5 Alums, 5 Years Later: Christina Prignano

Class of 2010

When I graduated from Northeastern in 2010, I had to take time off from two jobs so that I could actually attend my graduation ceremony. That time in my life was, in a word, overscheduled. One of the things I’m grateful for in hindsight was that I didn’t have time to really think about (and become terrified of) the fact that I was jumping into the real world. There are plenty of things that I wish I had known back then, so I was thrilled to take part in this series and offer whatever help I can.

Making an effort to seek out advice from people you admire is a great place to start after graduation, so in that spirit, the first idea I’ll offer up comes from a former colleague. Your social media presence is your resume. This was a favorite piece of advice from a stellar former social media editor at the Globe, and it’s a good one (not in every field, but in quite a lot of them). You’ve all heard the warnings about posting your party selfies and making inappropriate jokes online. But turn the warning on its head and it’s also true: You can show potential employers what you can do before you’ve even applied for a position.

This wasn’t possible ten years ago in the same way it is now, so take advantage of it. Post frequently about what you’re working on. Reach out and talk to people in your field. You have the ability to make an impression without having to go to those awkward networking events (although they help, too).

Writing in college is much different from writing at work. One of my favorite parts of graduating was saying goodbye to those 10+ page research papers. However, at many workplaces, documents are measured in words, not pages, and suddenly all of that effort you used to put into squeezing extra words into your sentences is working against you. Being able to get the most bang out of your paragraph is a great skill to have as you search for jobs. My advice for honing this skill is to continually rewrite your cover letters and other professional documents until you can get your point across in as few words as possible.

Not really sure where to start? It’s okay to have no idea what you want to do in life. Does it help to have a polished answer ready when your interviewer asks the dreaded “five year plan” question? Absolutely! But in my experience, not having a predetermined goal can also mean being open to unexpected opportunities and being eager to learn new skills.

I couldn’t even pick a major in college–I graduated with two. And so I found myself during college and immediately after graduation trying on a lot of hats. One of those hats, a part-time gig helping my former co-op launch a new website, turned into a full-time job that allowed me to try on even more hats. I jumped at whatever project came my way at that job, and eventually became the web editor of the organization’s publication, CommonWealth magazine. That role eventually led me to a job that I love today: a homepage producer for bostonglobe.com. My point is that if you find yourself looking for direction, it helps to jump at as many opportunities as you possibly can. Many absolutely won’t pan out, but some will.

Post-grad life can be stressful and challenging and not at all what you expected, but it’s really just the best. Congratulations on getting there, and don’t forget to enjoy it.

Christina Prignano is a homepage producer at bostonglobe.com and is a 2010 graduate of Northeastern. She majored in political science and journalism and sometimes wishes she still lived near Penguin Pizza. She can be reached on Twitter at @cprignano.

 

Beating the First Day Jitters: 5 Simple Steps to Overcoming Anxiety

anxiety ecardIn my experience, starting a new job is rarely anything short of nerve wracking and overwhelming. Getting acclimated to a new environment is difficult and it’s hard to prepare yourself for such a transition, since it’s nearly impossible to know what to expect from your new job. Personally, leading up to my most recent first day of work, I was a mess. My confidence level waned as my uncertainty increased, and I was preoccupied with the thought that my arrival at the office would be a disaster. Somehow, I managed to pull myself together just in time, using these five tips, and rocked my first day on the job. Here’s how you can too:

  1.    Plan Ahead

Since much of your first day is likely to be a mystery until you get to the office, make a plan for the parts of the day that are in your hands. Set an alarm so that you have enough time to really wake up before you head out. Designate the amount of time you need to get ready, and decide exactly when you want to leave. Make sure that you give yourself ample time for your commute so that you’re not rushing to make it on time. Laying out plans ahead of time will give you the sense that more of your day is in your control.

