This guest post was written by Katie McCune, a Career Development Assistant at Northeastern University Career Development. She’s also a Career Assistant at MIT.
Ever heard of an informational interview? If you’re anything like me when I was an undergraduate, this concept is drawing up a big, huge question mark in your thought-bubble. If you don’t want to be in the successful job-search club, then this is your queue to go back to wondering why you didn’t come up with these college hacks (because let’s be real, they are pretty awesome). If, however, you would like to join the pay-check earning, “look at me, I got a job” club, read on.
So, what the heck is an informational interview?
An informational interview is an interview in reverse. Instead of an employer interviewing you, you meet with somebody in an industry you’re interested in learning more about and interview them. And…you got it…the whole point is to gather information. Think of all you could learn if you had 30 minutes with the CEO of your favorite company, or anyone in your favorite company for that matter! Sometimes all you have to do is ask for their time.
But what should I ask in an informational interview?
There are no right or wrong questions to ask, so ask whatever would be helpful for you. Want to know how to break into the field? Ask it! Want to know how important creativity is at the organization, or what the day-to-day work looks like, or the work/life balance, or…? Ask away! You can ask about the person’s own background, the company that person works for, or the field in general. There’s only one rule: don’t ask for a job. I repeat, DO. NOT. ASK. FOR. A. JOB! It’s sort of like dating. How awkward would it be if on your first date your lucky companion asked you if you would marry them? Whoa, slow down buddy, we just met. Same deal with an informational interview. Don’t ask for a job on your first meeting, it’s not going to work.
If I can’t ask for a job, then how does an informational interview help me get one?
You’ve probably heard that networking is the number one way that people find jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 70% of people found their job through networking. Informational interviews are just like going to a networking event in that they are an opportunity for you to make a first professional impression and help you get the inside scoop on what could make you a successful candidate (but one-on-one meetings are a lot less intimidating for my fellow shy networkers out there). That way, when you apply for a job at the company where you did an informational interview, they don’t just know you as a one-page resume, but they know your face, they know more about your story, and (hopefully) you made a great impression on them so you’re already ahead of other candidates. Better yet, they may even tell you about jobs in the “hidden job market,” or the ones that are never posted.
Case in point, I was looking to get into career counseling, but I didn’t have any experience in the field. I did an informational interview with a career counselor and asked her if there was anybody else she recommended I talk to. I followed her recommendation and did an informational interview with her contact. In this second interview the very last question I asked was, “Do you know of any opportunities for me to test the waters before I make a long-term commitment to this field?” Yep, in fact she did. Northeastern’s Career Development was looking for interns, so I applied to the position that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. And voila, now I’m writing this blog, and the woman that I did an informational interview is my supervisor. See, I haven’t been lying to you, this really works!
The Secret Weapon of Job Searching!
Here in Career Development we have gotten a lot of great feedback from students and alumni alike that these interviews have helped develop themselves as professionals and learn about new opportunities. They’re the secret weapon of job searching because often times, people don’t think to do them as part of their search, but they can be oh-so-powerful. But I hate keeping secrets, so check out Career Development’s resources on how to conduct informational interviews, and help me spread the word by sharing your success stories with us, your friends, and anybody else who is looking for a job! Happy interviewing.
Katie is a Career Development Assistant at NU with a background in sociology. A teacher at heart, she loves leading workshops–in addition to the career workshops, she’d gladly teach you how to hula-hoop, how to organize your house/office/desk, or how millennials can make great employees. Email her at email@example.com.
This guest post was written by recent communications graduate and former Career Development Intern and co-op, Amy Annette Henion.
Last April, I sat on a hiring committee. Yes, I tend to talk about this a lot. (C’mon – as a student, is it not super cool to hire a great career counselor to help out your peers?)
While poring over the applicants’ cover letters, we noticed an important detail that made some candidates really shine. What did they do that the other candidates didn’t?
So what makes you really want to apply to work for a certain company? Is it their dedication to helping serve underprivileged populations? Do they consistently strive for excellence with their product? Do they have a vibrant start-up culture that you think you can help build and grow? Say so! Sharing your passions paints a more colorful portrait of you as a living, breathing human being with hopes and dreams for the future. And who wouldn’t want to hire that kind of person?
