonstrates a relevant positive personality trait, that’s even better. The kind of personality trait you want to showcase will depend on the kind of job and the kind of employer interviewing you.

So, back to our crying baby.  The way you answer will ideally depend on what you want to communicate about yourself, based on the potential job.  A sympathetic answer could be “I would assure the parents that I realize they are doing their best to soothe their baby and that it must be awfully stressful for them.”  An answer showing efficiency could be “I would put in the earplugs I always pack with me for situations like this. That way I could continue working on my assignment.” Or “I would put on my headphones to listen to some favorite music to be in a good frame of mind when I landed,” to demonstrate you know how to manage stress.   With just a little thought and some presence of mind, crazy interview questions won’t drive you crazy.

Author Susan Loffredo began counseling NU students well before the iPhone was invented and owns socks that are older than the class of 2015. Email her at

Mentorship? Go Organic!

board-784349_1280 (1)

Every so often, we come across articles preaching out “the power of mentorship”. We read about how one mentor can open your mind and help your career flourish. These articles instill such a desire within us to find that one person who can change our lives and our professional careers for the better. The desire to find this person can grow so strong that we begin to focus less on the quality of the mentorship and more on the search itself.

Mentors (like most things nowadays) should form organically. Often times, you won’t realize the caliber of mentor you have in front of you until you step back and really study your relationship with them. This was the case for me when I first met mine.

I was about one month in to my second co-op when another teammate started. Even on her first day, her confidence and bright personality lit up every room. We bonded over being the newbies on the team and shared very similar senses of humor. As my co-op progressed, our conversations would get deeper and our friendship grew stronger. When I was back in classes and my homework was to interview a mentor in my chosen field, my mind immediately turned to my colleague. I realized that not only was she the first person I immediately turned to for career advice, but also the person I aspired to be more like.

By allowing relationships to grow naturally and fostering them over time, strong and meaningful mentorships will begin to form. There’s no need to force it! Be patient, keep an open mind, and let a mentorship form organically. Trust me, a true and valuable mentorship is 100% worth the wait.

Jessica Mertens is a senior studying Communication Studies, Business Administration, and International Affairs. With experience in PR, internal communications, and CSR from Metis Communications and Staples, Jessica is now in an eternal state of wanderlust at Travel + Leisure. Offline, you can catch Jessica exploring NYC, binge-watching Scandal, and planning her next world travels. Connect with Jessica on Twitter @jessica_mertens and LinkedIn.

Are Leadership Development Programs Right for Me?

Unsure about what specifically to do after graduation? Are you interested in many different areas of a business or company, but unsure about what area you specifically fit in? Leadership Development and Rotational programs provide mentor-ship, training across different functional business areas, and experiences that can help you determine where your best fit is in terms of interests and skills.

Career Development is hosting a Leadership Development Panel on September 30, 2015 in 10 Knowles from 12-1pm (there will be pizza!) featuring representatives from State Street, GE, TJX, and Johnson & Johnson to talk specifically about their LDP programs. To register, click here.  This event is the day before the Career Fair so that you can gather more information about a company/program before seeing them again at the fair.

So why should you consider a Leadership Development or Rotational Program? Here are the top 5 reasons:

  • Access to top executives and leaders: Rotational programs often have projects or assignments that require buy-in from and require you to work with top executives and leaders, allowing you to meet and brush shoulders with the current leaders of the company.
  • Rotations through different functional areas: In a leadership or rotational program, early-career individuals work alongside industry experts on in-depth projects in various functional areas of the company. This allows you to identify an area of the company that is the best match for your skills and caters to your interests.
  • Mentors: As potentially high-performing employees of the company, you are assigned mentors at the manager level or above to help you reflect on your experiences, hone your skills, and help with your career development.
  • Job placement: The end-goal of these rotational programs is job placement in an area that fits with your skills and interests. You will know what you like/dislike about a certain area since the rotational aspect of the program will allow you to “sample” what it’s like to work in different areas.
  • One day you want to be a boss: Many companies rely heavily on their Leadership Development and Rotational programs to identify and groom future leaders of the company, so the training and mentorship you receive will allow you to not only identify your interest area, but also understand other parts of the business, which is crucial in a company leader.

