4 Tips for being successful at co-op and as a student

This was written by Samantha Saggese, a 3rd year NU Chemistry major who is currently studying abroad as a guest post for The Works.

Starting your first co-op can be an unnerving experience. While you may have already spent a few summers here and there working full time, this is likely to be the first time you’re entering an entirely professional environment for six months straight. I like to think everybody makes mistakes on their first co-op, and probably their second and third co-op’s as well. Here are a few tips that’ll hopefully make your co-op experience memorable in a good way:

1. Dress to impress. I worked in a research lab in a hospital, so I actually dressed rather

source: browneyesandgreenbees.wordpress.com

source: browneyesandgreenbees.wordpress.com

casually in comparison to my friends working in financial firms or other office jobs. However, we had two rules that needed to be followed at work: no open-toed shoes and no denim jeans. I started noticing more and more that the older full-time employees sometimes got away with wearing jeans and the supervisor wouldn’t say anything, so I gave it a shot myself one time. Just play by the rules, because having that awkward conversation with your supervisor about why you messed up on the most basic of rules is, well, awkward.

2. Make an effort to make connections. You’re not going to be the only person on your team. Working with you will be people with so much life experience, and in turn, so many connections to other jobs and important people in your field. I want to go into the medical field, so of course I tried my best to chat up the physicians and nurses on my floor. They’ve already been through it, and literally are fountains of knowledge. Don’t sit quietly in the corner, take advantage!

3. Be nice to your co-workers. This could mean fellow co-op’s, or in some cases, full-time employees. Your personality will shine through in a positive light if you’re kind to your co-workers, willing to learn, and eager to help. It’s really a give and take—for me, I had rotating shifts at the hospital, and if I didn’t sometimes agree to switch shifts in my co-workers’ favor, there would be no reason for them to be there for me when I had a scheduling issue and needed to switch myself.

4. Get to know your supervisor. This is the person who will be evaluating you at the end of all of this, and why pass up the opportunity to get a killer recommendation from someone with weight in your field? You want them to be able to talk specifically about you, to know how hard of a worker you are, and to not give you some boring and generic recommendation at the end of your six months. Take a few minutes out of your day to talk to them and always be on your toes, even when you think they aren’t looking.

The great thing about co-op is that all of the tips and skills you pick up there are completely applicable once you get back into class. You should always try to get to know professors who teach the subject you’re most passionate about and make meaningful connections with your peers. And while you don’t necessarily need to dress to impress when you’re going to class, putting your best foot forward is always a must.

Samantha is a third year Chemistry major with a minor in Biology. She did her first co-op at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as a Clinical Sleep Research Assistant in Spring 2013. Samantha is a Resident Assistant on campus, a member of NUSAACS and the Honors Program, and has studied abroad in Rome and London. Check out her travel blog at www.sightseeingsam.blogspot.com and/or feel free to contact her at saggese.s@husky.neu.edu.

Welcome to the European “Student City”: Leuven, Belgium

City Spot Leuven

“I knew I wanted to travel abroad,” explained Behavioral Neuroscience Senior Jake Jordan, who is currently completing his co-op as a Research Assistant in a lab studying neuroscience in the city of Leuven, Belgium. “I originally went to my co-op advisor who directed me to the international co-op office. At first they didn’t have anything, and I was like ‘okay, I’ll just go abroad after graduation or whatever’ but then she got back to me a while later and said something had opened up in Belgium so I jumped on that.”

Jake has actually been working overseas for about 8 months– longer than the tradition co-op of 6 months and took over for his lab’s very first Northeastern co-op student. “The process wasn’t too bad. The best piece of advice is to do your research and plan way ahead. Like, I didn’t know that there were only a few Belgium visa offices in the whole country, luckily there is one in New York where I’m from, but if I was from the Midwest or something I would have been screwed.”

Market in Leuven, Belgium during one of many summer music festivals

Market in Leuven, Belgium during one of many summer music festivals

Jake interviewed via Skype with his boss who is originally from Canada. He explained that one of his favorite aspects of working in Belgium is the diversity of the people he works with. “There are people from all around the world here, it’s really cool. The culture is a lot different too. It is a little bit more laid back than the US. There are always people in common areas and it’s very common to just walk around and hang out.” When asked what his favorite part of his job was, “it’s always changing, it’s a small office but it’s exciting—which is actually the most challenging thing too, but I really like it so it’s a good challenging.”

