How to Make the Most Out of Your Summer

DeathtoStock_Wired8

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

so productive

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

Beating the First Day Jitters: 5 Simple Steps to Overcoming Anxiety

anxiety ecardIn my experience, starting a new job is rarely anything short of nerve wracking and overwhelming. Getting acclimated to a new environment is difficult and it’s hard to prepare yourself for such a transition, since it’s nearly impossible to know what to expect from your new job. Personally, leading up to my most recent first day of work, I was a mess. My confidence level waned as my uncertainty increased, and I was preoccupied with the thought that my arrival at the office would be a disaster. Somehow, I managed to pull myself together just in time, using these five tips, and rocked my first day on the job. Here’s how you can too:

  1.    Plan Ahead

Since much of your first day is likely to be a mystery until you get to the office, make a plan for the parts of the day that are in your hands. Set an alarm so that you have enough time to really wake up before you head out. Designate the amount of time you need to get ready, and decide exactly when you want to leave. Make sure that you give yourself ample time for your commute so that you’re not rushing to make it on time. Laying out plans ahead of time will give you the sense that more of your day is in your control.

  1.    Do Your Research

To prepare for an interview, it’s important to familiarize yourself with a company and what they do. Why not do the same for your first day? Even if you conducted previous research, look up your organization, your superiors and co-workers, and your own job description to refresh yourself before you arrive. Aside from looking at information concerning the company and the role that you will be playing in the workplace, make sure that you double check where your office is, the best way to get there, and roughly how long it will take you to get there. It can only help you!

  1.    Pump Yourself Up

Remember, starting a new job can be daunting, but it is also an amazing opportunity for growth and improvement. You will get so much out of this experience, and even if it ends up straying from your expectations, the skills that you will develop and refine will be an incredibly valuable asset to you in the future. Get excited to learn and get your hands dirty with something new!

  1.    Then Calm Yourself Down

Whether you’re excited to the point of shaking or you’re just plain nervous, chances are that you’ll need to take a step back and center yourself. Take some deep breaths, listen to music, stretch, take a hot shower, or sit down with a nice cup of coffee or tea before you head over. Your body and your brain will thank you for taking care of them later.

  1.    Fake It ‘Til You Make It

If all else fails and you’re still feeling the nerves, feign confidence. Even if you’re not completely convinced, walk into your office and give your co-workers the first impression that you are ready to take on the world. Being at ease in a new environment takes time, but acting comfortable will help you settle into your niche much faster than allowing yourself to be nervous would.

Joining a new office is a very intimidating experience, but don’t worry, if I can survive it, you can too. Now, follow these steps, get out there, and show them who’s boss!

Rosie Kay is a sophomore at Northeastern majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Business Administration. She is currently on her first co-op at the Governor’s Press Office at the Massachusetts State House. This past summer, she completed a dialogue in London where she explored two of her interests: English history culture and documentary filmmaking. Email her at kay.r@husky.neu.edu with questions or comments.

Tips and Tricks: Navigating Being “The Intern”

hello name internLike many other Northeastern students and young professionals, I am currently “The Intern” of my office. To me this is neither a good nor bad title, but one that I have had to grow and adjust into. The word intern often comes with predisposed judgements- especially in an office. What I have come to learn is that a confident, knowledgeable person can always make their work count, regardless of whether they are an intern or not.

Here are some tips for being an absolutely unforgettable intern:

1) Never be afraid of asking questions.

When you are new to an office, it is always better to ask than to be unsure. As much as we all want to find our new groove at work, it is essential to first learn the basics. Never be afraid of coming off needy or dependent- questions show that you want to learn how to do your job, the right way. Your supervisor is there to help you!

2) Remember: quality, not quantity.

Efficiency is absolutely essential, but never feel as though you need to prove your worth as an intern. If more time is necessary to get a project done, ask for the time. It isn’t impressive to turn in rushed work, and or to sacrifice your own mental health in the process. This can also be applied to your personal relationships with coworkers: Start with creating quality relationships with individual coworkers, instead of trying to meet your entire office all at once.

3) Find a project that you can call your own.

One of the biggest complaints I have heard concerning internships is that the tasks provided for interns are both menial and far removed. If you begin feeling this way about your internship, see this is as a sign for change. Look around for something new or exciting happening at your workplace, and ask to be involved. More often than not, your coworkers will love the help and fresh face.

