How Do I Answer This: Tell me about a time you failed.

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Ahh, the good old’ behavioral interview question, the key to mastering interview prep is understanding why they’re asking you that particular question. What is the employer trying to get at exactly? If you keep that in mind, you can usually come up with a much better, more impressive answer. In this case, the employer doesn’t really care that you failed (everyone screws up sometimes), but rather how do you handle things when they don’t work out. They’re also confirming self-awareness, the ability to be humble and a little bit of your problem solving abilities here.

Like all behavioral interview questions, employ the STAR method to keep your answers concise. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Also, don’t spent too much time on the failure as much as you do on the reflection of why you think you failed and what learned/would do different next time. That’s really the important stuff the employer wants to know. Finally, try and pick an example that is professionally related, whether that is an example from co-op or an internship or even your part-time job. It tends to resonate more with the employer than a classroom example.

Example: A recent example is at my last co-op I was tasked with increasing out social media engagement by 7% across multiple platforms. To do this I brainstormed and implemented some really creative, out-of-the-box social media campaigns. To my disappointment, only one of the three really caught on and as a result I was three points shy of my 7% goal. My tendency is to dive right into projects, but what I learned from that experience is I should have spent a little bit more time researching our customer base and audience. I think a few relatively minor tweaks to the less successful campaigns would have really made a difference. I was sure to communicate this to my successor and had good, constructive conversation with my supervisor about this at my review. Looking back, it was a great learning experience for me as a young professional.

Kelly is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach. She is also the “blog master” for The Works. A self-proclaimed social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she likes experimenting with new technology to help clients define their personal online brand. Kelly graduated from Northeastern University (Go Huskies!) with a BA in communication studies and a MS in college student development and counseling. Tweet her @kellydscott4.

How to Make the Most Out of Your Summer

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With summer classes mid-way through and spring co-ops left with about a month, college students’ minds are inevitably shifted to a long-overdue summer vacation. After a semester long of hard work, we all deserve a nice break, where we enjoy the warmth of sunshine and good company with friends — after all, post-graduation this will all be a luxury for young working professionals. But while it is important to have fun and wind down, college students should also be taking advantage of a summer when they have fewer obligations with schoolwork to make the most out of it.

Here are a few possibilities you can try to keep yourself busy this summer:

  1. Find a Summer Internship/Job

It’s a no-brainer that summer internships ensure career success after graduation. After all, isn’t what Northeastern’s co-op program is for, to make sure that Huskies graduate with ample work experience to get ahead in the game? Regardless of your co-op experience, an extra summer will give your future employers an impression that you are driven, ambitious and willing to learn. Plus, who wouldn’t want extra cash even if it is part-time? Or even if it is just a summer job, be it in a coffee shop, restaurant or a country club, the skills and experience that you will learn to be crucial to building your character and financial success.

  1. Travel

When scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed or Instagram pictures, it is not unusual to see pictures of friends traveling for fun, studying abroad, and doing a dialogue. After all, “life is a book and those who don’t travel, read only one page.” Moreover, travel is crucial for us to understand and make sense of the world around us. The experience, history, culture and the people we encounter will help us discover ourselves and appreciate people different from us. If you are really serious about it, many travel agencies and companies with great deals, such as EF College Break, TravelZoo, and Expedia might be good sources to check out. Moreover, with the vast amount of Northeastern alumni and friends across the globe, it is easy to get connected or even crash at their places so you can save money here and there.

  1. Learn a new skill

Have you ever get passed over for a co-op because you didn’t know Adobe Photoshop or excel? While soft skills such as communication and writing are important in the workplace, hard skills are equally important in helping your application stand out. Consider spending this summer taking classes on acquiring or polishing a new skill (or even mastering a foreign language). From publishing, coding, building a website, to learning Adobe Photoshop, endless online courses and tutorials are at your fingertips. All you need is just a willingness to learn!

And of course, don’t forget to relax and wind down, because you deserve it! Just remember: Work Hard, Play Hard.

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.

How Do I Answer This: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

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“Uhh, good question”: A great way to buy yourself a second to organize your thoughts, not so great when you actually don’t know the answer to the interview question. Every Thursday, throughout the summer we’ll tackle a hard-to-answer interview question as part of our Summer Interview Crash Course series on the blog.

