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.

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

lawyerWhat do you want to be when you grow up? It is a question all of us have had to answer and many still struggle with long after they walk across that stage, degree in hand. If you had asked me that question 10 years ago, I would have told you a lawyer; 5 years ago, I wanted to work in PR. What am I doing now? I’m a career counselor and digital marketing professional. What happened? Well, a lot actually.

Our career choices are impacted by a number of things: family, friends, what we see on TV, our values, and that’s just the short list. Sometimes we make a career or major decision because we think it’s what we want to do without really doing the necessary research of what that career/job actually is.

Let’s take my “I want to be a lawyer” example. Seems like a good idea. I had a solid GPA, I am interested in law, politics and civic engagement, I’m a great public speaker and wanted to choose a somewhat lucrative profession. To top it off, I really enjoy watching legal dramas (I’m still sad USA’s Fairly Legal is no longer on- look it up) and could see myself as the ambitious, crime fighting, do-gooder characters. Fast forward to freshman year of college: after doing some research and talking to professors I found out law is really hard. Understatement of the year, I know, but as I continued to explore the option, it seemed less and less like a good fit for me, and there are a few reasons for that.

One, law is extremely detail oriented, research heavy and entails a lot of independent work. Immediately I am turned off. Two, apparently I’d be working a million hours. One of my strongest values is work/life balance, so this was pretty much the deal breaker for me. Finally, law school is very expensive and at the time, the job market looked pretty bleak for new lawyers. As much as I thought I could kill it as a lawyer, I questioned how happy I would really be going to work everyday. So, what’s my point?

Beginning Thursday, Career Development will be launching a new series entitled Career Confidentials: What It’s Like To Be a “Enter Job Title Here” which will be real people talking about their jobs honestly and candidly. Get an inside look into what it is really like to be in a certain industry and profession and use the info to help you think about if it is a right fit for you. Our first post on Thursday is a doozy: What It’s Like To Be a Consultant- one of the most popular and sought after positions for new grads. Stay tuned!

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

Image Source: The Daily Chelle; Day 21: It’s Only Funny If It’s You

How Can I Find a Mentor?

HNCK1708-1300x866-1024x682This post was written by Christine Hathaway, Senior Assistant Director of Marketing for Northeastern University Cooperative Education and Career Development. It was originally posted on Internmatch.com and was re-posted with permission from the author.

Whatever your career goals may be, it’s nice to have someone in your corner, rooting for you. The majority of us can truly benefit from and find value in having a mentor to encourage, support and promote us, but this is often easier said than done.

First, you may be asking, “what is a mentor?”  Secondly, “how do I find one?”

As defined in the dictionary, a good mentor is a person who guides a less experienced person by building trust and modeling good behavior.  An effective mentor is someone who is dependable, engaging and understands the needs of the mentee.

Overall, a good mentor will:

  • Access your strengths and weaknesses
  • Help you understand the structure/culture of the organization
  • Introduce new perspectives and help correct any wrong thinking you may have
  • Boost your ability to make decisions (and ask questions)
  • Introduce you to resources and useful references
  • Be an active listener and help keep you focused and on topic

Now that you understand what a mentor is; the bigger question is how do you go aboutfinding one?  Sometimes mentors find you (it happens naturally), but more often than not, YOU need to find someone you respect, even admire and would like to emulate at some point in your career.

Throughout my professional career, I’ve been privileged to have effective career mentors; people who were instrumental in my professional growth.  The first mentor was my boss, many years ago when I worked as her executive assistant. She taught me all about the publishing world, the editorial lingo, how to ask questions and most importantly, to develop my skills, professionally and personally.  I had a lot of respect for her and I found myself wanting to mimic her professional behavior (and her wardrobe, she was a classy dresser!).  That said, I took every opportunity possible to sit down with her over a cup of iced coffee and pick her brain about her career and how she got to where she was.  We did this often, and eventually I got promoted to the marketing department!  She congratulated me and commented, “I’m proud, it’s a compliment to me that you are being promoted, it means I did my job.”  She is still my mentor. Even though we don’t sit and have our iced coffees any more, I still call upon her and she still offers words of wisdom.

