Actually Talk to Your Relatives- And Other Things You Should Do On Break To Help Your Career

sit on the throne of liesWith finals quickly approaching and the semester wrapping up, everyone is looking forward to the relaxation of winter break and more immediately, the mini Thanksgiving break. But before you melt into a puddle on your family’s couch watching three weeks of Netflix, winter break is a good time to catch up on some career-boosting stuff that gets pushed to the wayside during the craziness of the school year.

Before you click the “X” box, don’t worry, nothing I’m listing below will take too much effort, but can still make an impact on your career.

1. Actually talk to your family members. Yes, Aunt Sally can be super annoying, but wait, doesn’t she work in finance or something? Before she has too much champagne, try to get some information out her. Us career counselors would call that, an informal informational interview. If you’re interested in the corporate world, she may have people she can connect you with but just never knew you were interested. If she’s a yapper, think of an escape plan ahead of time so you’re not cornered for two hours listening to her after dinner’s over.

2. Set up an informational interview. I know, you hate networking. But it is a rare occasion that you have as much free time and flexibility, so why not take advantage of it? You can tap your immediate network (friends, family, parents of friends) or use LinkedIn to find somebody working at a company of interest and send them a LinkedIn message/email to see if they wouldn’t mind meeting you for coffee or setting up a 15 minute phone call. You could get some valuable information from a pro that’s already in the field. Good questions to ask would include:

  • “Could you walk me through how you got to where you are?”
  • “What are the qualifications/skills your company looks for when hiring co-ops/new grads?”
  • “Could you provide me with some suggestions of how I could stand out as a candidate?”
  • Check out our informational interview guide for more questions.

Don’t forget to send a thank you note!

3. Volunteer or Job Shadow. If you have community service roots, this may be second nature, but volunteering is a great resume booster, even if it’s just for a day or two over break. If you’re going home for break, find out if there are any community organizations or shelters looking for short-term volunteers. Idealist is also a great what to find volunteer opportunities. Employers are looking for well-rounded candidates and volunteering can help you out in that department.

If you had a great conversation during an informational interview, ask them if you could job shadow over break. This will give you an inside look into what the day-to-day life of that professional is really like.

4. Speaking of resumes, update it! Did you just finish co-op? Add your experience to your resume before you return to class, get expectantly busy and then forget all the great things you did. If you’re getting ready to go on co-op, use this opportunity to update your LinkedIn profile. It is likely your new co-workers will be investigating who you are, so not a bad idea to put out the best version of yourself online. We have a LinkedIn guide to help you build your profile if you need a little guidance.

5. Start your job search. If you’re graduating in May, it is NOT too early to start job searching. We have a job search guide to help you get started, but a few things you could do over the break include familiarizing yourself with the basic job search boards (HuskyCareerLink, indeed.com, simplyhired.com), update your resume, LinkedIn, portfolio and/or other social media and develop a target list of organizations you’re interested in working for. Excel is great for developing the target list. You can track job titles, when you applied and anyone you know/have contacted at every organization on your list.

6. Apply to jobs. To answer the question I know you’re asking yourself, no, it’s not too early to apply to jobs, even if you’re not graduating until May (if you graduated in December, there is no time like the present!). Newsflash: the average fulltime job search takes anywhere between three and nine months. The good old days of the co-op schedule are gone and you are now at the mercy of the employers’ schedules and they are very unpredictable (check out Avoiding the Pitfalls of Online Job Applications too).

If you see a job you love, apply now, even if you’re graduating in May. The employer has your resume and can see when you’re graduating; if they’re still interested then they’ll call you. If you’re really concerned whether or not you should apply, don’t be afraid to call the company’s HR department and ask. You don’t have to give a name, they’ll never know.

So after you catch up on House of Cards and have watched enough SVU that “call a bus” is part of your everyday speech, try and take advantage of your time off. You’ll thank yourself come April.

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

Image Source: knowyourmeme.com

Getting Their Ear: Understanding Connectors’ Interests

Tad Info Interview picSo, you’ve decided to link up with a connector for an informational interview. Great, but do you feel you are asking for a favor—i.e. for advice and guidance—without offering anything in return? This misconception undermines informational interviews in a couple of serious ways. First, asking for a favor can be intimidating; and second, it will limit your notion of what the informational interview is.

