NYIT Alumni Spotlight: Daniel Afrahim

 

At NYIT, we are constantly working to improve our connection with alumni all over the world.  NYIT’s alumni can help enhance the NYIT experience by sharing their experiences, tips, and insight that have helped many students obtain internships, jobs, or other opportunities.

When Daniel Afrahim came to NYIT, he had a different vision and goal from his current career path that included a career in animation and motion graphics.  He graduated from NYIT in 2009 with a BFA in Computer Graphics.

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The unemployment rate was much higher back in 2009 when Daniel graduated and he faced many challenges with his job search process.  However, the experiences and skills that he acquired in order to further his career are applicable in various job climates.

I had the pleasure to talk to Daniel recently about his job search experience while he was at NYIT.

 

Tell me about your experience at NYIT

When I came to NYIT my vision and career goals were different than what they are now.  I wanted to do animation and motion graphics.  Exciting work, and I liked it a lot since I was a kid, so I enrolled at NYIT in 2006 since it was offering one of the best programs out there.

I started doing graphic and web design in 2004 and slowly learned different skills by myself while I was getting my Associate Degree from Bramson ORT College. I started working as an unpaid intern for a local design firm in that year. Then I bought a domain name called DesignbyDaniel.com for few dollars and started my freelance business. Later on, I managed to get a work-study role at the Bramson ORT College to help design the flyers and advertisements, which later on became my full time job for 3 years.

While I was at NYIT, I tried to learn as much as I could about animation, but I was also very involved with the graphic design and web design courses. I had couple of amazing teachers whom I cannot thank enough. My goal was to learn any skill I could because I wasn’t sure what was in my future.

A few months before graduation, I realized getting into the motion graphics field is very hard, especially on the east coast. Many of my friends wanted to move out west to stay in this career path. That was not an option for me; I wanted to stay here in NYC. I couldn’t find an internship in my field with the little experience I had (there weren’t many internship opportunities to begin with).. The job market in general was really bad: people were losing their jobs, the market was crashing, no one was hiring that easily, and I was graduating.

Having graphic/web design skills offered me couple of different career opportunities. So I decided to take the safe route and create a backup plan just in case motion graphics couldn’t work out.

After graduating from NYIT, I got many rejections but finally I started working at Blue Fountain Media, a very small design agency. When I first started, there were only 7-8 people there. By the time I left, it had grown to about 80 people in our NYC office with two more offices. I grew with the company and learned many new skills.

 

Did you use Career Services at NYIT?  

I sat down with someone my senior year and had my resume reviewed and I got some good feedback on my portfolio.  One of the good things about NYIT’s Career Services is that they are always available and I knew where to find them if I did need help. 

When I started looking for graphic design opportunities, the job search was easier.  My portfolio was good and it was a lot different than looking for work in motion graphics.  My situation was also a little different from most students because I was already out and working. I wasn’t afraid of putting myself out there to get rejected and criticized.  

 

Where do you work now?

I currently work at Fidelity Investments as a Senior Information Architect. I really like the work and the collaborative environment. I work with an amazing team. There’s a nice, personal touch at our company in the solutions and service we provide for our customers. Financial industry is very complicated and therefore the issues facing customers are complex. We take the time to find solutions that help millions of our customers do a certain task easier and faster.

Early on in my career, I worked for different agencies or as a freelancer, which was very interesting yet never had a good opportunity to try out different design solutions and find the best design possible. Now, as in-house designer with the work we’re doing, I get to really go through the entire design process, research, usability, etc. whereas in the past I just focused on one section or one specific product or service. I think this makes all the difference and you can be proud of the outcome at the end of the day.

 

If you could do it over again, what would you do differently in regards to the job search process?  

 

I think it starts with academics. I would not go after computer graphics and stay in general graphic and UX design. I also would have considered staying at NYIT for a graduate degree. I think it helps a lot down the road. I am currently looking to get a masters but it will probably take me a few years–more than the two years I could have afforded while I was in the school already.

I also would have only stayed with each company for only two years. I think no matter how happy you are with the position, you need to switch jobs to gain more experiences and get new opportunities.  

Plus, I would’ve become an in-house designer much sooner. Working for agencies is exciting but I think you’ll rarely get to dive deep into issues and find creative solutions.

And always negotiate your salary. There’s always room to ask for more. Do some research and learn to negotiate.

