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 Debbie,

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.

“Things Change and it’s OK”- Advice from a Nursing Alum

Clockwise from left: NU Commencement in 2009; Machu Picchu - 2008; NU Alumni event at the Red Sox/Giants game in San Francisco 2013; After completing the San Francisco Half Marathon in 2013

Clockwise from left: NU Commencement in 2009; Machu Picchu – 2008; NU Alumni event at the Red Sox/Giants game in San Francisco 2013; After completing the San Francisco Half Marathon in 2013

This guest post was written by Michaela Coté, a 2009 nursing alum and now a Registered Nurse on a Med/Surg floor at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, CA.

I graduated with my degree in Nursing on May 1, 2009. This year, May 1st fell on a Thursday, a #throwbackthursday or #tbt to the Instagram world. As I scrolled through my Instagram app during lunch, #tbt after #tbt popped up of old friends back at their Northeastern graduations. At first I couldn’t believe it. 5 years?! Then I looked around my work break room and down at my faded scrubs I bought on my first coop. Yup, 5 years.

So, here I am. I’ve been out of college as long as I was in college. Time flies, and boy do I need new scrubs. Alas, here’s what I have to share.

Things change and it’s OK. I am a Nurse. When I started college, I was told I could do whatever I want, wherever I want, and just maybe my student loans would get paid. When I graduated, every hospital was on a hiring freeze, meaning I couldn’t even pay my student loans. I got lucky (thanks to a NU connection!), and landed a job that would have originally been my last choice. I now love my job so much so that I have yet to get a new one. Now, the healthcare system has taken a turn and my job is once again on the line. One of the reasons I went into healthcare was because there would ‘always be jobs’. But, things change and I can’t do a thing about it except make the most of it. The first job you land might not be the one you want, but how do you really know? We are young and we have time. Things will work out, they just do.

Save. From our co-op experience of having steady full time jobs, we should be good with money at this point. Whether that’s true or not is another story. Personally, while my paychecks may have helped to pay some bills (kind of…), they also made it very possible for me to go in and out of Lord & Taylor sales (which are are AMAZING if you’re not aware). In any case, it’s time to get serious about money with your first official job. Set up your retirement plan and do it before your first paycheck. That way, you’ll never know
how much cash you could be making, and your retirement fund will be off to a great start. It’s like you’re putting money away for the Lord & Taylor sales of year 2055, right?!

Loans are memories. You have no choice but to pay back your loans, so try to put a positive spin on them. Each month when you sit down to make your monthly payment, think about what an amazing time you had at Northeastern. Think about the hours you spent in the caf freshman year. Think of the numbers of pitchers you drank at Connor’s (that co-op paychecks also funded), and the amount of ‘last calls’ you thought were necessary at Our House. Think of the lifelong friendships you made and the laughs you’ve
shared. Think of the ridiculous amount of free t-shirts you have, the sporting events, the fact that you shopped at Wollaston’s despite the crazy mark ups, the Marino center, T rides, the Pru, being a part of a Red Sox World Series, your co-op experiences. Whatever it is, you loved Northeastern, you had a great education and experience, and you are lucky to get a monthly reminder of that. My brother went to a state school and has no loans. Sucker. He gets no reminders of how great college was.

Travel & find a ‘hobby’. You are young and most likely have only yourself to look after. You now accrue vacation time at your new fancy job, and you make real money (hopefully). You no longer have to study. Your free time is your free time. Go see the world! You have the resources and the time, so get out there and make the most of it before you’re tied down. On that same note, you have FREE TIME. Find something new to do. Take up one of those ‘hobbies’ job interviewers always think you have. Read a book that isn’t a
textbook. Start playing a new sport. Take up a new activity. Make a personal non work and school related goal for yourself. Don’t you dare let this time and freedom waste away.

Congratulations on your graduation. Go show the world what an amazing person Northeastern helped make you. Use your Northeastern connections and brag about your coops. You will do great.