It’s not always easy to find a mentor. Here are some tips I learned along the way:

  • Ask yourself what qualities you want in a mentor.  Is it someone who can help promote you or an expert in your field that can help with a business project?
  • Does your HR department have a mentoring program?  Make an appointment and find out more.
  • Check out LinkedIn!  Do an Advanced People Search and look for people that you went to college with or have worked with at previous jobs, even professors from school.
  • Steer away from a formal request! Don’t ask “will you be my mentor.” This is usually not very inviting, if anything it’s a bit off-putting. Instead start by simply asking someone for advice or invite them out for a cup of coffee.  Find out more about their career path.  And, MAKE IT FUN.  Get to know each other. Don’t make it sound like work…smile, and exude excitement.
  • Prepare and practice your speech.  Looking for a mentor means marketing yourself and being self-confident. Learn to promote yourself, talk about some of your accomplishments and seek advice on how you can be better at your job or how you can land that promotion at work. Here is a cool article in Forbes, I read a few years ago, check it out, Trust Yourself and Believe in Yourself!

Now that you have some tips and my own personal mentoring story; start thinking about who you would like to get to know.  Keep trying, don’t give up! Looking for a mentor often happens organically, it’s a relationship that develops over time.  You’ll find that there are mentoring opportunities everywhere!

Good luck!

Mastering Moving to a New City

woman looking out window

This guest post was written by recent NU alum and frequent contributor, Kristina Swope.

Congratulations! You got a real job in a brand new city. Now what?

Moving to a new city is both the most riveting and terrifying experience I’ve ever had. I had just turned 22 and was fresh out of college in rural Pennsylvania. I was living at home, getting comfortable, and then it happened – I got a job in Center City Philadelphia.

First, I was ecstatic, because let’s be honest, I had a BA in Sociology and had no idea what to do with it. Then when the initial excitement wore off and I was alone with my thoughts, I started to have serious anxiety about the timing. I only had two weeks to move out of my college apartment, find a new apartment in an area I’d been to twice, move in and get settled enough to avoid being an emotional disaster my first day of work. I was overwhelmed and kept coming back to the same thought; am I doing this? Can I do this? Can I really move to Philly when I’ve never been in a building higher than 4 stories? Cue freak out and bring over the tub of ice cream.

Rather than sweets, what I really needed was perspective. This was an exciting life change and an amazing opportunity. I needed to stop being afraid of the next chapter, and the only way to do that was to prepare and embrace it.

In order to embrace the change, you need to prepare – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

  1. Research areas to live. You want to live somewhere safe but you don’t want to be isolated. Google has plenty of information on towns that include events and demographics that are key in the young professional search. It takes time to delve into stats but it’s definitely worth it. Also, Career Development has a great resource called USA Career Guides that provides with a wealth of information on every major city in the US. From cost of living to industry and employment trends it’s a great way to get acquainted with your new city before actually getting there. Access this resource through HuskyCareerLink.
  2. Choose an apartment that has public transportation within walking distance. I can’t stress this one enough. One of the scariest aspects of moving to a new city is having no idea where you’re going. Relying on public transportation relieves you of that stress and allows you to focus on the more important items, like settling in to your new job and apartment.
  3. Speaking of apartments – rent, don’t buy. Your first apartment will likely be strategically planned, based on convenience. Once you know the surrounding areas, you’ll find an area you like better. Renting gives you the freedom to move and create a home somewhere that you truly love.
  4. Check your networks. The age of social media is a beautiful thing. Facebook and LinkedIn were vital in my search for friends because of the search location functions. I found a number of people I knew that were living in the area and proceeded to cling to them like white on rice. A city is way less scary when you have familiar faces around.
  5. Locate stores for your key needs. Find your closest grocery store, bank, pharmacy, mall, Target, gym, etc. within a day or two of moving. The sooner you find them, the sooner you can get back into your routine and feel more comfortable in your new space.
  6. Plan to go out of your way to make friends. If I could do my first year out of school over again, I would try harder to meet others. Push yourself to go out more, do more with your hobbies, and join local groups. It’s easy to meet people when you’re engaging in activities you enjoy, and friends are worth turning off Netflix for!

Kristina is a full-time Market Research Project Manager in Philadelphia and a graduate of NU with a Master of Science in Organization and Corporate Communication, and a Leadership concentration. Check out her LinkedIn profile here.  