Amy Annette Henion is a 2014 communications graduate with minors in theatre and East Asian studies. She basically lived in the theatre department office on the first floor of Ryder. Follow/tweet her at @amyannette37 and read her blog here.
This guest post was written by Michaela Coté, a 2009 nursing alum and now a Registered Nurse on a Med/Surg floor at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, CA.
I graduated with my degree in Nursing on May 1, 2009. This year, May 1st fell on a Thursday, a #throwbackthursday or #tbt to the Instagram world. As I scrolled through my Instagram app during lunch, #tbt after #tbt popped up of old friends back at their Northeastern graduations. At first I couldn’t believe it. 5 years?! Then I looked around my work break room and down at my faded scrubs I bought on my first coop. Yup, 5 years.
So, here I am. I’ve been out of college as long as I was in college. Time flies, and boy do I need new scrubs. Alas, here’s what I have to share.
Things change and it’s OK. I am a Nurse. When I started college, I was told I could do whatever I want, wherever I want, and just maybe my student loans would get paid. When I graduated, every hospital was on a hiring freeze, meaning I couldn’t even pay my student loans. I got lucky (thanks to a NU connection!), and landed a job that would have originally been my last choice. I now love my job so much so that I have yet to get a new one. Now, the healthcare system has taken a turn and my job is once again on the line. One of the reasons I went into healthcare was because there would ‘always be jobs’. But, things change and I can’t do a thing about it except make the most of it. The first job you land might not be the one you want, but how do you really know? We are young and we have time. Things will work out, they just do.
Save. From our co-op experience of having steady full time jobs, we should be good with money at this point. Whether that’s true or not is another story. Personally, while my paychecks may have helped to pay some bills (kind of…), they also made it very possible for me to go in and out of Lord & Taylor sales (which are are AMAZING if you’re not aware). In any case, it’s time to get serious about money with your first official job. Set up your retirement plan and do it before your first paycheck. That way, you’ll never know
how much cash you could be making, and your retirement fund will be off to a great start. It’s like you’re putting money away for the Lord & Taylor sales of year 2055, right?!
Loans are memories. You have no choice but to pay back your loans, so try to put a positive spin on them. Each month when you sit down to make your monthly payment, think about what an amazing time you had at Northeastern. Think about the hours you spent in the caf freshman year. Think of the numbers of pitchers you drank at Connor’s (that co-op paychecks also funded), and the amount of ‘last calls’ you thought were necessary at Our House. Think of the lifelong friendships you made and the laughs you’ve
shared. Think of the ridiculous amount of free t-shirts you have, the sporting events, the fact that you shopped at Wollaston’s despite the crazy mark ups, the Marino center, T rides, the Pru, being a part of a Red Sox World Series, your co-op experiences. Whatever it is, you loved Northeastern, you had a great education and experience, and you are lucky to get a monthly reminder of that. My brother went to a state school and has no loans. Sucker. He gets no reminders of how great college was.
Travel & find a ‘hobby’. You are young and most likely have only yourself to look after. You now accrue vacation time at your new fancy job, and you make real money (hopefully). You no longer have to study. Your free time is your free time. Go see the world! You have the resources and the time, so get out there and make the most of it before you’re tied down. On that same note, you have FREE TIME. Find something new to do. Take up one of those ‘hobbies’ job interviewers always think you have. Read a book that isn’t a
textbook. Start playing a new sport. Take up a new activity. Make a personal non work and school related goal for yourself. Don’t you dare let this time and freedom waste away.
Congratulations on your graduation. Go show the world what an amazing person Northeastern helped make you. Use your Northeastern connections and brag about your coops. You will do great.
Michaela Coté is a Registered Nurse on a Med/Surg floor at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, CA. Many thanks to her co-op advisor, Jacki Diani, for putting her in touch with a past NU professor who at the time worked at the medical center and introduced her to a hiring manager for an interview. Feel free to contact her at Michaela.firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post was written by Associate Director of Northeastern Career Development, Susan Loffredo.
Have you ever dated someone who used “You’re too good for me” as a reason for breaking up with you? Did you believe it? I didn’t think so. So when an employer passes on hiring you for the same reason, you shouldn’t believe it either. Or should you?
