“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.

 

Landed a job, now what? Advice from the Pros

image source: http://www.rottenecards.com/card/224333/first-day-on-new-jobwhos-go

image source: http://www.rottenecards.com/card/224333/first-day-on-new-jobwhos-go

This post was written by Emily Brown, a regular contributor to The Works and a graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program at Northeastern University. She is also a Career Development Intern.

Starting a new job or co-op can be nerve-wracking.  It takes time to get a feel for the company culture and to figure out daily operations. As much as you want to find your place in a new company, you also want to make a good impression with new coworkers. I adapted some advice from LinkedIn’s “Best Advice” series and reached out to professionals for their tips on what will make someone a desired employee. While some might seem obvious, they are a good reminder that everything we do at work contributes to the reputation we build.

  • Everything you do and say reflects on the company.
  • Being positive, upbeat and responsive at all times reflects well on both the employee and the employer.
  • In a competitive work environment, going the extra mile, making the extra effort means all the difference in winning new work or retaining old clients.
  • Don’t rely so much on e-mail for communication especially if it is sensitive material.
  • Don’t text or e-mail in meetings – put your phone on silent mode and put it away.
  • Be prompt – show up on time (to work and to meetings).
  • Always make deadlines.
  • Don’t underestimate how important good writing skills are – it is a lost art!
  • Always proofread what you produce and/or ask a colleague with good grammar skills to look at it (especially if it is going to be widely circulated).
  • Don’t be afraid to say I don’t know – but also say you will find the answer.
  • Always follow through- even if it’s just to say you don’t have the answer yet.
  • Use proper grammar and speak correctly and clearly on the phone.
  • When adjourning from meetings, make sure you have a clear idea about what action items you are responsible for and what the deadlines associated with those items are.
  • Whatever you do, do it the best you can, even if it’s getting coffee.
  • Always bring a notepad when you meet with someone.
  • Make sure you communicate effectively about projects that are your responsibility. Be honest about what you have time to do.
  • Don’t leave the printer/copier jammed!
  • You can never redo a first impression.  First impressions include any time you work with someone for the first time even if you’ve been at that company for a while.
  • Listen twice as much as you speak.

After just a few weeks on the job, you’ll likely have your own tips to add to this list! When you become the pro, remember how it felt to be new and keep in mind that sharing little tips (especially on how to unjam that finicky copy machine) with new hires will be appreciated.

Emily Brown is a Career Development intern and a graduate student in Northeastern’s College Student Development and Counseling Program. She is a lifelong Bostonian interested in the integration of social media into the professional realm.  Contact her at e.brown@neu.edu.

Making Positive Impressions

This guest post was written by Katie McCune, a Career Development Assistant at Northeastern University Career Development. She’s also a Career Assistant at MIT.

Not too long ago, I was getting ready for my next big adventure: moving cross-country from my home-state of Colorado to New England. We all experience starting something completely new at different phases of our life whether it’s first coming to college, going on a new co-op, getting our first job, or even moving cross-country. With each new change, there are also opportunities to meet new people. There are a lot of great ways you can make good personal and professional impressions, but here’s what meeting a lot of new people has reminded me:

A smile goes a long way.

source: www.quickmeme.com

source: www.quickmeme.com

My “big move” was for school, so like many of you when I first arrived, I was meeting peers, professors, and administrative staff as well people through clubs and sports teams. The people who I initially developed connections with were the ones that smiled. Yep, simple as that, they smiled.  Research has consistently shown that body language is a major factor in how we interpret somebody’s words. With one nearly effortless action, you can demonstrate to your new co-op boss (or anyone else) that you are friendly, confident, and invested in them.

Always follow through.

Think about a time when you were just getting to know somebody, set up plans with them and then they flaked out. How did this affect your opinion of them? I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess you didn’t end up becoming besties–It feels crappy when somebody misses a meeting with you or doesn’t get in touch when they say they will. Why? Because it can signal that we’re not a priority in those people’s lives.

Before you agree to something, whether it’s sending an email, showing up for a 9am meeting, or taking on a big project, be sure that you can actually do it. By doing what you say you’re going to do, you will demonstrate that you are reliable, organized, and respectful—all qualities that are helpful in any professional or personal setting.