His favorite food: the waffles (of course). What does he miss the most? “Northeastern, my friends and my family of course. Oh, and baseball definitely.”

Kelly Scott is a Career Advisor at Northeastern University and social media enthusiast.  A Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

If you know anyone who would be a great City Spotlight feature, contact Ashley LoBue at a.lobue@neu.edu for more details.

5 reasons you should work at a start-up — and tips for doing so

This guest post for The Works was written by Zachary Williamson. Zack is a 5th year Comm-Media Studies Major and has co-oped at the New England Conservatory as a Video Production Co-op and  at CustomMade as a Marketing Co-op. He recently accepted an offer from CustomMade as a Creative Associate for the Marketing Team. Zack also freelance as a photographer for the Northeastern Athletics Department.

While many people go on co-op looking to work for a large, well know brand, I encourage people to consider smaller, less established, start-ups. These kinds of companies tend to be a good fit for self-motivated people, or someone who wants to work in a fast paced environment.

For my second co-op, I was fortunate enough to be hired at CustomMade.com, a start-up that had already secured some venture capital funding, and had been a member of the marketing team during a time of incredible growth. Every co-op is a different experience, but if you want to try something less traditional, a start-up is the way to go.

1. Work at a start-up for at least one co-op.

Working to build a company is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have early in your career. Working at a smaller company means that you are making a far greater impact because you make up a significant portion of the staff. It also means that you have to be flexible, oftentimes wearing many “hats” or serving multiple roles, depending on the needs of the company. That said, you will most likely have a lot of skills to leverage and market when looking for your next co-op, considering you were both the HR and IT assistant.

2. Be ready to make mistakes, and own them when you do.

Part of working at a start-up is building something new. Depending on the field, it’s possible that a company is the first to ever attempt something at a particular scale or in that way. Being cutting edge means you’ll inevitably make mistakes, both personally and as a business; and you’ll most likely make a lot of them. Learn from and take ownership of your mistakes to avoid them in the future. But don’t let fear of making mistakes prevent you from… (see #3).

3. Take risks and force yourself to learn new skills.

One of the co-founders of CustomMade told me they would rather a project fail, than not push it far enough or try at all. Trying out new projects makes you more versatile–and versatility is one of the best skills you can bring to a start-up. Specialization is important, but don’t allow yourself to settle into a comfort zone. All co-ops should be about seeking new opportunities, but small companies in particular have more work than they have employees. Stepping up to a task, and then figuring out how to complete it, will make you that much greater of an asset to the company as a co-op, and a more appealing full time hire in the future.

4. Start-ups move quickly– very quickly.

Most start-ups have limited funds to operate, so they need to be incredibly agile and quick to try new ideas. While it’s all well and good to work out how to complete a task, many are time sensitive. Start-ups have to be quick to adjust and find a viable solution if something isn’t working. Things have to change quickly in order to conserve funds, and sometimes projects have to be abandoned in order for this to happen. This leads into my next point, that…

5. Start-ups don’t have room for egos.

Since speed is critical for a start-ups’ survival, they need to build teams of people who can quickly switch gears and go with the new flow of the company. A negative attitude won’t get you far, every challenge must be approached not with a “this won’t work attitude”, but rather a “how can I make this work, or work better” mindset.

Start-ups require a lot of work, but they can also be incredibly fun and rewarding. They force you to make incredible career developments because you have opportunities to do everything and anything. A lot of start-up culture revolves around the concept of work really hard, play really hard. If you like a new challenge every day and never want a dull moment, consider working at a start-up. It was the best decision I’ve made to kick start my career.

Zack has spent the last four years as a coxswain on NU’s Men’s Rowing Team, and is rounding out his final semester at NU as Comm-Media Studies Major, with minors in Cinema Studies & Production. He has co-oped at the New England Conservatory as a Video Production Co-op and at CustomMade as a Marketing Co-op for 16 months (he never really left). He recently accepted an offer from CustomMade as a Creative Associate for the Marketing Team. Zack also freelance as a photographer for the Northeastern Athletics Department. You can find him on the sidelines of a home game or on twitter @ZackWVisuals. (PS CustomMade is always looking for awesome people to join our team in Cambridge, MA, so feel free to reach out if you’re interested!)

Corporate vs. Startup Life: Which Is For You?

