How to Excel in Your Co-Op

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As most people jet off for spring break or head home, co-op students remain at their jobs. Whether or not you are enjoying your work, it’s a reality check that half of 6 months is gone- time really flies! So how can you make good use of the remaining time to excel and succeed at your co-op? Seize the opportunity to push yourself and make a lasting impression, from getting a callback to using this experience as a leg up, you will never know how this job will evolve in the future. Here a few tips based on my personal observation on how to do well:

1. Ask Questions

There are no stupid questions, so ask away if you need clarification on your assignments. Employers actually appreciate it, because first, it means you are thinking and proactive, as opposed to just performing the task passively. Second, it leads to fewer mistakes and unnecessary confusion that eventually lead to greater efficiency and productivity. Moreover, questions don’t have to be related to the tasks in hand. After assignments are completed, you can also ask how the project you were working on is being utilized in the company. What is good about asking these types of questions is that it allows you to understand more clearly your role and the impact you are making in the overall functioning of the company. Plus, this knowledge can also enhance the bullet points on your resume!

2. Make Friends with Co-workers

Do not underestimate the power of allies and friends in your office. This is very important, because having a good relationship with them will help you down the line, be it learning their ways of succeeding or observing office etiquette, culture, etc. Moreover, who knows, one day if you were sick, they will be the one feeling you on the details of a meeting or helping you out in something. It’s all about connections and networking after all. Even after you leave your job, they might be able to recommend you or say a few good words to enhance your career.

3. Dress the Part

Just as Oscar Wilde has once said, you can never be overdressed or over-educated. While there is some truth in this, my advice will be to dress the part, and to dress smart. Observe how your boss/supervisor dresses and follow suit. Each office is different, and the dress code differs by industry, so be sure you don’t stand out in a bad way. If you are not a morning person (like me), consider preparing the clothes you want to wear the night before, so you don’t have to spend time ironing it or deciding in the morning- when you are not fully awake, and it also saves time too.

 4. Ask for Feedback/ Evaluation

This is related to asking questions. Be sure to ask for feedback from time to time, and after an assignment is completed to reflect on your performance. Since it is mid co-op season, now is a good time to do that. Not only will it be useful for you to gauge yourself, but knowing how you do will also help you improve and add value to the remainder of your co-op.

5. Make a List of your Tasks

It is always wise to keep track of your tasks and assignments. When your co-op is completed and you are looking for a recommendation letter from your supervisor, this will be helpful in aiding them write it. Moreover, as you are compiling the list of things you have done during your co-op, you may find some areas, say social media, that you have not fulfilled according to your learning objectives. With the remaining time, if possible, you can ask for new ways to get involved.

Good luck everyone!

Scarlett Ho is a third year International Affairs and Political Science major with a minor in Law and Public Policy. During fall 2014, she studied abroad in Belgium where she interned at the European Parliament. The summer prior to that, she interned for Senator Warren on Capitol Hill, and previously Congressman Lynch in Massachusetts. She can be reached at ho.sc@husky.neu.edu for any questions ranging from resume writing, job searching to her experiences. You can also email her for article ideas, suggestions, and comments. 

Photo source: Young Upstarts

 

First Impressions, Or How Job Interviews Are Like Tinder

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tinder gifSwipe right or swipe left? Most users of the dating site Tinder take mere seconds to decide whether to connect with a potential partner or to banish that person to the reject pile.  Would you be surprised to learn that it doesn’t take a potential employer much longer than that to form a strong impression of a job candidate? Being invited to interview for a job means that you and just a few other candidates were chosen, possibly out of hundreds of other applicants, to make your case in person.  Given this chance, it’s important for your in-person performance to be as flawless as you can make it. And that begins, and unfortunately sometimes ends, with your first impression.

gross cher reactionIn one study, 33% of hiring managers surveyed said that they knew within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether or not they would hire a candidate. In the same study, conducted by Monster.com, 65% of bosses said that appearance could be a deciding factor when two of the candidates being interviewed are otherwise very similar.  Appearance includes not only clothing but hairstyle, hygiene, makeup and jewelry.

