Why Should I Do an Internship?

Source: http://byuinternships.org

Source: http://byuinternships.org

This guest post was written by Tricia Dowd, a Career Development Assistant at NU Career Development, and a recent graduate from Northeastern’s Higher Education Administration program where she earned her Master’s degree this past September.

As Northeastern students, the value of experiential learning and work experience before graduation is probably already something you’re well aware of. Most of you will probably go on at least one co-op during your time here. So why do an internship?

Actually, one of the best reasons to do an internship is co-op. As co-ops are becoming more popular, they are also becoming more competitive. This is especially true for students who are applying for their first co-op. Having an internship experience already on your resume not only makes you more competitive, it also makes you more prepared. You will already have work experience in your field, and you’ll have a better idea of what to expect when the first day of co-op rolls around.

Using an internship experience to get ahead for co-op is great if you already know what you want to do, but it is also great if you don’t know what you want to do! Instead of waiting to pick a major (or decide to stay in one) to get work experience through co-op, getting work experience through an internship is an easy way to try out a major or a career without committing to a program or a company for a full six months. Not sure you want to be a Policy Analyst? Try a summer internship to explore the field before committing yourself to it for six months and potentially using one of your co-ops for something you aren’t sure you want to do. We recommend finding an internship the summer after your first year, but it’s never too late to get more work experience or explore a different field.

Internships are also a great way for students who are unable to go on co-op to get work experience. The primary differences between an internship and a co-op are that internships are (usually) unpaid and (usually) shorter in length and more flexible. Therefore, if you’re not able to take a semester off from your major, an internship is a way to get work experience around your schedule, or for a shorter time during the summer when you don’t have other commitments. As someone who regularly meets with students in the middle of a job search, I can honestly tell you that work experience is one of the most important things you could leave college with. I have yet to meet a student who told me that she or he regretted going on an internship!

Finally, internships can also be a way for you to get your foot in the door at a company that does not currently offer a co-op position. Instead of waiting until after graduation to try to break into one of these companies, why not apply for an internship now? Give your dream company a chance to see how hard of a worker you can be! The connections and institutional knowledge you’ll get out of the experience will be a huge asset to a future application at that company.

So how exactly do you find an internship? Check out my previous post for a summary of the top three methods, attend some of our workshops on the topic, or hop right on HuskyCareerLink.

Tricia Dowd is a Career Development Assistant at NEU Career Development, and graduated from Northeastern with a Master’s in Higher Education Administration in September. She is interested in helping students gain practical experiences to complement what they’re learning in the classroom. You can reach her at p.dowd@neu.edu

How Can I Find a Mentor?

HNCK1708-1300x866-1024x682This post was written by Christine Hathaway, Senior Assistant Director of Marketing for Northeastern University Cooperative Education and Career Development. It was originally posted on Internmatch.com and was re-posted with permission from the author.

Whatever your career goals may be, it’s nice to have someone in your corner, rooting for you. The majority of us can truly benefit from and find value in having a mentor to encourage, support and promote us, but this is often easier said than done.

First, you may be asking, “what is a mentor?”  Secondly, “how do I find one?”

As defined in the dictionary, a good mentor is a person who guides a less experienced person by building trust and modeling good behavior.  An effective mentor is someone who is dependable, engaging and understands the needs of the mentee.

Overall, a good mentor will:

  • Access your strengths and weaknesses
  • Help you understand the structure/culture of the organization
  • Introduce new perspectives and help correct any wrong thinking you may have
  • Boost your ability to make decisions (and ask questions)
  • Introduce you to resources and useful references
  • Be an active listener and help keep you focused and on topic

Now that you understand what a mentor is; the bigger question is how do you go aboutfinding one?  Sometimes mentors find you (it happens naturally), but more often than not, YOU need to find someone you respect, even admire and would like to emulate at some point in your career.