  1.    Do Your Research

To prepare for an interview, it’s important to familiarize yourself with a company and what they do. Why not do the same for your first day? Even if you conducted previous research, look up your organization, your superiors and co-workers, and your own job description to refresh yourself before you arrive. Aside from looking at information concerning the company and the role that you will be playing in the workplace, make sure that you double check where your office is, the best way to get there, and roughly how long it will take you to get there. It can only help you!

  1.    Pump Yourself Up

Remember, starting a new job can be daunting, but it is also an amazing opportunity for growth and improvement. You will get so much out of this experience, and even if it ends up straying from your expectations, the skills that you will develop and refine will be an incredibly valuable asset to you in the future. Get excited to learn and get your hands dirty with something new!

  1.    Then Calm Yourself Down

Whether you’re excited to the point of shaking or you’re just plain nervous, chances are that you’ll need to take a step back and center yourself. Take some deep breaths, listen to music, stretch, take a hot shower, or sit down with a nice cup of coffee or tea before you head over. Your body and your brain will thank you for taking care of them later.

  1.    Fake It ‘Til You Make It

If all else fails and you’re still feeling the nerves, feign confidence. Even if you’re not completely convinced, walk into your office and give your co-workers the first impression that you are ready to take on the world. Being at ease in a new environment takes time, but acting comfortable will help you settle into your niche much faster than allowing yourself to be nervous would.

Joining a new office is a very intimidating experience, but don’t worry, if I can survive it, you can too. Now, follow these steps, get out there, and show them who’s boss!

Rosie Kay is a sophomore at Northeastern majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Business Administration. She is currently on her first co-op at the Governor’s Press Office at the Massachusetts State House. This past summer, she completed a dialogue in London where she explored two of her interests: English history culture and documentary filmmaking. Email her at kay.r@husky.neu.edu with questions or comments.

Digital Portfolios Aren’t Just For Artists

Technically speaking, I’m an arts student. Technically. I’m a Communication Studies student in the College of Arts, Media & Design. Most of my time at my co-ops and internships has been dedicated to writing press releases, marketing materials, and a hodge podge of other things that fall somewhere in between. I don’t paint or make movies, and while I do take a mean Instagram picture, why would I ever need a digital portfolio?

Digital portfolios are great for displaying any and all work that you’ve done. Showcase reports you’ve written, case studies you’ve conducted, or include a few press releases you’ve authored. The misconception is that these online spaces for showcasing work can only be used by the visual grabbing works of photographers and graphic designers. Yet, I can tell you that if you have a PDF of a document you created highlighting a skill or a workplace accomplishment, then you have a use for a digital portfolio.

Need another reason? This world is going digital — there’s no doubt about it. You won’t always have the opportunity to get into the same room as a potential employer and you might not always be able to cart your portfolio in with you. Having one URL to direct people to your work is vital. Most everyone uses LlinkedIn, so I even have a link to my digital portfolio right there under my picture.

So what sites should you use? I recommend (and use) Carbonmade. Their quirky and colorful homepage may throw you off, but it is user friendly, intuitive, and quick to create. Plus, the outcome is stunning. Another great option is Behance, an offshoot of the Adobe brand.

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My personal digital portfolio on Carbonmade.

Tatum Hartwig is a 4th year Communication Studies major with minors in Business Administration and Media & Screen Studies. Tatum brings experience and knowledge in the world of marketing and public relations from her two co-ops at Wayfair and New Balance. Her passion revolves around growing businesses via social media, brand development, and innovation. You can connect with Tatum on Twitter @tatumrosy and LinkedIn.

