Post-Co-op Reintegration

Library SchoolLike many of you, I am back in classes this semester after completing a spring co-op. Here is a list of the good and the bad revolving around returning to classes after experiencing work in the real world.

  1. A new light is shed on your studies. Whether you realized how little or how much class material you used during your co-op, this will affect your study habits and your outlook on your undergraduate degree. You might realize that you’re studying and working towards a degree for a purpose, or that it is actually completely misaligned in your field of work. You might decide to change your major, like I did, or take more interesting classes that focus on things you experienced during co-op.
  2. New-found motivation. It’s hard be motivated to do well in classes after coming back from co-op. You just spent six months working as an actual adult (!) and didn’t have to worry about midterms, homework assignments, or group presentations. Personally, I’m having a tough time memorizing terminology on bone formation and muscle contraction after spending a semester catching babies in delivery rooms and planning malnutrition programs for impoverished villages. It feels somewhat backwards, but also made me realize that I should have learned about human anatomy and international health care systems in class before doing the hands-on work in a practical learning environment.
  3. More direction. Did you enjoy your co-op? Is it something you’d like to do in the future? Or did you completely hate everything about it? No matter how your experience was, you’ll know what to look for in your next co-op or your first job. With co-op under your belt, you have the right to be more selective in the future instead of shrugging and thinking, “sure, why not?” to any job offer that comes your way.
  4. Networking. Unless you spent a solitary six months working by yourself with no communication with the outside, you interacted with different people every day. New connections, both professional and personal, arise from co-ops. Stay in touch with these contacts, because you never know when something might come along – a collaboration on a paper, a part-time work opportunity, or a conference that you could attend. You also want to be able to approach your supervisor for a recommendation for future job opportunities or ask him/her to connect you with others in the field that you could benefit from meeting.

You already have half a year of professional work experience and that is definitely something to be proud of. Enjoy college life while you can, and keep these things in mind if you ever feel frustrated about going back to classes after co-op.

Rock that Interview.

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You’re on the job hunt and have sent out resumes upon resumes upon resumes and you finally get that phone call offering you an interview with a potential employer. First, congrats! Getting an interview is the next step and that deserves appreciation. Second, here comes the time to shine, to rock that interview.

Interviews aren’t exactly about showing that you’re perfect; they’re about sharing with another person what you’ve done, what you want to do, and how you can fit into their workplace culture.

Think of some answers beforehand. We all know the typical interview question: Tell me about yourself, tell me about a time you faced a challenge and how you overcame it, describe a past project to me, etc. I could go on. Chances are you’ll get asked these at the majority of your interviews so it’s good to have some answers thought out beforehand. Don’t stage what you are going to say, just have a general idea. You’ll relax and allow yourself to focus on simply answering the question instead of scrambling to find an answer.

Dress to impress. It’s time to pull out a nice outfit. Dress up slightly more than you would for a typical work day. It shows the interviewer(s) that you care about the interview and respect their company. Go for something more business professional than business casual. A little tip: try to make sure you wear something you’ve worn before, at least once. The last thing you want is to find out a new shirt is itchy or just plain uncomfortable when you’re waiting for the interview to begin.

Be personable. You are a human. Your interviewer is a human. Therefore, be a person. You don’t have to build yourself up and only talk about your successes. Companies want to see that you have faced challenges in the workplace and want to know how you troubleshot them. Be yourself. Don’t try to change the way you speak, just answer their questions, ask questions, and let your natural light shine through.

Hopefully these tips help you out with any upcoming interviews! Personally, I think the last one is the most important because it’ll show the company who you are because they want to make sure you will be a great fit for their workplace culture. There’s a wealth more of tips on this blog and online, so be sure to check those out if you need more. And remember, you got this.

Advice to my 25-year-old self.

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First, manage your career because no one else will.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In conclusion, enjoy this video.

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

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

Next Stop: The Real World

Despite the fact that I’m in my fifth year at Northeastern and graduating this upcoming May, the thought of a real-world job offer seemed so far in my distant future. Yet when I was approached recently about full time positions after graduation, it seemed as though the real world came and hit me like a ton of bricks. Cue the panic.

Wake Up, Neo

While I did allow myself a few moments of total “What is happening?”s and “What am I going to do with my life?”s, I decided to buck up and prepare.