 

Any thoughts / advice for current students in terms of career planning?

NYC is a big city.  You would be surprised as to who needs what and what opportunities are out there based on the job that you’re looking for and the skill set that you have. 

You have to keep going and keep pushing.  I never waited for jobs to find me.  I went after many different things and worked as a freelancer to gain experience. 

Networking is huge. Getting and keeping in touch with people in the industry led to more projects and referrals. Some came later around 7-8 months later but it was all because of the networking. There are so many ways to network and you need find what works for you and the industry you are interested in.

I was always out meeting people, had my portfolio online (just Google my name), and was ready to talk to someone about any opportunity.   

If you have the skills, you will be able to do what’s asked of you.  But also remember to practice and work on your craft.  Show any of your skills in any form you can.  Show you can do this better than anyone else.  Show that you offer variety and are willing to learn. Show value as a team member. 

When I went to interview for a position at Infor, the world’s third-largest enterprise application provider, the creative director was looking for someone who had designed for enterprise applications. I didn’t have that specific experience but that didn’t stop me from offering to redesign one of their iPad apps right in front of him. I quickly redesigned the app in Photoshop into what I felt was a more user-friendly layout. All I had to do was to apply many of the best UX practices to the app, that’s all. It took under an hour and made a lasting impression on the creative director. After couple of days, he offered me the job. I simply earned his trust based on my work and my design thinking. Later on, he told me, some people had the perfect resume, great portfolio, and work experience but couldn’t do what I did on the spot. Whether they lacked the confidence or the motivation, they couldn’t rise up to the challenge. Never back down from a challenge or an opportunity to show what you can do. 

  

 

Networking remains an important component of the job search process.  Like Daniel, our alumni base can share their experiences with current students. NYIT Campus Tap is a platform that provides career networking and alumni mentoring communities to help students launch their career.

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If you are an NYIT alum and would like to volunteer as a mentor or seek mentorship, please email Sabrina Polidoro at spolidor@nyit.edu.

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3 Tips for Improving Your Career Plan

Help!  I don’t know what to do with my life.

Why would you? People in their 40s and 50s still don’t know exactly what they want to do in life. You know why? Because they are still living and learning more about themselves every day. Pressures are placed on students by their families, friends, and themselves to be successful. Oftentimes you need to choose a major during the college application process, so you may feel locked in to a specific career path from day one. Did you know that 80 percent of students change their majors at least once during their college careers? Or that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker currently holds 10 different jobs before age 40? Or that Forrester Research predicts that today’s youngest workers will hold 12 to 15 jobs in their lifetime? You are not alone.

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It’s a long road ahead and not knowing what you want to do can be very stressful and can make you feel lost. Here’s what you can do to increase your chances of figuring it out:

  1. Your major does not necessarily dictate your career. Not all literature majors become writers or professors, and not all computer science students become programmers. You are more than your major and the skills you develop in pursuit of your major make you marketable in many fields and industries. The key to success is to major in what you love and find a variety of opportunities to use the skills you develop in this major. Computer science students often develop strong investigative and problem-solving skills. These skills are desired in many fields. The trick is to learn how these skills are transferrable and how to articulate this to others.
  2. Visit Career Services and take a career assessment. Career assessments can help you identify your personal values, interests, skills, and personality style. Follow up the assessment with a career advising session. Career advisors are skilled at helping you find jobs and careers that best fit your professional profile. They can even recommend on- and off-campus opportunities for you to test drive career options.Opportunity-Career
  3. Say yes to opportunities that appeal to you. Maybe you are an engineering student and you’ve been asked to join the marketing club. Marketing is an interesting subject, but it has nothing to do with engineering, or does it? Of course it does! If you engineer a solution to a problem, how will others know if you aren’t skilled in the art of selling or persuasion? If you aspire to a leadership role, you will need to effectively communicate and present your ideas to others. Getting involved in a variety of fields helps strengthen your skills and educates you about the many jobs you are capable of holding in your lifetime.

Understanding who you are right now can lead you to who you will become. Don’t limit yourself, and enjoy the process.

How to Negotiate a Salary Offer

A lot of the guidance and counseling that we provide our students at NYIT’s Career Services comes from our own experiences and professional development.