What's best for you? Source: www.primemagazine.com

What’s best for you?
Source: www.primemagazine.com

This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works. Follow her blog here and/or tweet her @lindseygsampson.

When looking for your first job, it’s important to take into consideration the environment in which you thrive as an employee. Are you a creature of habit who craves structure? Do you prefer a relaxed, highly collaborative work environment.

The Corporate Life: The environment of established companies will vary from place to place. At an established company, systems and standard work already exist and your role in the company is usually clearly defined. If you have concrete career goals in a specific industry or at a specific company, the corporate life might be for you. Large, established companies are amazing assets for those with specific career goals because there is a clear hierarchy and distinct career paths. Generally, these companies also offer better packages in terms of salary and insurance. Here’s where you will find your job security.

Tip: If you live by the mantra “work to live” and crave work-life balance, a fairly established company will probably suit you better than a startup, where hours can be more sporadic and emails from your boss on a Saturday night are normal.

The Startup Life: It is not for the feint of heart. At a startup, you are likely to be given an incredible amount of responsibility and your skills will grow quickly. Networking events will

Source: http://venturevillage.eu/infographic-pros-cons-startup

Source: http://venturevillage.eu/infographic-pros-cons-startup

become a second home and your network of entrepreneurs in the city will grow immensely. In a fast-growing startup, hours might vary greatly from day to day. Evening events are frequent, so don’t be surprised if your fellow employees don’t run out the door as soon as 5pm rolls around.

What’s a co-working space? This is a large office where startups can rent desk space. This allows for a community of startups who can learn from each other and gain access to resources and mentorship more easily. Co-working spaces will frequently set up socials and events so companies can meet each other and share ideas.

Tip: If you’re brand new to a city, working at a startup is definitely a good resource for meeting people and getting your foot in the door. Frequent networking events and evening office gatherings will spice up your evenings.

Startups and large companies vary greatly, but both are valuable career moves. Before you start applying for jobs, take a look at your own values and decide which career environment is best for you.

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

In a New York state of mind…

City Spot NYC

Allison Walker has been working at BWR Public Relations in an exciting, fast-paced internship in the Big Apple for the past few months.  Despite the high cost of living, (a standard movie-ticket will cost you $13.50!) and despite the fact that NY is home to some of Boston’s biggest sport rivals (the Yankees), Allison has thoroughly enjoyed her internship and time so far in NYC.  She was kind enough to give me the inside scoop on her internship, her viewpoint of NYC, and advice for any Husky who is looking to intern there.

Ashley LoBue (AL): What type of public relations does BWR Public Relations do?

Allison Walker (AW): BWR Public Relations is a celebrity PR company that works on the talent side, so we do celebrity PR, but we also do events for corporations.  

(AL): Tell me a little bit about what you do day-to-day as a public relations intern.

(AW):  Well the good news is that I never have to get coffee! It’s great because I get to do minimum “intern” work. In the beginning I had to do some photocopying, and I was charged with updating both electric and binder press kits for clients, but then I started getting more responsibility as the internship went on, which was really cool.  I was given the opportunity to work NYC Fashion week, where I created client schedules, booked them for shows, and acted as their informal “body guard” during shows. So, I basically managed their interviews and any interactions they had with the press and photographers.  I also got to go to the DKNY birthday party and made sure the clients were situated there and helped my supervisors create client schedules and looks for the Emmys.  I’m really excited that I get to go to these types of different events (I go by myself or with a publicist) to make sure that everything is going according to plan for different BWR clients.  

 (AL): So now I know a little bit about what you do and what you enjoy as part of the internship.  What do you find challenging?

(AW): Sometimes the work hours are challenging. For Fashion Week, I had to work all day and into the night to coordinate everything and make sure everything was going smoothly.

(AL): Could you take me through the process of how you got your position in NYC?

(AW): I got the interview through the co-op system! It’s the first time they are doing co-op. I interviewed with them at their office in NYC. It’s best to go to interviews in person unless it’s really difficult to get there.

(AL): Do you have any advice for students that want to work in PR?

(AW): Well, I do have a really big background in entertainment PR and film, and I’ve also done music PR, which probably made it easier for me to land this internship.  They are looking for someone who is really outgoing and is not just going to just sit in the back corner and wait for someone to tell them what to do.  They like people who can take initiative and ask, “What do you need? I can do this.” PR needs a type of person who can put him or herself out there. So, my advice is to be confident and let people see your willingness to work hard and passion for the industry.

