Why Networking Is A Lot Like Dating: The Initial Approach Part I

So let’s start with the initial approach.  Realistically, there are three ways to meet potential dating victims.  Two of which are very targeted and deliberate. The other one is more luck and timing.

  1. The first way (and the bravest if you ask me) is blindly approaching the person.
    source: tumblr, New Girl, Fox

    source: tumblr, New Girl, Fox

    This tends to happen at more casual outings and events etc. (this is actually way less scary at a networking event).

  2. The second way is online dating, aka OK Cupid, Match or some other constituent (LinkedIn and in some cases Twitter, is the online equivalent in the professional realm.)
  3. The final way tends to be more happenstance.  You meet somebody through a student organization or through a class project and hit it off.  Worst case, you’re at the same event and you’re both waiting in line for the bathroom (an unfortunate place to be in).

We’re going to focus on happenstance today and touch upon the braver approaches later. Let’s ease into this networking thing.

The initial approach, regardless of the circumstance, is generally awkward, but often times we walk away thinking (I hope), “that wasn’t too bad” or at least, “it could have been worse.”  And the person you were talking to on most occasions is generally nice and receptive.  It’s easier to meet somebody when you share a common interest.  “I met someone I would later date because we were in a play together,” says Amy Henion, a recent Communications grad, “we both obviously were theater geeks, and hit it off right away.”  Networking generally works the same way.

"On Wednesdays we wear pink!" source: perezhilton.com

“On Wednesdays we wear pink!” Mean Girls
 source: perezhilton.com

The easiest way to meet somebody is to go to events and join professional and student organizations related to your major and interests, thus, deliberately putting yourself in situations where it’s natural to meet somebody who is doing something you’re interested in.  Plus, you have that common thread now, so there is something to talk about aside from the weather, the Sox’s latest loss, or one of the Kardashians.

Example: if you’re a Physical Therapist or in any healthcare field for that matter, consider volunteering at the Red Cross, or for a big event like the Boston Marathon.  You’ll meet people with some pull and it looks good on a resume (just saying).

You can also tap the network you already have.  Lots of people get together through friends and networking is similar.  Ask former co-op supervisors, faculty, friends and even family if they know anyone working at “X” company.  Those are easy matches and generally lead to solid conversations.  Just make sure you follow through so you don’t make your friend look like a fool, or ruin a potential match made in heaven.

Do you have a successful “happenstance” networking story?  What are tips you would give and questions you asked?

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

 

Keep Calm and Don’t Punch Anyone

stressed out guyThis guest post was written by graduate candidate and full time professional, Kristina Swope.

Well, easier said than done. On days like today, where the humidity is 450% and I’m drowning in schoolwork and job responsibilities, it’s incredibly difficult not to take down innocent bystanders. When the biggest urge you have is to karate chop a coworker in the side just because they exist, it’s time to stop, take a deep breathe, and think about what can be done.

We hear about work-life balance all the time. As a society, we talk about it constantly. It’s in articles, blogs, and often discussed in the workplace. The bottom line is the employee is responsible for their work-life balance. In theory, it’s a great concept – when you can swing it.

But what about days like today? What about sitting at your desk at 9pm, when the florescent auto-lighting in the office has turned off on you and five people are shouting at you via email? You feel run-down, like nothing can be done fast enough or well enough for anyone’s liking. By the time you get home, the most energy you can muster results in laying on your living room floor watching the ceiling fan spin around.

I’m guilty of all the above. On more occasions than I’d like to admit, I’ve been one step away from ripping my hair out, just because it would be less painful than the stampede of people. Instead, I’ve started using a less painful technique that has helped organize the millions of little tasks that have to be taken care of.

stressed out girlFirst, breathe. Close your eyes, stop yourself from reacting, and don’t allow your emotions to take you on a rollercoaster. No one actually likes to go upside-down anyway, it just happens and then afterwards we’re glad we survived.

Shut it down.  Even if you have a ton more to today, the best thing you can do for yourself is to shut down. Close the laptop, turn off the cell phone, and do something you truly enjoy. Whether that’s catching up on a show in a blanket cocoon because you never have the time, or it’s going out to dinner with a friend, it’s just what your soul needs.

