“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

I Graduated. Now What?

image source: www.thecollegecrush.com

image source: www.thecollegecrush.com

In a recent blog featured in the Washington Post, author Dylan Matthews writes of successful do-gooders at high paying Wall Street jobs who have opted to cash in for good instead of pursuing careers for good through what he calls “earning-to-give”. Matthews highlights MIT grad Jason Trigg who spends his days writing code at a hedge fund on Wall Street; Trigg believes that he can make more of an impact on the world by donating his hard earned income to organizations that are making a real difference. “A lot of people, they want to [help] and end up in the Peace Corps and in the developing world without running water… [but] I can donate some of my time in the office and make more of a difference,” says Trigg. Arguably, Trigg may be able to give away more money in a year than most people give in their entire lives.

In my job at the Social Enterprise Institute at Northeastern University, I come across many recent grads who believe that there are only two such paths for doing good. The Bill Gates’ of the world are hard hitting tech billionaires turned philanthropists, while the John Hatches of the world are idealist Peace Corps volunteers who start their own charitable organizations. What Matthews and Triggs fail to highlight are the numerous other paths to doing good for the world – paths that don’t involve sacrifice, or pay cuts, or digging wells for poor people in Africa.

A few years ago, one of my students, Shari, graduated from Northeastern and got a high paying job at a top four accounting firm. Last year, Shari came into my office unexpectedly and updated me about her life — she moved to New York City, lives in a fabulous apartment, makes more money than she can ever spend, has no student loan debt, and has achieved the quintessential American dream in every sense. She recently completed her CPA, and has ample opportunity to grow at her firm, but she asked me, is this enough? Because being a middle manager at a great accounting firm, volunteering on the weekends, and donating money to her favorite organization wasn’t fulfilling a deeper sense of urgency. Shari was tired of doing taxes for rich people, and wanted to use her business skills and knowledge to make a real difference.

A year later, she sent me an email, subject line: Remember our Conversation in November? “The conversation I am referring to is the one where I hate my job and its killing me working there. So that’s still happening but the feeling has become more suffocating,” she wrote.

I believe the path of social entrepreneurship leads to meaningful, well-paying careers for young people who understand enterprise as the solution to the world’s most pressing social problems. They are leaving behind the concept of traditional charities and non-governmental organizations and pursuing jobs at the intersection of business and development. This past May, the SEI graduated its largest class of seniors. Since we began in 2008, our students have gone on to pursue wonderful careers in finance, accounting, investment banking, or even entrepreneurship. However, as more students graduate, I’m surprised by the number of alumni like Shari who send desperate emails one-to-two years into their careers, seeking advice and encouragement to leave their desk jobs for something else.

Then I think of our alumni who are pursuing careers in the private sector, the public sector, through fellowships and other non-traditional paths – and I am compelled to respond.

For instance, Myles worked two years at a mobile healthcare start up before he left his job, the apartment he owns, and his friends/family to live in Kenya for six months to consult for a mobile tech social enterprise through Village Capital and Frontier Markets Program. Tim could have taken a finance job anywhere, but he also chose to work at Root Capital where he analyzes the company’s lending portfolio (mostly fair-trade coffee) from the mountains of Peru.

Or take Cynthia, who also left her job at a top accountancy firm to work at New Profit Inc., a venture philanthropy fund that specializes in high impact organizations and social enterprises. Meanwhile Nele is in Kenya working at the Paradigm Project, a for-profit B-Corp that sells solar cookers to lessen the environmental impact on our world. Lucas was recently awarded a Fulbright Fellowship where he will be researching the impact of fracking on the environment in Germany. From Atlanta to Seattle, we have a number of Teach for America Corps members working in the country’s toughest schools – in fact, Serrano turned down a lucrative offer at a management consulting firm to join TFA instead.

In an otherwise tough job market and economy, our alumni inspire me. So while writing at my desk, I send Shari an encouraging email with lists upon lists of fellowship opportunities, domestic jobs, and international postings, none of which involve well intentioned voluntourists or digging wells in rural Africa. I am hopeful for her, and the many other graduates who know that earning-to-give is one path of many to meaningful, fulfilling careers that make the world a truly better place.

