The benefits of volunteering and extracurricular activities

By: Chawney Weis

“It’s not about what you know, it’s about WHO you know.” But how do you get to know the right people? And how do you convince them that you’re the right person for the job?

You could possibly meet a connection in your Uber-pool, a coffee shop on the T or at a family/friend gathering; but volunteer work is one of the quickest ways to meet people and prove your knowledge and work ethic. Whether you choose to volunteer through an unpaid summer internship (in high school or college) or you opt to volunteer your time a couple nights or evenings each month, you will have the opportunity to build relationships with people who can potentially help you out, or at least provide you a good reference, during your co-op and/or job search. Similarly, extracurricular activities including sports, clubs, networking groups, volunteer activities, travel, etc., allow you to network and meet people while demonstrating your strengths, skill set, and how you work with others on a team and in different environments.

While both volunteer work and extracurricular activities allow you to make connections and prove your abilities, you are also building your resume in doing so. Choosing to spend your free-time doing something purposeful implies that you have interests in something beyond your school work; you like to seek challenges and learn about a variety of fields and lines of work. Employers appreciate seeing that an applicant is involved in their community and well-rounded in the activities they choose to participate in. Employers regularly request to speak specifically with students in different clubs and organizations. They want to see leadership positions and skills on your resumes as well as campus and community involvement. The projects you work on and the interactions you have will help you develop transferable skills that you will use in the classroom and in any job/work setting.

So, when you attend the Involvement Fair on the front lawn on September 7, 2017, consider what you can learn and how being involved (both on and off campus) can help you land your next co-op or job after graduation. If you are spending your summer off at home, consider volunteering part-time or finding other activities you can be involved in. Remember that your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor can assist in pulling transferable skills from any of these experiences to boost your resume and present your qualifications in your cover letters.

 

So, you want to go to graduate school…

By: Lauren Creamer

More and more students these days are telling me they want to go to graduate school. And they’re saying it earlier on in their collegiate careers. Before you jump on the grad school bandwagon, it’s important to a) ask yourself some critical questions, and b) have a plan of action. It’s a lot of work, but well worth it, if you know where you want to go next. Use the guide below to get started. And, as always, reach out to you CO-OP + CAREER Advisor for help!

Questions to Ask BEFORE You Begin:
• What do you want to go to grad school for? Master’s? PhD?
• Do you want to go into industry after OR do you want to teach?
• Why do you want to go to graduate school at all?
• Do you want to go immediately? Or work for a few years?
• How long do you want to be in school? One year? Two years? Five+ years?
• Where do you want to be? Does it matter?
• What schools offer your desired program(s) of study in your preferred location?

Action Steps to Take:
• Make a list of those schools, including program directors/coordinators and contact info.
• Make an outreach plan and conduct outreach – ask thoughtful questions, show interest.
• Rank programs. Know their requirements. Work backwards from their deadlines.
• Prepare for and take the GRE. (Or whatever other standardized test the program(s) require).
• Connect with faculty mentors to get their advice on selecting schools and the application process. (They once went through the same process!).
• Connect with your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor re: logistics for applying and writing your personal statement. (This is often more work than you might think!).
• Do you need to submit a skill-based resume or a CV? Don’t know the difference? See your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor!
• Begin applications and submit materials by deadlines.
• Prepare for program interviews. (This is a great time to loop back around with your faculty mentor).
• Review offers and accept at the program which is the best fit for you!
• OR defer acceptance until you are ready. (You never know, plans could change!).

Choosing An Employer

By: Jason Gregoricus

A corporate employer or start up? Which is the right fit?

Larger corporations typically offer stability, regular hours, better pay, clearly defined roles and well-established support. Start-ups, on the other hand, tend to be more flexible about work hours, often require their employees to wear multiple hats and usually demand more creativity as a result.

Which one fits best for you is an important question. Let’s look at each in kind.

Large Corporations: They’re large because they’ve figured out what works in the marketplace and have grown because of it. So, when a company grows it usually compartmentalizes the work of various departments with clearly defined roles within them. Therefore, when you’re hired, you’ll know what is expected of you and how to grow within the company. (Relatedly, there are usually robus benefit packages – health, retirement, etc. – as well.)

Additionally, larger corporations usually prefer to hire from within – it’s convenient and less expensive than taking the administrative time to recruit/interview/hire. In the end, it’s all about relationships. People hire other people they know and like. Therefore, if you work for a company and would like to try something new, the chances of advancement and change are greater.

