What I Learned in Spain

spainThis 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. This post originally appeared on catchcareers.com and was re-posted with permission for the author. 

I recently had the chance to go to Madrid for a two week work assignment and I loved every minute of it. The new group of people I got to meet and work with, a new city to explore, a challenging new work assignment.  During those two weeks, I learned a great deal – both personally and professionally. Here are a few of my reflections from the trip:

Experiencing life – For a long time I’ve been a believer of getting out into the world, exploring, and going on adventures to experience new things. This trip to Spain was no exception. I got out as much as I could to see the city of Madrid. We can get used to our everyday lives and forget there is so much more to explore and spark a curiosity for life.

Getting outside your comfort zone – octopus, blood sausage, anchovies…those are just a few of the new foods I tried during the trip. Our comfort zone may be our happy place, where we feel confident and at ease but it is so much more fun and so much better for our learning, in life and at work, to go beyond. I believe that part of my rich experience of the trip was my willingness to try the new (my first go at espresso) and my new stories to add to my life (of that time I had my first espresso).

Being grounded – With so many fun distractions in an exciting city, it can be hard to concentrate. At times the trip felt a little like a school field trip and a little like a vacation, but I was still there for work. I still had to remain focused at the task at hand to be a good teammate and employee. For me, I just reminded myself of why I was there, to do a good job for my team and the team in Spain, and any extra time to explore was just a wonderful bonus. I also made sure I stayed healthy by working out, eating well, and getting sleep.

Appreciating other ways of life – In high school, my Spanish teacher taught us not just the language but about the culture. While I knew a little of the culture going into the trip, actually getting to live right in it was eye opening. I think this was the most interesting part of the trip and my favorite learning – seeing another culture and a new country. I hope I get to do more of this world exploring in my life.

You can survive without Wi-Fi –I had Wi-Fi in the hotel – so I was able to stay connected to family, friends, U.S. news and emails.  When I ventured outside the hotel – Wi-Fi no longer, I was on my own. That meant navigating the Metro, streets, menus, and everything else without having my phone available to check. And I was fine. I knew enough Spanish I was able to translate words, the metro map was easy, and the bus tour I took helped me recognize landmarks for navigation. It felt good to do it all on my own without googling every question that came my way. And it reminded me of when people actually talked out issues vs. just looking them up immediately.

Do you have any travel experiences that have enriched your life like Spain did for me?

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: Selfemployedinspain.com

How to Work or Learn Remotely

laptop_park-18973In 2014, there is no longer a traditional classroom or workplace. One can write, design, interview, build, create, connect, trade, etc. from the comfort of their own home or in a coffee shop or hotel lobby behind a familiar laptop screen. University degrees can be earned without ever physically meeting a professor. While this may all seem daunting or exciting, structure is still necessary to be productive in a flexible environment and schedule.

1. Have the connection basics toolkit

This includes having at least two email addresses – one for school and one for work that you check regularly. Since no face-to-face contact is being made, email is the number one mode of communication and should be checked and updated multiple times a day. Install an email application on your phone so that emails can be sent and received when you’re on the go. A working cell phone number and Skype username are also two important tools to have to speak directly and conference call with multiple people if necessary.

2. Set up a designated space

Have a clutter-free area where you regularly return to study or work. This space can also be outside of your home if you can guarantee you can access that space regularly like in a library. If at home, utilize memo boards and post-it’s to create an organized and inspirational environment.

3. Follow a schedule and stick to it

The freedom that working or studying from home provides can be deceiving. With deadlines and online exams or assignments and no professor or supervisor to remind you in person, you could lose track of time. Designate a work day or time frame. For example, if assignments are usually due Sunday, promise yourself to work and submit by Friday. The balance of work and personal life is delicate in these situations as well.

4. Don’t forget to check in!

You can still participate in a community presence online! Take advantage of discussion boards when you have a question in class and post questions and interact with fellow classmates. Ask for help from co-workers or team up using many of the new applications out there that facilitate virtual transactions of work and knowledge like GoToMeeting. There are features like recording and the use of a planning board to give participants a truly interactive experience.