What you wear must fit well and be clean and in good repair, including your shoes. Select and examine your outfit before the interview so if cleaning or mending are in order, you will have time to do it.  If you’re planning to wear something new, make sure you remove the tags and stitching in the pockets or pleats. Be conservative with makeup unless the job you’re after requires big floppy shoes and a fake red nose.  Likewise, jewelry should be unobtrusive except if the norm for your industry says otherwise. Regardless of industry, skip the cologne or aftershave; you have no way of knowing whether any of your interviewers have allergies or sensitivities. If you smoke, you may not be aware of the tobacco smell clinging to your coat, clothing or hair, but your interviewer will be, and most likely will not be impressed.

Knowing what to wear can be tricky. Your goal is to dress like you belong in the organization where you’re interviewing, preferably on the more formal side. For consulting, financial services and legal positions, that means wearing a suit for both women and men.  In other fields, it is up to you to do a little sleuthing to find out what is the norm. You may look crisp and professional wearing your suit, but if you’re meeting with people in a much more casual environment, they could take one look at you and decide that you don’t understand their culture. Dressing up may not score in your favor if it isn’t what other employees do, since an interview is largely about determining fit.

When you walk into the interviewer’s office, be aware of your posture. Convey a confident attitude by standing up straight and walking purposefully. A natural-looking smile is also important, as are a firm handshake, a heartfelt “Pleased to meet you” and good eye contact.  Practice these things with a friend until they are second nature.

If this seems like a lot of work for the first 90 seconds of your interview, don’t forget that without that great first impression – swipe left! – your well-prepared interview talking points may fall on deaf ears.

Author Susan Loffredo began counseling NU students well before the iPhone was invented and owns socks that are older than the class of 2015. Email her at s.loffredo@neu.edu.

Image Source: Tinder Gif; Cher Gif

What should YOU be asking in an interview?

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notesLet’s face it — Interviews are nerve-racking. Everyone knows how to dress and that they need to research the company. We’ve all probably practiced answering typical interview questions, too! But what questions should you be asking when the tables turn and the interviewer says, “Now, do you have any questions for me?”

Here are my go-to questions and why I ask them in every interview:

Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?

It’s great to know about your coworkers, there’s no doubt about that. This question is mainly geared to give a better understanding of team structure and dynamics. However, the use “I’ll” shows a confidence in your ability to get the position and crafts an image in the interviewer’s mind of you working in that role.

What opportunities are there for growth?

Whether you’re a co-op student or interviewing for a full-time job, nobody wants a stagnant position. From this questions, you can discover how you can move up within a company or what additional responsibilities you can take on. This question also tells the interviewer that you are eager to work and to grow as an employee!

How does the company measure success?

While this isn’t the most common question to ask, it’s one of my favorites. Success is key to any business and knowledge of how the position can add to that is key.

What is the company culture like?

This is, without a doubt, my #1 question to ask. On paper, the position could be perfect you, but are you really the best fit for the company? Really take their answer into consideration, because company culture can affect your happiness, work, and success.

Keeping a Mentor, and Being a Great Mentee

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The biggest piece of advice I received when arriving at Northeastern my freshman year was, “find a mentor.” And this advice seemed to come from everyone- whether they be professors, advisors, friends, or sorority sisters. Finding a mentor is a process on its own, however, once you have found one it is just as important to maintain your mentor-mentee relationship. Here are some tips for sustaining a meaningful relationship with your mentor, and being a phenomenal, unforgettable mentee.

1. Be open.

This is not to say that a mentor should know every detail about you or your personal life. However, a mentor cannot guide you unless they know where you want to go. Be open about your goals, aspirations and dreams, and just be yourself. Remember that this goes both ways- so listen to what your mentor says about themselves. The more you both understand about each other, the more successful and purposeful your relationship will be.

2. Questions, questions, questions.

Many mentees feel as though it is impressive to constantly keep up with their mentor. However, this “fake it until you make it” attitude actually benefits you the least. Don’t forget why you sought out your mentor in the first place- to learn, grow and move forward in your field or in your studies. Embrace curiosity, and take advantage of your mentor’s knowledge and experience.

