Dress For Success In the Workplace

dress-for-successAs superficial as it sounds, what you wear matters. How a person dresses is both a physical expression of respect and a nonverbal communication. While the old saying goes “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, everything you do makes a statement about who you are. It also has an immense impact of how people perceive you the first few seconds they meet you and can have lasting effects on your career. Obviously, where you intern/co-op matters, as the workplace and field have their own unique cultures, from conservative suits and ties on Capitol Hill to swag free t-shirts in Silicon Valley. The bottom line for dressing well, therefore, is to align with the brand you want to communicate. So how do you look the part?

Here are a few ways you can use a guideline as you navigate your job:

1. Do Your Research:

In advance of a job interview or going to your job on the first day, do your homework and observe how employees there dress. Most fashion stores have clothing line that gears towards young professionals, such as Ann Taylor, Loft, Zara, The Limited. For high end shops, you can go for more established brands such as Brooks Brothers, Tommy Hilfiger, PINK, Ermenegildo Zegna (men only), etc.

2. Tailor It When Possible:

Though some college students might be living on a budget, do remember that tailoring your clothes goes a long way to making a difference. If the clothing is too tight or too loose, it gives off the vibe that you are sloppy and not cleaned up. When you are investing on good presentable clothes, you want to make your investment count. And unless you have a sewing machine at home, you should always go the extra step to go to a tailor to make it fit your body type. It will also give you an extra boost of confidence as well. You won’t regret it!

3. Pair Everything With a Blazer:

Say you are going to a networking event or a cocktail event after work that requires you to dress up, but you are not sure how dressy the event is or you don’t have time to go back home to change – what should you do? Pair everything with a blazer, because it allows you the flexibility to dress up and down. Now the big question is what color, according to hiring managers, blue is the safest choice because it sends the message that you are credible and trustworthy, and inspires confidence. Avoid brown because it signals old-fashioned, and black which conveys leadership and over-confidence. You don’t want to come up too strong and overpowering especially if you a just a low-level assistant. Save it for the future.

4. Other Do’s and Don’ts for Women and Men:

It’s a fact that women can lose respect in the work place if they wear too revealing clothes. A good rule of thumb is, the younger you are, the more conservatively you should dress. As you move up in your career, consider changing your wardrobe style and making a bit of statement, but for now, no short skirts and revealing tight tops. Also, refrain from wearing too much makeup but do put on deodorant. For men, generally there is much less to worry about. However, you should wear your hair in a clean and neat style; while hair gel is not necessary and depends on your personal style, sometimes it does do the trick to tidy your look. Another thing that employers notice are shoes. Make sure they match the color of the suit you are wearing, and that they are polished and clean. Try not to show too much socks when you sit and wear pants that suit your height. Lastly, for both genders, if you have any visible tattoos and body piercings, you should always err on the cautious side to conceal them.

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!

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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.

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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!

Interview Freak Out: How Do I Answer That?!

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Our worst fear, when walking in the door for an interview, is that we’re going to get stumped. This HR recruiter is going to ask us something that stops us in our tracks. We imagine ourselves sitting there with a blank stare, dumbfounded expression, and sweat starting to form on our brow. So what can we do?  Consider using these 4 strategies.

  1. Buy some time. Restate the question to the interviewer. It will look like you are just getting clarification. It might look something like this:

“So, you are wondering about a time when I had a disagreement with my boss about an issue at work? Let me think about that for a second.” 

By restating the question it’s giving that question time to settle into your brain and buying you valuable seconds to see if you can come up with an example. It’s far better than saying, “ummmmmmmm”.

  1. Swap the scenario. If you can’t think of a time when you had a disagreement with your boss, then swap out the scenario. Maybe you can come up with a slightly different example.

“While I’m not able to think, right now, of a time when I had a disagreement with my boss, I can think of a time when I had a challenge with a classmate during a semester long academic project. Could I share this example with you?”

  1. Answer directly. Now if you are still drawing a blank, here’s one other approach. Consider stating that you can’t come up with an example, but mention in general how you handle conflict and ask if that helps.