What I’ve Learned from Managing a Social Enterprise in South Africa’s Townships—And Other International Co-op Lessons

heart capitalOn Aug. 26, I boarded a plane destined for Cape Town, South Africa. Twenty five hours later I arrived at my new home for the next four months.

A week later, I started my co-op at Heart Capital, an impact investment firm on the outskirts of Cape Town that manages a portfolio of social enterprises in local townships. So what have I learned so far from this incredible opportunity to learn about social enterprise management in one of the regions of the world that needs it most? Read on.

1. Printer ink, Internet access, phone calls, and meetings are luxuries—not necessities.

 

In Cape Town, I’ve realized that you can still conduct business without a formal corporate infrastructure in place—it’s just a little more difficult. No technology on site? Better make sure you bring everything you need with you. Deliverymen didn’t drop off your compost in the right place? Time to revamp the work schedule so that you can account for manually hauling your supplies to a different location.

 

Being innovative and flexible are essential in the social space—you often won’t find well-oiled business machines in under-resourced townships.

2. Sometimes, the needs of the business don’t go hand in hand with the needs of beneficiaries. And that can be challenging.

 

The difficult thing about managing social enterprises is that they don’t operate as for-profit businesses, but they aren’t nonprofit either. In this space, we spend a lot of our time wrestling with wanting to help people directly while still trying to progress the business. These tough decisions make this space incredibly challenging. What’s important is that you figure out the best way to cope with the situation. For me, I’ve found that leaving work at the office and exploring the area allow me to clear my head and face the challenges ahead. Figure out what gives you inner peace and capitalize on that.

3. Creativity is key.

 

When there isn’t a clear procedure on how to do something, that presents an opportunity for innovative thinking. Past and current interns have developed new systems for inventory management, sourced free materials from willing companies, and launched crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for supplies. Success in this industry—and especially in an international environment—relies on drive, creativity, and innovation.

4. Working internationally is different than working at home.

Sometimes you might forget that cultural norms you took for granted aren’t the same in other countries. Email may not be effective, the laws and regulations for donations may be different, and common words and phrases may not be present in your new space.

 

Like any new job, it’s important to take each lesson in stride. Sometimes, working in a different country can be frustrating and confusing. It may make you want to tear your hair out, find the nearest McDonalds, and try to un-block Netflix. But by using each experience as a learning opportunity, and then reminding yourself about the lessons you’ll be able to take home with you, you’ll survive—and, even better—thrive.

 

Sarah Silverstein is currently managing Heart Capital’s ongoing Indiegogo campaign to raise $15,000 USD to purchase a bakkie, or small vehicle, which will drastically improve the organization’s operations on the ground. Check out the campaign page to learn more about the campaign.

What Do We Really Want in the Workplace?

love job

This guest post was written by Career Development intern and College Student Development and Counseling graduate student, Jabril Robinson. 

Great question! In today’s advanced society, there are many preferences, demands, and pressures to deal with, in all areas of employment. Those who do not meet these can quickly fall out of favor with an industry. But what is it that people really are searching for when deciding on an area of employment? Money? While it is necessary (someone’s got to pay the bills, right?), money is not everything. I recently completed a course entitled “Reality Therapy”, which has applications to the workplace and gave insight as to what it is that everyone not only wants, but needs in the workplace. These are known as the five basic needs: survival, love/belonging, fun, freedom, and power.

Based on Dr. William Glasser’s psychological concept of Reality Therapy and Choice Theory, these basic needs are essential for happiness, both in one’s personal and professional life. Let’s start with the first:

SURVIVAL: the most fundamental need: this encompasses biological and physiological necessities such as food, water, and shelter. If you are lacking any of these, well you’re probably more focused on these needs versus reading on, but let’s continue anyway!

LOVE/BELONGING: This basic need refers to having a positive connection with others in your environment– in this case your colleagues, supervisors, etc. Can’t stand lazy co-workers who just lounge around when the boss isn’t looking? Speaking of the boss, do you wish s/he or she would show a little more appreciation or accidentally fall off the planet? Do you feel like you are the outcast at work? If you answered yes re in the affirmative to any of these questions, it may be a sense of belonging or appreciation that you are missing. If you do have this on co-op, and this is important to you, ask questions on your interviews to be sure to carry this into your next role. Where does this need rank for you of the five?

