When My Dream Job Wasn’t

Photo Source: idaamerica.org

Photo Source: idaamerica.org

This guest post was written by BU and NU alum, Lindsey Trione. She now works in Greek Life at Texas State University. 

When I was looking for my first post-grad job I interviewed a lot…I mean a whole lot. I was applying to anything and everything that was close to what I wanted to do. I wasn’t picky about the size of the organization, the location, or even the living arrangements (in my field sometimes you get an apartment as part of your compensation). I just wanted a job.

Then along came my dream job. It was doing EXACTLY what I wanted to do for an award winning organization located in a part of the country that I preferred. I knew other people who had worked there and saw all of the great things they were doing, things that I wanted to be doing, and the national recognition they were receiving for their efforts. When I mentioned the posting to my mentor she told me about how highly sought after this position was and how she interviewed there but didn’t get the job. Even my parents, who don’t really understand my field, knew that this was a job I absolutely had to apply for. As you can imagine, my mind was racing “How awesome would it be if I got this job?”, “What could this do for my career?” and “I’m totally going to nail this interview!”

Finally, I managed to calm myself down enough to fill out the application. After what felt like weeks of waiting with no results I finally received that golden email asking to set up a phone interview. This was it! I made it past the first cut! I was ruthless in my preparations for the phone interview. I did practice interviews with friends, asked for advice on how to be successful in a phone interview, I even spent my commute answering questions I posed myself as if I were being interviewed in my car!

The best part was, once the phone interview happened I totally nailed it! My phone call was with my potential supervisor and I really had a connection with him. We discussed his organizational goals, my career goals, and my thoughts on best practices while still managing to have what felt like a real conversation. I ended that call even more sure that this was the place I wanted to work.

When I was invited to an on-site interview I was beyond ecstatic, like jumping up and down screaming ecstatic. I was going to actually visit this great place and meet even more people, people who could potentially be my future co-workers. However once I got there for my interview things started to feel off, the great connection I had made over the phone was almost non-existent.

The day started with a group interview with the staff I would be working directly with. I remember being asked how I would have handled a “hypothetical” situation. In my response I spoke of the best practices that were discussed during my phone interview and how I would use them to handle the situation. When I finished my answer I was met with silence and instead of following up they just moved on. My interview with organizational stakeholders wasn’t much better, except instead of awkward silences I was met with awkward jokes that I had no clue how to respond to.  Overall, the entire day was uncomfortable.

Afterwards I tried to convince myself that I was just really nervous or maybe I put this place on a pedestal with unrealistic expectations. Was I reading too much into their responses, or in some instances, their lack of a response? Slowly I started to realize that it wasn’t because I was nervous, or had unrealistic expectations, it was because this organization wasn’t a good fit for me. I learned that the job search isn’t just about who can advance your career and give you networking opportunities, it’s about where you feel like you can fit in. When I wasn’t offered the job I was actually relieved because I knew that I wasn’t going to accept the position if it were offered. I could no longer see myself working there, and those amazing opportunities I was looking forward to no longer seemed so amazing.

My search ended up lasting a lot longer than I thought it would and maybe that was because I became pickier about where I interviewed. When I did find my current position, I knew I had found the place that I fit in. I saw several people who took the first job offered to them and ended up leaving after less than a year; I’m happy to report that I’m not a part of that group. I love my job and I love my organization. Maybe it wasn’t what I had originally thought would be my dream job, but I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Originally from North Carolina, Lindsey earned a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Administration from Boston University and a Master of Science in College Student Development and Counseling from Northeastern University. She found her dream job as a Greek Affairs Coordinator at Texas State University in sunny San Marcos, Texas. When she isn’t working with her students she can be found with her nose in a good book or playing with her dog Brett. Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LMTrione.

 

 

Tell Me About Yourself… But Not Really

image source: cartoonstock.com

image source: cartoonstock.com

This post was written by Amy Stutius, Career Advisor at Northeastern University Career Development.

