Some countries just call to you…

image taken by John D Carnessiotis via Flickr

image taken by John D Carnessiotis via Flickr

This guest post was written by Ellen Zold Goldman, Associate Director of Career Development and lover of anything international.

Some countries just call to you. It’s hard to explain but if you’ve experienced that one dialogue that you couldn’t get out of your head, or a study abroad or international co-op and wished you could turn right back around and re-board the plane, then you know what I mean.

That’s what it was like for me going to Greece. It started as a tourist visit and then I landed a short-term professional gig. I went there month three of a three-month overseas adventure, having picked three countries I wanted to see ‘before I settled down, became boring, and couldn’t ever travel because I held a professional job’. I spent one month in Israel making a video on a program at the Jerusalem Cinamateque, and got a job offer I turned down. One month in Italy (well, that was just plain decadent travel with two friends), and then this life-changing month in Greece. I made so many Greek friends; it was the trip of a lifetime and I have no regrets. It rained in Greece the day I went home. They said Greece was crying for me.

My mission was to save enough to go back and do something professional. I networked like crazy with anyone in the Boston area who would talk to me about Greece. You owned a restaurant- great? You were a professor at a college I Didn’t Go To—awesome. I worked a list of American Companies in Greece. Networking paid off and I landed a gig with a professor from another college who was starting a new non-profit. My bags were practically packed. Trip Two, The Professional Overseas Adventure…

I boarded the plane – no looking back. I stayed with Greek friends, and by then I had a Greek boyfriend. Broke up with said boyfriend and learned about what I would miss in the U.S. (family, and definitely same day dry cleaning). I talked Greek politics (I love politics) and was blessed on New Year’s Day by a Greek Priest. I traveled with my Greek gal pals (woman power!) and worked every day. I learned about real Greek life.

My contract gig was ending with the non-profit. While I had hoped it would lead to a full-time position, it really was a short-term gig. My time was winding down.

I pounded the pavement—Got some offers to teach English and a soft offer to work in a travel agency, but in the end I decided to go back home. I came back full of priceless adventures and also saw that my friends were moving onto professional positions, grad school and I felt that if it were meant to be, I’d find a way to return to Greece. I did go back after I was working and it is still the place that makes my heart sing.

Was the whole thing worth it? YES. I’d do that again in a New York second.

What did I learn?  A LOT. Working at the non-profit and living in Greece with my friends gave me the best glimpse into authentic Greek Life (I was there in January-not during tourist time). I went out with friends Friday nights, sang Greek songs in the car and vacationed where they vacationed. I lived, ate, and breathed Greece. I was meant to be in Greece. I also had the worst case of reverse culture shock coming home. I cried all the way home—and I do mean for all 6 hours. I learned that I wanted to blend my love of culture with education professionally. As a result, I began working for International Co-op, specifically with Americans going overseas to Australia, and then worked for 9 ½ years with international students on preparing them to work in the U.S.

The small influences—well, I learned how to make Nescafe Frappe just the way I like it. The big influences—my passion for working with international students and first generation Americans has never left me. I’ve directed a Study Abroad program, and work in Career Services where I help create international student programming. My passion for this has stayed with me for the last 15 years. I never get tired of it. Even on a bad day.

While I decided not to live in Greece permanently, I hope to have a little apartment there one day and retire there- or at least go back and forth. Sorry to folks who want to retire in FL; it’s just not the same. Greece is, after all, my favorite place on earth.

Everyone deserves their own grand adventure. I hope you create an amazing adventure for yourself, even if it does take two trips. 

Ellen Zold Goldman is Associate Director at Career Development. She’s worked on a short-term gig at a non-profit in Greece, has coordinated an international co-op exchange program in Australia, directed study abroad at another university, loves international students, and as you can probably tell, she has a passion for anything international.

How can the princess climb the corporate ladder?

corporate ladder comicAs the first round of programming for the newly launched sheLEADS series comes to a close tonight, I am excited, yet very aware that we have a long way to go when it comes to gender equality. With women still getting paid only 77 cents to every man’s dollar (even less for women of color and Latino women) and still serving as the primary caregivers for their families, it is difficult for any “princess” to even imagine climbing to the top of the corporate ladder; and if/when she finally gets there, knowing that she’s paid and respected equally to her would-be male counterpart.

