Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Save the Date for 2009: Upcoming Programs, Plus Stuff to Apply To Over Winter Break

It's finals week, which means most students are thinking less about job and internship searches and more about finishing the quarter. At CAPS, we take this time of year to review our fall programs and to plan for the start of winter quarter, which is a busy time of year for everyone.

As students are wrapping up coursework and getting ready for the winter break, here are few updates and "save the dates" to keep in mind over the break and at the beginning of next quarter:

First and Second Years in the College, remember to apply for the Alumni Board of Governors Externship Program. The deadline to apply is January 20, 2009, so you can work on your resume and cover letter over the winter break. For more information about what an externship is, and where you can get one, visit https://caps.uchicago.edu/undergrads/abg/list.html.

First, Second and Third Years, Metcalf Season is here. The list of internship opportunities for summer 2009 will be posted to the CAPS website beginning on December 15, and we'll continue to add to this list as more opportunities come in. For more information about Metcalf, the list of opportunities and how to apply, visit https://caps.uchicago.edu/undergrads/internships/metcalf/.

Don't forget, to apply for ABG Externships, Metcalf Internships or other on-campus recruiting positions, you must be activated in Chicago Career Connection. To get activated, come into CAPS and have your resume reviewed by a CAPS staff member.

If you need to get your resume reviewed after the holidays, but in time to beat some of these January deadlines, come to CAPS Super Walk-Ins Day: Wednesday, January 14, 9am - 4pm, Ida Noyes Hall third floor. Walk-ins are first-come, first-served and are a great opportunity to receive feedback on your resume and ask questions about your job and internship search.

Save the Date: More CAPS' events are coming up in early 2009, including
-The CAPS' Winter Career Fair: Jan. 9, 12 - 4pm, Ida Noyes Hall. Attend the career fair to meet organizations hiring interns and full-time employers. Log into your Chicago Career Connection account to view the list of organizations that have already registered to attend.
- Diversity in Communications: Feb. 13, 8am - 5pm, downtown. Visit advertising, marketing and public relations firms to learn more about career paths in these fields.
- Diversity in the Law: Feb. 13, 8am - 5pm. Visit law firms and non-profit organizations in the legal field to explore career options and discuss law school.

Want more? Visit the CAPS calendar to view upcoming programs in 2009.

The CAPS Blog will be taking a break until after the New Year - Happy Holidays from everyone at CAPS, and to all a good night.

Questions, ideas, suggestions for programs? Post them here throughout the holiday season. We'll see you in 2009!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Health Professions Careers That Don't Require a M.D.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Who hasn't fielded that question as a child - and depending on the types of careers you were exposed to at a young age, odds were fairly limited - doctor, teacher, lawyer, etc. It's not until later in life that we realize that there are much wider career options beyond these traditional "big three", and that within these categories, there are even more choices to be made - what kind of teacher would like to become? What sort of law do you want to practice? Should I become a M.D. or a nurse practicioner?

I know, you're thinking that you haven't actually asked yourself this question before - but according to a recent article in the New York Times, nurse practioners and physician assistant positions are growing in popularity. Why? Because, as the article points out, "In an aging population, a shortage of doctors has created new demand for care providers like physician assistants and nurse practitioners..." And for students who would like to pursue a career in health or medicine, but aren't sure about the time and money that are required to pursue a M.D., these positions offer similar benefits, with fewer drawbacks. One of the physician assistants interviewed for the article addressed this dilemma, saying, “I wanted to treat patients, but I wanted free time for myself, too...I didn’t want to be 30 or 35 before I got on my feet — and then still have a lot of loans to pay back.”

Of course, there are siginificant differences between the role of licensed doctor and that of a nurse practioner or physician assistant, which the article is quick to point out: "Physician assistants must practice under a physician’s supervision. Nurse practitioners are licensed as independent health care providers, without mandated physician supervision, although some states require them to have a supervising or collaborating physician to whom they can turn for advice. Some nurse practitioners have private practices." In addition, there are differences in licensing which are detailed in the article as well.

Besides nurse practioners and physician assistants, the career paths for students interested in health professions are expansive - public health, allopathic and osteopathic medicine, dentistry, health policy, veterinary medicine, and health services research, among others, are all career paths that are available - and that is where Chicago Careers in Health Professions (CCIHP) comes into play.

The Chicago Careers in Health Professions (CCIHP) Program is a joint collaboration between CAPS and the College, that offers resources to students interested in the wide range of health professions careers and health professions graduate programs (including medical school) that are out there. The program provides students with the resources and support to develop a customized portfolio of knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to pursue a variety of careers in health and medicine. From career exploration to application development, CCIHP seeks to build upon students’ strengths, recommending course work, facilitating internships, and collaborating with other resources on campus.

For more information about CCIHP, contact J. Violet Gannon, CCIHP Program Director at jvgannon@uchicago.edu.

Comments, suggestions or questions about careers in the health professions? Post them here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tales from the Front: True Stories of Interviews Past

Interviews at Ida Noyes continue this week, and will be picking up again in early winter for internship interviews, so there's lots of students looking very sharp (and a little bit nervous) as they get ready to meet with potential employers. To help you prepare for your interviews, don't forget that CAPS has practice interviewers on staff who will conduct an interview with you and then provide feedback. In addition, CAPS staff members can go over possible interview questions with you, and the CAPS interviewing handout and interviewing webcast offer tips on how to prepare and what to expect. To schedule an appointment with a practice interviewer or a CAPS staff member, call (773) 702 - 7040.

Taking care of pre-interview jitters can be a little trickier, but in an attempt to add some levity to the situation, read on for true interview stories from the past. No matter what happens, your interview will surely go better than this:

"I was interviewing for a position with a really unique organization that was just getting off the ground. They were very grassroots and had a small staff, but they were growing quickly and had the potential to make a large impact on some current events and in the media. I had already gotten through a first round interview, and was all set to meet with the manager of the team I was hoping to join. First of all, even though I got to the interview 15 minutes early, I gave the receptionist at the office the wrong name for the person I was meeting, so I ended up waiting for nearly 30 minutes, before the person who was expecting me came out looking for his 3pm appointment. I don't know why, but by the time I got into the interview, I was so stressed and flustered, I could tell that it wasn't going well. I was rushing through my answers, and kept getting stuck on questions that I should have been able to answer (example: who do you want to work for this organization?). To make it worse, my interviewer was interrupted half way through our conversation to take an important call from the media. By the time we were finished, I was exhausted and unsure of how well I had done. As my interviewer said, 'It was very nice to meet you,' and extended his hand, I stood up too - and immediately toppled over to the side, grabbing the edge of his desk to keep myself from hitting the floor. I had been sitting with my legs crossed during the interview, and when I stood up, my right foot had fallen asleep and was completely numb. I had no choice but to stand up, shake the interviewers hand and walk to the door - limping, because I had no feeling in my foot. The interviewer didn't say anything, but I could swear he was looking at me strangely and didn't know what to think of me. I'm pretty sure my poor performance during the interview was what did me in, but after almost falling down too, I definitely didn't receive a final round interview."