5. Take advantage of Lynda and Skillshare

Lynda is online software training available for free for all Northeastern students via MyNEU. Want to learn how to use InDesign but don’t want to take a formal class? Lynda is the way to go.

Skillshare is an online community where experts teach project-based classes in subjects as varied as marketing to guitar. Boost your resume with skills in design or pick up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try. Anyone can access the site for free and members can pay a small additional fee for unlimited and bonus access. Complement your current work or class with a new skill.

Angelica is a fourth-​​year nursing student with a minor in English hailing from New Jersey. She has studied or worked in all the major Boston hospitals. Angelica is also a columnist for The Hunt­ington News and enjoys writing creative non-​​fiction.

Image source: Virgin Entrepreneur; Nearly half of UK office workers can now work remotely

Company Holiday Parties: A Survival Guide

allow-apologize-advance-going-christmas-ecard-someecardsThis guest post was written by graduate candidate and full time professional, Kristina Swope.

It’s that time of the year where everyone’s full of joy, love, and gratitude. It’s a time to reflect on the last 12 months, be thankful, and let others know that they are appreciated. Considering you spend 40+ hours per week with the same people, why not share that appreciation with your coworkers at a holiday party?

It sounds innocent enough. You say, “it’ll be fun”, “I won’t drink that much”, or “I’ll be careful.” It always sounds like a great plan, yet before you know it, you wake up the next day and realize you sang Lady Gaga karaoke with your divisional leader in front of the whole company. You’ll hide under the covers in shame, convinced you can never emerge from the depths of cotton. You don’t realize there are more details coming Monday that will further shame you. For example, hearing that you stood in front of the artificial smoke machine screaming “HOOOOOOO!” a la Michael Jackson. It might sound amusing, but that’s only because it happened to me instead of you.

While it was fun, in hindsight, I wish I had just been a normal person at that party. Instead, I started off my career with embarrassing party behavior that will haunt me forever. Reason being, it completely changed the dynamic in the office afterwards with coworkers now seeing me as the fun, silly, goofy one instead of as a committed member of the team.

To prevent this from happening to you, here are a few a suggestions for surviving a company holiday party:

  1. Don’t “go hard”. If you’re old enough to have a big kid job, you’re old enough to drink responsibly and be aware of how much you can consume without making a complete fool of yourself. Excess consumption is just not worth the risk of saying something you won’t remember or being unsafe; stay within your limits.
  2. Don’t completely let loose verbally. Your coworkers don’t need to hear you swear 1,700 times or hear about super personal events just because you aren’t in the office. Remember that, despite the casual environment, you’re still with coworkers and need to keep that line of respect if you want the dynamic to be normal on Monday.
  3. Don’t sing or dance “seriously”. Just don’t. Unless you are the second coming of Adele or you are an adorably awkward dancer like Taylor Swift, just avoid it entirely. Chances are you think you’re doing way better than you actually are, and you don’t want to ruin a song for yourself by linking it to your corporate humiliation.

  4. Do thank your CEO before either of you leave. Company parties are not required. It’s extremely generous for CEOs to throw a party with free food and beverages for his/her employees, and it’s incredibly important that they are thanked by everyone for it. Just as we appreciate positive reinforcement, they should also hear how much their efforts are appreciated.
  5. Do get to know new coworkers. Whether they’re new to the company or just new to you, this is a perfect opportunity to get to know one another in a less buttoned-up environment. Mingling outside of your comfort zone makes the party more fun and overall more interesting – and who knows, you might even make a new friend!
  6. Do keep the buddy system. It’s a common assumption that because it’s a company party versus going out with friends that you can abandon the famous buddy system rule – this is not true! In fact, without friends you intentionally came with, it’s even more important that you’re looking out for one another. Always let a coworker you’re friends with know when you’re leaving the party and when you’ve gotten home safely, and ask the same of them.