4) Be comfortable with your Intern title, and take the time to understand your role.

Adjusting to a new role is difficult, no matter what it is. With internships, interns sometimes feel like they are at the bottom of the food chain and struggle to find their purpose in the office. These problems can often times be solved within the first few days of an internship, by having a conversation with your supervisor. Come in with questions about your responsibilities and duties as an intern, and ask the questions necessary to understand the who, what, where and why of your position.

Daniella is a sophomore at Northeastern with a combined major in Human Services and International Affairs, and a minor in Spanish. She is currently on her first co-op working for a youth development nonprofit organization in Cape Town, South Africa. Daniella is passionate about social change, travel, and good food- and can’t wait to see what Africa has to offer her both professionally and personally. Email her at emami.d@husky.neu.edu. Look for Daniella’s posts every other Tuesday.

Image source: Camp4Collective

What is the Professional Etiquette for an Informational Interview?

This guest post was written by Heather Fink, a former Career Development Intern now working at Wellesley College and the Hiatt Career Center at Brandeis University. She is a graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program at NU expected to graduate in May 2015.

So everyone has been telling you that in order to further your career goals, you have to network. Here are some tips on how to keep it professional and ensure success during informational interviews. If you are unsure of what an informational interview is, feel free to check our website for more information about it.

source: staples.com

source: staples.com

Come prepared!

If someone is willing to meet with you for an informational interview, you should come prepared with questions. Consider what you want to learn from the person you are meeting with and bring a pen and notepad to take notes during the meeting.

The questions you ask should be tailored for the person you are meeting with. The questions also should not be information that can be easily found on the Internet, such as where they have worked in the past (which is often on their LinkedIn profile) or what their job title is. Instead use the time to ask questions that are more in depth or are difficult to find out online. You may want to ask about industry trends or what that company seems to look for in their employees.  Be sure to refer to our blog post Strategies for Researching Companies for more advice on that.

Dress Code:

Depending on the field, an informational interview doesn’t necessarily require a suit but if you think that a Boston Bruins shirt is appropriate for an informational interview, you are mistaken. Remember that although a suit isn’t mandatory, you want the person you are networking with to take you seriously and should dress accordingly. Business casual is appropriate for an informational interview. Avoid the jeans and instead stick with slacks or a dress skirt with a sweater, blouse or button down shirt on top. This shows that you’re taking the meeting seriously. Also be sure to wear a watch to keep track of the time, you are conducting the informational interview and should make sure that you don’t make the contact run late for their next meeting.

thank you note ecard

I thanked the contact in person should I bother writing a thank you letter?

Thanking someone in person does not supplement a thank you letter. If someone is taking time out of their day to speak with you and provide advice for your career advancement, than you should take the time to write them a thank you letter. Send the contact you met with a thank you note (via email or snail mail) within 24 hours thanking them for their time. The best way to show your appreciation is to mention something you learned from the meeting so the contact feels the advice they gave was helpful.

Afterwards….

Keep in touch! Networking isn’t about contacting someone once, it is about expanding your professional network. Send the contact emails every few months with articles related to your field or mention updates if you took their advice and was successful from doing so.

Another way to keep in touch is to ask the person you meet with for suggestions of who else you should contact for an informational interview. This increases your chances of someone’s willingness to meet with you since you now have a mutual connection.  If you end up meeting with someone your contact suggested, let the contact know that their advice was helpful. This enables you to stay in touch with the contact and lets them know that their referral was helpful.

Heather Fink is a former Career Assistant at Northeastern Career Development and now currently works as the Interim Asst. Director at the Wellesley College Career Center and as a Career Counseling Assistant at the Hiatt Career Center at Brandeis University. SHe has a passion for networking and empowering others and is pursuing her graduate degree in College Student Development Counseling. Follow Heather on Linkedin at www.linkedin.com/in/HeatherFink and Twitter @CareerCoachHF. 

​Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions! Branching Out in the Workplace

hello my name isEveryone who has worked in an office, whether that be for a co-op, internship, or full time job, knows that the first month in a new setting can be overwhelming, intimidating, challenging, and full of surprises. You still don’t know what’s good in the cafeteria or who it is appropriate to address by their first name. You’re still labeled as the “new person” and it can be exhausting making sure nothing goes wrong your few few weeks or months in the office.