Michaela Coté is a Registered Nurse on a Med/Surg floor at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, CA. Many thanks to her co-op advisor, Jacki Diani, for putting her in touch with a past NU professor who at the time worked at the medical center and introduced her to a hiring manager for an interview. Feel free to contact her at Michaela.cote@gmail.com

When You’re Too Good For Them

Source: blog.careerworx.co.uk

Source: blog.careerworx.co.uk

This post was written by Associate Director of Northeastern Career Development, Susan Loffredo.

Have you ever dated someone who used “You’re too good for me” as a reason for breaking up with you? Did you believe it? I didn’t think so.  So when an employer passes on hiring you for the same reason, you shouldn’t believe it either. Or should you?

In most cases, you probably should.  Just because you’ve moved way beyond the job you’re currently applying for, doesn’t mean you would be better at it than someone who has only those exact qualifications. In fact, you probably wouldn’t be as good, because those old skills are probably rusty.

I am assuming here that you applied for a lower level job not because it’s the job of your dreams but because you need a job, any job. Hiring managers understand this, and are leery of candidates who seem like they are only interested in a quick paycheck and will decamp as soon as a better offer comes along.

Employers are also concerned that candidates with an overabundance of experience will be bored and unmotivated because the job isn’t challenging, and will ultimately become unhappy with the lower salary and status. And think about this: if your qualifications are equal to or greater than those of your prospective manager, you may be perceived as someone who is gunning for that manager’s job.  While there are managers secure enough to hire someone who could challenge their authority and expertise, not many do.

Your best chance of getting hired is by going after jobs that fit your qualifications to perfection. But if the rent is due and you have to broaden your search, selectively applying to positions that require less experience may be a reasonable option, especially if you are able to commit to staying at least a year.

In addition, choose jobs that offer you a chance to learn something, maybe a new field or a different set of skills. Explain in your cover letter that this is one reason this job appeals to you.  Be clear that you realize the salary may be less than someone with your experience might expect, but that it’s okay.   Maybe a less challenging job will allow you to have more time outside of work to devote to family, additional training or an important hobby. Make this point in your cover letter as well if it fits.

The job market seems to be improving, but there are still so many job seekers on the market that employers, like Goldilocks, can usually choose the one who is just right.  But if you can show the employer valid reasons for your interest and the worth of your skills, that just right one could be you.

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.

Work. Location. Culture.

 

image generated by Wordle.com

image generated by Wordle.com

This article was written by Megan Fernandes, a 4th year international affairs student at NU as a guest blogger for The Works.

Work. Location. Culture. Last year, a professor told me that these are the three distinct elements I need to consider when looking for a job. A few years ago, I might have written this off fairly quickly, but after having a few varied work experiences under my belt, I realized they are all equally important to my happiness and success. Between my first and current co-op, I’ve learned what I need in a workplace to thrive professionally as well as what I need in regards to location and relationships to be happy. Like many other NU students- I have definitely learned what I don’t like in work, even before I figured out what I do.

Work. As college students, we’ve all been encouraged to pursue areas of study that we are passionate about in the hopes of finding a career where we feel we are making a difference. However, I’ve learned over time that feeling too committed to any particular job, industry or institution early on can be very limiting. I had my entire college career planned out by the fall of sophomore year, but so many different opportunities and challenges were presented along the way that threw my plans to the wind and changed what I had previously thought was a priority. Neither the work nor the industry I was in were much of a consideration in choosing my past two co-ops (sustainable agriculture in Cameroon and asset management in Boston), but that doesn’t mean I’ve learned any less about the kind of work I want to do eventually. Being able to stay flexible and transfer over as many professional and social skills between jobs, no matter how different they are, will help keep you positive and confident wherever you go.