Kristina is a full-time Market Research Project Manager in Philadelphia and a full-time student at NU pursuing a Master of Science in Organization and Corporate Communication, with a concentration in Leadership. Check out her LinkedIn profile here.  

Why You Should Intern At A Startup

DeathtoStock_Creative Community3

Entrepreneurship is everywhere at Northeastern. Bureo Skateboards, co-founded by a NU alum, just landed an awesome partnership with Patagonia. New Ground Food, creators of the Coffee Bar, met their $10,000 Kickstarter goal in less than two days. Startup fever is here to stay. In honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week, we have compiled a list of a couple of reasons you should consider interning at a startup.

Access to leadership. Startups aren’t huge bureaucratic nightmares where you sit in a cube with access to no one but your supervisor. Usually, you will meet the CEO within the first week, if not the first day. You will learn how effective leaders think and run a business, which is valuable information to have early in your career.

Plenty of responsibility. Startups don’t have the money to spend on an intern who sits in the back corner and makes copies. This is great news for you as an intern – this means you can pull a chair right up to the table and contribute to the team almost immediately.

Networking opportunities for days. Startups are known for pizza party networking nights to spark business connections. These happen all the time. All. The. Time. Getting involved in the startup world means you have every opportunity in the world to meet new people and practice your elevator pitch. Your LinkedIn profile will be thrilled.

A huge expansion of your skills. At a startup, there are almost never enough people to get a job done. That means on Monday you might be researching every music festival within a hundred miles of your office, on Tuesday you might be writing a newsletter for 1,000 people, and on Wednesday you might be Googling “what is a corporate communication plan and how do I make one?” You will grow out of necessity, learn to improvise, and nothing will faze you.

There’s no such thing as “riding out the wave” as a startup intern. You will be thrown into the deep end of the pool with no life jacket and you will learn to swim to the other end in no time. You will face challenges and grow immensely during your time there. You will learn some of the most valuable skills in your career as a startup intern.

Check out the schedule of awesome Global Entrepreneurship Week events here!

Lindsey Sampson is a junior 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 on Twitter @lindseygsampson.

 

What I’ve Learned from Managing a Social Enterprise in South Africa’s Townships—And Other International Co-op Lessons

heart capitalOn Aug. 26, I boarded a plane destined for Cape Town, South Africa. Twenty five hours later I arrived at my new home for the next four months.

A week later, I started my co-op at Heart Capital, an impact investment firm on the outskirts of Cape Town that manages a portfolio of social enterprises in local townships. So what have I learned so far from this incredible opportunity to learn about social enterprise management in one of the regions of the world that needs it most? Read on.

1. Printer ink, Internet access, phone calls, and meetings are luxuries—not necessities.

 

In Cape Town, I’ve realized that you can still conduct business without a formal corporate infrastructure in place—it’s just a little more difficult. No technology on site? Better make sure you bring everything you need with you. Deliverymen didn’t drop off your compost in the right place? Time to revamp the work schedule so that you can account for manually hauling your supplies to a different location.

 

Being innovative and flexible are essential in the social space—you often won’t find well-oiled business machines in under-resourced townships.

2. Sometimes, the needs of the business don’t go hand in hand with the needs of beneficiaries. And that can be challenging.

 

The difficult thing about managing social enterprises is that they don’t operate as for-profit businesses, but they aren’t nonprofit either. In this space, we spend a lot of our time wrestling with wanting to help people directly while still trying to progress the business. These tough decisions make this space incredibly challenging. What’s important is that you figure out the best way to cope with the situation. For me, I’ve found that leaving work at the office and exploring the area allow me to clear my head and face the challenges ahead. Figure out what gives you inner peace and capitalize on that.