There are a few lessons to be learned from this story:
1. Make sure you know who you are interviewing with and ask for the correct person when you arrive. If you are interviewing for an on-campus position, you check in on the second floor of Ida Noyes Hall, and from there your interviewer will come out and introduce him or herself.
2. Be sure you are prepared. As the individual in this story related, he or she couldn't answer questions that should have been fairly easy to respond to. Be sure you know enough about an organization to be able to articulate why you want to work there.
3. Stay calm. If you feel yourself getting flustered, or if you're speaking too quickly during an interview, take a deep breath and relax. It's better to wait for a few second in silence, while you collect your thoughts, than it is to blurt out the first answer that comes to mind.

As for falling or tripping during an interview - these things happen, and they are awkward. Our best advice if this happens to you - laugh it off and smile.

Do you have an interview horror story or interview victory story of your own? Post them here, along with tips you've used to prepare and do well in interviews in the past.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dress the Part: Fashion Tips for Your Interview

It's recruiting season, which means the second floor of Ida Noyes Hall has been filled with students interviewing for full-time positions with a variety of organizations. In just a few months, it will be internship recruiting season, and that includes interviews for the Jeff Metcalf Fellows Program. Whether you're interviewing for a full-time job with a consulting firm or an internship position with a non-profit organization, you still have to prepare for your interviews as best you can - and that includes planning what to wear for each interview.

A recent article in the New York Times suggested that the "interview suit" is experiencing a resurgence. I say, the interview suit has always been among us - now it's just receiving the attention it deserves. While the NYT interview is geared specifically towards women (pants suit vs. skirt suit), the challenge of what to wear to an interview is something that almost everyone faces at some point in their professional career. While the article is correct in saying, "'There is no one right way to dress..." we still want to offer some advice to help you prepare for your upcoming interview - regardless of who it's with. These tips also apply for career fairs, Career Networking Nights and other events where you will likely be speaking with a potential employer - and want to look your best.

Here are some general tips for dressing the part and making a good first impression:
1. Yes, you really do need to wear a suit. Oftentimes, students will ask if they really need to wear a suit for an internship interview, since an internship isn't a "real" job. Trust us - an internship is a great resume builder, and can often lead to a full-time position in the future. You wouldn't be applying for the internship, if you didn't want to get it - so hedge your bets and wear that suit.
2. Ladies: pants vs. skirts. You're not going to get a definitive answer whether or not one is better than the other. Our advice - wear what you're most comfortable in - but if you favor skirts, be forewarned - no skirt that you wear into an interview should fall above your knee (no exceptions!), nor should it be too form fitting.
3. Gentleman: tie vs. no tie. If you're not sure if you should wear a tie into an interview, err on the side of caution and wear one. Unless you have definitive insider information (which you gained from using the Alumni Careers Network to learn more about the organization you're interviewing with - good thinking!) that a tie is not necessary, go with a more formal look. Please note: ties with cartoon characters are not considered formal, so please don't wear you're lucky Donald Duck neck tie into your first big interview.
4. Footwear: Ok, you've got your suit on and you look great. Now make sure your shoes finish the look. That means no gym shoes with your suit (yes, we've seen it), no flip flops, no strappy heels (the shoes you wore out dancing last weekend are not the same shoes that you should be wearing to an interview). Dark, polished, closed toe shoes are the way to go. Ladies, heels are great, but make sure you can walk in them first. And as one of the recruiters interviewed in the NYT article points out, "'There’s nothing wrong with wearing flat shoes and bringing heels...'"
5. Watch Your Scent: We know, you want to smell great when you go into your interview. But please do not over do it. Strong colonge or perfume, or hair gels or other products that have a strong scent, can irritate an interviewer's allergies or simply distract from your interview. Our advice - don't wear cologne or perfume into an interview at all.
6. Finishing touches: These may seem obvious, but are good tips to review - tuck in your shirt; comb your hair; and remember, no matter how nervous you are, SMILE.

For more information about preparing for an interview, including photos of what to wear and not wear, watch the CAPS "How to Interview Like a Pro" webcast.

Call CAPS at (773) 702 - 7040 to schedule an appointment with a CAPS Practice Interviewer and prepare for tough questions.

Comments, suggestions or questions about dressing for an interview? Post them here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Perks of an Administrative Position

One of the pieces of advice we've been giving students over the past several weeks has been to look "outside of the box" when it comes to the job search. This basically means considering jobs or organizations that you might not have previously thought were the right fit for you. This can be difficult to swallow for students who may have had their hearts set on working for one of the large, well-known organizations that used to come to campus year after year (or that small, but perfect company that you wanted to apply to - and which is now undergoing a hiring freeze). But as we all know, this year's job market is tougher than in years past, and hence, the "outside of the box" advice. One place that students may not have started to look is openings for administrative positions - but according to a recent article in The New York Times, administrative assistant positions are offering more professional growth than in years past.

Unlike the administrative assistants of days past (who were almost always women, were referred to as "secretaries" and received about as much respect as the fictional administrative assistants on Mad Men), today's administrative assistant positions cut across gender lines and often involve access to confidential information and plenty of responsibility to keep you busy. As the NYT article states:
"The core functions of administrative assistants are often secretarial, but the job can also involve client communications, negotiating with vendors, conducting research and preparing memos and reports...Fifty-seven percent of executives polled in an OfficeTeam survey last March said that administrative staff members have more of a career-growth track than they did five years ago."

Even if working as an administrative assistant isn't part of your long term plan, one important perk of starting out in the role: a foot in the door at an organization you'd like to move up in. The NYT says, "The most common opportunities for advancement are in marketing, human resources, operations and facilities management...But no area is off limits."

Of course, like in any job, you have to put in your time before you can move up - so don't start looking for advancement on day one. The article suggests that putting in six months of dedicated work in an administrative position is key, before you start asking for a promotion or new role.

One last piece of advice regarding administrative assistants - no matter what type of job you are applying to, always be polite and professional with everyone you meet - from the administrative assistant, to the recruiter, to the CEO. Being rude to someone who you may think is "just a secretary" is a sure fire way to guarantee you won't make it to the second round interview.

Comments, questions or suggestions for getting your foot in the door at an organization? Post them here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Creative Rounding, Doctored Transcripts and Other Questionable Application Tricks

If you've been using Chicago Career Connection, or if you used its predecessor, InterviewTRAK in previous years, then chances are you were "activated" to use the CAPS' on-line job search system and signed an "OCR Activation Agreement." That agreement includes this information: "Students are required to present themselves honestly and ethically in all interactions with CAPS, the University and employers including but not limited to resumes, unofficial transcripts, and test score documentations as well as during phone and face to face interviews."

Even if you've never been to CAPS and you haven't signed one of these agreements, the notion of presenting yourself "honestly and ethically" during interactions with employers is an important one. Here are a few points to consider:

Cumulative GPA vs. Major GPA: This one is tricky and can depend on the type of position that you are applying to. In general, here are some guidelines:
*For most business and consulting positions, recruiters are most interested in your cumulative GPA, so be sure to include that on your resume. If you'd like to include your Major GPA, that fine, but it must be labeled as such. In other words, don't put try to pass your Major GPA off as your Cumulative.
*For most other positions, if your GPA is over a 3.5, put it on your resume, as it shows that you are excelling academically at the University of Chicago.
*If a job description specifically asks for your GPA, always include it. Again, if they are asking for a Cumulative GPA, use that, not your Major GPA. If you include your Major GPA as well, make sure it's clear which is which.
*For medical school applications or research positions, you might be asked for your BCPM. That's the GPA for your biology, chemistry, physics and math courses. If you're not sure when to use a BCPM, or you're not sure how to calculate your BCPM, contact CAPS at (773) 702 - 7040 and make an appoinment with one of the Chicago Careers in Health Professions (CCIHP) staff members.
*The inclusion of your GPA (cumulative or major) should always be dictated by the job description and what the organization is asking for in your application materials. In some industries, GPA is not as important as in others. For example, during a recent discussion with some University of Chicago student journalists, Ann Marie Lipinski, Vice-President for Civic Engagement, said that when she would consider candidates for positions at the Chicago Tribune, she "didn't much care" about GPA, but past experience working on student publications and in internships was very important. This doesn't mean that GPA isn't important - but it means that in some industries, your experience can outweigh a GPA that isn't as strong as you would like it to be.