Be a good listener.

A lot of times when we think about meeting new people, we focus on what we are going to say. For example, if you’ve practiced for an interview, I bet you went over your answers, but did you think about how you were going to show the employer that you were listening? While presentation skills are important, listening skills can be just as important, if not more. By asking good questions, remembering what people say, and actively listening, you can make the other person feel valued and demonstrate that you’re present and ready to learn.

source: http://wallippo.com

source: http://wallippo.com

All interactions reinforce or undermine the first impression.

You’ve probably heard that first impressions matter—and they totally do! But it’s important to remember that the first time you meet somebody isn’t the only time you’re making an impression with them. If you forgot to smile this time, do it next time. If you followed through this time, that doesn’t mean that it’s not important to do the same next time.

It can be intimidating to make new connections especially in a professional setting, but remember that it’s just like all of your other interactions. Be the person that you would want to meet, and you’ll be golden! Share with us, what are other things people have done to make positive impressions on you?

Katie is a Career Development Assistant at NU with a background in sociology. A teacher at heart, she loves leading workshops–in addition to the career workshops, she’d gladly teach you how to hula-hoop, how to organize your house/office/desk, or how millennials can make great employees. Email her at k.mccune@neu.edu.

“You have the right to be there…”

source: women2.com

source: women2.com

This guest post was written by Christina Kach, an NU alum who holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Engineering and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management at NU.

In the summer of 1998, I heard a story that has stayed with me since. A professor at a local college talked of her experiences of being the only female student in some of her college engineering classes. Six years later, entering my freshman year of college, I was pleased find I wasn’t the only woman in my engineering classes; and far from it.

My point is to illustrate how far women have come in joining and advancing in typically male dominant fields. Even with all this progress, it can be tricky at times to feel comfortable and strong in that type of environment. You’ll notice my tips below are not exactly “specific”, as in – don’t’ fiddle with your hair during a meeting (Seek out books like “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” and “Girl on Top” for those great tips). Rather the approach I took was to pass along tips to help boost your confidence as you look to make strides in your field.

Inspiring young girls to become engineers! source: goldieblox.com

Inspiring young girls to become engineers!
source: goldieblox.com

  • Be proud of yourself – First and foremost, what you are doing is awesome. As you journey through college and the working world, there may be jokes, light hearted teasing, internet memes, (the list goes on), that highlight the uneven male/female ratio in male dominated fields. Even through all the jokes and realities, remember: you have the right to be there and enjoy it. No one said it was going to be easy, but as we have all learned in our lives, hard work pays off and is worthwhile.
  • Be mindful of advice – I admit this one sounds silly, as I am dispensing advice, but hear me out.  In our world, there is endless information on any number of topics; no doubt large amounts focus on this exact topic. While I encourage you to seek out that advice (always continue to nurture your mind by reading, learning, and exploring – never know what you may find), take it with a grain of salt. I say this because you shouldn’t just accept advice if it won’t work for you. To illustrate my point, a few pieces of career advice I’ve seen on this topic includes: “act like one of the boys” or don’t bake for coworkers – you’ll be seen as a mother figure. I’ve seen woman follow those hints with success. I on the other hand, like to cook and share it with my friends, and I’m not going to start swearing just to fit in. If it doesn’t work for you, seek out advice that will.
  • Find a mentor – I can’t just say be careful of the advice you take without following up with a hint on how to find tailored advice that will work. Find a mentor, better yet a few mentors, with more experience and knowledge to help you learn and develop. Regardless of your role and your industry, this piece is important and absolutely necessary. Mentor relationships can tailor advice and help to your specific situations. In finding a mentor, seek out professionals that have time, are willing to help you, and are a fit for you.
  • Pay it forward – As you’ve started to establish yourself and learn from your mentors, consider reaching out to the next generation of young woman to share this knowledge. You were there once, wasn’t the help you were offered a huge benefit? Seek out volunteer opportunities; find groups (such as STEM -Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) that encourage the next generation of woman and get involved. This isn’t just an opportunity to help out and grow your own network; but as a reminder of that younger enthusiasm we often loose in heavy college workloads and tough work environments.
  • Embrace your skills – It is easy to stunt your ability to thrive in a male dominated field by hiding your femininity or downplaying your skills. I suggest this change in mindset – embrace the unique talents you hold as a female. We may be different than our male colleagues, and that is great; we bring new perspectives and skills to our businesses and teams. Business innovation and grow would be sorely impeded if we were all alike.