3. Creativity is key.

 

When there isn’t a clear procedure on how to do something, that presents an opportunity for innovative thinking. Past and current interns have developed new systems for inventory management, sourced free materials from willing companies, and launched crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for supplies. Success in this industry—and especially in an international environment—relies on drive, creativity, and innovation.

4. Working internationally is different than working at home.

Sometimes you might forget that cultural norms you took for granted aren’t the same in other countries. Email may not be effective, the laws and regulations for donations may be different, and common words and phrases may not be present in your new space.

 

Like any new job, it’s important to take each lesson in stride. Sometimes, working in a different country can be frustrating and confusing. It may make you want to tear your hair out, find the nearest McDonalds, and try to un-block Netflix. But by using each experience as a learning opportunity, and then reminding yourself about the lessons you’ll be able to take home with you, you’ll survive—and, even better—thrive.

 

Sarah Silverstein is currently managing Heart Capital’s ongoing Indiegogo campaign to raise $15,000 USD to purchase a bakkie, or small vehicle, which will drastically improve the organization’s operations on the ground. Check out the campaign page to learn more about the campaign.

Honoring All Who Serve- Careers In The Military

veterans day 2013

Northeastern honors its veterans in the 2013 Veterans Day Ceremony.

The face of the military is the warrior on the front lines. A man or woman in uniform patrols under the hot desert sun, protected by a helmet, ballistic eyewear, and body armor, and armed with high-tech weaponry.

Warriors on the front-lines are known as Infantry. Infantry undergo rigorous training in close combat, and dedicate themselves to overcoming all obstacles in order to complete the mission.

However, only a fraction of service members serve as infantry. In order to understand the unique skills which a veteran can bring to the workforce, it is important to understand the different ways in which soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen have served. Below is just a sample of the career fields available in the military, not specific to any branch.

Artillery are responsible for anything from mortars positioned directly over the battlefield, to long-range missiles on off-shore battleships.

Aviation assets in the military include helicopters, fighter jets, and increasingly drones. Aviation’s roles include engaging targets, gathering intelligence, transporting supplies, and evacuating wounded personnel.

Band members entertain civilians and service members at home and abroad. Each service has their own band, which attract talented singers and musicians.

Chaplains hold different religious beliefs, but share a common dedication to assisting soldiers with their spiritual needs, by providing confidential counseling services.

Engineers use materials on hand to build whatever structures are needed. Engineering projects include roads, bridges, wells, and village schools.

Finance is crucial in the billion-dollar defense industry. Financial managers track millions of dollars in assets, while delivering pay to soldiers in the remotest parts of the world.

Health professionals such as doctors, nurses, dentists, and technicians provide care to soldiers on the battlefield, in aircraft and ambulances, and in military hospitals around the world. The Army also has a veterinarians, who take care of animals in all services.

Information Technology is a key part of the modern battlefield. Technicians maintain and operate electronics ranging from radios, to computers, to nuclear missile guidance systems.

Intelligence experts include imagery analysts, cryptologists, linguists, and security experts that turn data into actionable information, and protect sensitive information.

Logistics and Transportation manage and move crucial supplies such as food, water, and medicine to wherever they are needed, overcoming great obstacles along the way.

Public Affairs is the link between the military and civilian populations. Some members of Public Affairs work behind the scenes on news productions while others interact directly with local populations.

Security Forces are usually called Military Police. MPs provide security for military bases, ships, and occupied areas, conduct criminal investigations, and perform other tasks to maintain law and order.

Special Operations Forces include Navy SEALs, Air Force Pararescue, Army “Green Berets”, and Marine RECON.  Special Operations missions differ, but members in Special Forces share a tireless dedication to the mission resulting from intense, specialized training.

Much more. The military trains service members for a wide variety of jobs. It is common for service members to receive training in multiple career fields.

Veterans’ work differ drastically in function and scope. However, some skills are common to all veterans. First, service members accomplish missions under extreme pressure, leading to proficiency at project management field, and process improvement. Second, they have experience working with a variety of people, sometimes across cultures, making them ideal members of global teams. Finally, each veteran enters the workforce with thousands of dollars’ worth of technical training, provided courtesy of the government. Those who serve part-time in the National Guard or Reserve receive opportunities to continue developing their skills.