Make lists. Once you’re ready to reboot, the best way to move forward is to organize yourself. If you’re juggling multiple responsibilities, it may help to make separate lists. Personally, I make one list of tasks for school, one for work, and one for personal. Looking at what needs to be accomplished on paper helps you get a better sense of timing and allows you to prioritize tasks across categories.

Finally, take action where you can. Look at your respective lists and see what can be done today. If you have three small personal tasks, why not stay up an extra hour or two and finish them up? You’ll be lying in bed thinking about everything you have to do anyway, so you might as well be productive. Not to mention, the feeling of crossing something off your list is surprisingly rewarding and one by one those tasks come off the list. Even though more will be added, it will prevent anything important from falling through the cracks. It won’t happen all in one day, but you’ll wield the lists slowly but surely.

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

Got an Offer? Ask These Questions

Getting a job offer is and should be a time of celebration.  You have successfully navigated the interview process and an employer has determined that you, out of all the other candidates, are the person that they want for the job.  The offer represents a salary, benefits, and, for all of you graduating students, an end to the fear of being unemployed after investing time in your education.  However, don’t let the happiness of making it through this milestone cloud your judgment into accepting the offer automatically—if you do so you jeopardize your chance of negotiating, or making a carefully thought-out decision about your career.  After expressing your interest in the position and enthusiasm about the offer be sure to ask these questions:

images (2)

www.momtofitmom.com

1.)    When do you need my answer by?  Generally, the employer allows at least 24 hours and at most two weeks for a candidate to consider an offer.  By knowing how long you have to make the decision, you can notify any other employers that you’ve been interviewing with that you have been made an offer.  This way you can ask the employer if it is possible for them to get back to you within the set time frame, especially if one of those other employers is your top choice.  It also gives you parameters in which to think critically about how the job fits in with your career goals—could this job give you the skills that you want to gain and open up new possibilities for you career?

2.)    Can I receive the offer in writing and the benefits package? Knowing how long you have to respond to a job offer will enable you to carefully view the benefits/salary package in a timely manner and understand if it works for you or not. Keep in mind that salary is not the only factor that affects the overall offer. Benefits such as dental/medical coverage, vacation/sick time, tuition remission, and employer contribution to a retirement plan, among others, all add up.  If you aren’t satisfied with the overall package, now is the time to think through your negotiating strategy for your next communication with the hiring manager.

3.)    Who can I talk to if I have questions about the benefits package?  Sometimes the person offering you the position is not equipped to talk through the nitty-gritty of the benefits package.  He or she may then direct you to someone in the HR department that has a better understanding of the benefits available to recent hires.  Getting your questions answered about these benefits can ensure that you understand how all the pieces, such as salary/benefits, fit together with your offer.

Keep in mind that asking questions does not indicate that you are not excited about the offer.  It shows the employer that you truly care about your career by taking the time to do your research and understand how the position, salary and benefits fit in with your goals.  On the flip side, if you already know what salary a hiring manager is going to offer you and the benefits that go along with it, there is no need to hesitate when receiving the offer, if you’ve already thought critically about what accepting the position would mean for you.  Feel free to accept on the spot-congratulations, you’ve earned it!

Ashley LoBue is an Assistant Director 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

Happy at Work

background image source: theguardian.com

background image source: theguardian.com

Clap along if you feel that happiness is the truth

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you.

- Pharrell Williams, “Happy”

Thanks, Pharrell.  As a Grammy-winning, big hat-wearing, record-producing singer songwriter, you probably do know “what happiness is to you,” and we’re happy for you.  But happiness at work is more elusive for the rest of us.  Whether you’re in your dream job or just working for the paycheck until you can snag something better, there are factors other than the specific content of your work (I’m talking to you, first co-op) that can make happiness your truth.