However, there are downsides. First, large corporations are usually not nimble. Change moves slowly – if at all – and when it does happen the process can be maddeningly slow. In larger organizations there are usually many stakeholders for every decision and idea. Therefore, the time it takes to implement those changes/ideas is exponentially proportional to the number of people it will affect. So, if you’re an impatient person, then the corporate atmosphere may not be right.
Start Ups: Conversely, working for a start up does have its perks.

First, start-ups are typically very exciting places to work. They often have a dynamic workforce and a swashbuckling energy that makes every day go by quickly. As a result you may find yourself taking on several different (read “seemingly unrelated”) aspects of the business. It is not uncommon with a small start up for a recent hire to handle shipping, sales and market research all in one week. The benefit of such a situation is that it allows a person to explore what they’re good at, and what they enjoy less.

Concurrently, in a small organization it is much easier to shine as all your contributions are obvious to everyone. Therefore, a start up could help you gain confidence, self-knowledge and a strong reputation. Conversely, however, the challenges at a small start up can be numerous.

First, the benefits may not be all that great. Start ups may allow you flexible hours – but incredibly long ones as well. Also, with some exceptions, they are operating with razor thin margins. Therefore retirement packages, vacation times, health insurance options all may be less than ideal – or not on offer at all. This can be compounded by the fact that many start up don’t have anyone working in human resources. So your options for support become even that much more limited.

Second, if you make a big mistake at a company it can have huge repercussions. Everyone knowing you did great is, well, great – but the other side of the coin is the public recognition of mistakes. It never feels good when the majority of your coworkers all know when you’ve made one.

So, in the end, where you choose to work will be decided by where you feel the most comfortable. But keep this in mind! Everything is fixable. Everyone who has worked long enough in the world has a story about a bad job or workplace situation. Just because you don’t fit in, or a job is not what you wanted or thought going in, there will always be another chance on the horizon.

So keep your head up and soldier on! Big or small, comfortable or nimble. Over time you will learn what works for you and that will be the right thing

Meet the Staff – Sara Dell

Originally Sara Dell, Associate Director of CO-OPS + CAREERS at Wentworth, planned to be a Professor of Anthropology.  She earned two degrees before learning that she liked to work in teams and preferred seeing immediate results from her work.  So, she left her PhD program and instead, having come from a family of small business people, went to work in industry.  First in large corporate banking (in Foreign Exchange – the cowboys of banking, where 20 million dollars is traded into Yen in less than a minute) and then in a series of small startups and emerging growth companies in various industries including Buzz marketing, entertainment, and green technology.

Starting in operations and finding she liked working with people, Sara’s mentors encouraged her to specialize in Human Resources.  She found herself hired as employee number ten and the only operations person working for the 6-foot redhead CEO, and University of Cincinnati DAAP program alum.  She wanted her creative company to have co-ops.  The company had two interns the summer before Sara arrived and she grew the program to where there were co-op students in almost every department.  At one point, the ratio of co-ops and interns to staff was 1:3.

Working with co-op students became her favorite part of her job and so she decided to shift to Career Services in Higher Education.  Through a series of informational interviews, Sara landed an Assistant Director role at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago where she advised students’ full-time on their careers and finding co-ops and internships.   She found she loved working with engineering and technology students, appreciated being part of a team and was energized when a student would come in with a co-op, internship or a full-time offer.

A few years later, having lived 20 years in Chicago, Sara wanted to return home to New England.  She missed the region and her family.   When she saw the open position at Wentworth Institute of Technology, the school reminded her of her current school, but with the added benefit of a co-op program.  She applied and got the offer.  Hired as a CO-OP + CAREER Advisor, Sara is now the Associate Director, running the co-op program.  A career that started with building a co-op program in industry has grown into overseeing the co-op program here at Wentworth.   Sara’s journey has come full circle and she is back in Higher Education on a team who works with students’ full time. Sara celebrates every time a Wentworth student lands a co-op!

20 Tips for Networking and Navigating a Conference

By: Lauren Creamer

Conferences can be intimidating – whether you’ve been to them in the past or not. Here are some fool proof tips for conference newbies and veterans alike.

Know your audience. What type of conference is it? Who will be there? Professionals? Peers? Students?

Make a hit list. Who do you want to connect with? Note any presenters or attendees that you really want to connect with and make them a priority.

Bring business cards (and have a resume waiting in the wings). It is not always appropriate to go doling out your resume to everyone you meet – but business cards are universally welcome in a conference setting. Don’t have any? Try Vista Print – you can order 250 for the price of shipping. Pick a clean, minimalist design and get printing. BUT, if someone asks for your resume, be prepared to share a hard copy or send it via email.