Veterans have proven success on the job in the world’s largest military. Thus the biggest challenge for veterans leaving the service is not usually obtaining new skills, but relating their existing skills to the civilian world. A military skills translator, such as the one available on vaforvets.va.gov, can help veterans translate military experience into key words on a civilian resume. However, it is more important for Americans to understand the different challenges veterans overcome, and experience they bring to the workforce.

Thank a veteran for their service today, whether it be in the jungles of Vietnam, on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, flying above the sands of Kuwait, or at home with the National Guard or Reserve. Regardless of when and where veterans have served, each veteran has signed a blank check to their country payable to any amount up to, and including, their life.

Career information from goarmy.com, airforce.com, navy.com

The article was written by an Army ROTC cadet at Northeastern. Northeastern’s Army ROTC program produces officers for every branch of the Army, from Infantry to Nursing. Visit rotc.neu.edu for more info.

Image Source: Northeastern News

What Do We Really Want in the Workplace?

love job

This guest post was written by Career Development intern and College Student Development and Counseling graduate student, Jabril Robinson. 

Great question! In today’s advanced society, there are many preferences, demands, and pressures to deal with, in all areas of employment. Those who do not meet these can quickly fall out of favor with an industry. But what is it that people really are searching for when deciding on an area of employment? Money? While it is necessary (someone’s got to pay the bills, right?), money is not everything. I recently completed a course entitled “Reality Therapy”, which has applications to the workplace and gave insight as to what it is that everyone not only wants, but needs in the workplace. These are known as the five basic needs: survival, love/belonging, fun, freedom, and power.

Based on Dr. William Glasser’s psychological concept of Reality Therapy and Choice Theory, these basic needs are essential for happiness, both in one’s personal and professional life. Let’s start with the first:

SURVIVAL: the most fundamental need: this encompasses biological and physiological necessities such as food, water, and shelter. If you are lacking any of these, well you’re probably more focused on these needs versus reading on, but let’s continue anyway!

LOVE/BELONGING: This basic need refers to having a positive connection with others in your environment– in this case your colleagues, supervisors, etc. Can’t stand lazy co-workers who just lounge around when the boss isn’t looking? Speaking of the boss, do you wish s/he or she would show a little more appreciation or accidentally fall off the planet? Do you feel like you are the outcast at work? If you answered yes re in the affirmative to any of these questions, it may be a sense of belonging or appreciation that you are missing. If you do have this on co-op, and this is important to you, ask questions on your interviews to be sure to carry this into your next role. Where does this need rank for you of the five?

FUN: This one is simple–everyone wants to have at least a little bit of fun at work! How important this is varies person to person, colleague to colleague. Some people may want to have fun once they finish their “to do” list; others want this infused in every aspect of their day. While everyone has a different definition of what “fun” entails, or when it’s appropriate at work to have it, it is easy to tell whether someone is enjoying their job or not (or perhaps enjoying it a little too much). Regardless of what your view of fun is, having a job or career that is not even a little fun may not be high on your list will not prove to be an ideal for you. For instance, what do the most successful sports team, bands, research teams and others have in common? They love what they do, have a passion for their work, and again, have FUN! Where does this need come on your short list?

FREEDOM: An especially important need. Who doesn’t desire some freedom in their work life? Freedom comes in many forms: the ability to choose one’s own hours, autonomy to work on self-initiated projects, quality break time, one’s own “space”, you name it. Without a sense of freedom, people can literally go crazy on the job. Thankfully I have yet to see this in person, (I’m not complaining, but trust me, it happens). Of course, not everyone can be their own boss, but if you feel more constricted than what is comfortable, then yes, you are probably lacking some element of freedom. Remember though: freedom is not always given–sometimes it needs to be earned. If you feel like you have earned independence, but have yet to receive it, then it may be time to evaluate how you’re going to meet this need and whether there are any changes you can make, both internally and externally.

