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

Keeping a Mentor, and Being a Great Mentee

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The biggest piece of advice I received when arriving at Northeastern my freshman year was, “find a mentor.” And this advice seemed to come from everyone- whether they be professors, advisors, friends, or sorority sisters. Finding a mentor is a process on its own, however, once you have found one it is just as important to maintain your mentor-mentee relationship. Here are some tips for sustaining a meaningful relationship with your mentor, and being a phenomenal, unforgettable mentee.

1. Be open.

This is not to say that a mentor should know every detail about you or your personal life. However, a mentor cannot guide you unless they know where you want to go. Be open about your goals, aspirations and dreams, and just be yourself. Remember that this goes both ways- so listen to what your mentor says about themselves. The more you both understand about each other, the more successful and purposeful your relationship will be.

2. Questions, questions, questions.

Many mentees feel as though it is impressive to constantly keep up with their mentor. However, this “fake it until you make it” attitude actually benefits you the least. Don’t forget why you sought out your mentor in the first place- to learn, grow and move forward in your field or in your studies. Embrace curiosity, and take advantage of your mentor’s knowledge and experience.

3. Be prepared.

Before any meeting with your mentor, keep these things in mind: What are your goals for this meeting? What questions do you have for your mentor? What needs to be done on your end, and what needs to be done on their end? Having a list of concrete objectives and actions when meeting with your mentor can go miles- it shows that you find your mentor important, and find their time and energy important as well.

4. Reciprocate.

Reciprocation is absolutely key to any relationship, and especially important in a mentor-mentee relationship. No mentor wants to feel taken advantage of or taken for granted. Watch the amount of time and effort your mentor puts into helping you, and give them that same time and effort back- and then some. Being a great mentee means valuing and respecting your mentor, and all that they do for you.

How To Avoid Co-Op Autopilot

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The first month of co-op is always jarring, to say the least.

You get up early, force-feed yourself breakfast, work for eight (or more) hours straight, then ride the T (which is most likely disabled or running late or not running at all) home. Then, you have to do that four more times before you get your first weekend.

A full-time work schedule means sometimes our favorite habits get pushed off or fall off of our calendar altogether and we find ourselves on autopilot. But it doesn’t have to be that way – it’s possible to balance working and staying involved in the things you love.

Find something to pump you up in the morning. Working full-time means waking up is even more difficult than normal. Do something you’re excited about in the morning to wake yourself up and start your day. Most major cities have a November Project tribe – this is a free morning workout tribe that meets at 6:30am with hugs and positivity and a seriously killer workout. In the morning, I like to go outside and run or workout somewhere, but maybe you prefer a leisurely breakfast or the morning news cycle. Whatever you do, wake up a little earlier to do something that makes you feel good.

Get involved in a group. Whether it’s a book club or a group on campus or a community theater troupe, do something. Having an anchor or two in your week will prevent you from coming home every night, ordering pad thai, and watching reruns of Cops until midnight. Don’t overload yourself with responsibilities, but try to keep yourself somewhat engaged and entertained throughout the week.

Plan weekend adventures. Co-op provides a unique opportunity to do things with your weekends other than homework. You have very few responsibilities and for two days out of seven, the world is completely open to you. Go on a weekend trip to New York City to see your friend on co-op outside of Boston. Plan that all-day hiking trip you’ve been dreaming about. Spend an entire day reading and picnicking in Boston Common. Do things that homework and studying prevented you from doing before. It will make the weekends more fun and exciting and, most of all, intentional.

Start a project. Co-op is the perfect time for a passion project. Have you always wanted to write a cookbook? Start a blog? Finish a Tough Mudder? Paint your apartment? Plan a summer backpacking trip in South America? Being on co-op means you have from 5pm until you fall asleep every day to do as you wish. Starting a project keeps you engaged and ready to take on the world, and could even open exciting doors for your future.

The important part of being on co-op is to be aware of the time that is available to you. You don’t have to fill every weeknight with activities, but don’t let six whole months pass by in a blur of time sheets and department lunches and evenings binge-watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

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

 

How Can I Really Improve My English Skills During College?

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This guest post was written by Maria Martin, an international graduate student currently on co-op.