3. Be prepared.

Before any meeting with your mentor, keep these things in mind: What are your goals for this meeting? What questions do you have for your mentor? What needs to be done on your end, and what needs to be done on their end? Having a list of concrete objectives and actions when meeting with your mentor can go miles- it shows that you find your mentor important, and find their time and energy important as well.

4. Reciprocate.

Reciprocation is absolutely key to any relationship, and especially important in a mentor-mentee relationship. No mentor wants to feel taken advantage of or taken for granted. Watch the amount of time and effort your mentor puts into helping you, and give them that same time and effort back- and then some. Being a great mentee means valuing and respecting your mentor, and all that they do for you.

Preparing for a Case Interview

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What is a case interview?

As you prepare for co-ops, graduation, and beyond, it is likely you’ll come across case interview questions during the hiring process. These are questions that pose hypothetical problems to the interviewee to identify their ability to gather new information quickly, process the information, and make an informed decision. They are most often associated with management consulting and investment banking interviews, but can also be used by tech companies (like Vistaprint), to assess critical thinking skills for a variety of roles.

Here are a few examples:

How many bars of soap are used each week across the world?

How many eggs are sold annually in the United States? (This was asked of me during an interview with an advertising agency in Boston.)

If you owned a flying car company, how much would you charge per car?

How is a case interview different from a behavioral interview?

Case interviews differ from behavioral interview questions in that they are specifically designed to examine your thought process, while behavioral interview questions assess personality traits and past experience. Case interviews focus on what you’re able to do now instead of what has been completed in former roles. Being put on the spot this way can be intimidating for the interviewee, but there is a wealth of resources available that can prepare candidates to successfully navigate case interviews.

Case Interview Preparation Tips:

  • Practice
    • Just like anything else, getting better at case interviews requires practice. Case in Point is an excellent resource, as is good ol’ Google.
    • Keeping a notebook with your practice case notes in it is a good way to identify areas to improve and provides practical review material as an interview date approaches.
  • Focus on the Skills Needed for the Position
    • There are many different types of case interviews (marketing sizing, profitability, brain teasers, etc. – see a good list) that can be asked by a hiring company. It’s important to consider the type of position being sought when preparing for a case interview question.
    • A company looking to fill a financial analyst role is more likely to pose M&A, cost cutting, or profitability questions, while brain teasers are often used during engineering interviews. Know what to expect going in!
  • Research the Company
    • Before every interview it’s always a good idea to search for “[company name] interview questions” to see how other interviews been structured for past candidates. This can help identify what type of case questions are often posed based upon the position being sought.

Tips for During the Interview:

  • Confirm the Desired Answer
    • Before starting, it is critical to confirm with the interviewer what the desired answer looks like. You do not want to reach the end of the case and realize the answer is not what the interviewer is looking for.
  • State Assumptions Clearly
    • Stating assumptions clearly and out loud will allow the interviewer to follow your train of thought throughout the case. This is what they are most interested in; they want to know how you think.
  • Ask Questions
    • Asking questions demonstrates your ability to gather and digest new information – a key skill for any role.
    • Sometimes important information regarding the case is initially withheld and is only revealed if asked – so make sure to ask!
  • Simplify (and Check) Your Math
    • Expect there to be mathematical elements to a case interview, but don’t get bogged down with it. Round where it makes sense and, when assuming variables, use easy numbers. Be comfortable with quick “back of the envelope” calculations and be sure to watch those decimal points.
  • Arrive at an Answer
    • Always be approaching the desired answer! It is easy to get sidetracked during a case. Always. Be. Closing (the case).

Additional Resources:

Kyle Risley is currently a Senior Marketing Associate within our Organic Search team. Kyle has been with Vistaprint for 1 ½ years and is also a Northeastern alumni who studied Marketing and minored in Economics.

How To Avoid Co-Op Autopilot

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The first month of co-op is always jarring, to say the least.

