10 Mistakes Millennials Make in the Job Search (and how to avoid them)

whoopsThis was originally posted on LinkedIn November 24, 2014. Re-posted with permission from author and NU alumna Alexandra Anweiler Stephens. 

This month, two recruiters from two very different industries visited our staff meeting to share their insider perspectives on hiring millennials. Katie Maillet, campus recruiter at Waltham-based Constant Contact, and Veronica Thomas, vice president of talent acquisition for commercial programs at RBS Citizens, discussed strategies for recruiting new talent in the digital age – from using social media to increasing diversity – and how we can better prepare our students for success.

I wanted to share the takeaways from this discussion more broadly, so I’ve compiled a list of 10 common mistakes that millennials make during the recruiting process – and how they can be avoided.

1. You don’t follow directions. The job/internship application is your first opportunity to show a potential employer what you’re made of, so read the instructions carefully! Usually, employers will require a resume and cover letter, but other times you may be asked to complete a project, respond to short answer questions or make your way through another screening mechanism. Read the job description and the application requirements thoroughly to avoid getting weeded out in the first round.

2. You don’t do your research. Rule of thumb: If the answer to your question can be found on the About page of the company website, don’t ask it. Recruiters talk to applicants all day long about their company, open positions, and why it’s a great place to work. Make their lives easier – and show you’re a serious contender – by doing your homework on the company, role and field/industry ahead of time. The company’s website, social media accounts and Google alerts are great places to find interesting information you can reference in your interactions. If you are invited to interview, request the names of your interviewers in advance so you can look them up on LinkedIn – you might find you have a connection in common. Another lesser known resource is Glassdoor.com, a growing database of six million company reviews, salary reports, interview reviews and questions – all shared by current and former employees.

3. You don’t update your privacy settings on social media. Millennials have grown up with social media and remember when it was used for only social purposes. Those days are long gone, and employers are doing their research, too. Despite the many warnings out there, employers still see negative posts about former employers, photos of candidates with red solo cups, and other no-no’s. Think twice about what you post on Facebook and Twitter, and don’t forget about other searchable platforms like Instagram, Vine and YouTube. Then take a few minutes to look at them through the eyes of a potential employer and adjust your privacy settings accordingly.

4. Your email address / voicemail greeting is weird. Your email address itself is a part of your professional brand. Keep it professional by using your college email address or creating an account through Gmail with your first and last name. Though so much communication happens via email, don’t forget about the phone. Your voicemail is also an important part of your professional brand and as such you should treat it with care. In your greeting, clearly state your full name so that callers know they’ve reached the right person. It may go without saying, but ring-backs are a no-no (yes, some people are still using ring-backs). One recruiter suggested using Google Voice to customize and manage your phone number(s), voicemail greetings and messages.

5. You hand out your business card at a career fair. Resume? Yes. Business card? No. This isn’t the worst mistake in the world, but many recruiters don’t want your business card. It is small, it gets dropped, and it is redundant if they already have your resume. Hold on to your business cards for networking nights and other professional events where dishing out your resume isn’t appropriate.

6. You do phone screens on the go. We’re all busy – and millennials are the consummate multi-taskers – but the line needs to be drawn somewhere. If you conduct a phone screen with a recruiter as you’re walking to class, they can hear you huffing and puffing on the line. And it’s never okay to ask the recruiter to hold because you’re getting another call (yes, this has happened). Your interviewer is dedicating valuable time to evaluate your candidacy. Show respect and interest in the position by giving them your full attention. If your mobile connection can be spotty, use a landline to conduct your interview. Many career offices have interview rooms that you can reserve for this purpose.

7. You sell yourself short in interviews. Unfortunately, this is particularly true for females. Our recruiters reported that women have a tendency to use “we” when describing their accomplishments, and men tend to use “I.” While it is important to convey your ability to work as part of a team, it is even more important to understand and communicate your individual contributions, responsibilities and accomplishments. One recruiter even suggested leaving phrases like “contributed to” and “collaborated with” off your resume.

