Advice to my 25-year-old self.

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First, manage your career because no one else will.

When choosing a job, be confident enough to ask yourself “Does this add to my career capital?” Is this something I really love to do? Will this job be a great next step?” I pursued a career path that was in an industry I loved (financial investments) but I was in a job that I hated (stockbroker).  My advice to you if you find yourself in this situation  is before leaving the industry, it is important to explore other career paths within the industry. Financial planner? Financial analyst? Fund Manager? Do some brainstorming and informational interviewing within the industry you love to find out what else is possible. The best ways to get your creative juices flowing is coffee shop with some great creative books or magazines or online blogs. Think Fast Company (

Second, seek out a mentor. Everyone needs a mentor. You might have different mentors at different stages in your career, but they are important. Remember that mentors are rarely colleagues and not easy to find.

Third, It matters who you spend your free time with.

Who you choose as your friends and partner will matter.  As the years march on, who you hang out with, who you choose as your partner, really does matter. Watch Meg Jay’s Ted talk on Your Defining Decade.

Find friends who support, advise and push each other as you make your way deep into your career and life. It will be fun to manage your career if the people you are spending your free time with are doing the same.

Push yourself to be uncomfortable. Have a career bucket list. Allow yourself the time and space to continually ask yourself “What do I want? What do I love? What are my gifts? Where are my growth edges? That requires a depth of self-knowledge and connection that can only positively affect your life choices. For example, if you want to work internationally, put yourself out there. Tell your company. Be strategic. Learn languages.  Be culturally flexible. At the beginning of my career, my generation stayed put in the cities they grew up in.  What differentiated me was that I moved to various large cities in the United States. San Francisco.  Los Angeles.  Atlanta. Minneapolis. Finally Boston. My willingness to be uncomfortable, displayed a flexibility and adaptability that helped me to manage my career and offer a perspective that employers appreciated. Check out Sohan Gokarn talk about how to stand out.

And Last, dance and dance every day. Sounds absurd but dancing helps you to connect with your true self. It is there that you will find all your answers.

In conclusion, enjoy this video.

What do you think of this advice? Leave your own thoughts in the comments below!

Sharri Harmel works in career development at Northeastern University.. She loves international travel, creative thinkers and good books, all with equal passion. Tweet at her about the article @careercoachNU!

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 and on Twitter @marygeorgant.

Want to make a good first impression online?

orange napkin

Clean up your Facebook account and update your Facebook privacy settings. 

Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014 was the keynote speaker at my sorority’s 20 year conference. I had the great opportunity to hear her story this past weekend and something that really resonated with me during her speech was a story about this boy in middle school that made a comment about her mustache. She said, “ he can go on to be CEO of Apple or someone really important but I will always remember him as the guy that made me feel bad about my mustache”.  Wrapping up her story, she emphasized the importance of the kind of impression you leave on people.

Since we live in a world powered by social media, your Facebook page can often times be a first impression of you to your employer or colleagues. You’ll be surprise how many managers will try to see if you have any mutual friends and will even ask their friends about you or what you post on your profile.

In a previous blog posts from this series,  I focus a lot on how you can use social media to accelerate your personal brand.  In this particular post, I want to focus on how not paying attention to your privacy settings on your Facebook page can set your brand back a bit.

To clarify, this isn’t privacy settings when you accept a friend request from someone. These are the settings you should be familiar with when someone lands on the public portion of your page. . .

  1. Take advantage of the “View as” capability. This allows you to view your page as if you were someone else. ( add screenshots)
  2. Your Coverphoto is ALWAYS shared with the public. There is currently no option to change that setting although one is rumored to be in the works. With that being said, I highly recommend to opt for a safe conservative cover photo so that people don’t get the wrong idea about you. Safe photos would be a city or popular landscape.
  3. Your first profile picture is also always SHARED with public unless you choose the option to “only share with me”. Because of this, I recommend to choose a profile picture that best represents you and what you want you to be known for. Opt out on those partying pics that you thinks make you look cool right now. Be sure to go into your “profile pictures” album and change those settings to “share only with friends”.
  4. Edit your “who can look me up setting” which is under privacy and settings and change the “Do you want other search engines to link to your timeline?”. Click no. This will help minimize any Facebook activity that will show up after someone searches you on Google or any other search engine site.
  5. Clean up your posts and tagged pictures every few years!  What you posted when you first opened your account at 18 is going to be there when you’re job hunting at 21-22. Naturally, your 18 self isn’t representative of your 22 year old self.  As we’ve seen with celebrities and high profile cases, what someone has posted in the past can have repercussions that impact their employment and reputation.