The most important lesson to take away from this article is to focus your energies on personal career goals and growth, rather than on an unbalanced quantity of females in your industry. That may not be easy to digest when you see the data on female leaders and see how few there really are in certain fields and in higher company rankings. The path to continued advances and developments of more woman actively pursuing male dominated fields with wonderful successes will only continue as we keep achieving and setting an example for the next generation.

Christina Kach is a Senior Business Analyst on the Continuous Improvement team for a financial services company in Boston, MA.  Prior to this role, she spent five years at a Government Defense Company focusing on Lean and process improvement in a manufacturing environment, while also completing an Operations Leadership Development Program. Christina holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Engineering from Northeastern University and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management, also from Northeastern.

Christina invites you to connect with her via Twitter (@ChristinaKach), email (Cfkach@gmail.com) or at her blog for young professionals www.catchcareers.com

An Act of Translation: Turning an Academic CV into an Industry Resume

source: mediacommons.futureofthebook.org

source: mediacommons.futureofthebook.org

This guest post was written by Lana Cook, a PhD candidate in the English department at Northeastern University who finishing up her last semester and beginning to navigate the Alt-Ac track.

Translation (n.): The conversion of something from one form or medium into another.

Mixed feelings abound when entering any job market, but transitioning to a different career path or field can be downright intimidating.  Embarking on my own career search, I kept asking myself, can a PhD trained in the academic track of teaching and research move to a career in administration and nonprofit management?  Did I need to go back to school for a business degree?  I researched MBA programs for a quick minute before I realized that 1) I had plenty of education, and 2) I already had all the necessary skills and abilities.  I just had a problem of phrasing. I was too bound to my discipline’s jargon.  I needed to become a translator.

Any skilled translator would tell you that you need to immerse yourself in the foreign language to gain fluency.  In my alt-ac career search that meant researching arts organizations, nonprofits, foundations and research centers, taking special note of how they describe their missions and activities.  I followed community leaders on Twitter and subscribed to industry news.  I carefully read job postings and highlighted repeated key terms. I learned that in administrative-speak “development” meant fundraising, “outreach” meant marketing, “coordinator” meant collaboration. I began to see my graduate work through the perspective of project management. The dissertation, conferences, teaching, and tutoring taught me to how to prioritize multiple high stakes projects and negotiate diverse stakeholders. Graduate school required me to develop organizational systems that efficiently managed logistics and achieved identifiable outcomes.  Revising an academic curriculum vitae (CV) into a resume involved using a new industry language, reframing my experience in terms that would resonate with my audience of potential employers.

Step one was translating my experiences into industry jargon. The next step was revamping my bloated multipage CV that listed all my conferences, publications, courses taken and taught, into a compact, easy to digest, professional resume.  I recommend the following steps for transforming a CV into a resume:

  • Identify your transferrable skills.  Interpersonal communication, organization, following instructions and anticipating needs: these are transferrable skills that are applicable in every career. There are several resources where you can mine language for identifying your personal aptitudes and describing them in professional terms.
  • Condense your history. While an academic CV can be several pages long, resumes are typically one page (two if you have extensive experience).  For graduate students fresh on the job market, keep your resume to one page, focusing on experiences and skills that are most relevant to the desired position.
  • Tailor your resume and cover letter specifically to the position and organization.  Create a long master resume that lists all your experiences, education, every seminar, class, conference, and project you worked on (start this while you are in school so you can keep track of your accomplishments).  Use the master copy to take sections from when tailoring a resume to a specific position.   While cover letter templates can help save time, they can quickly become formulaic. One size does not fit all in today’s job market. Pay attention and respond to the minute details of the job post, echoing the language the employers use and aligning your experience with their needs.
  • Add new skills to your resume.  Many of the positions I was interested in asked for proficiency with administrative software.   Northeastern provides several free options for technology crash courses.  Information Technology Services (ITS) offers one-day courses in the Snell Library classrooms for hands-on help or you can follow online tutorials through Lynda.  I recently took refresher courses in Excel database management and Photoshop, as well as a 4-hour introductory course to HTML.
  • Use your network to workshop your resume.  Identify a professional working in your desired career and ask for an informational interview.  Use the meeting to gain industry knowledge and learn about the career paths people have taken to get there.  Follow up by asking if they could give you some advice on your resume. Visit Career Development and work with a career advisor to refine your job materials.