(AL): What are some of the major differences between living in Boston vs. living in NYC?

(AW): NYC is a lot more expensive than Boston and a lot more fast-paced and cut throat than Boston.  People think,” oh that’s not true, it’s just a rumor”, but it’s so true.  Honestly, everyone has either done what you’ve done or done more, but that makes you more driven and makes you want to try harder, which is one of my favorite things about the city.  NY is a perfect place to start a career or intern because it makes you ready for anything and made me into a super intern.  Boston is a great place to intern, but NY has made me excited, driven and competitive. NYC is one of my favorite places, so I might be biased, but I definitely recommend for anyone to intern here at least once.

 (AL): What do you want to do post-graduation?

(AW): I do like celebrity PR– it’s fun, exciting and I get to do a lot of fun stuff.  I’m not sure though.  I think maybe something in the entertainment field because I like that environment.  Journalism or public relations is probably where I’m going to end up.

(AL): And finally, what is your favorite food in NYC?

(AW): That’s a tough one. Probably the 24 hour diners!

Ashley LoBue is a Career Advisor and The Works’ City Spotlight corespondent  If you want to be featured as a City Spotlight, or know somebody who should, contact her at a.lobue@neu.edu. 

How To Make Your Commute Awesome For You (And Those Around You)

source: cartoonstock.com

source: cartoonstock.com

This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works. Follow her blog here. 

Often, the train is full of people you wish weren’t on the train with you. People who listen to music too loud, eat smelly food, or take up 150% more space than they need. Don’t be one of those people. Make your commute the happy and productive bookends to your workday.

How To Make It Great For You:

Get up-to-date. The Skimm is a newsletter delivered to your inbox every morning at the crack of dawn, updating you on all the important goings-on in the world. Want to know what’s happening in Egypt before you even get into the office? Here’s your chance — now you can be.

Do your social media thang. Follow some business leaders, bloggers you admire, or new sources. Now your Twitter feed has become a business tool, keeping you one step ahead of the upcoming industry trends. Share a story or two on your own Twitter feed before you get to the office to avoid the social media timesuck during the workday.

Unwind. Do whatever relaxes you and wakes you up. Do you knit? Speed-knit yourself a sweater vest because you can. Another tip: Podcasts. They aren’t just for your mom, sweet cheeks. Podcasts are a great way to relax and (sometimes) learn something. Want to relax and laugh your way to work? Try the Joy the Baker podcast – it’s killer. Want to hear a good story? Download an episode or two of This American Life. Brightening up your morning can boost your brainpower and productivity before you get to your desk.

Make It Great For Everyone Else:

Turn it down. If your music is loud, chances are good that everyone around you can hear it. Do they want to hear it? Probably not. Be conscious of how loud your tunes are, especially in the morning.

Be aware of your bag. It’s not cool when someone’s briefcase, filled with bricks or large metalworking tools, smacks you in the face (not that I’m still upset or anything, Suit-Wearing Stranger). Know where you bag is swinging at all times, and try to keep it restrained.

Eating breakfast during your commute is fine, but try not to whip out last night’s Chinese food leftovers. It might smell great to you, but it’s probably not ideal for the person sitting next to you on the train. If you have smelly food, wait until you get into the office.

Maximizing your commute can start your day on a high note with some early morning productivity. Bring a notebook with you on your commute if there is work you can do without a computer. Taking advantage of your “down time” in the morning can ease the stress of the rest of the day.

Lindsey Sampson is a middler International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here.

10 Things I Learned from Sitting on a Hiring Committee

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photo courtesy of Flickr user bearstache.

Back in April, I was part of a hiring committee, and it was our job to hire a new career counselor. Here’s what I learned from my first time on the other side of the table.

  1. A messy resume is a dealbreaker. If you can, send it as a PDF to avoid wonky reformatting.
  2. Don’t say in 40 words what you can say in 10.
  3. Unorganized writing suggests an unorganized candidate.
  4. An interviewee who can tell a story will stand head and shoulders above the rest.
  5. If we can’t clearly tell from your resume where you got your experience, we will investigate. If we still can’t figure it out, we will think you’re hiding something.
  6. For the ladies – if you absolutely must personalize your interview outfit, pick fun and tasteful shoes. Shoes won’t distract during the interview the way bold jewelry might.
  7. Take a breath and relax!
  8. If we learn in the interview that you probably won’t be happy in the position – in terms of culture, fit, and work-life balance – we will do you a favor and let another employer hire you for a job you’d like better.
  9. Be on time!
  10. Always send a thank-you note! Don’t get caught up in the paper vs. email debate. It’s more important that you pick one and do it.

