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.

This is important sign

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

4 Things I Didn’t Learn in College (but wish I had)

ego-deflatedThis guest post was written by NU Alum Kelly (Sullivan) Good she currently works as geologist at Environmental Resources Management in Chicago. 

When I graduated from college, I was convinced I knew everything. I mean, it was right there on paper: good grades, multiple awards; let’s face it, I was a great student. And I was pretty sure I was going to ace the Real World too (cue the “wah wah” as we picture my metaphorical ego being deflated). It turns out, there were several ways in which I was very much under prepared.

Don’t get me wrong, Northeastern prepared me very well. I learned a ton about my chosen field thanks to fabulous professors, I learned time management, I learned how to craft a great resume and cover letter, I learned how to write about a variety of subjects, and most importantly I learned how to learn. I certainly would not be where I am today without a Northeastern degree under my belt.

Even so there were some subtle tips I just didn’t pick up in college. But never fear, it’s not too late to start integrating them into your life right now!

1. You can’t just look good on paper and expect others to notice you.

It took me a long time to find a job, despite having a solid resume.  Grades matter, yes, but so do a host of other factors and often it boils down to who you know. You hear it all the time: network. So start early, Huskies. Establish solid, lasting relationships with mentors at your co-op. Perfect and re-perfect your cover letter. You can never spend too much time job searching.

2. There are no grades at work

Well, duh. But this one took me by surprise. In college, there is a fairly standard metric to measure yourself on, at work there isn’t. It’s hard to know how you are well you are doing, unless of course you really mess up. At my job my supervisor gives me a task, I complete it and move to the next one. I spent the first three months convinced I was doing everything wrong because I wasn’t constantly being graded. It turns out, all I had to do was ask. This will likely vary by industry and by supervisor, but once I sought feedback from colleagues I became much more confident. Practice this at school by asking your professors and classmates to look over assignments before handing them in. Don’t be afraid to schedule an appointment with your professor to talk about ways you can improve, this is totally normal in the Real World.

3. You’re no longer just working for yourself

At NEU, I would pick and choose assignments to devote a lot of time to depending on how they affected my grade. I also developed the poor habit of doing all of a group project because I couldn’t trust anyone else to do it right. I did everything for myself because my grades didn’t affect anyone else but me. Not so much in the Real World. Every task you’re given has a purpose. Your company is depending on you to complete it well. Additionally, most of what you do is part of a larger project. You must learn to be courteous of others’ time, and learn that you cannot possibly take care of everything. Begin now by completing all of your assignments to the best of your abilities and by taking advantage of the shared responsibility that comes with group projects.

4. You can’t always research your way to the right answer

This was the most difficult for me to get used to. Before starting my job, I spent three straight years as graduate student researching my thesis. I was very good at reading scientific articles and even spent whole days and weeks looking for small pieces of information that would push my research to the next level. Ain’t nobody got time for that in the Real World, my friends. If you don’t immediately know the answer to a problem, start asking around. You will save a ton of time using the combined knowledge of your colleagues instead of trying to Google something that’s super industry-specific. This one is a little harder to work on while in college. Obviously, you can’t just ask your professor for the answer, and too much collaboration with your classmates can be considered cheating. So I recommend you continue to research and study the way that works best for you, but try not to forget all that information you learned. It might come in handy some day, and you may be the one your colleagues come to for answers.

In all, it’s not too bad out here in the Real World, but I do know I would have been much better off had I known these things before graduating!

Kelly (Sullivan) Good graduated from Northeastern’s College of Arts and Sciences in May 2010 with a degree in Environmental Science. She received her Master’s in Geology from the University of Utah in 2013 and currently works as geologist at Environmental Resources Management in Chicago. She can be reached at kellygood88@gmail.com

Photo: sourced from EWW­Magazine

Help, My First Job Is a Disaster!

raining

True or false: The major you choose in college will dictate what you do for your entire career.  Did you choose true?  Well consider this: a certain actor, prankster and ex-husband of an older woman majored in Biochemical Engineering in college. Would you have ever predicted Ashton Kutcher’s career from that major?

Don’t misunderstand: I am not saying that what you learn in college isn’t useful. It just may not be useful in the way you anticipated. Sure, in many cases the content of your major provides theories, facts and techniques that can be directly applied in the workplace. Often, that content is supplemented and enhanced on the job as a new employee is taught an employer’s way of doing things.  In many other cases, the content of what you learn is not as important as the skills you develop in the classroom and the lab, like critical thinking, logical writing, oral presentation or working on a team.

