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.

Answering the Important Job Interview Questions NOT Asked

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Part of the stress that comes with a job interview is the knowledge that the hiring manager has a list of questions she may ask, and you don’t always know what’s on the list.

Sometimes, however, as you strive to highlight the skills and accomplishments that make you stand out as a candidate, you might find that there are a few questions that did not get asked.

Should you give up and play it safe by only answering what you’re asked? Definitely not! An interview is an exchange of ideas and inquiry into your fit, so it’s well within interview etiquette to take the conversation where it needs to go.

If you struggle to make sure every interview highlights your strengths, here are a few ideas for structuring your interview to answer those unasked, yet vitally important, questions:

Identify the Questions Likely to be Asked

Make a list of questions you know the interviewer is likely to ask. You can do this by performing a web search such as “[Job Title] + Interview questions” or referring to your notes from past interviews to see which questions came up.

For example, if you are interviewing for a copy writing position, you may receive questions about what you write, how often you write, what you’re reading and how you stay creative or energized throughout the day.

Identify the Questions you Need to Answer

Review your resume and cover letter and consider your job history. Which significant moments, concepts and accomplishments are important to bring up in the interview?

For example, as you interview for the copy writing position you’ll want to highlight moments in your career when your work was particularly well received by a previous employer.

Identify Overlaps in the Lists

Compare the lists to each other and see if there are any obvious connections. If your interviewer is likely to ask “Tell me about the most recent book you’ve read,” prepare an answer that links your most recent reading to an accomplishment at work.

Use Unasked Questions as Questions You Ask

If you still have unasked questions, consider whether or not you can rephrase or include them as questions for your employer.

The job interview represents a significant opportunity for you to present your skills, accomplishments and unique fit for the working environment. It’s not likely that you can fit all of that into the pre-chosen questions of the average interviewer. Add an edge to your interview by planning and answering the unasked questions in a way that continues the conversation and highlights your abilities for the hiring manager.

Ashleane Alabre is a third year communication studies major from Miami, Fl. When not in class, Ashelane enjoys ballet dancing, sightseeing, and literature. Keep up with Ashleane on her Tumblr.

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.