A New Year’s Reflection

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source: http://​www​.flickr​.com/​p​h​o​t​o​s​/​s​p​a​t​t​e​rd/

This article was written by Megan Fer­nandes, a 4th year inter­na­tional affairs stu­dent at NU as a guest blogger for The Works.

With the New Year upon us, it’s nat­ural to find your­self reflecting back on the year’s events and some of the life lessons you’ve learned. They say that under­standing your his­tory helps you plan for your future, and I think the start of the New Year is a good time to revisit and learn from the per­sonal journey you’ve been on over the year—what have you gained this past year? What con­tri­bu­tions have you made? What were your suc­cesses and your fail­ures? New Year’s isn’t simply about new begin­nings; it’s also about looking back in order to better deter­mine what new begin­nings lie ahead. In per­sonal and pro­fes­sional terms, it’s also impor­tant to reflect on how past work expe­ri­ences shape who you are today and who you want to be in 2014.

Co-​​op is an oppor­tu­nity to gain expe­ri­ence and learn about the work­force. I’ve been very delib­erate in my attempt to find and gather “take­aways” from each co-​​op to help me make better work-​​related deci­sions in the future. For example, after sev­eral rounds of inter­views, I’ve noticed that one of the qual­i­ties most appre­ci­ated by employers when they first meet you is gen­uine thought­ful­ness. This doesn’t simply mean preparing thoughtful ques­tions for an inter­view, but being able to explain why and how a par­tic­ular company/​position fits into your overall career goals. Employers appre­ciate when you go into an inter­view knowing what skills and industry knowl­edge you want to gain from working at that par­tic­ular orga­ni­za­tion and in turn, how the job will make you a more qual­i­fied future can­di­date. A com­pelling way to artic­u­late this isn’t by rat­tling off the ben­e­fits and supe­rior qual­i­ties a par­tic­ular com­pany or posi­tion has, but by pro­viding the inter­viewer with solid exam­ples of how you’ve lever­aged past expe­ri­ences to get closer to your ulti­mate career goals. Being insightful and thoughtful about these aspects of your past expe­ri­ences is a mean­ingful way to create a story about your­self for interviewers.

Addi­tion­ally, relaying to employers that you under­stand how your pre­vious expe­ri­ences have built upon each other allows them to trust you more easily. While not all work expe­ri­ences seem to relate to each other (like going from a weightlifting non­profit working with gang youth in Boston to an agri­cul­ture start up in Cameroon in my case), making simple and mean­ingful con­nec­tions between expe­ri­ences is always pos­sible. These con­nec­tions can exist on many levels. For example, I worked with very flex­ible bosses who didn’t have the time to micro manage me in both posi­tions. That sim­i­larity taught me to take ini­tia­tive when I saw prob­lems or inef­fi­cien­cies in dif­ferent types of sit­u­a­tions. Another example is that due to orga­ni­za­tional, phys­ical, and cul­tural dif­fer­ences, I devel­oped stronger inter­per­sonal skills with people from var­ious cul­tural and socio-​​economic back­grounds, and I learned how to be more thor­ough and con­cise in my com­mu­ni­ca­tion as face time with my super­vi­sors at each co-​​op was rare. A large take­away from both work expe­ri­ences was a more solid under­standing of what I like and need in a work envi­ron­ment in order to be suc­cessful; such as a lively office cul­ture and struc­tured time com­mit­ments. You can always find con­nec­tions, and while it may be dif­fi­cult at first, this is pre­cisely the first step in cul­ti­vating the sort of thought­ful­ness that really res­onates with people, espe­cially employers. Even­tu­ally I’ve also found that I’ve been able to make deci­sions about my work expe­ri­ences with a greater level of delib­er­ate­ness and con­fi­dence because I’ve taken the time to draw these par­al­lels and con­nec­tions from past experiences.

So take this New Years to do a little brain­work in tying all of your past work expe­ri­ences together into a thoughtful and com­pelling per­sonal story. Remember, telling this story will help you to make those con­nec­tions between expe­ri­ences, show people your ability to process and grow from each expe­ri­ence, and give people insight into you as a person.  And this does not work well as a one-​​time process right before an inter­view; it should be a con­stant under­taking that helps make those yearly new begin­nings and res­o­lu­tions all the more mean­ingful each time. So give your­self a new begin­ning career-​​wise this coming year, one that starts with a more thoughtful ver­sion of yourself.

Megan Fer­nandes is an inter­na­tional affairs stu­dent in her fourth year at North­eastern with aca­d­emic inter­ests revolving around global poverty alle­vi­a­tion. Megan is orig­i­nally from Houston, but went to high school in Bangkok, Thai­land before moving to Boston. She loves learning about other cul­tures and would be happy to show new people around Boston!