Location. Because we attend such a diverse school that offers so many opportunities to leave campus, NU students, more than anyone, understand the importance of location. Cities around the world are becoming more international and physically going and living somewhere else isn’t as difficult as it once was. The big challenge is being OK with being uncomfortable and really giving each new place a real chance; keeping in mind that you may decide, despite your utmost respect for their culture and way of life, that it’s just not for you. Cameroon taught me that, specifically by showing me how different cultural values, social and economic factors can directly dictate the population’s lifestyle. Doing two co-ops in Boston has also taught me that I like living in cities and getting to know a city helps me feel at home.

Culture. Nowadays, people are thinking more broadly about what it means to employ people who are good “fits”. Thinking about if you can sit next to someone 8 hours a day, 5 days a week is more of a consideration in hiring than ever before. It works the other way around as well. I have worked for a company whose mission and work I was highly inspired by, but the internal culture was unexciting and stifling. I have also worked for a company in an industry I am not stimulated by and whose work I often find routine, but its internal culture is more open, laid-back, and appreciative than anywhere else I’ve experienced. This combination has allowed me to see that I need a relaxed culture and the encouragement to form personal and professional relationships to maintain my personal happiness and motivation at work.

As much as it goes against my initial view when I started school, simply working on something you love isn’t enough. I always thought that if you found what it is that you wanted to do, you’d be golden, but I’ve realized that loving what is physically around you, both the location and the people, makes your work even more meaningful and makes you even better at what you do.

Megan Fernandes is an international affairs student in her fourth year at Northeastern with academic interests revolving around global poverty alleviation. Megan is originally from Houston, but went to high school in Bangkok, Thailand before moving to Boston. She loves learning about other cultures and would be happy to show new people around Boston! 

“Can you think like a (insert job title here)?”

Clockwise from the left: Graduation day celebrating with Chara, Road Trip with Club Ice Hockey at UVM, and me now

Clockwise from the left: Graduation day celebrating with Chara, Road Trip with Club Ice Hockey at UVM, and me now

This guest post for the 5 Alums, 5 Years Later series was written by Jeff Donaldson. Jeff graduated Cum Laude in 2009 with a BS in Electrical Engineering and is a Lead Electrical Engineer at CDM Smith.

In a world where we have everything at our finger tips, we often take for granted that accomplishments take time. Many of you reading this want to get right out into the “real-world” and make a difference in your field. I want to let you know that “YOU ARE READY”! Co-op definitely prepared all of us for what it is like to hold a job, get to work on time, and begin to feel what responsibility really is. But let’s take a step back and think about what the classroom environment prepared us for.   After all, that was a huge part of the $200k+ we paid, right?

I’m going to cut to the chase here (mostly because I am an engineer and writing isn’t a strong suit for many of us).  Looking back over the last five years, I can honestly say that about 90% of what I do at my job I did not learn in the classroom. Although I cannot speak for every major and degree, I am confident that many of you will agree with me.

Now before you go ask President Aoun for a refund, ask yourself if you feel confident in your ability to learn. Of course you do; you just graduated college. The ability to be a lifelong learner is something that will impact your professional success for the rest of your life, and that you did learn in the classroom.

You spent the better part of the last 5 years sitting in the lecture halls, doing homework, and studying for hours on end in Snell Library (read: procrastinating on Twitter and Facebook). You have recently passed your last finals (assuming graduate school isn’t in your future life) and received the Bachelor of Blank in Blank you’ve worked so hard for. Officially, you are extremely knowledgeable of said subject matter.

So, next question: Can you think like a/an (insert new job title here)?  Many of you will probably say, “Hmmm, I don’t really know what that means. What does it mean to think like a/an (insert new job title here)?”

The day has come to officially apply all of that college knowledge to a full-time professional position. My advice is: be confident in your ability, even if you don’t know something at your new job. Know that you possess the tools to give the assigned tasks a try (trust me, your boss will take notice and reward you for it). All of your course work has trained you to respond, read, prepare, and talk like a professional. This is so important to realize NOW as you graduate and take the first steps in your career.