In the spirit of Women’s History month, join Career Development tonight from 5-7PM in 202 Stearns for the She Takes the Lead, Perspectives from Successful Career Women, to hear from a panel of 4 amazing women who have made an impact in their respective industries as leaders and game changers. A reception will follow.

 

How to Find a Job Teaching English Abroad

Travelling the world as an English teacher can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. It’s a great way to see the world and immerse yourself in another culture – by working in a new country you get to participate in the life there in a way that tourists and travelers never can.

Teach English in Barcelona

source: Prithika Nair / TEFL Iberia

If you’re ready to jet off and begin your new life as an English teacher I’ve outlined a few tips to help you get started.  

1. Do a course in the city you’d like to work in

Do you want to start your teaching adventure in China? Research courses there. Does Barcelona sound like a dream destination? Complete your TEFL training there. By doing a course in your chosen city your chances of finding employment are greatly increased as you’ll make a lot more immediate contacts. You’ll also get help with the foreign administration system to help you get set up with a social security number, bank account, mobile phone, etc.

2.  Choose a course which maximizes practical application and teaching practice

The best way to impress a potential employer is to talk about all the great classroom experiences you’ve had – the big groups, small groups, beginners, advanced etc. Do a course which offers at least 8 hours of teaching practice with real learners. You should reinforce that experience with some private students, which are very easy to find and great for practicing your new skill. Your local TEFL provider should show you how to find private students in your region.

3. Start your job hunt early

Start your job hunt while you are still completing your teacher training course. I recommend:

  • Getting your CV ready while completing your course and have your course tutors go over it with you.
  • Compiling a list of schools you can send it out to. A good quality teacher training institute will have its own list or network of schools which they provide to their trainees.
  • Have a friend take a good photograph of you. In some countries schools want to see a picture of the person they are hiring, particularly if they are hiring remotely.
  • Email your CV out and then follow up with a phone call a few days later.

When writing your CV for a teaching position, even if you have no previous experience as a teacher, remember to highlight any relevant work experience. This could include any staff training you have undertaken, management and organizational experience and even hobbies, private tuition or volunteer work.

4.   Be prepared for different interview scenarios

English teacher job interviews can vary depending on the level of professionalism of the hiring school. Scenarios range from a brief meeting and ‘when can you start?’ to a grammar test and demo lesson. Schools generally look for someone who is friendly, confident and can express themselves clearly. They want to know that you are capable of delivering a quality class and that the students are going to like you. You should therefore be prepared to answer questions about teaching specific grammar points, classroom management, what-would-you-do-in-this-scenario type questions and a demo lesson.

5.  Get recommended

Teacher trainers will often recommend the best students for teaching positions they hear about during the duration of the course. Performing well on your training assignments ensures you are one of the candidates they consider when they hear about any offers. Be the person they think of first!

 

RichardRichard Davie has taught English in Barcelona for over 6 years and trained and recruited many new English teachers. For more information about training to be a TEFL teacher or finding a job abroad visit www.tefl-iberia.com or get in touch with Richard at richard@tefl-iberia.com.

Making Positive Impressions

This guest post was written by Katie McCune, a Career Development Assistant at Northeastern University Career Development. She’s also a Career Assistant at MIT.

Not too long ago, I was getting ready for my next big adventure: moving cross-country from my home-state of Colorado to New England. We all experience starting something completely new at different phases of our life whether it’s first coming to college, going on a new co-op, getting our first job, or even moving cross-country. With each new change, there are also opportunities to meet new people. There are a lot of great ways you can make good personal and professional impressions, but here’s what meeting a lot of new people has reminded me:

A smile goes a long way.

source: www.quickmeme.com

source: www.quickmeme.com

My “big move” was for school, so like many of you when I first arrived, I was meeting peers, professors, and administrative staff as well people through clubs and sports teams. The people who I initially developed connections with were the ones that smiled. Yep, simple as that, they smiled.  Research has consistently shown that body language is a major factor in how we interpret somebody’s words. With one nearly effortless action, you can demonstrate to your new co-op boss (or anyone else) that you are friendly, confident, and invested in them.

Always follow through.