Creative Rounding: This one isn't as tricky. If you're rounding your GPA, be sure you are doing it correctly. In general, two decimal places is appropriate when listing your GPA. So if you have a 3.142, then you should round to a 3.14 - NOT a 3.2. Believe it or not, creative rounding on resumes has led recruiters to reconsider candidates for positions - and it damages the reputation of University of Chicago students in the eyes of those recruiters. Bottom line - use your math skills and be honest about your GPA.

Altering Transcripts: No ifs, ands, or buts about it - when you submit an unofficial transcript to an employer, the expectation is that it will show your correct grades for each course that you've taken. Do not, under any circumstances, alter your grades, remove your grades, etc. Just because the transcript is unofficial does not give you license to change the information that you are pulling out of CMore.

These are extreme circumstances, and we know that most students would never think to misrepresent themselves on a resume or in an application for a position. But please remember, it is important to be completely honest about your GPA, as well as all of the other information that you put into a resume or cover letter.

If you have concerns about your GPA (i.e. you missed a quarter because of a family emergency and your grades suffered, or you ended up in one class that lowered your otherwise strong GPA) please call CAPS at (773) 702 - 7040 to make an appointment and discuss how to talk about these concerns in your interview. You want to put your best foot forward when applying for positions - and your best foot forward is always the honest one.

Questions, comments or concerns? Post them here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why Behaving Badly Can be Bad for Your Employment Prospects

Last Friday's Chicago Tribune ran this article, and the Chicago Sun-Times ran this article about drunken Kellogg students who vomited on the floors of the Field Museum and threw things at Sue the Dinosaur. While we know University of Chicago students (undergrad or grad) would never behave this way, the "debaucle" raised some important points about mixing business with pleasure, and why you shouldn't take it too far.

Anytime there is alcohol involved as part of a recruiting event there is the risk that one drink will put you over the edge and you'll be remembered forever as "that" guy or girl who was seriously over-served in front of the CEO of the company. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind, when you're tempted by all of that free booze that a company is sending your way - whether it's at a recruiting dinner or the company holiday party:

*All things in moderation. We're not saying that you can't have any drinks when mingling with current or potential employers - but we are asking you to know your limits. That means no Jager-bombs when you're trying to impress upon a recruiter that you could be a very responsible employee. I know, it's tricky - you don't want to be the boring guy who didn't cut loose last night at happy hour. You also don't want to be the guy throwing up the next morning in the company restroom. So know what you can handle, and stick to that - even if you're feeling pressured to go a little crazy.

*Don't get too comfortable. Alcohol distorts your judgement and lowers your inhibitions, while producing euphoria (a sense of pleasure)- which means you might suddenly feel like you are BFF with that guys who already works at the organization you really want to work at too. No matter how chummy you're feeling, don't take this opportunity to tell him about the other companies that you've interviewed at, and how they were all super lame. Why? 1) He might know people working at those other companies. 2) Just because you were bonding over beers doesn't mean you're going to get that job your applying for. So keep your cards close to your chest, at least until you have an offer on the table.

*Don't use a hangover as an excuse to show up late. Let's say you are interning at a company where you really like the work and the people. Thursday night you all head out to happy hour and things get a little crazy. Friday morning you're hungover and running late for that 9am meeting - and you think to yourself "It's cool - they know I was drinking a lot last night, they won't care." Wrong - no supervisor, so matter how laid back he or she is, is going to appreciate an employee who can't be on time or get his or her work done. If you want to impress your co-workers or your boss, your first priority should be showing up on time and being ready to work - regardless of how late you were out the night before.

Bottom line: Sometimes, alcohol is part of business - deals are brokered over cocktails and dinner meetings, and networking often happens at cocktail receptions - and that's ok. The problem is when you don't know your limits and can't keep it under control - because then you'll find yourself spitting on a T-Rex named Sue - and no one wants to hire the guy or girl who did that.

For more information about how to handle a networking opportunity or meeting where there might be drinks involved, call CAPS at (773) 702 - 7040 and schedule an appointment with one of our counselors.

For more information about resources regarding alcohol and other drugs, visit SCRS at the University of Chicago.

Questions or comments about this post (or others)? Post them here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tips for Paying for an Unpaid Internship

We may only be starting 4th week this week, but in just a few weeks, it will be time to start thinking about internships for next summer. Most students know that a summer internship during college is a great way to build up your resume and gain work experience - and according to a recent article in the New York Times, more experienced professionals are now taking internships - both by choice, to build up their professional portfolios, and by necessity, as the economy continues to struggle.

This article also addresses the financial burden that can come with an unpaid internship: "Money can be another serious issue for adult interns, especially if they have families and young children. Peg Hendershot , director of Career Vision , a career consulting firm in Glen Ellyn, Ill., said employees accustomed to earning a full-time salary and full benefits might have trouble accepting little to no pay unless they were independently wealthy or had some serious cash saved in the bank."

The fact of the matter is that money isn't just an issue for adult interns - it's a very real concern for current students as well. With that in mind, here are just a few of the ways that the College is working to provide funding to students, so that you can take that dream internship overseas, and not have to go broke paying your rent (in fact, the College has committed $1 million towards providing funded summer opportunties to undergraduates):

The Jeff Metcalf Fellows Program provides paid, ten-week internship opportunities to first through third years in the College. In 2008 there were over 230 opportunities available to students in a wide range of fields, including arts and culture, business and consulting, education and research, government and non-profits, science and technology and more. Bottom Line: $4000 for the summer.

The Summer Links Program is an intensive 11-week, paid internship program for 30 returning College and graduate students committed to public service, community building and social change. Started in 1997 and sponsored by the Dean of the College, Summer Links has placed 300 students in substantive internships with more than 130 nonprofit and public sector organizations throughout the Chicago area. Bottom Line: $4000 for the summer.

The Human Rights Internship Program offers a select group of Chicago students the opportunity to learn the skills and understand the difficulties inherent in putting human rights into practice. Since its establishment in 1998 the Internship Program has placed more than 200 students with non-governmental organizations, governmental agencies and international bodies around the world. Bottom Line: $5000 for the summer.

Summer Action Grants will offer a select few undergraduate students the funding to work or intern in the United States. Students will be selected on the cogent nature of their plan (including a budget and a backup plan). Students will also need to demonstrate how the experience will enhance their academic and/or professional goals and share their experience with the University of Chicago community upon return. Regional and thematic diversity of projects will also be taken into account. Bottom Line: The average grant is $1,500 but can be up to $3,000.
For more information about Summer Action Grants, contact rcward@uchicago.edu.

