Waiting Room Do’s and Don’t’s

So imagine this: you are at a job interview, about 5-10 minutes early and are now in the interview waiting room, waiting for your interviewer to come down to meet you. This time waiting can actually affect your interview, so what you do (and don’t do) might have an impact on how your professionalism appears to the interviewer.

interviewing, waiting room, interview waiting room

Do: Look over your resume. I remember being told in my co-op class to bring multiple copies of my resume in a fancy portfolio to interviews to provide interviewers with. Since your resume is most likely the only piece of paper they’ll have of yours, you better know what your own resume says! Hopefully you’ve reviewed it before, but a quick read over in the waiting area shows whoever might be watching you that you are committed to this interview.

Do: Have good posture. This carries over into the interview as well, but sitting up straight is important. The way you are sitting may be the first time your interviewer sees you and this also may impact how your reflection of professionalism. It’s not too long of a time frame, so straighten that back a bit!

Don’t: Play on your phone. I feel as if this varies. I’m the kind of person who says its a no, but we’re all entitled to our own opinion. Being on your phone can show that you are preoccupied with something else, such as emails, text messages, your social media, or myabe the latest level of Candy Crush. Tuck that phone away (on silent!) in your bag or pocket when you walk into the waiting area. You’ll look ten times more professional and can use the time to focus on the interview, not on other aspects of your life. (I promise they’ll still be there when you’re finished with interviewing.)

Photo courtesy of ASDA. 

Finding Time for Mindfulness in the Workplace

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Candidly speaking, people often associate mindfulness with places like monasteries and hippie communes, and it’s often an idea that’s tossed aside as being “too out there” when suggested that people adopt it into their everyday lives. Yet mindfulness, proven to reduce stress, is finding a home in the workplace. Admittedly, I was one of the people who did not pay any attention to the practice of mindfulness, yet I began to take notice when mindfulness workshops were offered in my office.

Let’s face it. Regardless of what industry we work in, we all face stress every single day. Looming deadlines, annoying coworkers, and heavy workloads are a part of our daily lives. However, I found that setting just 10 minutes aside each day to practice mindfulness helped take the stress away from my daily work routine. Looking to do the same? Here are some easy tips that are tried and true by yours truly:

Isolate your tasks. Next time you’re sitting at your desk simultaneously scrolling through emails on your computer, talking to coworkers, and sipping your morning coffee, take a moment to focus in on just one simple task. By isolating your tasks, you’ll remove the added stressors that like to creep in where they are not welcome. We often feel guilty for doing this because of our workloads and the pressure to constantly be accessible to our colleagues and bosses, but making sure you’re truly focused on one task will lead to even better productivity and quality of work.

Sixteen seconds of bliss. This is my personal favorite, and one that I use all the time – whether I’m at work, commuting, or just stressing about what show to watch next on Netflix. Here’s how to do it: four second inhale, followed by holding the breath for four seconds, four second exhale, and hold the exhale for four seconds. It’s an easy way to focus on yourself and not the stresses in your life, and center yourself again.

Look to the sky. I know this one may sound very out there, but bear with me, okay? Next time you’re stressed, imagine your mind as a crystal clear blue sky. Every stressor in your life is a cloud in that sky, but you have the power to control how fast that cloud moves out of sight. Aim to have a clear sky as much as possible by realizing that you have the power to control and manage your stress.

While I am certainly no expert in the practice of mindfulness in the workplace, I am a fellow stressed-out worker searching for some solace. These three tips are easy ways to help seamlessly introduce mindfulness into your work life and will hopefully help you relieve stress and perform to your best ability.

Jessica Mertens is a senior studying Communication Studies, Business Administration, and International Affairs. With experience in PR, internal communications, and CSR from Metis Communications and Staples, Jessica is now in an eternal state of wanderlust at Travel + Leisure. Offline, you can catch Jessica exploring NYC, binge-watching Scandal, and planning her next world travels. Connect with Jessica on Twitter @jessica_mertens and LinkedIn.

Dress For Success In the Workplace

dress-for-successAs superficial as it sounds, what you wear matters. How a person dresses is both a physical expression of respect and a nonverbal communication. While the old saying goes “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, everything you do makes a statement about who you are. It also has an immense impact of how people perceive you the first few seconds they meet you and can have lasting effects on your career. Obviously, where you intern/co-op matters, as the workplace and field have their own unique cultures, from conservative suits and ties on Capitol Hill to swag free t-shirts in Silicon Valley. The bottom line for dressing well, therefore, is to align with the brand you want to communicate. So how do you look the part?