When I fist came to Boston, about three years ago, I started to study English and I spent a considerably part of my time and money in writing, listening, speaking and grammar classes. I don’t regret what I did. But after being here for a while, I realized that the best way to learn English is through real experience with Americans. Here are a few tips that will help you to improve your overall English skills without spending tons of extra money and time.

1. Talk to your professors.

Do not be afraid to ask as many questions as you can during classes (what’s the worst thing that can happen? Nothing!). Many international students do not raise their hands because they do not have the words to say what they are thinking. Don’t be afraid. If you already got into college, then you are capable to find the words even if you make mistakes.

2. Volunteer.

I love to volunteer. There is nothing as gratifying as helping others. There are a lot of positive aspects of volunteering; first: you are helping someone, second: you can use it in your resume (for those who have no experience at all), third: it helps to improve your English skills. Boston has plenty of organizations you can work with. Google them, ask your advisor for help or connect with the Center for Community Service on campus. For example: I am volunteering as a Mentor in the Big Sister Association of Boston.

3. Mentors.

In my first year in Boston I found a really good person who mentored me for a few months while transitioning from my English course into my Master’s program. We spent hours and hours talking about a variety of subjects, and even thought it was difficult for me to understand, I tried my best to keep track of our conversations. Now, I can understand my friend perfectly and I can talk as if it were my own language. I encourage you to find a mentor in your area of study. There are a lot of professional organizations that offer mentorship programs, one being the Boston Product Management Association. Speaking with your mentor not only will help you to improve your English skills but also your career and networking.

4. Wise commuting.

Most of our commuting time is spent on our phone texting, listening music, etc. but do you think that this is worth your time? Why don’t we listen to NPR (National Public Radio) or read one of your favorite books in English? We need to realize that we have a barrier: language. So we should do everything we can to reach our goal. And if your goal is just going back to your home country as soon as you graduate, it will be pretty good to have a resume with a working professional proficiency level of English. On the other hand, if you are planning to get a job, well spoken English is a must.

5. Follow your instincts.

Most professionals recommend avoiding talking in your native language in order to perfect your English, but I believe that is a not realistic advice and honestly just 0.0001% of students apply it. It’s important to talk to friends and family back home and when living abroad, its comforting if not necessary to hang out with friends who share the same language and cultures as yourself. The key is to have balance. Make practicing and improving English a priority, but also make time to speak in your native tongue.

6. Small talk.

Every culture has its own small talk topics when networking. In my country, talking politics is common- that’s not the case in the US. There are plenty of topics you can talk about in American culture.

One of the most important: weather. It might not seem too interesting and very broad but Americans love talking about the weather- how can you not bring up the blizzard we just had?! Another topic: sports. Personally, I think talking about sports is boring. I know all of the major American teams and I can muster basic small talk around sports, but nothing too deep. If you don’t feel attracted to those topics you might want to get the Metro Boston Newspaper (Free in most MBTA stations) or just go to CNN.com. Small talk will help you make new friends and learn more about American culture- while simultaneously practicing your English!

7. Change your devices. 

Finally, change all your devices to English. Your phone, ipad, computer, etc. Everything should be in English. And be careful: Do not get use to just one American friend; there are a lot of accents (even inside Massachusetts).

Implement all of my tips, or start with just one that works for you. In a few months you will be able to understand and speak better. There are things that can’t be taught; practice is the only way to achieve what we really want.

Maria Martin is pursuing a Master in Project Management at Northeastern University. She is currently doing a full time paid co-op at NSTAR in the Marketing and Sales Department. You can contact her at mariajesusmartin13@gmail.com

Make the Most of Working from Home

Blank notepad over laptop and coffee cupWith Boston still enduring what is already it’s snowiest month ever leaving many college students and professionals stranded in their homes, it’s time we take some tips from telecommuters. According to The New York Times, telecommuters now make up 3.2 million American workers and is on the rise. But how do they manage it all from the comforts of home?

Here are some tips on how to not only stay on top of your work from home, but make the most of it:

  1. Get Dressed

Sorry, no pajamas here. Getting dressed and ready for the day just as if you were heading into the office can kickstart your morning and help you shift your thinking into “work mode”.