POWER: Ah yes, power. Who could forget? Not this guy, and neither should you. Power is a subjective term, however in this case we’re talking about the ability to have a sense of control over your life outcomes. In some ways, this overlaps with the subject of freedom (it’s difficult to have one without the other), but has some differences as well. Those who have a sense of power feel as if they are able to achieve what they desire, view themselves as important to their company, and believe they can “win”. Power can also be viewed as a sense of competence in your field or on the job. If you lack power in your current job or career, it is time to evaluate. Where does this need fit for you?  Is it time to explore options to find a way to better meet this need and do something about it!

So how does this tie into Career Development? Well, during the job search process, it is absolutely important to consider if that career or if that job you’re considering, involving environmental engineering, communications, or any other field, can provide you with these needs. A great time to assess this is during the interview process. During the interview, it would be wise to ask questions such as these:

  1. What is the workplace atmosphere like between co-workers here?
  2. What sort of professional development opportunities do you offer?
  3. What are some benchmarks for success for the first six months and first year
  4. Thinking back to people who have been in this position previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great?

For interview tips, please check out Northeastern Career Development’s Interview page.

Still looking for more interviewing (both regular and informational) tips and strategies? Please visit our Career Development page for more information. Interested in an individual appointment to figure out where these needs rank for you and how to make your co-op, internship, or after graduation position work for you even better? Schedule an appointment via your myNEU, or by calling 617-373-2430—we are here to address your needs!

Jabril Robinson is a Career Development Intern at Northeastern University. Having graduated with a degree in Psychology, he enjoys studies on human perception and motivation differences between individuals. He is currently enrolled in Northeastern University’s College Student Development & Counseling Program. Send him an email at j.robinson@neu.edu.

Image Source: Able & Fernandes Communications Company

How To Stand Out In A Good Way

man-climbing-stairs

This post was written by Diane Ciarletta, Director of Northeastern University Career Development.

Starting a new co-op or full-time job can be a challenge.  As the new kid on the block, you not only have to learn how to do the job, but also how to fit in with the company and make a strong impression. However, in most organizations, just being good at your job is not enough to get you noticed.  If you want to turn your coop into a full time offer or get on your boss’s radar for a promotion, it is important to find effective ways to increase your visibility.  You want your colleagues and manager to see you as a leader who adds value to the team and the company.  As a manager, I have hired several interns into permanent positions.  What differentiated them from the competition to win a coveted spot on our team?

Here are four ways you can make yourself stand out:

1. Go beyond your job description

View your job description as the minimum expectation and don’t ever be heard saying, “That’s not my job!”  Spend your first few weeks observing others, asking questions and figuring out ways you can add value to your team.  If you see something that needs to be done-take the initiative, bring it to your boss’ attention and offer your help.  If you find a way to do something more efficiently, suggest it with a concrete plan.  Step out of your comfort zone to learn a new skill or take on a project that no one else wants to do.  Possess a Yes-I-can attitude. If you show a willingness to learn or try something that would be beneficial to the company-you will definitely be positioning yourself for success.

2. Manage your time well

If you want to stand out, it is critical that you be regarded as someone who gets things done and done well.  Missing deadlines, or handing in a less-than-stellar project because you didn’t give yourself enough time to do it right is unacceptable.  The ability to multi-task, i.e. managing competing projects simultaneously, is expected of most employees, and is critical for anyone who aspires to a leadership role. It is important to prioritize your time when it comes to completing projects in order to get them done on time.  If you are unsure of which tasks to complete first, have a conversation with your supervisor to clarify expectations, and avoid potential problems in the future.