Starting a career is like any project: a process where you will learn and grow.  In a previous post, “What to Expect at Your First Job,” we shared some of our experiences and one of those included salary negotiation.

One study showed that most recent graduates are not negotiating salary at their first job.

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If you’re in the middle of your first job search, know that there are websites like Payscale and Salary.com for job seekers to research salary profile databases based on location, company, and industry.

Once you have that information, you’ll be better prepared to negotiate a salary offer.  Here are a few more tips to help you through the process.

 

Let the employer say a number first

Always let the employer provide a number first.  If you say a number before they do, you run the risk of losing out what your employer is willing to offer.  Remember to do your research and know your value before the interview.

You will also want to know how you will handle the situation when asked about your salary requirements.  If asked, here are some responses you can provide:

(If it’s early in the interview process)

My main focus is finding a position that is a good fit for my skills and interests.  I’m confident that we can come to an agreement on salary if this is a match. 

I would like to learn more about this position before we discuss salary.  Perhaps you can tell me what is budgeted for this position.

(If it’s the late in the interview process)

What is the hiring range for someone with my education and background for this position in your company?

 

Aim high

(If you absolutely must provide a number first)

Based on my research, I’m looking for a salary in the $70-80,000 range.  Is that in line with what you have budgeted? 

The number that you have in your head will be based on the research you have done prior to the interview.  Most hiring managers will be expecting you to go higher on salary requirements.  Pick the top of the salary range for the position based on your research, and start from there.

 

Thank them for the offer

One often-overlooked aspect of negotiating is getting things off on the right foot.  You don’t want to seem ungrateful or uninterested in the job.  Thank them for the offer and ask for some time to think it over. Then set up a time or date to discuss after you have given their offer some consideration.  Remember, an initial offer will very likely be lower than what you want so don’t take it personally, this is all just part of the process.

 

Prepare the counteroffer

When preparing the counteroffer, it’s important to resell yourself to the employer on why you deserve a higher salary than their initial offer.  Highlight your skills, education, and experience.

If your range is $70-80,000 and you were offered $60,000, you’ll have to think of a number in between their offer and your top range that you are comfortable with in order to form a counteroffer.  There are also other factors to consider with a counteroffer.

Do you have other offers on the table?  This can determine how aggressive you are in negotiating if you have another offer lined up and this one doesn’t work out.

Are they considering other candidates?  If you don’t accept, do they have another candidate lined up?

What are some of the benefits that are being offered?  The entire offer goes beyond salary and could include flexibility in your schedule, growth, tuition reimbursement, and other benefits that could make up for a salary lower than one you originally planned.

For example, the VCU Career Services team surveyed employers regarding their views on negotiation and found that many were open to negotiating other perks.

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This is a great reminder to consider the big picture and to be open-minded during negotiation.

Remember, the goal is not to end with getting the highest salary possible, but to get an offer that you will feel good about at the end of the day.

 

Accept or decline

When you have the final offer in hand, it basically comes down to what you want.  You should be prepared to walk away if you are not comfortable with the salary that you have been offered.  At the same time, your feelings about the job should take priority.

Will you be comfortable making the salary that is offered for the next 2 years?

Will you enjoy this role at this company with the people that you have met during the interview process?

Does this job have good prospects? Is it a stepping-stone to your dream job?

If you can answer those questions, then the only thing left to do is accept or decline the offer.

Be honest and clear about what you want from your potential employer and most of all, yourself.

 

 

 

5 Things To Research Before a Job Interview

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. – Benjamin Franklin

Interviewing for jobs can be stressful and difficult.  You’ll be asked a great deal of questions about your background, education, experience, and goals.  You’ll be asked about what you know regarding the position and company.  It’s always good to do your homework ahead of time so you can provide thoughtful answers during your interviews.

In order to have a successful interview, these are a few areas in which you should prepare to discuss and research before the big day.

Services

It’s not just enough to know the company you’re interviewing with is a construction company or a marketing agency, you must also know the services they provide.   Do they help clients grow their businesses?  Do they offer copywriting or video production services?

Understanding the company’s services, what they offer or don’t offer, will allow you to present the skills that you can bring to a company in an effective manner.

Current Events

Has the company been in the news as of late?  Are they rolling out any new products?   Was there a recent change in leadership?  Did they just go public?  Companies change all the time and by keeping up to date with news and current events, you can show your interest in the company and its success.  You can search this information on a company’s site, as most will have a news page or press center.