  1. Designate a Workspace

No desk, no problem. If all you’ve got is a kitchen table, make do with that. Clear it off and set up your computer, files, notepads, etc. similar to your desk at the office. Free your makeshift desk from clutter to free your mind from clutter, too.

  1. Set Working Hours

Usually at work from 9 to 5? Work from home from 9 to 5. Have class at 9:50, stay in the habit and work on coursework or reading during those hours. It’s all about staying in routine and keeping the habits going, despite the location.

  1. Keep in Touch

Cutting off communication isn’t an option even when you can’t walk up to someone’s desk. Use tools like Google Hangouts for text and video chat. Email your boss or coworkers regularly to update them on your work and see where they are on theirs. Pick up the phone if you need to!

  1. Make a To-Do List

It’s easy to lose track of what is a priority when you’re away from the office, so write out a to-do list. Avoid vague descriptions so you can refer back to it and know exactly the project you were talking about.

  1. Avoid the Kitchen

Mindless snacking happens to the best of us. If you avoid the cupboards and set regular meal times and coffee breaks, you can avoid the Freshman 15 of the work from home world. It will also keep you more focused on your work when you stay on course with your usual schedule.

Let’s hope the worst of the snow is behind us! But if storms or public transit keep you from the office, these tips will keep you working at full force.

5 Questions to Prepare for Career Fair

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I had the opportunity to speak with Neil Brennan of Meltwater recently about campus recruiting and career fairs. In five quick questions, he nailed down the best (and worst) things you can do at a career fair.

Without further ado, here they are…

1. What types of skills and qualifications do you look for in new graduates?

Well, we’re not really looking for specific degree discipline. We’re looking for people who have graduated top of their class. They typically are also active and involved in other things besides just their studies. Our graduates who come on board have some leadership experience as well. Whether it was a captain of their team or in charge of their sorority.

2. If you had one piece of advice for a student navigating the fair- what would it be?

I think that if a student is attending a career fair, they should want to make an impression when they talk to an employer. There are those who go there to extract information and those who go there to make a strong impression. If I could give advice, it would be to go there and do both. They should really be aware of the fact that they should leave the employer with the strongest impression of themselves

3. What is a Career Fair “no-no”?

If you want to work at a company where you would wear a suit to work everyday, go to the career fair wearing a suit. We are looking for students to dress to impress

4. What do you recommend students bring to the career fair?

Definitely recommend bringing a cover letter if possible as well. We’ll accept resumes, cover letters. For strong candidates we use those later on if they reach out to apply for a position.

Bring a level of research with you. When you do approach and have a conversation with the employer, it’s very obvious you know about the company even if you may have questions still. That will go a long way to make you stand out.

Bring a general level of interest. One mistake is a candidate can make is standing there and expecting the employer to impress them. Bring energy, enthusiasm, and questions.

5. How does a student stand out from the crowd?

One simple piece of advice, obviously almost like a cliche, but first impressions do count. Go up there, make an impression, say hello, shake their hand firmly, and start a discussion rather than hanging back and waiting for the employer to approach you.

Mindfulness in the Office

mindfulnessI never realized the importance of thought, presence, and objectivity until I began working as a Monitoring and Evaluation intern. I specifically asked for the position due to my desire to learn and experience a new side to the nonprofit sector- however, I found myself lacking motivation and inspiration within days. My head was reeling with numbers, most of which I had no connection to and no passion for. I began to doubt whether I was in the right place, doing the right thing, or just doing something wrong. The human mind can run with negative thoughts like no other, and I allowed mine to take me on a turbo-speed downward spiral. This is when I realized- I needed to find fulfillment in my mountains of Excel spreadsheets.

Although I have received training on mindfulness and touched on the concept in a few of my Northeastern courses, I have never let myself practice mindfulness for more than a few hours. In my mind, mindfulness was something I did to take myself away from the stresses and difficulties of college life for only a brief period of time. This is where I was wrong.

Mindfulness is a way of moving throughout your days, weeks, months and even years. It is the practice of active thinking, perceiving and observing without opinions. Instead of looking at mindfulness as an escape, I have started to embrace mindfulness as a new constant in my life- including in my office.

