Things I Would Tell My Pre-International Co-op Self

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doctor-563428_1920As a non-traditional co-op, the internship I took part in for my first co-op in Uganda was not as structured as those you might find in the US. I decided my working hours, chose how long I wanted to stay in which department, and picked the physicians I wanted to shadow. Although I emerged from my co-op relatively successful, there were several things I wish I knew or was told before my first day in the hospital.

Ask questions. Ask a lot of questions. In my co-op, there was minimal guidance around the hospital from the local coordinator of the program I went through. I realized that I would have to find my way around during my time there, and no one was going to guide me throughout the duration of my co-op. During that time, I realized how important it was to ask questions. Everyone was extremely helpful and willing to answer them, no matter how embarrassing they were or how clueless I sounded asking them. In a new working environment, people actually appreciate that you want to learn about their system and ask questions in return, promoting an environment of information exchange.

Don’t judge. This sounds obvious, but it is difficult to maintain a completely objective view when standards are so different from what you’re used to. Especially coming from a first-world country like the US, a lot of us take things for granted and don’t realize how different situations are in other countries. Absorb as much as you can and do what you can to help, but don’t criticize the system that you are not a part of. Instead, observe, analyze, and come up with tentative solutions to problems you witness around your environment. What simple, sustainable solutions might there be to obstacles you see around your workplace?

Adapt. I cannot emphasize this point enough. In an area of high poverty and low development, I had to constantly reframe situations, recreating what is “normal” in my head. Although things might be overwhelming at first, try not to see giving up as an option. Worst comes to worst, you might not enjoy your co-op, but in the grand scheme of things, it is only four to six months of your life. Use this time to step out of your comfort zone, give yourself time to overcome culture shock, and document your time so that you have something to look back on.

An international co-op is an exciting and ambitious adventure to pursue, so cherish the time you have and the invaluable lessons you learn along the way. When you return from co-op, reflect on your growth, remember the things you’ve learned, and share your experience with others.

Tis the Season to Job Hunt

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Job hunting is super stressful, at least for me. I’m sure I’m not alone in this sentiment. I feel that it’s so hard to find the right places to apply to and I don’t want to waste time interviewing for something I’m not actually interested in. Here’s how I’m working on it and hopefully some ways we can all benefit from:

Read, more reading, and a bit more. When looking at a job description, it can be very vague or super descriptive, and maybe something in between. It’s hard to find out exactly what you’ll be doing from just looking at a description. It helps to research the position on the internet – you’ll probably get some testimonials online as well as learn more about the role in that specific company.

Company matters. Potentially just as, if not more, important than the job itself is the company culture. You have to want to work somewhere in order to want to do your job. That “About us” tab on an employer’s website has a vast amount of information about what the company stands for, leadership, missions, achievements, even how they got started. It’s a good place to get a feel for the potential employer before you interview – and it shows that you did your research beforehand.

Questions. Ask questions in the interview about the company, your specific role, your interviewers’ roles, etc. It’ll teach you more about what you can do, where you’ll be, and what others do in the company, which may shed some light on whether or not this is somewhere you can see yourself working.

So get out there and hunt away! Use the time in the application process to really learn a lot about the company and position so that you can find the right place for you.

What We Can Learn from Supergirl

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supergirl-cast-kara-143921If you watch much TV, you’ve probably heard that the comic book hero Supergirl now has a television series.  For those who are unfamiliar with the show, here are a few lines from Wikipedia:

“Twenty-four-year-old Kara Zor-El (Supergirl), who was taken in by the Danvers family when she was 13 after being sent away from Krypton, must learn to embrace her powers after previously hiding them.”

Supergirl’s defining characteristic is her power. So the iconic image of Supergirl shows her in a power pose, the same pose often struck by her cousin Superman as well as by Wonder Woman.  It’s no random coincidence that these superheroes stand up tall, arms akimbo, taking up space and asserting their right to do so. Not only does this posture make you look powerful, it alters your body chemistry to make you feel powerful too.

Wait, what? Yes, the way you sit or stand influences your hormonal balance, specifically the levels of cortisol and testosterone. Cortisol is a hormone released when you feel stressed and which increases your feelings of anxiety. Testosterone is a hormone that promotes feelings of confidence and tolerance for risk, and is present in both men and women.  So a person who has low cortisol and high testosterone circulating in his or her blood is biologically predisposed to feel more assertive, better able to handle pressure and less stressed.

This link between body posture and confidence was discovered by Amy Cuddy, a Harvard University researcher.  She and her colleagues took saliva samples from volunteers before and after they had held either a high power pose or a low power pose for two minutes.  Like the Supergirl stance, high power poses are open, relaxed, and involve expanding arms and legs to fully occupy the space around you.  Low power poses are closed and guarded, and involve shrinking into the smallest amount of space possible.