Think about a time when you were just getting to know somebody, set up plans with them and then they flaked out. How did this affect your opinion of them? I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess you didn’t end up becoming besties–It feels crappy when somebody misses a meeting with you or doesn’t get in touch when they say they will. Why? Because it can signal that we’re not a priority in those people’s lives.

Before you agree to something, whether it’s sending an email, showing up for a 9am meeting, or taking on a big project, be sure that you can actually do it. By doing what you say you’re going to do, you will demonstrate that you are reliable, organized, and respectful—all qualities that are helpful in any professional or personal setting.

Be a good listener.

A lot of times when we think about meeting new people, we focus on what we are going to say. For example, if you’ve practiced for an interview, I bet you went over your answers, but did you think about how you were going to show the employer that you were listening? While presentation skills are important, listening skills can be just as important, if not more. By asking good questions, remembering what people say, and actively listening, you can make the other person feel valued and demonstrate that you’re present and ready to learn.

source: http://wallippo.com

source: http://wallippo.com

All interactions reinforce or undermine the first impression.

You’ve probably heard that first impressions matter—and they totally do! But it’s important to remember that the first time you meet somebody isn’t the only time you’re making an impression with them. If you forgot to smile this time, do it next time. If you followed through this time, that doesn’t mean that it’s not important to do the same next time.

It can be intimidating to make new connections especially in a professional setting, but remember that it’s just like all of your other interactions. Be the person that you would want to meet, and you’ll be golden! Share with us, what are other things people have done to make positive impressions on you?

Katie is a Career Development Assistant at NU with a background in sociology. A teacher at heart, she loves leading workshops–in addition to the career workshops, she’d gladly teach you how to hula-hoop, how to organize your house/office/desk, or how millennials can make great employees. Email her at k.mccune@neu.edu.

Don’t Limit Yourself and Remember Alumni are Your Friends.

Northeastern alums at GE pose during a networking event

Northeastern alums at GE pose during a networking event

This guest post was written by NU alum, Elizabeth Rallo. She graduated from DMBS in 1993 and is now working for General Electric as the Project Manager for the Newtown Recovery Team.

General Electric (GE) is a household name with locations across the globe, but they only hire engineers, right? Wrong. The company is comprised of several businesses that cut across a number of industries and to keep these businesses running, there are positions in finance, supply chain management, sales, IT, etc. that all need to be filled. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

I’m not an engineer. I graduated from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business (DMSB‘93) and the thing that I want students to know is that just because a company is in a particular sector, perhaps one outside of what you’re studying, it doesn’t mean that the organization should be knocked off your target list.  Think about it – all companies need finance, marketing, IT and communications departments (for example) to function successfully, right?  So don’t limit yourself!

Don’t take for granted the alumni network and how they can help you, not only in your job search, but even for simple informational interviews so that you can learn more about a particular field.  In fact, there are over 600+ Northeastern alumni at GE and, as alums, the best thing that we can offer you is our endorsement of the company as a great place to work.  Did you know the current CFO of GE is a Northeastern Alum! Jeff Bornstein has been a strong advocate for Northeastern and he is active in NU recruiting activities. Take advantage of Linkedin, you can do a quick search and see all the GE employees who are Northeastern Alumni. Reach out to us! Start the conversation-we want you here!

With such a buzz going around about finding a candidate that is ‘the right fit’ for a company, we’d like to think it’s a bit of reassurance for you that if other Northeastern alums are enjoying working at GE, then maybe it could be the right fit for you too.

GE-logoBecause GE is such a massive company however, campus recruiting requires some serious coordination.  We believe strongly in GE as an innovative and exciting company to work for and in Northeastern students as some of the top talent out there.  Our recruiting team is passionate about both NU and GE, and we volunteer our time to bring the brightest and the best to join us at GE.

Andrea Cox and I, along with our colleague and fellow Northeastern alum, Pete McCabe, E’88, Vice President of Global Services,  work along with 30 NU alums who volunteer their time and talents to meet with students, conduct on-campus interviews, and build an overall awareness of GE at Northeastern.  So be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the full-time, internship and co-op jobs we recruit for at Northeastern and the next time we’re on-campus holding office hours, be sure to reserve a spot to come down and say hello!

