What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

lawyerWhat do you want to be when you grow up? It is a question all of us have had to answer and many still struggle with long after they walk across that stage, degree in hand. If you had asked me that question 10 years ago, I would have told you a lawyer; 5 years ago, I wanted to work in PR. What am I doing now? I’m a career counselor and digital marketing professional. What happened? Well, a lot actually.

Our career choices are impacted by a number of things: family, friends, what we see on TV, our values, and that’s just the short list. Sometimes we make a career or major decision because we think it’s what we want to do without really doing the necessary research of what that career/job actually is.

Let’s take my “I want to be a lawyer” example. Seems like a good idea. I had a solid GPA, I am interested in law, politics and civic engagement, I’m a great public speaker and wanted to choose a somewhat lucrative profession. To top it off, I really enjoy watching legal dramas (I’m still sad USA’s Fairly Legal is no longer on- look it up) and could see myself as the ambitious, crime fighting, do-gooder characters. Fast forward to freshman year of college: after doing some research and talking to professors I found out law is really hard. Understatement of the year, I know, but as I continued to explore the option, it seemed less and less like a good fit for me, and there are a few reasons for that.

One, law is extremely detail oriented, research heavy and entails a lot of independent work. Immediately I am turned off. Two, apparently I’d be working a million hours. One of my strongest values is work/life balance, so this was pretty much the deal breaker for me. Finally, law school is very expensive and at the time, the job market looked pretty bleak for new lawyers. As much as I thought I could kill it as a lawyer, I questioned how happy I would really be going to work everyday. So, what’s my point?

Beginning Thursday, Career Development will be launching a new series entitled Career Confidentials: What It’s Like To Be a “Enter Job Title Here” which will be real people talking about their jobs honestly and candidly. Get an inside look into what it is really like to be in a certain industry and profession and use the info to help you think about if it is a right fit for you. Our first post on Thursday is a doozy: What It’s Like To Be a Consultant- one of the most popular and sought after positions for new grads. Stay tuned!

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: The Daily Chelle; Day 21: It’s Only Funny If It’s You

Turning Passion into Progress: Advice from WOMEN who INSPIRE

This guest post was written by Katie McCune, an Assistant Co-op Coordinator with the College of Computer and Information Science.

Have you ever been to a panel talk where you were really excited about the topic, but in the end, it was just meh, and you left feeling unenthused? Well, this definitely wasn’t one of those. Recently, I attended “How Innovation and Technology are Business Game Changers,” a panel that was part of Northeastern’s WOMEN who INSPIRE Speaker Series. The idea of the series is to empower the next generation of women leaders, but as evidenced by the large number of male attendees, this panel called to a broad audience. Panelists included Naomi Fried (Chief Innovation Officer of Boston Children’s Hospital), Flora Sah (SVP, COO, Enterprise Risk Management of State Street Corporation), and Deborah Theobald (Co-Founder & CEO of Vecna Technologies). I left feeling genuinely inspired and ready to take action on the lessons learned. So, if you need your own dose of motivation from some impressive people, here ya go:

From left to right, panelists Fried, Sah, and Theoblad. Photo courtesy of WOMEN who INSPIRE

From left to right, panelists Fried, Sah, and Theoblad. Photo courtesy of WOMEN who INSPIRE

Make your own opportunities

The panel kicked off by talking about how each of the women found their jobs. The answers went something like this:

Naomi – “The job I wanted didn’t exist, so I created it”

Flora – “The job I wanted didn’t exist, so I created it”

Deborah – “The company I wanted to work for didn’t exist, so I created it”

See the trend? Good things come to those who seek them out. That’s not to say you need to go create your own job or company, or that it’s easy to create opportunities, but don’t let preconceived boundaries limit you. Maybe, you want to try a completely unique idea for your final project, because it’s more in-line with your passions. Or maybe you want to ask the CEO of your dream company to sit down and have coffee with you. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to make your own opportunities, which leads us to…

Image Source: http://jonmichail.org/

Image Source: http://jonmichail.org/

Be Confident

Seriously! We’ve all heard mantras like “fake it ‘till you make it” or “attitude is 3/4th of the battle” but these three women are living, breathing proof that confidence really matters. They all shared examples of when their confidence made a difference (can we talk about how much confidence it takes to start a company?) but you could just feel their confidence being in the room. Regardless of what academic level you’re at, by definition as a student, you aren’t an expert in your field. That can be a bit unnerving, but confidence can take you a long ways. As Deborah pointed out, to be successful in any sense of the word, you have to be confident that your passions are worthwhile, even if nobody else sees it right away.

Take Risks

Not only did these women share the fact that they are all confident and made opportunities for themselves, but they are also united in their strong belief that you MUST take risks in order to succeed. Taking risks can be scary. You might fail. Scratch that, you will fail. But as Naomi reminded us, you will learn much more from your failures than your successes, and so even though it’s counterintuitive, failure is a major part of success. So to be successful, you must be able to take some risks.

Michael Jordan quote

Whether success for you means starting your own company, getting a better grade, or speaking up in class, remember these women’s words to help make your dreams a reality.

Katie is currently a Co-op Coordinator for graduate students in the College of Computer and Information science, but got her start as an intern with NU’s Career Development. She’s a Colorado lady at heart and loves anything involving the mountains (especially when her pup can tag along).

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