The results of this study were striking.  High power poses increased testosterone by 20% and decreased cortisol by 25%.  Watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk to hear the details of this work.

What this means for you is that standing like Supergirl for two minutes before an interview or a presentation can significantly improve your performance.  This takes a little planning to find a restroom or other quiet place to hold your pose; two minutes and you’re good to go.  Try it, this really works. Just be sure to avoid the kryptonite.

 

Image credit to newsrama.com

Planning in the Present

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Ever think of what’s going to happen next? Whether it be that graduation is upon you in a few months or you’ve finished up an employment position and are unsure of where to go next, the future can be a terrifying place. But we have the present to make plans, to determine what is we want to do, and what direction we’re interested in moving in.

Decide if you enjoyed what you’ve done. If so, keep at it! Find a job, degree program, or simply keep at it. If you love what you’re doing, it won’t be too hard to find something you want to do. But if you aren’t in love with your job, your studying, or an aspect of your life, it can seem impossible to make that change. But you can.

Research, research, research. We live in a world dominated by the internet, meaning we actually have access to tons of information at the touch of our fingertips. Take some time to explore the options out there for you. It might be continuing education, a start-up you’re interested in, or a new job posting that caught your eye. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there about fields we may have never known existed, so take advantage of the internet and do some research.

Don’t put your eggs in one basket. As great as it is to be confident in one’s future, putting all of your eggs in one basket can (not in all cases) backfire. It’s natural to have some variety, which can help ground our future. A back-up plan makes us able to chase our dreams without worry. Put the effort in to apply to more than one program, job, location. It’ll not only give you extra experience interviewing, but you might actually find an opportunity you would not have considered otherwise.

The future is a scary and unknown place, but with a little of planning in the present, it doesn’t have to be.

Interviewing With Confidence

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Interview-tips-10Mark Twain once said, “To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.” Here’s how I would apply this to job seeking: Be ignorant of the paralyzing fear and contrived impossibilities that will prevent you from achieving your goals, and run toward your dreams with total confidence that you will succeed.

These are words to live by when it comes to interviewing. Your interviewer has a limited amount of time to get a feel for whether you have the skills and drive to succeed in their organization. So, your job is to confidently prove to them you do. Confidence by its very nature implies competence, and that’s the message you want to send the interviewer.

Here are several ways you can demonstrate confidence during an interview:

  1. Come prepared to share a few insights about the company that align with your career objectives and ideals. Preparation will instill a sense of confidence in you that is authentic!
  2. Dress the part. Your interviewer should be able to look at you and think, this person not only looks capable, he or she looks like they already fit in our organization.
  3. Shake hands with poise and sincerity. While you may feel like a bag of nerves on the inside, your interviewer doesn’t have to know it. A firm handshake will convey confidence.
  4. Maintain good eye contact with your interviewer, especially when answering questions. This displays confidence in what you are saying.
  5. Keep your body language in check. Don’t fidget, slouch, lean back or stiffen up. A relaxed, upright posture portrays confidence.
  6. Speak with enthusiasm and interest. If you tend to quiver or go monotone when you are nervous, this is an area you will need to practice. How you say what you say is important!

Confidence will take you a long way in your career—but it must start with the interview!

Ashleane is a third year Communications major from Miami, FL. She enjoys ballet dancing , exploring the sights and sounds of Boston, and literature. Check her out onTumblr!

Walk, Don’t Run.

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wood-nature-person-walkingWhen interviewing for a job, it can be so nerve-wracking. You’re being interviewed, but remember that an interview is two-sided. You have to be the right fit for the company as well as the company being the right fit for you in this time of your life. It’s stressful, having to decide if this is right for you at this time. So take it one step at a time, walking. Do not rush the process because being sure about an opportunity is essential in finding the right job.

There are times where a job is great, but the company is not a good fit for you. Believing in the company and their mission is extremely important. You are searching for the place you will call home for 40 hours a week – make sure the company culture is just as great as the job itself!

As crazy as it sounds, getting a job offer does not mean you have to say yes. It’s so tempting to say yes to the first opportunity, and often times, people do. However, this can lead to passing up a better choice that might be down the line for you.

If you do decide to say no and hold out for a better opportunity, expressing your gratitude the employer who has offered you a job is essential. You might want to work there in the future, so keeping a good rep is key. Be sure to thank the employer for the consideration and briefly explain that you are simply choosing to pursue another opportunity. Say no, but be nice about it.

So that being said, walk, don’t run. Don’t jump at an opportunity if you know something else better may be waiting out there for you. It might be a better job, a better location, a better company culture, or something else. Make it the best fit for you.