International Relations Co-op in the Middle East

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Ryan teaching in the Middle East

For students who are thinking about doing an international co-op or who have a strong interest in Middle Eastern studies, this week we will be highlighting the challenges and experiences of working abroad from the perspective of a co-op student. Ryan Chaffin is a third year student majoring in International Affairs and Political Science currently working at the Hashemite Fund for Development of the Jordan Badia, which is an organization that aims at objective of developing the Jordan Badia, or, the arid areas encompassing much of Jordan’s land. Here is what he has to say about his co-op in the interview:

1. Can you tell us what a typical workday looks like?

There are two types of work day. On one hand, I will be in the office, formatting and writing business proposals, meeting local dignitaries from around the Badia, and colluding with your boss and coworkers on long-term projects and meetings. On the other, I will be doing fieldwork, which includes visiting parts of the “Badia” or desert regions that stand at a remove from Amman, the capital city. However, at the beginning of the co-op, I will mostly be teaching English in a remote town or village, with three- or four-day stints back at your apartment in between.

2. What is the biggest difference between working abroad and working in the United States?

In the United States there is a standard of work that permeates so much of our economy that it feels “objective”. Abroad, this isn’t always the case. Job descriptions are more mutable, and the goal is more subjective. Your expectations for this job may not hold up through the first few days of work or weeks. The needs of the job are also more “comprehensive”. If there’s something you’re asked to do, it’s because being an English speaker makes you the only person able to do it.

Also, it is only natural that you will feel a little homesick because you are abroad. However, if you have a good living space and make friends quickly, this will pass quickly.

3. Describe some of the challenges you encountered at work, and how you overcame them?

Feeling directionless; I asked repeatedly to be involved in projects until I was given more responsibility, and made sure to work quickly to submit any assignments given to build reliability.

Feeling lost and confused; I identified the people who spoke English better than I spoke Arabic and used them to understand my work environment in the first few days.

Lastly, just getting used to the workday takes some time as well. How I overcome that was bringing a laptop and training myself on grant writing until I finally run out of free time after a few weeks.

4. What kind of skills did you learn from this co-op?

So far, my writing skills have been strengthened through formatting international business and grant proposals. My Arabic language skills have also seen improvement through my translation of Arabic textbooks into English, which I hope to publish through the Ministry of Education someday. Lastly, I have learned how to conduct business meetings from being an assistant to my manager, which is particularly useful in improving my Arabic immensely.

5. Has this co-op helped confirm your career goal?

Yes and no. It’s made me very knowledgeable about Levantine business culture and that’s an asset in Middle East career paths. I’m also still willing to work at a government agency or NGO that promises advancement and a chance to impose real reform, although this experience has made me consider the private sector more seriously. What it’s changed is the perception that I need to do all the listening in my co-ops. At the United Nations or the State Department, talented policy architects have built an institution which I would need decades of training with which to contribute meaningfully. But here at the Fund, it’s very self-developed. I could sit at my desk and do nothing all day without reprisal; I could also design my own day around self-developed projects which aid the Fund, and increasingly I’ve done just that. My co-op has increased my confidence that my education at Northeastern is preparing me for the world in ways I didn’t expect.

6. What is some advice you would like to give students who are thinking about a co-op in the Middle East?  

Don’t expect a European co-op. This is a region with more grit and more dust in the cracks. You will be one of, at most, two or three people in the office who speak English fluently, and that means anything English-language eventually goes through you. Since most of the business proposals have been for USAID or other English aid agencies, you’ll be asked—expected—to understand the ins-and-outs of editing, formatting and submitting grant proposals for several hundred thousand dollars at a time. Since I Googled my way through the first month, you can too. But be firm about your needs, or they will not be addressed. Things get lost in translation.

There is also some concrete advice I’d like to give to anyone seriously considering or committed to this particular co-op. Use Expatriates.com for housing; look for other expats under “Rooms Available” so you have a support network. Don’t pay more than 300JOD/month unless you’re homeless otherwise. Until you find a supermarket nearby, the Taj Mall has a Safeway and numerous kiosks for a Jordan phone.

