“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.

Tips for communicating with your boss

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.

Developing good communication with your supervisor can help you get the most out of your work experience and help ensure that you continue to be challenged. Here are some suggestions to cultivate a productive relationship with your supervisor:

  • Ask questions. This is probably the most important lesson I learned in my first job out of college. All of a sudden, I couldn’t fake my way through like I sometimes could on high school or college assignments. Having a general idea of what I was supposed to be working on simply was not enough. I can’t tell you how many sentences I started with “This is probably a stupid question, but…” (spoiler: there are no stupid questions!) because I was uncomfortable with the volume of things I didn’t know that I felt I should know. I asked questions despite my discomfort and found that the answers were often things my supervisor didn’t explain because he took the information for granted. I was surprised how many times his answer to my “stupid question” began with “That’s a good question. I should have explained it to you earlier…” So ask away!

    Image from womenworld.org

  • Express interest in projects that you want to work on. Admittedly, I spent a lot of time filing and making copies in my first weeks at that job. I learned that vaguely asking, “Is there anything I could be working on right now?” does not always produce the desired result (exception: when the desired result is a jammed photocopier and paper cuts). It’s OK to ask about getting involved on a project that interests you. In general, extra help is always welcome and it shows that you are interested in more advanced work. Even if it isn’t feasible for you to get involved on that particular project, your supervisor is now aware of your interest and will appreciate that you took initiative, and will hopefully remember that for similar work in the future.
  • Take constructive feedback in stride. You’re bound to make mistakes in a new job – it’s unavoidable. What will set you apart is how you handle a mistake that your supervisor questions you about. If you’re defensive or emotional, then the conversation will be unpleasant and your supervisor might think twice about assigning you challenging work in the future simply to avoid a similar conversation. If you handle the critique gracefully and ask clarifying questions about what you could do differently next time, your supervisor might be more willing to provide more advanced work and to help you grow professionally.
  • Take communication cues from your supervisor. Building a good professional relationship with a supervisor takes time and it should be noted that it is not solely  up to your supervisor. Yes, he might be the one in charge, but you also need to maintain open lines of communication. That being said, it is important to take cues from your supervisor on his or her preferred communication habits. Is he receptive to unplanned drop-bys? Does she seem to rely more heavily on email? Noticing these preferences and remembering that everyone works differently can go a long way towards achieving productive communication.

4 Tips for being successful at co-op and as a student

This was written by Samantha Saggese, a 3rd year NU Chemistry major who is currently studying abroad as a guest post for The Works.

Starting your first co-op can be an unnerving experience. While you may have already spent a few summers here and there working full time, this is likely to be the first time you’re entering an entirely professional environment for six months straight. I like to think everybody makes mistakes on their first co-op, and probably their second and third co-op’s as well. Here are a few tips that’ll hopefully make your co-op experience memorable in a good way:

1. Dress to impress. I worked in a research lab in a hospital, so I actually dressed rather

source: browneyesandgreenbees.wordpress.com

source: browneyesandgreenbees.wordpress.com

casually in comparison to my friends working in financial firms or other office jobs. However, we had two rules that needed to be followed at work: no open-toed shoes and no denim jeans. I started noticing more and more that the older full-time employees sometimes got away with wearing jeans and the supervisor wouldn’t say anything, so I gave it a shot myself one time. Just play by the rules, because having that awkward conversation with your supervisor about why you messed up on the most basic of rules is, well, awkward.

2. Make an effort to make connections. You’re not going to be the only person on your team. Working with you will be people with so much life experience, and in turn, so many connections to other jobs and important people in your field. I want to go into the medical field, so of course I tried my best to chat up the physicians and nurses on my floor. They’ve already been through it, and literally are fountains of knowledge. Don’t sit quietly in the corner, take advantage!

3. Be nice to your co-workers. This could mean fellow co-op’s, or in some cases, full-time employees. Your personality will shine through in a positive light if you’re kind to your co-workers, willing to learn, and eager to help. It’s really a give and take—for me, I had rotating shifts at the hospital, and if I didn’t sometimes agree to switch shifts in my co-workers’ favor, there would be no reason for them to be there for me when I had a scheduling issue and needed to switch myself.