Esther Chou cur­rently works at the Social Enter­prise Insti­tute as the Assis­tant Direc­tor of Pro­grams. She grad­u­ated from North­east­ern Uni­ver­sity with a BA in Inter­na­tional Affairs & Eco­nom­ics and is currently pursuing an MsC in Management.  She also worked for a refugee relief orga­ni­za­tion as the Project Man­ager for their micro-finance ser­vices, help­ing to cre­ate income oppor­tu­ni­ties for rural farm­ers and micro-entre­pre­neurs. She has spent three years work­ing in the inter­na­tional devel­op­ment field in cen­tral and south­ern Africa. You can find the extended version of this post http://www.northeastern.edu/sei/2013/09/i-graduated-now-what/

 

 

 

Two Ways To Get Off To A Fast Start At Work

Set the standard! Source: tofurious.com

Set the standard!
Source: tofurious.com

The guest post for The Works was written by 2012 NU communication studies alum, Chris Garland. Since then, he’s worked as a Corporate Trainer for both Sysco Foods and Halliburton Energy Services, where he flies around the country supporting thousands of employees. His work mostly deals in Corporate Training and Change Management.  

Barely a month after graduation, I flew to the middle of nowhere Alabama – by Alabama standards – to support a local Sysco Foods’ office in implementing a new sales platform.  Did I feel ready to support and advise them?  The answer didn’t really matter.  What mattered was that I learned how to make myself a valuable resource for them.  I learned how to get off to a great start.   If I didn’t, I was nothing more than an Independent Contractor, who could easily be fired at a moment’s notice without even the requirement of a reason.

Now that I’m on my third project as a Corporate Trainer, I’ve learned just how important it is to get off to a great start at work.  The two ways I shared  can be easily adopted and used in your own careers, co-ops, and anything else you may pursue in your professional life.

#1: Set A Benchmark

We’ve all had assignments that restrict us to completing them in specific ways, i.e. 10 pages, APA format, 5 sources, 7-minute speech with a PowerPoint, rubbing your stomach and head with different hands while standing on one leg, etc.  How often have we been asked to complete an assignment with no standard way of doing it?

When you start a new job, chances are you will be asked to do tasks that have no benchmark.  Each predecessor before you probably whipped together their own version of completing whatever assigned work task, and while each version may have been completely satisfactory work, they weren’t done to the point that a standard was a set. Be the one to set that standard.

My first job after graduation I was contracted to work on a Corporate Training team with Bluewolf for Sysco Foods.  Bluewolf was finishing up a Salesforce.com implementation and my Project Manager asked me to work on a tip sheet for their new custom developed mobile version of the application.  This app would not be taught in a class like the web version, but it would be used by thousands of sales employees throughout the United States.  A simple tip sheet would have been enough to do the job, but instead, I made a full-blown user guide.  I made sure to receive feedback from employees that would use the guide as well as the developer that created the app to ensure it was not just an abundance of information thrown on a page, but something that was user friendly.  I can honestly say I put 100% into that assignment.

A couple of weeks later, I was contacted by a Bluewolf employee asking me for the non-PDF version of the guide for Bluewolf to use for two reasons.  The first one was no surprise as they wanted to use the guide as a template for future use.  The second reason was for something I did not expect.  They wanted to use the guide as an example of work that can be provided during sales meetings with new clients.

#2: Become A Subject Matter Expert

Think about some of the smartest, most insightful teachers you have ever had throughout your college career.  They challenge their classes to ask question after question and to critically think about the topic at hand.  Occasionally, the discussion reaches the inevitable point where the teacher just does not know the answer.

When you start a new job, you are bound to ask questions – I honestly don’t think there is such a thing as too many questions or stupid questions – and if you ask enough, you may eventually venture into subjects no one has the answers to.  Become the Subject Matter Expert.

