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. 

How to Excel in Your Co-Op

Image

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

 

Preparing for a Case Interview

art of interviewing

What is a case interview?

As you prepare for co-ops, graduation, and beyond, it is likely you’ll come across case interview questions during the hiring process. These are questions that pose hypothetical problems to the interviewee to identify their ability to gather new information quickly, process the information, and make an informed decision. They are most often associated with management consulting and investment banking interviews, but can also be used by tech companies (like Vistaprint), to assess critical thinking skills for a variety of roles.

Here are a few examples:

How many bars of soap are used each week across the world?

How many eggs are sold annually in the United States? (This was asked of me during an interview with an advertising agency in Boston.)

If you owned a flying car company, how much would you charge per car?

How is a case interview different from a behavioral interview?

Case interviews differ from behavioral interview questions in that they are specifically designed to examine your thought process, while behavioral interview questions assess personality traits and past experience. Case interviews focus on what you’re able to do now instead of what has been completed in former roles. Being put on the spot this way can be intimidating for the interviewee, but there is a wealth of resources available that can prepare candidates to successfully navigate case interviews.

Case Interview Preparation Tips:

  • Practice
    • Just like anything else, getting better at case interviews requires practice. Case in Point is an excellent resource, as is good ol’ Google.
    • Keeping a notebook with your practice case notes in it is a good way to identify areas to improve and provides practical review material as an interview date approaches.
  • Focus on the Skills Needed for the Position
    • There are many different types of case interviews (marketing sizing, profitability, brain teasers, etc. – see a good list) that can be asked by a hiring company. It’s important to consider the type of position being sought when preparing for a case interview question.
    • A company looking to fill a financial analyst role is more likely to pose M&A, cost cutting, or profitability questions, while brain teasers are often used during engineering interviews. Know what to expect going in!
  • Research the Company
    • Before every interview it’s always a good idea to search for “[company name] interview questions” to see how other interviews been structured for past candidates. This can help identify what type of case questions are often posed based upon the position being sought.

Tips for During the Interview:

  • Confirm the Desired Answer
    • Before starting, it is critical to confirm with the interviewer what the desired answer looks like. You do not want to reach the end of the case and realize the answer is not what the interviewer is looking for.
  • State Assumptions Clearly
    • Stating assumptions clearly and out loud will allow the interviewer to follow your train of thought throughout the case. This is what they are most interested in; they want to know how you think.
  • Ask Questions
    • Asking questions demonstrates your ability to gather and digest new information – a key skill for any role.
    • Sometimes important information regarding the case is initially withheld and is only revealed if asked – so make sure to ask!
  • Simplify (and Check) Your Math
    • Expect there to be mathematical elements to a case interview, but don’t get bogged down with it. Round where it makes sense and, when assuming variables, use easy numbers. Be comfortable with quick “back of the envelope” calculations and be sure to watch those decimal points.
  • Arrive at an Answer
    • Always be approaching the desired answer! It is easy to get sidetracked during a case. Always. Be. Closing (the case).

Additional Resources:

Kyle Risley is currently a Senior Marketing Associate within our Organic Search team. Kyle has been with Vistaprint for 1 ½ years and is also a Northeastern alumni who studied Marketing and minored in Economics.

5 Common Misconceptions About the Nonprofit Sector

nonprofit word in letterpress typeAlthough nonprofits play a large role in each of our daily lives, there are common misconceptions about what nonprofits are, and what they do.

1. Nonprofits don’t make money.

This myth stems from a sheer lack of understanding of the term 501(c)(3)- the tax-exempt identification necessary to become a nonprofit organization. Being a 501(c)(3) does not ban an organization from making money, it simply means that all profits go toward their mission and purpose. A nonprofit actually cannot live or function without profit- because they would be unable to run the programs and activities which create impact. And although some nonprofits struggle for funding (including many of the social change organizations I have worked for,) there are countless nonprofits who have no money problems whatsoever. Think of the NFL, the New York Stock Exchange, or Northeastern. All are nonprofit organizations, and all are making quite a bit of money.

2. Nonprofit careers are for those who couldn’t make it elsewhere.

I hear this one all the time- that certain degrees are cut out for nonprofit careers, and certain degrees aren’t. Nonprofit professionals chose careers in the sector because they were passionate and driven about their causes, not because they weren’t smart enough to pursue other career paths. In fact, many nonprofit organizations now prefer to hire MBA’s as opposed to MPA’s- showing the increased demand for business knowledge across the entire nonprofit world.