The same principle applies to your first job.  Obviously, it’s insanely great to be hired by your dream company for the perfect position right off the bat. But it is not a career-ending catastrophe when your first post-graduation gig is far from the ideal you envisioned.

Maybe another quiz will help make my point.  Consider the following list of jobs: Lion tamer, paralegal, congressional page, accountant, special needs teacher, mortuary cosmetologist, hair salon receptionist, high school drama teacher, party clown.

Who do you think held which job before the start of their “real” career? Christopher Walken, Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Gates, Ray Romano, Sheryl Crow, Whoopi Goldberg, Beyonce, Jon Hamm, Hugh Jackman.

(Answer: jobs are listed in the same order as the people who held them.)

It’s not too hard to imagine the transferable skills these rich and famous folks may have developed at their early jobs. Courage, patience, and humility come to mind; public speaking, relationship building, and detail orientation do as well.  After walking into a cage with a lion, or being responsible for applying makeup for a deceased person, a job interview might not seem that intimidating.

The reality for most new grads is that student loans are due, rent has to be paid and food put on the table. And even if you’re happy moving back to live with your family for a while, it’s a good idea not to leave a sizeable gap on your resume between your graduation date and your first job.  So don’t hold out indefinitely for the perfect job, and don’t stress if you need to take one that is second best.  Instead, challenge yourself to learn all you can while you’re there, even if your work wardrobe includes a red nose and floppy shoes.

Author Susan Loffredo began counseling NU students well before the iPhone was invented and owns socks that are older than the class of 2013. Email her at s.loffredo@neu.edu.

How to Thrive In an Introverted/Extroverted Workplace

image source: http://wildhairmedia.com/2011/10/30/introverts-vs-extroverts-who-benefits-more-from-social-media/

image source: http://wildhairmedia.com/2011/10/30/introverts-vs-extroverts-who-benefits-more-from-social-media/

This guest post was written by Jabril Robinson, a Career Development intern and graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program here at NU.

Personality is defined as “the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s unique character” (Psychology Today). Understanding one’s personality type is crucial, not only in adapting to a workplace environment, but also selecting a workplace to be a member of in the first place. One of the most common examples of personalities comes down to extroversion and introversion. Although these may be widely used terms, I’ve noticed in my experience that relatively few people actually understand what encompasses an introvert or an extrovert, and what essentially makes them different. If you are one of those individuals who find the subject to be perplexing (or just have a general interest), please read on!

Q: What is the difference between an Introvert and an Extrovert?

A: Introvert: Not surprisingly, introverts are re-energized by having “alone time”. Even when working with small groups of people, they can be quickly overwhelmed by unfamiliar situations or surroundings. Depending on the situation, a large crowd of people can be an instant red flag to an introvert. When it comes to work, introverts prefer to concentrate on one task at a time, and observe a situation (or group of people) in advance, before jumping in.

Careers that promote the strengths of introverts include scientists, writers, and artists. Famous examples of introverts include actress Julia Roberts, actor Clint Eastwood, host David Letterman, and author J.K Rowling.

A: Extrovert: Often referred to as “social butterflies”, extroverts make a living through social stimulation. They focus on elements of the external environment (in contrast to an introvert’s inner mental realm), such as the people on activities around them. Extroverts thrive in active, fast-paced jobs, such as sales, teaching, and politics, where skills such as adaptability, problem-solving, and quick decision-making are critical. Extroverts learn firsthand by doing, and prefer to talk through ideas and solutions. Multitasking is an extrovert’s bread and butter.

Famous examples of extroverts include Oprah Winfrey, President Barack Obama, actor Tom Hanks, and former NBA player Michael Jordan.

Q: Are there misconceptions regarding Introverts or Extroverts?

A: Indeed! For instance, shyness is a trait commonly used to describe introverts. Firstly, both introverts and extroverts can be shy. Shyness is essentially a feeling of uneasiness of anxiety experienced in social situations. Here’s the key difference between shyness and introversion: while introverts prefer less social stimulation, shy people often desire social interaction, yet avoid it for fear of being rejected or criticized. Boom! Introverts rejoice!

A misconception involving extroversion is that all extroverts are loud, annoying, and talk too much. While this may be true for some individuals, not all extroverts are such. Extroverts simply prefer to think out loud, whereas an introvert may do more internal thinking before speaking–just a style difference.

There are several other misunderstandings when defining introversion and extroversion, which brings me to my next point….