Throughout my professional career, I’ve been privileged to have effective career mentors; people who were instrumental in my professional growth.  The first mentor was my boss, many years ago when I worked as her executive assistant. She taught me all about the publishing world, the editorial lingo, how to ask questions and most importantly, to develop my skills, professionally and personally.  I had a lot of respect for her and I found myself wanting to mimic her professional behavior (and her wardrobe, she was a classy dresser!).  That said, I took every opportunity possible to sit down with her over a cup of iced coffee and pick her brain about her career and how she got to where she was.  We did this often, and eventually I got promoted to the marketing department!  She congratulated me and commented, “I’m proud, it’s a compliment to me that you are being promoted, it means I did my job.”  She is still my mentor. Even though we don’t sit and have our iced coffees any more, I still call upon her and she still offers words of wisdom.

It’s not always easy to find a mentor. Here are some tips I learned along the way:

  • Ask yourself what qualities you want in a mentor.  Is it someone who can help promote you or an expert in your field that can help with a business project?
  • Does your HR department have a mentoring program?  Make an appointment and find out more.
  • Check out LinkedIn!  Do an Advanced People Search and look for people that you went to college with or have worked with at previous jobs, even professors from school.
  • Steer away from a formal request! Don’t ask “will you be my mentor.” This is usually not very inviting, if anything it’s a bit off-putting. Instead start by simply asking someone for advice or invite them out for a cup of coffee.  Find out more about their career path.  And, MAKE IT FUN.  Get to know each other. Don’t make it sound like work…smile, and exude excitement.
  • Prepare and practice your speech.  Looking for a mentor means marketing yourself and being self-confident. Learn to promote yourself, talk about some of your accomplishments and seek advice on how you can be better at your job or how you can land that promotion at work. Here is a cool article in Forbes, I read a few years ago, check it out, Trust Yourself and Believe in Yourself!

Now that you have some tips and my own personal mentoring story; start thinking about who you would like to get to know.  Keep trying, don’t give up! Looking for a mentor often happens organically, it’s a relationship that develops over time.  You’ll find that there are mentoring opportunities everywhere!

Good luck!

Blood Pressure Cuffs and Paintbrushes: Insight Gained from Pediatrics

BCH logo

This post was written by Angelica Recierdo, a third-year nursing student with a minor in English. She has worked/studied at many of the major Boston hospitals and is also a columnist for the Huntington News.

Heartbreaking and funny – two words that could be used in a film review for a romantic comedy, or rather in my case, working in pediatrics.

To me, working with the older adult patient population for my first co-op as a nursing student was the boot camp of medicine. You’re caring for people at the end of their lives that may be bitter, confused, careless, or a little bit of each. It can be draining and surely leaves a novice jaded or with the toughest skin by the end of it.

So when I accepted an offer to work at Boston Children’s Hospital it was a new and exciting venture, a breath of fresh air. I went from working 40 hour weeks consisting of rotating day, evening, and night shifts on a huge 30+ bed inpatient cardiology unit to a comfy and fun 10-bed outpatient infusion clinic. The biggest struggles my new patients faced were missing a day of school, which stuffed animal to play with, and whether their parent was present to hold their hand when the IV catheter got inserted.

The Center for Ambulatory Treatment/Clinical Research is the official name for this infusion clinic serving patients of all ages, backgrounds, and medical histories. A lot of our patients are immunocompromised meaning that they are so severely prone to infection that they need to be infused regularly with intravenous immunoglobulin (otherwise known as antibodies to help support their immune system.) These are the kids that more often times have Purell on their hands rather than Crayola marker.

Another portion of patients have some form of Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) like Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis. I’ll never forget one ten-year-old boy who so openly shared with me that he could not be a firefighter when he grows up because how could he save people if he always had to go to the bathroom? (Kids really say the darndest things).

We also see a lot of Cystic Fibrosis and Cerebral Palsy patients as well. Their bodies protected in high-powered wheelchairs, eyes glossed to one side, with either the most contracted or most flaccid limbs you’ve ever felt. I try to joke with them and have learned that any kind of response like the fluttering of the eyes or a tighter hand grip means they’re listening. Children are always listening and it’s important to always give them something novel to think about.