3. Nonprofits all do the same thing.

Even I have been guilty of imagining a “nonprofit world” in my mind, consisting only of social change and educational organizations. However this is far from the real world of nonprofits. To name a few organizations who are making leaps and bounds in unexpected places: St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, the American Red Cross, TED, the Smithsonian Institute, and NPR.

4. Nonprofit work environments are casual and laid-back.

Just as any other sector, every office has its own distinct environment. Smaller organizations tend to be more casual, while large universities and hospitals expect more professional attire. Speaking from personal experience, I have worked for organizations where I could wear my Birkenstocks to work everyday, and others where my Birkenstocks would be considered absolutely ridiculous and rude. This goes for office culture as well- the entire spectrum from extremely casual to extremely rigid exists in the nonprofit world.

5. Working in a nonprofit means hands-on, direct service.

The most common comment to when I describe my career aspirations is, “You must help so many people.” Every individual who chooses to pursue a nonprofit career wants to create an impact, and see that impact- including myself. However, we often don’t get to see that impact on a daily basis- or directly “help” people. While there are professionals who constantly work in the field and in programs, this is definitely not always the case. Many nonprofit jobs require working in an office, with administration, finance, or human resources material. And although change is always occurring, we don’t always get to see it happen live.

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.

LinkedIn is More Than a Recruiting Tool

LinkedIn is typically stereotyped as a recruiting platform for where you should upload your resume when you’re on the job hunt.  Sure, this may be the case at one point but over the years LinkedIn has grown to be way more than that. Your LinkedIn profile is a major component to your personal brand and you should give it the same tender love and care that you do for your Facebook page, maybe even a little more. I say this because typically the first thing that comes up when I google someone’s name is a link to their LinkedIn profile page. This isn’t by coincidence either, it’s a partly due to Google’s search algorithm that pushes SEO and Social content to the top of the search results page.

LinkedIn

So now what? You might be wondering what the purpose is for LinkedIn other than getting noticed by recruiters. Well, LinkedIn has grown into a special community for professionals and industry leaders to play and connect online. Taking full advantage of LinkedIn’s features will really help establish yourself as an expert, build your network, and impress your future employer.

Here are 5 ways to build your brand by using LinkedIn. 

  1. Start with the basics:  Make sure you have a good profile picture that represents you professionally. Edit your headline, work summary, work experiences, and add a memorable background picture or cover image. Don’t just copy and paste your resume on your LinkedIn profile. Use this space to show your creativity while maintaining your professionalism. Make your headline sound attractive, unique, and thoughtful. You want to call out your value proposition and what you have to offer in your work summary. For your work summary, I recommend summarizing your experience in bullets or in one paragraph. Don’t leave it blank. A blank work summary can come off as lazy.
  2. Share content:  It’s not enough to just update your profile, you need to share meaningful and thoughtful content that pertains to your audience.  Are you going to be a marketer, finance wiz or health professional? It might be wise to start reading industry related sites or blogs and share them on your profile. By continuously sharing meaningful content, you are showing your network and potential employers that you’re educating yourself on industry trends and topics.
  3. Don’t just be a microphone, engage with your connections: While it is important to share great content, definitely don’t limit yourself to that one action. With so many automated sharing content tools, it’s easy to tell who has gotten lazy. Laziness weakens your credibility. You want to engage in conversations with your connections by either commenting or liking their posts.
  4. Join A Group: Are you an aspiring journalist? There’s a LinkedIn Group for that. A business and finance professional? There’s a group for that! LinkedIn Groups are a special place that caters to a niche audience where you can ask questions and engage with people in the field. Joining a group can also lead to great connections. For instance, a great group for Womens Professional is Connect: Professional Women’s Network, Powered by Citi.
  5. Get with the Pulse: Pulse is LinkedIn’s blogging platform and anyone is allowed to post on there. I recommend writing about the industry to help add credibility to your personal brand. This will help you build a following and strengthen your networks.  Also if a potential employer is asking you for a writing sample, you can easily just link them to your Pulse articles.

Start Early and Set Yourself Apart: An Interview With an NU Alum

Jay Lu received his BSBA in Accounting and Marketing in May 2014 and MS in Accounting this past August, 2014. During his time at NU, he held numerous positions both on and off campus and internationally. Jay successfully completed three separate co-ops at large multinational companies with experience in audit and assurance, tax and operations. Jay recently completed the CPA exam and his currently working in audit and assurance at a CPA firm. In his spare time, he enjoys volunteering, reading and sports. To learn more about his professional background- check out his LinkedIn profile.

When did you first come to the Career Development office?

It was for the Career Fair, freshmen year.

