5 Alums, 5 Years Later: Charles Leach

Class of 2010_Charles Leach

I am one of those people whose life is dictated by a well-organized calendar, complete with color codes and a series of notifications – if only I was the one maintaining the calendar.  I was the last class to graduate from the College of Criminal Justice August 2010. Shortly thereafter, I commissioned as a Marine Corps Officer, got engaged, and went off on a 4 year life changing adventure in the Marine Corps.  My intention was to depart the military, utilizing my co-op connections and proud service and apply for a position in a federal agency.  But my calendar notifications said otherwise.  With a child on the way, I was done moving around, working weekends, being away all week, or far away for 8 months at a time. I decided to depart the Marine Corps, move back home (North Shore area) and began a soul searching endeavor for a job – no, a profession, in which I could obtain the same emotional gratification that comes with service to one’s country.  As a lifelong people-person, I discovered I have a passion for sales, and have found a profession I love at a leading cybersecurity company. I also have decided to stay in the USMC Reserve to balance out the moral scale. If you have graduation in your sights, keep this in mind:

Have a plan and tenaciously pursue it – then change the plan when necessary. You can’t fake passion. You can get by having a work ethic, trying really hard, showing up early, staying late because it’s the right thing to do, but if you aren’t passionate about what you find yourself doing, move on.  It’s like a bad relationship. If you’re at the suitor stage, and you’re not going to marry this person, why waste each other’s time?

Short-term, mid-term, and long term goals are no joke, write them down – a recent manager of mine would refer to these as dreams and not goals.  Dream and keep dreaming because success stories are built upon people’s crazy ideas.

Be mindful of how you appear on social media and the interwebs – the old adage don’t put it online if you wouldn’t want it on the front page of the Boston Globe holds true.

Spend money and live life like your grandparents (if they were thrifty) – if you pack a lunch and make your own coffee in the morning and then go out on the weekend and blow a hundred bucks on 8 dollar beers, well that just doesn’t make sense – stop doing that.

I will close with a valuable lesson that has continually been reinforced for me recently.  You know better what’s for you than anyone else.  The idea of needing an adult’s opinion; well that’s you now.  No one really knows the magic formula and if they say they do, they are just pretending to know all the answers. Just google it and come up with your own way. If you don’t like what you are doing in life, just change it.

And remember, if you don’t like the job you’ll get soon, you can always go back to Northeastern for a Masters!


Charles Leach currently works at Bit9 + Carbon Black in Waltham, MA and lives with his family in the North Shore. He is open to and would welcome any networking conversation or casual chat.  Feel free to reach out to him via Linkedin or leach.charles@gmail.com.

5 Alums, 5 Years Later: Elizabeth Tashash

Class of 2010_Elizabeth Tashash

While it’s hard for me to believe that almost a decade has passed since I moved into my freshman-year dorm room in Speare Hall, these past ten years have flown by because they have been full. I’m not sure whether my eighteen-year-old self would have believed me if I told her that she would be an attorney in just ten short years, but I am sure that my five-year journey as a Husky laid the foundation for my current career path. I have had the pleasure, and the pain, of five years of personal and professional growth since graduating from Northeastern, during which several lessons have come into focus. They have helped me navigate the often-tricky and ever-changing process of becoming a professional, and I share them here with the hope that they help you, the newly graduated or soon-to-be graduated Husky.

Be patient with yourself. It’s ok to not have everything precisely figured out on graduation day (or five years later, for that matter). Active investigation into and investment in figuring out your professional persona may take trial and error, it may take more time than you thought, and it may take you down an unanticipated path, but it will make your professional life more rewarding. While my classroom and co-op experiences directed me toward the law, I took time after graduation to work in the field. That time proved to be invaluable because it gave me the space to gain perspective on my prospective career path, to synthesize the lessons I learned in my undergraduate courses with my new life beyond college, and to contextualize the lessons I was about to learn during law school. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself the time you need to examine and vet your proposed next steps after graduation.