In most cases, you probably should. Just because you’ve moved way beyond the job you’re currently applying for, doesn’t mean you would be better at it than someone who has only those exact qualifications. In fact, you probably wouldn’t be as good, because those old skills are probably rusty.
I am assuming here that you applied for a lower level job not because it’s the job of your dreams but because you need a job, any job. Hiring managers understand this, and are leery of candidates who seem like they are only interested in a quick paycheck and will decamp as soon as a better offer comes along.
Employers are also concerned that candidates with an overabundance of experience will be bored and unmotivated because the job isn’t challenging, and will ultimately become unhappy with the lower salary and status. And think about this: if your qualifications are equal to or greater than those of your prospective manager, you may be perceived as someone who is gunning for that manager’s job. While there are managers secure enough to hire someone who could challenge their authority and expertise, not many do.
Your best chance of getting hired is by going after jobs that fit your qualifications to perfection. But if the rent is due and you have to broaden your search, selectively applying to positions that require less experience may be a reasonable option, especially if you are able to commit to staying at least a year.
In addition, choose jobs that offer you a chance to learn something, maybe a new field or a different set of skills. Explain in your cover letter that this is one reason this job appeals to you. Be clear that you realize the salary may be less than someone with your experience might expect, but that it’s okay. Maybe a less challenging job will allow you to have more time outside of work to devote to family, additional training or an important hobby. Make this point in your cover letter as well if it fits.
The job market seems to be improving, but there are still so many job seekers on the market that employers, like Goldilocks, can usually choose the one who is just right. But if you can show the employer valid reasons for your interest and the worth of your skills, that just right one could be you.
Author Susan Loffredo began counseling NU students well before the iPhone was invented and owns socks that are older than the class of 2013. Email her at email@example.com.
This article was written by Megan Fernandes, a 4th year international affairs student at NU as a guest blogger for The Works.
Work. Location. Culture. Last year, a professor told me that these are the three distinct elements I need to consider when looking for a job. A few years ago, I might have written this off fairly quickly, but after having a few varied work experiences under my belt, I realized they are all equally important to my happiness and success. Between my first and current co-op, I’ve learned what I need in a workplace to thrive professionally as well as what I need in regards to location and relationships to be happy. Like many other NU students- I have definitely learned what I don’t like in work, even before I figured out what I do.
Work. As college students, we’ve all been encouraged to pursue areas of study that we are passionate about in the hopes of finding a career where we feel we are making a difference. However, I’ve learned over time that feeling too committed to any particular job, industry or institution early on can be very limiting. I had my entire college career planned out by the fall of sophomore year, but so many different opportunities and challenges were presented along the way that threw my plans to the wind and changed what I had previously thought was a priority. Neither the work nor the industry I was in were much of a consideration in choosing my past two co-ops (sustainable agriculture in Cameroon and asset management in Boston), but that doesn’t mean I’ve learned any less about the kind of work I want to do eventually. Being able to stay flexible and transfer over as many professional and social skills between jobs, no matter how different they are, will help keep you positive and confident wherever you go.
Location. Because we attend such a diverse school that offers so many opportunities to leave campus, NU students, more than anyone, understand the importance of location. Cities around the world are becoming more international and physically going and living somewhere else isn’t as difficult as it once was. The big challenge is being OK with being uncomfortable and really giving each new place a real chance; keeping in mind that you may decide, despite your utmost respect for their culture and way of life, that it’s just not for you. Cameroon taught me that, specifically by showing me how different cultural values, social and economic factors can directly dictate the population’s lifestyle. Doing two co-ops in Boston has also taught me that I like living in cities and getting to know a city helps me feel at home.
Culture. Nowadays, people are thinking more broadly about what it means to employ people who are good “fits”. Thinking about if you can sit next to someone 8 hours a day, 5 days a week is more of a consideration in hiring than ever before. It works the other way around as well. I have worked for a company whose mission and work I was highly inspired by, but the internal culture was unexciting and stifling. I have also worked for a company in an industry I am not stimulated by and whose work I often find routine, but its internal culture is more open, laid-back, and appreciative than anywhere else I’ve experienced. This combination has allowed me to see that I need a relaxed culture and the encouragement to form personal and professional relationships to maintain my personal happiness and motivation at work.
