On the Other Side of a Virtual Career Fair… Q&A from an Employer’s Perspective

So, are you thinking about participating in the Northeastern University Virtual Career Fair on March 25th?  Have you been to a virtual career fair?  Are you wondering what to expect?

As an employer, I can say we ask the same questions.  For many companies a virtual career fair is a fairly new experience.  Over the past few years, there has been a shift in recruiting across the board from print media, online job postings, career fairs to social media and beyond.  The in-person career fairs have seen a decline in popularity for a variety of reasons including tightening budgets, needing to target recruiting to specific skill sets due to shifting demand, and increases in applicant flow through traditional means.  So why a virtual career fair?

It is easy, we want to meet you!  Employers want you to have the opportunity to meet us and be connected to us for short-term and long-term opportunities.   We have the opportunity to not just view a resume but to spend time with you answering questions and engaging with you.  The best part is you don’t have to get all dressed up to attend.

I have had the opportunity to participate in several virtual career fairs over the last few years.  It is a unique experience and I have found that individuals who are successful with this medium have the following characteristics in common:

  • Strong Resumes:  candidates’ resumes have been reviewed by career services and highlight key accomplishments and achievements in a concise manner.
  • Research Conducted: candidates have researched the companies in attendance and know what the company does; this includes giving some thought as to how the candidate fits into the company from a skills and experience perspective.
  • Engaging: strong candidates don’t just hover or lurk, they approach the employer and ask questions about the work environment and culture; however, they craft the questions to demonstrate their business acumen.  Questions about vacation days may not be the best way to approach an employer.
  • Prepared “Elevator Speech”: strong candidates know why they are strong and can articulate it in a short, concise way that links accomplishments and experience with the nature of the company’s work.  Don’t have an elevator speech? Contact your career services office to help develop one.
  • Avoid “Gotcha Questions”: don’t ask questions that may put a bad light on the employer especially in front of others; you may think you have a strong question, but it may end up being perceived as negative.  Work with your career services office to develop questions that will put you in the best position.
  • Be Patient: the employer is going to be outnumbered and we don’t want to brush anyone off so if the best candidates are patient.  The employer will want to review resumes and finish out other conversations.  You may not know how many conversations the employer is conducting at one time across multiple private chats.
  • Smile:  what? It is a virtual fair.  Don’t let that stop you from smiling.  A smile comes across in how you interact online.  So, the best candidates don’t use all CAPS and are personable.

Above all, enjoy the experience.  It is an opportunity for you to expand your relationships.   You may not get a position immediately with one of the firms, but look to establish a relationship with those you engage.  Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and connect to those with whom you meet.  A long-term professional relationship is a very valuable outcome.

Hope to see you at the fair!

Christopher Carlson is a s Sr. Manager of Talent Delivery Programs at Booz Allen Hamilton. Based in Florida, Christopher is a member of Booz Allen Hamilton’s People Services Team. He leads the firm’s university, transitioning military, social recruiting teams.  He is responsible for building strategies and relationships for leveraging these channels to ensure Booz Allen Hamilton’s position as an employer of choice and to deliver the next generation of talent to the organization.

The Halfway Mark- 5 Things I’ve Learned While on International Co-op

As I realized this week that I have less than 2 months left in South Africa, I’ve also begun to reflect on just how much my international co-op has taught me. Here are a few of my most important lessons thus far:

1. Adjusting to a slower work pace.
This has hands down, most definitely been the toughest part of my international work experience. South Africans call their time “African time”- meaning less emphasis on the clock and a slower pace of life. I am a power-walking, punctual Bostonian who has just had to learn how to chill out. I’ve happily discovered hat deadlines aren’t always necessary to getting work done- and maybe a break from constant timeliness is exactly what I’ve been needing.

2. The balance between exploring a new country, and working a full-time internship.
I had some difficulty finding my South African balance. When I first started work, I felt nervous asking for days off and guilty when I was focusing more on my weekend adventures than my Monday workload. I’ve learned to use the separate spheres strategy- at work, I concentrate on work and learning from my coworkers. Outside of work, I soak in all that Cape Town has to offer.