Leadership Development and Rotational Program deadlines tend to be around October/November of your senior year, so if you’re interested in these, make sure you apply soon!

Ashley LoBue is an Assistant Director at Northeastern Career Development.  A Boston College graduate, Ashley has over 4 years of experience working in higher education and is a proponent for international and experiential education.  Ashley also enjoys binge-watching HGTV and aspires to be like the Property Brothers, Drew and Jonathan, as a possible secondary career. Tweet her @CareerCoachNU

Image sourced from

How Do I Answer This Interview Question: What Kind of Animal Would You Be?

You’ve prepared for your interview, practiced questions about your experience and skills, and are ready for the question about why you want to work at the company.  You feel ready and the interview is going really well. Mid-way through the interview you get hit with the interview question: “If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?”  What? Why are they asking that and what the heck do you say?  While you wish you could just say, I’ll skip that one, you know you need to come up with an answer. 


So here’s the 411 on why they ask this question and how you should respond. “Out of the box” questions, like this one above, are asked because interviewers can learn about your personality and see how you respond when a question is not one you would have been expected to have practiced.

It also allows a prospective employer to gain insight into whether your personality is a fit for the job, the team culture, and organizational culture.

Unfortunately folks, there’s no one size fits all here. Pick an animal that represents real qualities in your personality, and qualities which would also be a fit for the job and company culture. Be honest, strategic, and connect your answer why it’s a fit for the position and company. If you’re asked this question, understand that if the company wants a shark, they may not appreciate a candidate who indicates they’d be a dolphin so you’ll have to help them to understand why being a dolphin is a fit for the organizational culture and job.

Typically, candidates try to avoid animals that are perceived negatively, for example, snakes or sloths (lazy). Remember to share why you are selecting that animal. No one word answers—this is your opportunity to show the company that you will fit with their team and culture, and are a good fit for the job.  

If you’re an international student, be sure to ask a American friend or a career advisor about your answer since some animals may not be as common here as in your home country or may have different meanings in different cultures.


 If I were an animal I’d probably be a dolphin because they are very intelligent and yet don’t appear to take themselves too seriously. They enjoy being part of a group and look out for each other and also enjoy having fun. In some of my info interviews with employees here people mentioned that people here are really smart but also like to have fun. I also noticed that was a similar theme on your company’s twitter handle-people are doing amazing work but also volunteering for community projects together. Working hard, working smart, and having fun seem to be important values and that really resonates for me. I would look forward to building my career at ___company if I was selected as this is a first choice company for me.

Who knew this question could reveal so much but it does! So learn about the culture of the company by following them on Twitter. Talk with other Northeastern alumni employed there and check out the organization on Then put on your strategic and creative interviewing hat and pick the animal that best represents you related to that company’s culture and job and job and ace your interview!

And remember, you’re looking for an offer but you’re also looking for a good fit. If you get the offer, awesome! If you don’t, remember it’s hard to be successful and ultimately promoted if you’re working at a company whose culture does not mix well with your personality. Focus on those companies that really do resonate with who you are and maximize your strengths and you’ll be their ‘best hire’ yet!

Written by Ellen Zold Goldman. Ellen is our Senior Associate Director in Career Development. She’s a sheepdog who is loyal, even keeled, a worker dog, super friendly, very adaptable, and always enjoys finding something wonderful in everyone. She loves the work culture and her peeps at Career Development where we all enjoy being helpful to each other, work independently and yet very much rely on each other as a team.  Tweet her @CareerCoachNU

How do I Answer This Interview Question: If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?

Interviewing can be nerve racking, a bit stressful, but super exciting at the same time, right?  We do our best to prepare, practice  and rehearse what to say and be well equipped to answer the typical interview questions, such as, “where do you see yourself in 5 years”, or “why do you want to work for us?” But, what tends to catch us off-guard, are those questions we don’t expect, the ones that are unrelated to the position.

But, there is a way to prepare for those bizarre interview questions! Really, you can actually have fun with them!