Here are a few ways you can use a guideline as you navigate your job:

1. Do Your Research:

In advance of a job interview or going to your job on the first day, do your homework and observe how employees there dress. Most fashion stores have clothing line that gears towards young professionals, such as Ann Taylor, Loft, Zara, The Limited. For high end shops, you can go for more established brands such as Brooks Brothers, Tommy Hilfiger, PINK, Ermenegildo Zegna (men only), etc.

2. Tailor It When Possible:

Though some college students might be living on a budget, do remember that tailoring your clothes goes a long way to making a difference. If the clothing is too tight or too loose, it gives off the vibe that you are sloppy and not cleaned up. When you are investing on good presentable clothes, you want to make your investment count. And unless you have a sewing machine at home, you should always go the extra step to go to a tailor to make it fit your body type. It will also give you an extra boost of confidence as well. You won’t regret it!

3. Pair Everything With a Blazer:

Say you are going to a networking event or a cocktail event after work that requires you to dress up, but you are not sure how dressy the event is or you don’t have time to go back home to change – what should you do? Pair everything with a blazer, because it allows you the flexibility to dress up and down. Now the big question is what color, according to hiring managers, blue is the safest choice because it sends the message that you are credible and trustworthy, and inspires confidence. Avoid brown because it signals old-fashioned, and black which conveys leadership and over-confidence. You don’t want to come up too strong and overpowering especially if you a just a low-level assistant. Save it for the future.

4. Other Do’s and Don’ts for Women and Men:

It’s a fact that women can lose respect in the work place if they wear too revealing clothes. A good rule of thumb is, the younger you are, the more conservatively you should dress. As you move up in your career, consider changing your wardrobe style and making a bit of statement, but for now, no short skirts and revealing tight tops. Also, refrain from wearing too much makeup but do put on deodorant. For men, generally there is much less to worry about. However, you should wear your hair in a clean and neat style; while hair gel is not necessary and depends on your personal style, sometimes it does do the trick to tidy your look. Another thing that employers notice are shoes. Make sure they match the color of the suit you are wearing, and that they are polished and clean. Try not to show too much socks when you sit and wear pants that suit your height. Lastly, for both genders, if you have any visible tattoos and body piercings, you should always err on the cautious side to conceal them.

My Marine Corps Adventure at Quantico

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I’ll admit it – I was skeptical going into my week in Quantico, VA for a Marine Corps Educators’ Workshop. I wondered how intense the week of orientation would be and I wondered just how many job options there really were in the Marine Corps.

After my week in Quantico, I thought I’d share a few things I learned and some of the coolest things I’ve done.

-There are 40 MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) job fields available within the Marine Corps including logistics, engineering, public affairs, financial management, and communications.

-Joining the Marine Corps doesn’t automatically put you on the front lines – there are different ways to serve in the Marines – as an Enlisted Marine or as a Marine officer, leading your enlisted peers.

-The average age of a Marine is 23 and most enlist for a standard time of 4 years

-Tuition assistance is available for graduate study and/or professional programs

-There is an opportunity to be stationed in over 100 different countries

-Core values and skill sets (which many employers seek) include commitment; leadership; critical thinking skills; and decision-making

-You could start applying to the Marine Corps already – The Platoon Leaders Class (PLC) is a 10 week paid training session for rising seniors which lets you focus on studies senior year and then post-graduation, you become a Second Lieutenant

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Coolest things I experienced with the Marine Corps:

-Completed a simulated ‘mission’ into the woods of Quantico holding a fake (but heavy) weapon, wearing a Kevlar helmet

-Rode in an Osprey helicopter with the back ramp open while practicing evasive maneuvers

-Won a fight with padded Pugil sticks (essentially, big Q-tips used in combat) – see below photo

-Did the Leadership Reaction Course (think American Ninja Warrior obstacles) and climb up a tree and across a branch 8 feet high

-Was awestruck by the precision and skill of the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performing in front of the 32-foot tall Marine Corps War Memorial statue

Want to learn more about the Marine Corps? Stop by the Snell Library Courtyard between 11am-3pm to take the Marine Corps Collegiate Challenge!