8. You treat your recruiter like your new BFF. A recruiter often communicates with a candidate throughout the recruiting process, from first meeting at the career fair to making the job/internship offer (if all goes according to plan). These communications may be frequent – especially if there are a series of interviews – and the recruiter may coach you on what to expect at different parts of the process. This doesn’t mean that you’re friends, or that your interactions can become more casual as time goes on. Our recruiters have found that millennials tend to use slang in email and over the phone as they become more familiar. Instead of fostering a stronger relationship, it can lead to the opposite. Always err on the side of professionalism.

9. You don’t ask for your interviewer’s business card. As mentioned above, recruiters may tell you about next steps in the process, and are often open to answering questions you may have along the way. But there is one question they don’t appreciate: “What was the name of the person who interviewed me?” This is a big no-no, and is most certainly avoidable. When the adrenaline is rushing, it’s easy to forget your interviewer’s name. The solution? Always ask for your interviewer’s business card. You’ll need their email address to send them a thank you, too.

10. You forget to say thank you. Saying thank you is a must after every interaction in the hiring process, but which is better: email or handwritten note? Our recruiters recommend sending both, and here’s why. Email is the most efficient means – it arrives instantly, doesn’t get lost in the mail, and is easily forwarded to hiring managers and other influencers. Send an email within 24 hours to thank the interviewer(s) for their time and confirm your continued interest in the position. Be sure to reference an interesting anecdote from your conversation, too. While it may seem obsolete, a handwritten note as a follow-up to your email can set you apart from the rest. Our recruiters said that handwritten cards show that a candidate has gone the extra mile, and also serve as a subtle reminder to follow up with the candidate. Mail a handwritten note about a week after your interview, and use it as an opportunity to remind the recruiter about your candidacy and reference a new piece of information, like a recent article you read about the company. Because they are few and far between, our recruiters said they save these notes and even show them off to colleagues. Who wouldn’t want that?

Alexandra Stephens is the associate director of alumni career programs and engagement at the Hiatt Career Center at Brandeis University. Prior to her transition into higher education, Alexandra worked in marketing and communications at Rosie’s Place and Constant Contact. She graduated summa cum laude from Northeastern University with a B.A. in Communication Studies.

Image Source: UT Austin Career Center Bits, 3 Big Career Mistakes Millennials Make 

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

In, out and back again – 12 LinkedIn Updates You Need to Know

LinkedIn-Logo-2CThis post was written by Sabrina Woods. Sabrina is an Associate Director at Northeastern University’s Career Development office and also owns her own private practice. This post originally appeared on LinkedIn, October 16, 2014. 

Keeping up with LinkedIn can be a challenge. Something new gets added, something else gets taken away. In, then out, then sometimes back again. Here are 12 of LinkedIn’s latest updates:

profile rank 4 at NU

Who’s Viewed Me?

Now LinkedIn is showing you more details about who has viewed your profile and what actions you took that helped this number to increase. Martin Beck talks about this new feature in his post, “LinkedIn Now Shows How You Sparked That Engagement.” Review more details on LinkedIn’s own blog. I have to admit that I kind of got a kick out of seeing one of my own stats.

Some Take Aways (as in things LinkedIn has taken away)

As we all know, whether we like it or not, LinkedIn occasionally takes away some of the things we like. So, the latest is that you can no longer get introduced to 3rd degree connections. Who knows, one day it might be back. However, in the meantime, Donna Serdula gives us some great work-arounds in her article.

It’s Back! You can see “Recent Activity” Again

This feature, of being able to see what your connections are posting, liking and commenting on, used to show up right on a person’s profile. Then it went away. But, now it has returned. And I’m very happy about this. To find it, go to a 1st level connection’s profile and hover over the drop down menu next to the “Send a message” box at the top. The first option now says, “View recent activity.” More from LinkedIn’s blog here.

Tap the Visual Trend: Add a Header

You can now add a visual header to your profile. When this first rolled out it was only for premium accounts. However, I just found out from a colleague (thanks Mike Ariale), that this is now available on the free LinkedIn account. Want to learn more? Viveka von Rosen shares details here.