Rethinking “Back to Square One”

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Elf, Will Ferrel

To some, December  also means watching Elf on repeat!

Well, it’s here. It’s December which means its only another two more weeks until final exams and then BAM…Christmas and New Years.

There have been some conflicting reports on the job market as of late. As a graduating senior this May – I’ve been on the hunt for any signs of opportunity and I’m at a loss.

Only a few weeks ago, Lindsay Gellman of the Wall Street Journal authored an article titled, Class of 2016 Graduates May Step Into Millennial’s’ Best Job Market Yet. The genesis of this reporting may have spawned from a survey’s results conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (known as NACE) where 201 employers stated that they were planning on hiring 11% more graduates this coming year than they had done so previously.

Earlier this year Lydia Dishman of Fast Company profiled the graduating class of 2015 forecasting that they’d hit some turbulence in finding secure career opportunities. Dishman cites that individuals, “between the ages of 17-24 have historically been hit with high unemployment”. Comparing the class to recent graduates pre-2008 economic crisis, Dishman highlights that current data shows that 10.5% of graduates are neither enrolled in graduate programs or employed, whereas in 2007, this figure was 8.4%.

What could this possibly mean!?

Behind all these inflated, conflated, deflated, and any other word containing the suffix –flated numbers lies, well, the applicant.

Truth be told, I’m not necessarily looking for a job when I graduate in May. I’ve still got another year (go Huskies!) to compete my MPH with the program here. I’ll most likely be able to sustain a part-time job, do a little bit of research, and complete my full-time studies post May 2016 with no problems whatsoever. So why go through all of the fuss of studying the job market etc. etc.??

Upon my return to the United States a renewed sense of responsibility and opportunity dawned upon me, as it does to many students as they begin their fall studies. This energy and this desire to not only perform at a high academic standard, but to contribute new ways of thinking, how to analyze problems, and offer novel solutions is something that, well…is something that we should consider to develop and maintain (especially over the course of the semester…yes even during midterms and finals).

Maintaining and developing the constant flow of information and the transmission of data through language, art, and science doesn’t have to be such an intimidating endeavor either. It’s easy to get caught up in the personal dilemmas, the trials and tribulations of coursework, and all of the other things you’ve probably got on your plate. More often than not, what’s sacrificed is our curiosity, our creativity, and our drive when we’re faced with the challenges associated with the thick of the semester.

We’ve all heard it – “Well, it looks like we’re back to square one”.starting line

When faced with a failure, and faced with a new beginning as a result of this ‘failure’, we tend to frame ourselves and our metaphysical position in space in perhaps the most negative and backwards vantage point possible.

I’d like to offer a redesign of this phrase – back to square one.

We instead are always at square one.

Imagine the things we could do or the things we could achieve if we approached everyday like it was the beginning of a new semester? Imagine the things we could achieve if we realized that we are in a constant state of learning, and if we fed this intellectual hunger? It’s pretty wild.

So, I guess going back to the whole job thing. Don’t sweat it. With each trial and error is an opportunity to begin again with a nuanced approach, with a redesigned strategy, with a new line of thinking. Be an applicant that’s the truest form of a lifelong learner, find the opportunities, stay informed, approach the process like it’s the first day of school. Stay at square one.

This post was written by Student Contributor, Jonathan Sirisuth. Follow him on instagram.

Healthy Eating and Nutrition at the Office

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Do you find yourself craving unhealthy foods mid-morning or mid-afternoon during your work day? Do you need to eat something every few hours in order to keep your energy level and motivation up? Well then I have healthy tips for you to use when this happens!

My Senior Year Superlative of “Biggest Eater” perfectly portrays my eating habits. Even though I just had my 5th year high school reunion the Superlative has stuck with me and been my biggest enemy. In High School I was extremely busy and active with sports (Cross Country, Basketball, and Lacrosse). Now that I am in Graduate School I find myself really busy with school, work, and my internship, leaving little time for working out.

Dodie keeping the "Biggest Eater" title alive at the office with a healthy lunch!

Dodie keeping the “Biggest Eater” title alive at the office with a healthy lunch!

In order to stay healthy without being as active I have taken the alternative root of attempting to eat healthier (attempting being the key word here). If you’re anything like me then let me give you a few tips to eating right during the work week! (Yes I am human and treat myself on the weekends- you should too- in moderation at least!)