The happiest employees are those who have certain core needs met: physical comfort, including regular breaks; appreciation for their contributions; flexibility in how to approach their work; and an environment that allows them to focus on their tasks. It’s a great idea to try to find out how a company rates in these areas before accepting a job, but it’s not always easy.  And what do you do if you’re already in a job that doesn’t put a smile on your face?

Bottom line, your happiness at work is largely up to you.  I say largely, because obviously the conditions of your workplace and the people around you have an enormous influence. But you can choose to be an equally enormous influence on your own experience; you can choose to see your situation at work as one that you can change if you don’t like it.

The first step is to define for yourself what makes you happy or unhappy at work, then appropriately share this with others. Happiness at work does not require a perfect situation; I doubt that exists.  It does require minimizing or changing the bad and amplifying the good.

Are you frustrated with a lack of communication?  Ask for more feedback and stay on top of the company’s social media. Do you think you’re stuck in your position?  Seek out opportunities to learn new skills and volunteer for projects and committees.  Feeling overwhelmed? Commit to only the amount you can reasonably do, asking your boss to help you prioritize if need be.

Give your happiness project time and change will happen.  But if it doesn’t, resolve to move on, then turn to your network (and a career counselor) to support and strategize your next move with you.  Clap along!

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.

Tell Me About Yourself… But Not Really

image source: cartoonstock.com

image source: cartoonstock.com

This post was written by Amy Stutius, Career Advisor at Northeastern University Career Development.

In everyday life, if someone asks you to tell them about yourself, it’s usually because they want to get to know you as a person and learn about your interests, hobbies, and passions.  So if I asked you to “tell me about yourself,” what would you want to say?  Would you tell me that you grew up in California, love to surf, like cookie dough ice cream, and just came back from a family trip to Paris?  That would all be pretty interesting, and a good conversation starter if I asked you that question while we were waiting for a treadmill to open up at the Marino Center, or if we were taking a break from studying for finals.  But what if you were coming in to interview with me for a co-op, internship, or a job that you really wanted?

You response might help me realize what a fun and unique person you are, and that maybe we’d have something in common as friends, but it wouldn’t tell me anything about why I should hire you, and why you’d be a better fit for the job over any of the other candidates I’m interviewing.  Remember, you’re out there trying to compete for, and secure, a great job and the way to do that is to market yourself, not as a terrific and friendly person with an interesting childhood and hobbies, but as a terrific and friendly person who can do this job better than any of the other candidates waiting in the wings!

So how do you master your answer to this question or some variance of it?  Think it through and then PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.  You’ll need to answer this question in some form during your interview, whether the interviewer comes out and asks you to “tell me about yourself,” or if they say “what brings you in here today.”  Even if they don’t ask you the question that directly, it’s great for you to try to weave your proposed answer somewhere into the interview because the whole point of the answer is to clearly and articulately relay a bit about your background and experience, and why that makes you a good fit for this position and this company.

back to the future poster

image source: meansheets.com

When you’re thinking through your response, I like to take the “Back to the Future” approach (part 1, that is). You want to start in the present, then travel to the past, and then head back to the present and into the future.

So by starting in the present, you’re going to be talking about your current status, namely, your class year, and major, and anything else relevant that’s going on right now.  Next you’ll travel with your interviewer to the past, where you’ll share a few RELEVANT snapshots of some experiences you’ve had that tie in well to the job you’re interviewing for.  These could be co-ops you’ve done, academic projects you’ve worked on, and/or any research you’ve completed.  After you discuss those all-important RELEVANT experiences, you want to travel with your interviewer back to the present and start heading into the future, meaning that you’re going to very briefly find a way to explain how, through those experiences and your coursework, you’ve developed the necessary skills to make a strong contribution in this position, which especially interests you because….[and here’s where you fill in exactly why you’re so very interested in this position at this company!]

Sound good?  So next time someone asks you to “tell me about yourself” in an interview, remember that they’re looking for you to tell them about yourself in a way that’s relevant to, and focused on, why you’re a great fit for the position and the company.  Save any cute childhood stories and discussion of your favorite ice cream flavors for some friendly banter once you get the job!