3. Missing is okay, and not missing is okay.
There are days when I miss the ease of Boston and Northeastern life- having reliable electricity, a trusted schedule, or being able to walk around at night. Then there are days when I genuinely feel as though I don’t miss anything at all. Both are completely normal feelings, and both are feelings I have accepted as normal and part of the process.

4. Judgement and assumptions aren’t personal, or avoidable.
My citizenship seems to follow me around everywhere- and I have always had a love-hate relationship with this. On the one hand, I love being a foreigner, being different, and talking about my culture with coworkers and friends abroad. However, I hate the American stereotypes that automatically come with my obvious accent. In my past travels, I’ve actually felt ashamed of being an American- so with this new adventure, I knew it needed to stop. I’ve learned how to feel comfortable confronting American stereotypes head-on, and have realized that this happens to absolutely everyone- not just me.

5. Living in the moment.
Still working on this one, however I am most definitely trying and learning. Whether it be a small task at work, my train ride every morning, or a coffee date with a coworker, I am attempting to be absolutely and completely present. I will most probably never be in this city again, working with the same people, and living in the same place. Practicing mindfulness has been helping me appreciate each and every moment of my time in Cape Town.

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.

How to Excel in Your Co-Op


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


You Need A Personal Website


In this post we’ll explore how having a personal website makes you competitive in this job market and how to do it with a small budget or without any coding knowledge required.

My current employer told me that they were impressed by my personal website and that the creativity shown on my site was one of the reasons why they hired me.  I’ve read a few articles about how having a personal website that show off your skills, personality, and creativity can give you a competitive advantage but I didn’t really believe it until I heard it for myself.

According to this recent business insider article,  “employers are researching potential candidates online and want to look deeper than someone’s work experience “ says Nick Macario, the CEO of branded.me.  Having a website in your name helps improve your presence on a Google search results page.  Try going to godaddy.com and do a quick search for “yourname.com”. If the domain is available, I highly encourage you to buy it before someone else beats you to it. If it’s taken I recommend using a middle name or a professional suffix after your name such as yournamephotography.com or yournamemarketing.com.

Your website should then contain the following key components: a brief biography about who you are and a page dedicated to highlighting your skills, experiences, and accomplishments. In addition, it’s recommended to include a visual portfolio that includes either screenshots,  uploads, or video of your work. The portfolio section of your site should be creative and encompass any personal elements that might help you stand out.  A blogging section for your site is optional and I don’t recommend it unless you plan on committing to a consistent blogging schedule.

If you worried about budget or not having the time or technical skills to create your personal website, don’t worry!

Here are three ways to create a personal website at a low cost and without needing to have any coding experience.

1)   Wordpress.com is a great content creation platform. When you sign up there are tons of great themes that are free and available for use immediately.  If you don’t like any of the free themes, you can also purchase a professionally created one from sites like themeforest.net and easily upload the theme to your site.  A theme can start at $30 and it’ll look like you spent hundreds on it.

Plus, telling your potential employers that you built your site on your own using wordpress and installing a theme is also uber impressive.

­2) If you’re not a fan themes and want more creative control of your site, I recommend using either wix.com or squarespace.com. These are free website building services that allow you to use a drag and drop method to create your site.  You can start with a blank template from scratch or you can use one of their template and manipulate assets as you you see fit. Unlike a wordpress theme, wix or squarespace themes are easier to edit if you don’t have the technical experience.

3) For the super extremely time sensitive students, I recommend using an automated website building platforms like about.me or branded.me. This kind of platform builds a static one page website using data from your LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. You can begin with importing your data to pre fill your experieinces and skills, and then add the visual portfolio component at another time.

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


We’re Thinking About Networking All Wrong

artifact-uprising-no-mapimage via Artifact Uprising

Why is networking so awful? Why does the word “networking” make us want to run away from any and all responsibility? We see it as a necessary evil, but not something that should ever be fun or exciting. During our last year of college or when we’re looking to make a career move, we flock to networking events to shake hands and swap business cards so we can get that LinkedIn connections number of 500.

We’re thinking about it all wrong.

Networking should be about sparking meaningful connections and conversations so you can really begin to understand the person on the other end — their personality, their interests, their likes and dislikes — so you can help each other along this crazy career adventure you’re both on.