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Melissa Croteau is an Assistant Director of Employer Relations at Northeastern University. When she isn’t training with the Marine Corps or flying in an Osprey Helicopter, you can find her singing her heart out with the Boston Pops and the Metropolitan Chorale! Tweet at her about the Marine Corps @CareerCoachNU

 

Our 5 Favorite (fun) Job Search and Career Sites

job thing rachel

With graduation over and summer beginning, it’s time for you recent grads (if you haven’t already) to begin turning your thoughts to getting that full-time job. Alumni looking for a new job and for rising seniors trying to get a jumpstart on the job search should also pay attention.  Here are the top five entertaining and informative job search blogs that can be a great resource for those embarking on the full-time job search.

  • The Muse: The Muse is a fantastic website that not only offers a blog that helps answer any career-related and job search questions, but also offers a robust job board, and a chance to look inside company offices before applying. Be sure to check out the free online classes section that can help you to learn new job skills that will enhance your resume.
  • Ask A Manager: The writer of the blog, Alison Greene, is a former chief of staff and consultant, and has successfully written a few well-received job search books. Alison’s pithy, hilariously sarcastic and blunt opinions about oddities and awkward occurrences in the workplace or on the job search are extremely entertaining to read and can give you great information as to how to navigate these situations should they happen to you.
  • Careerealism: Both job seekers and employers frequent Careerealism–it not only offers a blog with great career advice, but offers an area for employers to showcase their brand, share their story and discover great talent. By subscribing to Careerealism, job seekers can also access LinkedIn lab tutorials, Interview Prep tools, checklists and assessments.
  • Brazen Careerist: Brazen Careerist is a career networking site for ambitious young professionals, as it powers real-time online events for organizations around the world. Their interactive platform, Brazen Connect, is used by companies, professional associations and universities to expand how they recruit and connect with potential employees.  They also have a pretty great blog related to the job search that job seekers can subscribe to as well.
  • Undercover Recruiter: This blog is focused solely on career development processes and the job search. Topics for blog posts include: career management, interview tips, job search, tips and tricks from recruiters, resume & CV writing, and how to use social media in the job search.

So pick you poison and use these helpful sites to get cracking on that job search!

Ashley LoBue is an Assistant Director at Northeastern Career Development.  A Boston College graduate, Ashley has over 4 years of experience working in higher education and is a proponent for international and experiential education.  Ashley also enjoys binge-watching HGTV and aspires to be like the Property Brothers, Drew and Jonathan, as a possible secondary career. 

Ten Top Tips to a Winning Case Interview!

picjumbo.com_HNCK3988Whether you’re studying Business, Engineering, or Computer Science, you may likely have to master the case interview.  Depending on the organization and your interviewer, it may either be the format of your whole internship or after graduation interview, or a part of your overall interview experience. Kudos to our employer partners and presenters as these tips have been adapted from Case Interviewing workshops presented by Liberty Mutual and Vistaprint, as well as from Northeastern University faculty presenters and a panelist who was a student Case Competition Winner.

Here are the Top Ten Tips to Ace Your Case!

1. How long do you have for your case?

Many employers will do a 45 minute or a 30 minute case question. Having an understanding of approximately what you have to work with for time is important.  It’s also absolutely fine to take 45 seconds to collect your thoughts before starting to tackle the question. Moreover, often, it’s expected!

2. What are some of the issues at the core of your case?

Be sure you understand the case. Does it pivot around a new market entry or product launch, a finance, technology, or innovation case, or does it have multiple overlaps to other areas? What framework are you going to use? While professionals sometimes disagree on the importance of deciding on a framework, identifying the business problem(s) at the crux of your case, as well as your hypothesis, helps you determine your strategy and a structure for your answer. This is true whether you are tackling a case as part of an internship interview, or for an awesome after graduation opportunity!

3. Ask questions and take notes.

Your interviewer will often give you the bare bones of a case, sometimes as little information as possible. They may take two to three minutes to provide an overview. You can help yourself to excel by asking good questions. Great questions include:  how are you measuring success? Is it solely profit or are there other metrics or criteria? What are some of the “barriers to entry”? Are the competitors across the street—literally? Do you need capital? What questions are priorities to ask versus optional? Asking questions, determining shared assumptions, and eliciting clarifying information demonstrates strong analytical skills. Expect some push back and be prepared to support your answers.

4. Put some math around it!

While your analytical skills are undoubtedly super, you’ll impress your interviewer more if you back up your answers by showing strong quantitative skills. Starting with a conceptual understanding of the case is fine. However, you can be sure your prospective employer is looking to see if you can do the math!