FUN: This one is simple–everyone wants to have at least a little bit of fun at work! How important this is varies person to person, colleague to colleague. Some people may want to have fun once they finish their “to do” list; others want this infused in every aspect of their day. While everyone has a different definition of what “fun” entails, or when it’s appropriate at work to have it, it is easy to tell whether someone is enjoying their job or not (or perhaps enjoying it a little too much). Regardless of what your view of fun is, having a job or career that is not even a little fun may not be high on your list will not prove to be an ideal for you. For instance, what do the most successful sports team, bands, research teams and others have in common? They love what they do, have a passion for their work, and again, have FUN! Where does this need come on your short list?

FREEDOM: An especially important need. Who doesn’t desire some freedom in their work life? Freedom comes in many forms: the ability to choose one’s own hours, autonomy to work on self-initiated projects, quality break time, one’s own “space”, you name it. Without a sense of freedom, people can literally go crazy on the job. Thankfully I have yet to see this in person, (I’m not complaining, but trust me, it happens). Of course, not everyone can be their own boss, but if you feel more constricted than what is comfortable, then yes, you are probably lacking some element of freedom. Remember though: freedom is not always given–sometimes it needs to be earned. If you feel like you have earned independence, but have yet to receive it, then it may be time to evaluate how you’re going to meet this need and whether there are any changes you can make, both internally and externally.

POWER: Ah yes, power. Who could forget? Not this guy, and neither should you. Power is a subjective term, however in this case we’re talking about the ability to have a sense of control over your life outcomes. In some ways, this overlaps with the subject of freedom (it’s difficult to have one without the other), but has some differences as well. Those who have a sense of power feel as if they are able to achieve what they desire, view themselves as important to their company, and believe they can “win”. Power can also be viewed as a sense of competence in your field or on the job. If you lack power in your current job or career, it is time to evaluate. Where does this need fit for you?  Is it time to explore options to find a way to better meet this need and do something about it!

So how does this tie into Career Development? Well, during the job search process, it is absolutely important to consider if that career or if that job you’re considering, involving environmental engineering, communications, or any other field, can provide you with these needs. A great time to assess this is during the interview process. During the interview, it would be wise to ask questions such as these:

  1. What is the workplace atmosphere like between co-workers here?
  2. What sort of professional development opportunities do you offer?
  3. What are some benchmarks for success for the first six months and first year
  4. Thinking back to people who have been in this position previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great?

For interview tips, please check out Northeastern Career Development’s Interview page.

Still looking for more interviewing (both regular and informational) tips and strategies? Please visit our Career Development page for more information. Interested in an individual appointment to figure out where these needs rank for you and how to make your co-op, internship, or after graduation position work for you even better? Schedule an appointment via your myNEU, or by calling 617-373-2430—we are here to address your needs!

Jabril Robinson is a Career Development Intern at Northeastern University. Having graduated with a degree in Psychology, he enjoys studies on human perception and motivation differences between individuals. He is currently enrolled in Northeastern University’s College Student Development & Counseling Program. Send him an email at j.robinson@neu.edu.

Image Source: Able & Fernandes Communications Company

How To Stand Out In A Good Way

man-climbing-stairs

This post was written by Diane Ciarletta, Director of Northeastern University Career Development.

Starting a new co-op or full-time job can be a challenge.  As the new kid on the block, you not only have to learn how to do the job, but also how to fit in with the company and make a strong impression. However, in most organizations, just being good at your job is not enough to get you noticed.  If you want to turn your coop into a full time offer or get on your boss’s radar for a promotion, it is important to find effective ways to increase your visibility.  You want your colleagues and manager to see you as a leader who adds value to the team and the company.  As a manager, I have hired several interns into permanent positions.  What differentiated them from the competition to win a coveted spot on our team?

Here are four ways you can make yourself stand out:

1. Go beyond your job description

View your job description as the minimum expectation and don’t ever be heard saying, “That’s not my job!”  Spend your first few weeks observing others, asking questions and figuring out ways you can add value to your team.  If you see something that needs to be done-take the initiative, bring it to your boss’ attention and offer your help.  If you find a way to do something more efficiently, suggest it with a concrete plan.  Step out of your comfort zone to learn a new skill or take on a project that no one else wants to do.  Possess a Yes-I-can attitude. If you show a willingness to learn or try something that would be beneficial to the company-you will definitely be positioning yourself for success.