Setbacks and discomfort are ok; in fact, if you’re growing, they’re inevitable. These past five years have taught me a lot about how I deal with my imperfections, with negative feedback, and with situations where I felt uncomfortable and inadequate. Setbacks and uncomfortable situations highlight our insecurities, are often unexpected, and are almost always painful; however, they also go hand-in-hand with change, growth, and self-awareness. Setbacks have stretched me to become a better practitioner, professional, and person because they highlighted the skills I needed to gain and hone, and they gave me insight into how my profession functions. Likewise, throwing myself into situations where I had no idea what I was doing revealed that I am capable of more than I expect and showed me that measured risk-taking reduces regret, regardless of the outcome, and paves the way for future successes.

Maintain relationships with your mentors. I have had the great fortune of having several mentors who have generously given their advice and invested their time for the benefit of my career. They have met me for coffee, have written letters of recommendation on my behalf, and have believed in my abilities. These relationships have not only helped me get that first job, but they have helped me get subsequent—and unexpected—jobs down the road. Find someone who does what you want to do, does something that interests you, or is willing to help you assess your professional skills and goals. Then, maintain that relationship. Mentor relationships can help bridge the gap between your undergraduate life and your professional life, and it’s a great feeling to have someone in your corner.

Congratulations on reaching this milestone, and good luck with the many milestones to come!

 

Liz Tashash graduated from Northeastern University with a Bachelor of Arts in 2010 and graduated from Suffolk University Law School with a Juris Doctor in 2014. She is a member of the Massachusetts Bar and is currently working as a judicial law clerk for the Connecticut Superior Court. Prior to beginning her clerkship, she taught for a semester as an adjunct professor in the Communication Studies Department with the help of her mentor, Dr. Greg Goodale, Associate Dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs and Associate Professor. She thanks Greg for his long-standing mentorship. Liz can be reached at e.tashash@gmail.com.

5 Alums, 5 Years Later: Mary Ann Georgantopoulos

Class of 2010 (1)

It wasn’t until I was asked to write this post that I really reflected on my time since graduating Northeastern in 2010. I can’t help but smile when thinking back to life on Huntington Avenue – long nights at The Huntington News newsroom, early mornings at my Boston Globe co-op, and countless trivia nights at The Squealing Pig. As you prepare to leave Northeastern, hold on and cherish the amazing memories you’ve made because time flies after college and looking back, I realize a lot can happen in five years.

I set out to write this post hoping to avoid all possible clichés such as “the world is your oyster” and referring to post-college life as “the real world,” but they’re expressions for a reason so I’ll use them – I can picture my journalism professors cringing at this.

Go the extra mile. The world is your oyster but you have to work hard to reach your goals. Your first job might not be your dream job – mine certainly wasn’t – but don’t let that deter you. It took me four and a half years after Northeastern and a Masters degree to get to BuzzFeed, a job I wake up every morning happy to go to. So be patient and know results and accomplishments take time.

Comparison is the death of joy: Most of my friends from Northeastern – and even now, five years later – are fellow journalists. It’s so wonderful to have friends that share the same profession but for the sake if your own sanity, don’t compare yourself to others. Your friends might get jobs, promotions and raises before you do and that’s okay. Don’t compare any life goals or achievements to others – we’re all on separate paths.

This is not goodbye: I have very fond memories from Northeastern. I made so many wonderful friends, worked for the Huntington News and learned from the best in the business. Keep in touch with your classmates, professors, mentors, co-op supervisors and anyone that helped shape your education and your career. Many of you will leave Boston and won’t be able to swing by campus to say ‘hi’ to your favorite professor. The journalism department was quite small and I luckily was able to get to know my professors. Two years after graduating Northeastern, I felt comfortable enough to ask some of them for recommendation letters for graduate school. I am so thankful they wrote them. To this day, I still keep in touch with professors and it makes me feel closer connected to NU.