You get up early, force-feed yourself breakfast, work for eight (or more) hours straight, then ride the T (which is most likely disabled or running late or not running at all) home. Then, you have to do that four more times before you get your first weekend.

A full-time work schedule means sometimes our favorite habits get pushed off or fall off of our calendar altogether and we find ourselves on autopilot. But it doesn’t have to be that way – it’s possible to balance working and staying involved in the things you love.

Find something to pump you up in the morning. Working full-time means waking up is even more difficult than normal. Do something you’re excited about in the morning to wake yourself up and start your day. Most major cities have a November Project tribe – this is a free morning workout tribe that meets at 6:30am with hugs and positivity and a seriously killer workout. In the morning, I like to go outside and run or workout somewhere, but maybe you prefer a leisurely breakfast or the morning news cycle. Whatever you do, wake up a little earlier to do something that makes you feel good.

Get involved in a group. Whether it’s a book club or a group on campus or a community theater troupe, do something. Having an anchor or two in your week will prevent you from coming home every night, ordering pad thai, and watching reruns of Cops until midnight. Don’t overload yourself with responsibilities, but try to keep yourself somewhat engaged and entertained throughout the week.

Plan weekend adventures. Co-op provides a unique opportunity to do things with your weekends other than homework. You have very few responsibilities and for two days out of seven, the world is completely open to you. Go on a weekend trip to New York City to see your friend on co-op outside of Boston. Plan that all-day hiking trip you’ve been dreaming about. Spend an entire day reading and picnicking in Boston Common. Do things that homework and studying prevented you from doing before. It will make the weekends more fun and exciting and, most of all, intentional.

Start a project. Co-op is the perfect time for a passion project. Have you always wanted to write a cookbook? Start a blog? Finish a Tough Mudder? Paint your apartment? Plan a summer backpacking trip in South America? Being on co-op means you have from 5pm until you fall asleep every day to do as you wish. Starting a project keeps you engaged and ready to take on the world, and could even open exciting doors for your future.

The important part of being on co-op is to be aware of the time that is available to you. You don’t have to fill every weeknight with activities, but don’t let six whole months pass by in a blur of time sheets and department lunches and evenings binge-watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

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

 

You Need A Personal Website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Look for Haylee’s posts every other Tuesday

 

How to Be Successful When Working in a Foreign Language

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internationalWhen it comes to starting a new job or co-op, one of the things we take for granted is that the work will be done in English. We don’t have to add translating and learning a new vocabulary in another language to the many things that are new about our new workplaces. But what about when we venture out of our comfort zone and decide to pursue an international co-op? All of a sudden, the number of new and difficult tasks immediately grows, especially when English is not the working language.
As a co-op at the US Embassy in Quito, Ecuador, I am on an interesting bridge between working in English and working in Spanish. In the Embassy, everyone speaks English. But all the research and meetings we do are conducted in Spanish, especially when we leave the Embassy compound. Here are three tips to being successful in the workplace when you are not using your first language.
Be patient.

Working in a new language is a challenge and you will get frustrated with yourself and the language at some point. That’s okay. Take a break from the language for a few minutes and regain your confidence. You are still learning the language and you have to give yourself time. There will come a point in your co-op where using the language no longer intimidates you, but at the beginning, be patient with yourself as you learn how to work in a new language.
Google Translate will become your best friend.
Don’t be ashamed if you need to look up a word or two or even a whole sentence to make sure you are understanding your work correctly. It’s better to double-check the phrasing of something than to translate it wrong and potentially disseminate incorrect information to your colleagues. Your new job might have words that just aren’t in your vocabulary yet – for me, I’ve been introduced to a whole new set of vocab since starting at the Embassy with words like admiral, colonel, retaliation, offender and many more. Soon these words will become ingrained in your mind, but for now, Google Translate is a great friend.
Ask people to speak more slowly.
It’s always better to ask someone to slow down so you can understand them than to mindlessly nod along in a conversation and come out understanding nothing. Many times locals will not always clue in that they are speaking quickly (I know I speak pretty fast in the US and don’t always realize it) and that the speed might be a problem for you. Everyone is always very understanding and willing to slow down if asked. They too, want to make sure that you understand them and can bring the information they give you back to your office. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you need someone to slow down – it will be more beneficial to everyone involved.
Working in a new language is exciting, but don’t forget that it can also be hard. By the afternoon, I have found myself to be more exhausted from work than ever before because I have had to work that much harder to focus and understand everything that is going on around me. The experience you will get working in a foreign language, however, is unparalleled and will make you more competitive in the job market after graduation!
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.