“Groups” is Out

When sending LinkedIn invites, you can no longer select “groups” as the way you know invitationsomeone. Darn. But, don’t worry, in most cases (unless someone has changed their own settings), you can still select another category. To work around this issue, I have started selecting the “friend” category. Even if that isn’t quite the best fit, not to worry as the person getting the invitation doesn’t see what category you have selected.

LinkedIn’s “New Tools for Students” are actually perfect for grown-ups

I’ve been playing around with the University Finder, and I discovered I could use it for other purposes beyond it’s main point. For example, I’m teaching a LinkedIn workshop next week to grad students who are studying nutrition. They aren’t interested in finding a university, but they can use this tool to see what individuals are doing (what companies they work for) that studied Food, Nutrition & Wellness. You can run this same type of search via the Find Alumni tool, but it is limited to just looking at data from one university at a time. To read more about it, click here.

Know Your Numbers & Monitor Your Metrics

This post, “9 LinkedIn Metrics to Keep Your Eye On” by Viveka von Rosen helps you to really look at, track and think about how you can enhance your online presence.

Customize those Invites, Now on Your Mobile App

If you’re like me in that you prefer to send customized invites, then using the mobile app has been a tad frustrating. You’d meet someone cool at a conference, want to connect right then from your phone, but couldn’t until now, customize that message. So glad they changed this!

Certify those Certifications

Have you taken a course from Coursera or Lynda? Now there are 7 different online education companies that have partnered with LinkedIn to certify that course you took. I’m currently taking an EdX course (the Science of Happiness, in case you were curious), and they are included too! Details can be found in this post from The Next Web.

You Own It, Thank Goodness

The core message from LinkedIn’s latest “Terms of Service” is that YOU own your content. Yes, this is very good news indeed. If you ever worried about your blog post ending up being sold off somewhere, now you can rest assured that won’t be the case. Get the details in their blog.

Data Overload, I Mean Download

You can now request an archive of your data and download a file with pretty much your entire existence of interactions on LinkedIn. It’s not the prettiest document to look at, but it is very cool that you can actually get a copy of a tremendous about of info. What’s included? It ranges from content you’ve posted, shared, liked, or commented on; your search history; ads you’ve clicked on, and much more.

 

Take #theLinkedInChallengelinkedin challenge

This one is simple – introduce 2 connections that can benefit each other. I love this concept and post from Brynne Tillman. Check it out and start making those introductions; join in for the LinkedIn Challenge. Okay, this one wasn’t a “LinkedIn Update,” but it’s a fabulous idea I couldn’t resist promoting.

 Additional Timely Advice

Sabrina Woods is an Associate Director at Northeastern University Career Development.  Sabrina also works as a LinkedIn Trainer and has taught workshops in the US, UK and Middle East.  When not hanging out on LinkedIn, or meeting with Northeastern students, Sabrina enjoys discovering new coffee shops, adventuring outside and baking brownies.  If you’d like to connect, feel free to send her an invitation via LinkedIn

Liberty Mutual Talks: Standing Out at a Career Fair

Spring 2014 Career FairThis guest post was written by Lee Ann Chan, an Undergraduate Campus Recruiter for Liberty Mutual Insurance.

With so many employers at a Career Fair, it is extremely important to plan your strategy and make sure you leave a great impression.  How can you accomplish that and stand out from other candidates?  Here are some tips to help you prepare:

  • Do your research. Choose your top 5-10 companies that you would like to speak with and understand what their mission is and what they are looking for.  Additional information to research would include: products/services, competition, history/vision, size, office locations, industry trends, job opportunities.  You can find most of the information on the company’s website, Career Services, newspaper articles, Monster, GlassDoor, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Review your resume. Make sure your resume is updated, and if you know of a specific job that you wish to apply to, adapt your resume to that position, if possible.  Use keywords mentioned in job descriptions to tailor your resume.  Bring at least ten copies of your resume because you never know how many people you would be speaking with.
  • Prepare your elevator pitch. You have limited time to talk to employers so make the most of it and include the following in your pitch: full name, year, major; example of a skill or accomplishment you have related to the position you are seeking; reason(s) why you are interested in the company/position/industry and what you would like to learn; and questions you may have about the company or job that could not be answered in your research.
  • Be respectful. If there is a line behind you while you are speaking to an employer, make sure to keep the conversation to five minutes or less.  This will also give the employer sufficient time to meet with other candidates, and you can follow up afterwards with a thank you note, reiterating the conversation you had with the employer so that s/he remembers you from the Career Fair.