But now we’re halfway through the semester and everyone is getting a little more comfortable with the work and with their colleagues. I know at least that I feel much more comfortable at my co-op at US Embassy Quito and I’ve established a rhythm for both my personal and professional life abroad. I’ve figured out the difference in addressing my supervisor, the Ambassador and the Marine Security Guards who protect us. I can easily get around the Embassy compound without getting lost. And I feel like I finally understand the nuances of the Ecuadorian political system, making my actual work 100 times easier!

I’m sure most of you who are out there on co-op, whether it be domestic or international, are finding your rhythm too. But for those of you who still feel a little lost, or those who have been lost int eh past, here are a few tips on branching out in the workplace so that you have the most enjoyable time possible.

1. Introduce yourself and ask questions.

This might seem obvious, but the first week or month of co-op can feel a bit like freshman year all over again. If you are the only co-op or intern at the company, lunchtime can feel lonely if you don’t feel comfortable asking coworkers or your supervisor if you can sit with them. Here’s my advice coming from someone who felt that exact same way a month or so ago – lunchtime doesn’t need to be the first time you approach someone. If there is someone who does something you’re interested in in the office or someone who you aren’t quite sure what they do, approach them during the workday and introduce yourself! If knocking on their cubicle wall isn’t really your style, shoot them an email asking if you can sit down for a short meeting to find out more about what they do. I guarantee almost everyone will say yes, and just like that, now you know someone else in the office!

I want to join the Foreign Service when I graduate from Northeastern and am seizing the opportunity while here to sit down with every Foreign Service Officer and ask them about their job and their career path. Since I am the intern, no one has said no yet and it has opened my eyes up to all the different tracks I could pursue at the State Department as well as providing me with personal networking connections.

2. Form personal connections with your colleagues.

This means extending beyond small talk about the weather outside or if it is going to rain later. Ask your coworkers about their weekend when you come in on Monday. Find out what sort of sports your supervisor likes. It shows you are interested in who they are as people, not just someone else you email about the status of your latest project.

A word of advice however, don’t bombard people with questions and be very careful not to sound insincere. I have seen interns try too hard to become best friends with their supervisors and it can hurt you professionally and personally. Make sure you share a bit about yourself too, so your coworkers can get to know who you are as well.

I’ve found this is be very helpful in making my overall time in Ecuador as enjoyable as possible. One of my coworkers invited me to a friendly soccer game of Foreign Service Officers and Marines against the local Ecuadorian staff a few weeks ago. Even though I hadn’t played soccer since I was 8 years old, I went and had a great time even if I was awful at the actual game! As we approach the next match, colleagues have been approaching me all week asking if I am coming again – we were able to form an outside of work connection over this game and it can serve as the base for other conversations and stronger connections as the months progress.

3. Take initiative.

If there is an event or meeting that you see on the calendar, ask if you can attend too! Unless it is inappropriate for you to be there, most supervisors or coworkers will be impressive at the initiative you took to ask about the meeting and let you tag along. Use these opportunities to meet colleagues in different departments or from other offices. You’ll learn a lot from the experience and it will give you a more broad understanding of the organization you work for and the people you work with.

Recently, I was asked to do outreach to local Ecuadorian high school students about the United States and Presidents’ Day. Even though this was not my department, I thought it would be a cool experience and agreed to present. Working with my colleagues in Public Diplomacy opened my eyes to the events and programs they sponsor and gave me a strong base connection that I plan to build off of in my last two months in Ecuador. And as an added bonus, I even made it into the Ecuadorian newspaper as a promotion for the Public Diplomacy programs the Embassy has!

In conclusion, ask questions, put yourself out there and take the initiative to learn more about your surroundings! You’ll be happy you did!

Rose Leopold is a third-year political science major currently on international co-op with the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador. Prior to this experience, Rose spent her first co-op in the office of Senator Elizabeth Warren in Washington, D.C. Follow Rose’s adventures through her blog justsittingontopoftheworld.wordpress.com and on Instagram @roselandis.