Author Elizabeth Rallo, DMSB'93 Newtown Recovery Team, Project Manager

Elizabeth Rallo, 
Newtown Recovery Team, Project Manager

Elizabeth Rallo graduated from Northeastern in 1993 as an International Business and Finance major. Her previous CO-OP’s were at IBM, IBM Credit and also Bear Stearns. She decided on GE Capital due to the fact that the company struck her as innovative and would support her personal creativity.  She has been at GE 20 years and GE has afforded her the opportunity to succeed both personally and professionally.  Currently, Elizabeth is on temporary assignment supporting the Recovery of Newtown Ct., following the horrific tragedy that occurred in December of 2012. She would need to write a whole other blog to tell you about this experience!

She encourages you to “get creative” at GE. Check them out at www.ge.com and see for yourself!

“You have the right to be there…”

source: women2.com

source: women2.com

This guest post was written by Christina Kach, an NU alum who holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Engineering and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management at NU.

In the summer of 1998, I heard a story that has stayed with me since. A professor at a local college talked of her experiences of being the only female student in some of her college engineering classes. Six years later, entering my freshman year of college, I was pleased find I wasn’t the only woman in my engineering classes; and far from it.

My point is to illustrate how far women have come in joining and advancing in typically male dominant fields. Even with all this progress, it can be tricky at times to feel comfortable and strong in that type of environment. You’ll notice my tips below are not exactly “specific”, as in – don’t’ fiddle with your hair during a meeting (Seek out books like “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” and “Girl on Top” for those great tips). Rather the approach I took was to pass along tips to help boost your confidence as you look to make strides in your field.

Inspiring young girls to become engineers! source: goldieblox.com

Inspiring young girls to become engineers!
source: goldieblox.com

  • Be proud of yourself – First and foremost, what you are doing is awesome. As you journey through college and the working world, there may be jokes, light hearted teasing, internet memes, (the list goes on), that highlight the uneven male/female ratio in male dominated fields. Even through all the jokes and realities, remember: you have the right to be there and enjoy it. No one said it was going to be easy, but as we have all learned in our lives, hard work pays off and is worthwhile.
  • Be mindful of advice – I admit this one sounds silly, as I am dispensing advice, but hear me out.  In our world, there is endless information on any number of topics; no doubt large amounts focus on this exact topic. While I encourage you to seek out that advice (always continue to nurture your mind by reading, learning, and exploring – never know what you may find), take it with a grain of salt. I say this because you shouldn’t just accept advice if it won’t work for you. To illustrate my point, a few pieces of career advice I’ve seen on this topic includes: “act like one of the boys” or don’t bake for coworkers – you’ll be seen as a mother figure. I’ve seen woman follow those hints with success. I on the other hand, like to cook and share it with my friends, and I’m not going to start swearing just to fit in. If it doesn’t work for you, seek out advice that will.
  • Find a mentor – I can’t just say be careful of the advice you take without following up with a hint on how to find tailored advice that will work. Find a mentor, better yet a few mentors, with more experience and knowledge to help you learn and develop. Regardless of your role and your industry, this piece is important and absolutely necessary. Mentor relationships can tailor advice and help to your specific situations. In finding a mentor, seek out professionals that have time, are willing to help you, and are a fit for you.
  • Pay it forward – As you’ve started to establish yourself and learn from your mentors, consider reaching out to the next generation of young woman to share this knowledge. You were there once, wasn’t the help you were offered a huge benefit? Seek out volunteer opportunities; find groups (such as STEM -Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) that encourage the next generation of woman and get involved. This isn’t just an opportunity to help out and grow your own network; but as a reminder of that younger enthusiasm we often loose in heavy college workloads and tough work environments.
  • Embrace your skills – It is easy to stunt your ability to thrive in a male dominated field by hiding your femininity or downplaying your skills. I suggest this change in mindset – embrace the unique talents you hold as a female. We may be different than our male colleagues, and that is great; we bring new perspectives and skills to our businesses and teams. Business innovation and grow would be sorely impeded if we were all alike.

The most important lesson to take away from this article is to focus your energies on personal career goals and growth, rather than on an unbalanced quantity of females in your industry. That may not be easy to digest when you see the data on female leaders and see how few there really are in certain fields and in higher company rankings. The path to continued advances and developments of more woman actively pursuing male dominated fields with wonderful successes will only continue as we keep achieving and setting an example for the next generation.

