This post was written by 2009 psychology alum, Samantha Bracy. She is currently a special education teach in Newton, MA.
It wasn’t until my good friend Kelly so kindly asked me to write for this blog that I even became consciously aware of how long I’ve been out of college. As we approach the anniversary of our graduation, of course all the good memories flood my mind – celebrating graduation with my friends, living in an apartment on Symphony Rd., late nights at Punter’s. Five whole years ago we were walking up and down Huntington Ave. in the freezing depths of winter (OK, let’s be real – anything below 40 degrees and class wasn’t happening); picking up overpriced groceries at “The Wo” (Wollaston’s for all of you who don’t speak solely in abbreviations); and last but not least, navigating what in the world we were going to do after graduation (OK, I suppose that might be the most important one).
I always considered myself one of those rare, lucky students who always knew what I’d do with my professional life. My mother tells me that ever since I was a little girl, she knew I’d be a teacher (read: I was really bossy as a child) and as I made my way through NU, I knew it too. I studied psychology and elementary education, coming out of college with a plethora of co-op and fieldwork experiences to add to my resume. I felt fortunate to have spent time working in Boston Public Schools, at various community centers across the city, and at a private special education school. My experience was – in every sense of the word – “well-rounded” and I had NU to thank for that edge. What I didn’t realize at the time was the importance of networking. I know, I know…such a buzzword these days. But when people tell you “it’s all who you know”, they’re being completely honest with you.
Make a good impression at your co-op. Do not show up looking like you were out all night (hungover or otherwise). These people may be your future, long-term employers (I have friends who are currently employed at one of their co-op’s, years later). This organization may be a jumping off point for your career. And you probably want to be able to ask your supervisor for a recommendation one day. I know you all took Intro to College or got a lecture from your co-op advisor about being professional, but let’s be real – when it’s Marathon Monday and you called out of co-op because you were the only one who didn’t have it off, do not post selfies on one of the various social media platforms. Lesson learned. Make a positive, lasting impression and you will always have that organization supporting you, be it by way of an actual job or kind words for a different employer.
If your employer asks you to stay on after your co-op, you do it. Even if they say it’s unpaid, even if it’s full-time, even if you have to take the T at 5:30 am. I completed my student teaching at an amazing Boston Public School, a school that I still dream of working at. After my semester ended, I was asked to stay on as an unpaid aide and I turned it down because I needed to work full-time and actually earn money. A girl who was in the same boat as me took an unpaid aide job and now has her own classroom at said school. I doubt if I went back there today anyone would even remember me. If you have a way to take an internship, an experience, a co-op, anything and make it into something more, an opportunity for you to shine and for people to truly remember you, do it.
Show your face. In college, my friends and I (count us: 1, 2, 3, 4) kept to ourselves. We certainly weren’t homebodies by any means – we went out, had fun, lived it up Husky style. But we weren’t really involved in any groups, clubs, networking events, or anything of that nature. We didn’t go to sporting events or formals. We didn’t really branch out beyond each other and some satellite friends we hung out with on occasion. Now, with things like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, it’s so easy to reconnect with people you went to school with. People who may have plush corner offices that can hook you up with an interview at that firm you’ve been eyeing (see where I’m going with this?). But guess what? If you don’t actually talk to anyone, you don’t really have a lot of people to network with years later. So even if you aren’t a social butterfly, it wouldn’t kill you to attend a few events, make some new friends, or even sit with a stranger in Snell. You never know who your new friends will turn out to be down the road so don’t be afraid to branch out.
Samantha Bracy is a special education teacher in the Newton Public Schools. She received her BS and MEd from Northeastern. She is the proud mother of a little girl with another baby on the way and enjoys trying to maintain her sanity as she balances life and work. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.