2. Manage your time well

If you want to stand out, it is critical that you be regarded as someone who gets things done and done well.  Missing deadlines, or handing in a less-than-stellar project because you didn’t give yourself enough time to do it right is unacceptable.  The ability to multi-task, i.e. managing competing projects simultaneously, is expected of most employees, and is critical for anyone who aspires to a leadership role. It is important to prioritize your time when it comes to completing projects in order to get them done on time.  If you are unsure of which tasks to complete first, have a conversation with your supervisor to clarify expectations, and avoid potential problems in the future.

3. Speak up in meetings

The way you present yourself in meetings can have a big impact on your career. If you don’t let yourself be heard and never offer an opinion or comment, you may be giving off the impression that you are not invested.  Even if you are more introverted and prefer to think things through before you speak, find ways to participate.  When you do speak up, say your points succinctly and clearly.  A great way to figure out how to become an effective speaker is by watching those who do it well.  Meetings are where a lot of business gets done, and contributing your ideas publicly allows your boss and your peers to see you as a leader.

4. Ask for feedback and use it to improve

Getting feedback and constructive criticism from your peers and supervisor is one of the best ways to gauge your performance.  If your manager offers unsolicited feedback about a perceived problem or mistake, don’t be defensive.  Instead, take ownership and accountability and devise a strategy to address the problem.  If your manager doesn’t volunteer performance feedback –ask for it-appropriately.  You could request a regular one-to-one meeting to discuss problems, status updates and check-in about how you are doing.  When you are seeking feedback, don’t ask, “How am I doing?”  It’s too general and might not elicit specific, concrete suggestions.  Instead, ask about the one-thing.  For example, “What is one thing I could do to improve the way I…?  If someone takes the time and effort to give you feedback make sure you demonstrate how you are using it to improve your performance.

Diane Ciarletta is the Director of the Career Development Team.  She has been a Career Counselor for over 25 years and has hired and supervised many interns and professional staff.

Photo Source: Man Climbing Stairs

Career Tips for Students with Disabilities

self advocate quoteBelieve it or not, qualified workers with disabilities are some of the most sought after new hires in today’s corporate America.  Naturally, employers are looking to colleges and universities as a main talent pipeline for people with disabilities. Here are a few tips to help navigate the world of disability as you begin your own career search!

Become a self-advocate:

If you are a student with a disability, likely you’ve had help planning your accommodations or IEP as you went through school. In the professional world, no one will initiate these conversations for you. YOU will need to get the ball rolling. By knowing what tools you need to succeed in the workplace, you can begin to advocate on your own behalf for success! So step back and take a look at what your need to succeed, and to who you should speak with about this in a professional setting. What accommodations will you need, if any to get the job done?

When talking about disability in the workplace, focus on abilities, accomplishments, and achievements. Living with a disability can in fact be good for business! Alan Muir, executive Director of Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities, points out that people with disabilities are fantastic problem solvers.  Muir says “Problem-solving, thinking outside the box—or whatever you may want to call the skill—is something people with disabilities have in abundance”. This unique perspective is invaluable for companies competing for the next big innovation in their respective industries

Be informed about your rights and responsibilities under federal, state and local legislation:

No one likes to read through a massive legal document chock full of legal jargon that will make your brain melt, I’ll give you that. Never fear, because there are resources that make all the dry dense stuff a little easier to read for us non legal folk. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN)  is a great website that gives the TL:DR on the reams of paper it takes to print legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and other resources about determining reasonable workplace accommodations.

Still not sure what this all means for you? JAN has free consultants that can help you answer any questions about disability and employment!

Join a community:

With 11% of enrolled college students and one in five Americans reporting that they have some kind of disability, I can guarantee you are not alone and that others are facing similar experiences.  This identity can be used to unite, support, and educate those around you! Not sure where to start? Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities is a national organization that connects students and employers together through its FULL ACCESS: Student Summit, which takes place regionally twice a year.