Amy Stutius is a Career Advisor at Northeastern University.  She practiced as an attorney before transitioning to higher education.  Email her at a.stutius@neu.edu.

I’m moving to LA! Advice on Conducting a Long Distance Job Search

imagesource: moveacrosscountry.net

imagesource: moveacrosscountry.net

This post was written by Angela Vallillo, recent biology graduate on the pre-medical track. She is moving to LA in less than a week!

Hello again! I’m glad to be contributing to the blog for a second time. I thought I’d share some updates about my post-grad, job-searching, apartment hunting life. I graduated on May 2, but I don’t technically finish with my degree until August. Until then, I’m taking some classes online. But, I’m also in the process of moving to Los Angeles! My boyfriend and I have been in a long distance relationship for over two and a half years, and this was the perfect opportunity for us to finally be together. My flight is in the afternoon on June 5th, and I couldn’t be more excited to check out another city! This whole relocation thing has had a lot of moving parts, so take note!

Apartment searching: As of about thirty minutes ago, I am all locked in for an apartment. I thought I had one last week, but some things did not work out and everything seemed as if the whole move was falling apart. I’m looking in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles, which is right outside of downtown. It’s a cool area that is close to all the sights and restaurants downtown. It was a bit weird conducting searches over the phone and explaining my situation to landlords and property managers, but most of the time they were pretty cool about it. It also helps that my boyfriend is already there and he can go check buildings and apartments out before I get there. FaceTime has been really handy, he would go check out apartments and then FaceTime me so I could actually see it in real time. Right now I’m in the process of signing a lease over the internet, and thanks to technology, I’m able to do it over e-sign, which is great! Once I send a deposit and sign the lease, the apartment will be all mine when I step off the plane on June 5th. 

Job Hunting: So, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t be moving without a job. Well, that quickly went out the window as I hadn’t been having a lot of luck with companies wanting to hire me from out of town. If you’re looking to move, I wouldn’t take this as an “end all” statement because people have definitely done it. I’ve been doing a lot of searching on Craigslist for medical positions. When I send out replies to ads, I definitely don’t hide the fact that I am out of town. I explain in the body of my email and cover letter, in a basic and easy to understand few sentences exactly what my plan is and what I’m doing. I also explicitly say that I would love to phone or Skype interview if the company wants to interview me before I get there. Some have been receptive, while others, I assume, have gone with people that are in the area. I did get a few calls back, and a Skype interview with an orthopedic surgeon! Most of the time, they will want to meet you in person, and I will be heading to the office the day after my plane lands in order to formally interview. It definitely depends what field you’re looking for a job in order to figure out what kind of companies you’re dealing with.

General Moving Advice: So to throw another curveball into my moving plans, I also have a cat. This has limited which apartments that I am able to even look at. I also have to bring her on the plane with me, which is going to be an adventure within itself. I plan on bringing one large bag, and mailing the rest of my things. Since the apartment isn’t furnished, that’s another thing that I have to do. Starting with the necessities and moving on from there. If anybody has any advice about sending or moving stuff, definitely let me know, I’m always open to suggestions- just leave it in the comments!

It’s hard leaving a place you’ve grown to love and lived in for so long, but graduating is all about new opportunities and new adventures! Wish me luck!

Angela Vallillo is recent biology major on the pre-medical track. She is in the midst of moving cross country to LA. Follow her NU admissions blog to read more from Angela.

 

Creating a Target List… Yes you have to

If it was only this easy...  Source: http://scottkelby.com

If it was only this easy…
Source: http://scottkelby.com

This guest post was written by Tricia Dowd, a Career Development Assistant at NU Career Development, and a recent graduate from Northeastern’s Higher Education Administration program where she earned her Master’s degree this past September. 

One of my favorite exercises to use in job search workshops is asking students to take two minutes to write down as many companies that they would want to work for as they can think of. Usually students excitedly scribble down a couple names and get stumped; occasionally, I’ll have a student who can name more than five. So when I tell them that their ideal target list should include 20-30 different employers, most of them get a panicked look. Creating a target list can definitely be overwhelming at first, but it is an important first step of any job search. I’ve compiled a list of advice and techniques below to help you identify potential employers and kick your job search off effectively.

