4 Things I Didn’t Learn in College (but wish I had)

ego-deflatedThis guest post was written by NU Alum Kelly (Sullivan) Good she currently works as geologist at Environmental Resources Management in Chicago. 

When I graduated from college, I was convinced I knew everything. I mean, it was right there on paper: good grades, multiple awards; let’s face it, I was a great student. And I was pretty sure I was going to ace the Real World too (cue the “wah wah” as we picture my metaphorical ego being deflated). It turns out, there were several ways in which I was very much under prepared.

Don’t get me wrong, Northeastern prepared me very well. I learned a ton about my chosen field thanks to fabulous professors, I learned time management, I learned how to craft a great resume and cover letter, I learned how to write about a variety of subjects, and most importantly I learned how to learn. I certainly would not be where I am today without a Northeastern degree under my belt.

Even so there were some subtle tips I just didn’t pick up in college. But never fear, it’s not too late to start integrating them into your life right now!

1. You can’t just look good on paper and expect others to notice you.

It took me a long time to find a job, despite having a solid resume.  Grades matter, yes, but so do a host of other factors and often it boils down to who you know. You hear it all the time: network. So start early, Huskies. Establish solid, lasting relationships with mentors at your co-op. Perfect and re-perfect your cover letter. You can never spend too much time job searching.

2. There are no grades at work

Well, duh. But this one took me by surprise. In college, there is a fairly standard metric to measure yourself on, at work there isn’t. It’s hard to know how you are well you are doing, unless of course you really mess up. At my job my supervisor gives me a task, I complete it and move to the next one. I spent the first three months convinced I was doing everything wrong because I wasn’t constantly being graded. It turns out, all I had to do was ask. This will likely vary by industry and by supervisor, but once I sought feedback from colleagues I became much more confident. Practice this at school by asking your professors and classmates to look over assignments before handing them in. Don’t be afraid to schedule an appointment with your professor to talk about ways you can improve, this is totally normal in the Real World.

3. You’re no longer just working for yourself

At NEU, I would pick and choose assignments to devote a lot of time to depending on how they affected my grade. I also developed the poor habit of doing all of a group project because I couldn’t trust anyone else to do it right. I did everything for myself because my grades didn’t affect anyone else but me. Not so much in the Real World. Every task you’re given has a purpose. Your company is depending on you to complete it well. Additionally, most of what you do is part of a larger project. You must learn to be courteous of others’ time, and learn that you cannot possibly take care of everything. Begin now by completing all of your assignments to the best of your abilities and by taking advantage of the shared responsibility that comes with group projects.

4. You can’t always research your way to the right answer

This was the most difficult for me to get used to. Before starting my job, I spent three straight years as graduate student researching my thesis. I was very good at reading scientific articles and even spent whole days and weeks looking for small pieces of information that would push my research to the next level. Ain’t nobody got time for that in the Real World, my friends. If you don’t immediately know the answer to a problem, start asking around. You will save a ton of time using the combined knowledge of your colleagues instead of trying to Google something that’s super industry-specific. This one is a little harder to work on while in college. Obviously, you can’t just ask your professor for the answer, and too much collaboration with your classmates can be considered cheating. So I recommend you continue to research and study the way that works best for you, but try not to forget all that information you learned. It might come in handy some day, and you may be the one your colleagues come to for answers.

In all, it’s not too bad out here in the Real World, but I do know I would have been much better off had I known these things before graduating!

Kelly (Sullivan) Good graduated from Northeastern’s College of Arts and Sciences in May 2010 with a degree in Environmental Science. She received her Master’s in Geology from the University of Utah in 2013 and currently works as geologist at Environmental Resources Management in Chicago. She can be reached at kellygood88@gmail.com

Photo: sourced from EWW­Magazine

On the Importance of Finishing

Image source: chronicle.com/article/PhD-Attrition-How-Much-Is/140045/

Image source: chronicle.com/article/PhD-Attrition-How-Much-Is/140045/

This guest post was written by Lana Cook, a PhD candidate in the English department at Northeastern University.

In my final post before graduation, I would like to reflect on the art of finishing.   As we close up one part of our lives, in my case an educational program, we are most often asked questions about what is next.  We have our eyes pointed to the future, plotting out new jobs and plans.  Having a future oriented mindset is essential for goal setting, but we ought to pay equal due to the past as such reflection can help us better assess what we already possess and what we need to make those future goals a reality.

In the midst of finishing a dissertation and checking off all the graduate requirements, paperwork, and end of year events, I was also trying to set up my future, applying for jobs, taking training courses, and networking for opportunities.  Eventually, I had to hit the pause button on the future so that I could fully attend to finishing up the work of the present. I realized that I needed to finish before I could start anew.   Finishing is more than completing the obligatory tasks at hand.  It is also about reflection, restoration, and renewal.