International Experience Grants will offer a select few undergraduate students the funding to work or intern abroad. Students will be selected on the cogent nature of their plan (including a budget and a back-up plan). Students will also need to demonstrate how the experience will enhance their academic
and/or professional goals and share their experience with the University of Chicago community upon return. Regional and thematic diversity of proposed projects will also be taken into account. Bottom Line: The average grant is $3,500 but can be up to $5,000. For more information about International Experience Grants, contact rcward@uchicago.edu.

The FLAG Program offers awards to defray the costs of intermediate or advanced language study abroad. Study programs must be at least eight weeks in duration of intensive language study (at least 15 hours/week) and located in a setting where the target language is predominantly spoken. Applicants must have completed or tested out of the 103 level of the target language by the program start date. For French and Spanish language applications, preference will be given to students who have completed some intermediate language study. Bottom Line: $3000 for the summer.

These are just a few of the funding options for students to pay for an unpaid summer internship - be sure to check the Summer International Travel Grants site for more opportunities, and the FROGS site for information about additional funding sources.

Make an appointment with a CAPS staff member for more information about other funding opportunities, including major specific awards, or if you're having trouble finding funding for a particular experience. Call (773) 702 - 7040 to make an appointment.

Questions or suggestions about finding funding for internships? Post them here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The "New" Job Search (Surprise - there's networking involved)

If you're a regular reader of this blog, then you know that we just can't stop talking about networking and why it's so important for the job search. Now it's time to add another layer - social networking. Most millennials are well-versed in social networking websites like Facebook and MySpace - but now even more experience professionals are joining the trend, especially through professional networking sites like LinkedIn and BanyanLink. Why is this important to note? Because it's changing the way that employers fill positions.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, "...recruiters use social networking sites 23 percent more now than they did in 2006 to fill vacancies, verify résumés and screen applicants."

Pulling from that article, here are some tips to make the most of your social networking connections (and your traditional networking connections as well).

1. Clean up your act. As the Times says, "But a word of warning, especially as sites like Facebook become more popular tools for recruiters: get anything that looks bad off your page. That photo of you drunk at a Halloween party, those musings about how much you hate your boss — not a good impression." This is especially true for college students, since you're probably using Facebook to showcase photos of what you did this weekend, parties you went to, etc. If you're on the job (or internship) hunt, be sure your photos (and your wall posts) are appropriate for the office.

2. Expand your search radius. The article states, "When looking for a job, especially in these tougher economic times, the trick is to cast as wide a net as possible." That means don't rely solely on on-campus recruiting to find a job this year. Over the past few weeks Michael Paone and Lauren Baker have been telling you to consider smaller or lesser known organizations as part of your job search. Do it.

3. Use your existing network. There are 15,000 alumni in the Alumni Careers Network. I'm always surprised when I meet with students who haven't heard of ACN or haven't used it before, when it's one of the best ways for UChicago students to get a leg up on the competition. Use ACN to search for alumni across the country and the world, working in every possible field, and with every possible major. If you're at a point in your job search where you're not sure where to look next, consider contacting alumni with the same major as you, to find out where that background led them. Just remember - don't ask for a job outright. The Alumni Careers Network is about making connections - and it's from those connections that opportunities can develop.

The truth of the matter is that the "new" job search isn't much different from the old one - there are just more on-line resources at your disposal. So make sure you're taking advantage of those resources. And that photo of you from last weekend? Take it down from your profile ASAP.

Questions about social networking and your job search? Post them here. Topics you want to hear about in the future? Post those here too.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Job Search Strategies from a Non-Profit Myth Buster

Today's post comes from guest blogger Shayna Plaut, Assistant Director of Employer Relations at CAPS. Shayna has 11 years of work and internship experience in the field of human rights and social justice (international and domestic), refugee services and training, and was the recipient of a Fulbright Grant which allowed her to live and work internationally. For more information about Shayna, check out her biography (scroll down in the employer relations section). For her insight into the non-profit job world, read on:

I had an interesting conversation with a student the other day…a conversation that got me thinking and is one of the main impetuses for this blog. You see students, you are good teachers ;).

This student has a background in economics and in philosophy. She is fully bilingual and also has a good grasp of French. She came in as a walk-in to discuss upcoming recruiting for the financial sector. I smiled politely and let her know that I would help as much as I could but that finance and investment banking was not my area of expertise. I pulled in my colleague Michael to help with some of her specific questions and referred her to Lauren when she starting to ask about for-profit consulting.

After giving a brief review of her resume I wrapped up the meeting with, “I think you will be in good hands with Michael but if you ever want to do something with that Philosophy degree – or want to mix the two - just let me know.” There was a pause. She looked up and said “Really? I mean, I am interested in non-profits and stuff, I just didn’t know if you get paid. And I don’t know how to get a job there…I thought you just needed to know people. When is their recruiting season?”

That's when I realized there was a lot of myth-busting to do.

First we have a problem with the name: non-profits. All “non-profit” means is that it has a US tax designation of 501(c)3 and thus does not have to pay the same taxes as a for-profit business. It’s an IRS category – not a description of a job or organization or a skill set. A non-profit cannot take direct partisan stances, is governed by a board of directors and accepts donations. If, after you are rich and famous, you decide to donate to such an organization, you get a nice letter in the mail thanking you, “for your generous donation of “x” amount. “ You can then use this letter to help reduce your taxes.

I know, I know, none of this is translating into a job but I want to belabor this point for a bit: NON-PROFIT is a really big category and one must be careful when generalizing.

So, with that caveat in place – let me try and offer some…generalizations:

1) The term non-profit is only used in the USA. Why? Because it is a specific US tax code distinction. In other countries the term used for organizations that are not part of the government are called “non-governmental organizations (NGOs).” Pretty self explanatory. Like non-profits, these organizations can serve the roles of: service provider, advocacy, research, watch-dog and education, and is often a mixture of many of many roles. Non-profits/NGOs can be big (think: American Medical Association, Human Rights Watch, the Sierra Club) and they can also be small. When the organization is run by and for the community it is often called a “community based organization” and at times is referred to as “grassroots.”
2) Yes, if you are an employee, you get paid at a non-profit/NGO. Many non-profits/NGOs also utilize volunteers - but those are volunteers, not staff.
3) Non-profits/NGOs rarely “recruit” in the finance/consulting firm sense. There are some exceptions (Teach for America, the PIRGS, GreenCorps and some of the non-profit schools) but there is not a “season” per say. Non-profits/NGOs often put out job announcements on their websites (often in the “about us” tab) or circulate information through various thematic listserves (Muslims in Public Health, Human Rights Education and Action, Media and Social Change, Children’s Rights, are all examples of specific list-serves that often include job postings). Non-profits and NGOs may also post job openings on employment-focused websites devoted to those sectors. For Chicago specific jobs visit www.npo.net, for international jobs (especially focusing on the intersection of communications and activism/social change in terms of: health, children, gender etc.) go to http://www.comminit.com/drum_beat.html. For more general non-profit/NGO jobs, internships and volunteer activities visit www.idealist.org.
4) Get out there. The best way to learn about the work being done, and the organizations doing it, is by getting in the field. Go to events sponsored by the various non-profits/NGOs you are interested in. Pick up the literature at the table. Listen to how they frame themselves and their issues. Get people’s names and business cards. Follow up with them and see if you can have a meeting – formally through an informational interview or over a cup of coffee. If you are interested in their work, see how you can get involved. IF you find a match between your skills, their needs and both of your interests – see how that can parlay into a position.
5) Passion is good, but what are your skills? It is great that you care a lot about women’s rights in Africa. ..how is your Swahili or your French or your Arabic? How are your local-language skills? I am sure you love children, but are you CPR certified? I am glad you like to research, but are you familiar with statistical analysis? You want to combine skills, interests and passion.
6) Just as in business there are different positions within an organization – look at those positions and see if you have those skills and interests – don’t just look at what the organization does as a whole. If you want to work on issues of child abuse and have a knack for early-childhood education, you may not want to apply for the accountant position. One skill-set that is often needed in NPOs/NGOs, and often overlooked, are skills often cultivated in more traditional business programs: finance, strategic development and marketing.
7) Narrow down your interests and learn – most importantly, learn by doing. Women’s Rights. Children’s Rights. LGBT Rights. These are all very big categories. What would you like to do? Are you interested in economics? Do you want to be abroad or in the US? What about microfinacing? Now you have a term. Google it. Find some organizations. Google them. Read their mission statement. Find out who their donors are (so you can get a better sense of their funding stream, motivation and financial health), and then see where they operate (many larger NGOs have multiple sites).
8) Come and speak with us at CAPS – we can help guide you in the resume writing, the cover letter tailoring, the networking and then strategizing. All of our staff can help with some of the basics and two of us (Shayna and Max) are focused on the non-profit and NGO sector. That’s what we are here for.