To be a successful employee, it is crucial to understand not only yourself, but also the personalities of those around you in the workplace. Issues can arise when introverts and extroverts interact. Introverts may see extroverts as bossy, while an extrovert may see an introvert as shy or withdrawn. Whether an introvert or extrovert, here’s some advice that may help you understand what is going on across the fence:

What extroverts should know about their introverted colleagues:

1) If we need alone time, it is not because we don’t like you, rather because we need it–don’t take that as a personal insult.

2) If you want to hear our opinion, please be patient. We aren’t in a rush to speak up–we know we will have our turn eventually.

3) We are not lonely people, but we are choosy about who we associate ourselves with. If you try to turn us into extroverts, you will not be one of those people!

What introverts should know about their extroverted colleagues:

1) If we try to get you to loosen up, we aren’t doing so to annoy you. Honestly, we mean well.

2) If you are struggling with small talk, we can help with that–it is a useful skill, whether you like it or not.

3) We are not all the same–just like introverts. There are extroverts who have a quiet side too–you just have to keep an open mind.

Not sure where you fit on the extroversion/introversion spectrum? Set up an hour-long appointment with a counselor in the Office of Career Development! Utilizing personality assessments, we can help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, and what career paths may best serve your abilities.

Jabril Robinson is a Career Development Intern at Northeastern University. He has a growing interest in personality assessment, such as Strengthsquest, True Colors, and several others. Currently enrolled in Northeastern University’s College Student Development & Counseling Program, Jabril seeks a Master’s degree within student affairs. Send him an email at j.robinson@neu.edu!

You Worked There How Long?

This guest post was written by Tina Mello, a co-op faculty member in the College of Science and former Northeastern University Career Development Associate Director.

I worked for Northeastern’s Career Development office for over 11 years, before starting a new position this past February, working with biology students in the co-op program at Northeastern. In this day and age, it’s rare for someone to stay in one job for as long as I did. Taking a new job can be exciting and scary and energizing and nerve-wracking all at the same time, but especially for someone who’s been in the same job for as long as I had. Staying at the same University and already knowing some of my new colleagues made the transition easier, but it’s still an adjustment.

Things that you sometimes take for granted when starting a new job:

  • The people. Without question, Career Development is filled with AMAZING people who make wonderful colleagues – collaborative, creative, and dedicated to Northeastern students (there’s a reason The Princeton Review regularly ranks Career Development #1 or #2 nationally). I worked with some of the same people for 11 years – they weren’t just coworkers, they were friends. We had lunch together regularly, knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and knew the names of spouses/significant others/children.
    My husband's bird Kiwi- glamour shot!

    My husband’s bird Kiwi- glamour shot!

    Which isn’t to say we didn’t butt heads or sometimes drive each other crazy – that’s bound to happen when you see someone day in and day out. My new colleagues are great, but we’re still a relatively unknown quantity to each other. I’m still learning people’s quirks and personalities, and sometimes I have to explain my sense of humor or perspective. Though it does also mean I have a new audience for stories about my husband’s Amazon parrot Kiwi and how crazy she can be…

  • Space and location. I was settled into and comfortable with my own office. I knew where everything was, whether it was the bathroom or employer gifts or paper to refill the printer. It’s been 5 months since I moved into my new office, and I still don’t remember where I put everything. And have you ever been to Mugar? Some days I walked in circles trying to find my office. It took me months to figure out which building entrance was closest, and then they shut down that entrance due to construction. Ugh. It’s not a big deal per se, but these kinds of things can be disorienting and slow you down.
  • Knowing how to do your job. I was a core member of an experienced group of staff in Career Development, and was sought out for my knowledge in particular areas, such as the social media for the office. I knew my job well, and I had a rhythm going. Now I’m the one asking all the questions and wondering how I can make a direct and immediate contribution to the group. My skills with resumes, cover letters and interviewing are easily transferable to my new position, but I’m also learning how some of these things vary in the context of co-op, and more details about policies and procedures. I’ve collaborated with alumni and employers when doing programs for Career Development, but I’m new to job development and relationship management, and rely on my colleagues for strategic advice. It’s not unusual to take 6 months to a year to completely settle into a job, especially with something as cyclical and time sensitive as co-op – I haven’t seen the cycle through from start to finish yet.

Adapting to a new job has its growing pains, but it’s also exciting. Learning new things is a challenge, but it’s also energizing, and is what motivated me to change jobs.

For additional tips on adjusting to a new job, read this post from my favorite blogger, Alison Green, writer of AskaManager.org.

Tina Mello is now a Co-op Coordinator for the Biology program at Northeastern, having left Career Development in January. She’s currently busy deciphering phrases like “in vivo” and “assays,” and trying not to get lost in Mugar.