Why go to a career fair? Most freshmen would wait until later for this.

I had no risk.  I didn’t feel pressured.  I didn’t need anything out of it.  I wanted the practice of the experience. It’s kind of like a festival, with everyone dressed up.  It can be a fun event when there isn’t pressure.  I didn’t have a suit back then.  But I went in and just talked with a couple of recruiters.  At this point I didn’t have a resume.  But later on I learned how to create a resume, and how to make a good impression.

What else did you do early on?

Early on I went for an appointment about career direction.  I wasn’t sure how to explore my options.  Through my career counselor I learned about informational interviews.  In fact I even did one for an RA position.  Ended up getting the job because I was more prepared and had someone recommending me from the info interview.  I also got into LinkedIn early on.

From these early experiences, what do you recommend that students do in their 1st or 2nd year?

Don’t think that just because it’s your first year that you have all the time in the world.  You’ll be graduating in a flash.  When you start early, you’ll be ahead for when you need it. When there is less pressure, when you don’t need a job yet, get advice then.

How can students have an impact on potential employers?

A lot of employers want to know if you want them.  It’s not just about your skills.  To stand out, make a good impression early on with them. Be genuinely interested in the field, which should be a natural feeling if you chose a major you are passionate about. Have people warm up to you, and your personal brand early on, even if you might not be fully certain what that is yet.  The idea here is to build your network before you need it.  Things get a lot more competitive, when you are a senior.  Everyone is going after these connections.  By starting early you can set yourself apart. They will be impressed that you are being so proactive.  Another point is that there is more leeway if you mess up, employers will more likely overlook this when you are younger.

How can students make more employer connections?

Go to career services and alumni events.  Do these while you are still on campus.  Once you graduate, it’s harder to fit these in.  Also, the further along you get in college, there are more expectations put on you (from recruiters, parents, peers), compared with when you are in your 1st or 2nd year.

What can you gain from this early networking?

When you chat with recruiters, they might open you up to other career paths that you didn’t know about or hadn’t thought of.  The more exposure and more conversations, the better.  You can never know what you’re going to do, exactly, but you can learn more early on to help.  It’s great if you can find out sooner what you might value in a career, while you can still make changes to your academic or co-op path.  You might save yourself time and heartache.  The more people you talk to, the more confident you’ll be with your choices.  You want to find those people that are in your potential career path, since they’ve already been there and you can learn from them.  Would you want to be in their shoes? Talking to them gives you a chance to find out.

During your senior year, how did you approach your job search?

I didn’t have too much trouble.  I had already been to 3 or 4 career fairs, and I already had quite a few connections from co-ops and various other events. If you have done everything early on, at this point it should be a relaxing year. At my last career fair, I received an interview call in less than an hour after the fair ended.

How do you maintain your network?

Always follow up after any professional encounter. Send a thank-you note after meeting someone at a campus event or any professional encounter.  For example, after attending the Global Careers Forum I sent an email to one of the guest speakers saying thank you.  I didn’t ask for anything in that moment. It might come later. Northeastern makes sending thank-you letters after co-op interviews almost religious, I try to use this same mindset. I always like to think of the story of one interviewee’s thank-you letter being a PowerPoint that showed how he would tackle a current problem facing the company. Now that’s hitting the ground running!

Is there anything you wished you’d known sooner?

Don’t take your professors for granted.  They can be some of the best resources.  They are there for you, and they want to help you.  I made a habit of seeing my professors every semester, even just to chat with them (while you are in the course and sometimes even after).  One professor sent me details about an internship that had been sent in by an alum.  I was given the details about this opportunity because the professor knew me well, and he had confidence in me. In addition, if I had more time, I would’ve joined more organizations that were related to my major.

Anyone you stay in touch with?

One of my accounting professors I went to see a lot.  He had great industry advice about how to get started, he recommended good organizations, and even suggested events to attend.  I sent follow up messages to thank him and to let him know I attended the events he had mentioned, I also shared some information that I thought would be useful for his current students.  It’s important to let people know that you followed their advice, and if you have something you can share, then include it.

What’s your finally advice to students, especially when it comes to networking?

Start early and don’t stop.

Why Your Online Personal Brand Matters

promote yourselfDuring my senior year at Northeastern, I interviewed for a Digital Marketing Specialist role at Staples Inc. For that interview, I brought a portfolio that contained screenshots of presentations and reports that I’ve done during my previous co-ops. In addition, I had also included a screenshot of my personal website and social activity on Twitter to prove my enthusiasm for the industry.The hiring manager said that my personal website and social media activities differentiated me from the competition and I was offered the position.