What is important about staying mindful in the office is to be completely present in every moment, keep your thoughts objective, and to practice compassion towards yourself and your coworkers. These are habits that have to be learned. Although it may be difficult at first to stay focused and attentive on seemingly minute tasks, it will soon become learned and normal. I admit that I am not yet fully mindful during my entire workday, however these practices have already allowed me to find hidden gems in my work that my previous judgements and perceptions kept me from seeing. I have also become aware of compassion towards myself, my coworkers, and my work itself. Not only has this taken some weight off of my shoulders, it has permitted meaningful connections to enter my life in unexpected places. And as much as it surprises me to say this- I think Excel and I are becoming friends.

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.

3 Tips to Maximize Week One in the Workplace

Rose pic 2_Fotor_CollageI’ve officially made it through week one at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador and I have to say, it has surpassed every expectation I had. The community here is unlike anything I have ever seen – being some of the only Americans here breeds a strong sense of camaraderie. I feel extremely lucky that I have been welcomed so warmly into the community, both professionally and personally.

Maximizing your first week in the office is incredibly important. It sets the tone for the rest of your co-op and you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot. Here are three tips to get the most out of your first week and to set you up for a great co-op!

1. Soak in everything that is going on around you.

Starting a new job, wherever it is, means there are tons of new things to take in. You have to learn how the office runs, what is expected of you, who are the key players in the organization, and where basic things (like the bathroom and the cafeteria) are. Compared to Capitol Hill, where I worked for my first co-op, Embassy Quito is small. There is little opportunity to get lost, but the amount of other things to learn is vast. I spent most of my first week trying to figure out exactly how everyone fits in to the Embassy structure and what each office does. Even though it can sometimes be hard to ask your new co-workers to explain the basics of what they do, it shows that you are interested in getting to know your new surroundings and the work that is going on all around you.

2. Meet everyone you can and start to build important relationships.

Your new co-workers are the start of your new network. It is critically important that you start to build these relationships as early as possible. Whether you have four months or six on co-op, time will go by quickly. You don’t want to wait until your last week to start building relationships with your co-workers in order to get a good letter of recommendation. Meeting your colleagues early on will not only provide you with a strong base for networking, but it will also make your work experience more enjoyable.

I was able to sit down and meet with the US Ambassador to Ecuador on my second day in the office and it gave me the confidence I needed to ask to sit down with the other department heads to learn about what they do every day.

3. Be flexible about your assignments, but don’t be afraid to speak up

Learning about what exactly you will be doing on co-op is a very exciting time. You might not get to do a lot of actual work your first week as your employer gets everything set up for you. This was especially true for me this week – my office had to schedule briefings and meetings for me, figure out how to set up all my computers and email, and show me around the Embassy compound.

Understand that as the co-op or the intern, you are most likely at the bottom of the office hierarchy. Take the work that is given to you, even if it not what you originally expected, and make sure you do it to the best of your ability. This will show your supervisors the quality of your work and instill confidence in them about the work you are capable of. Speak up if there is something you see going on in the office that you want to be a part of. Don’t expect that people will read your mind about your interests; you have to let them know what you want to work on.

This week I’ve been able to work on research about NGO funding to Ecuadorian programs, but I was able to sit down with my supervisors and discuss my interests in issues affecting disadvantaged populations. Now that they know what I want to work on, we are talking about the research I can do on human rights abuses in Ecuadorian prisons or the issues surrounding indigenous populations.

No matter what kind of job you’re starting, keep an open mind about your workplace and be open to whatever work comes your way!

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.

Why Your Online Personal Brand Matters

promote yourselfDuring my senior year at Northeastern, I interviewed for a Digital Marketing Specialist role at Staples Inc. For that interview, I brought a portfolio that contained screenshots of presentations and reports that I’ve done during my previous co-ops. In addition, I had also included a screenshot of my personal website and social activity on Twitter to prove my enthusiasm for the industry.The hiring manager said that my personal website and social media activities differentiated me from the competition and I was offered the position.

In a world where the job market is so saturated with college graduates, your online personal brand can really set yourself a part from the pack.

Since moving on from my role at Staples Inc, I am now responsible for educating a team of 30 people about why it’s important to establish a positive image online and how to use social media to talk to customers.The same best practices that I bestow on my team can also be leveraged by soon-to-be college graduates looking to get their resume in front of a busy employer.