Remember, this is your time to shine so focus on your strengths and be enthusiastic about approaching the employers.  Best of luck!

Lee Ann Chan is an Undergraduate Campus Recruiter at Liberty Mutual Insurance recruiting for Corporate Programs.  She previously served as a Campus Recruiter with the government and is currently the Co-Director of Collegiate Relations with the National Association of Asian American Professionals.  Her hobbies include career coaching, baking, hiking, and singing.

5 Things to Know As an International Student Attending the Career Fair (And Maybe As a Domestic Student Too)

The Fall Northeastern Career Fair on October 2 is a new experience for many international students (and for domestic students as well).  For some people, the concept of “new” is exciting. For others, “new” is intimidating and can feel uncomfortable.  It’s important to note that being uncomfortable is okay– it’s an indication that you are probably encountering a situation that will contribute to your personal growth. A great way to eliminate some pre-career fair jitters is to prepare as much as possible.  Here are the five things that you should know as an international student attending the Career Fair:

Northeastern Career Fair

Northeastern Career Fair

1.) General Logistics—The Career Fair this year will have over 250 employers with companies like Microsoft , Mathworks, and Akamai Technologies in attendance and will take place from 12-4PM in the Cabot Cage and Solomon Court. Furthermore, there were over 2500 students in attendance last year, and we’re expecting the same attendance for this year.  This means that the career fair will be CROWDED! And lines, especially for very popular companies like Microsoft, will be many people long.  What does this mean for you? Come to the career fair sooner rather than later and come prepared with a list of companies that you want to speak with.  If you don’t, you may be shut out from speaking with an employer or you may feel too overwhelmed to speak to anyone.

2.) Do Your Research on Companies Open to Hiring International Students-The list of organizations attending the career fair is here. Also make sure to download the 2014 Career Fair brochure–there will be no hard copies of the brochure at the fair.  The brochure includes a map of the employer table numbers and where they’re located, and also includes a list of employers who have indicated that they are open to hiring international students.  Be sure to become familiar with that list!  Also do some general research on the company.  The company website, Hoovers, Glassdoor, and Linkedin are all great resources to use when researching.

3.) Prepare Your Pitch— When I was an undergraduate student, I did not go to any of the career fairs my university held (ironic, right?). This was because I was uncomfortable with what to say to an employer and I didn’t know what to do when I got there.  Make sure you practice your pitch, or your thirty second commercial about yourself.  This “pitch” would be an appropriate answer to the nebulous “Tell me about yourself” question, or can give the employer a general understanding of your background and what caused you to be interested in their company.  Appropriate information for the pitch would be your name, major, skills, background, and interest in either the company/position.  To make a great impression, be sure to let them know that you’ve done research on their company by asking intelligent questions. The key here is to be able to ask them other questions besides “What does your company do?”.  That’s not going to impress anyone!  And don’t forget to practice, practice, practice!

4.) Dress Appropriately- Many people feel unsure about what to wear for the fair. A black, grey, brown (neutral) suit and tie is appropriate for males and a skirt suit or pants suit with sensible heels is appropriate for females.  Be sure to not wear too much cologne or perfume, or to wear any flashy jewelry or makeup.  You want them to be listening to what you SAY, not what you look or smell like.

5.) Conduct Yourself Professionally at the Career Fair—This means respecting employers and their time by keeping discussions brief and not keeping them after 4PM. No one leaves the Career Fair with a job, so your main goal is to make an impression and receive a business card to follow-up with them later.  Also, do not bring food/drinks into the Career Fair–they are not permitted and it makes it difficult to shake hands with employers.  Lastly, don’t go “shopping” at the fair.  I know many employers come with cool little gadgets, but don’t make those freebies your main focus for attending the career fair!