Bio-pic_scarletthScarlett Ho is a third year International Affairs and Political Science major with a minor in Law and Public Policy. During fall 2014, she studied abroad in Belgium where she interned at the European Parliament. The summer prior to that, she interned for Senator Warren on Capitol Hill, and previously Congressman Lynch in Massachusetts. She can be reached at ho.sc@husky.neu.edu for any questions ranging from resume writing, job searching to her experiences.

 

The Biggest Lie Young Professionals Believe About Career Plans

This post originally appeared on the author’s personal blog, CatchCareers.com on change plans comicFebruary 9, 2015.

The biggest lie young professionals believe about career plans is: that you have to have one. The second biggest lie is that the plan is set in stone and can’t be changed. Whoa, hold on; don’t X me out just yet. While having a general life plan is great, making a plan so solid and rigid that you do nothing else only diminishes the great world around you and wonderful experiences to be found if you let yourself have the freedom to explore. Here me out…

I started writing this blog at 25 and while still aimed at young professionals, I have found that the issues I face and the concerns I have in my career have changed over these 3 years.  You are no longer fresh and brand-new to the working world, but not yet settled into exactly what your path will be. There are still many unanswered questions to your career path (please your ENTIRE life) and it can suddenly feel like you have to have it all figured out. This phenomena of “having it all figured out” (and it is all perfect) is further pressurized by social media and the onslaught of perfect photos and posts from friends, kinda friends, people you went to school with, and people you met once. THEY have it all figured out; great jobs, a significant other, a puppy, a baby on the way, a brand new home. There is nothing wrong with having or wanting those things. I want them. Most people want them. The problem is our need to put them on a timeline of life milestones we must achieve by a certain age. We become dissatisfied with our great lives when we focus on the things we haven’t achieved yet.  And why, oh why, do we create these life plans and beat ourselves up when things don’t go according to plan? Isn’t the reason why life is so exciting is because we can just live it and enjoy it and see where it takes us? Why do we bind ourselves to this plan?

One of the hardest things in life is letting go.  From that tattered old sweater you love, to a favorite menu item being discontinued, it is hard to accept that something that was once important to us is now gone. Beyond physical objects, there is also the letting go of emotions and plans, that is equally, if not more so, difficult. It can be heartbreaking to try to accept that something you craved or wanted will no longer come to fruition.  Further it can be difficult to accept for ourselves that something we once wanted, we no longer want. Maybe this is why it is so hard to step back from the plans we made and say “this is no longer what I want, and that is OK.”

What do I mean by all this rambling? Well, 5 years ago at the age of 23 I was: scared of dogs, was SO done with school (who needs graduate school?), thought my life’s career would be in manufacturing, and thought I’d be all Carrie Bradshaw like in my singleness.  Here’s a little update from 28 year old Christina: while I don’t want my own dog, I do love them now. I’m in graduate school and I love it (great decision to go back). I started dating, and it was wonderful. And I’m happily employed as a consultant in the finance industry, read: not manufacturing or even close to it.  While I do have some new life goals at 28, it very well may be that 33 year old Christina has changed them. AND THAT IS OK. Life plans are NEVER FINAL and NEVER DONE.

Embracing the unknown scares us. Even acknowledging it really; we like to pretend it isn’t there. Plan the best you can with the knowledge you have now, and be open to letting new ideas, experiences, and plans into your world. It is ok if last year you hated sushi, and this year you like it. That doesn’t make you weak or indecisive. People change, grow, find new interests, and grow tired of old plans and activities. Isn’t that why life is exciting? Remember the saying “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” If we get so hung up on trying to live according to this plan we’ve laid out for ourselves, we miss out on the opportunities and experiences we didn’t see coming which can be just as, if not better than, what we planned initially. We may lose the chance at an even better life by trying to stick with our predetermined script.

Take Away: If you change plans or change course in your life, that doesn’t mean you are weak. It doesn’t mean you gave up. It doesn’t mean you are no longer destined for greatness. It doesn’t mean you failed or copped out. It simply means you grew and changed in your life and you need to refit your plans to best fit you in today’s moment.