“While I’m having trouble coming up with a specific example, I can share that in general when I have a conflict with someone I typically pause first to think through the situation, step into the other person’s shoes to try and see where they are coming from, then think up questions that I can ask that would allow us to explore the situation in more depth as a means to working through it.”

4. Postpone

“This is an excellent question, and I can imagine it’s important to know how an individual employee will deal with conflict.  I’m having a hard time thinking up an example in this moment; however, I wanted to see if we might be able to circle back to this question at the end of the interview?”

In the end, one of the most important things you can do is to stay calm and be real.

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


How Do I Answer This Interview Question: What 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 glassdoor.com. 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 this interview question: What are your weaknesses?

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

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

Examples of a good response:

For a position that requires significant participation in two teams:

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

Conversely for a position that requires working independently:

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

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

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

Interview Questions

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

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

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

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

So, what are some good questions you can ask?

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

And finally….

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

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

How to Make the Most Out of Your Summer


With summer classes mid-way through and spring co-ops left with about a month, college students’ minds are inevitably shifted to a long-overdue summer vacation. After a semester long of hard work, we all deserve a nice break, where we enjoy the warmth of sunshine and good company with friends — after all, post-graduation this will all be a luxury for young working professionals. But while it is important to have fun and wind down, college students should also be taking advantage of a summer when they have fewer obligations with schoolwork to make the most out of it.

Here are a few possibilities you can try to keep yourself busy this summer:

  1. Find a Summer Internship/Job

It’s a no-brainer that summer internships ensure career success after graduation. After all, isn’t what Northeastern’s co-op program is for, to make sure that Huskies graduate with ample work experience to get ahead in the game? Regardless of your co-op experience, an extra summer will give your future employers an impression that you are driven, ambitious and willing to learn. Plus, who wouldn’t want extra cash even if it is part-time? Or even if it is just a summer job, be it in a coffee shop, restaurant or a country club, the skills and experience that you will learn to be crucial to building your character and financial success.

  1. Travel

When scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed or Instagram pictures, it is not unusual to see pictures of friends traveling for fun, studying abroad, and doing a dialogue. After all, “life is a book and those who don’t travel, read only one page.” Moreover, travel is crucial for us to understand and make sense of the world around us. The experience, history, culture and the people we encounter will help us discover ourselves and appreciate people different from us. If you are really serious about it, many travel agencies and companies with great deals, such as EF College Break, TravelZoo, and Expedia might be good sources to check out. Moreover, with the vast amount of Northeastern alumni and friends across the globe, it is easy to get connected or even crash at their places so you can save money here and there.

  1. Learn a new skill

Have you ever get passed over for a co-op because you didn’t know Adobe Photoshop or excel? While soft skills such as communication and writing are important in the workplace, hard skills are equally important in helping your application stand out. Consider spending this summer taking classes on acquiring or polishing a new skill (or even mastering a foreign language). From publishing, coding, building a website, to learning Adobe Photoshop, endless online courses and tutorials are at your fingertips. All you need is just a willingness to learn!

And of course, don’t forget to relax and wind down, because you deserve it! Just remember: Work Hard, Play Hard.

Scarlett Ho is a third year International Affairs and Political Science major with a minor in Law and Public Policy. During fall 2014, she studied abroad in Belgium where she interned at the European Parliament. The summer prior to that, she interned for Senator Warren on Capitol Hill, and previously Congressman Lynch in Massachusetts. She can be reached at ho.sc@husky.neu.edu.

Work Smarter: Office Productivity Tips For Co-ops

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We all have those days when sending an email feels like dragging yourself through a mile of hot desert sand. It’s easy to hit a wall around 2 or 3pm, when your brain packs up her bags and takes the first train home regardless of how much you still have to do. Increasing your productivity has a huge effect on confidence and workplace satisfaction (you know how good it feels to cross an item off of your to-do list. It’s awesome). Here are a few tips to enhance your productivity this week:

Beat the crowd. By being the first one in the office, you can catch up on emails from the day before, schedule meetings, and get things done before other people arrive. This prevents you from feeling stressed-out or behind on your work throughout the day. This habit also illustrates your dedication as an employee, setting you up well for a raise or a promotion down the line.