  • Hop on HuskyCareerLink: Many of you are probably familiar with our job search database, HuskyCareerLink. But did you know we also have an employer search function in HCL? Not only is this a great place to start to build a target list, it also gives you an idea of what companies have worked with Northeastern. To do an employer search, head to the Employers tab on the top menu and click ‘Employer Search’. Go through the list of industries and select any industry that applies to your field. HCL will generate a list of companies that hire within the selected industry so be prepared for the list to take a couple of minutes to load- we have a lot of employers in our database! You can click on any employer that comes up and view a brief description of the company. The cool thing about this list is that all of the employers you’ll see are there because they’ve worked with Northeastern in the past and will be familiar with the school and our amazing students!
  • Check out CareerSearch: CareerSearch is an awesome website that will generate a list of companies based on the criteria you put in. You can enter factors such as industry, company size, location, or keywords to narrow your search results. You’ll a get a list of companies that match your criteria. I suggest using the location tool to narrow down your results- there are over five million US companies in the database! To utilize CareerSearch you’ll have to log onto HuskyCareerLink and scroll down the homepage until you see the CareerSearch link. Northeastern pays for our students to be able to use this website so take advantage of this resource!
  • Look on LinkedIn: Not only is LinkedIn a powerful people resource, it’s also an important part of building your target list. LinkedIn has company pages that provide insight into companies you’re considering for your target list as well as related companies to help expand the list even further! For instance enter ‘Google’ into the LinkedIn search bar and the Google company page will come up. Scroll down a little until you hit the ‘People Also Viewed’ section on the right hand side. This is a list of similar companies! You can essentially follow the trail and research these different companies as well as companies that show up in their ‘People Also Viewed’ section. This is an easy way to expand a list if you already have a few company names.

These resources should help you develop a target list of 20-30 companies. You can do further research on these companies by looking at their company page on glassdoor and going on informational interviews with people who work there. This will help to confirm that the companies you’ve selected are a good fit for you! After you’ve finalized your target list, make sure to check their websites frequently for positions you’re qualified for. You can learn more about the job search process by attending one of our Small Group Job Search workshops or by looking on our Job Search page.

Tricia Dowd is a Career Development Assistant at NEU Career Development, and graduated from Northeastern with a Master’s in Higher Education Administration in September. She is interested in helping students gain practical experiences to complement what they’re learning in the classroom. You can reach her at p.dowd@neu.edu

Advice for Graduating Selfie Monsters

Clockwise from left: Graduation day in front of The Garden May 2009, Bek 2013, Birthday outing 2014

Clockwise from left: Graduation day in front of The Garden May 2009, Bek 2013, Birthday outing 2014

This post was written by NU alumna Rebekah Gallacher. Bek majored in English and Communications and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2009.

I’ve always resented the notion that “the real world” doesn’t happen until after you graduate college. I find that this sentiment is typically coupled with the idea that our generation—Generation Y—doesn’t understand what the real world is. I don’t know about you, but five years at Northeastern, three co-ops (plus two freelancing gigs), zero summers, a weekend job slinging drinks to BC kids, a double overloaded final semester, and astounding student loans felt pretty real to me. Tack on graduating into The Great Recession—one of the worst job economies in recent history—and I thought I had this “real world” thing down.

Five years later though, I can admit through the clarity provided by hindsight that life is in fact realer. These last five years have been the most influential, the most tumultuous, the most real for me so far. Those of you entering “the real world” this spring will get plenty of advice. More than you’ll know what to do with most likely. So I’m going to tackle only one thing: that despite all of the effort we’ve expelled so far, we are actually a bunch of lazy, entitled, tech-obsessed selfie monsters.

You heard me. Needy. Coddled. Selfie monsters.

Now, I personally will stay confounded by this impression for as long as it persists. I don’t know a single one of these Gen Ys. (Who are these people!?) But this perception is pervasive, and try as we might, we’re not going to be able to get away from it. Not yet, anyway. So your challenge, and my best advice for your next five years, is to face it head on.