Further Reading: http://www.careerealism.com/professional-development-plan/

Christina Kach is an Associate Consultant 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

Image source: MealsandMiles.com; 5 Confessions

How to Excel in Your Co-Op

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As most people jet off for spring break or head home, co-op students remain at their jobs. Whether or not you are enjoying your work, it’s a reality check that half of 6 months is gone- time really flies! So how can you make good use of the remaining time to excel and succeed at your co-op? Seize the opportunity to push yourself and make a lasting impression, from getting a callback to using this experience as a leg up, you will never know how this job will evolve in the future. Here a few tips based on my personal observation on how to do well:

1. Ask Questions

There are no stupid questions, so ask away if you need clarification on your assignments. Employers actually appreciate it, because first, it means you are thinking and proactive, as opposed to just performing the task passively. Second, it leads to fewer mistakes and unnecessary confusion that eventually lead to greater efficiency and productivity. Moreover, questions don’t have to be related to the tasks in hand. After assignments are completed, you can also ask how the project you were working on is being utilized in the company. What is good about asking these types of questions is that it allows you to understand more clearly your role and the impact you are making in the overall functioning of the company. Plus, this knowledge can also enhance the bullet points on your resume!

2. Make Friends with Co-workers

Do not underestimate the power of allies and friends in your office. This is very important, because having a good relationship with them will help you down the line, be it learning their ways of succeeding or observing office etiquette, culture, etc. Moreover, who knows, one day if you were sick, they will be the one feeling you on the details of a meeting or helping you out in something. It’s all about connections and networking after all. Even after you leave your job, they might be able to recommend you or say a few good words to enhance your career.

3. Dress the Part

Just as Oscar Wilde has once said, you can never be overdressed or over-educated. While there is some truth in this, my advice will be to dress the part, and to dress smart. Observe how your boss/supervisor dresses and follow suit. Each office is different, and the dress code differs by industry, so be sure you don’t stand out in a bad way. If you are not a morning person (like me), consider preparing the clothes you want to wear the night before, so you don’t have to spend time ironing it or deciding in the morning- when you are not fully awake, and it also saves time too.

 4. Ask for Feedback/ Evaluation

This is related to asking questions. Be sure to ask for feedback from time to time, and after an assignment is completed to reflect on your performance. Since it is mid co-op season, now is a good time to do that. Not only will it be useful for you to gauge yourself, but knowing how you do will also help you improve and add value to the remainder of your co-op.

5. Make a List of your Tasks

It is always wise to keep track of your tasks and assignments. When your co-op is completed and you are looking for a recommendation letter from your supervisor, this will be helpful in aiding them write it. Moreover, as you are compiling the list of things you have done during your co-op, you may find some areas, say social media, that you have not fulfilled according to your learning objectives. With the remaining time, if possible, you can ask for new ways to get involved.

Good luck everyone!

Scarlett Ho is a third year International Affairs and Political Science major with a minor in Law and Public Policy. During fall 2014, she studied abroad in Belgium where she interned at the European Parliament. The summer prior to that, she interned for Senator Warren on Capitol Hill, and previously Congressman Lynch in Massachusetts. She can be reached at ho.sc@husky.neu.edu for any questions ranging from resume writing, job searching to her experiences. You can also email her for article ideas, suggestions, and comments. 

Photo source: Young Upstarts

 

Keeping a Mentor, and Being a Great Mentee

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The biggest piece of advice I received when arriving at Northeastern my freshman year was, “find a mentor.” And this advice seemed to come from everyone- whether they be professors, advisors, friends, or sorority sisters. Finding a mentor is a process on its own, however, once you have found one it is just as important to maintain your mentor-mentee relationship. Here are some tips for sustaining a meaningful relationship with your mentor, and being a phenomenal, unforgettable mentee.