I recently started a second project with Halliburton – yes, that Dick Cheney company – and from day one I was asking multiple trainers question after question to learn how the new application I would soon be training worked.  Eventually I found an area of the application that no trainers had learned how to use yet.  I made it my goal to figure out this functionality of the application, which led to me meeting with one of the developers to discuss all of the intricacies from a software standpoint and a training perspective.  Before long, I became the local Subject Matter Expert for all of the other trainers to learn about this topic.  So while I only recently joined my team, I was already able to become a valuable resource for both my colleagues as well as my project managers.

Setting a Benchmark and Becoming a Subject Matter Expert are both ways to get off to a great start in a new position.  However, when I started brainstorming and listing every single way to get off to a great start I could think of, they all had one simple thing in common.  They are all about taking the initiative.

Chris Garland graduated from Northeastern back in Spring 2012 with a Communications degree.   Since then, he’s worked as a Corporate Trainer for both Sysco Foods and Halliburton Energy Services, where he flies around the country every week to support thousands of employees in places that have ranged from Denver and Los Angeles to Des Moines, Iowa – where “I had such a great BBQ sandwich that I almost finished eating it without even realizing I didn’t put on any of the provided BBQ sauce on.” His work mostly deals in Corporate Training, Change Management, and finding cool new places in cities he’s never been to.  Reach out to him via email at garland9.c@gmail.com.

Alum Advice: Create Your Own Opportunity

Image source: http://www.jeetbanerjee.com/50-great-quotes-about-entrepreneurship/

Image source: http://www.jeetbanerjee.com/50-great-quotes-about-entrepreneurship/

This guest post was written by Joe Ciccolo, a 2004 Criminal Justice graduate and an accomplished expert in building enterprise risk management functions.  He now serves as a financial regulatory consultant for various Rotary International service projects. 

There’s no question that the current employment landscape is extremely challenging for today’s job seekers. While employers have trimmed spending to the bone and large-scale layoffs have subsided, hiring remains anemic. Organizations positioned for growth are very deliberate and highly selective when it comes to interviewing and retaining candidates for employment.

This so-called “employer’s market” continues to disproportionately affect college graduates, as employers remain committed to measuring qualification in terms of years of experience. Not surprisingly, the popular refrain I hear from so many recent graduates is ‘how can I get a job that requires experience, if I can’t get any experience?’ It’s a question that I asked myself many a time while submitting 100s of applications in the months following my graduation from Northeastern in 2004. How I wish I knew then what I know!

The answer to this question is simple…create your own job. After all, experience is not the product of formal employment, but rather the demonstration of one’s ability to identify and solve problems, and effectively manage projects.

To accomplish this, I advise those I mentor to seek out and approach an organization that has a particular need that would benefit from their unique skill set. For example, the marketing graduate might begin by exploring the collateral of various non-profit and civic groups within her community. After identifying a potential need, say for example brochures for an upcoming charity golf tournament, she could then approach the group and offer to provide her expertise in exchange for formal recognition. Such an endeavor would not only provide much needed project management experience and items for her professional portfolio, but would also put her in a position to meet business owners and other influential parties. Similarly, a computer science student might offer to create a website and social media presence for a local organization in exchange for his credentials appearing at the bottom of the homepage or recognition at an upcoming fundraising dinner.

The opportunities are limitless, and applicable to all graduates irrespective of major. All it takes is individual motivation and to the willingness to put yourself out there. Non-profit and civic organizations are always looking for motivated individuals to share their vocational talents. In so doing, individuals will have the opportunity to display in demand project management and problem solving skills, while giving something back to their community.

Continued best wishes to members of the Class of 2013 and those following in their footsteps. Go Huskies!

About the author:

Joe Ciccolo graduated Magna Cum Laude from Northeastern University’s College of Criminal Justice in 2004. He’s an accomplished expert in building enterprise risk management functions, including the fraud prevention department of a publicly traded financial services firm and most recently the anti-money laundering department of a large online bank. Mr. Ciccolo is a Certified Fraud Examiner and Anti-Money Laundering Certified Associate. He serves as a financial regulatory consultant for various Rotary International service projects. 

Mr. Ciccolo can be reached via email at joeciccolo@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @AML_Report  

Note: Views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Ciccolo and do not necessarily represent those of his employer.