  1. Eat a healthy breakfast (preferably with protein). Protein is great for the morning- eggs, banana, yogurt, wheat toast & PB are all simple options to get you ready for the days work.
  1. Eat healthy snacks throughout the day. I always meal prep and make sure to pack healthy snacks such as fruit salad, smoothie, almonds or granola bars that I can eat mid-morning and mid-afternoon when I get a craving to eat something bad. Try to make sure you eat only when you’re hungry, not when you’re bored!
  1. Eat a health lunch. I eat a delicious salad every day for lunch. This may seem like a lot of work but I just prepare five salads every Sunday that way I can grab them and go in the morning. Make sure that your lunch is hearty and filling enough!
  1. Hydrate, hydrate, and then hydrate some more. I always have a water bottle in arms reach away from me. There is nothing better than filling up on water and staying hydrated!
  1. Fill up on drinks like tea and seltzer. Tea and seltzer are a great way to fill you up when you run out of health snacks and develop a craving.

Prioritizing Your Life

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Ever feel like you have a to-do list that is 50 pages long and only 24 hours in a day? Chances are you aren’t alone in this dilemma. Whether it is exams or projects in university or feeling the pressure in the workplace, it’s so important to know what is top priority, especially when all of it seems important.

Write it all down. Take a blank sheet of paper and write down everything you have to do that day. It might take some time to do, but seeing it all in one place helps. You’ll be able to rank things in order so it’ll be easier to tackle that long list.

Numbers. Give everything a number. And yes, I do mean everything. It’ll be hard to decide for some, but assigning priority helps you realize what really is important that day. It’ll give you the space to focus on one task at a time. Play the number game with your to-do list. I guarantee not everything is top priority. This forces you to stop and examine what you’re doing; you’ll be better for it.

Break a big project down. Seeing an impending exam or due date is stressful. Instead of having one huge due date that’ll weigh you down, break it up into smaller pieces. For instance, if something is due in five days, do a quarter of it for the next four days and you’ll still have a day to spare for revisions or finishing up that last part.

Separate work from personal. Keep those lists separate. There is absolutely no need to have on your to-do list while at work to go grocery shopping or clean the kitchen at home. It’s not relevant and it messes with the mind! Split them. Not only will it be a shorter list on both ends, you’ll be able to focus on what really matters in that moment.

Cross it off. When you finish a task, cross it off! No need to have it on that list anymore.

Carry these tips into your life to help manage that planner of yours. It doesn’t have to be difficult – you can make it easier on your brain and more manageable on your workload.

Photo from http://michaelhyatt.com

Colette Biro is a 3rd year Biology and Mathematics major with a minor in Chemistry. She has worked in academic research at Northeastern and currently works in healthcare at Massachusetts General Hospital. 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 “Master of None” Can Help You Master Your Personal Brand

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aziz-ansari.0.0

Like most millennials addicted to Netflix and worshipers of the binge-watching religion, I spent my weekend breezing through Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix original series, “Master of None”. On the show, Aziz plays Dev, a struggling actor living in New York City. Dev delivers some thought-provoking lessons about life and careers (of course wrapped in a laugh-inducing package), which are easily translated into establishing a personal brand.

Creating your personal brand is an important step in your career, so jumpstart your journey to mastering your personal brand through these simple tips:

Be honest with yourself. When contemplating his future and whether or not kids are a part of it, Dev dives deeply and honestly into his mind to examine his thoughts and priorities. By honestly identifying both your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll able to not only find ways to strengthen your brand, but also identify ways to grow even more.

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Stay true to what you believe in. As an Indian American actor, Dev is often asked to play roles which require the use of a fake Indian accent. Even though it costs him roles, Dev decides this is something he’s not comfortable with. You know yourself better than anyone else. When you stay true to yourself and don’t try to be anyone else, you will organically reinforce your brand.

Keep learning. In one episode, Dev begins to realize he doesn’t know much about his parents’ childhoods or histories, so he decides to start learning their stories. Having a curiosity that allows you to keep learning – whether in an academic, professional, or personal setting – will help you gain a better understanding of what you’re capable of and can offer the world.

Always put your best foot forward. Upon receiving a last minute movie audition, Dev finds himself in a crowded coffee shop trying to audition via Skype. While it makes for a very funny scene, it is not a great example of how to present yourself. Especially with social media becoming a major part of a professional lives, make sure that the person you are online reflects how dazzling you are in person.

How have you mastered your personal brand? Do you have any tips you’d add to the list? Tell us in the comments or via Twitter!

Jessica Mertens is a senior studying Communication Studies, Business Administration, and International Affairs. With experience in PR, internal communications, and CSR from Metis Communications and Staples, Jessica is now in an eternal state of wanderlust at Travel + Leisure. Offline, you can catch Jessica exploring NYC, binge-watching Scandal, and planning her next world travels. Connect with Jessica on Twitter @jessica_mertens and LinkedIn.