Don’t carry anything in your hands (if you need to have anything with you, it should be in a bag). If you’re loaded with stuff it might be awkward to shake hands or converse with people. It may also make you seem closed off or busy.

Focus on the other person. This isn’t about you. It’s about them. So make the other person feel as if you’re genuinely interested (and you should be!). Ask them questions, let the conversation flow.

Be yourself! You’re trying to build relationships with people at organizations that make sense for you. It’s important to be authentic – you want to make in roads at places that are a good fit.

Follow-up. Follow-up. Follow-up. Connect with presenters and attendees alike on LinkedIn. Follow them on Twitter. Send a “thank you for chatting” email post-conference.

At a break point or have some down time? Don’t take out your phone and surf the web! Interact. If everyone was sitting on their phones the whole time, no one would make connections.

See someone hanging out alone? Go over and say hi. If you’re in a group and you see someone alone, ask them to join. Either way, you’re making someone feel included and welcome.

Go to the pre-prescribed social activities: fun run, city outing, etc. This is a no-brainer! Structured fun = easy networking opportunity.

Making eye contact and smiling is always a good move. It makes you seem approachable and welcoming. Who doesn’t want to know someone who is approachable and welcoming?

Does the conference have an app? Can you talk to other attendees on it? Use it. You may be able to make connections through the app and then meet-up in-person, removing some of the anxiety. Same goes for a Twitter hashtag – chat with people through this, follow them, and then meet in-person.

Dress for the occasion. Ask around to see what the conference vibe is – sometimes it’s OK to wear shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. Most of the time it’s not. Do your homework and dress the part.

Practice your handshake. No dead-fish hands! No vice grips! Nice and firm does the trick.

Went alone? Find a conference buddy and tag team. You can play off each other when networking and it may ease your anxiety.

If you have the time to prepare, submit a presentation/talk/poster – people will come to you!

Take breaks to rest and re-energize. You know yourself best. Need a 2 PM nap? Take it. Need to have some alone time before a night on the town? Do it.

PACK SNACKS. I cannot stress this enough. Being hangry at a conference is the absolute worst.

Wear comfortable shoes (but still dressy). You end up standing and walking more than you think you will, so wearing the right shoes is critical.

Relax. Take a deep breath. And go for it. What do you have to lose? If you don’t make any connections, you’re right back where you started. But I guarantee you, if you utilize these tips, you will do some awesome networking.

Discovering Your Strengths

By: Janel Juba

In order to develop a career that really suits you, it’s important to have a basic knowledge of your key strengths. Your strengths are your talents/gifts that come naturally and easily to you. There are many assessments you can take to help find your personal strengths. The one I recommend is “StrengthsFinder”, which can be accessed online. This assessment helps you identify your top five strengths.

I took the StrengthsFinder three years ago and the results for my top five strengths were:

Futuristic– able to vision what could be and who cherishes those visions.
Individualization– can observe each person’s style, motivation, how each think/ build relationships.
Restorative– enjoys solving problems.
Ideation– fascinated by ideas.
Belief– family-oriented, spiritual, values responsibility and high ethics personally and others.

I wasn’t surprised by these results as I am a thinker, researcher, helper, and work well with ideas. Once you assess your strengths, it’s important to understand what they mean. I am good at problem-solving and work well with ideas because of my strengths, therefore this way of thinking comes naturally to me. Remember, successful people focus on their strengths and manage around their weaknesses…

Here are three tips you may want to consider as you discover your strengths:

1. Seek five people who know you well and ask them to provide feedback about a time when you were at your best. Once you have gathered feedback, look for commonalities in their stories. Be sure to create a list of the themes and examples to what they suggest about your strengths.

2. Take a few strength’s assessments and be mindful of common themes. Also, watch for signs of excitement and be open-minded to explore new roles.

3. Once you identify your strengths, be creative when you describe them. Try to avoid common words like “organized” or “dedicated”. Instead, create a term that captures your specific strength like “supporter” or “investigator”.

You will be satisfied working in a career that allows you to apply your strengths daily. Your approach will be unique, this will enable you to make an important influence to your industry. Working from your strengths will help you be far more productive, get better results, contribute more value, attract higher compensation, enjoy your work, and experience greater fulfillment!

“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle” (Napoleon Hill).
Photo credit: www.thestrengthsinitiative.com
Strengths Resource: www.gallupstrengthscenter.com

Networking: Keeping a cool head when you think you might just sweat through your shirt.