In everyday life, if someone asks you to tell them about yourself, it’s usually because they want to get to know you as a person and learn about your interests, hobbies, and passions.  So if I asked you to “tell me about yourself,” what would you want to say?  Would you tell me that you grew up in California, love to surf, like cookie dough ice cream, and just came back from a family trip to Paris?  That would all be pretty interesting, and a good conversation starter if I asked you that question while we were waiting for a treadmill to open up at the Marino Center, or if we were taking a break from studying for finals.  But what if you were coming in to interview with me for a co-op, internship, or a job that you really wanted?

You response might help me realize what a fun and unique person you are, and that maybe we’d have something in common as friends, but it wouldn’t tell me anything about why I should hire you, and why you’d be a better fit for the job over any of the other candidates I’m interviewing.  Remember, you’re out there trying to compete for, and secure, a great job and the way to do that is to market yourself, not as a terrific and friendly person with an interesting childhood and hobbies, but as a terrific and friendly person who can do this job better than any of the other candidates waiting in the wings!

So how do you master your answer to this question or some variance of it?  Think it through and then PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.  You’ll need to answer this question in some form during your interview, whether the interviewer comes out and asks you to “tell me about yourself,” or if they say “what brings you in here today.”  Even if they don’t ask you the question that directly, it’s great for you to try to weave your proposed answer somewhere into the interview because the whole point of the answer is to clearly and articulately relay a bit about your background and experience, and why that makes you a good fit for this position and this company.

back to the future poster

image source: meansheets.com

When you’re thinking through your response, I like to take the “Back to the Future” approach (part 1, that is). You want to start in the present, then travel to the past, and then head back to the present and into the future.

So by starting in the present, you’re going to be talking about your current status, namely, your class year, and major, and anything else relevant that’s going on right now.  Next you’ll travel with your interviewer to the past, where you’ll share a few RELEVANT snapshots of some experiences you’ve had that tie in well to the job you’re interviewing for.  These could be co-ops you’ve done, academic projects you’ve worked on, and/or any research you’ve completed.  After you discuss those all-important RELEVANT experiences, you want to travel with your interviewer back to the present and start heading into the future, meaning that you’re going to very briefly find a way to explain how, through those experiences and your coursework, you’ve developed the necessary skills to make a strong contribution in this position, which especially interests you because….[and here’s where you fill in exactly why you’re so very interested in this position at this company!]

Sound good?  So next time someone asks you to “tell me about yourself” in an interview, remember that they’re looking for you to tell them about yourself in a way that’s relevant to, and focused on, why you’re a great fit for the position and the company.  Save any cute childhood stories and discussion of your favorite ice cream flavors for some friendly banter once you get the job!

Amy Stutius is a Career Advisor at Northeastern University.  She practiced as an attorney before transitioning to higher education.  Email her at a.stutius@neu.edu.

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.

Things To Take Care Of Before You Apply: A To-Do List

30 Rock... full of words of wisdom source: digitalfireflymarketing.com

30 Rock… full of words of wisdom
source: digitalfireflymarketing.com

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

Think of a few things that are the worst: missing your train by ten seconds, room-temperature milk, and wearing socks to bed. You know what’s probably worse than that? Missing out on a job even though you are the perfect candidate. Get your business in order, even before you start applying, to avoid those speed bumps that could cost you your dream job.

1. Check yourself out on social media. Google yourself – don’t be shy. Employers are more likely than ever to look you up on Google, Twitter, Facebook, and anywhere else they can find information. It’s your job before application time to spruce up your social media channels and take care of anything that might show you in an unfavorable light. Drunk pictures? That’s not cute.

2. Set up a voicemail message. Remember when ringback tones were awesome? That time has passed. Let go of your I’m-clearly-a-high-school-senior Pitbull ringback tone and record a short, clear voicemail message. Make sure to state your name clearly, and it’s probably best to listen to it a time or two to make sure no one can hear the oven timer going off in the background. A great voicemail message makes you seem more like a human and less like a robot, so get that done.

