LinkedIn is More Than a Recruiting Tool

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

LinkedIn

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

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

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

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

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

When did you first come to the Career Development office?

It was for the Career Fair, freshmen year.

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

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

What else did you do early on?

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

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

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

How can students have an impact on potential employers?

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

How can students make more employer connections?

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

What can you gain from this early networking?

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

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

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

How do you maintain your network?

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

Is there anything you wished you’d known sooner?

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

Anyone you stay in touch with?

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

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

Start early and don’t stop.

5 Questions to Prepare for Career Fair

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image source:

I had the opportunity to speak with Neil Brennan of Meltwater recently about campus recruiting and career fairs. In five quick questions, he nailed down the best (and worst) things you can do at a career fair.

Without further ado, here they are…

1. What types of skills and qualifications do you look for in new graduates?

Well, we’re not really looking for specific degree discipline. We’re looking for people who have graduated top of their class. They typically are also active and involved in other things besides just their studies. Our graduates who come on board have some leadership experience as well. Whether it was a captain of their team or in charge of their sorority.

2. If you had one piece of advice for a student navigating the fair- what would it be?

I think that if a student is attending a career fair, they should want to make an impression when they talk to an employer. There are those who go there to extract information and those who go there to make a strong impression. If I could give advice, it would be to go there and do both. They should really be aware of the fact that they should leave the employer with the strongest impression of themselves

3. What is a Career Fair “no-no”?

If you want to work at a company where you would wear a suit to work everyday, go to the career fair wearing a suit. We are looking for students to dress to impress

4. What do you recommend students bring to the career fair?

Definitely recommend bringing a cover letter if possible as well. We’ll accept resumes, cover letters. For strong candidates we use those later on if they reach out to apply for a position.

Bring a level of research with you. When you do approach and have a conversation with the employer, it’s very obvious you know about the company even if you may have questions still. That will go a long way to make you stand out.

Bring a general level of interest. One mistake is a candidate can make is standing there and expecting the employer to impress them. Bring energy, enthusiasm, and questions.

5. How does a student stand out from the crowd?

One simple piece of advice, obviously almost like a cliche, but first impressions do count. Go up there, make an impression, say hello, shake their hand firmly, and start a discussion rather than hanging back and waiting for the employer to approach you.

Mindfulness in the Office

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mindfulnessI never realized the importance of thought, presence, and objectivity until I began working as a Monitoring and Evaluation intern. I specifically asked for the position due to my desire to learn and experience a new side to the nonprofit sector- however, I found myself lacking motivation and inspiration within days. My head was reeling with numbers, most of which I had no connection to and no passion for. I began to doubt whether I was in the right place, doing the right thing, or just doing something wrong. The human mind can run with negative thoughts like no other, and I allowed mine to take me on a turbo-speed downward spiral. This is when I realized- I needed to find fulfillment in my mountains of Excel spreadsheets.

Although I have received training on mindfulness and touched on the concept in a few of my Northeastern courses, I have never let myself practice mindfulness for more than a few hours. In my mind, mindfulness was something I did to take myself away from the stresses and difficulties of college life for only a brief period of time. This is where I was wrong.

Mindfulness is a way of moving throughout your days, weeks, months and even years. It is the practice of active thinking, perceiving and observing without opinions. Instead of looking at mindfulness as an escape, I have started to embrace mindfulness as a new constant in my life- including in my office.

What is important about staying mindful in the office is to be completely present in every moment, keep your thoughts objective, and to practice compassion towards yourself and your coworkers. These are habits that have to be learned. Although it may be difficult at first to stay focused and attentive on seemingly minute tasks, it will soon become learned and normal. I admit that I am not yet fully mindful during my entire workday, however these practices have already allowed me to find hidden gems in my work that my previous judgements and perceptions kept me from seeing. I have also become aware of compassion towards myself, my coworkers, and my work itself. Not only has this taken some weight off of my shoulders, it has permitted meaningful connections to enter my life in unexpected places. And as much as it surprises me to say this- I think Excel and I are becoming friends.

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.

3 Tips to Maximize Week One in the Workplace

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Rose pic 2_Fotor_CollageI’ve officially made it through week one at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador and I have to say, it has surpassed every expectation I had. The community here is unlike anything I have ever seen – being some of the only Americans here breeds a strong sense of camaraderie. I feel extremely lucky that I have been welcomed so warmly into the community, both professionally and personally.

Maximizing your first week in the office is incredibly important. It sets the tone for the rest of your co-op and you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot. Here are three tips to get the most out of your first week and to set you up for a great co-op!