Reflect

Periods of major transition can bring up a lot of mixed emotions from the spectrum of elated joy to sour regret. After graduation, reserve time to process your experience. Write in a journal. Talk to a friend or therapist. Think about where you were when you started your degree. How were you shaped in the process?  What did you gain?  What sacrifices did you make?   What are you most proud of?  By taking the time to reflect on your experience, you will gain the self-knowledge that will put you in a wiser position to start the next stage in your career.

Restore

Restore Relationships

Graduate school can be very time consuming and can take a heavy toll on work-life balance, causing students to often sacrifice leisure time with friends and family.  Spend your newly gained free time with your family and friends, expressing your gratitude for their patience and support.  Find ways to give back to them as they gave to you over the years.

As you finish your degree, take time to thank the faculty and administrators who helped you along the way.  Though you may be finished with your degree, you should continue to maintain the relationships you have built.  Sending a handwritten personal note or card is especially appreciated today in an age of hastily written emails.  Thank you cards are more than polite gesture; they establish relationships for the future.

Restore Spaces

After finishing my dissertation revisions, my desks at the office and at home were crowded with a flurry of papers, stacks of overdue library books, unpaid bills, and junk food wrappers.  Restore your spaces by clearing out your office if you are moving, and organizing your home office. Sort through papers while they are still fresh; scan and file those you want to preserve, and shred and recycle the rest.

Restore Your Energy

Sleep.  Go for long walks. Meditate. Do yoga. Go out with friends. Go on vacation.  It is essential to leave time to rest, ideally away from the stresses of the job search or starting a new position.  Jumping immediately from one position to the next can leave you exhausted. Take some time to restore your energy so you can start fresh.  These last few weeks, I have found myself repeating this quote from the American philosopher William James, “The time for tension in our souls is over, and that of happy relaxation, of calm deep breathing, of an eternal present, with no discordant future to be anxious about, has arrived.”

Renew

Celebrate your accomplishments, and with that positive energy, dream of what is to come. Take stock of what you want out of the next stage in your life, the values you hold, the goals you want to work towards, and take the necessary steps to achieve those.  If finishing is about reflecting on the person you have become, starting is a time for reinventing your identity.  Do not be afraid to start anew. Take stock of the qualities that enabled your educational success and trust that these will carry you through the challenges that lie ahead.  Finally, remember there will be no one straight line in your career path so be open to the many possibilities that you will encounter along the road.

 

Lana Cook - HeadshotLana Cook is a PhD candidate in the English department at Northeastern University. Her dissertation traces the development of the psychedelic aesthetic in mid-twentieth century American literature and film. Lana is a 2013-2014 graduate fellow at the Humanities Center.  She received her bachelors of arts at University of New Hampshire.  You can follow her on Twitter @lanacook or LinkedIn. You can view her portfolio at LanaCook.net.  She is seeking a career in administration in higher education and the arts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Series: 5 Alums, 5 Years Later

It’s insane to think that this time, five years ago, I was preparing for graduation from Northeastern University. A communications major with a duel concentration in public communication and organizational communication (back when it was still the College of Arts and Sciences), I was ready to tackle the uncertain world in front of me. Unfortunately for the class of 2009, as well as for those after, the economy had just taken a major turn for the worse, and the “Great Recession” was officially in full gear.

Clockwise: 2009 Commencement, Conference/visit to NU Seattle 2014, Red Sox playoff series game with my FIRST co-op supervisor 2014 (the perks of keeping in touch)

Clockwise: Northeastern University Commencement 2009, Conference/visit to NU Seattle 2014, Red Sox playoff series game with my FIRST co-op supervisor 2014 (the perks of keeping in touch)

If somebody were to tell me in 2009 that in 2014 I would be Assistant Director of NU Career Development and Social Media, I would have sarcastically chuckled and then reminded said person that “I was done with this place and didn’t plan on coming back any time soon”. Well, I certainly ate my words. I was officially re-enrolled as a student, yet again (yay double husky), within two years of earning my bachelors degree to work towards a master of science (which I swore I would NEVER do throughout college) in college student development and counseling. To top it all off, I now work here full time, serving students similar to myself, five years ago. My my, how the tables have turned.

A lot can happen in five years’ time, and there are lots of things I wish I had worried more about (cough-loans-cough) and others I wish I hadn’t harped on so much (I could have gone without that cut-off Abercrombie jean skirt). In the coming series, “5 Alums, 5 Years Later”, over the next five Mondays, you’ll meet five 2009 alums, all of which completed co-ops and who are working in very different industries. Hopefully their stories and words of wisdom inspire you to celebrate (even more so) what you are close to accomplishing, and embrace the sometimes, unpredictable world.