I find myself laughing in a new way at work. It’s not forced or awkward the way social situations tend to be when interacting with other adults. It’s a genuine chuckle, throwing my head back or slapping my thigh. I find my voice rising to the next octave, trying to gain a toddler’s trust with one hand wielding a blood pressure cuff and the other a paintbrush. So many wonderfully amusing things happen at a children’s hospital.

For example, to electronically document vital signs on a computer application, there is an option that prompts the clinician to choose what position the child is in during the vital signs measurement. The three options are sitting, standing, and supine. But it warms my heart that my biggest worry is figuring out how to chart such movements as dancing, kneeling, crawling, or squirming.

I have learned that it’s important to always remember the time when a decorative Band-Aid covered up pain, when animal crackers and apple juice nourished us, and when a coloring book was sufficient distraction. Working with sick children has taught me ways to cope with profound stress and how to truly make the best of given situations. It’s not normal for a five year old to know where her “good” veins are, but that kind of acceptance and courage is of a caliber that is seen much later in life, or in some, never at all.

Angelica is a third-year nursing student with a minor in English hailing from New Jersey. She has studied or worked in all the major Boston hospitals. Angelica is also a columnist for The Huntington News (http://huntnewsnu.com/?s=angelica+recierdo)  and enjoys writing creative non-fiction. 

Tips for communicating with your boss

Emily Brown is a Career Development intern and a graduate student in Northeastern’s College Student Development and Counseling Program. She is a lifelong Bostonian interested in the integration of social media into the professional realm.  Contact her at e.brown@neu.edu.

Developing good communication with your supervisor can help you get the most out of your work experience and help ensure that you continue to be challenged. Here are some suggestions to cultivate a productive relationship with your supervisor:

  • Ask questions. This is probably the most important lesson I learned in my first job out of college. All of a sudden, I couldn’t fake my way through like I sometimes could on high school or college assignments. Having a general idea of what I was supposed to be working on simply was not enough. I can’t tell you how many sentences I started with “This is probably a stupid question, but…” (spoiler: there are no stupid questions!) because I was uncomfortable with the volume of things I didn’t know that I felt I should know. I asked questions despite my discomfort and found that the answers were often things my supervisor didn’t explain because he took the information for granted. I was surprised how many times his answer to my “stupid question” began with “That’s a good question. I should have explained it to you earlier…” So ask away!

    Image from womenworld.org

  • Express interest in projects that you want to work on. Admittedly, I spent a lot of time filing and making copies in my first weeks at that job. I learned that vaguely asking, “Is there anything I could be working on right now?” does not always produce the desired result (exception: when the desired result is a jammed photocopier and paper cuts). It’s OK to ask about getting involved on a project that interests you. In general, extra help is always welcome and it shows that you are interested in more advanced work. Even if it isn’t feasible for you to get involved on that particular project, your supervisor is now aware of your interest and will appreciate that you took initiative, and will hopefully remember that for similar work in the future.
  • Take constructive feedback in stride. You’re bound to make mistakes in a new job – it’s unavoidable. What will set you apart is how you handle a mistake that your supervisor questions you about. If you’re defensive or emotional, then the conversation will be unpleasant and your supervisor might think twice about assigning you challenging work in the future simply to avoid a similar conversation. If you handle the critique gracefully and ask clarifying questions about what you could do differently next time, your supervisor might be more willing to provide more advanced work and to help you grow professionally.
  • Take communication cues from your supervisor. Building a good professional relationship with a supervisor takes time and it should be noted that it is not solely  up to your supervisor. Yes, he might be the one in charge, but you also need to maintain open lines of communication. That being said, it is important to take cues from your supervisor on his or her preferred communication habits. Is he receptive to unplanned drop-bys? Does she seem to rely more heavily on email? Noticing these preferences and remembering that everyone works differently can go a long way towards achieving productive communication.