In a world where the job market is so saturated with college graduates, your online personal brand can really set yourself a part from the pack.

Since moving on from my role at Staples Inc, I am now responsible for educating a team of 30 people about why it’s important to establish a positive image online and how to use social media to talk to customers.The same best practices that I bestow on my team can also be leveraged by soon-to-be college graduates looking to get their resume in front of a busy employer.

Follow me on this Online Personal Branding Series where I share tips and tricks on how to build your personal brand and get noticed by employers online.

Here are 5 ways to prepare yourself for the journey – 

1) Change your mind set – It all starts when we stop thinking about social media as a tool for personal bragging, complaining, and whining. Once we see the power of these channels and how it impacts our professional image, we’re then able to break bad habits such as tweeting about a negative experience, posting inappropriate pictures on Facebook, and neglecting your LinkedIn account.

2) Clean up your profiles – In a future a post, I’ll go in depth about the different ways you can use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to build your brand. For now, I would make sure all my privacy settings are set and that my future employer isn’t going to see my bikini photos from my vacation at the Bahamas. I would also go back and review any negative or insensitive tweets and clean those up as well.

3) Google yourself – It is a misconception to think that social media etiquette and branding matters to only people in business, marketing, or advertising. Your online brand matters the moment you hand someone a networking card and that person goes home to Google you. A Google search results page pulls information from social networks to help narrow down the results. The links to your social networks will most likely show up at the top.  Try it yourself! Make sure it’s something you’re proud of.

4) Determine your brand – What is it that you want to be known for online? Are you an aspiring journalist, blogger, writer? Are you a marketer who likes to practice Yoga on weekends? Are you a scientist who is passionate about sustainability? You want your brand to be something that represents who you are but at the same time you’re proud to show employers.

5) Focus – Between exams and extracurricular activities, college students are busy. If this is overwhelming and you don’t know where to start, I recommend starting with LinkedIn. Go sign up if you don’t have an account, add a picture, update your summary, and start connecting with your peers. LinkedIn is a great space to get noticed by recruiters but if you take advantage of participating in community groups and consistently be active on LinkedIn, you might get noticed sooner.

Haylee is an Alumna from the College of Arts, Media, and Design and a member of the Kappa Phi Lambda Sorority Inc, Northeastern Xi Chapter . She is currently a Marketing and Communications Manager at Ca Technologies, a social media personal branding coach, and a yogi residing in Medford, MA.  Contact her at hayleethikeo@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @hayleethikeo.

Look for Haylee’s posts every other Tuesday.

5 Ways to Make the Most of Working Remotely

laptop computer deskIt seems as though nowadays, you can work from just about anywhere- a traditional office, your home, a coffee shop, you name it. And to be honest, I personally love working away from the workplace. It has been proven that working remotely minimizes distractions, increases productivity, gives employees much needed flexibility, and increases creativity. Who wouldn’t want to work away from the office then?

Although working remotely is more convenient, and often more efficient, distractions can be abundant. Keep these tips in mind before you start out for a new work location:

1. Have an agenda.
Working away from the office provides greater independence, however it can also lead to wasting time when there is absolutely no structure. I recommend writing down your tasks before heading out, in order of urgency. If there are projects that need to be completed, start there. You’re your own boss away from the office.

2. Figure out what kind of background noise works best for you.
Always listening to music, and always finding yourself distracted? Try going to a cafe or outdoor space, where you can have some white noise. If the white noise of public spaces feels strange to you, find a work playlist or Pandora station that can keep you focused. Working remotely gives you the opportunity to find what works best for you, not for your entire office.

3. Keep normal hours.
Although it’s tempting to work at random times, keeping a general 8-4 or 9-5 schedule helps to maintain a bit of structure to a seemingly structureless workday. If a “typical” workday schedule is what you are trying to avoid try setting time limits such as, “I will work from noon until 3, then allow myself to take a break.” When working remotely, time can either be your biggest friend or your biggest enemy. Aim to befriend it.

4. Stay in touch with your work- and ask questions.
This seems somewhat obvious, however it is surprising how being away from an office can lead to directionless working. Being aware of what your boss or supervisor’s expectations are can go a long way- especially when they are not easily accessible during the day. Try to get what is expected of you in writing the day before, so that you know exactly what your responsibilities are for the following day.

5. Change up your space often.
You found a coffee shop that you love, or a public library you adore. But going there every single day can cause this beloved place to become a new type of home- thus causing the same exact rut that you were attempting to avoid. Switching up your environment can spark new creativity, and stops the “same old, same old” feeling of the workplace.

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.