Looking to connect professionally? Many employers now have Employee Resource Groups for people with disabilities that serve as a space for employees with shared identities or interests to create professional development opportunities, provide peer support, and act as a voice to promote social change in the workplace. Finding out if groups and diversity initiatives like this exist at employers that you are interested in working for is a great way to see what value a company places on disability inclusive diversity.

Bottom line:  At first glance talking about a disability in the work place can be complex, intimidating and overwhelming, no doubt about it. At Career Development, we have staff that can help you make sense of how to address your disability as you begin your job search. So come on by, make an appointment with one of Career Advisors today! We are here to help you get hired for your skills and abilities, not just your disability.

Mike Ariale specializes in disability employment, self- advocacy, disclosure and accommodation strategies for the workplace. You can schedule an appointment with him through MyNEU or by calling the front desk at 617-373-2430.

Image Source: Post-it Quote- Pinterest

 

What does it mean to work for a non-profit?

non profit post word cloud

This guest post was written by NU Pre-Law and Graduate School Advisor, Anne Grieves.

It may mean that you won’t be making as much money as your friend at Fidelity.  It may mean that you come home from work emotionally drained.  It may also mean that you come home knowing you had a positive impact on something or someone. Wherever you end up 5, 10, 15 years from now, having had even one experience working at a non-profit will give you what you won’t be able to buy with any amount of money.

In my 20s I worked for two educational travel companies; one was a for-profit and one was a not-for-profit.  Each one offered amazing opportunities, but looking back, it was at the not-for-profit that I developed a stronger sense of self, gained professional self-confidence and knew that what I brought and gave was important and valued.

Working at the for-profit was FUN.  The management team had frequent celebrations (with champagne), gave out bonuses, hosted annual team building ropes course retreats and much more.  Anything to incentivize the staff.  However, each month, those that didn’t perform as expected, were cut.  There were quotas to meet and if they weren’t… tough luck.  People came and went so frequently that developing relationships was very challenging.

Of course not all for-profits are like this.  But, if the bottom line is making money, sometimes it comes at the expense of other things.

Five years later I worked at a similar company, but the fact that it was a not-for-profit (slightly different from non-profit), allowed me to grow in ways I would not have been able to at the previous company.  I had opportunities to be creative, was able to get involved with many projects and connected with every single person in the organization.  Everyone was open and willing to mentor.  People were busy but were not driven by the bottom line.

The president of the company who turned 50 while I was there, started as an intern while he was in college.  I was surprised to learn that many employees had been there for over 10, 15 and even 20 years.  This was in 2000 and many of them are still there today!  We did not have expensive celebrations (rather potluck parties).  We did not have fancy office supplies.  We had a sense of community.  We had the daily awareness that we were creating something of value for society and we cared to do our best without monetary incentives.

Sure- even there some people had to be let go.  But, only as a last resort and much coaching.  Here, creativity was valued and ideas were encouraged.  People recognized each other’s talents and leveraged them for constant growth of the individual and the company.

In my late 20s, working at this company I grew in many ways and made connections hands on world picthat have stayed with me to this day.  I now have a career in higher education because that is where my passion and interests join together.  But, having had a taste of working at a not-for-profit triggered that excitement of knowing I could leave work at the end of the day with an incredible sense of fulfillment.

So, if you are a student with a passion, a desire to lead, a yearning to bring about change and have a natural tendency to truly care, you should consider working for a non-profit or social impact organization.

Please join us on October 9th, 5:30-7 at the Non-Profit and Government Networking Forum in Raytheon Amphitheater, to learn more about the world of non-profits.  This is an opportunity to meet with 14 organizations that are making an impact on education, the environment, the arts, health care, and social enterprise.  You will get to know people within the nonprofit community in Boston who are always happy to help young people interested in using their careers for good.  Also check out the nuCAUSE Careers calendar of events for the fall semester for other opportunities to explore non-profit careers.

Anne Grieves is the Pre-Law and Graduate School Career Advisor at Northeastern University Career Development. A proud ENFP, Anne enjoys helping students explore their career options through various assessment tools and workshops and is a freelance Zumba instructor. To make an appointment with Anne, call 617-373-2430.   