5. Show your strategic thinking abilities.

Case interviews allow applicants to shine when they can use their strategic thinking skills to adapt and change gears quickly in analyzing business situations.  Flexing your strategic thinking skills is important, no matter what type of interview you are on and it’s absolutely critical on internship or after graduation case interviews. While some questions are more brainteasers (“how many balloons would it take to fill this interview room”—a real question asked of an applicant!), the case questions we’re focusing on here are complicated with a lot of moving parts (“we’re launching a new water filtration product fall 2015 in xyz country which is a new market for us…”). Whether it’s a brainteaser, a case about a new product in a new market, or something completely different, let your prospective employer see the logic behind your thought process, as well as what solutions you arrive at. Show them how you break the case problem down.

6. Think holistically about the problem.

Although your case might be focused in one area, for example, finance, being able to “connect the dots” to other functions like marketing, supply chain, technology or innovation management, demonstrates your intellectual capital and versatility, as well as the value you would bring to that prospective employer. It illustrates your ability to anticipate how different choices may have different impacts and may change the recommendations you select. Thinking cross-functionally will allow you to showcase your abilities and provide a stronger answer.

7. It’s not always about the right answer, 

it’s about how you frame the analysis. It’s about making a connection with the interviewer and being the right person, not just for the job, but for the team and organization. It’s about being the professional you are, especially under the pressure of a case. In some cases there is no one right answer.  If it becomes apparent that you made a mistake, don’t panic! Admit your mistake. Stay focused and calm under pressure. Don’t assume you’ve lost the job. Employers tell us that many candidates who have made a mistake will still land that offer.

8. Do what helps you create the right space to be in before the interview.

Clear your schedule. Do you need to go to the gym? Do you need to review your notes? Don’t go to the interview hungry and expect your best brainpower. This is great advice given by one of my panelists during a case prep workshop. Implement what works for you and throw out the rest.

9. Picture yourself confident and successful.

What you can control, control, and release the rest. There is lots of ambiguity around an interview. You can’t prepare for everything so prepare as best as possible and then create the conditions of your success by relaxing into the interview, enjoying the intellectual challenge of the case, and staying confident that you’ll be successful.

10. Use Your Resources!  See: Case Interviews on the Career Development website which has Interactive Cases, a YouTube Case Interviewing channel, links to company websites that feature case interviews, and other resources!  Check with your professors! Glassdoor is another great resource for checking out types of questions candidates before you have been asked at that company. Leverage all your resources.

Now go out and crush your next case interview!

Ellen Zold Goldman is Senior Associate Director here at Career Development and liaison to the D’Amore McKim School of Business. She loves all things international, as well as all things Business.

5 Alums, 5 Years Later: Mike Adamson

Class of 2010

It’s hard to imagine I stepped onto Northeastern’s campus almost 10 years ago to begin my freshman year. And now I’m 5 years removed from a place where I learned a lot inside and outside of the classroom, it all moves very fast. Since leaving Northeastern I’ve worked for two different companies, lived back home and in the city, been able to travel, and have kept myself relatively busy and active. I currently work as a Campus Recruiter where I’m able to travel back to college campuses and brand and recruit for a company I enjoy working for and am interested in. I’ve met a lot of students in this role and as oblivious as I was about post-collegiate life, it’s somewhat relieving to know that a lot of other students were, and still are, in the same boat. It is a big adjustment, but it’s an exciting and completely different experience that needs to be approached with an open mind.

After I graduated, I rejoined a previous co-op employer of mine. It was a great decision and because of my previous experience with them I was thrown a lot of responsibility right away. I was also living with friends that I grew up with from home in the Boston area. None of us went to college together but we stayed in touch, it was an easy fit and a great living situation. Both my work life and my social life were comfortable right after graduation, now that I think about that, it made the transition into the “real world” all the smoother. I didn’t realize it at the time, but maintaining those relationships with previous co-workers and friends got my post collegiate life kicked off in the right direction. Over the course of the last 5 years maintaining those contacts and relationships has been more challenging given the hectic work-life balancing act. But whether it is for my professional or personal life it has always proved to be worth the effort.

Work-life balance is important, but what work-life balance means to me might not mean the same to you. I work in a role where there are very busy, hectic times of the year but I enjoy the planning, travel, execution, and impact of my work. This is the same for most jobs, there will always be ebbs and flows to your workload, so be flexible with your idea of work-life balance. The times where I have been the busiest have also been the most fun. So while I may be working longer I don’t feel as if I’m making an exception. The days never feel as long or draining as they may appear because I’m engaged and enjoy the people I work with. On the opposite end of the spectrum there are times where things are slow, and I need to create work, which is great, or I’m able to catch up on responsibilities in my personal life. You won’t know what your ideal work-life balance is until you start working, and not every company and job will offer what you’re looking for. So be flexible and allow time for adjustments.