Remember, the more prepared you are for the fair, the better you equip yourself to navigate it successfully.  Also, don’t forget to check out our Career Fair Success Tips Panel on September 30th. Representatives from Gorton’s, Liberty Mutual, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Constant Contact will tell you exactly what they like to see from students at Career Fairs.  Remember, no matter what happens, the career fair is a great experience that can prepare you for the job search process and networking after graduation. Enjoy it!

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. 

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

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

Living Proof…that finding a co-op is not impossible

frustrated student head down

This guest post was written by Samantha Palmer, a 3rd biology student who just completed her first co-op at the cosmetic company, Living Proof, Inc.

Finals were approaching and anxiety of acquiring my first co-op job was growing. It was mid-December, and I was distracted by the consuming thought of not receiving a co-op offer. Checking my emails became an obsession and every email I received unrelated to co-op was a bothersome. Even more upsetting was that no one had told me getting a co-op could be this difficult, it seemed as if they were just handed to you. Sure, I had a few interviews, all of which I thought went rather well. It’s just that I applied to SO many jobs that I thought at least one would work out. I had good grades, and I aced my co-op class…why on earth had I still not received an offer? While many students had already accepted jobs, I did have a few friends in the same position as me. We were all a bit confused and frustrated, forced to register for classes the following semester.

As a Biology major I applied to many positions, mostly in research labs. Clinical opportunities were usually limited to health science majors. I would have loved a clinical experience, something I should have pushed for earlier in the co-op process. However, I did come to terms with myself that a lab experience would be beneficial for my studies, that is if I could get one.

I kept my thoughts positive while also accepting the possibility of being in classes next semester. Then one evening, I was having dinner with a few friends, one of which mentioned she was finishing up her chemical engineering co-op at a cosmetic company. It sounded cool and aligned with my interests. The idea of working with a science that is relevant to my feminine life was intriguing. She continued to tell me that she had sought out the position herself, and that they would definitely need someone to takeover for her. I was a little nervous since I was not a chemical engineering major, but why not try something new?

I ended up going in for an interview, learning about the position, and meeting the four members of the product development team. By the time I finished my last final, I had accepted the job offer and would officially begin working at Living Proof, Inc. for my first co-op. Looking back, it was as if all those other jobs didn’t work out for this very purpose. My experience at Living Proof was everything I could have asked for and more. I consider myself lucky to have had such an amazing opportunity.

Although I am not studying to be a chemical engineer, I gained great laboratory insight. As a science based hair product company, my main task consisted of batching. I followed recipes to produce shampoos, conditioners, styling products, hairsprays, etc. Overtime I became familiar with raw materials and how they contributed to each product. Sometimes I even got to take home a small sample of whatever I made that day. Batching was always satisfying because after a long day of measuring, mixing, heating, and cooling, you were left with a beautiful end product. Another fun task was tress work. This consisted of testing our hair products on hair strands to see how they performed, especially in relation to competitor products. Of course I also had to perform more tedious work. The stability of new possible formulas needed to be checked constantly. The color, odor, and consistency were measured to see how stable the product is over time. Keeping the lab clean is also important and a lot of my time was spent sanitizing equipment and organizing. My favorite part of my lab experience was helping with the actual formula for a new product. I got to test different raw materials and see how each performed in the salon. This was definitely frustrating, but now I can look forward to seeing a product on store shelves that I had a part in.

In addition to the lab experience, Living Proof has an awesome office environment. Due to the small size of the company, I sat among colleagues from various departments. I made friends in finance, marketing, and HR. We had an office kitchen where people could gather, and on Fridays the entire company came together for a group lunch. I got to see how the company ran as a whole, and it allowed me to make lifelong connections. Living Proof proved to be a place that had some of the smartest scientists, an amazing culture, and an exceptional learning environment. I looked forward to co-op every morning; my next one has a lot to live up to. What was my favorite part? I could say it was preparing for Jennifer Aniston’s visit, or the frequent product launch parties, or even the quiet, relaxing, lab atmosphere. However, every part of Living Proof seemed to make my experience worthwhile.