Getting Their Ear: Understanding Connectors’ Interests

Tad Info Interview picSo, you’ve decided to link up with a connector for an informational interview. Great, but do you feel you are asking for a favor—i.e. for advice and guidance—without offering anything in return? This misconception undermines informational interviews in a couple of serious ways. First, asking for a favor can be intimidating; and second, it will limit your notion of what the informational interview is.

Focus on interests – yours and theirs

View the informational interview as a negotiation. Ask: “How do I get what I need from this interview in a way that meets the connector’s interests as well?”

Certain interests are common to nearly all connectors. Put yourself in their shoes and consider what you’re in a position to offer them, such as:

  • Recognition: being valued for their expertise
  • Reputation: being viewed as a facilitator or mentor
  • Convenience: having their schedule accommodated (and therefore respected)
  • Insight: understanding you and your perspectives on the field; and how their advice helps to advance an up-and-comer
  • Utility: meeting a potential collaborator/employee who may fill their staffing needs in the future
  • Affiliation: enjoying the opportunity to have an engaging interaction with an interesting (and perhaps like-minded) individual
  • Status: distinguishing them as someone of prominence and importance in the field
  • Appreciation: acknowledging the sharing of their time, attention, and wisdom

Interests are specific to the person. What do you know about what these people are like or would like? For instance, some connectors don’t often interact with colleagues in their field, or adjacent fields, and they may genuinely welcome the opportunity to learn from you or to hear updates about other people in their field who you’ve already contacted. Take one of Carly’s experiences, for instance:

When I was working in the conflict resolution field and considering switching careers into mental health, a lot of the psychotherapists I met for informational interviews genuinely welcomed the chance to learn from me about dispute resolution and mediation. These topics pertain to psychotherapy, but the professional paths of mediators and therapists don’t often cross. I was really happy to find myself adding something of value to those conversations.

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Guidelines for requesting an informational interview

Here are some useful guidelines for requesting an informational interview, followed by a sample email. We generally make these requests over email, so we’re focusing on written requests; however, most of these guidelines apply similarly to a phone or in-person request.

Tone and content 

  • Do not write in a way that assumes they will say yes. You’re asking, so your phrasing should make clear that the meeting is conditional on their response: “If yes, would you have any availability the week of the 8th?”
  • Your tone should demonstrate that you’re flexible and willing to make this as convenient as possible for them.
  • Show gratitude and let them know you’d value their input: “I’d value the chance to ask you a few questions about your professional background and the field.”
  • If they don’t know you, include a brief, engaging description of who you are and why you’re interested in meeting them. Don’t give your life story; give three or four sentences, max. In particular, mention topics or experiences that you value in common.
  • Use your knowledge of a given connector or your general understanding of the field or the industry landscape to speak to other interests. If you know that they’re concerned with leaving a positive legacy, let them know that their advice will help you positively influence the future of the field.

Logistics

  • Think about their schedule depending on their job, their field, family situation, etc. Be sensitive to when they’re likely to be free.
  • Make sure you nail down the specifics before the meeting: time (accounting for time-zone differences); location; whether or not meals are involved; phone vs. in-person; if by phone, who is initiating the call, and at what number.
  • Once you have a meeting scheduled, it’s good practice to send a confirmation email a day or two before the appointed date. This is a helpful reminder that busy connectors will appreciate. It shows them that you’re responsible and lowers the likelihood that you’ll be stood up without notice.

Sample email

Dear Betty,

I hope that you’ve been enjoying a wonderful spring thus far.

I am recently out of college and trying to work my way into the negotiation and conflict resolution worlds. I have been meeting with as many interesting and accomplished people as I can to hear their stories and gain their counsel. Both John Doe and Jane Smith mentioned that you would be a great person to speak with. They both spoke of your ingenuity in entering this world and, more broadly, in navigating the challenges and stresses of career-building for someone in their mid-twenties.

I would be truly grateful if you had time in the coming week to meet me for a brief conversation. I can make time during any of the days except Thursday and will happily come to you.

Thank you for your time and best wishes,

Justin

Tad Mayer is an adjunct professor at D’Amore-McKim teaching Negotiating in Business. This blog article is an edited excerpt from End the Job Hunt, a book due out in 2015. Mr. Mayer is co-author with Justin Wright (who also teaches the class) and Carly Inkpen.

Photo source: Flickr Creative Commons, Coffee time