Prepping for your job search doesn’t have to be miserable. Here’s how:

  • Stay organized. If you’re anything like me, you find making charts in Excel to be extremely therapeutic. While I realize most of you probably aren’t like me, just make sure to stay organized. Keep note of what company you’re applying to, the title of the job you are applying for, any information they provide you, who your contact at that company is, and a record of your correspondence. It sounds overwhelming, but it will be absolutely worth it in the end.
  • Nurture your network. You’ve done amazing co-ops and internships, but don’t let all the valuable connections you made during those experience lay dormant on LinkedIn. A friendly email never hurt anyone, and it helps to show that you’re interested and proactive.
  • Be a little bit selfish. Job searching can be overwhelming and some people (read: loving family and friends) love asking about your search and telling you what they think is best. While they may have valuable advice, really think about what you think is best for you. Has it been your life dream to move to Seattle post-grad, but your friends want you in Boston? Evaluate your goals versus the goals that others set for you. It’ll hugely impact your happiness in the long run.
  • Most importantly, get excited. Don’t let stress shadow the excitement of these next few months. You’re going to be so prepared to take on the world, so get excited.

While the real world comes and often catches you off guard, it doesn’t have to a horrible and scary place. Have any tips to add? Leave them in the comments below.

Happy job hunting!

Jessica Mertens is a senior studying Communication Studies, Business Administration, and International Affairs. With experience in PR, internal communications, and CSR from Metis Communications and Staples, Jessica is now in an eternal state of wanderlust at Travel + Leisure. Offline, you can catch Jessica exploring NYC, binge-watching Scandal, and planning her next world travels. Connect with Jessica on Twitter @jessica_mertens and LinkedIn.

10 Tips for New Interns

 My name is Dodie Fontaine, and I have recently been afforded the opportunity to Intern for the Career Development Center at Northeastern University. Similar to many college students actually leaving the classroom setting, entering the work force can be a daunting experience. Not to worry, I have 10 tips for you!

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1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

There really is no such thing as a stupid question,.. OOkay, maybe there are silly questions but when it comes to an internship and a task that you are unsure of make sure to ask, re-clarify, and ask again. It is better to be safe than sorry!

2. Always ask if there is anything else you can do.

Whenever you finish an assignment or project make sure to ask your supervisor if there is anything else you can help them with. This shows initiative, and that you are willing to go above and beyond your call of duty.

3. Make sure to dress appropriately.

Some offices are more casual than others so it is important to ask your supervisor what the office protocol is when it comes to dress code.

4. Introduce yourself

Although working in a new environment can be intimidating make sure you introduce yourself to everyone in the office.

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5. Learn everyone’s names.

Whether you work in an office with 5 colleagues or an office with 50, you should make it your mission to learn everybody’s name.

6. Be on time, or even early.

Whatever you do, don’t be late! Being prompt is so important and shows that you are reliable. I suggest being 15 minutes early so you can get settled before your day begins.

7. Network, network, and network some more!

Networking is key to landing a job these days so you might as well start with the connections you have made in the office.

8. Be proactive.

Take initiative and get something done without asking, whether it be a project or your own research.

9. Make the most of every minute of the experience.

Even if you’re not getting paid or getting paid very little be sure to make use of the time that you have at the internship. With every opportunity comes experience!

10. Write thank you notes.

Last but not least, make sure to write thank you notes to your supervisor and colleagues – basically anyone that has helped you throughout your time there. Trust me, this goes a long way!


Dodie Fontaine is an Intern at the Career Development Center. She is working towards her Master of Education in Counseling at Providence College. You can find her exploring Boston on the weekend and getting way too many parking tickets in Southie. Tweet her @CareerCoachNU!

Interview Freak Out: How Do I Answer That?!

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Our worst fear, when walking in the door for an interview, is that we’re going to get stumped. This HR recruiter is going to ask us something that stops us in our tracks. We imagine ourselves sitting there with a blank stare, dumbfounded expression, and sweat starting to form on our brow. So what can we do?  Consider using these 4 strategies.

  1. Buy some time. Restate the question to the interviewer. It will look like you are just getting clarification. It might look something like this:

“So, you are wondering about a time when I had a disagreement with my boss about an issue at work? Let me think about that for a second.” 

By restating the question it’s giving that question time to settle into your brain and buying you valuable seconds to see if you can come up with an example. It’s far better than saying, “ummmmmmmm”.

  1. Swap the scenario. If you can’t think of a time when you had a disagreement with your boss, then swap out the scenario. Maybe you can come up with a slightly different example.

“While I’m not able to think, right now, of a time when I had a disagreement with my boss, I can think of a time when I had a challenge with a classmate during a semester long academic project. Could I share this example with you?”

  1. Answer directly. Now if you are still drawing a blank, here’s one other approach. Consider stating that you can’t come up with an example, but mention in general how you handle conflict and ask if that helps.

“While I’m having trouble coming up with a specific example, I can share that in general when I have a conflict with someone I typically pause first to think through the situation, step into the other person’s shoes to try and see where they are coming from, then think up questions that I can ask that would allow us to explore the situation in more depth as a means to working through it.”

