Tips To My Sophomore Self

TIPS TO MY SOPHOMORE SELF

Career Story & Advice from a Northeastern alum, Taylor ‘16

Hi there! My name is Taylor and I graduated from Northeastern in May 2016 with a B.S. in Business Administration with concentrations in Finance and Marketing, and a minor in International Affairs. I had the opportunity to complete three different co-ops while at Northeastern to gain real-world experience. My third and final co-op was a Buying Co-op at TJX, where I accepted a full time position post-graduation. During my co-op I was exposed to the world of Merchandising at a Fortune 100 Retail Company where I found a passion for the Buying career path.

Currently, I am now a Senior Allocation Analyst in HomeGoods within the Kid’s department. The Kid’s department is a really fun and dynamic area of our business. We sell everything from Toys and Books, to Bottles and Bibs, to Furniture and Bedding! As an Allocation Analyst, I allocate merchandise for my department to our 600+ stores based on a variety of factors, including trend, performance, geography, demographics, and more.

When I started at TJX, I was placed in the Merchandising Development Program (MDP), which is the development program and career path for those, like myself, who would ultimately would like to become a Buyer for the organization, sourcing merchandise for our stores from around the world. My TJX co-op experience played a huge role in shaping my career goals, and it introduced me to the merchandising function for the first time ever.

 

Looking back to sophomore year at Northeastern University, here are a few tips that I would give my sophomore self:

  1. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

Put yourself out of your comfort zone. Before my TJX co-op, I thought I wanted to be in the finance industry. However, after my first co-op at a financial services firm, I wasn’t 100% sold. After discussing different options with my co-op advisor, she suggested the TJX Merchandising Development Program. I wasn’t sure at first – merchandising and finance are 2 very different functions. But one of the greatest advantages of the co-op program is being able to try a variety of different career paths. Fast forward 6 months – I loved my buying experience and I decided to add a marketing concentration to compliment that!

  1. Build and maintain your professional network.

The opportunity that we have as co-ops to build a network before graduation is something very special. By building professional relationships during your co-op rotations, you set yourself up for long-term success and career opportunities. At TJX, relationships are key. When I started in my full-time role, I made sure to grab coffee and catch up with some members of my previous co-op team. While we don’t work together day-to-day anymore, they have been able to give me some great personal and professional development advice, and I know I can always go to them with any questions I may have in pursuing my career goal of becoming a Buyer!

  1. Ask for feedback.

Whether you are accepting your first-ever co-op or you are a seasoned executive, there are many opportunities for professional growth and development. One of the easiest ways to progress is to simply ask for feedback! Managers will see this as you taking initiative in your own development. As a part of the Merchandising Development Program at TJX, you have the opportunity to progress through a series of more challenging roles, and are given the tools and knowledge to set you up for success. By asking for feedback, you demonstrate your willingness to learn, excel, and develop in each role you are given.

By getting out of my comfort zone, I was able to find an industry and company that I am truly passionate about! I now have a strong professional network which I can use to ask questions, solicit feedback, and grow and develop through the Merchandising career path at TJX!

ABOUT TJX OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS

Each year TJX hosts 100+ Northeastern students on co-op across many areas of our business including Merchandising, Finance, Information Technology, Marketing, Logistics, Human Resources, and more!

Learn more about our upcoming recruitment events on campus from the career service center or your co-op advisor!

ABOUT TJX

The TJX Companies, Inc. is the leading off-price retailer of apparel and home fashions in the U.S. and worldwide, ranking No. 87 in the 2017 Fortune 500 listings, with over $33 billion in revenues in 2016, more than 3,800 stores in 9 countries, 3 e-commerce sites, and approximately 235,000 Associates. We operate T.J. Maxx and Marshalls (combined, Marmaxx), HomeGoods and Sierra Trading Post, as well as tjmaxx.com and sierratradingpost.com, in the United States; Winners, HomeSense, and Marshalls (combined, TJX Canada) in Canada; and T.K. Maxx in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Poland, Austria, the Netherlands, and Australia, as well as HomeSense and tkmaxx.com in the U.K. (combined, TJX International).

 

 

What is Informational Interviewing?

So you’re a Northeastern student, full of vim and vigor and enthusiasm for the future. You’ve got classes and co-ops under your belt, and you feel prepared for the working world. But if you’re like most students, you haven’t discovered one of the most potent secrets of career success. What is this magical secret, you wonder? It’s a little something called “informational interviewing.”