Some advice I can share, is to be flexible and open to new experiences (cliche, I know), take calculated risks, and know that it’s OK to change your mind about what you want to do. That said, be ready to do the work to make things happen. Unfortunately, there is no NEUCool for real life (so annoying right?) so work hard to establish and keep relationships with colleagues throughout your career and don’t be afraid to ask for advice and help- it pays off in the long run (trust me on this one).

Also, know that Career Development is available for you to use for the rest of your life- no joke. So if five years down the road (or one year, whatever) you’re interested in transitioning to something else, Northeastern is here to support you. Hopefully these fellow huskies inspire you to hit the ground running come May 2nd. Congrats!

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at NU Career Development. A proud Gen Y and husky alum, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and social media. She also oversees The Works.

How to Prepare For Your Last Semester In College

source: gifbay.com

source: gifbay.com

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

So it’s your last year of college. Nervous about being unemployed yet? Yeah, being unemployed in college means more time for fun stuff, but it’s not so cute a year after you graduate. Starting your job search early in your last year of school will put you a step ahead when graduation rolls around.

Make a company list. Make a list of your top 5 to 10 target companies. This allows you to focus your networking efforts on a specific crop of companies. First, check on their website for any openings. Then it’s time to start the leg work.

Check LinkedIn for people in your network who work at your target companies. If you have a contact there, go grab coffee and talk about the company. They can be a valuable resource for you, providing tips for your application and contact information of someone in the department you are looking at. If you talk to your contacts early in your last year, they will let you know if a position opens up in a few months.

Go to Career Development. Their job is to help you find a job. Take advantage of that service while it’s free and available to you. Stop by with an idea of what you want to do. College career advisors have network contacts in almost every industry, so don’t be afraid to come in just for a chat. Your advisor may have contacts in your companies of choice, so make sure you let your advisor know about your job interests.

Talk it up. If your professors don’t know your career goals, they can’t help you even if they want to. Be sure to talk to your professors, especially if you are in a small class or you have lots of contact with a professor. Find an excuse to stop by their office hours, and mention your job search. Professors are usually professionals in their field, so they have an extensive network of upper-level management and may be able to help you out.

Conferences & networking events. Networking events are an incredible resource for soon-to-be grads. Instead of strolling in with your resume and mindlessly walking around the tables in hopes of finding something interesting, check the attending companies ahead of time if they are posted. This will allow you to prepare for networking with specific companies. At Northeastern, the Senior Career Conference provides an opportunity for graduating seniors to meet with potential employers and create connections. The Senior Career Conference is being held tomorrow from 12-6PM and includes workshops, panels, and networking opportunities.

On average, it takes a college grad between 3 and 9 months to land a job. The best time to start is November of your senior year or earlier. This gives you plenty of time, and allows you to avoid the May unemployment freak-out.

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.

 

Reasons to come hang out with me at Senior Career Conference

SCC_logoThis guest post was written by our new student blogger, Emily Brown, a graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program.

My name is Emily and I’m excited to join The Works blogging team this semester! I’m a graduate student here at Northeastern and an intern in the career development office. Prior to coming to NU, I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology at College of the Holy Cross and went on to work for two years at a construction management firm. Although I did have prior working experience, I certainly could have been more prepared for some aspects of the professional environment awaiting me in that first post-grad job (refilling copy paper wasn’t in my job description!).

source: someecards.com

source: someecards.com

The Senior Career Conference on January 23rd will offer you the opportunity to be more prepared than I was to start that first full-time job and will provide tips and tricks for getting through the job search process to that first day of “real life.” In choose-your-own-adventure style, there will be three workshops each hour of the conference so you can decide which ones (or just one – you don’t have to commit to staying for the whole conference) will best fit your needs. The conference is also a great opportunity to network with employers and alumni in both mix and mingle sessions and panels. As an introvert who has shunned the idea of networking until recently, I highly recommend remaining open to the idea (the LinkedIn for Networking workshop provides a great explanation of the benefits of networking and some strategies to make it less intimidating) and taking advantage of meeting these professionals who WANT to meet you. They wouldn’t be coming if they didn’t.

So mark your calendar for January 23rd and join us at the Senior Career Conference to start building your network and gaining tools to succeed professionally. I hope to see you there!

Emily Brown is a Career Counseling Intern in Career Development and is currently a graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program at Northeastern. She hopes to continue working in the career counseling field once she graduates in May 2014.