3. Speak up in meetings

The way you present yourself in meetings can have a big impact on your career. If you don’t let yourself be heard and never offer an opinion or comment, you may be giving off the impression that you are not invested.  Even if you are more introverted and prefer to think things through before you speak, find ways to participate.  When you do speak up, say your points succinctly and clearly.  A great way to figure out how to become an effective speaker is by watching those who do it well.  Meetings are where a lot of business gets done, and contributing your ideas publicly allows your boss and your peers to see you as a leader.

4. Ask for feedback and use it to improve

Getting feedback and constructive criticism from your peers and supervisor is one of the best ways to gauge your performance.  If your manager offers unsolicited feedback about a perceived problem or mistake, don’t be defensive.  Instead, take ownership and accountability and devise a strategy to address the problem.  If your manager doesn’t volunteer performance feedback –ask for it-appropriately.  You could request a regular one-to-one meeting to discuss problems, status updates and check-in about how you are doing.  When you are seeking feedback, don’t ask, “How am I doing?”  It’s too general and might not elicit specific, concrete suggestions.  Instead, ask about the one-thing.  For example, “What is one thing I could do to improve the way I…?  If someone takes the time and effort to give you feedback make sure you demonstrate how you are using it to improve your performance.

Diane Ciarletta is the Director of the Career Development Team.  She has been a Career Counselor for over 25 years and has hired and supervised many interns and professional staff.

Photo Source: Man Climbing Stairs

What does it mean to work for a non-profit?

non profit post word cloud

This guest post was written by NU Pre-Law and Graduate School Advisor, Anne Grieves.

It may mean that you won’t be making as much money as your friend at Fidelity.  It may mean that you come home from work emotionally drained.  It may also mean that you come home knowing you had a positive impact on something or someone. Wherever you end up 5, 10, 15 years from now, having had even one experience working at a non-profit will give you what you won’t be able to buy with any amount of money.

In my 20s I worked for two educational travel companies; one was a for-profit and one was a not-for-profit.  Each one offered amazing opportunities, but looking back, it was at the not-for-profit that I developed a stronger sense of self, gained professional self-confidence and knew that what I brought and gave was important and valued.

Working at the for-profit was FUN.  The management team had frequent celebrations (with champagne), gave out bonuses, hosted annual team building ropes course retreats and much more.  Anything to incentivize the staff.  However, each month, those that didn’t perform as expected, were cut.  There were quotas to meet and if they weren’t… tough luck.  People came and went so frequently that developing relationships was very challenging.

Of course not all for-profits are like this.  But, if the bottom line is making money, sometimes it comes at the expense of other things.

Five years later I worked at a similar company, but the fact that it was a not-for-profit (slightly different from non-profit), allowed me to grow in ways I would not have been able to at the previous company.  I had opportunities to be creative, was able to get involved with many projects and connected with every single person in the organization.  Everyone was open and willing to mentor.  People were busy but were not driven by the bottom line.

The president of the company who turned 50 while I was there, started as an intern while he was in college.  I was surprised to learn that many employees had been there for over 10, 15 and even 20 years.  This was in 2000 and many of them are still there today!  We did not have expensive celebrations (rather potluck parties).  We did not have fancy office supplies.  We had a sense of community.  We had the daily awareness that we were creating something of value for society and we cared to do our best without monetary incentives.

Sure- even there some people had to be let go.  But, only as a last resort and much coaching.  Here, creativity was valued and ideas were encouraged.  People recognized each other’s talents and leveraged them for constant growth of the individual and the company.

In my late 20s, working at this company I grew in many ways and made connections hands on world picthat have stayed with me to this day.  I now have a career in higher education because that is where my passion and interests join together.  But, having had a taste of working at a not-for-profit triggered that excitement of knowing I could leave work at the end of the day with an incredible sense of fulfillment.

So, if you are a student with a passion, a desire to lead, a yearning to bring about change and have a natural tendency to truly care, you should consider working for a non-profit or social impact organization.