1. Soak in everything that is going on around you.

Starting a new job, wherever it is, means there are tons of new things to take in. You have to learn how the office runs, what is expected of you, who are the key players in the organization, and where basic things (like the bathroom and the cafeteria) are. Compared to Capitol Hill, where I worked for my first co-op, Embassy Quito is small. There is little opportunity to get lost, but the amount of other things to learn is vast. I spent most of my first week trying to figure out exactly how everyone fits in to the Embassy structure and what each office does. Even though it can sometimes be hard to ask your new co-workers to explain the basics of what they do, it shows that you are interested in getting to know your new surroundings and the work that is going on all around you.

2. Meet everyone you can and start to build important relationships.

Your new co-workers are the start of your new network. It is critically important that you start to build these relationships as early as possible. Whether you have four months or six on co-op, time will go by quickly. You don’t want to wait until your last week to start building relationships with your co-workers in order to get a good letter of recommendation. Meeting your colleagues early on will not only provide you with a strong base for networking, but it will also make your work experience more enjoyable.

I was able to sit down and meet with the US Ambassador to Ecuador on my second day in the office and it gave me the confidence I needed to ask to sit down with the other department heads to learn about what they do every day.

3. Be flexible about your assignments, but don’t be afraid to speak up

Learning about what exactly you will be doing on co-op is a very exciting time. You might not get to do a lot of actual work your first week as your employer gets everything set up for you. This was especially true for me this week – my office had to schedule briefings and meetings for me, figure out how to set up all my computers and email, and show me around the Embassy compound.

Understand that as the co-op or the intern, you are most likely at the bottom of the office hierarchy. Take the work that is given to you, even if it not what you originally expected, and make sure you do it to the best of your ability. This will show your supervisors the quality of your work and instill confidence in them about the work you are capable of. Speak up if there is something you see going on in the office that you want to be a part of. Don’t expect that people will read your mind about your interests; you have to let them know what you want to work on.

This week I’ve been able to work on research about NGO funding to Ecuadorian programs, but I was able to sit down with my supervisors and discuss my interests in issues affecting disadvantaged populations. Now that they know what I want to work on, we are talking about the research I can do on human rights abuses in Ecuadorian prisons or the issues surrounding indigenous populations.

No matter what kind of job you’re starting, keep an open mind about your workplace and be open to whatever work comes your way!

Rose Leopold is a third-year political science major currently on international co-op with the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador. Prior to this experience, Rose spent her first co-op in the office of Senator Elizabeth Warren in Washington, D.C. Follow Rose’s adventures through her blog justsittingontopoftheworld.wordpress.com and on Instagram @roselandis.

Minding the Gap

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"Before rush-hour at Siam Square in Bangkok, Thailand."

Before rush-hour at Siam Square in Bangkok, Thailand.

Bangkok is a city that will spellbind you. With its unique blend of new and old, modernity and tradition, the juxtapositions are very much tangible and scattered all throughout Bangkok’s limits. Here, you’ll find yourself at the intersection of some of the world’s most stunning and luxurious shopping destinations and some of the world’s most beautiful and sacred temples – both common places to find tourists and transplants like myself.

“We planned on coming to Thailand for a short time, but we just ended up never leaving.”

There is no shortage of Anglophones or English speakers that will help you navigate your way around the skytrain in the rare event you find yourself lost in getting to Siam Square or anywhere along Sukhumvit Road. And despite the city’s intimidating infrastructure, people always seem to know where they are going, and drivers never seem to stop for the average pedestrian. (You have been warned).

My observations have been limited to my own constraints and have remained primarily visual for the short time I’ve been here. Unable to articulate conversational responses in Thai, it’s been difficult to communicate with family and new friends in a truly sensible fashion. Sure, basic exchanges between myself and aunts and uncles happen – but their wisdom, advice, and guidance stay filtered by the language barrier.

Public health is a discipline entrenched in communication, collaboration, and interdependence. Its practice requires intense coordination, all catering to the dynamic and ever-changing health needs of individuals, communities, and populations. Public health responses set the stage for impactful scientific, political, and social advances to occur.

My co-op experiences in Surin (a rural province of Thailand bordering Cambodia) and at the College of Public Health Sciences, Chulalongkorn University will be interesting to say the least. With a serious deficiency at hand, I’ve been at grips with how exactly to overcome my lack of language skills.

Certainly, learning Thai will be at the top of my agenda – but in the interim, I’ve realized a much more meaningful skill to employ, not only in the workplace, but with my non-nuclear family as well.

In a broken combination of Thai and English – I bashfully asked my uncle for a ride to the Bang Wa BTS station so that I could meet up with some friends. With a grin and a pat on the back, he consented. We hopped in the car and made our way to the skytrain. The 20-minute ride was long. Stumbling in silence having one fleeting conversation after the other, we were lost in translation. It was frustrating. In the background, Thai-pop music played on the radio – but my uncle was quick to change it. Carefully, he turned the dial as he leaned his ear closer to the speakers on the car door.