1. Be open.

This is not to say that a mentor should know every detail about you or your personal life. However, a mentor cannot guide you unless they know where you want to go. Be open about your goals, aspirations and dreams, and just be yourself. Remember that this goes both ways- so listen to what your mentor says about themselves. The more you both understand about each other, the more successful and purposeful your relationship will be.

2. Questions, questions, questions.

Many mentees feel as though it is impressive to constantly keep up with their mentor. However, this “fake it until you make it” attitude actually benefits you the least. Don’t forget why you sought out your mentor in the first place- to learn, grow and move forward in your field or in your studies. Embrace curiosity, and take advantage of your mentor’s knowledge and experience.

3. Be prepared.

Before any meeting with your mentor, keep these things in mind: What are your goals for this meeting? What questions do you have for your mentor? What needs to be done on your end, and what needs to be done on their end? Having a list of concrete objectives and actions when meeting with your mentor can go miles- it shows that you find your mentor important, and find their time and energy important as well.

4. Reciprocate.

Reciprocation is absolutely key to any relationship, and especially important in a mentor-mentee relationship. No mentor wants to feel taken advantage of or taken for granted. Watch the amount of time and effort your mentor puts into helping you, and give them that same time and effort back- and then some. Being a great mentee means valuing and respecting your mentor, and all that they do for you.

How to Be Successful When Working in a Foreign Language

internationalWhen it comes to starting a new job or co-op, one of the things we take for granted is that the work will be done in English. We don’t have to add translating and learning a new vocabulary in another language to the many things that are new about our new workplaces. But what about when we venture out of our comfort zone and decide to pursue an international co-op? All of a sudden, the number of new and difficult tasks immediately grows, especially when English is not the working language.
As a co-op at the US Embassy in Quito, Ecuador, I am on an interesting bridge between working in English and working in Spanish. In the Embassy, everyone speaks English. But all the research and meetings we do are conducted in Spanish, especially when we leave the Embassy compound. Here are three tips to being successful in the workplace when you are not using your first language.
Be patient.

Working in a new language is a challenge and you will get frustrated with yourself and the language at some point. That’s okay. Take a break from the language for a few minutes and regain your confidence. You are still learning the language and you have to give yourself time. There will come a point in your co-op where using the language no longer intimidates you, but at the beginning, be patient with yourself as you learn how to work in a new language.
Google Translate will become your best friend.
Don’t be ashamed if you need to look up a word or two or even a whole sentence to make sure you are understanding your work correctly. It’s better to double-check the phrasing of something than to translate it wrong and potentially disseminate incorrect information to your colleagues. Your new job might have words that just aren’t in your vocabulary yet – for me, I’ve been introduced to a whole new set of vocab since starting at the Embassy with words like admiral, colonel, retaliation, offender and many more. Soon these words will become ingrained in your mind, but for now, Google Translate is a great friend.
Ask people to speak more slowly.
It’s always better to ask someone to slow down so you can understand them than to mindlessly nod along in a conversation and come out understanding nothing. Many times locals will not always clue in that they are speaking quickly (I know I speak pretty fast in the US and don’t always realize it) and that the speed might be a problem for you. Everyone is always very understanding and willing to slow down if asked. They too, want to make sure that you understand them and can bring the information they give you back to your office. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you need someone to slow down – it will be more beneficial to everyone involved.
Working in a new language is exciting, but don’t forget that it can also be hard. By the afternoon, I have found myself to be more exhausted from work than ever before because I have had to work that much harder to focus and understand everything that is going on around me. The experience you will get working in a foreign language, however, is unparalleled and will make you more competitive in the job market after graduation!
Rose Leopold is a third-year political science major currently on international co-op with the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador. Prior to this experience, Rose spent her first co-op in the office of Senator Elizabeth Warren in Washington, D.C. Follow Rose’s adventures through her blog justsittingontopoftheworld.wordpress.com and on Instagram @roselandis.