Image source: LinkedIn, How NOT to Introduce Yourself by Bernard Marr

How To Prepare For A Vacation From Work

ski

Obviously, vacation is a delight. Sometimes, though, you forget it’s happening amidst everything happening at the office. Take steps before you leave to make sure your vacation is stress-free for you and your co-workers:

Tell people. First, make sure everyone who needs to know knows. Make sure your boss knows far enough in advance to be able to plan. Make sure your co-workers know so you can help split up project work.

Keep people informed. Make a list of all the upcoming projects you are working on and their status. What tasks are up next? Who is doing what? If there are specific situations you anticipate in your absence, write them down with detailed instructions on who should handle them and how.

Don’t let yourself be the bottleneck. If there are too many tasks to get completely finished before you leave, focus on the ones that require your work specifically to progress. Don’t let yourself be the person who prevents a project from moving forward.

Empower others. If you aren’t around to make decisions, empower others to make them on your behalf. Especially for smaller tasks, let people know they make decisions without feeling the need to hear back from you.

Make a to-do list. After a week of perfect disconnection has set in, it’s hard to remember what priority tasks have to be handled right when you get back. Make a to-do list right before you leave for vacation, and then be done. Don’t think about work until you come back and tackle that to-do list.

Don’t forget your out-of-office! Keep it simple: “Thank you for your message. I will be out of the office (out of the country if you will have limited access to Internet) until Monday, March 16th. I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.”

And then, once everything is set, be done. Leave. Have fun and don’t think about work. Enjoy your time out of the office so you can enjoy your time in the office. Have fun on vacation!

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

How to Excel in Your Co-Op

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

1. Ask Questions

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

2. Make Friends with Co-workers

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

3. Dress the Part

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

 4. Ask for Feedback/ Evaluation

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

5. Make a List of your Tasks

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

Good luck everyone!

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

Photo source: Young Upstarts

 

First Impressions, Or How Job Interviews Are Like Tinder

tinder gifSwipe right or swipe left? Most users of the dating site Tinder take mere seconds to decide whether to connect with a potential partner or to banish that person to the reject pile.  Would you be surprised to learn that it doesn’t take a potential employer much longer than that to form a strong impression of a job candidate? Being invited to interview for a job means that you and just a few other candidates were chosen, possibly out of hundreds of other applicants, to make your case in person.  Given this chance, it’s important for your in-person performance to be as flawless as you can make it. And that begins, and unfortunately sometimes ends, with your first impression.

gross cher reactionIn one study, 33% of hiring managers surveyed said that they knew within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether or not they would hire a candidate. In the same study, conducted by Monster.com, 65% of bosses said that appearance could be a deciding factor when two of the candidates being interviewed are otherwise very similar.  Appearance includes not only clothing but hairstyle, hygiene, makeup and jewelry.

What you wear must fit well and be clean and in good repair, including your shoes. Select and examine your outfit before the interview so if cleaning or mending are in order, you will have time to do it.  If you’re planning to wear something new, make sure you remove the tags and stitching in the pockets or pleats. Be conservative with makeup unless the job you’re after requires big floppy shoes and a fake red nose.  Likewise, jewelry should be unobtrusive except if the norm for your industry says otherwise. Regardless of industry, skip the cologne or aftershave; you have no way of knowing whether any of your interviewers have allergies or sensitivities. If you smoke, you may not be aware of the tobacco smell clinging to your coat, clothing or hair, but your interviewer will be, and most likely will not be impressed.

Knowing what to wear can be tricky. Your goal is to dress like you belong in the organization where you’re interviewing, preferably on the more formal side. For consulting, financial services and legal positions, that means wearing a suit for both women and men.  In other fields, it is up to you to do a little sleuthing to find out what is the norm. You may look crisp and professional wearing your suit, but if you’re meeting with people in a much more casual environment, they could take one look at you and decide that you don’t understand their culture. Dressing up may not score in your favor if it isn’t what other employees do, since an interview is largely about determining fit.

When you walk into the interviewer’s office, be aware of your posture. Convey a confident attitude by standing up straight and walking purposefully. A natural-looking smile is also important, as are a firm handshake, a heartfelt “Pleased to meet you” and good eye contact.  Practice these things with a friend until they are second nature.

If this seems like a lot of work for the first 90 seconds of your interview, don’t forget that without that great first impression – swipe left! – your well-prepared interview talking points may fall on deaf ears.

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 s.loffredo@neu.edu.

Image Source: Tinder Gif; Cher Gif