4. Postpone

“This is an excellent question, and I can imagine it’s important to know how an individual employee will deal with conflict.  I’m having a hard time thinking up an example in this moment; however, I wanted to see if we might be able to circle back to this question at the end of the interview?”

In the end, one of the most important things you can do is to stay calm and be real.

Sabrina Woods is an Associate Director at Northeastern Career Development and also has a private practice as a Holistic Career / Life Coach & Linkedin Trainer.  She has been in this field for 15 years and is a Husky (BA in Business) plus has a Masters in Holistic Counseling from Salve Regina University in sunny Newport, RI.  When not working at NU, teaching Linkedin or coaching private clients, Sabrina loves to hike, bike and kayak.  For more about Sabrina, go to


Mentorship? Go Organic!

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Every so often, we come across articles preaching out “the power of mentorship”. We read about how one mentor can open your mind and help your career flourish. These articles instill such a desire within us to find that one person who can change our lives and our professional careers for the better. The desire to find this person can grow so strong that we begin to focus less on the quality of the mentorship and more on the search itself.

Mentors (like most things nowadays) should form organically. Often times, you won’t realize the caliber of mentor you have in front of you until you step back and really study your relationship with them. This was the case for me when I first met mine.

I was about one month in to my second co-op when another teammate started. Even on her first day, her confidence and bright personality lit up every room. We bonded over being the newbies on the team and shared very similar senses of humor. As my co-op progressed, our conversations would get deeper and our friendship grew stronger. When I was back in classes and my homework was to interview a mentor in my chosen field, my mind immediately turned to my colleague. I realized that not only was she the first person I immediately turned to for career advice, but also the person I aspired to be more like.

By allowing relationships to grow naturally and fostering them over time, strong and meaningful mentorships will begin to form. There’s no need to force it! Be patient, keep an open mind, and let a mentorship form organically. Trust me, a true and valuable mentorship is 100% worth the wait.

Jessica Mertens is a senior studying Communication Studies, Business Administration, and International Affairs. With experience in PR, internal communications, and CSR from Metis Communications and Staples, Jessica is now in an eternal state of wanderlust at Travel + Leisure. Offline, you can catch Jessica exploring NYC, binge-watching Scandal, and planning her next world travels. Connect with Jessica on Twitter @jessica_mertens and LinkedIn.

Are Leadership Development Programs Right for Me?

Unsure about what specifically to do after graduation? Are you interested in many different areas of a business or company, but unsure about what area you specifically fit in? Leadership Development and Rotational programs provide mentor-ship, training across different functional business areas, and experiences that can help you determine where your best fit is in terms of interests and skills.

Career Development is hosting a Leadership Development Panel on September 30, 2015 in 10 Knowles from 12-1pm (there will be pizza!) featuring representatives from State Street, GE, TJX, and Johnson & Johnson to talk specifically about their LDP programs. To register, click here.  This event is the day before the Career Fair so that you can gather more information about a company/program before seeing them again at the fair.

So why should you consider a Leadership Development or Rotational Program? Here are the top 5 reasons:

  • Access to top executives and leaders: Rotational programs often have projects or assignments that require buy-in from and require you to work with top executives and leaders, allowing you to meet and brush shoulders with the current leaders of the company.
  • Rotations through different functional areas: In a leadership or rotational program, early-career individuals work alongside industry experts on in-depth projects in various functional areas of the company. This allows you to identify an area of the company that is the best match for your skills and caters to your interests.
  • Mentors: As potentially high-performing employees of the company, you are assigned mentors at the manager level or above to help you reflect on your experiences, hone your skills, and help with your career development.
  • Job placement: The end-goal of these rotational programs is job placement in an area that fits with your skills and interests. You will know what you like/dislike about a certain area since the rotational aspect of the program will allow you to “sample” what it’s like to work in different areas.
  • One day you want to be a boss: Many companies rely heavily on their Leadership Development and Rotational programs to identify and groom future leaders of the company, so the training and mentorship you receive will allow you to not only identify your interest area, but also understand other parts of the business, which is crucial in a company leader.

Leadership Development and Rotational Program deadlines tend to be around October/November of your senior year, so if you’re interested in these, make sure you apply soon!

Ashley LoBue is an Assistant Director at Northeastern Career Development.  A Boston College graduate, Ashley has over 4 years of experience working in higher education and is a proponent for international and experiential education.  Ashley also enjoys binge-watching HGTV and aspires to be like the Property Brothers, Drew and Jonathan, as a possible secondary career. Tweet her @CareerCoachNU

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How do I Answer This Interview Question: If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?