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

Look for Haylee’s posts every other Tuesday

Image source: SocialAppsHQ, Importance of first Facebook impression

Start Early and Set Yourself Apart: An Interview With an NU Alum

Jay Lu received his BSBA in Accounting and Marketing in May 2014 and MS in Accounting this past August, 2014. During his time at NU, he held numerous positions both on and off campus and internationally. Jay successfully completed three separate co-ops at large multinational companies with experience in audit and assurance, tax and operations. Jay recently completed the CPA exam and his currently working in audit and assurance at a CPA firm. In his spare time, he enjoys volunteering, reading and sports. To learn more about his professional background- check out his LinkedIn profile.

When did you first come to the Career Development office?

It was for the Career Fair, freshmen year.

Why go to a career fair? Most freshmen would wait until later for this.

I had no risk.  I didn’t feel pressured.  I didn’t need anything out of it.  I wanted the practice of the experience. It’s kind of like a festival, with everyone dressed up.  It can be a fun event when there isn’t pressure.  I didn’t have a suit back then.  But I went in and just talked with a couple of recruiters.  At this point I didn’t have a resume.  But later on I learned how to create a resume, and how to make a good impression.

What else did you do early on?

Early on I went for an appointment about career direction.  I wasn’t sure how to explore my options.  Through my career counselor I learned about informational interviews.  In fact I even did one for an RA position.  Ended up getting the job because I was more prepared and had someone recommending me from the info interview.  I also got into LinkedIn early on.

From these early experiences, what do you recommend that students do in their 1st or 2nd year?

Don’t think that just because it’s your first year that you have all the time in the world.  You’ll be graduating in a flash.  When you start early, you’ll be ahead for when you need it. When there is less pressure, when you don’t need a job yet, get advice then.

How can students have an impact on potential employers?

A lot of employers want to know if you want them.  It’s not just about your skills.  To stand out, make a good impression early on with them. Be genuinely interested in the field, which should be a natural feeling if you chose a major you are passionate about. Have people warm up to you, and your personal brand early on, even if you might not be fully certain what that is yet.  The idea here is to build your network before you need it.  Things get a lot more competitive, when you are a senior.  Everyone is going after these connections.  By starting early you can set yourself apart. They will be impressed that you are being so proactive.  Another point is that there is more leeway if you mess up, employers will more likely overlook this when you are younger.

How can students make more employer connections?

Go to career services and alumni events.  Do these while you are still on campus.  Once you graduate, it’s harder to fit these in.  Also, the further along you get in college, there are more expectations put on you (from recruiters, parents, peers), compared with when you are in your 1st or 2nd year.

What can you gain from this early networking?

When you chat with recruiters, they might open you up to other career paths that you didn’t know about or hadn’t thought of.  The more exposure and more conversations, the better.  You can never know what you’re going to do, exactly, but you can learn more early on to help.  It’s great if you can find out sooner what you might value in a career, while you can still make changes to your academic or co-op path.  You might save yourself time and heartache.  The more people you talk to, the more confident you’ll be with your choices.  You want to find those people that are in your potential career path, since they’ve already been there and you can learn from them.  Would you want to be in their shoes? Talking to them gives you a chance to find out.

During your senior year, how did you approach your job search?

I didn’t have too much trouble.  I had already been to 3 or 4 career fairs, and I already had quite a few connections from co-ops and various other events. If you have done everything early on, at this point it should be a relaxing year. At my last career fair, I received an interview call in less than an hour after the fair ended.

How do you maintain your network?

Always follow up after any professional encounter. Send a thank-you note after meeting someone at a campus event or any professional encounter.  For example, after attending the Global Careers Forum I sent an email to one of the guest speakers saying thank you.  I didn’t ask for anything in that moment. It might come later. Northeastern makes sending thank-you letters after co-op interviews almost religious, I try to use this same mindset. I always like to think of the story of one interviewee’s thank-you letter being a PowerPoint that showed how he would tackle a current problem facing the company. Now that’s hitting the ground running!

Is there anything you wished you’d known sooner?

Don’t take your professors for granted.  They can be some of the best resources.  They are there for you, and they want to help you.  I made a habit of seeing my professors every semester, even just to chat with them (while you are in the course and sometimes even after).  One professor sent me details about an internship that had been sent in by an alum.  I was given the details about this opportunity because the professor knew me well, and he had confidence in me. In addition, if I had more time, I would’ve joined more organizations that were related to my major.

Anyone you stay in touch with?

One of my accounting professors I went to see a lot.  He had great industry advice about how to get started, he recommended good organizations, and even suggested events to attend.  I sent follow up messages to thank him and to let him know I attended the events he had mentioned, I also shared some information that I thought would be useful for his current students.  It’s important to let people know that you followed their advice, and if you have something you can share, then include it.

What’s your finally advice to students, especially when it comes to networking?

Start early and don’t stop.

“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

I Graduated. Now What?

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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




Two Ways To Get Off To A Fast Start At Work

Set the standard! Source:

Set the standard!

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 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

Alum Advice: Create Your Own Opportunity

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Image source:

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 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.