Please join us on October 9th, 5:30-7 at the Non-Profit and Government Networking Forum in Raytheon Amphitheater, to learn more about the world of non-profits.  This is an opportunity to meet with 14 organizations that are making an impact on education, the environment, the arts, health care, and social enterprise.  You will get to know people within the nonprofit community in Boston who are always happy to help young people interested in using their careers for good.  Also check out the nuCAUSE Careers calendar of events for the fall semester for other opportunities to explore non-profit careers.

Anne Grieves is the Pre-Law and Graduate School Career Advisor at Northeastern University Career Development. A proud ENFP, Anne enjoys helping students explore their career options through various assessment tools and workshops and is a freelance Zumba instructor. To make an appointment with Anne, call 617-373-2430.   

Turning Passion into Progress: Advice from WOMEN who INSPIRE

This guest post was written by Katie McCune, an Assistant Co-op Coordinator with the College of Computer and Information Science.

Have you ever been to a panel talk where you were really excited about the topic, but in the end, it was just meh, and you left feeling unenthused? Well, this definitely wasn’t one of those. Recently, I attended “How Innovation and Technology are Business Game Changers,” a panel that was part of Northeastern’s WOMEN who INSPIRE Speaker Series. The idea of the series is to empower the next generation of women leaders, but as evidenced by the large number of male attendees, this panel called to a broad audience. Panelists included Naomi Fried (Chief Innovation Officer of Boston Children’s Hospital), Flora Sah (SVP, COO, Enterprise Risk Management of State Street Corporation), and Deborah Theobald (Co-Founder & CEO of Vecna Technologies). I left feeling genuinely inspired and ready to take action on the lessons learned. So, if you need your own dose of motivation from some impressive people, here ya go:

From left to right, panelists Fried, Sah, and Theoblad. Photo courtesy of WOMEN who INSPIRE

From left to right, panelists Fried, Sah, and Theoblad. Photo courtesy of WOMEN who INSPIRE

Make your own opportunities

The panel kicked off by talking about how each of the women found their jobs. The answers went something like this:

Naomi – “The job I wanted didn’t exist, so I created it”

Flora – “The job I wanted didn’t exist, so I created it”

Deborah – “The company I wanted to work for didn’t exist, so I created it”

See the trend? Good things come to those who seek them out. That’s not to say you need to go create your own job or company, or that it’s easy to create opportunities, but don’t let preconceived boundaries limit you. Maybe, you want to try a completely unique idea for your final project, because it’s more in-line with your passions. Or maybe you want to ask the CEO of your dream company to sit down and have coffee with you. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to make your own opportunities, which leads us to…

Image Source: http://jonmichail.org/

Image Source: http://jonmichail.org/

Be Confident

Seriously! We’ve all heard mantras like “fake it ‘till you make it” or “attitude is 3/4th of the battle” but these three women are living, breathing proof that confidence really matters. They all shared examples of when their confidence made a difference (can we talk about how much confidence it takes to start a company?) but you could just feel their confidence being in the room. Regardless of what academic level you’re at, by definition as a student, you aren’t an expert in your field. That can be a bit unnerving, but confidence can take you a long ways. As Deborah pointed out, to be successful in any sense of the word, you have to be confident that your passions are worthwhile, even if nobody else sees it right away.

Take Risks

Not only did these women share the fact that they are all confident and made opportunities for themselves, but they are also united in their strong belief that you MUST take risks in order to succeed. Taking risks can be scary. You might fail. Scratch that, you will fail. But as Naomi reminded us, you will learn much more from your failures than your successes, and so even though it’s counterintuitive, failure is a major part of success. So to be successful, you must be able to take some risks.

Michael Jordan quote

Whether success for you means starting your own company, getting a better grade, or speaking up in class, remember these women’s words to help make your dreams a reality.

Katie is currently a Co-op Coordinator for graduate students in the College of Computer and Information science, but got her start as an intern with NU’s Career Development. She’s a Colorado lady at heart and loves anything involving the mountains (especially when her pup can tag along).