To schedule an appointment with Shayna, call CAPS at (773) 702 - 7040.

Comments, questions, ideas, etc? Post them here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Advice for Consulting Recruiting...and Consulting Firms That You May Not Know About - But Should

Today’s post comes from our guest blogger, Lauren Baker, Assistant Director of Employer Relations at CAPS. Lauren has over 10 years of experience in business, four of those spent as a consultant to nonprofit agencies in Pittsburgh, PA. For more on Lauren, check out her biography. For her advice regarding fall recruiting in the consulting industry, read on:

Last week, my colleague Michael (and CAPS financial markets guru) mentioned that the current economy is facing a very serious downturn, and there is a lot of concern on Wall Street regarding when things will turn around. Rejoice, future consultants! The immediate outlook for consulting is not as bleak! Well, not yet anyway. . . .

It is a scary time, no doubt, for a graduating fourth year. You most likely are bombarded with things like “bailout” and “bankruptcy” and “worst job market since 9/11”. Current headlines are enough to make the most rock-solid student run for the Canadian border. Step away from the suitcase and drop the passport. I’m here to help.

Generally speaking, most of the consulting firms are not adjusting their hiring targets in response to the market condition. For example, only one of CAPS consulting recruiting partners is not returning this fall to recruit because of a hiring freeze at that company (although this company may come in the Spring). In addition, we have added four new companies to our roster. That’s good news!!

Don’t misunderstand – this will be a challenging season. Even if consulting firms are not cutting back on their hiring targets, the competition for the available openings will be a lot heavier. Those students who are interested in financial services and consulting will lean more towards the consulting, given the current economic situation. Moral of the story: you better bring your “A” game.

I like Michael’s quote from the last blog so much, I decided to steal: "IF YOU WANT TO SUCCEED YOU SHOULD STRIKE OUT ON NEW PATHS, RATHER THAN TRAVEL THE WORN PATHS OF ACCEPTED SUCCESS.” -John D. Rockefeller

Strike out new paths - what a concept. Yes, it’s a tough market. AND yes, you can find opportunities in consulting outside of the on-campus recruiting process. Will this require more work on your behalf? YES. Will you reap great rewards like a network of valuable contacts, career opportunities, and a new car?? NO, well not the car anyway. But the other things will come to fruition if you’re ready and willing to work for them. Here’s my advice to you:

1. Do not rely solely on on-campus recruiting. Yes, it’s a nifty thing - having all the positions organized for you online so with the touch of a button you can apply for all and wait for the good news that you were selected to interview with at least one. Even in a strong market, it is not wise to put all your eggs in one strategy (or basket). There are others strategies to employ, such as. . .

2. Network, network, network. You’ve probably heard enough from us old folks in CAPS about networking. But try to understand – we would not lead you astray. Our jobs depend on it. Networking is (and will continue to be throughout your professional life) one of the MOST important things you can do to find opportunities. We’ve made it easy for you to get started: come to Career Networking Nights (October 7th and October 14th), the Career Fair on October 3rd, and the Information Sessions starting on October 1st.

3. Be prepared. I will steal from Michael again: “FAILING TO PREPARE IS PREPARING TO FAIL”. Do your research on any and all consulting firms you are interested in, and do some on ones you’re not. Be ready for an interview. Nothing will sink an opportunity faster than going in to an interview not knowing about the company!

4. Be prepared if you do not get an offer this fall – realistically, fall recruiting is going to be slower this year than in years past, and there are going to be many smart, talented and driven University of Chicago students who might not get an offer before the holidays. Just remember, that’s ok!… late winter and early spring will still bring opportunities, especially if the economy begins to turn around, and CAPS staff are available throughout the academic year to help you conduct your job search, and to seek out organizations that you may not have considered before.

5. Cast a wide net. Even if you have your heart set on working for that huge consulting firm that rhymes with LaLynsey, open your mind that you could be just as happy (and successful, might I add) at a smaller boutique firm. Yes, the LaLynsey firm is glamorous and super-impressive, but they can only hire so many people every year. . . and you just may not get that gig.

That last point is a great segue to my final thought for now. Here is a short list of consulting firms that you may not have heard of, but should look into (click on the name to go to the website):

Alvarez & Marsal
Archstone Consulting
CSC Consulting
Detica LTD
First Attorney Consultants
Grenzebach Glier & Associates, Inc.
Hagerty Consulting
Heidrick & Struggles International
HVS International
Iris Krieg & Associates, Inc.
Kaleidoscope Group (Diversity Consulting)
Practica Group, LLC
Public Consulting Group
RCF Economic & Financial Consulting
RW Ventures
Sagent Management Consulting
Watson Wyatt Worldwide

This is just a start, and I will continue to grow this list as I hear of other opportunities. Make an appointment with me today to talk STRATEGY about how to reach the companies not coming on campus.

To schedule an appointment with Lauren, or any of member of the CAPS Staff, call (773) 702 - 7040.

Questions, concerns or discussion topics about fall recruiting? Post them here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Financial Services Tips from an Investment Banking Veteran

Today’s post comes from our guest blogger, Michael Paone, Assistant Director of Employer Relations at CAPS. Michael has over 7 years of experience in investment banking, most recently at Bear, Stearns and Co., Inc. in New York City. For more on Michael, check out his biography. For his advice regarding fall recruiting during the current economic climate, read on:

As we all know, the current economy is facing a very serious downturn, and there is a lot of concern on Wall Street regarding when things will turn around. Over the past year the credit market has knocked out some of largest financial services firms, including Bear, Stearns & Co., Inc., Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG. I was a Vice President at Bear, Stearns working in the high yield research group so I was in Bear’s corner during the first round of this title bout. It was a difficult time for me as well as my colleagues, but we stayed the course and have found ways to move past this tough situation.

Now, I feel fortunate enough to have the opportunity to come to the University of Chicago and advise students primarily in the field of financial services while at the same time, working toward getting my MBA at the GSB. The current state of the financial markets should be taken seriously, but I want to encourage students that if we work hard enough and think creatively, we can find success despite the tough market right now.