Let your hair down: The next few years are integral in shaping who you are as a person – you will grow so much in a short period of time, but don’t forget to have fun in the process. Northeastern teaches hard work and professionalism, but at the end of the day you’re in your early 20s, so enjoy it and don’t take yourself too seriously. Yes, set up at retirement fund, but you should also take that trip to Europe with your friends.

The “real” world can be intimidating and uncertain, but trust me it’s also a lot of fun. Class of 2015: Congratulations. I’m sure you will all do great things.

Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a news reporter at BuzzFeed. She majored in journalism and was on staff at The Huntington News. You can reach her at maryann.g@buzzfeed.com and on Twitter @marygeorgant.

5 Alums, 5 Years Later: Mike Adamson

Class of 2010

It’s hard to imagine I stepped onto Northeastern’s campus almost 10 years ago to begin my freshman year. And now I’m 5 years removed from a place where I learned a lot inside and outside of the classroom, it all moves very fast. Since leaving Northeastern I’ve worked for two different companies, lived back home and in the city, been able to travel, and have kept myself relatively busy and active. I currently work as a Campus Recruiter where I’m able to travel back to college campuses and brand and recruit for a company I enjoy working for and am interested in. I’ve met a lot of students in this role and as oblivious as I was about post-collegiate life, it’s somewhat relieving to know that a lot of other students were, and still are, in the same boat. It is a big adjustment, but it’s an exciting and completely different experience that needs to be approached with an open mind.

After I graduated, I rejoined a previous co-op employer of mine. It was a great decision and because of my previous experience with them I was thrown a lot of responsibility right away. I was also living with friends that I grew up with from home in the Boston area. None of us went to college together but we stayed in touch, it was an easy fit and a great living situation. Both my work life and my social life were comfortable right after graduation, now that I think about that, it made the transition into the “real world” all the smoother. I didn’t realize it at the time, but maintaining those relationships with previous co-workers and friends got my post collegiate life kicked off in the right direction. Over the course of the last 5 years maintaining those contacts and relationships has been more challenging given the hectic work-life balancing act. But whether it is for my professional or personal life it has always proved to be worth the effort.

Work-life balance is important, but what work-life balance means to me might not mean the same to you. I work in a role where there are very busy, hectic times of the year but I enjoy the planning, travel, execution, and impact of my work. This is the same for most jobs, there will always be ebbs and flows to your workload, so be flexible with your idea of work-life balance. The times where I have been the busiest have also been the most fun. So while I may be working longer I don’t feel as if I’m making an exception. The days never feel as long or draining as they may appear because I’m engaged and enjoy the people I work with. On the opposite end of the spectrum there are times where things are slow, and I need to create work, which is great, or I’m able to catch up on responsibilities in my personal life. You won’t know what your ideal work-life balance is until you start working, and not every company and job will offer what you’re looking for. So be flexible and allow time for adjustments.

The last 5 years have also flown by because I’ve been willing to try new things. Whether it’s traveling, joining a club/team, changing up my routine, taking on a new project, or just taking myself out of my comfort zone it’s all kept my life interesting. This is probably very similar to a college experience where you are dumped into this new place with unfamiliar faces and environments you need to learn and navigate . It’s a different type of learning in post-collegiate life but being willing to say yes and continue exploring and learning has created a very fulfilling experience for me so far. I do find there are times where I’m spread a little thin or the day-to-day feels stagnant, but being cognizant of the fact that it’s my decision to change my routine, and being willing to do so, has made the last 5 years a great experience.

Mike Adamson is a Campus Recruiter with Vistaprint(Cimpress) and is a 2010 graduate of Northeastern. He majored in Psychology with a Business Admin. minor and played on the club lacrosse team. Feel free to contact Mike at Adamson.m.r@gmail.com.

5 Alums, 5 Years Later: Christina Prignano

Class of 2010

When I graduated from Northeastern in 2010, I had to take time off from two jobs so that I could actually attend my graduation ceremony. That time in my life was, in a word, overscheduled. One of the things I’m grateful for in hindsight was that I didn’t have time to really think about (and become terrified of) the fact that I was jumping into the real world. There are plenty of things that I wish I had known back then, so I was thrilled to take part in this series and offer whatever help I can.