Focus on interests – yours and theirs

View the informational interview as a negotiation. Ask: “How do I get what I need from this interview in a way that meets the connector’s interests as well?”

Certain interests are common to nearly all connectors. Put yourself in their shoes and consider what you’re in a position to offer them, such as:

  • Recognition: being valued for their expertise
  • Reputation: being viewed as a facilitator or mentor
  • Convenience: having their schedule accommodated (and therefore respected)
  • Insight: understanding you and your perspectives on the field; and how their advice helps to advance an up-and-comer
  • Utility: meeting a potential collaborator/employee who may fill their staffing needs in the future
  • Affiliation: enjoying the opportunity to have an engaging interaction with an interesting (and perhaps like-minded) individual
  • Status: distinguishing them as someone of prominence and importance in the field
  • Appreciation: acknowledging the sharing of their time, attention, and wisdom

Interests are specific to the person. What do you know about what these people are like or would like? For instance, some connectors don’t often interact with colleagues in their field, or adjacent fields, and they may genuinely welcome the opportunity to learn from you or to hear updates about other people in their field who you’ve already contacted. Take one of Carly’s experiences, for instance:

When I was working in the conflict resolution field and considering switching careers into mental health, a lot of the psychotherapists I met for informational interviews genuinely welcomed the chance to learn from me about dispute resolution and mediation. These topics pertain to psychotherapy, but the professional paths of mediators and therapists don’t often cross. I was really happy to find myself adding something of value to those conversations.

This is important sign

Guidelines for requesting an informational interview

Here are some useful guidelines for requesting an informational interview, followed by a sample email. We generally make these requests over email, so we’re focusing on written requests; however, most of these guidelines apply similarly to a phone or in-person request.

Tone and content 

  • Do not write in a way that assumes they will say yes. You’re asking, so your phrasing should make clear that the meeting is conditional on their response: “If yes, would you have any availability the week of the 8th?”
  • Your tone should demonstrate that you’re flexible and willing to make this as convenient as possible for them.
  • Show gratitude and let them know you’d value their input: “I’d value the chance to ask you a few questions about your professional background and the field.”
  • If they don’t know you, include a brief, engaging description of who you are and why you’re interested in meeting them. Don’t give your life story; give three or four sentences, max. In particular, mention topics or experiences that you value in common.
  • Use your knowledge of a given connector or your general understanding of the field or the industry landscape to speak to other interests. If you know that they’re concerned with leaving a positive legacy, let them know that their advice will help you positively influence the future of the field.

Logistics

  • Think about their schedule depending on their job, their field, family situation, etc. Be sensitive to when they’re likely to be free.
  • Make sure you nail down the specifics before the meeting: time (accounting for time-zone differences); location; whether or not meals are involved; phone vs. in-person; if by phone, who is initiating the call, and at what number.
  • Once you have a meeting scheduled, it’s good practice to send a confirmation email a day or two before the appointed date. This is a helpful reminder that busy connectors will appreciate. It shows them that you’re responsible and lowers the likelihood that you’ll be stood up without notice.

Sample email

Dear Betty,

I hope that you’ve been enjoying a wonderful spring thus far.

I am recently out of college and trying to work my way into the negotiation and conflict resolution worlds. I have been meeting with as many interesting and accomplished people as I can to hear their stories and gain their counsel. Both John Doe and Jane Smith mentioned that you would be a great person to speak with. They both spoke of your ingenuity in entering this world and, more broadly, in navigating the challenges and stresses of career-building for someone in their mid-twenties.

I would be truly grateful if you had time in the coming week to meet me for a brief conversation. I can make time during any of the days except Thursday and will happily come to you.

Thank you for your time and best wishes,

Justin

Tad Mayer is an adjunct professor at D’Amore-McKim teaching Negotiating in Business. This blog article is an edited excerpt from End the Job Hunt, a book due out in 2015. Mr. Mayer is co-author with Justin Wright (who also teaches the class) and Carly Inkpen.