With satisfaction, he settled on American rap music. My uncle then turned to me as if looking for approval. I smiled.

As I exited the car, my uncle’s gesture followed me into the cabin of the skytrain. I’ve thought about it quite a bit. In looking forward to the next few months, these non-verbal skills will take me far at the clinic and in the field. Paying close attention to detail, reading body language, and approaching every situation with a calculated sensitivity are elastic in their applications. Having to find small ways to connect and convey feelings of compassion, understanding, and commitment similar to my uncle’s actions have made me more conscious and aware of my own.

John is a 4th year health sciences student at The Bouvé College of Health Sciences. With a nose for exploration and travel, John will be writing from Southeast Asia about his experiences on co-op in Surin and Bangkok, Thailand. There, he’ll be volunteering in community clinics, in addition to conducting public health research at Chulalongkorn University. Follow his adventures on Instagram @johnsirisuth.

Why Your Online Personal Brand Matters

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

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

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

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

Here are 5 ways to prepare yourself for the journey – 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look for Haylee’s posts every other Tuesday.

How to Start a New Semester Strong

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This guest post was written by Scarlett Ho, a third year International Affairs and Political Science major with a minor in Law and Public Policy.

The first few weeks of school, coming back to campus for the spring semester can be exciting and rejuvenating. However, after having enjoyed a much-deserved winter break, students might find it hard to adjust to their new class schedule. (Especially when the winter weather in New England is so uninviting). No matter what grades you got last semester, this is the chance to start anew. Here are a few tips on how to start a new semester strong and to get the most out of your college experience.

1. Plan Ahead:

We have all heard this before: First week of classes start, and we think they’re easy and manageable. We waste our time on random things until realizing days before, an assignment is due. So, we pull an all-nighter and as you can imagine, the final grade turns out to be a disaster. How can you ensure this does not become a vicious cycle?

Read the course syllabus

Since the first week of school just started with new professors and the course syllabus introduction, take time to read it in detail. Highlight assignment deadlines, pay attention to required readings and examination dates and put them on your calendar. Clarify with the professor if needed.

Define workload

Once you understood the syllabus and know your deadlines, how do you go about planning your semester? If a term paper/project is due at the end of the semester, the easiest way is to break the task into smaller chunks, which you could tackle little by little. Create to-do lists and long-term goals to guide you along the way and keep track of progress. For instance, if you got a paper assignment, this is what the to-do list can look like:

  1. Research and pick topics/research questions
  2. Meet up with professor to discuss in detail
  3. Go to the library for academic books/journals
  4. First draft due
  5. Go to Northeastern Writing Center/Peer advising
  6. Revise
  7. Finish the essay
  8. Proofread

2. Maintain a Neat Environment:

According to a study by Princeton University Neuroscience Institute, a cluttered and chaotic environment restricts your ability to focus. As such, a clean and organized working desk, good lighting and room setup are crucial in determining productivity. Even when you look at your co-op workplace, things are kept at a minimal and the office is usually well ventilated with sufficient light.

Make sure you maintain a neat dorm/apartment to have a conducive environment for studying. Set aside small chunks of time or work between breaks to clean up and put away unnecessary things. If the setup of the room is a problem, try going to the library.

3. Get Involved With Campus Activities:

While academic classes are important, school clubs and organizations are also a good way to establish a connection with the school and build up your resume with leadership positions. Since most jobs focus a lot on your ability to interact with others, getting started with school organizations can be a good way to demonstrate you are a team player. In my previous interviews, I was asked questions such as, “Tell me a time when you had a problem with one of your team-mates and how did you resolve that?” Getting involved on campus not only gives you the experience of working with peers, it also opens doors for you and prepares you for the real world.

The other aspect of getting involved is by helping a professor do research. Was there a class you have taken before that fascinates you and aligns with your professional interest? If so, get in touch with the professor and see if you can help them out in anyway. Professors can be great mentors that can guide you along the way throughout college.

So be sure to take advantage of what Northeastern has to offer, both academically and socially, and make the most out of your college experience!

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.

Photo Source: Yellow Page College Directory

Biology and English: Making a Combined Major Work

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duel major

This guest post was written by Sarah Sherman, a combined English and Biology major here at NU. 

Choosing a major is a unique experience for everyone. For a lucky few, it is barely a choice at all. There are those who have wanted to be doctors or teachers or business managers since they were young, and who understand what academic roadways they want to travel to get there.  However, for many people, (including myself) the journey is rarely straightforward.