Procrastinating Your Job Search? Tips To Get to Work, So You Can Work

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You return to your laptop with a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in hand determined to finally complete your resume. You just saw a job opening that looks pretty close to perfect, but every time you sit down to write your resume, you find something just a little more pressing to do. Three hours later, you’ve arranged your closet by color, talked to your grandmother, favorite aunt, and high school BFF, and bought two books for next semester at half price, but still haven’t worked on your resume. Job search procrastination has struck again.

Does this kind of procrastination sound familiar? It can be frustrating and easy to beat yourself up when you know that you should be progressing in your job search and instead keep putting it off for another day. If you find yourself stuck in your job search because of procrastination, follow these steps to get back on a path to success.

1. Break down your goals into concrete and manageable tasks

Sometimes we procrastinate because our goals are too overwhelming. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take each big goal and make a list of all of the smaller tasks that go into completing the goal. Then tackle each of these “mini-tasks” one by one. These smaller tasks often feel more do-able. For example, instead of setting out to write your resume, your mini-task might be to write the bullet points for one co-op position, outline your computer skills, or even just create the resume heading. If you work consistently on these smaller tasks, they will add up, and soon you will achieve your goal.

2. Set individual deadlines for each mini-task.

Unlike classwork, the tasks associated with looking for a job often do not have clear deadlines. It can be easy to procrastinate when a professor isn’t going to dock your grade for each day that you don’t begin to network, but as time elapses, opportunities will pass you by. Outwit this common trap by setting your own deadlines. Once you have broken your goals into mini-tasks, assign a deadline to each item. Put these deadlines on your calendar and treat them with respect.

3. Schedule an appointment with yourself to work on each task.

While you have your calendar open, schedule times to work on each of your mini-tasks. Without a time set aside, there is always some other work that can take precedence. But by assigning a specific time and treating the time as an appointment, you are more likely to stick to your plan.

4. Acknowledge stress and find positive ways to cope

For many of us, job searching is stressful. Writing your resume, polishing your LinkedIn profile, researching a company—all of these activities can stir up anxiety. It is natural to want to avoid tasks that create distress and so job searching is often put off for activities that are more pleasurable—or at least less painful! Recognizing that you may be putting off your job search because of the stress that it provokes is the first step in overcoming this challenge. Next, think about ways that you have dealt with stress successfully in the past and draw on these same techniques to help you succeed in your job search. These stress-relieving activities are different for each person, but whether it is going for a run or talking to a friend, these behaviors can help you through your job search. Finally, some people also find it helpful to reward themselves for each completed task. Set yourself up for success by scheduling fun activities as a treat after you finish a challenging task in your job search.

5. Let go of perfectionism

A common cause of procrastinating is perfectionism. Of course, you want all of your job materials to be error-free and completed to the best of your abilities. But when your drive for excellence is making it difficult to even get started, it is time to step back and reboot by lowering your standards. Most written materials of job searching, such as resumes and cover letters, go through numerous drafts. So that first draft of your cover letter—it doesn’t need to be the most brilliant cover letter ever written—it just needs to be a rough draft. The same holds true for other parts of your job search. If you are not reaching out for informational interviews because you want the interaction to proceed perfectly and you are not sure if it will, take a deep breath and do it anyway. Have that slightly awkward first conversation. It will only get easier with practice and soon you will be networking like a pro.

6. Ask for help

You don’t need to do this alone— Career Development is here to help. Come during walk-ins hours, attend a workshop or schedule an appointment using myNEU or by calling 617-373-2430. Procrastination during your job search is a common pitfall, but it doesn’t need to be yours. Take advantage of these tips and the opportunities offered by Career Development and before you know it, you will be well on your way to success.