Making an effort to seek out advice from people you admire is a great place to start after graduation, so in that spirit, the first idea I’ll offer up comes from a former colleague. Your social media presence is your resume. This was a favorite piece of advice from a stellar former social media editor at the Globe, and it’s a good one (not in every field, but in quite a lot of them). You’ve all heard the warnings about posting your party selfies and making inappropriate jokes online. But turn the warning on its head and it’s also true: You can show potential employers what you can do before you’ve even applied for a position.

This wasn’t possible ten years ago in the same way it is now, so take advantage of it. Post frequently about what you’re working on. Reach out and talk to people in your field. You have the ability to make an impression without having to go to those awkward networking events (although they help, too).

Writing in college is much different from writing at work. One of my favorite parts of graduating was saying goodbye to those 10+ page research papers. However, at many workplaces, documents are measured in words, not pages, and suddenly all of that effort you used to put into squeezing extra words into your sentences is working against you. Being able to get the most bang out of your paragraph is a great skill to have as you search for jobs. My advice for honing this skill is to continually rewrite your cover letters and other professional documents until you can get your point across in as few words as possible.

Not really sure where to start? It’s okay to have no idea what you want to do in life. Does it help to have a polished answer ready when your interviewer asks the dreaded “five year plan” question? Absolutely! But in my experience, not having a predetermined goal can also mean being open to unexpected opportunities and being eager to learn new skills.

I couldn’t even pick a major in college–I graduated with two. And so I found myself during college and immediately after graduation trying on a lot of hats. One of those hats, a part-time gig helping my former co-op launch a new website, turned into a full-time job that allowed me to try on even more hats. I jumped at whatever project came my way at that job, and eventually became the web editor of the organization’s publication, CommonWealth magazine. That role eventually led me to a job that I love today: a homepage producer for bostonglobe.com. My point is that if you find yourself looking for direction, it helps to jump at as many opportunities as you possibly can. Many absolutely won’t pan out, but some will.

Post-grad life can be stressful and challenging and not at all what you expected, but it’s really just the best. Congratulations on getting there, and don’t forget to enjoy it.

Christina Prignano is a homepage producer at bostonglobe.com and is a 2010 graduate of Northeastern. She majored in political science and journalism and sometimes wishes she still lived near Penguin Pizza. She can be reached on Twitter at @cprignano.

 

“Things Change and it’s OK”- Advice from a Nursing Alum

Clockwise from left: NU Commencement in 2009; Machu Picchu - 2008; NU Alumni event at the Red Sox/Giants game in San Francisco 2013; After completing the San Francisco Half Marathon in 2013

Clockwise from left: NU Commencement in 2009; Machu Picchu – 2008; NU Alumni event at the Red Sox/Giants game in San Francisco 2013; After completing the San Francisco Half Marathon in 2013

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.cote@gmail.com

“Can you think like a (insert job title here)?”

Clockwise from the left: Graduation day celebrating with Chara, Road Trip with Club Ice Hockey at UVM, and me now

Clockwise from the left: Graduation day celebrating with Chara, Road Trip with Club Ice Hockey at UVM, and me now

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 donaldson.jeff@gmail.com.

Advice for Graduating Selfie Monsters

Clockwise from left: Graduation day in front of The Garden May 2009, Bek 2013, Birthday outing 2014

Clockwise from left: Graduation day in front of The Garden May 2009, Bek 2013, Birthday outing 2014

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 rebekahgallacher@gmail.com or tweet her at @RCGallacher.

 

“Show Your Face” and Other Lessons from Psych Alum Samantha

Sam Collage for blog

This post was written by 2009 psychology alum, Samantha Bracy. She is currently a special education teach in Newton, MA. 