Amy Annette Henion is a senior communications major with minors in theatre and East Asian studies. She basically lives in the theatre department office on the first floor of Ryder. Follow/tweet her at @amyannette37 and read her blog here.

How to Be a Real Person and Other Things I Learned On Co-Op

This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works.

Co-op is a unique opportunity that allows you to explore potential career paths, network with professionals at every level, and grow in ways you didn’t think possible. But, real talk time: sometimes learning and expanding your boundaries is hard. Here are a few of the lessons I learned from my first co-op.

1. How to be a real person: For the first month of co-op, I woke up with just enough time to get dressed, scraped myself off of my desk at 5pm and sludged home on the T. Eight

40 hours is harder than I thought.... Source: Frabz.com

40 hours is harder than I thought….
Source: Frabz.com

hours of solid productivity five days a week was exhausting – I never made plans on weekdays except to cook pasta, watch reruns of So You Think You Can Dance, and run into bed. The 40-hour workweek takes some getting used to, but by the end of my first co-op cycle, I was going for morning runs and making dinner plans on Tuesdays like I was somebody. Experience with a real work schedule is such a valuable learning opportunity.

Co-Op Tip: Don’t rush into making tons of plans your first week – you don’t want to get burned out. Take time to figure yourself out and establish a schedule.

2. How to make yourself valuable: It’s hard to make a real, lasting impact when you work two days a week and people keep calling you “intern.” Spending six months at one company during co-op allows you to fully immerse yourself in a department or a group. You find your place and start to learn more about your strengths based on your contributions. I didn’t know creativity and design were strengths I had until I worked on a project creating posters for one of our large events. It takes some time to establish yourself as a valuable member of a team, and working so closely with my department for six months allowed me that experience.

Co-Op Tip: Speak up! Making your voice heard will allow you to make a deeper impression on your employers. Respond to group emails , get involved in meetings, take on leadership roles – don’t just float around in the back unnoticed.

3. Uncommon common knowledge in the workplace: My first week of co-op, I drafted an email proposal to a caterer and re-read it fifty times to make sure it was professional. Invaluable office skills, like being able to write a professional email, fielding phone calls from difficult customers, and learning the ins and outs of client relations, are skills that can only be acquired on the job. Having these skills early sets you apart from other applicants when the time comes to apply for jobs.

Co-Op Tip: You will learn a ton your first week on co-op, so take notes on everything. This will allow you to more fully absorb facts and processes. If you’re feeling wild, combine your notes into a training binder or portfolio for the next co-op because you’re just that kind of thoughtful.

4. Handling different management styles: In the real world, having three six-month jobs in for years is flaky. In college, it’s co-op. Over the course of your four or five years at Northeastern, co-op will likely expose you to several different leadership and management styles, allowing you to be a better leader. Becoming a leader is less like growing a tree and more like building a bird’s nest – constructing a leadership style means collecting diverse lessons and habits from those around you.

Co-Op Tip: Pick up habits from your employers as you go – if something was helpful for you, chances are good that it will be helpful for someone else down the road. If you notice something meaningful about your boss’ communication style or organizational methods, try it out for yourself.

5. How to establish a network: I still get emails and updates from co-workers at my previous co-op. Co-op gives you several opportunities to establish strong relationships with professionals in your field. Don’t end co-op without establishing at least one or two strong professional connections. Just being able to hear about experiences firsthand from other professionals will help you gain valuable insight into your own career.

Co-Op Tip: Take the time to grab lunch or coffee with your managers and co-workers. Ask them questions you have about education, career paths, work, life – anything you want to know. They usually want to help, so let them! If you communicate your career goals, they will be better positioned to help you reach those goals.

Most importantly, take full advantage of co-op. Take the time to learn everything you can while on co-op. Talk to everyone, explore new things, and take on projects outside of your comfort zone. Co-op is an amazing opportunity, so it’s time to grab that bull by the metaphorical horns and get to work.

Lindsey Sampson is a middler International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here.