Photo source: Flickr Creative Commons, Coffee time

Networking Never Stops. Ever.

source: gregbekkers.wordpress.com memegenerator.net

source: gregbekkers.wordpress.com
memegenerator.net

This guest post was written by Sheila Taylor, a Northeastern University Career Development intern.

net·work·ing noun

:  the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically :  the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business

Most of us associate networking with finding a job. While you’re actively seeking employment, you’re busy forging relationships with people who may help you land that dream job. Networking is about meeting and talking with people. By creating a relationship during the conversation, you will be able to ask, “Who do you think I should talk to next?”

What if I were to tell you that networking shouldn’t end when you find a job? Would you groan in dismay, or would you jump up and say, “Yeah!” to continue building relationships?

For many people, networking is work. It’s a fine art form that you develop over time. Everyone must refine their skills to reflect their style. For some people, they can walk into a crowded room and instantly connect with strangers. For others, it takes practice to find the right conversation starter and to have the confidence to introduce themselves to an industry leader.

After many years in the work force, three careers and an international move, I want to remind you not to abandon that network you diligently built while job hunting! Did you meet some fascinating, fun people along the way? Would you like to have a reason to stay connected? It’s important to continue to cultivate those relationships for business. You never know when you may need them!

Here are some strategies for continuing to network after you have found employment:

First of all, thank the people in your network that led you to where you are now, especially the people that helped you during your active job search. Then, let them know where you are working and how they can reach you. Send them your v-card. Update your LinkedIn profile. Who knows, maybe you can return the favor and give them some valuable information some day.

Are there some interesting people that you connected with? Were they easy to talk to? Did they seem open to answering your questions? Consider building a base of mentors. Some of the people you met through your information interviews or while attending professional association meetings may be willing to fill this role. Why seek out mentors? Early on in your career there may be projects that your supervisor assigns to you that could seem daunting but you don’t want to disappoint them or appear unfit to take on the challenge. Here is where a mentor comes in: they may give you some advice on where to start or how to face the challenge. They may be able to help you brainstorm or problem-solve to come up with a solution to a problem.

I sought out mentors when I landed my second job. Some elements of my job were very new to me – such as conducting interviews with national media outlets. I was alone. None of my work colleagues had experience in this role – they were all happy to push me in front of the microphone! I turned to a few people that I had met at a professional workshop. I called them and asked them for advice. They became my informal “committee of advisors” cheering me on from the sidelines and supporting me during a stressful time.

You may find mentors or advisors in the most unlikely places. I recall participating in a committee for a corporate-wide project. Whenever I presented material to the committee there was one colleague that always challenged my work. At first I was offended and then I realized they took interest in my work and they wanted me to succeed. After the project ended, I sought out this person from time-to-time because I knew they would give me a different perspective.  I have also met people through groups on LinkedIn. I have participated in group discussions and have found that a particular person provides good advice or resources. I will connect with that person and turn it into an opportunity to meet and strengthen the connection.

Networking can also help you grow as a person. Maybe you’ve been in your job for a couple of years and you want to expand your skills – use your network to research how to try out these skills in other ways: through volunteering or getting active in a professional association.

Finally, networking is a little bit like being a gardener. You have to continue to nourish and feed your contacts to keep your network alive. Share information with colleagues. Show interest in what your contacts are doing. Find out about industry trends. Grow your network. Who knows when it may be time for you to look for another job? If your network is active, you can hit the ground running and cut down on the time spent searching for your next opportunity. Better yet, your network may seek you out for a job that is never advertised.

Sheila Taylor worked in the Career Development office as an intern and recently left to move back to Canada. She has worked in both the United States and Canada in Public Relations before transitioning to become a Career Counselor. 

The Informational Interview: The Secret Weapon of Job Searching

This guest post was written by Katie McCune, a Career Development Assistant at Northeastern University Career Development. She’s also a Career Assistant at MIT.