Christina Kach is a Senior Business Analyst on the Continuous Improvement team for a financial services company in Boston, MA.  Prior to this role, she spent five years at a Government Defense Company focusing on Lean and process improvement in a manufacturing environment, while also completing an Operations Leadership Development Program. Christina holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Engineering from Northeastern University and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management, also from Northeastern.

Christina invites you to connect with her via Twitter (@ChristinaKach), email (Cfkach@gmail.com) or at her blog for young professionals www.catchcareers.com

An Act of Translation: Turning an Academic CV into an Industry Resume

source: mediacommons.futureofthebook.org

source: mediacommons.futureofthebook.org

This guest post was written by Lana Cook, a PhD candidate in the English department at Northeastern University who finishing up her last semester and beginning to navigate the Alt-Ac track.

Translation (n.): The conversion of something from one form or medium into another.

Mixed feelings abound when entering any job market, but transitioning to a different career path or field can be downright intimidating.  Embarking on my own career search, I kept asking myself, can a PhD trained in the academic track of teaching and research move to a career in administration and nonprofit management?  Did I need to go back to school for a business degree?  I researched MBA programs for a quick minute before I realized that 1) I had plenty of education, and 2) I already had all the necessary skills and abilities.  I just had a problem of phrasing. I was too bound to my discipline’s jargon.  I needed to become a translator.

Any skilled translator would tell you that you need to immerse yourself in the foreign language to gain fluency.  In my alt-ac career search that meant researching arts organizations, nonprofits, foundations and research centers, taking special note of how they describe their missions and activities.  I followed community leaders on Twitter and subscribed to industry news.  I carefully read job postings and highlighted repeated key terms. I learned that in administrative-speak “development” meant fundraising, “outreach” meant marketing, “coordinator” meant collaboration. I began to see my graduate work through the perspective of project management. The dissertation, conferences, teaching, and tutoring taught me to how to prioritize multiple high stakes projects and negotiate diverse stakeholders. Graduate school required me to develop organizational systems that efficiently managed logistics and achieved identifiable outcomes.  Revising an academic curriculum vitae (CV) into a resume involved using a new industry language, reframing my experience in terms that would resonate with my audience of potential employers.

Step one was translating my experiences into industry jargon. The next step was revamping my bloated multipage CV that listed all my conferences, publications, courses taken and taught, into a compact, easy to digest, professional resume.  I recommend the following steps for transforming a CV into a resume:

  • Identify your transferrable skills.  Interpersonal communication, organization, following instructions and anticipating needs: these are transferrable skills that are applicable in every career. There are several resources where you can mine language for identifying your personal aptitudes and describing them in professional terms.
  • Condense your history. While an academic CV can be several pages long, resumes are typically one page (two if you have extensive experience).  For graduate students fresh on the job market, keep your resume to one page, focusing on experiences and skills that are most relevant to the desired position.
  • Tailor your resume and cover letter specifically to the position and organization.  Create a long master resume that lists all your experiences, education, every seminar, class, conference, and project you worked on (start this while you are in school so you can keep track of your accomplishments).  Use the master copy to take sections from when tailoring a resume to a specific position.   While cover letter templates can help save time, they can quickly become formulaic. One size does not fit all in today’s job market. Pay attention and respond to the minute details of the job post, echoing the language the employers use and aligning your experience with their needs.
  • Add new skills to your resume.  Many of the positions I was interested in asked for proficiency with administrative software.   Northeastern provides several free options for technology crash courses.  Information Technology Services (ITS) offers one-day courses in the Snell Library classrooms for hands-on help or you can follow online tutorials through Lynda.  I recently took refresher courses in Excel database management and Photoshop, as well as a 4-hour introductory course to HTML.
  • Use your network to workshop your resume.  Identify a professional working in your desired career and ask for an informational interview.  Use the meeting to gain industry knowledge and learn about the career paths people have taken to get there.  Follow up by asking if they could give you some advice on your resume. Visit Career Development and work with a career advisor to refine your job materials.