As much as it goes against my initial view when I started school, simply working on something you love isn’t enough. I always thought that if you found what it is that you wanted to do, you’d be golden, but I’ve realized that loving what is physically around you, both the location and the people, makes your work even more meaningful and makes you even better at what you do.
Megan Fernandes is an international affairs student in her fourth year at Northeastern with academic interests revolving around global poverty alleviation. Megan is originally from Houston, but went to high school in Bangkok, Thailand before moving to Boston. She loves learning about other cultures and would be happy to show new people around Boston!
This guest post for the 5 Alums, 5 Years Later series was written by Jeff Donaldson. Jeff graduated Cum Laude in 2009 with a BS in Electrical Engineering and is a Lead Electrical Engineer at CDM Smith.
In a world where we have everything at our finger tips, we often take for granted that accomplishments take time. Many of you reading this want to get right out into the “real-world” and make a difference in your field. I want to let you know that “YOU ARE READY”! Co-op definitely prepared all of us for what it is like to hold a job, get to work on time, and begin to feel what responsibility really is. But let’s take a step back and think about what the classroom environment prepared us for. After all, that was a huge part of the $200k+ we paid, right?
I’m going to cut to the chase here (mostly because I am an engineer and writing isn’t a strong suit for many of us). Looking back over the last five years, I can honestly say that about 90% of what I do at my job I did not learn in the classroom. Although I cannot speak for every major and degree, I am confident that many of you will agree with me.
Now before you go ask President Aoun for a refund, ask yourself if you feel confident in your ability to learn. Of course you do; you just graduated college. The ability to be a lifelong learner is something that will impact your professional success for the rest of your life, and that you did learn in the classroom.
You spent the better part of the last 5 years sitting in the lecture halls, doing homework, and studying for hours on end in Snell Library (read: procrastinating on Twitter and Facebook). You have recently passed your last finals (assuming graduate school isn’t in your future life) and received the Bachelor of Blank in Blank you’ve worked so hard for. Officially, you are extremely knowledgeable of said subject matter.
So, next question: Can you think like a/an (insert new job title here)? Many of you will probably say, “Hmmm, I don’t really know what that means. What does it mean to think like a/an (insert new job title here)?”
The day has come to officially apply all of that college knowledge to a full-time professional position. My advice is: be confident in your ability, even if you don’t know something at your new job. Know that you possess the tools to give the assigned tasks a try (trust me, your boss will take notice and reward you for it). All of your course work has trained you to respond, read, prepare, and talk like a professional. This is so important to realize NOW as you graduate and take the first steps in your career.
That said, please be careful not to be over confident. Understand you have the tools to be successful, but that success takes time. Learning how to apply what you’ve learned and to continue to be a lifelong learner goes a long way. Coupled with patience and hard work, you’re sure to be a success.
So, good luck, congratulations, and may you all have great success in the next chapter of your lives.
YOU ARE READY!
Jeff Donaldson graduated Cum Laude in 2009 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. He is currently a Lead Electrical Engineer at CDM Smith, a Consulting and Design Engineering firm in Cambridge and a Registered Professional Engineer in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He also founded the Northeastern Men’s Ice Hockey Club Team in 2005. Please feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This guest post was written by Tricia Dowd, a Career Development Assistant at NU Career Development, and a recent graduate from Northeastern’s Higher Education Administration program where she earned her Master’s degree this past September.
One of my favorite exercises to use in job search workshops is asking students to take two minutes to write down as many companies that they would want to work for as they can think of. Usually students excitedly scribble down a couple names and get stumped; occasionally, I’ll have a student who can name more than five. So when I tell them that their ideal target list should include 20-30 different employers, most of them get a panicked look. Creating a target list can definitely be overwhelming at first, but it is an important first step of any job search. I’ve compiled a list of advice and techniques below to help you identify potential employers and kick your job search off effectively.