Ever heard of an informational interview? If you’re anything like me when I was an undergraduate, this concept is drawing up a big, huge question mark in your thought-bubble. If you don’t want to be in the successful job-search club, then this is your queue to go back to wondering why you didn’t come up with these college hacks (because let’s be real, they are pretty awesome). If, however, you would like to join the pay-check earning, “look at me, I got a job” club, read on.

Yes!!!! source: memegenerator.net

Yes!!!!
source: memegenerator.net

So, what the heck is an informational interview?

An informational interview is an interview in reverse. Instead of an employer interviewing you, you meet with somebody in an industry you’re interested in learning more about and interview them. And…you got it…the whole point is to gather information. Think of all you could learn if you had 30 minutes with the CEO of your favorite company, or anyone in your favorite company for that matter! Sometimes all you have to do is ask for their time.

But what should I ask in an informational interview?

There are no right or wrong questions to ask, so ask whatever would be helpful for you. Want to know how to break into the field? Ask it! Want to know how important creativity is at the organization, or what the day-to-day work looks like, or the work/life balance, or…? Ask away!  You can ask about the person’s own background, the company that person works for, or the field in general. There’s only one rule: don’t ask for a job. I repeat, DO. NOT. ASK. FOR. A. JOB! It’s sort of like dating. How awkward would it be if on your first date your lucky companion asked you if you would marry them? Whoa, slow down buddy, we just met. Same deal with an informational interview. Don’t ask for a job on your first meeting, it’s not going to work.

If I can’t ask for a job, then how does an informational interview help me get one?

You’ve probably heard that networking is the number one way that people find jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 70% of people found their job through networking. Informational interviews are just like going to a networking event in that they are an opportunity for you to make a first professional impression and help you get the inside scoop on what could make you a successful candidate (but one-on-one meetings are a lot less intimidating for my fellow shy networkers out there). That way, when you apply for a job at the company where you did an informational interview, they don’t just know you as a one-page resume, but they know your face, they know more about your story, and (hopefully) you made a great impression on them so you’re already ahead of other candidates. Better yet, they may even tell you about jobs in the “hidden job market,” or the ones that are never posted.

Case in point, I was looking to get into career counseling, but I didn’t have any experience in the field. I did an informational interview with a career counselor and asked her if there was anybody else she recommended I talk to. I followed her recommendation and did an informational interview with her contact. In this second interview the very last question I asked was, “Do you know of any opportunities for me to test the waters before I make a long-term commitment to this field?” Yep, in fact she did. Northeastern’s Career Development was looking for interns, so I applied to the position that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. And voila, now I’m writing this blog, and the woman that I did an informational interview is my supervisor. See, I haven’t been lying to you, this really works!

The Secret Weapon of Job Searching!

Here in Career Development we have gotten a lot of great feedback from students and alumni alike that these interviews have helped develop themselves as professionals and learn about new opportunities. They’re the secret weapon of job searching because often times, people don’t think to do them as part of their search, but they can be oh-so-powerful. But I hate keeping secrets, so check out Career Development’s resources on how to conduct informational interviews, and help me spread the word by sharing your success stories with us, your friends, and anybody else who is looking for a job! Happy interviewing.

Katie is a Career Development Assistant at NU with a background in sociology. A teacher at heart, she loves leading workshops–in addition to the career workshops, she’d gladly teach you how to hula-hoop, how to organize your house/office/desk, or how millennials can make great employees. Email her at k.mccune@neu.edu.

What the Heck is an Informational Interview?

why are people willing to talk you despite their busy schedule? 1. They're paying it forward. 2. Most people enjoy talking about themselves (and helping of course) Source: usatodayeducate.com

Why are people willing to talk you despite their busy schedule? They’re paying it forward and most people enjoy talking about themselves (and helping of course).
Source: usatodayeducate.com

You’re a Northeastern student, full of vim and vigor and enthusiasm for the future. You’ve got classes and co-ops under your belt, and you feel prepared for the working world. But if you’re like most students, you haven’t discovered one of the most potent secrets of career success. What is this magical secret, you wonder? It’s a little something called “informational interviewing.”

What is Informational Interviewing?