3. Set up an email signature. Because you’re that kind of official. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or pretentious – just your name, school name, and maybe cell phone number at the bottom to make it as easy as possible for potential employers to contact you.

4. Start brainstorming interview “moments.” It’s important to be prepared for an interview at any time – an employer might call you the day after you submit an application and schedule an interview with you the next day, and cramming for an interview is a less-than-ideal situation for the nerves. In an interview, it’s important to have “moments,” or quick stories about situations you have encountered or projects you have been involved in that will solidify your position as a qualified candidate. If the position is customer-service oriented, think of a time you exhibited stellar customer service skills and try to incorporate it into your interview if possible. It will give your interview substance and make you a more interesting and memorable candidate.

5. Do your research. It’s obvious when a candidate has done his or her research when the time comes for an interview. Instead of awkwardly fumbling around the company website, check out a few other sources. The company profile on LinkedIn will give you a list of similar companies in the industry (aka. competitors you should know about). The company Twitter will give you a sense of the office culture while providing access to industry-related articles you should probably read. It’s important to be well-read because

You are a capable and qualified candidate who deserves to be gainfully employed (repeat that to yourself a few times in front of the mirror before you head to an interview). You did the legwork, got the relevant experience, and wrote a crazy cover letter. Now it’s time to get your business in order and avoid the stumbling blocks on your way to the interview.

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.

Last Call: Senior Career Conference Today!

SCC_logoThinking back to my last semester of my senior year of college, I was actively avoiding what graduation meant for me and kept myself blissfully unaware of what I should be doing/needed to do to prepare for life after graduation.  I didn’t graduate THAT long ago (to give you a time frame, Facebook had been invented by the time I got to college) so I can relate to what many graduating students are feeling. One of my biggest regrets was not taking advantage of the people at my university who had tried to prepare me for the future, and not taking advantage of the opportunities to help me figure out what I wanted to do.  If I had done so, I believe my transition from student to new professional would have been a lot easier than it was. I eventually made it, and I was fine, but I could have saved myself a lot of turmoil if I had started earlier rather than later.

The Senior Career Conference, today in Stearns from 12-6PM is here to do JUST that—give you everything you need to prepare yourself for the job search and beyond. The workshops range from Salary Negotiation to Managing Stress on the Job Search and you get to meet with a lot of cool employers at the event—Liberty Mutual, TJX, Philips, Procter & Gamble and City Year are just a few of the employers who will be there to critique resumes, serve on panels, and co-teach workshops with our Career Development Staff.  An added incentive for dropping by is that we have some really cool prizes. Microsoft and TJX have donated special prizes that you can win by submitting your resume, and other prizes will be given to the first 100 students just for showing up.  There is no registration required and everyone is welcome, so stop by to attend a workshop, get your LinkedIn picture taken, or to get your resume critiqued—anything you do at the conference will help you on your way to becoming a new professional and being prepared to the transition.

 

Ashley LoBue is a Career Advisor at Northeastern Career Development. A Boston College graduate, Ashley has over 3 years of experience working in higher education and is a proponent for international and experiential education.

 

Where Should I Put My Snow Boots? and Other Questions to Ask Before an Interview

When I was searching for my first job after college, I was psyched to be called for an

Image from www4.images.coolspotters.com

interview for one of the jobs I was most interested in. Come the day of the interview, it was December in Massachusetts and there was tons of snow on the ground already. I had to wear snow boots to the office and change into my shoes when I got there, but it also meant that I had to carry the boots with me. Can you say “awkward”? Turns out, that wasn’t the most awkward moment of the day.

Based on my limited interview experience, I assumed the interview would last about an hour. Wrong. It was scheduled for FOUR hours, meeting multiple people in sequential meetings. First, I was meeting one of the research investigators. Then, I met with one of the senior research investigators. Next up were two of the research assistants, to tell me more about the day-to-day aspects of my (hopefully) job. The last interview was with one of the programmers that worked with the group.