Kate Basch is a Career Counselor Assistant in Career Development at Northeastern University. With a Master’s degree in Expressive Therapies and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University, she enjoys helping people discover and obtain work that aligns with their strengths and values. You can reach Kate at https://www.linkedin.com/in/katebasch​.

How Can I Really Improve My English Skills During College?

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This guest post was written by Maria Martin, an international graduate student currently on co-op.

When I fist came to Boston, about three years ago, I started to study English and I spent a considerably part of my time and money in writing, listening, speaking and grammar classes. I don’t regret what I did. But after being here for a while, I realized that the best way to learn English is through real experience with Americans. Here are a few tips that will help you to improve your overall English skills without spending tons of extra money and time.

1. Talk to your professors.

Do not be afraid to ask as many questions as you can during classes (what’s the worst thing that can happen? Nothing!). Many international students do not raise their hands because they do not have the words to say what they are thinking. Don’t be afraid. If you already got into college, then you are capable to find the words even if you make mistakes.

2. Volunteer.

I love to volunteer. There is nothing as gratifying as helping others. There are a lot of positive aspects of volunteering; first: you are helping someone, second: you can use it in your resume (for those who have no experience at all), third: it helps to improve your English skills. Boston has plenty of organizations you can work with. Google them, ask your advisor for help or connect with the Center for Community Service on campus. For example: I am volunteering as a Mentor in the Big Sister Association of Boston.

3. Mentors.

In my first year in Boston I found a really good person who mentored me for a few months while transitioning from my English course into my Master’s program. We spent hours and hours talking about a variety of subjects, and even thought it was difficult for me to understand, I tried my best to keep track of our conversations. Now, I can understand my friend perfectly and I can talk as if it were my own language. I encourage you to find a mentor in your area of study. There are a lot of professional organizations that offer mentorship programs, one being the Boston Product Management Association. Speaking with your mentor not only will help you to improve your English skills but also your career and networking.

4. Wise commuting.

Most of our commuting time is spent on our phone texting, listening music, etc. but do you think that this is worth your time? Why don’t we listen to NPR (National Public Radio) or read one of your favorite books in English? We need to realize that we have a barrier: language. So we should do everything we can to reach our goal. And if your goal is just going back to your home country as soon as you graduate, it will be pretty good to have a resume with a working professional proficiency level of English. On the other hand, if you are planning to get a job, well spoken English is a must.

5. Follow your instincts.

Most professionals recommend avoiding talking in your native language in order to perfect your English, but I believe that is a not realistic advice and honestly just 0.0001% of students apply it. It’s important to talk to friends and family back home and when living abroad, its comforting if not necessary to hang out with friends who share the same language and cultures as yourself. The key is to have balance. Make practicing and improving English a priority, but also make time to speak in your native tongue.

6. Small talk.

Every culture has its own small talk topics when networking. In my country, talking politics is common- that’s not the case in the US. There are plenty of topics you can talk about in American culture.

One of the most important: weather. It might not seem too interesting and very broad but Americans love talking about the weather- how can you not bring up the blizzard we just had?! Another topic: sports. Personally, I think talking about sports is boring. I know all of the major American teams and I can muster basic small talk around sports, but nothing too deep. If you don’t feel attracted to those topics you might want to get the Metro Boston Newspaper (Free in most MBTA stations) or just go to CNN.com. Small talk will help you make new friends and learn more about American culture- while simultaneously practicing your English!

7. Change your devices. 

Finally, change all your devices to English. Your phone, ipad, computer, etc. Everything should be in English. And be careful: Do not get use to just one American friend; there are a lot of accents (even inside Massachusetts).

Implement all of my tips, or start with just one that works for you. In a few months you will be able to understand and speak better. There are things that can’t be taught; practice is the only way to achieve what we really want.

Maria Martin is pursuing a Master in Project Management at Northeastern University. She is currently doing a full time paid co-op at NSTAR in the Marketing and Sales Department. You can contact her at mariajesusmartin13@gmail.com