Translating my resume has given me a confidence boost. I now look at job postings and see open possibilities where before I saw closed doors.  Resources for alternative academics (Alt-Ac) are growing as more PhDs turn to options beyond teaching.  GradHacker dedicated last week’s posts to Alt-Ac, including how to get started on the job search. Follow the hashtag #altac on Twitter to learn more.  Join me on the first Thursday of every month here on the Works as I countdown to graduation.

Lana Cook is a PhD candidate in the English department at Northeastern University. Her dissertation traces the development of the psychedelic aesthetic in mid-twentieth century American literature and film. Lana is a 2013-2014 graduate fellow at the Humanities Center.  She received her bachelors of arts at the University of New Hampshire.  You can follow her on Twitter @lanacook or Linkedin.

Last Call: Senior Career Conference Today!

SCC_logoThinking back to my last semester of my senior year of college, I was actively avoiding what graduation meant for me and kept myself blissfully unaware of what I should be doing/needed to do to prepare for life after graduation.  I didn’t graduate THAT long ago (to give you a time frame, Facebook had been invented by the time I got to college) so I can relate to what many graduating students are feeling. One of my biggest regrets was not taking advantage of the people at my university who had tried to prepare me for the future, and not taking advantage of the opportunities to help me figure out what I wanted to do.  If I had done so, I believe my transition from student to new professional would have been a lot easier than it was. I eventually made it, and I was fine, but I could have saved myself a lot of turmoil if I had started earlier rather than later.

The Senior Career Conference, today in Stearns from 12-6PM is here to do JUST that—give you everything you need to prepare yourself for the job search and beyond. The workshops range from Salary Negotiation to Managing Stress on the Job Search and you get to meet with a lot of cool employers at the event—Liberty Mutual, TJX, Philips, Procter & Gamble and City Year are just a few of the employers who will be there to critique resumes, serve on panels, and co-teach workshops with our Career Development Staff.  An added incentive for dropping by is that we have some really cool prizes. Microsoft and TJX have donated special prizes that you can win by submitting your resume, and other prizes will be given to the first 100 students just for showing up.  There is no registration required and everyone is welcome, so stop by to attend a workshop, get your LinkedIn picture taken, or to get your resume critiqued—anything you do at the conference will help you on your way to becoming a new professional and being prepared to the transition.

 

Ashley LoBue is a Career Advisor at Northeastern Career Development. A Boston College graduate, Ashley has over 3 years of experience working in higher education and is a proponent for international and experiential education.

 

Working Girl, Then and Now

80's pic

This post was written by Associate Director of Northeastern Career Development, Susan Loffredo.

The year is 1984.  With a humanities and social science background, aided by some serendipitous networking, I am starting a new job in employee communications at a semiconductor company. My cubicle is in the corporate headquarters building where I regularly see and sometimes work with the executive officers, who are all men.  Almost all of the other women in the building are secretaries. I wear a suit to work every day so I can be recognized as equal to my male colleagues, but my shorter stature and my higher-pitched voice put me at a disadvantage in meetings where people are vying to be heard. The men apologize directly to me when they happen to let slip a mild swear word.

In the buildings where the engineers work, women are even rarer. I never thought that deliberate discrimination was going on, but it was clear that these men felt most comfortable working with other men, and many of the relatively few women who braved engineering degrees were scared away by the boys’ club atmosphere.  It took me years at this company, where I worked for eight years, for these guys to feel comfortable being themselves around me and to stop  %#^*ing apologizing to me for their bad language.  In this male culture, there were many unspoken rules I didn’t understand.  For example, two male managers might have an extremely bitter turf battle, but be tennis buddies later that day. It didn’t make sense to me.

The year is 2014. Now I work in a primarily female environment and I pretty much understand all the rules. My work life is a lot better; in fact, opportunities for all women are a lot better than they were then, but far from perfect. The glass ceiling still exists and the gender pay gap has not improved in ten years.  There is still progress to be made.

Career Development is starting a conversation with the sheLEADS series that we hope will continue beyond this semester and contribute positively to your work and life success. Please join us this coming Wednesday, January 15th from 5PM-6:30PM at the Stearns Center for our first program, negoSHEate, Get What You Want Without Conflict.

Author Susan Loffredo began counseling NU students well before the iPhone was invented and owns socks that are older than the class of 2013. Email her at s.loffredo@neu.edu.

 

I Graduated. Now What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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