This week’s question:  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

“Um, working here?” Well, yes and no. This question is really trying to gauge how much you’ve thought about how this job will align with your long term goals. It should also speak to your professional ambition as well as your ability to think about both the short and long-term. Even if you picture yourself running your own business or perhaps in the interviewer’s shoes, you can’t really say those things out loud. I’d still suggest being honest about your ambition, but focus it more on how this position would support your long term goals. You can keep you answers relatively general, but be prepared if they decide to push for more details.

Example: Eventually I would love to be leading my own sales team. Based on my research and from talking to others in the industry, *name of company* really invests in the career growth of their employees and many people who start off in this position eventually move into a more managerial role.

You could then ask the interviewer to expand on the career trajectory of this role, but it is likely that they will take the lead and agree with you and tell you some success stories.

Kelly is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach. She is also the “blog master” for The Works. A self-proclaimed social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she likes experimenting with new technology to help clients define their personal online brand. Kelly graduated from Northeastern University (Go Huskies!) with a BA in communication studies and a MS in college student development and counseling. Tweet her @kellydscott4.

Our 5 Favorite (fun) Job Search and Career Sites

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With graduation over and summer beginning, it’s time for you recent grads (if you haven’t already) to begin turning your thoughts to getting that full-time job. Alumni looking for a new job and for rising seniors trying to get a jumpstart on the job search should also pay attention.  Here are the top five entertaining and informative job search blogs that can be a great resource for those embarking on the full-time job search.

  • The Muse: The Muse is a fantastic website that not only offers a blog that helps answer any career-related and job search questions, but also offers a robust job board, and a chance to look inside company offices before applying. Be sure to check out the free online classes section that can help you to learn new job skills that will enhance your resume.
  • Ask A Manager: The writer of the blog, Alison Greene, is a former chief of staff and consultant, and has successfully written a few well-received job search books. Alison’s pithy, hilariously sarcastic and blunt opinions about oddities and awkward occurrences in the workplace or on the job search are extremely entertaining to read and can give you great information as to how to navigate these situations should they happen to you.
  • Careerealism: Both job seekers and employers frequent Careerealism–it not only offers a blog with great career advice, but offers an area for employers to showcase their brand, share their story and discover great talent. By subscribing to Careerealism, job seekers can also access LinkedIn lab tutorials, Interview Prep tools, checklists and assessments.
  • Brazen Careerist: Brazen Careerist is a career networking site for ambitious young professionals, as it powers real-time online events for organizations around the world. Their interactive platform, Brazen Connect, is used by companies, professional associations and universities to expand how they recruit and connect with potential employees.  They also have a pretty great blog related to the job search that job seekers can subscribe to as well.
  • Undercover Recruiter: This blog is focused solely on career development processes and the job search. Topics for blog posts include: career management, interview tips, job search, tips and tricks from recruiters, resume & CV writing, and how to use social media in the job search.

So pick you poison and use these helpful sites to get cracking on that job search!

Ashley LoBue is an Assistant Director at Northeastern Career Development.  A Boston College graduate, Ashley has over 4 years of experience working in higher education and is a proponent for international and experiential education.  Ashley also enjoys binge-watching HGTV and aspires to be like the Property Brothers, Drew and Jonathan, as a possible secondary career. 

Work Your Side Hustle

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Life is more than the office and it lives outside the 9 to 5 hours. Sometimes we forget that the work can (and maybe should) end once you leave and head home. But not all work is, well, work. Let me explain..

When you’re working on something you are passionate about, how often do you lose track of time? Is there a passion or activity or thing outside of your day job that makes you happy and that you love to put work into? That is what I like to call your “side hustle”.

Side hustles come in a thousand forms. Whether you’re a yoga teacher after work hours, run a fashion blog, or have a passion for Instagramming the world around you — Congrats! You’ve found your side hustle.

But what’s the benefit of working on something that’s not, well, work? Let’s dive in:

Expand Your Creativity. By working on something other than your day-to-day, you can find yourself thinking and working in new ways. Injecting this newfound creativity into your work life can help you stand out in the workplace and develop new innovations or solutions.

Stress Relief. Sometimes it is hard to forget about that deadline or looming project, but when you have a task or passion outside of the workplace, you can shift gears and focus. Taking your mind off of your work can help to ease any stresses and let you come to work the next day fresh and ready to tackle any project.

Networking Outside Your Field. Getting out of the workplace for your networking can grow your horizons and reach beyond your field. If you’re an Instagrammer, for instance, going to an Instagram meetup and photo event can introduce you to great contacts in various walks of life and careers. It’s a great way to dive deeper into your side hustle and to meet people with similar passions, no matter their career field.