Starting conversations, especially at networking events, is hard. Here are a couple of ways to make friends, build connections, and just charm the heck out of everyone:

Keep interesting news tidbits on the brain. In December, China banned puns in the news. That’s hilarious. I started so many conversations with, “Did you guys hear China just banned puns in the news?” And that’s it. People are going to toss that one around for a while. It’s weird, it’s funny, it’s current, and it’s not the weather. Reading the Skimm is a great way to keep some of these on the top of your brain.

Don’t start by asking what someone else “does.” This is the networking equivalent of going up to someone at a bar and asking, “What’s your sign?” It’s a boring question. Start with something else – anything else – and get to careers later. It will be a refreshing break, especially when everyone else is starting their conversations with, “So what do you do?”

Talk restaurants. People like to eat. And people generally get excited talking about their stomping grounds, so ask them about their favorite restaurant in the neighborhood where they live. Once you get a good idea of their taste, make recommendations if you can: “There’s a place near me with an awesome beer selection,” or, “I live near this taco shack with an insane enchilada recipe.” Giving recommendations shows that you paid attention to what they like.

Don’t think about networking as networking. Think about it as making a bunch of friends all at once. At networking events, don’t just talk about yourself for five hours. It’s not fun and nobody cares. Push networking small talk under the bus. You’re better than that.

How I Became A Part-Time Soldier

Part-time Solder, full-time student Source: northeastern.edu

Part-time Solder, full-time student.
Source: northeastern.edu

This post originally ran January 27, 2013 on The Works.

The following article was written by a Northeastern student and Army ROTC cadet.

When I first entered college, I did not intend to become a cadet, an officer in training. I come from a family with no military background and did not have close friends in the military. During my first semester of college, my focus was adjusting to the new environment, so I did not take much time to explore opportunities.

Then, towards the end of my first semester, I realized that I was in the wrong major. This led me to talk to a variety of professors, advisors, students, and Career Development staff to get more career information. One student I ended up talking to was a classmate who is in ROTC. She told me to give it a try.

After a summer of introspection, and again meeting with more advisors, I started the semester not only in a new major, but also in a new program: Army ROTC.

Liberty Battalion Army ROTC, the program I now belong to, is hosted at Northeastern University. It takes students from 14 different area colleges including Boston College, the Colleges of the Fenway, Suffolk College, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, and more.

Before starting ROTC, I met with the Liberty Battalion’s senior recruiter to get my questions answered. Although his title is recruiter, he does not earn commission for bringing in students, and his job is really to increase awareness of the program. My first question was whether doing ROTC meant I had to join the Army. To my surprise, he told me that when students first start, they can leave freely if they find out ROTC isn’t right for them. Only after accepting a scholarship or entering their third year do cadets have to commit to service in the Army.

After establishing that I did not have to join the Army right away, I asked about the time commitment involved. The ROTC staff told me that ROTC places academics first, so cadets can be excused from activities if needed. Otherwise, cadets attend three morning workout sessions, a two-hour lab, and a class worth 1 to 3 credits each week. They are not required to attend activities during co-op semesters.

I was also curious whether ROTC would impose restrictions on where I could study or co-op, since I am interested in co-oping abroad. I found out that they allow study and co-op abroad. Moreover, ROTC can make it easier to go abroad by offering Department of Defense-sponsored cultural exchange programs at no cost to students.

Finally, I learned that ROTC offers scholarships covering up to 4 years’ full-tuition, for cadets of all majors. After graduation, cadets can enter into a variety of fields such as aviation, civil affairs, engineering, finance, law, and healthcare. Cadets also have a choice in joining the Active Duty Army, Army National Guard, or Army Reserve. About 60% of cadets in Liberty Battalion choose to go active-duty, which requires serving in the Army full-time for four to seven years. Active-duty soldiers get many benefits such as a guaranteed job after graduation, free housing, top-notch health insurance, and opportunities for free travel to locations worldwide such as Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Hawaii.

Cadets who join the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, which are collectively known as the reserve components of the Army, also receive benefits such as discounted healthcare and insurance. However, the primary benefit for most is the ability to hold a civilian job while drilling one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer, close to home.