I entered Northeastern as an Undeclared student, and although I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted, I knew that I was fascinated by  Biology and English.  For a while my thought process alternated between trying to figure out which one I wanted to focus on and trying to figure out if it was possible to double major in Biology and English.  I soon found out that the latter wasn’t feasible without overloading classes for at least one semester or by taking classes for more than eight semesters, neither of which appealed to me. Despite this realization, I still felt no closer to making a decision.  This brings me to my first bit of advice-never underestimate the value of figuring out what it is you don’t want to do.  Sometimes a decision doesn’t come in a flash of inspiration or from a deep inner knowledge of what it is you want.  Sometimes it’s as simple as exploring around and figuring out the things you don’t want to do, until you hit on something that ignites your enthusiasm.

My first breakthrough came when I was attending an Undeclared event, and I had the opportunity to talk to the head of the English Department. I mentioned how I’d been struggling to decide whether I wanted to study Biology or English. She replied, “Why not do a combined major with the two?”  “I can do that?” I asked.  “I don’t see why not” she said.  I would later learn that a combined major was different from a double major in some important ways.  A double major is two degrees, and involves completing all of the courses for each one.  A combined major is one degree, and some of the courses from each discipline are removed to make a more compact curriculum. It also includes an interdisciplinary “bridge” course, making it easier for the student to understand how their two fields of study connect and interact. This brings me to my second piece of advice-don’t be afraid to talk to anyone and everyone at the university about what it is you’re interested in or looking for.  They are likely to be much more familiar with the resources and opportunities that are available than you are.  You may end up learning about possibilities that you didn’t even know existed!

This five minute exchange started me on an almost two year journey to pursue the education that I was passionate about. Although the combined major I wanted did not yet exist, I knew there was a process in place for creating it.  This process included countless meetings, paperwork, curriculum revisions, and several roadblocks.  This brings me to my third piece of advice.  When you find what it is you’re looking for, pursue it with persistence, patience, and passion. The idea that I was so excited about-a new major combining English and Biology-often came across to others as strange and sometimes even nonsensical.  However, I knew it was what I wanted.  I stood my ground even when I could sense disapproval from others.  I may have been met with skepticism at first, but I wasn’t met with a “no” or “we simply can’t do that”.  So I kept pushing forward. The journey was long and sometimes discouraging, but it was worth it because I had found my passion.

Your own journey to declaring a major might be more conventional than mine, or perhaps even less so.  No matter what the case, it is important to keep in mind one overall truth-there is no one “right way” to land yourself a certain future.  In talking with professors and with other adults in the working world, I have learned that there are multiple paths that lead to the same destination.  The important thing is to do something that you get excited about, and to do it well.

Sarah is a third year student at Northeastern University pursuing a Combined Degree in Biology and English. She has completed one co-op at the Boston Center for Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine. She traveled to Italy in the summer of 2013 for a Dialogue of Civilizations, and is looking forward to traveling again during an ASB trip to the Dominican Republic this March.  Contact Sarah for more information about her combined major or her experiences at sherman.sa@husky.neu.edu.

Image Source: Carol Simpson Cartoon Work and Illustration; I want to graduate with a dual major…fiction writing and corporate accounting.

3 Things to Bring to a Career Fair

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With the spring semester getting started and many seniors diving head first into job searches, career fairs can be an excellent resource for feedback and networking. Preparing for a day of talking to recruiters and professionals can boil down to what to bring with you on the Big Day.

  1. Your Resume — Bring several copies of your resume on nice, heavy-weight paper. And by several copies, I mean somewhere close to 10. You won’t hand your resume to every person you meet, but having them readily available for the companies you click with can get the ball rolling on potential employment. Before you go and hit print, make sure you’ve double-checked your resume to include the most up-to-date information and reviewed our resume writing guide.
  2. Note Pad and Pen — I’m a note taker. Everywhere I go, I’m jotting something down. At a career fair, you’ll find yourself in situations when you need to take down contact information or create a list of the companies you liked and why you liked them. Making lists of employers that interest you as well as why can help you after the career fair when you sit down to start researching and applying to positions.
  3. A Game Plan — Alright, I’m serious about this one. Before you even think about putting on your tie or heels, research the companies attending the event. Take that note pad and pen from above and make yourself a list of the companies you definitely want to talk to at the event along with a list of questions to ask each. When you head into the career fair, go from the bottom to the top of that list, that way you can shake off the jitters before stepping up to the booth of your top three employers!

Your best bet for keeping these items organized is a folio. Have it all set to go the night before in one convenient place can keep a lot of the stress and hassle to a minimum.

Looking for the next career fair or employer networking event? This Friday, January 27th come out to the Senior Career Conference. The Spring Career Fair will be held on Thursday, February 5th. See you there!

(Here’s a look at what the Fall 2014 Career Fair looked like!)