- Hop on HuskyCareerLink: Many of you are probably familiar with our job search database, HuskyCareerLink. But did you know we also have an employer search function in HCL? Not only is this a great place to start to build a target list, it also gives you an idea of what companies have worked with Northeastern. To do an employer search, head to the Employers tab on the top menu and click ‘Employer Search’. Go through the list of industries and select any industry that applies to your field. HCL will generate a list of companies that hire within the selected industry so be prepared for the list to take a couple of minutes to load- we have a lot of employers in our database! You can click on any employer that comes up and view a brief description of the company. The cool thing about this list is that all of the employers you’ll see are there because they’ve worked with Northeastern in the past and will be familiar with the school and our amazing students!
- Check out CareerSearch: CareerSearch is an awesome website that will generate a list of companies based on the criteria you put in. You can enter factors such as industry, company size, location, or keywords to narrow your search results. You’ll a get a list of companies that match your criteria. I suggest using the location tool to narrow down your results- there are over five million US companies in the database! To utilize CareerSearch you’ll have to log onto HuskyCareerLink and scroll down the homepage until you see the CareerSearch link. Northeastern pays for our students to be able to use this website so take advantage of this resource!
- Look on LinkedIn: Not only is LinkedIn a powerful people resource, it’s also an important part of building your target list. LinkedIn has company pages that provide insight into companies you’re considering for your target list as well as related companies to help expand the list even further! For instance enter ‘Google’ into the LinkedIn search bar and the Google company page will come up. Scroll down a little until you hit the ‘People Also Viewed’ section on the right hand side. This is a list of similar companies! You can essentially follow the trail and research these different companies as well as companies that show up in their ‘People Also Viewed’ section. This is an easy way to expand a list if you already have a few company names.
These resources should help you develop a target list of 20-30 companies. You can do further research on these companies by looking at their company page on glassdoor and going on informational interviews with people who work there. This will help to confirm that the companies you’ve selected are a good fit for you! After you’ve finalized your target list, make sure to check their websites frequently for positions you’re qualified for. You can learn more about the job search process by attending one of our Small Group Job Search workshops or by looking on our Job Search page.
Tricia Dowd is a Career Development Assistant at NEU Career Development, and graduated from Northeastern with a Master’s in Higher Education Administration in September. She is interested in helping students gain practical experiences to complement what they’re learning in the classroom. You can reach her at email@example.com.
This post was written by Angelica Recierdo, a third-year nursing student with a minor in English. She has worked/studied at many of the major Boston hospitals and is also a columnist for the Huntington News.
Heartbreaking and funny – two words that could be used in a film review for a romantic comedy, or rather in my case, working in pediatrics.
To me, working with the older adult patient population for my first co-op as a nursing student was the boot camp of medicine. You’re caring for people at the end of their lives that may be bitter, confused, careless, or a little bit of each. It can be draining and surely leaves a novice jaded or with the toughest skin by the end of it.
So when I accepted an offer to work at Boston Children’s Hospital it was a new and exciting venture, a breath of fresh air. I went from working 40 hour weeks consisting of rotating day, evening, and night shifts on a huge 30+ bed inpatient cardiology unit to a comfy and fun 10-bed outpatient infusion clinic. The biggest struggles my new patients faced were missing a day of school, which stuffed animal to play with, and whether their parent was present to hold their hand when the IV catheter got inserted.
The Center for Ambulatory Treatment/Clinical Research is the official name for this infusion clinic serving patients of all ages, backgrounds, and medical histories. A lot of our patients are immunocompromised meaning that they are so severely prone to infection that they need to be infused regularly with intravenous immunoglobulin (otherwise known as antibodies to help support their immune system.) These are the kids that more often times have Purell on their hands rather than Crayola marker.
Another portion of patients have some form of Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) like Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis. I’ll never forget one ten-year-old boy who so openly shared with me that he could not be a firefighter when he grows up because how could he save people if he always had to go to the bathroom? (Kids really say the darndest things).
We also see a lot of Cystic Fibrosis and Cerebral Palsy patients as well. Their bodies protected in high-powered wheelchairs, eyes glossed to one side, with either the most contracted or most flaccid limbs you’ve ever felt. I try to joke with them and have learned that any kind of response like the fluttering of the eyes or a tighter hand grip means they’re listening. Children are always listening and it’s important to always give them something novel to think about.