By: Jer Jurma

Even the idea of networking can be intimidating to students as they begin their co-op or job searches. In fact, speaking the word networking can bring on a cold sweat to the introvert in us all, but it is important to realize that as human beings, we network every day through sharing information about ourselves and asking questions about others.

Extroverted or introverted, networking is vital in finding a Co-op or job, and realistically, it is a vital part of life as a professional. The next five points are important to keep in mind when approaching the act of networking. You can adjust them to fit your own personality as you see fit:

1. Keep it real. Engage people with genuine interest, ask questions, and listen intently.

2. Find commonalities and actively think about how your goals and the values of the individual and his or her company/firm align.

3. If you are nervous about networking, think of it as a professional exercise assigned to you as a student. Be confident in the fact that you are a representative of Wentworth, and by promoting your school and academic program, you in turn will be promoting yourself in a way that is team oriented.

4. Show enthusiasm and the desire to engage. A willingness to contribute to the causes and advancement of an organization can be established before a formal interview. The following statement (or one like it) is a good example of how to engage in networking:

“The work you do interests me, and is something I would like to pursue. I would really like to know about your career path, and how you got to where you are.”

5. Share your contact information and ask how best to reach out to continue your conversation in the future.

Get out there and see how it goes. Remember, networking takes practice…a lot of practice. You will learn from the interactions you have with people how best to adjust your approach.

 

Cover Letters: Why and How.

By: Caitlin Brison

Cover letters…does anyone actually read these? Why, yes! Many do! While we cannot predict which hiring managers read cover letters and which do not, we do know for certain that those that read them really care! Hiring managers like a competitive application and most of them will read your cover letter after browsing your resume. So…when in doubt, write a cover letter.

Plain and simple, cover letters get interviews. They tell the reader, “Hey! I think it’s a superb idea that you call me in for an interview because I have read the job description, researched your company, and thought about how my education, experience, strengths and skills could contribute to all the super cool things you are doing.” Who wouldn’t want to talk more to that candidate? It shows you care – and they care that you care. Make sense?

If you’re still unsure, read through these top 10 tips and maybe it’ll make more sense:

1. Don’t restate your resume. They already read that.
2. You’re not bragging, you’re stating the facts. You’re a student at Wentworth, you must be really good at a few things. What are they? And you’re probably curious to learn more about other things, so talk about that, too.
3. Tell a story! Have you always dreamed of working here? Have you worked really hard to get to where you are? Do you spend your free time doing similar things? Stories draw readers in and build connections.
4. Highlight your strengths! (Extra points for using the job description to see what they’re looking for) Did your group projects or summer jobs teach you something about collaboration, communication, and organization? Perfect! Tell me more.
5. Be honest, but don’t apologize for a lack of experience. We all start somewhere and it’s ok to not have every skill they want. No need to inflate or deflate! Speak truthfully about your strengths and how you plan to develop more.
6. Be professional, not necessarily formal. This is certainly an opportunity to showcase your ability to write professionally and maturely, but show some personality! Avoid sterile and stuffy language.
7. Show….and sometimes tell! Instead of writing, “I am a good problem solver,” you can write, “I prefer to approach obstacles with a positive attitude as I have found that persistence and creative thinking usually prevail. My professors have commended me for my curiosity and dedication to acquiring and applying new knowledge when confronted with a problem to be solved.”
8. Make it targeted, not generic! Hiring managers can smell this a mile away. And they don’t like it. Use the job description to write the letter. No need to start from scratch each time, but always tailor it to the job description.
9. Format. There is a set framework for cover letters. It’s best to follow it. Be creative with the content, not format.
10. Edit! Read and re-read before you submit. Your advisor can read it! A friend can, too!

A well-crafted cover letter is your golden ticket to an interview. Write and submit them as often as you can! The more you write, the more interviews you get.

Find more tips here: https://wit.edu/coopsandcareers/cooperative-education/co-op-resources

Schedule an appointment with your advisor to review your resume and cover letters by stopping by the front desk or calling 617 989 4101.

How to answer the “greatest weakness” question.

By: Becky Smith

Sometimes a painful moment arises in an interview: My pulse is racing, my palms are sweaty, and my grasp on my vocabulary is slipping. Now you want me to talk about my greatest weakness? Really?

Why do hiring managers ask about weaknesses, anyway?

Employers want to know what strengths you can contribute, and what you could do better.
Prior to the interview, hiring managers have only read about you. The interview is their chance to meet you and evaluate what you could provide in the role for which you are interviewing. Your skills, interests and experience are part of the picture, but they also want to know what you are working on improving or learning.