It wasn’t until my good friend Kelly so kindly asked me to write for this blog that I even became consciously aware of how long I’ve been out of college.  As we approach the anniversary of our graduation, of course all the good memories flood my mind – celebrating graduation with my friends, living in an apartment on Symphony Rd., late nights at Punter’s.  Five whole years ago we were walking up and down Huntington Ave. in the freezing depths of winter (OK, let’s be real – anything below 40 degrees and class wasn’t happening); picking up overpriced groceries at “The Wo” (Wollaston’s for all of you who don’t speak solely in abbreviations); and last but not least, navigating what in the world we were going to do after graduation (OK, I suppose that might be the most important one).

I always considered myself one of those rare, lucky students who always knew what I’d do with my professional life.  My mother tells me that ever since I was a little girl, she knew I’d be a teacher (read: I was really bossy as a child) and as I made my way through NU, I knew it too.  I studied psychology and elementary education, coming out of college with a plethora of co-op and fieldwork experiences to add to my resume.  I felt fortunate to have spent time working in Boston Public Schools, at various community centers across the city, and at a private special education school.  My experience was – in every sense of the word – “well-rounded” and I had NU to thank for that edge.  What I didn’t realize at the time was the importance of networking.  I know, I know…such a buzzword these days.  But when people tell you “it’s all who you know”, they’re being completely honest with you.

Make a good impression at your co-op.  Do not show up looking like you were out all night (hungover or otherwise).  These people may be your future, long-term employers (I have friends who are currently employed at one of their co-op’s, years later).  This organization may be a jumping off point for your career.  And you probably want to be able to ask your supervisor for a recommendation one day.  I know you all took Intro to College or got a lecture from your co-op advisor about being professional, but let’s be real – when it’s Marathon Monday and you called out of co-op because you were the only one who didn’t have it off, do not post selfies on one of the various social media platforms.  Lesson learned.  Make a positive, lasting impression and you will always have that organization supporting you, be it by way of an actual job or kind words for a different employer.

If your employer asks you to stay on after your co-op, you do it.  Even if they say it’s unpaid, even if it’s full-time, even if you have to take the T at 5:30 am.  I completed my student teaching at an amazing Boston Public School, a school that I still dream of working at.  After my semester ended, I was asked to stay on as an unpaid aide and I turned it down because I needed to work full-time and actually earn money.  A girl who was in the same boat as me took an unpaid aide job and now has her own classroom at said school.  I doubt if I went back there today anyone would even remember me.  If you have a way to take an internship, an experience, a co-op, anything and make it into something more, an opportunity for you to shine and for people to truly remember you, do it.

Show your face.  In college, my friends and I (count us: 1, 2, 3, 4) kept to ourselves.  We certainly weren’t homebodies by any means – we went out, had fun, lived it up Husky style.  But we weren’t really involved in any groups, clubs, networking events, or anything of that nature.  We didn’t go to sporting events or formals.  We didn’t really branch out beyond each other and some satellite friends we hung out with on occasion.  Now, with things like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, it’s so easy to reconnect with people you went to school with.  People who may have plush corner offices that can hook you up with an interview at that firm you’ve been eyeing (see where I’m going with this?).  But guess what?  If you don’t actually talk to anyone, you don’t really have a lot of people to network with years later.  So even if you aren’t a social butterfly, it wouldn’t kill you to attend a few events, make some new friends, or even sit with a stranger in Snell.  You never know who your new friends will turn out to be down the road so don’t be afraid to branch out.

Samantha Bracy is a special education teacher in the Newton Public Schools.  She received her BS and MEd from Northeastern.  She is the proud mother of a little girl with another baby on the way and enjoys trying to maintain her sanity as she balances life and work.  Feel free to contact her at samantha416@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Shawn’s Home Run: Blending Computer Science and His Love for the Sox

clockwise: NU Commencement 2008, me holding the 2013 World Series Trophy, me in the Duckboat on parade day

clockwise: NU Commencement 2008, me holding the 2013 World Series Trophy, me in the Duckboat on parade day

This guest post was written by 2008 alum (I know, 6 years later not 5, but his advice is too good!), Shawn O’Rourke, for the 5 Alums, 5 Years Later series. Shawn graduated with a BS in computer science and is now the Coordinator of Baseball Systems Development for the Boston Red Sox. 