Avoid the social media stare. I often fall into the trap of the social media stare – keeping one or two browser tabs for work, one for Twitter, one for Facebook, one for the blog. The social media stare is a source of constant interruption when you stop working for every Twitter interaction or Facebook notification. Close those windows to take advantage of your most productive hours.

Clump meetings together. It’s impossible to get things done when you have a meeting from 10-11am, a lunch meeting from noon-1pm, and a meeting at 2pm. When scheduling meetings, try to create clusters of meetings so you have a few hours at a time to get into a work groove. If possible, encourage your office or just your department to adopt one meeting-less day each week. This will allow for greater focus and more productivity.

Use two monitors. Just do it. Once you start using two monitors, you will be amazed that you ever got work done before. One screen is extremely limiting, especially when it comes to research, writing, and creating presentations. If you have the resources, adding a second monitor will greatly increase your productivity and ability to multi-task.

Take advantage of technology. You are always connected, so you should probably make the most of the innovative apps and tools that are available to you. Have to focus for a bit, but distracted by background sounds? Check out Simply Noise (www.simplynoise.com), a white noise generator that allows you to block out sounds around you so you can focus and be more productive. For an easy-to-use note-taking app, try Evernote. Perfect for list-makers, Evernote allows you to keep track of everything on your phone, tablet, and computer.

No matter what, you will hit difficult days when your efficiency seems to plummet and it feels like you can’t get anything done. Focus on these tips or make your own to improve the quality of your work without spending extra hours at the office.

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. Find her Tweeting at @lindseygsampsonand blogging about travel & career at http://moreawesomerblog.com/.

Networking for Internationals (and Non-Internationals, too)

Two People Coffee Notebook

A few weeks ago I went to an interesting workshop for International Students where I learn a lot about NETWORKING. I know that many of us do not like networking…. Who likes to talk to a bunch of people they haven’t met in their life? No one. But the true is that NETWORKING is the way most people (in this case students) might find a job or at least can make a good connection. You never know, you can find a mentor or a friend, as well as good ideas and new perspectives about life and careers. The fact is that even though networking can be tough, it can be fun too.

I would like to share with you a few tips that I learn from Joselin Mane, a Social Media Strategist and Networking Guru. In his workshop Networking 2.0, I learned new things I never imagined would work to get to know new people.

First of all, we should start working with our Personal Brand. Create an original business card. Using a picture might be informal but it will make people remember you. Think about it, if you were at an event with 50 different business cards in your hand, you would really want to remember peoples’ faces. On the other hand, we should create a website (just a short bio is enough). Many of us have LinkedIn accounts, of course, but remember that recruiters will Google you, and the more information they find, the better. You can use free websites such as www.about.me or another websites builder such as www.wix.com

Other useful things:

  1. When meeting people, use something that won’t make them forget you. Example: flower in hair, special pin, etc. Use something colorful. Have you been to a career fair? Everyone is dressed in black and white! Its time to differentiate ourselves.
  2. Take pictures or selfies. Take this advice with precaution. Do it when you feel is right because the idea is making a good impression.
  3. Send those pictures in the follow up e-mail. Send a follow up email immediately. Don’t let them forget you.
  4. Practice your elevator speech as much as you can. Try to be natural and fluent.
  5. If you need to use a name tag, use it in your left side. They will see it better.
  6. If you engaged in a conversation remember people’s name. Everyone loves to be called by their names.
  7. Connect with people before the event when possible. Use social media.
  8. Reactivate your Twitter account (if it is a professional one), and put it on you name tag.
  9. Google yourself. Let’s see what the internet says about you.
  10. Join professional groups.

The idea of Networking is meeting new people to create a relationship that might benefit both of them. We just need to be ourselves acting naturally. We are not born to be liked by everyone, so don’t panic if someone ignores you.

If you want to know more about Networking, please visit Joselin Mane website http://bostontweetup.com/

Maria Martin is pursuing a Master in Project Management at Northeastern University. She is passionate about helping others in their personal and professional life. She is currently doing a full time paid co-op at Eversource in the Marketing and Sales Department. You can contact her at mariajesusmartin13@gmail.com