4. Get to know your supervisor. This is the person who will be evaluating you at the end of all of this, and why pass up the opportunity to get a killer recommendation from someone with weight in your field? You want them to be able to talk specifically about you, to know how hard of a worker you are, and to not give you some boring and generic recommendation at the end of your six months. Take a few minutes out of your day to talk to them and always be on your toes, even when you think they aren’t looking.

The great thing about co-op is that all of the tips and skills you pick up there are completely applicable once you get back into class. You should always try to get to know professors who teach the subject you’re most passionate about and make meaningful connections with your peers. And while you don’t necessarily need to dress to impress when you’re going to class, putting your best foot forward is always a must.

Samantha is a third year Chemistry major with a minor in Biology. She did her first co-op at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as a Clinical Sleep Research Assistant in Spring 2013. Samantha is a Resident Assistant on campus, a member of NUSAACS and the Honors Program, and has studied abroad in Rome and London. Check out her travel blog at www.sightseeingsam.blogspot.com and/or feel free to contact her at saggese.s@husky.neu.edu.

Management Tips from “Restaurant Impossible”

Don't mess with the restaurant wizard, and also the inspiration for this blog post. source: foodnetwork.com

Don’t mess with the restaurant wizard, and also the inspiration for this blog post.
source: foodnetwork.com

This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works. Follow her blog here and/or tweet her @lindseygsampson

Robert Irvine is a terrifying mix of Dr. Phil and that screaming guy from Hell’s Kitchen. He breaks you down and builds you back up again, all in the span of one 30-minute episode because he’s that kind of guy. While you endure the emotional roller coaster that is an episode of Restaurant: Impossible, there are also management lessons to be learned.

Set the example. If you don’t care about the success of your project, it’s hard to make anyone else care. You set the example for your staff (or co-workers). Show up, do great

source: www.careysmith.com

source: www.careysmith.com

work, and step in where you are needed. The boss isn’t above washing dishes or sweeping the floor after a busy night. Leadership isn’t all about delegating – sometimes you have to get your hands dirty.

Keep it simple. Don’t try to do too many things. It’s better to do a few things well than several things poorly. It’s a big red flag when a restaurant’s menu is ten pages long. Usually, Robert will cut it down to only a few menu items to ensure the highest quality. In the office, it’s more effective to focus on one or two tasks at a time than try to keep fifteen projects in the air.

Instill a sense of ownership. Kitchens and projects fail when the team has no sense of dedication or ownership. When the boss empowers his or her staff by assigning jobs and following up with individual staff members on their productivity (and giving proper recognition for goals reached), the staff gains more confidence, which leads to greater productivity.

Recognize talent. I’m a sucker for inspirational television. America’s Got Talent? Tear-jerker, no questions asked. When that uber-capable busboy on Restaurant: Impossible was promoted to shift manager? Nearly killed me. Look for the talent in your group, and foster it by recognizing and rewarding it. Allow people to step up and prove themselves in leadership roles.

Do not ignore problem workers. There’s always one kid spitting in the onion rings. Every episode, there’s an employee making waves and causing trouble. It’s never a secret, everyone knows who it is, and that worker usually turns it around during the course of the episode (or, sometimes, they’re fired). If you recognize one of these problem workers in your group, it’s your job as the boss to look into the problem and fix it.

You don’t have to be a screaming Robert Irvine to be a good manager. Understanding your team and learning to motivate them is crucial in developing an effective, productive team.

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

 

I Graduated. Now What?

image source: www.thecollegecrush.com

image source: www.thecollegecrush.com

In a recent blog featured in the Washington Post, author Dylan Matthews writes of successful do-gooders at high paying Wall Street jobs who have opted to cash in for good instead of pursuing careers for good through what he calls “earning-to-give”. Matthews highlights MIT grad Jason Trigg who spends his days writing code at a hedge fund on Wall Street; Trigg believes that he can make more of an impact on the world by donating his hard earned income to organizations that are making a real difference. “A lot of people, they want to [help] and end up in the Peace Corps and in the developing world without running water… [but] I can donate some of my time in the office and make more of a difference,” says Trigg. Arguably, Trigg may be able to give away more money in a year than most people give in their entire lives.