So, find your passion and get going on your own side hustle!

Tatum Hartwig is a senior Communication Studies major with minors in Business Administration and Media & Screen Studies. Tatum brings experience and knowledge in the world of marketing and public relations from her two co-ops at Wayfair and New Balance. Her passion revolves around growing businesses via social media, brand development, and innovation. You can connect with Tatum on Twitter @tatumrosy and LinkedIn.

Get That Daily Dose of Vitamin D

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It’s summer. Not officially, but I beg to differ since it’s so hot out lately! The worst part: you’re stuck at work or in class. Personally, I’ll stare at the window, hoping I can get outside, even if it’s only for a few minutes of fresh air.

It’s beyond important to treat our bodies well and getting the right dose of vitamin D is just a part of it. Vitamin D is crucial in proper bone health, and other body functions, as it helps absorb calcium, phosphate, and other minerals and vitamins. Staying out in the sun for a certain time every day sounds so easy, but add a hectic day of class, work, or a combination? Not so much. But here’s a few ways on how to make being outside easier, despite a busy schedule:

Workout. Go before work, go during lunch, go after work, just go. It’s finally nice out so exercising outside is a great way to get a workout done and get some of that essential vitamin D. If it’s really hot, do yourself a favor and try to go early in the morning. You’ll catch a great sunrise and beat the heat. If you plan on being outside for a while, put on sunscreen!

Eat lunch outside. Our days are often so hectic that we just eat lunch at our desk, in class, or somewhere else inside. Find a table or bench outside to eat your lunch at. Bring friends, bring a book, or even bring some work if you have to, but worry not, you’ll still be getting some fresh air and some sun.

Walk to or from work. It might mean you have to leave your apartment a bit earlier, but you’ll start your day with some sun. If you’re not a morning person, walk home from work. It’ll be a nice end to your busy day of being cooped up at the office.

There’s so many ways to get a bit more sun every day. No need to stay locked up in the classroom or at work all day long; take a break to catch some sun. You need it every day, so work to ensure you can get some rays of sunlight each and every day.

Colette Biro is a 3rd year Biology and Mathematics major with a minor in Chemistry. She is currently on her first co-op in a biology lab at Northeastern working on transgenerational immunity in social insects. Colette is passionate about running, November Project and being a Husky Ambassador. Feel free to reach out to her at biro.c@husky.neu.edu.

How professional organizations can help you

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black-and-white-city-man-peopleDo you know about professional associations, and how valuable they can be as both educational and networking tools?

A professional association is a non-profit group formed of individuals from a specific career or range of careers that focuses on education, training, and networking within their field. The goal of the association and its members typically is to keep up-to-date with new practices in the field, share ideas, and network with each other. Most associations have regular membership meetings, panel discussions, formal trainings by experienced members in the field, and social events. Many even have groups on LinkedIn, and sometimes you can join the LI group without being a dues-paying member of the larger organization.

Professional associations can be a powerful tool during your job search and ongoing career development. Not only do you learn more about the trends and topics in the field, but it’s a great opportunity to meet other professionals, and build or strengthen your network. Members often share job leads with the group, and are willing to give direct insight on potential positions. You can also find individuals who may be willing to meet with you for informational interviews, and advise you on your job search.

Many professional associations also have information on their website specifically for students or those exploring the field, and some even have events specifically targeted to students. For example, the New England Human Resources Association offers an annual career panel for students considering the human resources profession, and the American Institute of Graphic Artists typically hosts a portfolio review for soon-to-be or new college grads.  Most associations also offer discounted membership rates for students.

Ultimately, it’s a convenient way to meet multiple people from your field of interest.  Expanding your connections with professional peers is essential to your job search success, both in terms of their general advice and the potential to help you get your foot in the door of a particular company or job.

To find professional organizations in your field, try Googling “professional association” and your major or career path, for example, marketing, chemistry, nursing, etc.

Tina Mello is Associate Director of University Career Services, and has worked at Northeastern for over 10 years. Nicknamed the “information guru” by other members of the staff, she loves to research and read about various job/career/education topics. For more career advice, follow her on twitter @CareerCoachTina.