First off, I want to be sure you have realistic expectations. It is a tough market and you (with our support) will need to work a little harder to find the right opportunities for you. More than ever, networking is going to be crucial to uncover the hidden job market. On-campus recruiting will still offer a plethora of firms that have great opportunities, but students should be aware that some of the larger bulge bracket firms are scaling back [Note to 2nd and 3rd years reading: what we’re hearing from many of the large firms right now is that they are actually going to be putting more emphasis on internship recruiting this winter. I’ll be posting again closer to Metcalf Season to provide tips and advice for internship recruiting]. However, at the same time that some of the large firms are scaling back, some hedge funds and boutique shops are looking at this market as an opportunity to select the best and the brightest to bolster their positions in their respective places in the financial market.

Although the economy is presenting a difficult environment right now, career goals can come to fruition if you are willing to stay focused, adhere to a game plan and think outside the box. Thinking outside the box this fall means working with CAPS to see which firms may be a good fit for you and identifying new companies for you to go after - even companies that were not previously on your radar screen.

I worked at Moody’s Investors Service prior to joining Bear. If you’re thinking “I’ve never even heard of that firm,” that’s my point exactly. I am very glad I did take a position there because working there provided me with an arsenal of skills that I relied on to achieve a promotion to Vice President in under two years of being at Bear.

Moreover, do not settle on one position and/or one firm. We can work together to think of firms that might be a good fit for you and your career goals… we know you’re very busy with school, but if we design a great plan and work hard your outlook will be much brighter.

While investment banking firms are offering fewer positions than in previous years, don’t discount the fact that there are other firms in the marketplace that can offer a great experience – both professionally and financially. For instance, smaller boutique shops can offer a candidate an experience that they may not get at a larger institution, e.g. more client interaction, more responsibility, more exposure to officers of the company, and potentially a faster career path given the additional responsibility…Even the Wall Street Journal agrees, as a recent article detailed steps that seasoned Wall Street professionals are taking to explore opportunities with smaller organizations that are planning to expand their footprint in the marketplace. In addition, larger corporations including Pepsi and Apple are multi-divisional organizations that offer opportunities in a variety of different business concentrations. If you’re interested in opportunities like this, you should come into CAPS and develop a plan to apply to these organizations.

“FAILING TO PREPARE IS PREPARING TO FAIL” – Coach John Wooden, UCLA Basketball Coach, 1948 - 1975

From the start of the fall recruiting season, you need to be actively involved in your job search. Our career fair is taking place on October 3rd and there will be over 75 companies on hand – these are companies who are hiring and who have positions to fill. Prepare your resume and plan to be at the fair – it will run from 12 – 4pm in Ida Noyes Hall.

In addition, this year we are holding four separate Career Networking Nights (two each for financial services and for consulting) – this is a great opportunity for students to speak with prospective employers on an one-on-one basis. Career Networking Nights (CNNs) are new this year, and offer students the opportunity to meet with recruiters from several companies at the same time (it’s like an information session, but you’re getting information from six or seven organizations at the same time).

The Financial Services CNNs are taking place on October 6 and October 16, from 5:30 – 7:00pm in Ida Noyes Hall. Think of them as mini-career fairs that are financial services specific. If you’re interested in financial services, block your calendar now and plan to attend both of these events.

Other tips:
· Utilize Chicago Career Connection to upload your resume and actively seek out positions posted on there by companies coming to campus.
· Come in and speak with our staff so we can help guide you and explore your prospects.
· Be prepared if you do not get an offer this fall – realistically, fall recruiting is going to be slower this year than in years past, and there are going to be many smart, talented and driven University of Chicago students who might not get an offer before the holidays. Just remember, that’s ok!… late winter and early spring will still bring opportunities, especially if the economy begins to turn around, and CAPS staff are available throughout the academic year to help you conduct your job search, and to seek out organizations that you may not have considered before.

To schedule an appointment with Michael, or any CAPS staff member, call us at (773) 702 – 7040.

Concerns, advice or questions about fall recruiting? Post them here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Countdown to the Academic Year

The countdown is on - there's only one week left until O-Week begins and the class of 2012 is on campus, and two weeks until classes begin for fall quarter! In preparation for the start of the academic year, CAPS recently sent out an email to all College students, updating you about some of the work we've been doing all summer long (that's right, when students leave campus, we're still here, and while we're not spending our time meeting with students and reviewing resumes, there are plenty of other things to keep us busy).

The info that was included in the email included the following updates and announcements:

· We are excited to announce our new online job platform, Chicago Career Connection. This will replace UChicagoTRAK and InterviewTRAK for those of you who used those systems last year. This system is available to all students and all you need is a Cnet ID and password. Using this system, students have the ability to search jobs posted by employers and access On-Campus Recruiting as well as various University-sponsored internship programs. To log in, you will need to go to the CAPS webpage and click the, “Log into your account” link. You do not need to create a profile as all students have a pre-populated profile with information from the Registrar. If you used InterviewTRAK last year, you will remain activated on Chicago Career Connection. Thank you to the many students who have provided feedback regarding the system since its launch. Based upon this feedback, we are confident that the system will benefit University of Chicago students throughout the coming academic year.
· Attend CAPS’ Open House and Super Walk-Ins Day on Wednesday, October 1 from 9am – 3:30pm in Ida Noyes Hall, third floor. Meet with CAPS’ staff members, have your resume reviewed, and enjoy refreshments and giveaways.
· The CAPS’ Fall Career Fair will take place on Friday, October 3 from 12 – 4pm in Ida Noyes Hall, first floor. Over 70 organizations from a variety of industries will be hiring for full-time and internship positions. To view a list of attending organizations, log into your Chicago Career Connection account and click on the “Fall Career Fair” link. Chicago Career Connection training sessions will also be offered every hour, on the hour, from 10am – 3pm.
· CAPS is on Facebook! Search for “Career Advising and Planning Services” and join our group to receive announcements about upcoming programs and events.
· Sign up for CAPS’ Industry Email Lists. Lists include: Arts and Culture, Government and Policy, General Business, Finance, Consulting, Education, Health and Medicine, and Science. To sign up, log into your Chicago Career Connection account and click on the “My Profile” tab.

Questions about any of these announcements? Post them here - and keep reading the CAPS' blog throughout the academic year for articles, updates and discussion about internships, jobs, recruiting, graduate school applications, and anything else you'd like to talk about.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Career Advice for Women - That's Also Relevant for Men

An article in last month's New York Times by author Hannah Seligson talks about her recent book “New Girl on the Job: Advice From the Trenches,” which addresses the shock and frustration that Seligson encountered when she first entered the workforce, and realized that the proverbial glass ceiling for working women wasn't so proverbial after all.

In addition to facing some alarming "old boys club" behavior, including seeing more women than men saddled with photocopying and coffee fetching duties, Seligson goes on to say that she found herself getting in the way of her own success. As she says in the article: "I realized that I needed to develop a thick skin, feel comfortable promoting myself, learn how to negotiate, stop being a perfectionist and create a professional network — abilities that men are just more likely to have already."

As a woman in her twenties in the workforce today, her advice resonates strongly with me personally. As a staff member at a career services office, her advice is on target, not just for women at the University of Chicago, but for men as well. The skills Seligson developed to help her succeed as a woman are skills that we all need to find success in the workplace.