Translating my resume has given me a confidence boost. I now look at job postings and see open possibilities where before I saw closed doors.  Resources for alternative academics (Alt-Ac) are growing as more PhDs turn to options beyond teaching.  GradHacker dedicated last week’s posts to Alt-Ac, including how to get started on the job search. Follow the hashtag #altac on Twitter to learn more.  Join me on the first Thursday of every month here on the Works as I countdown to graduation.

Lana Cook is a PhD candidate in the English department at Northeastern University. Her dissertation traces the development of the psychedelic aesthetic in mid-twentieth century American literature and film. Lana is a 2013-2014 graduate fellow at the Humanities Center.  She received her bachelors of arts at the University of New Hampshire.  You can follow her on Twitter @lanacook or Linkedin.

How I Became a Part-Time Soldier

Part-time Solder, full-time student Source: northeastern.edu

Part-time Solder, full-time student.
Source: northeastern.edu

The following article was written by a Northeastern student and Army ROTC cadet.

When I first entered college, I did not intend to become a cadet, an officer in training. I come from a family with no military background and did not have close friends in the military. During my first semester of college, my focus was adjusting to the new environment, so I did not take much time to explore opportunities.

Then, towards the end of my first semester, I realized that I was in the wrong major. This led me to talk to a variety of professors, advisors, students, and Career Development staff to get more career information. One student I ended up talking to was a classmate who is in ROTC. She told me to give it a try.

After a summer of introspection, and again meeting with more advisors, I started the semester not only in a new major, but also in a new program: Army ROTC.

Liberty Battalion Army ROTC, the program I now belong to, is hosted at Northeastern University. It takes students from 14 different area colleges including Boston College, the Colleges of the Fenway, Suffolk College, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, and more.

Before starting ROTC, I met with the Liberty Battalion’s senior recruiter to get my questions answered. Although his title is recruiter, he does not earn commission for bringing in students, and his job is really to increase awareness of the program. My first question was whether doing ROTC meant I had to join the Army. To my surprise, he told me that when students first start, they can leave freely if they find out ROTC isn’t right for them. Only after accepting a scholarship or entering their third year do cadets have to commit to service in the Army.

After establishing that I did not have to join the Army right away, I asked about the time commitment involved. The ROTC staff told me that ROTC places academics first, so cadets can be excused from activities if needed. Otherwise, cadets attend three morning workout sessions, a two-hour lab, and a class worth 1 to 3 credits each week. They are not required to attend activities during co-op semesters.

I was also curious whether ROTC would impose restrictions on where I could study or co-op, since I am interested in co-oping abroad. I found out that they allow study and co-op abroad. Moreover, ROTC can make it easier to go abroad by offering Department of Defense-sponsored cultural exchange programs at no cost to students.

Finally, I learned that ROTC offers scholarships covering up to 4 years’ full-tuition, for cadets of all majors. After graduation, cadets can enter into a variety of fields such as aviation, civil affairs, engineering, finance, law, and healthcare. Cadets also have a choice in joining the Active Duty Army, Army National Guard, or Army Reserve. About 60% of cadets in Liberty Battalion choose to go active-duty, which requires serving in the Army full-time for four to seven years. Active-duty soldiers get many benefits such as a guaranteed job after graduation, free housing, top-notch health insurance, and opportunities for free travel to locations worldwide such as Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Hawaii.