In my job at the Social Enterprise Institute at Northeastern University, I come across many recent grads who believe that there are only two such paths for doing good. The Bill Gates’ of the world are hard hitting tech billionaires turned philanthropists, while the John Hatches of the world are idealist Peace Corps volunteers who start their own charitable organizations. What Matthews and Triggs fail to highlight are the numerous other paths to doing good for the world – paths that don’t involve sacrifice, or pay cuts, or digging wells for poor people in Africa.

A few years ago, one of my students, Shari, graduated from Northeastern and got a high paying job at a top four accounting firm. Last year, Shari came into my office unexpectedly and updated me about her life — she moved to New York City, lives in a fabulous apartment, makes more money than she can ever spend, has no student loan debt, and has achieved the quintessential American dream in every sense. She recently completed her CPA, and has ample opportunity to grow at her firm, but she asked me, is this enough? Because being a middle manager at a great accounting firm, volunteering on the weekends, and donating money to her favorite organization wasn’t fulfilling a deeper sense of urgency. Shari was tired of doing taxes for rich people, and wanted to use her business skills and knowledge to make a real difference.

A year later, she sent me an email, subject line: Remember our Conversation in November? “The conversation I am referring to is the one where I hate my job and its killing me working there. So that’s still happening but the feeling has become more suffocating,” she wrote.

I believe the path of social entrepreneurship leads to meaningful, well-paying careers for young people who understand enterprise as the solution to the world’s most pressing social problems. They are leaving behind the concept of traditional charities and non-governmental organizations and pursuing jobs at the intersection of business and development. This past May, the SEI graduated its largest class of seniors. Since we began in 2008, our students have gone on to pursue wonderful careers in finance, accounting, investment banking, or even entrepreneurship. However, as more students graduate, I’m surprised by the number of alumni like Shari who send desperate emails one-to-two years into their careers, seeking advice and encouragement to leave their desk jobs for something else.

Then I think of our alumni who are pursuing careers in the private sector, the public sector, through fellowships and other non-traditional paths – and I am compelled to respond.

For instance, Myles worked two years at a mobile healthcare start up before he left his job, the apartment he owns, and his friends/family to live in Kenya for six months to consult for a mobile tech social enterprise through Village Capital and Frontier Markets Program. Tim could have taken a finance job anywhere, but he also chose to work at Root Capital where he analyzes the company’s lending portfolio (mostly fair-trade coffee) from the mountains of Peru.

Or take Cynthia, who also left her job at a top accountancy firm to work at New Profit Inc., a venture philanthropy fund that specializes in high impact organizations and social enterprises. Meanwhile Nele is in Kenya working at the Paradigm Project, a for-profit B-Corp that sells solar cookers to lessen the environmental impact on our world. Lucas was recently awarded a Fulbright Fellowship where he will be researching the impact of fracking on the environment in Germany. From Atlanta to Seattle, we have a number of Teach for America Corps members working in the country’s toughest schools – in fact, Serrano turned down a lucrative offer at a management consulting firm to join TFA instead.

In an otherwise tough job market and economy, our alumni inspire me. So while writing at my desk, I send Shari an encouraging email with lists upon lists of fellowship opportunities, domestic jobs, and international postings, none of which involve well intentioned voluntourists or digging wells in rural Africa. I am hopeful for her, and the many other graduates who know that earning-to-give is one path of many to meaningful, fulfilling careers that make the world a truly better place.

Esther Chou cur­rently works at the Social Enter­prise Insti­tute as the Assis­tant Direc­tor of Pro­grams. She grad­u­ated from North­east­ern Uni­ver­sity with a BA in Inter­na­tional Affairs & Eco­nom­ics and is currently pursuing an MsC in Management.  She also worked for a refugee relief orga­ni­za­tion as the Project Man­ager for their micro-finance ser­vices, help­ing to cre­ate income oppor­tu­ni­ties for rural farm­ers and micro-entre­pre­neurs. She has spent three years work­ing in the inter­na­tional devel­op­ment field in cen­tral and south­ern Africa. You can find the extended version of this post http://www.northeastern.edu/sei/2013/09/i-graduated-now-what/