It is absolutely central to your success to understand and acknowledge the assumptions about Gen Ys. Once you do, you’ll be able to interact more effectively with your colleagues from other generations, including your boss. (Spoiler Alert: that’s kind of…well, everything.) The self-aware Gen Y is the smartest Gen Y and the Gen Y that will get ahead. A little self-awareness goes a long way.

And don’t stop there, you overachieving go-getter! Take some time to understand where other generations are coming from, what they value, why they might think you’re a whiny baby with wildly unrealistic expectations. (Their words, not mine!) The Gen Y that’s well versed in generational differences is the Gen Y that will be actively sought out for their opinions and expertise.

All of this being said, don’t be afraid to use your unique point-of-view to your advantage. Be confident that your age, your experiences (“real world” or not) are both personal and organizational strengths. We’re soon to be the largest cohort in the workforce and we have an opportunity to shape the world of work. We will undoubtedly influence expectations, flexibility, technology, compensation, the social consciousness of our organizations—just to name a few. As well we should; much of this needs changing and I know we’re up to the challenge.

Let’s take back the conversation around our generation and redefine our organizational value. Because the Generation Y I know is hard-working, collaborative, innovative, and ambitious.

Congratulations to the Class of 2014. I look forward to everything you’ll accomplish. Including making me feel old and technologically out of date.

Let’s do this thing!

Rebekah Gallacher is an Associate Editor of Web Content at Harvard Business Publishing. She received her dual BA in English/Communication Media Studues in 2009 and managed to turn it into a real job! Feel free to contact her at rebekahgallacher@gmail.com or tweet her at @RCGallacher.

 

How to Keep Your Energy Level Up On Co-op

Can't. Move. Another. Inch.  Image Source: lovemeow.com

Can’t. Move. Another. Inch.
Image Source: lovemeow.com

This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works.

Pulling five eight-hour work days in a row every week is a far cry from the typical college student’s schedule. You have to wake up early, get yourself together just enough to pull of the “I’m employed” look, and run out the door to get to work on time. You spend a long day at your desk or in front of your computer, and come home exhausted. You shlump your way through dinner, watch an episode of TV before falling asleep like you just got back from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. However, it is possible to keep yourself feeling energetic during the week, even with a full-time schedule.

Hustle in the morning. Maybe you have a goal or two. Maybe you want to step it up at work and get a raise, or put more work into your side hustle, or maybe you’re just looking to recover from the twelve coffee cakes you ate on Easter. Whatever your goals may be, it’s hard to have the energy to get things done after a long day of work. If you start your day strong, that energy will translate into higher productivity for the rest of your day. If possible, work out in the morning. Even though you have to get up earlier, the energy you get from a morning workout far exceeds the energy you get from the extra hour of sleep.

Shop right. I’m sure you have never heard that eating right is important to your energy level. What an original piece of advice. Eating right is one of the most important parts of a high energy level, but it’s important to know how to shop right first — otherwise eating right is nearly impossible. When you walk into the supermarket, keep most (or all) of your shopping in the outer ring. That’s where the fresh stuff is. If your cart is full of mostly fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grain, you’re going to be fine. Keep snacks like apples, bananas, and yogurt in the fridge at work so your stomach isn’t eating itself all the way home on the T.

Keep yourself busy. After work, grab coffee with a friend. Take a yoga class. Check out what’s happening in your city for free on a Tuesday evening. While down time is crucial for a balanced (and sane) life, too much can cause sluggishness and unnecessary boredom, depleting your energy level in a big way. If you keep yourself busy, you will appreciate and take advantage of moments of relaxation much more. As an added bonus, a busy and active day leads to better sleep at night, which means more energy in the morning. So treat your body to a busy schedule because you deserve it.

If you hustle in one aspect of your life, that mentality tends to spread to other aspects of your life. If you keep your energy high during the day and keep your mind focused on your goals, those New Year’s Resolutions you haven’t thought about since January 2nd will seem like a piece of cake.