I find myself laughing in a new way at work. It’s not forced or awkward the way social situations tend to be when interacting with other adults. It’s a genuine chuckle, throwing my head back or slapping my thigh. I find my voice rising to the next octave, trying to gain a toddler’s trust with one hand wielding a blood pressure cuff and the other a paintbrush. So many wonderfully amusing things happen at a children’s hospital.
For example, to electronically document vital signs on a computer application, there is an option that prompts the clinician to choose what position the child is in during the vital signs measurement. The three options are sitting, standing, and supine. But it warms my heart that my biggest worry is figuring out how to chart such movements as dancing, kneeling, crawling, or squirming.
I have learned that it’s important to always remember the time when a decorative Band-Aid covered up pain, when animal crackers and apple juice nourished us, and when a coloring book was sufficient distraction. Working with sick children has taught me ways to cope with profound stress and how to truly make the best of given situations. It’s not normal for a five year old to know where her “good” veins are, but that kind of acceptance and courage is of a caliber that is seen much later in life, or in some, never at all.
Angelica is a third-year nursing student with a minor in English hailing from New Jersey. She has studied or worked in all the major Boston hospitals. Angelica is also a columnist for The Huntington News (http://huntnewsnu.com/?s=angelica+recierdo) and enjoys writing creative non-fiction.
This post was written by NU alumna Rebekah Gallacher. Bek majored in English and Communications and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2009.
I’ve always resented the notion that “the real world” doesn’t happen until after you graduate college. I find that this sentiment is typically coupled with the idea that our generation—Generation Y—doesn’t understand what the real world is. I don’t know about you, but five years at Northeastern, three co-ops (plus two freelancing gigs), zero summers, a weekend job slinging drinks to BC kids, a double overloaded final semester, and astounding student loans felt pretty real to me. Tack on graduating into The Great Recession—one of the worst job economies in recent history—and I thought I had this “real world” thing down.
Five years later though, I can admit through the clarity provided by hindsight that life is in fact realer. These last five years have been the most influential, the most tumultuous, the most real for me so far. Those of you entering “the real world” this spring will get plenty of advice. More than you’ll know what to do with most likely. So I’m going to tackle only one thing: that despite all of the effort we’ve expelled so far, we are actually a bunch of lazy, entitled, tech-obsessed selfie monsters.
You heard me. Needy. Coddled. Selfie monsters.
Now, I personally will stay confounded by this impression for as long as it persists. I don’t know a single one of these Gen Ys. (Who are these people!?) But this perception is pervasive, and try as we might, we’re not going to be able to get away from it. Not yet, anyway. So your challenge, and my best advice for your next five years, is to face it head on.
It is absolutely central to your success to understand and acknowledge the assumptions about Gen Ys. Once you do, you’ll be able to interact more effectively with your colleagues from other generations, including your boss. (Spoiler Alert: that’s kind of…well, everything.) The self-aware Gen Y is the smartest Gen Y and the Gen Y that will get ahead. A little self-awareness goes a long way.
And don’t stop there, you overachieving go-getter! Take some time to understand where other generations are coming from, what they value, why they might think you’re a whiny baby with wildly unrealistic expectations. (Their words, not mine!) The Gen Y that’s well versed in generational differences is the Gen Y that will be actively sought out for their opinions and expertise.
All of this being said, don’t be afraid to use your unique point-of-view to your advantage. Be confident that your age, your experiences (“real world” or not) are both personal and organizational strengths. We’re soon to be the largest cohort in the workforce and we have an opportunity to shape the world of work. We will undoubtedly influence expectations, flexibility, technology, compensation, the social consciousness of our organizations—just to name a few. As well we should; much of this needs changing and I know we’re up to the challenge.
Let’s take back the conversation around our generation and redefine our organizational value. Because the Generation Y I know is hard-working, collaborative, innovative, and ambitious.
Congratulations to the Class of 2014. I look forward to everything you’ll accomplish. Including making me feel old and technologically out of date.
Let’s do this thing!
Rebekah Gallacher is an Associate Editor of Web Content at Harvard Business Publishing. She received her dual BA in English/Communication Media Studues in 2009 and managed to turn it into a real job! Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet her at @RCGallacher.