It’s only the most useful career-building tool you’ll encounter. The basic gist is that you will reach out to professionals in the industry and set up interviews with them. Instead of the interviews you’re used to, YOU will be the one asking the questions! It’s the best way to network and gain insider industry knowledge at the same time! And your mom thought you were useless at multitasking! Oh how wrong she was.

The Power of Asking

There are two secrets why informational interviews work.

  • People love to talk about themselves.
  • People love to help college students.

At first, I was skeptical. Who would take time out from their busy schedule to shoot the

source: resumebaking.com

source: resumebaking.com

breeze with a bumbling college student who barely knows what to do with her life after graduation? I reached out to professionals at ten different companies, expecting to bug them a week later in an attempt to set up two or three meetings if I was lucky. Au contraire! To my surprise, almost everyone replied immediately! And they wanted to help me!

You’ve probably heard this statistic before: 80% of job openings are unlisted, and are filled through word of mouth. With those kinds of odds, how can you afford not to network? Informational interviewing is a great way to start. Stay tuned for more blog entries on how I went through the process myself, and I’ll teach you how to do it too!

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.

Pro Perspectives: Financial Consulting at Deloitte

Deloitte logo_1Student Interviewer: Arun Punjabi

Professional Interviewee: Patrick Kumf, Senior Associate in Financial Advisory Services

Company: Deloitte

As a 3rd year student in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University, double majoring in Business Administration and Economics, I seized the opportunity to interview Patrick Kumf, a Senior Associate within Deloitte Financial Advisory Services to not only gain exposure to the career path that he chose, but to seek advice from a successful professional who has been through the same collegiate recruiting process that I am going through. I am currently co-oping at Deloitte Consulting LLP as a Business Analyst, specializing in the Mergers & Acquisitions service line, with an industry focus on Consumer Products and Retail. After the interview, there was no question that the conversations we had were invaluable, both from a learning and professional stand-point.

Arun Punjabi (AP): Can you tell me a little about your current career path and how you came to be at your job?

Patrick Kumf (PK): I’m currently a Senior Associate within Business Valuation at Deloitte FAS.  I graduated with a degree in Economics from Trinity College. I originally joined Deloitte’s Auditing department, but quickly realized that really wasn’t for me.

Patrick continued to explain how after realizing that auditing was not one of his interests or core competencies, he found his niche within the Deloitte Financial Advisory Services, a selective and relatively small business unit of Deloitte that focuses heavily on business valuation and numerical analysis. Due to the cross-functional nature of Deloitte LLP (parent company), Patrick was able to make several connections and work on many projects with professionals in Deloitte Consulting as well as Audit. As for Patrick’s next steps in his career, he intends to leverage his niche skills in business valuation to enter the corporate finance world with a focus on private equity and debt valuation.

AP: What do you do day-to-day as an Senior Associate?

PK: I’m part of multiple projects and teams that range from mid to high performance.  I spend most days managing peers, priorities, and projects.” During busy season, Patrick can work upwards of 75 hours a week.

AP: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting out in this field?

Patrick placed emphasis on networking and communication. Below are his top four pieces of advice

  1. Network
  2. Get referrals
  3. Good recommendations
  4. “Communicate openly and with confidence—don’t be afraid to communicate your issues and interests with your managers.”

AP: What do you find most challenging and most satisfying about your position?

PK: Definitely, figuring out how to prioritize high and low risk projects can sometimes be challenging as well as saying “no” to people to ensure you have a fair work-life balance and focusing on quality over quantity.

He also mentioned time management and how it relates to work-life balance, managing expectations of work and free time as well as people management– “managing people from all walks of life and styles of working can be a challenge”.  In regards to most satisfying, he said there are lots of opportunities for cross-industry work as well as networking opportunities.  He explained that as a Senior Associate you gain economical and mathematical insight into large deals.

AP: If you had to give one piece of advice to a student who wants to be in your position in the future, what would you tell them?

PK: Definitely focus on grades to go to top feeder MBA Schools—Deloitte focuses heavily on recruiting from top academic schools.  And, network effectively and look for opportunities to meet Deloitte professionals, those connections will help you in the long run.

AP: If you had a Husky as a pet, what would you name it?

He went with the name, “Husky” (…haha).