That said, please be careful not to be over confident.  Understand you have the tools to be successful, but that success takes time. Learning how to apply what you’ve learned and to continue to be a lifelong learner goes a long way. Coupled with patience and hard work, you’re sure to be a success.

So, good luck, congratulations, and may you all have great success in the next chapter of your lives.

YOU ARE READY!

Jeff Donaldson graduated Cum Laude in 2009 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. He is currently a Lead Electrical Engineer at CDM Smith, a Consulting and Design Engineering firm in Cambridge and a Registered Professional Engineer in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He also founded the Northeastern Men’s Ice Hockey Club Team in 2005. Please feel free to contact him at donaldson.jeff@gmail.com.

Advice for Graduating Selfie Monsters

Clockwise from left: Graduation day in front of The Garden May 2009, Bek 2013, Birthday outing 2014

Clockwise from left: Graduation day in front of The Garden May 2009, Bek 2013, Birthday outing 2014

This post was written by NU alumna Rebekah Gallacher. Bek majored in English and Communications and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2009.

I’ve always resented the notion that “the real world” doesn’t happen until after you graduate college. I find that this sentiment is typically coupled with the idea that our generation—Generation Y—doesn’t understand what the real world is. I don’t know about you, but five years at Northeastern, three co-ops (plus two freelancing gigs), zero summers, a weekend job slinging drinks to BC kids, a double overloaded final semester, and astounding student loans felt pretty real to me. Tack on graduating into The Great Recession—one of the worst job economies in recent history—and I thought I had this “real world” thing down.

Five years later though, I can admit through the clarity provided by hindsight that life is in fact realer. These last five years have been the most influential, the most tumultuous, the most real for me so far. Those of you entering “the real world” this spring will get plenty of advice. More than you’ll know what to do with most likely. So I’m going to tackle only one thing: that despite all of the effort we’ve expelled so far, we are actually a bunch of lazy, entitled, tech-obsessed selfie monsters.

You heard me. Needy. Coddled. Selfie monsters.

Now, I personally will stay confounded by this impression for as long as it persists. I don’t know a single one of these Gen Ys. (Who are these people!?) But this perception is pervasive, and try as we might, we’re not going to be able to get away from it. Not yet, anyway. So your challenge, and my best advice for your next five years, is to face it head on.

It is absolutely central to your success to understand and acknowledge the assumptions about Gen Ys. Once you do, you’ll be able to interact more effectively with your colleagues from other generations, including your boss. (Spoiler Alert: that’s kind of…well, everything.) The self-aware Gen Y is the smartest Gen Y and the Gen Y that will get ahead. A little self-awareness goes a long way.

And don’t stop there, you overachieving go-getter! Take some time to understand where other generations are coming from, what they value, why they might think you’re a whiny baby with wildly unrealistic expectations. (Their words, not mine!) The Gen Y that’s well versed in generational differences is the Gen Y that will be actively sought out for their opinions and expertise.

All of this being said, don’t be afraid to use your unique point-of-view to your advantage. Be confident that your age, your experiences (“real world” or not) are both personal and organizational strengths. We’re soon to be the largest cohort in the workforce and we have an opportunity to shape the world of work. We will undoubtedly influence expectations, flexibility, technology, compensation, the social consciousness of our organizations—just to name a few. As well we should; much of this needs changing and I know we’re up to the challenge.

Let’s take back the conversation around our generation and redefine our organizational value. Because the Generation Y I know is hard-working, collaborative, innovative, and ambitious.

Congratulations to the Class of 2014. I look forward to everything you’ll accomplish. Including making me feel old and technologically out of date.

Let’s do this thing!

Rebekah Gallacher is an Associate Editor of Web Content at Harvard Business Publishing. She received her dual BA in English/Communication Media Studues in 2009 and managed to turn it into a real job! Feel free to contact her at rebekahgallacher@gmail.com or tweet her at @RCGallacher.