Cadets who join the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, which are collectively known as the reserve components of the Army, also receive benefits such as discounted healthcare and insurance. However, the primary benefit for most is the ability to hold a civilian job while drilling one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer, close to home.

So I decided to join ROTC, and my experience has been nothing but extraordinary. Since joining, I drastically improved my physical fitness, leadership capabilities, and confidence in myself. I also established close bonds with a variety of college students with whom I train, take classes, and attend lab. Finally, I developed leadership, organizational, and interpersonal skills which employers value. Because of my terrific experience with ROTC, I ultimately committed to joining the Army National Guard in order to serve my community as a part-time soldier, while still being a full-time student.

So if you are even remotely interested in what ROTC has to offer, find out more. Talk to the students in uniform you may find around campus, or in Rebecca’s Café. Ask one of your friends or classmates about ROTC. Come to one of Northeastern ROTC’s open physical training sessions, or open labs. Drop into the ROTC office on Huntington Ave. Or do some exploring online at rotc.neu.edu and armyrotc.com .

ROTC is the only program that lets you experience the military without prior commitment. So take advantage of this opportunity to improve yourself and your career. See if you too want to become a part-time soldier.

A New Year’s Reflection

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/spatterd/

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/spatterd/

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

With the New Year upon us, it’s natural to find yourself reflecting back on the year’s events and some of the life lessons you’ve learned. They say that understanding your history helps you plan for your future, and I think the start of the New Year is a good time to revisit and learn from the personal journey you’ve been on over the year—what have you gained this past year? What contributions have you made? What were your successes and your failures? New Year’s isn’t simply about new beginnings; it’s also about looking back in order to better determine what new beginnings lie ahead. In personal and professional terms, it’s also important to reflect on how past work experiences shape who you are today and who you want to be in 2014.

Co-op is an opportunity to gain experience and learn about the workforce. I’ve been very deliberate in my attempt to find and gather “takeaways” from each co-op to help me make better work-related decisions in the future. For example, after several rounds of interviews, I’ve noticed that one of the qualities most appreciated by employers when they first meet you is genuine thoughtfulness. This doesn’t simply mean preparing thoughtful questions for an interview, but being able to explain why and how a particular company/position fits into your overall career goals. Employers appreciate when you go into an interview knowing what skills and industry knowledge you want to gain from working at that particular organization and in turn, how the job will make you a more qualified future candidate. A compelling way to articulate this isn’t by rattling off the benefits and superior qualities a particular company or position has, but by providing the interviewer with solid examples of how you’ve leveraged past experiences to get closer to your ultimate career goals. Being insightful and thoughtful about these aspects of your past experiences is a meaningful way to create a story about yourself for interviewers.

Additionally, relaying to employers that you understand how your previous experiences have built upon each other allows them to trust you more easily. While not all work experiences seem to relate to each other (like going from a weightlifting nonprofit working with gang youth in Boston to an agriculture start up in Cameroon in my case), making simple and meaningful connections between experiences is always possible. These connections can exist on many levels. For example, I worked with very flexible bosses who didn’t have the time to micro manage me in both positions. That similarity taught me to take initiative when I saw problems or inefficiencies in different types of situations. Another example is that due to organizational, physical, and cultural differences, I developed stronger interpersonal skills with people from various cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, and I learned how to be more thorough and concise in my communication as face time with my supervisors at each co-op was rare. A large takeaway from both work experiences was a more solid understanding of what I like and need in a work environment in order to be successful; such as a lively office culture and structured time commitments. You can always find connections, and while it may be difficult at first, this is precisely the first step in cultivating the sort of thoughtfulness that really resonates with people, especially employers. Eventually I’ve also found that I’ve been able to make decisions about my work experiences with a greater level of deliberateness and confidence because I’ve taken the time to draw these parallels and connections from past experiences.

So take this New Years to do a little brainwork in tying all of your past work experiences together into a thoughtful and compelling personal story. Remember, telling this story will help you to make those connections between experiences, show people your ability to process and grow from each experience, and give people insight into you as a person.  And this does not work well as a one-time process right before an interview; it should be a constant undertaking that helps make those yearly new beginnings and resolutions all the more meaningful each time. So give yourself a new beginning career-wise this coming year, one that starts with a more thoughtful version of yourself.