I panicked. Not only did I have somewhere else to be and have to let people know I wouldn’t be there (back in the day before everyone had cell phones, meaning I had to borrow a company phone to call), but mentally I was thrown off. I was rattled by having to rearrange my schedule and even more intimidated by the idea of meeting so many people and for such a lengthy period of time.

Image from fanathepurp.co.za

I tried to pull myself together but was feeling “off” the entire time I was there. I must have held it together pretty well though, because I did actually get the job. In addition, I learned a very useful lesson for scheduling future interviews: Ask questions! Know what you are getting yourself into. Some things you should know before you show up (and yes, it is totally ok that you ask these things):

  • Where will the interview be held?
  • Who/how many people will you be meeting with?
  • How long should you plan on being there? (After all, you may have a class later.)
  • What is the format of the interview? Some possible formats include panel or group interviews, candidate presentations, case studies or behavioral interviews.

Knowing these kinds of things in advance will help you better prepare for the interview and make sure you’re at the top of your game when you get there.

For more heplful information on interviewing, take a look at the interviewing section on our website http://www.northeastern.edu/careers/jobs-internships/interviewing/.

Tina Mello is Associate Director of University Career Services, and has worked at Northeastern for 11 years. Nicknamed the “information guru” by other members of the staff, she loves to research and read about various job/career/education topics. For more career advice, follow her on twitter @CareerCoachTina.

How to land the job of your dreams– or at least be considered

PingLogo

This guest post was written by Caroline DeBauche, a People Operations Partner at Ping Identity Corporation.

Recognized by Forbes Magazine in 2013 as one of America’s Most Promising Companies, Ping is on the hiring fast track. The talent acquisition team at Ping reviews thousands of applications and interviews hundreds of candidates for only a few positions. So how can you stand out to successful companies who are looking for the best of the best?

1. Create a great resume.  

  • Use spell check! This may seem obvious but you’d be surprised at how many people have misspelled words on their resume.
  • Have at least one other person review your resume. Ask for his/her initial reaction and make improvements.
  • Put relevant information first- it’s okay if that’s your education. Your major is more important to recruiters than your babysitting or lawn care job.
  • Choose your words wisely. Use powerful action verbs to get to the point as recruiters usually only spend seconds reviewing a resume.

2. Be prepared for the phone interview. When you get called for an interview, make sure to get all the details.

  • Ask who you will be interviewing with, request their jobs and titles, and determine who will be making the hiring decision.
  • Research, research, research! Start with the company website but don’t end there. Search for recent news, LinkedIn, Glassdoor.com. During your research, write down specific questions about what you found. This will show you did your homework and will set you apart!

3. Nail the onsite interview.

  • Show up 5 minutes early, but no earlier! If you arrive earlier, you put pressure on the interviewer to move up their schedule.
  • Write down the names and titles of everyone you interview with.
  • Focus on what you can do for the organization, not what they can do for you.
  • When answering questions, use specific examples from previous jobs or group class projects.
  • If you don’t know the answer or something or don’t have the experience, be honest. Then let them know you’d be eager to learn.
  • Ask great questions (see below for two examples).

TWO MAGIC QUESTIONS

  1. What can I do in the first 60 days of my employment with your company that would make the biggest impact to the team?
  2. What concerns do you have about my background, that you think would prevent me for doing this job?

Remember to be prepared, be persistent and be passionate! 

Over 900 companies, including 45 of the Fortune 100, rely on Ping Identity’s award-winning products to make the digital world a better experience for hundreds of millions of people. Ping’s own Gary Derkacz will share his personal experiences crafting solutions that millions of people use each day.

Come learn how Ping Identity protects identity, defends privacy and secures the Internet and provides custom solutions for WalMart, Bank of America, BMW and hundreds of other big-name customers. Register for the NU Tech Talk Tue. 11/19 6:00PM-7:00PM by clicking HERE and/or tweet Ping Identity at @PingIdentity.