Make the job you want quoteThrough my first co-op process, I learned that acquiring a job or an internship is not just handed to you. You have to work hard for it. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and use whatever connections you have. Once you get where you want to be, it’s important to continue to make connections, even if you’re not looking for your next co-op or internship for another year or so.

Samantha is a 3rd year student at Northeastern, originally from NY. She’s seeking a bachelors degree in biology, with minors in psychology and business and plans to pursue a career within the medical field. 

Why Networking is a Lot Like Dating: Let’s Go Steady

Image source: tower.com

Image source: tower.com

So many of my clients have heard that networking leads to a job, but still many of them don’t understand how. My last four posts got down to the nitty gritty of networking and how the etiquette is similar to dating somebody new or making a new friend. So what happens next? Sometimes something great and sometimes nothing comes from it. Similarly, you go on a couple dates, and initially it’s great and then it kind of fizzles over time. So why do all this work if there’s a possibility that nothing happens? Because, like dating, it’s a necessary evil to secure something long term.

So what happens when it does lead to a job, what does that look like? It can take many forms and you could be the initiator or you contact could, but it’s always beneficial to be proactive. After that initial conversation or two, keep checking the company website and reach out when you see something that you’re interested in. You can frame you language to sound something like:

“Hi Amelia, I hope all is well with you. You gave me some great advice and insight a few months back and as you instructed I’ve been checking the company website every few days looking for entry level positions that fit my experience.

Something just opened up in auditing and I was writing to see if you had any insight on the position or could connect me with somebody who did. I am eager to get my application in, but I want to make sure I’m an attractive candidate. Thank you for your help.”

Amelia will hopefully write back with some advice and say that she’ll “put in a good word for you”. This generally (not always) guarantees that the hiring manager will at least give your application a closer look. You’re one step closer to “going steady” with that company. It’s important to recognize that despite all your networking, the job may just not be a good fit for you, but at least you got a shot. In many cases however, it tips the scale greatly in your favor.

The best case scenario is that you’ve been keeping in touch with your network and a contact sees a position that, based on your conversations seems like a great fit, and reaches out encouraging you to apply. This will almost always get you an interview because it is safe to assume that you contact already sang you praises to the hiring manager.

Regardless of the scenario- the benefits to networking far outweigh the cons and the understandable “uncomfortable” feeling that comes with the process. Even if you don’t consider yourself a dating connoisseur, I’m confident you can master the simple rules of networking etiquette.

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.

Northeastern Career Services Ranked #1 by Princeton Review

No one hearted his co-op more than Spencer Small (left), who was hired by Amazon after an eight-month co-op stint there.

No one hearted his co-op more than Spencer Small (left), who was hired by Amazon after an eight-month co-op stint there.

All we can say is: Thank you, Huskies! The annual Princeton Review Col­lege Rank­ings came out Monday and ranked Northeastern Career Development #1 in the country for “Best Careers Services.” For seven con­sec­u­tive years we’ve been ranked in the top four in the U.S., including four years at No. 1! What makes this such an honor is that it is the students that determine the ranking.

While many grad­u­ates begin their pro­fes­sional careers after grad­u­a­tion, most Huskies start their first co-​​op sopho­more year and can have three pro­fes­sional expe­ri­ences under their belt by grad­u­a­tion. That said, it’s no sur­prise that 90 per­cent of them are working full time or in grad school within nine months after grad­u­a­tion. And 51 per­cent of our grad­u­ates receive a job offer from a pre­vious co-​​op employer.

To under­score a little fur­ther how valu­able the co-​​op expe­ri­ence is, 87 per­cent of those working full time after grad­u­a­tion are doing some­thing closely related to what they studied.

North­eastern is all about inte­grating class­room learning and real-​​world expe­ri­ence. And we pride our­selves on giving our stu­dents the help and resources they need to build suc­cessful careers and become global cit­i­zens. And it’s also nice to be recognized.