The last 5 years have also flown by because I’ve been willing to try new things. Whether it’s traveling, joining a club/team, changing up my routine, taking on a new project, or just taking myself out of my comfort zone it’s all kept my life interesting. This is probably very similar to a college experience where you are dumped into this new place with unfamiliar faces and environments you need to learn and navigate . It’s a different type of learning in post-collegiate life but being willing to say yes and continue exploring and learning has created a very fulfilling experience for me so far. I do find there are times where I’m spread a little thin or the day-to-day feels stagnant, but being cognizant of the fact that it’s my decision to change my routine, and being willing to do so, has made the last 5 years a great experience.

Mike Adamson is a Campus Recruiter with Vistaprint(Cimpress) and is a 2010 graduate of Northeastern. He majored in Psychology with a Business Admin. minor and played on the club lacrosse team. Feel free to contact Mike at Adamson.m.r@gmail.com.

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

​Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions! Branching Out in the Workplace

hello my name isEveryone who has worked in an office, whether that be for a co-op, internship, or full time job, knows that the first month in a new setting can be overwhelming, intimidating, challenging, and full of surprises. You still don’t know what’s good in the cafeteria or who it is appropriate to address by their first name. You’re still labeled as the “new person” and it can be exhausting making sure nothing goes wrong your few few weeks or months in the office.

But now we’re halfway through the semester and everyone is getting a little more comfortable with the work and with their colleagues. I know at least that I feel much more comfortable at my co-op at US Embassy Quito and I’ve established a rhythm for both my personal and professional life abroad. I’ve figured out the difference in addressing my supervisor, the Ambassador and the Marine Security Guards who protect us. I can easily get around the Embassy compound without getting lost. And I feel like I finally understand the nuances of the Ecuadorian political system, making my actual work 100 times easier!

I’m sure most of you who are out there on co-op, whether it be domestic or international, are finding your rhythm too. But for those of you who still feel a little lost, or those who have been lost int eh past, here are a few tips on branching out in the workplace so that you have the most enjoyable time possible.

1. Introduce yourself and ask questions.

This might seem obvious, but the first week or month of co-op can feel a bit like freshman year all over again. If you are the only co-op or intern at the company, lunchtime can feel lonely if you don’t feel comfortable asking coworkers or your supervisor if you can sit with them. Here’s my advice coming from someone who felt that exact same way a month or so ago – lunchtime doesn’t need to be the first time you approach someone. If there is someone who does something you’re interested in in the office or someone who you aren’t quite sure what they do, approach them during the workday and introduce yourself! If knocking on their cubicle wall isn’t really your style, shoot them an email asking if you can sit down for a short meeting to find out more about what they do. I guarantee almost everyone will say yes, and just like that, now you know someone else in the office!

I want to join the Foreign Service when I graduate from Northeastern and am seizing the opportunity while here to sit down with every Foreign Service Officer and ask them about their job and their career path. Since I am the intern, no one has said no yet and it has opened my eyes up to all the different tracks I could pursue at the State Department as well as providing me with personal networking connections.

2. Form personal connections with your colleagues.

This means extending beyond small talk about the weather outside or if it is going to rain later. Ask your coworkers about their weekend when you come in on Monday. Find out what sort of sports your supervisor likes. It shows you are interested in who they are as people, not just someone else you email about the status of your latest project.

A word of advice however, don’t bombard people with questions and be very careful not to sound insincere. I have seen interns try too hard to become best friends with their supervisors and it can hurt you professionally and personally. Make sure you share a bit about yourself too, so your coworkers can get to know who you are as well.

I’ve found this is be very helpful in making my overall time in Ecuador as enjoyable as possible. One of my coworkers invited me to a friendly soccer game of Foreign Service Officers and Marines against the local Ecuadorian staff a few weeks ago. Even though I hadn’t played soccer since I was 8 years old, I went and had a great time even if I was awful at the actual game! As we approach the next match, colleagues have been approaching me all week asking if I am coming again – we were able to form an outside of work connection over this game and it can serve as the base for other conversations and stronger connections as the months progress.