Work Smarter: Office Productivity Tips For Co-ops

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We all have those days when sending an email feels like dragging yourself through a mile of hot desert sand. It’s easy to hit a wall around 2 or 3pm, when your brain packs up her bags and takes the first train home regardless of how much you still have to do. Increasing your productivity has a huge effect on confidence and workplace satisfaction (you know how good it feels to cross an item off of your to-do list. It’s awesome). Here are a few tips to enhance your productivity this week:

Beat the crowd. By being the first one in the office, you can catch up on emails from the day before, schedule meetings, and get things done before other people arrive. This prevents you from feeling stressed-out or behind on your work throughout the day. This habit also illustrates your dedication as an employee, setting you up well for a raise or a promotion down the line.

Avoid the social media stare. I often fall into the trap of the social media stare – keeping one or two browser tabs for work, one for Twitter, one for Facebook, one for the blog. The social media stare is a source of constant interruption when you stop working for every Twitter interaction or Facebook notification. Close those windows to take advantage of your most productive hours.

Clump meetings together. It’s impossible to get things done when you have a meeting from 10-11am, a lunch meeting from noon-1pm, and a meeting at 2pm. When scheduling meetings, try to create clusters of meetings so you have a few hours at a time to get into a work groove. If possible, encourage your office or just your department to adopt one meeting-less day each week. This will allow for greater focus and more productivity.

Use two monitors. Just do it. Once you start using two monitors, you will be amazed that you ever got work done before. One screen is extremely limiting, especially when it comes to research, writing, and creating presentations. If you have the resources, adding a second monitor will greatly increase your productivity and ability to multi-task.

Take advantage of technology. You are always connected, so you should probably make the most of the innovative apps and tools that are available to you. Have to focus for a bit, but distracted by background sounds? Check out Simply Noise (www.simplynoise.com), a white noise generator that allows you to block out sounds around you so you can focus and be more productive. For an easy-to-use note-taking app, try Evernote. Perfect for list-makers, Evernote allows you to keep track of everything on your phone, tablet, and computer.

No matter what, you will hit difficult days when your efficiency seems to plummet and it feels like you can’t get anything done. Focus on these tips or make your own to improve the quality of your work without spending extra hours at the office.

Lindsey Sampson is a junior 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. Find her Tweeting at @lindseygsampsonand blogging about travel & career at http://moreawesomerblog.com/.

Ten Top Tips to a Winning Case Interview!

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picjumbo.com_HNCK3988Whether you’re studying Business, Engineering, or Computer Science, you may likely have to master the case interview.  Depending on the organization and your interviewer, it may either be the format of your whole internship or after graduation interview, or a part of your overall interview experience. Kudos to our employer partners and presenters as these tips have been adapted from Case Interviewing workshops presented by Liberty Mutual and Vistaprint, as well as from Northeastern University faculty presenters and a panelist who was a student Case Competition Winner.

Here are the Top Ten Tips to Ace Your Case!

1. How long do you have for your case?

Many employers will do a 45 minute or a 30 minute case question. Having an understanding of approximately what you have to work with for time is important.  It’s also absolutely fine to take 45 seconds to collect your thoughts before starting to tackle the question. Moreover, often, it’s expected!

2. What are some of the issues at the core of your case?

Be sure you understand the case. Does it pivot around a new market entry or product launch, a finance, technology, or innovation case, or does it have multiple overlaps to other areas? What framework are you going to use? While professionals sometimes disagree on the importance of deciding on a framework, identifying the business problem(s) at the crux of your case, as well as your hypothesis, helps you determine your strategy and a structure for your answer. This is true whether you are tackling a case as part of an internship interview, or for an awesome after graduation opportunity!

3. Ask questions and take notes.

Your interviewer will often give you the bare bones of a case, sometimes as little information as possible. They may take two to three minutes to provide an overview. You can help yourself to excel by asking good questions. Great questions include:  how are you measuring success? Is it solely profit or are there other metrics or criteria? What are some of the “barriers to entry”? Are the competitors across the street—literally? Do you need capital? What questions are priorities to ask versus optional? Asking questions, determining shared assumptions, and eliciting clarifying information demonstrates strong analytical skills. Expect some push back and be prepared to support your answers.

4. Put some math around it!

While your analytical skills are undoubtedly super, you’ll impress your interviewer more if you back up your answers by showing strong quantitative skills. Starting with a conceptual understanding of the case is fine. However, you can be sure your prospective employer is looking to see if you can do the math!