5 Questions to Prepare for Career Fair

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I had the opportunity to speak with Neil Brennan of Meltwater recently about campus recruiting and career fairs. In five quick questions, he nailed down the best (and worst) things you can do at a career fair.

Without further ado, here they are…

1. What types of skills and qualifications do you look for in new graduates?

Well, we’re not really looking for specific degree discipline. We’re looking for people who have graduated top of their class. They typically are also active and involved in other things besides just their studies. Our graduates who come on board have some leadership experience as well. Whether it was a captain of their team or in charge of their sorority.

2. If you had one piece of advice for a student navigating the fair- what would it be?

I think that if a student is attending a career fair, they should want to make an impression when they talk to an employer. There are those who go there to extract information and those who go there to make a strong impression. If I could give advice, it would be to go there and do both. They should really be aware of the fact that they should leave the employer with the strongest impression of themselves

3. What is a Career Fair “no-no”?

If you want to work at a company where you would wear a suit to work everyday, go to the career fair wearing a suit. We are looking for students to dress to impress

4. What do you recommend students bring to the career fair?

Definitely recommend bringing a cover letter if possible as well. We’ll accept resumes, cover letters. For strong candidates we use those later on if they reach out to apply for a position.

Bring a level of research with you. When you do approach and have a conversation with the employer, it’s very obvious you know about the company even if you may have questions still. That will go a long way to make you stand out.

Bring a general level of interest. One mistake is a candidate can make is standing there and expecting the employer to impress them. Bring energy, enthusiasm, and questions.

5. How does a student stand out from the crowd?

One simple piece of advice, obviously almost like a cliche, but first impressions do count. Go up there, make an impression, say hello, shake their hand firmly, and start a discussion rather than hanging back and waiting for the employer to approach you.

Mindfulness in the Office

mindfulnessI never realized the importance of thought, presence, and objectivity until I began working as a Monitoring and Evaluation intern. I specifically asked for the position due to my desire to learn and experience a new side to the nonprofit sector- however, I found myself lacking motivation and inspiration within days. My head was reeling with numbers, most of which I had no connection to and no passion for. I began to doubt whether I was in the right place, doing the right thing, or just doing something wrong. The human mind can run with negative thoughts like no other, and I allowed mine to take me on a turbo-speed downward spiral. This is when I realized- I needed to find fulfillment in my mountains of Excel spreadsheets.

Although I have received training on mindfulness and touched on the concept in a few of my Northeastern courses, I have never let myself practice mindfulness for more than a few hours. In my mind, mindfulness was something I did to take myself away from the stresses and difficulties of college life for only a brief period of time. This is where I was wrong.

Mindfulness is a way of moving throughout your days, weeks, months and even years. It is the practice of active thinking, perceiving and observing without opinions. Instead of looking at mindfulness as an escape, I have started to embrace mindfulness as a new constant in my life- including in my office.

What is important about staying mindful in the office is to be completely present in every moment, keep your thoughts objective, and to practice compassion towards yourself and your coworkers. These are habits that have to be learned. Although it may be difficult at first to stay focused and attentive on seemingly minute tasks, it will soon become learned and normal. I admit that I am not yet fully mindful during my entire workday, however these practices have already allowed me to find hidden gems in my work that my previous judgements and perceptions kept me from seeing. I have also become aware of compassion towards myself, my coworkers, and my work itself. Not only has this taken some weight off of my shoulders, it has permitted meaningful connections to enter my life in unexpected places. And as much as it surprises me to say this- I think Excel and I are becoming friends.

Daniella is a sophomore at Northeastern with a combined major in Human Services and International Affairs, and a minor in Spanish. She is currently on her first co-op working for a youth development nonprofit organization in Cape Town, South Africa. Daniella is passionate about social change, travel, and good food- and can’t wait to see what Africa has to offer her both professionally and personally.

Email her at emami.d@husky.neu.edu. Look for Daniella’s posts every other Tuesday.