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Clients

Researching the company’s performance and work with clients can provide valuable insight on its operations and values.  By looking at past case studies, testimonials, success stories, and campaigns, you will be able to offer your own thoughts on approaches, tie in your own experiences, and find ways to improve.

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Once you’re hired, this insight will help you do your job as it will give you a sense of the types of  work you’ll be doing with clients.

Company Culture

What type of environment will you be working in?  Is there a formal corporate structure or is it a smaller and less formal office?  Will you be expected to show up at a specific time and dress a certain way or will the office be a little loose where people come and stay late while taking breaks at the ping pong table ?

This is important to know, as only you know the environment in which you perform best.  Some people need a structured organization while others work better in a looser environment.  There is no right or wrong way to do it as long as it’s right for you.

Some companies also stress the importance of a proper work/life balance by providing access and facilities that help their employees become more productive and live better lifestyles.  Last year, Fortune examined The 15 Best Workplaces in New York that featured companies like Google, Goldman Sachs and Whole Foods for their fitness centers, workshops on balancing work and family life, and free office meals.

Person Interviewing You

When you receive the phone call or email to set up your interview, make sure you find out who you’re interviewing with.  You’ll want to know the first and last name, as well as their title.  Once you have this information, you can do some research on LinkedIn or the company’s website to learn more about this person’s background, role, and responsibilities.  You don’t have to stalk this person on Facebook or Instagram but finding something that you both share like education, the city you’re from, or a conference or workshop that you both attended could be a good ice breaker.

 

Questions?  Can you think of anything else to research before an interview?

 

 

 

 

Student Perspectives: Crafting Your Career Goal by Ashley Joseph

Student Perspectives provides an inside look to the career exploration and job search process from a student’s point of view.  This feature is written entirely by students who want to share their experiences and provide feedback on our services.

 

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One of the best ways you can prepare for the job market is by taking initiative on the steps it takes to get there. Giving yourself goals to work towards will give you some direction, but goals also need action or else you may fall into the trap of all plan and no action. By questioning your personal attributes and defining the things you want to achieve, your career goal recipe will be one destined for success.

It begins with passion. As students, we study to become experts in the fields where we find interest. We hope that our professional lives will continue to feed the things we are passionate about. Long term career goals will help you achieve the position you want over time and short term ones are the steps you will take to get there. For example: having a summer internship in the field where you find interest to gain the experience you need to land your dream job after graduation. Career goals help you channel your passions into action.

Add some inspiration to your recipe. Setting goals help keep you grounded as you move through your educational career, but it doesn’t have to be rigid. As a matter of fact, it shouldn’t be. You are gaining more skills and experience as you work towards your goals and you may learn more about yourself along the way. Staying inspired along the way by surrounding yourself with like-minded people and developing your personal brand will fine-tune all of your personal attributes. Being the best version of yourself is a reflection of exactly what you hope to achieve.

As you are crafting your career goal recipe, be sure to keep in mind that knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you want. Everyone’s recipe for success will be different. You know what your strengths and weaknesses are and the aim is find professional niches where these strengths can be exemplified, but if you don’t know exactly what that is, then it’s time to get curious and explore the things that interest you. It may take some research and soul-searching, but for your career goal recipe, you need to find the things that catch your eye and they will keep pulling you in the right direction.

Ashley Joseph is a senior in the B.Arch program at NYIT. She is originally from Guyana, South America, but grew up just outside of New York City. She is inspired by people, art, and books. You will probably always find her exploring a new place, reading a good book or painting. Her future goals include working in the field of Historic Preservation Architecture while also finding new ways to merge Art & Architecture.