Lindsey Sampson is a middler International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and tweet her @lindseygsampson.

“Show Your Face” and Other Lessons from Psych Alum Samantha

Sam Collage for blog

This post was written by 2009 psychology alum, Samantha Bracy. She is currently a special education teach in Newton, MA. 

It wasn’t until my good friend Kelly so kindly asked me to write for this blog that I even became consciously aware of how long I’ve been out of college.  As we approach the anniversary of our graduation, of course all the good memories flood my mind – celebrating graduation with my friends, living in an apartment on Symphony Rd., late nights at Punter’s.  Five whole years ago we were walking up and down Huntington Ave. in the freezing depths of winter (OK, let’s be real – anything below 40 degrees and class wasn’t happening); picking up overpriced groceries at “The Wo” (Wollaston’s for all of you who don’t speak solely in abbreviations); and last but not least, navigating what in the world we were going to do after graduation (OK, I suppose that might be the most important one).

I always considered myself one of those rare, lucky students who always knew what I’d do with my professional life.  My mother tells me that ever since I was a little girl, she knew I’d be a teacher (read: I was really bossy as a child) and as I made my way through NU, I knew it too.  I studied psychology and elementary education, coming out of college with a plethora of co-op and fieldwork experiences to add to my resume.  I felt fortunate to have spent time working in Boston Public Schools, at various community centers across the city, and at a private special education school.  My experience was – in every sense of the word – “well-rounded” and I had NU to thank for that edge.  What I didn’t realize at the time was the importance of networking.  I know, I know…such a buzzword these days.  But when people tell you “it’s all who you know”, they’re being completely honest with you.

Make a good impression at your co-op.  Do not show up looking like you were out all night (hungover or otherwise).  These people may be your future, long-term employers (I have friends who are currently employed at one of their co-op’s, years later).  This organization may be a jumping off point for your career.  And you probably want to be able to ask your supervisor for a recommendation one day.  I know you all took Intro to College or got a lecture from your co-op advisor about being professional, but let’s be real – when it’s Marathon Monday and you called out of co-op because you were the only one who didn’t have it off, do not post selfies on one of the various social media platforms.  Lesson learned.  Make a positive, lasting impression and you will always have that organization supporting you, be it by way of an actual job or kind words for a different employer.

If your employer asks you to stay on after your co-op, you do it.  Even if they say it’s unpaid, even if it’s full-time, even if you have to take the T at 5:30 am.  I completed my student teaching at an amazing Boston Public School, a school that I still dream of working at.  After my semester ended, I was asked to stay on as an unpaid aide and I turned it down because I needed to work full-time and actually earn money.  A girl who was in the same boat as me took an unpaid aide job and now has her own classroom at said school.  I doubt if I went back there today anyone would even remember me.  If you have a way to take an internship, an experience, a co-op, anything and make it into something more, an opportunity for you to shine and for people to truly remember you, do it.

Show your face.  In college, my friends and I (count us: 1, 2, 3, 4) kept to ourselves.  We certainly weren’t homebodies by any means – we went out, had fun, lived it up Husky style.  But we weren’t really involved in any groups, clubs, networking events, or anything of that nature.  We didn’t go to sporting events or formals.  We didn’t really branch out beyond each other and some satellite friends we hung out with on occasion.  Now, with things like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, it’s so easy to reconnect with people you went to school with.  People who may have plush corner offices that can hook you up with an interview at that firm you’ve been eyeing (see where I’m going with this?).  But guess what?  If you don’t actually talk to anyone, you don’t really have a lot of people to network with years later.  So even if you aren’t a social butterfly, it wouldn’t kill you to attend a few events, make some new friends, or even sit with a stranger in Snell.  You never know who your new friends will turn out to be down the road so don’t be afraid to branch out.

Samantha Bracy is a special education teacher in the Newton Public Schools.  She received her BS and MEd from Northeastern.  She is the proud mother of a little girl with another baby on the way and enjoys trying to maintain her sanity as she balances life and work.  Feel free to contact her at samantha416@gmail.com.