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! 

Reasons to come hang out with me at Senior Career Conference

SCC_logoThis guest post was written by our new student blogger, Emily Brown, a graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program.

My name is Emily and I’m excited to join The Works blogging team this semester! I’m a graduate student here at Northeastern and an intern in the career development office. Prior to coming to NU, I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology at College of the Holy Cross and went on to work for two years at a construction management firm. Although I did have prior working experience, I certainly could have been more prepared for some aspects of the professional environment awaiting me in that first post-grad job (refilling copy paper wasn’t in my job description!).

source: someecards.com

source: someecards.com

The Senior Career Conference on January 23rd will offer you the opportunity to be more prepared than I was to start that first full-time job and will provide tips and tricks for getting through the job search process to that first day of “real life.” In choose-your-own-adventure style, there will be three workshops each hour of the conference so you can decide which ones (or just one – you don’t have to commit to staying for the whole conference) will best fit your needs. The conference is also a great opportunity to network with employers and alumni in both mix and mingle sessions and panels. As an introvert who has shunned the idea of networking until recently, I highly recommend remaining open to the idea (the LinkedIn for Networking workshop provides a great explanation of the benefits of networking and some strategies to make it less intimidating) and taking advantage of meeting these professionals who WANT to meet you. They wouldn’t be coming if they didn’t.

So mark your calendar for January 23rd and join us at the Senior Career Conference to start building your network and gaining tools to succeed professionally. I hope to see you there!

Emily Brown is a Career Counseling Intern in Career Development and is currently a graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program at Northeastern. She hopes to continue working in the career counseling field once she graduates in May 2014.

Why would complete strangers be willing to talk to me?

Whether you’re job searching or generally trying to learn more about different careers, I usually suggest talking to individuals who already work in your fields of interest (aka networking). It’s a great way to learn more about typical career paths, get insight on which skills and qualifications are the most important, and figure out if a particular career path or industry is a good fit for you.  The process should include talking to people you already know, but should also include introducing yourself to and developing relationships with new people.  Once the look of horror on their face goes away, the most common question that students/alumni ask me is “Why would complete strangers be willing to talk to me?”

Image from www.cod.edu

Here are some reasons why professionals in your fields of interest would be willing to talk to you:

  • Networking is a pay-it-forward situation. Chances are, anyone that you contact for advice has had someone help him or him in a related fashion, and this is their chance to return the favor to the larger professional community.
  • When people like what they do, they often like discussing it with people who share their interest. And not just the same old people they talk to every day at work. It can be interesting to get a different perspective on things.
  • Networking is a lifelong career process, and it’s just as important for an experienced professional to continue building their professional community as it is for a college student or recent grad. One day, you may be able to give them some useful information on a particular company or contact. Maybe their son or daughter is considering Northeastern, and you can give your opinion on what it’s like to be a student here. It also gives that professional a chance to promote their organization and create a pipeline of talent for future positions.
  • People are genuinely helpful. If you are polite and genuinely interested in hearing what the person has to say (and not aggressively trying to push someone into hiring you), people are more often willing to help than you might expect.  You just have to ask. Career Services hosts workshops, panels and networking events all the time, and I am often amazed at how many people are willing to help out and talk to students/alumni about their experiences. And I don’t only mean Northeastern alumni and employer partners.  Professionals who are completely unrelated to Northeastern, that I have no personal connection with and sometimes have never even heard of before, have agreed to come to events, just because I asked.
  • Some people just like to talk about themselves!

As wonderful as the internet is, and as much career and job information you can find online, there are some things that you can only learn by speaking to someone who actually does the job.  Be thoughtful and deliberate when identifying people you’d like to talk to, clear and polite when you contact them, and appreciative of any and all advice they give you, and hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised by people’s responsiveness. You have much to gain and little to lose by asking.

Tina Mello is Associate Director of Northeastern Career Development, and has worked at Northeastern for 11 years. Nicknamed the “information guru” by other members of the staff, she loves to research and read about various job/career/education topics. For more career advice, follow her on twitter @CareerCoachTina.