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.

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!

How Do I Answer That Interview Question?

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What would you do if you were on a flight for a business trip and there was a crying baby seated right behind you?

Believe it or not, this question has actually been asked in interviews. So have even more off-the-wall questions like “if you were a kitchen utensil, what would you be?” or “if you could have a superpower which would you choose?”  According to the website Glassdoor (via Career Development web page), other recent interview questions include “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?” and “What song best describes your work ethic?”

For those of us with a snarky sense of humor, many possible replies will probably spring to mind; obviously, these are not the answers you want to offer.  It is important to be prepared to hear quirky interview questions so you can avoid replying “Take This Job and Shove It,” for example, when naming a song about your work ethic.

Why do employers ask this type of question? Reasons include testing your ability to think on your feet; gauging your reaction to the unexpected; getting a glimpse of your personality in a possibly unguarded moment; and finding out if you have a sense of humor.

How should you answer quirky interview questions? Almost any response will be okay; showing grace under pressure is the first step.  The next step is to reply in a way that actually answers the question without being offensive in any way. If your reply demonstrates a relevant positive personality trait, that’s even better. The kind of personality trait you want to showcase will depend on the kind of job and the kind of employer interviewing you.

So, back to our crying baby.  The way you answer will ideally depend on what you want to communicate about yourself, based on the potential job.  A sympathetic answer could be “I would assure the parents that I realize they are doing their best to soothe their baby and that it must be awfully stressful for them.”  An answer showing efficiency could be “I would put in the earplugs I always pack with me for situations like this. That way I could continue working on my assignment.” Or “I would put on my headphones to listen to some favorite music to be in a good frame of mind when I landed,” to demonstrate you know how to manage stress.   With just a little thought and some presence of mind, crazy interview questions won’t drive you crazy.

Author Susan Loffredo began counseling NU students well before the iPhone was invented and owns socks that are older than the class of 2015. Email her at s.loffredo@neu.edu.