Develop a Thick Skin: No one, male or female, likes to be criticized or to have their work critiqued - even if that criticism is presented as being "constructive." Remember the first time you turned in a paper during one of your first year classes, only to get it back covered in red ink from your professor - or a TA? You were probably crushed, especially if you were accustomed to straight A's and the praise of your teachers in high school. However, if you've made it this far and you're looking for an internship or full-time job, odds are you got used to the fact that even your finest paper might have some room for improvement.

Coming to this realization is also necessary in the office - to your new supervisor, it doesn't matter that you graduated from the University of Chicago with a 3.5 GPA - what matters is that your work is up to the standards of the organization that you're interning or working at. This means that, inevitably, you are going to receive criticism from your boss. And depending on your boss and his or her work style, that criticism could come across as pretty harsh. Seligson talks about the many agents who told her she'd never get a book deal (and she clearly proved them wrong).

What's important is to learn to take criticism in the workplace - and not take it personally. When a supervisor tells you that your latest project needs some work - or needs to be completely redone - don't take that as an attack on you as a person, take it as a chance to learn more about what your supervisor is looking for in a finished work project. Believe me, I've cried in the office more times than I'd like to admit - but I've also learned that when my boss asks me to rewrite the brochure content that I just spent three straight days working on, she's not criticizing me as a person - she's trying to teach me to be a better writer. As Seligson says, "I think that in order to break through any kind of glass ceiling, or simply to get through the day, you have to become impervious to the daily gruffness that’s a part of any job." That means putting away the Kleenex and accepting that your work isn't as perfect as you'd like to think it is.

Feel Comfortable Promoting Yourself: This is one area where I've read again and again that men are better at this than women - and I still struggle to promote myself at work without sounding cocky. So guys, if you've already got this down, read on - but if you've ever felt the need to be modest in the workplace, now's the time to stop feeling that way. There have been plenty of times when a co-worker has complimented my work and I've said "It was nothing." Or, "I really didn't really do much for this project." No more - when someone praises my work, I will take credit! Traditional gender roles might tell us that women should be more demure, but put the gender bias aside. Whether you identify as male or female, when someone compliments your work, say something along the lines of "Thank you. It was a lot of work, but I really enjoyed working on the project." If a supervisor compliments your work, it might be the perfect opportunity to say "Thank you. I really enjoyed this project - and I'd like to take on more projects like this in the future."

Learn How to Negotiate: This is a no-brainer, right? Well, maybe - but if you're just entering the workforce, you may not know how much room for negotiation you have. Even in a tough economic market, there's room for negotiation in any job - just be sure you are professional about it (that means no temper tantrums when the boss tells you that he appreciates your request, but that this is not the time for a raise). This is prime time for students to turn internships into offers, so if you have questions about negotiating the terms of the offer, please contact CAPS BEFORE you accept. Our staff can help you consider if an offer is right for you - and what terms are worth negotiating given your individual situation.

Stop Being a Perfectionist: This one is really tough for me to swallow. Perfectionism is one of my greatest strengths - and it can also be one of my greatest weaknesses. Seligson states, "Women, I have found, can let perfectionism stop them from speaking up or taking risks." The fear comes from the possibility of being told "no" - something that tends to rattle men less. But again, regardless of your gender, the advice is still sound: don't be afraid to make a suggestion or ask a question in the workplace, just because the idea isn't perfect or because you haven't thought out all the details.

Create a Professional Network: Just when you thought you had escaped from that monster networking, here it is once again (get used to it - I will tell you again and again how important networking is, regardless of if you're a man or a woman). According to Seligson, men may find networking easier to do since they can bond with the men in the office getting a beer after work. While this may be true in some cases, this is probably her greatest generalization in the article. After all, this in the University of Chicago, and we all know that not everyone here is interested in beer, or another traditionally male interest area, sports - and there is nothing wrong with that. With that said, Seligson's suggestion for creating dialogue with a co-worker or supervisor is great - that is, DON'T ask someone to be your mentor outright, but DO ask someone for their feedback or ideas about a particular project. Trust me, everyone like to feel that their opinion is valued, so it can be an easy way to break the ice with a co-worker that you admire - a simple "Do you have five minutes to go over this project with me? I'm really interested in your feedback," can open the door for receiving more professional advice over time.

One last comment, and this one IS for the women reading:

Seligson says, "The American Association of University Women found that men who are a year out of college make 20 percent more in weekly pay than their female co-workers do. Why? Because my friend and scores of other young men understand the central tenet of a bigger paycheck: ask and you shall receive."

Like Seligson, this stat appalls me - and has me thinking about past career moves where I didn't ask for a salary increase when I should have. The idea of asking for more money again and again is a scary one - no one likes to be thought of as pushy - but it's clear that women need to learn how to make those requests, and keep making those requests over time.

For advice on negotiating salaries, and much more, make an appointment with CAPS by calling (773) 702 - 7040. You can also check out the CAPS' handout about evaluating and negotiating a job offer.

Questions, comments, advice and feedback? Post it all here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Developing Your Job Search "Plan B"

Special thanks to our guest blogger, Conor Barnes, Associate Director, Employer Development and East Coast Relations at CAPS, for today's post:

Plan B

Thanks, Economic Policy Institute.


According to their May 2008 report, “new college graduates will confront a more inhospitable job market than their predecessors faced in 2001, the beginning of the last recession.”

And, the Washington Post isn’t helping either.


So, what will help you in a rough market? Develop a Plan B…and maybe even a Plan C.

At its core, your professional development should always be about your biggest hopes and dreams…arguing in front of the Supreme Court, writing articles for The New Yorker, owning a multimillion dollar company, and all the possibilities in between. But, when jobs are tight and bills are due, dreams sometimes must be tethered to economic realities.

Think local.
Look at the companies you are applying to. Google? Amnesty International? Goldman Sachs? Well known companies are exactly that- well known…and well applied for by you and every other student in America. The CAPS Career Resource Center has a wide selection of materials that can help you determine all the players in an industry, not just the big names. Develop a list that includes companies in your own backyard. Regionally focused companies can be a great way to get a start in an industry and they often have more opportunities for new hires to take on greater responsibilities.

Introduce yourself.
People hire people. People don’t hire diplomas or resumes or cover letters. Seize any opportunity to connect with professionals in your desired field. CAPS offers dozens of panels and programs where you can do exactly this in a low-stress, low-key environment. If CAPS isn’t offering programs that you want, get out into Chicago. Chances are that experts in your field will be in town for a conference, event, panel, something. You want to start to position yourself not just as a candidate, but as a colleague.

Be humble.
No matter how many internships or summer jobs you’ve racked up through the years, remember that this is your first job. Be open to all sorts of positions; not just the ones with a fancy signing bonus. Core classes don’t lend themselves to humility, but we all start somewhere. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12959265/

Questions, comments, complaints, or praise? Post it all here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Keeping Your Career Options Open with Transferable Skills

In case you haven't been reading the paper, watching television or surfing the internet for the past several months, we have some news for you: the economy is tough right now, and whether you're a student thinking about internship options, a recent graduate looking for a full-time position, or an alum who has been out of school for a few years now, the job market is tight. Regardless of your industry of choice or your major, finding positions to apply for, and then getting your foot in the door, is challenging, especially when everyone seems to be talking about economic doom and gloom.

But wait! Before you despair completely, we have some good news - despite the news reports about the increasing unemployment rate, there are jobs out there that are promising. One of the keys to finding a position is to be open minded about where your skills can take you - and considering career paths that you may not have thought about before. A recent article in TimeOut Chicago talks about re-tooling your career - and while some of the positions they suggest might not be up your alley, the advice they are offering is solid: Just because you can't find an internship or full-time position in your ideal career field doesn't mean that your skills won't translate to another, equally promising, job. (The article also quotes the University's own Michael Jogerst, the director of career services at the School of Social Service Administration.)