I will share a question that I was asked when I was interviewing for a marketing role at a large, well-known company.  My interview was with a hiring manager and a senior sales associate, and they asked, “if we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us”?  I felt like I was staring at them for an hour before I answered, but in reality I sat back and pondered for a minute on how best to answer. My first comment was, that I really like cooking and friends have told me that I am a good cook and an even better host!  From there, it was easy, I made sure to be considerate, I asked if they had allergies, any dietary restrictions, and if they enjoyed sweets! I proceeded to put together a well-thought out menu, right down to the dishes and centerpiece!  I also added, that our dinner gathering was more about the company than the food (they seemed to like that.)  By the way, the company was Disney Publishing, and yes, I got the job!

The reason these bizarre or unrelated questions are asked is often designed to assess your ability to think on your feet and get a sense of your personality.  People who interview you want to hear your thought process and how you handle challenging situations.

Think First, Then Answer

So, take your time when answering a random interview question. Your interviewer (or interviewers, in my case) has designed the question to be intentionally testing and won’t necessarily expect you to have an immediate answer at your fingertips.

Think about what the company does and what role you’re applying for and what the responsibilities are. If there is an opportunity to show off organizational skills, technical ability or math skills in answering the question, this is more than likely what the question is designed to do.

In most cases, these bizarre questions are an opportunity to demonstrate your creativity and about how you could approach the problem/challenge. Remember, there may be a number of possible answers and not necessarily a right or wrong answer. Check out this post about Rubik’s Cubes and 747’s for a similar approach to answering these types of questions.

Your willingness to embrace an unusual question and your efforts to provide a logical answer will be looked upon favorably by an employer, whatever answer you eventually arrive at!

This post was written by Christine Hathaway. Christine is an Associate Director of Marketing and Communications for Co-op and Career Development here at Northeastern. She is our in house marketing guru and is passionate about planning events, working with others to create powerful marketing materials and presentations and enjoys an occasional kick-boxing class or two! Tweet her about this post @CareerCoachNU.

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

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.

How Do I Answer This Interview Question: How many Rubik’s Cubes fit inside an airplane?


Umm wait what? I thought this was a job interview, not a test of my knowledge about the iconic puzzle cube invented in 1974. What in the world does this interview question have to do with measuring my ability to do the job in question? More than likely, the interviewer doesn’t even know the right amount of cubes that fit inside the plane, and probably doesn’t care to know. In reality the final answer isn’t so important; rather the interviewer is more concerned with how you got to that answer! This kind of question may be asked to gauge your problem solving ability and how well you deal with vague situations.

There are a lot of unknowns in this question, and that is the point. If you are presented with a situational question like this, clarify! Ask questions about the problem to help you better understand the answer you are about to give. Thinking “out loud” (sorry introverts!) in this setting will allow the interviewer a peek inside your thought process so they can follow along as you solve the problem. Remember, the math, and final answers may not always add up for this type of question and that’s ok!


You: Before I give an answer I feel is correct, I’d like to ask a few clarifying questions. What model airplane is this?

Interviewer: It is a Boeing 747.

You: Great, and could you tell me more about this 747? Is it fully loaded with passengers and luggage? How many seats does it have? Is it totally gutted and we are just filling the empty shell?

Interviewer: This 747 is totally empty. There is no luggage, passengers or seats in the plane. For this problem we are curious about how many cubes can fit in the hollow shell of the 747.

You: Perfect, can you tell me more about the cube? Is it a standard sized cube? Could you give me the specific dimensions of the cubes that we will be filling the plane with?

Interviewer: Sure, the Rubik’s Cubes are 3x3x3 inches.

You: Fantastic! So to summarize, we are assuming that this 747 is empty, with no people luggage or furnishings inside, and the volume of each cube is 27. With this knowledge, I my best estimate would be roughly 150,000 Rubik’s Cubes inside the 747.

And there you have it! Just remember that these types of questions are less concerned with the actual answer, but more about how you arrive at the answer. Happy interviewing!

Mike Ariale is the Assistant Director of Career Development & Social Media at Northeastern University. He specializes in disability employment issues, and works with many other diversity initiatives on campus. When not at work, you can find doing heavy bag work at the boxing gym, hanging out at the latest SoFar concert, or enjoying Boston’s foodie scene! Tweet him @CareerCoachNU