Interviewing can be nerve racking, a bit stressful, but super exciting at the same time, right?  We do our best to prepare, practice  and rehearse what to say and be well equipped to answer the typical interview questions, such as, “where do you see yourself in 5 years”, or “why do you want to work for us?” But, what tends to catch us off-guard, are those questions we don’t expect, the ones that are unrelated to the position.

But, there is a way to prepare for those bizarre interview questions! Really, you can actually have fun with them!

I will share a question that I was asked when I was interviewing for a marketing role at a large, well-known company.  My interview was with a hiring manager and a senior sales associate, and they asked, “if we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us”?  I felt like I was staring at them for an hour before I answered, but in reality I sat back and pondered for a minute on how best to answer. My first comment was, that I really like cooking and friends have told me that I am a good cook and an even better host!  From there, it was easy, I made sure to be considerate, I asked if they had allergies, any dietary restrictions, and if they enjoyed sweets! I proceeded to put together a well-thought out menu, right down to the dishes and centerpiece!  I also added, that our dinner gathering was more about the company than the food (they seemed to like that.)  By the way, the company was Disney Publishing, and yes, I got the job!

The reason these bizarre or unrelated questions are asked is often designed to assess your ability to think on your feet and get a sense of your personality.  People who interview you want to hear your thought process and how you handle challenging situations.

Think First, Then Answer

So, take your time when answering a random interview question. Your interviewer (or interviewers, in my case) has designed the question to be intentionally testing and won’t necessarily expect you to have an immediate answer at your fingertips.

Think about what the company does and what role you’re applying for and what the responsibilities are. If there is an opportunity to show off organizational skills, technical ability or math skills in answering the question, this is more than likely what the question is designed to do.

In most cases, these bizarre questions are an opportunity to demonstrate your creativity and about how you could approach the problem/challenge. Remember, there may be a number of possible answers and not necessarily a right or wrong answer. Check out this post about Rubik’s Cubes and 747’s for a similar approach to answering these types of questions.

Your willingness to embrace an unusual question and your efforts to provide a logical answer will be looked upon favorably by an employer, whatever answer you eventually arrive at!

This post was written by Christine Hathaway. Christine is an Associate Director of Marketing and Communications for Co-op and Career Development here at Northeastern. She is our in house marketing guru and is passionate about planning events, working with others to create powerful marketing materials and presentations and enjoys an occasional kick-boxing class or two! Tweet her about this post @CareerCoachNU.

How Do I Answer This Interview Question: How many Rubik’s Cubes fit inside an airplane?


Umm wait what? I thought this was a job interview, not a test of my knowledge about the iconic puzzle cube invented in 1974. What in the world does this interview question have to do with measuring my ability to do the job in question? More than likely, the interviewer doesn’t even know the right amount of cubes that fit inside the plane, and probably doesn’t care to know. In reality the final answer isn’t so important; rather the interviewer is more concerned with how you got to that answer! This kind of question may be asked to gauge your problem solving ability and how well you deal with vague situations.

There are a lot of unknowns in this question, and that is the point. If you are presented with a situational question like this, clarify! Ask questions about the problem to help you better understand the answer you are about to give. Thinking “out loud” (sorry introverts!) in this setting will allow the interviewer a peek inside your thought process so they can follow along as you solve the problem. Remember, the math, and final answers may not always add up for this type of question and that’s ok!


You: Before I give an answer I feel is correct, I’d like to ask a few clarifying questions. What model airplane is this?

Interviewer: It is a Boeing 747.

You: Great, and could you tell me more about this 747? Is it fully loaded with passengers and luggage? How many seats does it have? Is it totally gutted and we are just filling the empty shell?

Interviewer: This 747 is totally empty. There is no luggage, passengers or seats in the plane. For this problem we are curious about how many cubes can fit in the hollow shell of the 747.

You: Perfect, can you tell me more about the cube? Is it a standard sized cube? Could you give me the specific dimensions of the cubes that we will be filling the plane with?

Interviewer: Sure, the Rubik’s Cubes are 3x3x3 inches.

You: Fantastic! So to summarize, we are assuming that this 747 is empty, with no people luggage or furnishings inside, and the volume of each cube is 27. With this knowledge, I my best estimate would be roughly 150,000 Rubik’s Cubes inside the 747.

And there you have it! Just remember that these types of questions are less concerned with the actual answer, but more about how you arrive at the answer. Happy interviewing!

Mike Ariale is the Assistant Director of Career Development & Social Media at Northeastern University. He specializes in disability employment issues, and works with many other diversity initiatives on campus. When not at work, you can find doing heavy bag work at the boxing gym, hanging out at the latest SoFar concert, or enjoying Boston’s foodie scene! Tweet him @CareerCoachNU