What is Informational Interviewing?

It’s only the most useful career-building tool you’ll encounter. The basic gist is that you will reach out to professionals in the industry and set up interviews with them. Instead of the interviews you’re used to, YOU will be the one asking the questions! It’s the best way to network and gain insider industry knowledge at the same time! And your mom thought you were useless at multitasking! Oh how wrong she was.

The Power of Asking

There are two secrets why informational interviews work:

  • People love to talk about themselves.
  • People love to help college students.

At first, I was skeptical. Who would take time out from their busy schedule to shoot the breeze with a bumbling college student who barely knows what to do with her life after graduation? I reached out to professionals at ten different companies, expecting to bug them a week later in an attempt to set up two or three meetings if I was lucky. Au contraire! To my surprise, almost everyone replied immediately! And they wanted to help me! And all I had to do was ask. Many have referred to this as the Ben Franklin effect (see here).

You’ve probably heard this statistic before: 80% of job openings are unlisted, and are filled through word of mouth. With those kinds of odds, how can you afford not to network? Informational interviewing is a great way to start!

The Power of Mentorship

The summer before college, I was nervous about starting nursing school. I had never truly experienced patient care before and had lingering doubts about my abilities. Sure, I wanted to be a nurse, but who knew what would happen when I had to take care of a sick patient for the first time? What if I couldn’t handle it?

Enter Eva Gomez, a nurse and clinical educator at Boston Children’s Hospital. She ran an internship program designed to expose high school students to nursing careers, and she shaped my nursing career from the moment I met her. Smart, confident, but not afraid to discuss her own mistakes, Eva made all of us instantly comfortable. She challenged us to think of nursing as a calling, not just a career. Eva never made us feel like students; she treated us like future nurses. The infusion of confidence I gained as a direct result of her intervention fueled me through my freshman year and showed me that even if I had doubts about my abilities, there was at least one nurse who believed I could do it. After the program ended, Eva and I kept in touch, as she has done for all the graduates of the program. I have frequently asked for her advice, and she remains a huge influence in my life.

My mentorship experience began my freshman year of high school through a program called Project Reach, which is designed to help at risk elementary school students academically and socially by pairing them with a high school tutor. I worked with three children over four years, providing both homework help and emotional support. In all cases, when the students felt comfortable sharing their feelings with me, their academic achievement increased. Additionally, their outlook on school changed from pessimistic to optimistic. I will never forget the pride each child had when they showed me their first perfect score on a spelling or math test, a feat they never believed was possible until they had someone who believed in them. Even here at NEU, my involvement as a mentor in Bouve Fellows has shown me just how valuable having someone show you the way is, especially in your first year at school.

Finding a mentor at work is crucial to your success, and not just in that they may help you “get ahead.” Mentors are a wealth of information about your chosen career and the complications you may run into as time goes on. A true mentor will want to help you succeed both professionally and personally. Eva and the countless others who have been mentor figures to me over the years have shaped my development every step of the way, allowing me to pay it forward and become a mentor figure myself.

I see mentorship as the best possible way to improve relationships within a group and encourage each member to work towards his or her goals. It perpetuates a cycle of service, building the confidence of the mentees while allowing mentors to have a positive impact on the community that gave them the opportunity to succeed. It also strengthens the bonds between the younger and older individuals, building a strong cohort that helps each one professionally as well as personally. I have had several mentors within nursing, and each has given me valuable information that I will carry with me throughout my nursing career. I have witnessed the positive effect mentorship has, particularly in the nursing major here at NEU. Nurses who graduated years or even decades ago look back on programs like Bouve Fellows fondly and are more willing to help younger nurses transition. The interconnected nature of the major coupled with program like Bouve Fellows creates a strong network of empowered nurses, not only benefiting Bouve College but also the healthcare community as a whole.

Julia Thompson is a second year Nursing major in the Bouve College of Health Sciences. She works as a nursing assistant at South Shore Hospital and is currently on her first co-op at Boston Children’s Hospital. She is the secretary of the Northeastern University Student Nurses’ Association and is also involved with Bouve Fellows. Feel free to contact her at thompson.jul@husky.neu.edu with any questions. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.