November 2nd, 2013:  Thousands gather in celebration around the city of Boston. On Boylston Street specifically, where just six and a half months earlier, one of the most tragic events of the city’s history took place. The Championship Trophy stood proudly on the Boston Marathon Finish line, draped with the numbers “617” and words “Boston Strong” around it.  I will always remember exactly where I was at that moment: riding in a Duckboat, hand over my heart, singing “God Bless America” in unison with the thousands in attendance.  Remembering the victims and their families and the courageous efforts by the first responders, I couldn’t help but get emotional.  It was one of those moments when you realize how truly fortunate you are. A moment that makes you recognize that you are part of something bigger than yourself. Part of the healing process. One of Boston’s Strong.  My name is Shawn O’Rourke.  I’m a 2008 graduate of Northeastern University and Coordinator of Baseball Systems Development for the 2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox.

You may be wondering how a NU Alum with a Computer Science degree finds himself riding in a World Series parade with the likes of David “Big Papi” Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia. The answer is simple – networking, patience, passion and hard work. As an undergrad in 2007 I was fortunate enough to be in a class where the then Red Sox Director of IT (also a Northeastern Alum) happened to be a guest speaker. After class, I introduced myself, handed him my resume, and a few weeks later had myself a co-op in the IT department. Throughout my six months running around Fenway Park fixing computers, printers, phones, and a/v equipment I was able to meet people from all different company departments.  These connections would ultimately help me land my dream job after graduation. But it did not happen right away.

I remember driving back home to my parents house the day after my graduation ceremony in May 2008.  College was officially over.  No more classes, no more homework, no more finals.  It felt great, however, I also didn’t have a job and didn’t have any money (aside from graduation gifts).  It was a very scary feeling.  So what do you do as a broke graduate with no job?  You join your friends on a month-long backpacking trip around Western Europe, obviously!  Turned out to be the first great decision of my post-college life.  Remember – you have six months before you have to begin to start paying off those college loans and the rest of your life to work on building your career.  So first piece of advice is, if you have the time and the money to travel – DO IT NOW! Just remember Liam Neeson won’t be there to save you (sorry bad Taken reference).

Two days after returning from my trip, I received a phone call from a connection with the Red Sox with an offer to work as a consultant doing software development.  It wasn’t a full-time position, and it wasn’t exactly my dream job, but I took a leap of faith knowing that, over time, I could network my way to where I wanted to be.  Remember – just because you don’t get your dream job right away does not mean you won’t ever get there.  Patience is truly a virtue.  At the company Christmas party in 2008 I had a conversation with the Director of Baseball Information Services in Baseball Operations – the department that I desperately wanted to work in.  Two months later, I was hired full-time by baseball operations to work exclusively on baseball systems – my dream job! I’ve been there ever since.  My patience, networking, and hard-work had paid off!

Now, maybe you don’t quite know what your dream job is right now – totally fine.  My advice for those who are unsure is to start by finding a place to work that does something you are passionate about – even if your degree or major doesn’t directly apply to it.  My degree was in Computer Science – but my lifelong passion was baseball.  I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met that have degrees in subjects that have almost no relevance to what their jobs are today.  The truth, at least in my experience, is if a company can tell that you are a hard-worker who is passionate about what the company does, they can and will teach you the necessary skills as long as you’re willing to learn.

So congratulations, my fellow huskies, on completing this chapter of your lives.  As you prepare to start your next one, just remember that above all else, it is yours to write.

Shawn O’Rourke is the Coordinator of Baseball Systems Development for the Boston Red Sox and proud NU Alum.  Feel free to contact him at sorourke@redsox.com or tweet him at @Shawn_ORourke