3. Take initiative.

If there is an event or meeting that you see on the calendar, ask if you can attend too! Unless it is inappropriate for you to be there, most supervisors or coworkers will be impressive at the initiative you took to ask about the meeting and let you tag along. Use these opportunities to meet colleagues in different departments or from other offices. You’ll learn a lot from the experience and it will give you a more broad understanding of the organization you work for and the people you work with.

Recently, I was asked to do outreach to local Ecuadorian high school students about the United States and Presidents’ Day. Even though this was not my department, I thought it would be a cool experience and agreed to present. Working with my colleagues in Public Diplomacy opened my eyes to the events and programs they sponsor and gave me a strong base connection that I plan to build off of in my last two months in Ecuador. And as an added bonus, I even made it into the Ecuadorian newspaper as a promotion for the Public Diplomacy programs the Embassy has!

In conclusion, ask questions, put yourself out there and take the initiative to learn more about your surroundings! You’ll be happy you did!

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.

Image source: LinkedIn, How NOT to Introduce Yourself by Bernard Marr

What Working in a Ugandan Hospital has Taught Me about African Culture

Operating room in Iganga Hospital

Operating room in Iganga Hospital

 

We must do with what we have. Personally, I would not like hearing my doctor say, “we shall improvise”, but it is something that is commonly heard and accepted. The government-run Iganga Hospital is often low on supplies, including medical staff, medical equipment, medicine, and organization. Medicine stores in the pharmacy often run out, so patients are sometimes forced to pay for medication that should otherwise be free elsewhere. Power and water outages are frequent; there have been some instances where I have had to hold up my cell phone flashlight during wound suturing. It is difficult to say what exactly contributes to this severe deficit, but for now, we must accept that change is slow and things are just the way they are.

Time is irrelevant. Appointment times, efficiency in patient flow, and urgency are nonexistent here. The only functioning clocks in the hospital are in the main operating theater and maternity ward delivery room. Their function is maintained so that doctors can record the time of birth during deliveries. Visiting the hospital may be a day-long event, due to the huge crowds waiting to be seen by a doctor, the bouncing around the hospital for lab tests, x-rays, prescription filling etc. The slow pace of the hospital – everything from the doctors’ walking speed to the lack of immediate attention during emergency cases – reflects the African way of life. A friend of mine tends to confirm timing when making appointments, “African time or American time?” I’ve been here for six weeks, and have grown accustomed to the untimeliness of pretty much everything. People in Uganda take things a day at a time, with no long-term planning ahead, which can be nice and easygoing, but frustrating at the same time.

Family is invaluable. In the hospital, family members stay with the patient all day and all night to tend to their loved one’s needs. They bring them food, keep them company, and are in charge of communicating with the doctors. Family members roll out mats next to patient beds so that they can sleep next to them at night. One patient who was in a bad car accident and as a result had his leg amputated, stayed in the hospital for a month, and not even for one day, did his brother leave his side. Although a hospital is a difficult environment to be in for such long periods of time, family is so cherished that constant support of a suffering family member is the natural thing to do. In the community, family and friendship bonds are so strong in every part of life. Extended family members commonly help raise each other’s kids, friends support each other’s businesses, and people are generally always looking out for one another. It is a wonderful community to be a part of and really makes you appreciate the relationships you form in life.

We must stay open-minded. As an outsider, it is very easy to have a judgmental mindset and think, “this situation would NEVER happen in the US”, but that mindset is a very pointless one. While it may be interesting to compare and contrast different healthcare systems around the world, it is not acceptable to be condescending. The doctors and nurses are aware of the shortcomings of the hospital and admire the systems in developed countries, but they feel helpless when thinking about changing their environment. Living and working in a place with such great limitations can really ground you as a person, and make you more aware of the world and the challenges revolving around healthcare in such settings.

A positive attitude can brighten anything. Even in the difficult environment where health care is so lacking, the doctors and nurses of Iganga Hospital never fail to have a smile on their face. They make the best of every situation and it really is what allows them to stay enthusiastic when facing such big challenges. Personally, I like to reframe “problems” into “potentials for change”. If we can embody this attitude, the negative experiences and frustrations can change into productivity and pursuit of improvement.

MikaBioMika White is a second year biochemistry major at Northeastern expecting to graduate in 2018. This semester she’s on her first co-op in Uganda interning at a rural hospital in the town of Iganga. Mika loves to travel, read, and run. Feel free to reach out to her at white.mik@husky.neu.edu and check out her personal blog for more a more detailed account of her experiences.