Follow me on this Online Personal Branding Series where I share tips and tricks on how to build your personal brand and get noticed by employers online.

Here are 5 ways to prepare yourself for the journey – 

1) Change your mind set – It all starts when we stop thinking about social media as a tool for personal bragging, complaining, and whining. Once we see the power of these channels and how it impacts our professional image, we’re then able to break bad habits such as tweeting about a negative experience, posting inappropriate pictures on Facebook, and neglecting your LinkedIn account.

2) Clean up your profiles – In a future a post, I’ll go in depth about the different ways you can use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to build your brand. For now, I would make sure all my privacy settings are set and that my future employer isn’t going to see my bikini photos from my vacation at the Bahamas. I would also go back and review any negative or insensitive tweets and clean those up as well.

3) Google yourself – It is a misconception to think that social media etiquette and branding matters to only people in business, marketing, or advertising. Your online brand matters the moment you hand someone a networking card and that person goes home to Google you. A Google search results page pulls information from social networks to help narrow down the results. The links to your social networks will most likely show up at the top.  Try it yourself! Make sure it’s something you’re proud of.

4) Determine your brand – What is it that you want to be known for online? Are you an aspiring journalist, blogger, writer? Are you a marketer who likes to practice Yoga on weekends? Are you a scientist who is passionate about sustainability? You want your brand to be something that represents who you are but at the same time you’re proud to show employers.

5) Focus – Between exams and extracurricular activities, college students are busy. If this is overwhelming and you don’t know where to start, I recommend starting with LinkedIn. Go sign up if you don’t have an account, add a picture, update your summary, and start connecting with your peers. LinkedIn is a great space to get noticed by recruiters but if you take advantage of participating in community groups and consistently be active on LinkedIn, you might get noticed sooner.

Haylee is an Alumna from the College of Arts, Media, and Design and a member of the Kappa Phi Lambda Sorority Inc, Northeastern Xi Chapter . She is currently a Marketing and Communications Manager at Ca Technologies, a social media personal branding coach, and a yogi residing in Medford, MA.  Contact her at hayleethikeo@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @hayleethikeo.

Look for Haylee’s posts every other Tuesday.

5 Ways to Make the Most of Working Remotely

laptop computer deskIt seems as though nowadays, you can work from just about anywhere- a traditional office, your home, a coffee shop, you name it. And to be honest, I personally love working away from the workplace. It has been proven that working remotely minimizes distractions, increases productivity, gives employees much needed flexibility, and increases creativity. Who wouldn’t want to work away from the office then?

Although working remotely is more convenient, and often more efficient, distractions can be abundant. Keep these tips in mind before you start out for a new work location:

1. Have an agenda.
Working away from the office provides greater independence, however it can also lead to wasting time when there is absolutely no structure. I recommend writing down your tasks before heading out, in order of urgency. If there are projects that need to be completed, start there. You’re your own boss away from the office.

2. Figure out what kind of background noise works best for you.
Always listening to music, and always finding yourself distracted? Try going to a cafe or outdoor space, where you can have some white noise. If the white noise of public spaces feels strange to you, find a work playlist or Pandora station that can keep you focused. Working remotely gives you the opportunity to find what works best for you, not for your entire office.

3. Keep normal hours.
Although it’s tempting to work at random times, keeping a general 8-4 or 9-5 schedule helps to maintain a bit of structure to a seemingly structureless workday. If a “typical” workday schedule is what you are trying to avoid try setting time limits such as, “I will work from noon until 3, then allow myself to take a break.” When working remotely, time can either be your biggest friend or your biggest enemy. Aim to befriend it.

4. Stay in touch with your work- and ask questions.
This seems somewhat obvious, however it is surprising how being away from an office can lead to directionless working. Being aware of what your boss or supervisor’s expectations are can go a long way- especially when they are not easily accessible during the day. Try to get what is expected of you in writing the day before, so that you know exactly what your responsibilities are for the following day.

5. Change up your space often.
You found a coffee shop that you love, or a public library you adore. But going there every single day can cause this beloved place to become a new type of home- thus causing the same exact rut that you were attempting to avoid. Switching up your environment can spark new creativity, and stops the “same old, same old” feeling of the workplace.

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.