Starting a new role? Stand out with these four tips!

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Starting a new co-op or full-time job can be a challenge.  As the new kid on the block, you not only have to learn how to do the job, but also how to fit in with the company and make a strong impression. However, in most organizations, just being good at your job is not enough to get you noticed.  If you want to turn your coop into a full time offer or get on your boss’s radar for a promotion, it is important to find effective ways to increase your visibility.  You want your colleagues and manager to see you as a leader who adds value to the team and the company.  As a manager, I have hired several interns into permanent positions.  What differentiated them from the competition to win a coveted spot on our team?

Here are four ways you can make yourself stand out:

1. Go beyond your job description

View your job description as the minimum expectation and don’t ever be heard saying, “That’s not my job!”  Spend your first few weeks observing others, asking questions and figuring out ways you can add value to your team.  If you see something that needs to be done-take the initiative, bring it to your boss’ attention and offer your help.  If you find a way to do something more efficiently, suggest it with a concrete plan.  Step out of your comfort zone to learn a new skill or take on a project that no one else wants to do.  Possess a Yes-I-can attitude. If you show a willingness to learn or try something that would be beneficial to the company-you will definitely be positioning yourself for success.

2. Manage your time well

If you want to stand out, it is critical that you be regarded as someone who gets things done and done well.  Missing deadlines, or handing in a less-than-stellar project because you didn’t give yourself enough time to do it right is unacceptable.  The ability to multi-task, i.e. managing competing projects simultaneously, is expected of most employees, and is critical for anyone who aspires to a leadership role. It is important to prioritize your time when it comes to completing projects in order to get them done on time.  If you are unsure of which tasks to complete first, have a conversation with your supervisor to clarify expectations, and avoid potential problems in the future.

3. Speak up in meetings

The way you present yourself in meetings can have a big impact on your career. If you don’t let yourself be heard and never offer an opinion or comment, you may be giving off the impression that you are not invested.  Even if you are more introverted and prefer to think things through before you speak, find ways to participate.  When you do speak up, say your points succinctly and clearly.  A great way to figure out how to become an effective speaker is by watching those who do it well.  Meetings are where a lot of business gets done, and contributing your ideas publicly allows your boss and your peers to see you as a leader.

4. Ask for feedback and use it to improve

Getting feedback and constructive criticism from your peers and supervisor is one of the best ways to gauge your performance.  If your manager offers unsolicited feedback about a perceived problem or mistake, don’t be defensive.  Instead, take ownership and accountability and devise a strategy to address the problem.  If your manager doesn’t volunteer performance feedback –ask for it-appropriately.  You could request a regular one-to-one meeting to discuss problems, status updates and check-in about how you are doing.  When you are seeking feedback, don’t ask, “How am I doing?”  It’s too general and might not elicit specific, concrete suggestions.  Instead, ask about the one-thing.  For example, “What is one thing I could do to improve the way I…?  If someone takes the time and effort to give you feedback make sure you demonstrate how you are using it to improve your performance.

Diane Ciarletta is the Director of the Career Development Team.  She has been a Career Counselor for over 25 years and has hired and supervised many interns and professional staff.

Young Professional Cooking Tips

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Coming back to school and need a bite to eat? Here are some cooking tips to help you get through your semester!

For those of us who don’t have culinary training, or Giada de Laurentiis’ manicurist, do we have hope of making ourselves healthy, tasty meals, in a timely eat-before-9pm way, using tools and ingredients we’ve actually heard of? Yes. Just takes a little planning and a few solid recipes!