So I decided to join ROTC, and my experience has been nothing but extraordinary. Since joining, I drastically improved my physical fitness, leadership capabilities, and confidence in myself. I also established close bonds with a variety of college students with whom I train, take classes, and attend lab. Finally, I developed leadership, organizational, and interpersonal skills which employers value. Because of my terrific experience with ROTC, I ultimately committed to joining the Army National Guard in order to serve my community as a part-time soldier, while still being a full-time student.

So if you are even remotely interested in what ROTC has to offer, find out more. Talk to the students in uniform you may find around campus, or in Rebecca’s Café. Ask one of your friends or classmates about ROTC. Come to one of Northeastern ROTC’s open physical training sessions, or open labs. Drop into the ROTC office on Huntington Ave. Or do some exploring online at rotc.neu.edu and armyrotc.com .

ROTC is the only program that lets you experience the military without prior commitment. So take advantage of this opportunity to improve yourself and your career. See if you too want to become a part-time soldier.

References available upon request

Emily Brown is a Career Development intern and a graduate student in Northeastern’s College Student Development and Counseling Program. She is a lifelong Bostonian interested in the integration of social media into the professional realm.  Contact her at e.brown@neu.edu.

Looking back to high school, I didn’t realize how easy I had it getting recommendations for college applications: one from my guidance counselor, ask two favorite teachers, done and done. With big plans to enter college undeclared, I wasn’t at all worried about the subject matters taught by these teachers.  I also wasn’t worried about etiquette of the recommendation process, since I had explicit instructions from my guidance counselor –  provide a stamped and addressed envelope for each college you’re applying to and post-it with earliest deadline on top.  Send a thank you card no later than that first deadline.  So simple. Looking back now, I realize that these concepts are also relevant for getting professional references.

  • Of course I chose my favorite teachers, right? Why would I even consider that pre-calculus teacher who gave me the stink-eye all of sophomore year for giggling with my best friend through each class (I’m sorry, but he shouldn’t have seated us next to each other). The same concept still applies. Choose people who have positive things to say about you and will be able to speak to your overall character.
  • At this point though, subject matter matters. It is important to consider who will be able to speak to the specific skills that will be required in the position you are targeting. It’s okay to tell a reference which skills you believe will be most important and to ask her/him to emphasize those.
  • Since job references probably won’t be a one-shot deal like mailing a stack of college applications, it’s important to keep your references updated as you apply to jobs. Since you won’t often know when exactly a potential employer is going to call a reference, keeping her/him updated on jobs to which you have applied ensures that s/he can speak knowledgeably about your goals.  In the case of a written recommendation, you should ask about 5-6 weeks in advance of the deadline. However, it’s rare that an employer will ask for a written reference, they usually want to speak to the person directly.
  • The most nerve-wracking part of asking someone to serve as a reference is probably the initial request. Hanging around after class worked in high school, but, as a professional, stopping by someone’s desk unannounced is not recommended. Asking via email ensures that the person knows exactly what you want and has time to think about his answer. It’s important to be clear about what you’re asking – the subject line might read “Job reference for [your name]?” – and you should get right to the point at the beginning of the email before further explaining the specifics of why you are asking this particular person.  It can be helpful to mention specific projects or tasks you’ve worked on with that person that you think will relate to skills needed for the new job. This helps the person understand why you are specifically asking her and gives her some guidance in regard to which of your skills to highlight. Even if you’re 99% sure the person will say yes, it is polite to give him/her an out. Use language like “would you be comfortable…” or “Do you feel you know me well enough to…”
  • I remember seeing classmates being scolded for being late with thank you cards. Though it is unlikely anyone will directly scold you for skipping this step, people will surely take notice and it’s just good manners to thank someone when they do you a favor It’s important to follow up once someone has agreed to serve as a reference by sending a thank you (email or US mail are both ok, but no need to send both). It’s also good practice to update your references on your job search periodically and DEFINITELY let them know once you have accepted a position. Thank them again for their support in helping you reach your goal.

So maybe it’s not quite as simple as it was in high school, but it’s not bad right? There may not be a guidance counselor holding you accountable (read: stalking you in homeroom), but you can totally handle this. Choosing appropriate references and maintaining open communication with them is going to be key for strengthening your job candidacy, long-term professional contacts, and ultimately taking that leap into the “real world.”