3 Tips to Maximizing the College Experience for your Career

Helpful tips

You survived your first year in college, now what? Universities often focus programs and services to first-year students that help them get ready for the transition from high school to college. Then you become a sophomore and you see fewer programs targeting the second-year experience. These tips will help you stay on track and make your college experience more meaningful:

  1. Get to know the professors in your major. Yeah, yeah, yeah – how am I supposed to do this? Easy. Identify who they are, their areas of research, the classes they teach, and their office hours. Most of this information can be found on the college website. Professors are people just like you and they, too, were students. Once you learn about who these faculty are and their accomplishments, make an appointment to meet with them. If you can get 15-30 minutes of their time, ask them about their areas of expertise, their passions, and their career paths. At the end of the meeting, ask them for the top three things you can do to be successful in life. Yes, life, not college. Their answers will get to the heart of their most valuable life lessons which you can apply to all facets of life. Follow up your meeting with a thank you note and check in every now and then to let them know what you are learning. Faculty appreciate the relationships they develop with students and they often seek students to share opportunities.
  2. Gain experience. Get an on-campus job, an internship, or a volunteer gig. Attend on- and off-campus events. Join a club, a team, or a committee. Don’t wait until you are a senior to get experience. Getting involved early can help you develop professional skills, résumé-worthy experience, a professional network, and a better idea of what you want to do in life. Nervous about doing this alone? Ask a classmate to attend an event with you or introduce yourself to a student leader and ask him or her to show you around.
  3. Get help. After completing your first year, you have a better idea of what you need to develop personally and professionally. Check out the services your school provides. Maybe you need a tutor, career services, personal counseling, or financial advice. Your tuition covers the cost of these services, so use them! Successful people know what they need help with and seek it out. Be a successful person.

 

Ask Career Services

This feature will be recurring with questions on career related topics, industry insight and our services.  If you have a question that you would like featured on this blog, please email cs@nyit.edu with the subject line “Ask Career Services.” 

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I attended the all majors career fair back in the spring and I didn’t find anything I wanted in terms of jobs.  What can I do to maximize my time at the next fair or event?

I often hear this from students when we ask for feedback about our events.  There is plenty one can do before a career fair to get the most out of it. I advise our students to take a couple of steps in order to prepare.

  • Review the list of employers that will be attending. Most will have their open positions posted on NYIT Career Net or on the company’s website.  If you have done your research ahead of time and see a job posted on a company’s website, but it’s not listed at the fair, ask the recruiter about it.  Perhaps they are looking to fill that position with someone who has more experience or they already have a candidate.  For a full list of employers that attend, students can download the NYIT Career Fair App from the App Store or Google Play.
  • If they don’t have a job that matches your experience and interests, it doesn’t hurt to ask about future opportunities. See if you can keep in touch in case something comes up in the future.
  • Practice your networking skills. If there is a company that you are interested in but there are no opportunities that are a right fit, ask the recruiter for their business card or if you can connect on LinkedIn.  Network with other attendees at the fair or event.  You may make a new connection and learn about other opportunities that weren’t right for them but may be a great match for you.

Keep these steps in mind during our career fairs this year including the R:EACT Career Fair on October 26th, at our Manhattan campus.

I get nervous when I go on interviews.  What should I do? 

It’s normal to get nervous when you’re on an interview.  You’re being asked a lot of questions about your experience and background, and there may be a lot riding on how you do.  I encourage job seekers to go on as many interviews as possible as you will learn about yourself and the interview process the more you do it.  It also helps to ease some of the anxiety as you gain interview experience.  Other tips to keep in mind,

  1. Be confident. Easier said than done; try to remember that you made it out of the applicant pool to an interview, which is already an accomplishment.  The hiring manager probably sees tons of resumes every week and you were selected because there was an interest in getting to know you a little better and finding out if this is the right fit.  Be confident in your abilities and candidacy for the position.
  2. Think about some of the questions you will be asked and how you will respond.  Practice talking about yourself, your education, and experience.  Know what your goals are and what you can bring to the team.  Schedule an appointment with Career Services for a mock interview and we can provide feedback and tips for your interview.
  3. Relax the night before. If you’ve done the work and preparation, you should relax and clear your head the night before the interview.  Cramming and feeding into the stress before the interview can make things worse and make you more anxious.  After you finish preparing, take some time for yourself with a book, listen to some music or whatever it takes to relax.

 

I submitted my resume for review and I was told one thing, but then when I met with someone else in your office, I was told something else.  Why is that?

Our career advisors provide feedback based on our experience working with job seekers, employers, recruiters, and our own personal experience in the working world as well.  We each have different styles on how to format a resume, write a cover letter, and approach to networking.  Our style may differ but we utilize the same best practices.  For example, one advisor may recommend using an objective on your resume as long as it’s clear and concise while another may want to leave it out altogether.  At the end of the day, we each provide feedback that we think will best help you with the job search process.