5. Show your strategic thinking abilities.

Case interviews allow applicants to shine when they can use their strategic thinking skills to adapt and change gears quickly in analyzing business situations.  Flexing your strategic thinking skills is important, no matter what type of interview you are on and it’s absolutely critical on internship or after graduation case interviews. While some questions are more brainteasers (“how many balloons would it take to fill this interview room”—a real question asked of an applicant!), the case questions we’re focusing on here are complicated with a lot of moving parts (“we’re launching a new water filtration product fall 2015 in xyz country which is a new market for us…”). Whether it’s a brainteaser, a case about a new product in a new market, or something completely different, let your prospective employer see the logic behind your thought process, as well as what solutions you arrive at. Show them how you break the case problem down.

6. Think holistically about the problem.

Although your case might be focused in one area, for example, finance, being able to “connect the dots” to other functions like marketing, supply chain, technology or innovation management, demonstrates your intellectual capital and versatility, as well as the value you would bring to that prospective employer. It illustrates your ability to anticipate how different choices may have different impacts and may change the recommendations you select. Thinking cross-functionally will allow you to showcase your abilities and provide a stronger answer.

7. It’s not always about the right answer, 

it’s about how you frame the analysis. It’s about making a connection with the interviewer and being the right person, not just for the job, but for the team and organization. It’s about being the professional you are, especially under the pressure of a case. In some cases there is no one right answer.  If it becomes apparent that you made a mistake, don’t panic! Admit your mistake. Stay focused and calm under pressure. Don’t assume you’ve lost the job. Employers tell us that many candidates who have made a mistake will still land that offer.

8. Do what helps you create the right space to be in before the interview.

Clear your schedule. Do you need to go to the gym? Do you need to review your notes? Don’t go to the interview hungry and expect your best brainpower. This is great advice given by one of my panelists during a case prep workshop. Implement what works for you and throw out the rest.

9. Picture yourself confident and successful.

What you can control, control, and release the rest. There is lots of ambiguity around an interview. You can’t prepare for everything so prepare as best as possible and then create the conditions of your success by relaxing into the interview, enjoying the intellectual challenge of the case, and staying confident that you’ll be successful.

10. Use Your Resources!  See: Case Interviews on the Career Development website which has Interactive Cases, a YouTube Case Interviewing channel, links to company websites that feature case interviews, and other resources!  Check with your professors! Glassdoor is another great resource for checking out types of questions candidates before you have been asked at that company. Leverage all your resources.

Now go out and crush your next case interview!

Ellen Zold Goldman is Senior Associate Director here at Career Development and liaison to the D’Amore McKim School of Business. She loves all things international, as well as all things Business.

Rekindle Your Motivation

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running highway sunset

Motivation is key. It is what drives us to what we love, to be who we are, and to take on challenges. Without motivation, we would not be who we are today. There’s a certain drive that exists deep inside of us that powers our everyday actions and decisions. That’s motivation.

It might be something as simple as a motivational poster or a Post-it note telling you to keep it up. Nonetheless, it keeps you going. I’m a person who needs motivation to keep going. When life gets rough, it’s what makes me do what I love. Whether I’m stressed from exams or an extremely busy day at work, I stay motivated, holding my head up high with passion in my eyes.

Here’s some ways to stay motivated and keep going:

Notes. Write something cheesy on a Post-it and put it at your desk or on your computer. It seems so silly, but it really does keep you motivated, and more importantly on task!

Music. There’s something great about an upbeat playlist. The quick beats and catchiness of it lets you enjoyably power through that stack of work. There’s no point in doing work if you don’t love it. Put on some tunes that you like; that alone will motivate you.

Treat yourself. Tell yourself after completing a certain amount of work that you’ll get a reward. It might be a break, a walk outside, or some candy. Regardless of what is, it’ll motivate you to get through the work you have set to do. It’ll also break down a huge stack of work into smaller, more manageable stacks. Two birds with one stone: tackle stress by reducing workload and provide a reward as motivation to get it done. Even better: it works.

Motivation is different for everyone, so take some time to find what drives you. Find a passion and work towards it. Set some time aside for yourself to discover your personal motivational factors and incorporate those into your life.

Power through.

Colette Biro is a 3rd year Biology and Mathematics major with a minor in Chemistry. She is currently on her first co-op in a biology lab at Northeastern working on transgenerational immunity in social insects. Colette is passionate about running, November Project and being a Husky Ambassador. Feel free to reach out to her at biro.c@husky.neu.edu.