  • Know the basics: The first place to start is learning basics. And by that I mean, literally the basics of how to cook things. Scramble eggs, cooking pasta correctly, how to sauté, how to store food properly, which tools you need (yes good pots, pans, and utensils are important and another good place to start with the basics. You don’t need an immersion blender right away, promise). Once you learn the fundamentals, you can build on them.  I got a free promotional copy of Jessica Seinfeld’s “Can’t Cook Book” and laughed at first. That seems too simple. And it was great! Even though I’ve been cooking for about 10 years now, I learned lots of great basics. That cookbook is a great place to start for the truly new chef.
  • Know what to have on hand: Certain ingredients should be kept on hand at all times. Salt, pepper, spices for seasoning, pasta, frozen veggies, marinades, frozen meats (ya Omaha Steaks), rice, bread crumbs, flour, sugar, nuts…all things that last for a while and can help you make a meal in a pinch. Things like those on hand can help you whip up chicken parm, stir fry, and marinated steak tips all with ingredients you have on hand. There are endless lists from a google search that can help you review what items to keep on hand.
  • Eat colorfully: If you are going to stay healthy, you need fruits and veggies. When I make a meal, I do a color check to make sure I have more than just brown all over my plate. It’s an easy way to make sure your meals are balanced.
  • Plan your grocery trips: I don’t rush my grocery planning or trips. This is a huge and underestimated key in healthy, easy cooking success. Unfortunately, to really plan and prepare, you have to sit down and spend some time thinking about what your week looks like (if you have plans every night, maybe just a quick trip for breakfast foods), and what you will need for food, and what you will need for those meals. Sit down with your laptop or cookbooks and write out your list while watching a favorite TV show – seems less like a chore that way. I keep my list (paper! I know! In a world of technology my list is on paper) on my refrigerator and add to it as I run low on items so I can restock next trip. I plan out my trips for two big trips a month, with two quick trips in-between to restock fresh items like fruit, meats, and milk. Find what works for you.
  • Prep as soon as you get home from the grocery store: When I go to the grocery store, I leave enough time in my schedule for that day to prep, chop, and wash all that I bought. It makes your weeknight meals and snacking faster and healthier when everything is prepared and ready to go.
  • Make enough to reuse: Make more than what you need in one seating and reheat for other meals. If you get bored with a meal after eating it for one night, find a twist on it to multipurpose. If you make meatballs and spaghetti Sunday. Meatball subs on Monday. Don’t put marinara on all the spaghetti noodles, and make Pad Thai on Tuesday.
  • Freeze! And Thaw!: As you learn to make all these tasty meals on your own personal culinary journey – make extras (like above) and freeze them. Instant microwave meals or thaw the day before.
  • Just TOO exhausted? There will be a day you are just too tired for any amount of cooking. This is when you dig out those frozen meals you’ve made. And don’t underestimate a yummy smoothie or shake (just watch the ingredients so they aren’t a calorie bomb). I keep a few microwave meals on hand in my fridge – while they heat I’ll make a salad or sauté veggies to beef up the health factor (and keep me fuller, some of those meals are tiny!) Make a crudités plate – hummus and pita bread, veggies, cheese. Here’s probably the simplest recipe I’ve ever found:

Cut each pita in half and then into 8 wedges. Arrange the pita wedges on a large baking sheet. Pour olive oil over the pitas. Toss and spread out the wedges evenly. Sprinkle with salt, and pepper. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until toasted and golden in color. – Giada

  • Slow Cooker. Nothing more on this one. Just, get a slow cooker. Find recipes. Happy winter meals.
  • Campbell’s & Pillsbury: These websites have simple recipes that incorporate a few of my favorites, soup and crescent rolls. Cheese, marinara, and a slide of pepperoni in a crescent roll wrap? Instant pizza bite to pair with veggies or a salad. My point here: there is NO shortage of recipe sites or cookbooks; you have to find which ones work for you. (Recommendation: crescent taco bake. Add: serve with Tostito chips)

So these are some tips I’ve picked up over time to help me prepare healthy meals when I get home from work that don’t take forever. What tips have you found that are helpful to quick weeknight meals?

Career Changer? Jump Into the Deep-End of the Pool!

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I am a “career builder”, or “career changer”, if you prefer.  Over the last eight months I have had the privilege of being a career development intern here at Northeastern University.  It is my first practical experience in higher education student affairs after a long career in design and design education.  For those individuals who find themselves with a change of purpose well into their professional lives, I offer the following reflections.

  1. Be clear and concise about your goals. Articulating who you are and what you want takes thoughtfulness and practice.  Keep working to focus your message:  write it, speak it aloud, change it, and write it again.  Practice, practice, practice.
  2. Reach out and ask for help. Networking and informational interviews will enable you to connect with other professionals in order to gain insights into the new role you have chosen.  Ask lots of questions and demonstrate your enthusiasm in the process of learning about your new endeavor.
  3. Periodically take time to acknowledge yourself and your accomplishments. The process of career change can be daunting, confusing, possibly overwhelming at times.  Employ your favorite strategies for coping (walk on the beach, eat chocolate, call a friend) to give yourself recognition, stay positive, and acknowledge your progress thus far.
  4. Go ahead and jump into the deep end of the pool. The workplace is all about performance, so take opportunities to play large.   Join professional organizations, attend conferences, participate and contribute at every opportunity.  Target the firms you would most like to work for, develop your contacts there, and then hold your nose, and go ahead and jump.
  5. Consider an internship! An internship is an excellent way to test the field and demonstrate your commitment to your new pursuit.  Chances are, you’ll be really glad you did.