They want to know how you perceive and overcome challenges. It’s a way to get to know you as a person!

Experienced recruiters and managers know that work is called work because it can be challenging!
You interviewers are not toying with you. They are not trying to trick you. They want you to talk about your greatest weakness because it gives them an opportunity to observe a few things about you: how you perceive challenges, how you problem solve, and your capacity to learn from your mistakes.

So…. Don’t just choose any weakness. Be prepared with an example that demonstrates growth.

Weaknesses don’t just go away. They may stick around forever. But we can develop strategies to overcome them so that they diminish little by little!

What is a weakness that you possess, that you can manage now, and that used to pose a much more significant barrier to your success? Use it to craft a story that is one part honesty, and one part success!

What is a weakness that embarrasses you or that you would have a hard time expressing positively? Do NOT share this one. (All are uncomfortable to a certain extent but some are things we really don’t want to talk about!)

How: Name the weakness. Briefly describe how it affects your performance at work or at school in the present. Briefly describe how it was in the past — either at jobs or in your school work — and tell your interviewer what you do to manage your weakness.

For example:

[Name the weakness and how it affects you in the present] I am shy when I need to speak in public or when I am meeting new people. I have worked on this shyness at Wentworth, where I have done group projects every semester with my classmates and we have presented our results in front of classrooms.

[The past] A couple of years ago I was so shy that I didn’t ask any questions or share ideas, and I tried to completely avoid attention. This made it difficult for me to work on group projects at school because I had a hard time expressing my ideas and sometimes I would be slow to communicate about important updates or changes that my group needed to be aware of.

[What you have learned/your strategies] I really just needed practice. Now when I feel stopped by my shyness, I remind myself how important it is to keep communicating so the work can move forward. That motivates me. I have also learned that it is helpful to prepare in advance for public speaking.

Disclosing a weakness will never be 100% comfortable. But prepare for it. You will impress yourself and others.

Knowing your weakness makes you a stronger team member and your ability to express it is a strength that will make you stand out as an especially self-aware job candidate. By talking articulately about a weakness, you will provide a glimpse of who you really are as a human being – and hiring managers make time to meet with you because they want this glimpse! Work with your Co-op Advisor for help getting started or to get feedback on a weakness you are preparing to discuss.

Meet The Staff – Robbin Beauchamp

I have been the Director of CO-OPS + CAREERS at Wentworth since September 2014. I joined Wentworth knowing that I wanted to work with students who know what type of career they aspire to having and are dedicated to getting it. I always thought I would end up at a business school, such as Bentley or Babson, and I am thrilled to be at a technology school as college graduates of STEM programs are distinctive and highly desired by organizations.

Wentworth is unique due to the co-op program and being the person who gets to direct it is both humbling and exciting. In my research, I am hard-pressed to find another college in the US that requires every undergraduate degree student to complete two co-ops to graduate. It is a privilege to work with students who are committed to their career paths and understand the value that CO-OPS + CAREERS offers them to achieve their goals. Employers love hiring our co-op students and new graduates. We hear from employers every day about the quality of the education the students are receiving. It is a joy to work here.

I arrived at Wentworth having worked in career services since 1999 and in Human Resources for 10 years prior to that. I am fortunate that I could transition into higher education career services and bring with me the experiences I had working in television and radio, financial services, medical research and a clinical environment. I can share my knowledge of benefits administration with students, explaining how compensation is much more than just a salary. I can share my experience of being a recruiter, providing students with interviewing strategies that set them apart from other candidates as well as writing excellent resumes and cover letters that open the doors to those interviews. And I can share my knowhow of employee relations to educate our students to be the best employee and stay clear of legal obstacles that may hinder their employment. I use these same skills to help employers write impactful job descriptions, assist them to develop recruiting strategies to entice our students to apply for their openings and coach them on how to be excellent supervisors of our students. Coming from Human Resources provides me with unique skills in career services and I am grateful for them.

As a director, I am unable to have a student case load, but I do see students during Drop Ins and enjoy it very much. After all, it was my desire to work with students that brought me into this profession. Like all professions, the higher up the organizational ladder you climb, the further away from the clients you often get. However, I work with a GREAT group of Advisors and Operations people who are so dedicated to our students. Together, we bring employers to campus to meet our students, plan educational networking events and find innovative ways to connect employers, students, alumni and faculty. I love my job and working for Wentworth. I am a very lucky person.