Just one example that TimeOut Chicago gives is journalism careers. If you've been thinking about becoming a journalist your whole life, or even just your entire academic career, it may come as a blow to you that journalism jobs are very competitive and that traditional newspaper reporting and editing is beginning to decline, as on-line media outlets become more and more prominent. The good news is that all of those skills that you developed as a strong writer and journalist can be applied to a variety of other jobs. A few alternative career paths that the articles suggests include:
1. In-house magazines- These are the kinds of publications that major corporations create to facilitate internal and external communications (think MOTONOW, the online newsletter from Motorola). If you're ever read the University of Chicago's Alumni Magazine, then you know that that publication has reporters and editors working on it, day in and day out. That's just one example of an in-house magazine that requires the same skill set as some of the larger, more widely distributed magazines and newspapers.
2. University work - Academic institutions need instructors and editors for university presses. Take it from me (I work at CAPS after all!) - there are plenty of opportunities for writing - including articles, press releases and this blog post - in academic positions. The low-key summer dress code helps too.
3. Spokesperson - TimeOut Chicago quotes Jogerst as saying, "You could be a spokesperson in politics, sports, city or state departments, or for the police department." All of those positions are going to require someone who can write well and think in their feet - just like the news reporter that you always wanted to be.

If journalism is where your interest lies, you should call CAPS at (773) 702 - 7040 and make an appointment with Kathy Anderson, the program director for the new Chicago Careers in Journalism (CCIJ) Program. CCIJ offers workshops throughout the academic year about journalism careers (both print and electronic), networking opportunities with alumni journalists, and one-on-one advising to help you pursue the journalism or journalism-related jobs that you're most interested in.

Not interested in journalism and wondering why you're still reading? The idea of transferable skills applies to a wide range of other careers as well. Do you have experience working in retail? As TimeOut Chicago points out, any type of customer service or sales experience could benefit you the hospitality industry, as an event planner or even working in college admissions. Have you always dreamed of working in a Wall Street investment firm? The same quantitative and analytical skills that make someone like you a strong candidate at the better known banks will also make you a strong candidate at smaller start-up firms or local banks - the key is to keep an open mind and keep your options open.

If you have questions about how to turn the skills that you have into a internship or full-time job, schedule an appointment with CAPS by calling (773) 702 - 7040 - or post them here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Frequently Asked Chicago Career Connection Questions

Hopefully by now you’ve had a chance to explore Chicago Career Connection, CAPS’ new on-line internship, job search and on-campus recruiting platform, which replaced InterviewTRAK and UChicagoTRAK this June. If you haven’t heard, the decision to move to Chicago Career Connection (which you’ll sometimes see abbreviated as C3), was made after CAPS held several focus groups with undergraduate and graduate students about what you want to get out of an on-line tool like this. The new system is streamlined and user friendly, and we’re excited for students to come back to campus and start using it.

Like any new program, we’re still working out the fine print, so we hope you’ll bear with us as we roll out the new system and acclimate employers and organizations to using it as well. We’ve already received lots of great feedback about the system, and we’ve noticed that there are some questions that keep reoccurring. Below are our answers and advice for some of the most frequently asked Chicago Career Connection questions.

Q: How do I log into Chicago Career Connection?
A: If you’re a current undergraduate or graduate student, or a post-doc, you can log in from the CAPS home page at https://caps.uchicago.edu/ using your CNET ID and password. If you don’t have a CNET ID (or you can’t remember it), visit https://caps.uchicago.edu/careerconnection/newusers.html for more information about gaining access to the system. If you aren’t able to locate your CNET or need help logging in, contact Lucy Gee or Shoshannah Cohen for assistance.

Q: How can I update my personal information in Chicago Career Connection? (Personal information includes your student ID numbers, your current and permanent addresses, and your phone numbers.)
A: We pull in student information through the Registrar's office/Gargoyle. So you'll need to make the change there, and then it will be reflected in our next pull of data. (We pull information every Monday morning, so if you make a change this week, it will show up first thing Monday.)

Q: I’ve been searching for jobs and internships, but haven’t been able to find many postings. Where should I be looking?
A: As our organizations and recruiting partners move over to using Chicago Career Connection, more and more positions will appear there. While there are fewer jobs listed now than there were in UChicagoTRAK, this number is going to increase throughout the academic year. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the Chicago Career Connection Jobs section, you should also check out the jobscentral.com section, which has internships and full-time positions from a wide range of organizations. If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, call CAPS at (773) 702 – 7040 and schedule an appointment to talk about the types of positions you’re interested in. More information about job searching in Chicago Career Connection can also be found here.

Q: Do I still need to be activated to use Chicago Career Connection?
A: With the old system, students were activated by coming into CAPS and having their resumes reviewed. This allowed students to apply for on-campus recruiting positions, and for College-sponsored opportunities like the Jeff Metcalf Fellows Program and the Alumni Board of Governors Externships. If you’ve already been activated (i.e. met with a CAPS staff member, had your resume reviewed and signed an activation form) then you are all set, and you don’t need to get re-activated. However, if you’ve never been activated before, you do still need to come into CAPS for a resume review. You can do that during walk-ins (Undergrads, M-F, 11am – 2:30pm [during the academic year], Grad Students, M,T, R 2 – 3:30pm) or during a scheduled appointment.

Post additional questions, comments and feedback about Chicago Career Connection here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Liberal Arts Degree + Pre-Professional Programs = Earning Potential

By now you've probably seen the article at www.payscale.com that ranks the University of Chicago second among mid-western colleges and universities in terms of median starting salaries. According to the article, the average University of Chicago graduate can expect to make about $50,000 a year when he or she first graduates and over $110,000 mid-way through his or her career. With the cost of higher education rising quickly, looking at the outcomes of a school's graduates is becoming increasingly important, especially when high school students and their parents are deciding where to spend the next four years.

It's clear that the foundation that a liberal arts degree provides University of Chicago students is crucial to the success that our alumni find. What students might be struggling with, however, is how to choose between a great liberal arts education, and the more targeted programs that are found at other institutions (and one question that comes up often when meeting with prospective students and their parents is "Will my student be able to get a job with XX degree?"). The XX can stand for anything - art history, philosophy, economics, physics, math...

The answer, in short, is yes. In fact, when picking a major, students should be choosing something that they like, and that they do well at (in other words, don't decide to be an economics major just because the program is well known and well respected. Decide to be an economics major because you enjoy studying economics). One thing that recruiters say over and over again is that in most cases it doesn't matter what a student has majored in, as long as he or she can think on his or her feet and learn quickly. That's why places like Google look to hire just as many English and History Majors, as they do people with backgrounds in IT.

Finally, CAPS and the College know that making the most of a liberal arts degree is important to you, and that's why the past few years have resulted in the Chicago Careers in...Programs. These are programs that supplement the liberal arts curriculum at the University of Chicago - so you get the best of both worlds - and provide targeted workshops and mentoring.

Chicago Careers in Business, Chicago Careers in Law, Chicago Careers in Health Professions and Chicago Careers in Journalism all give students the resources they need to excel in these fields, without sacrificing the intellectual debate and growth that takes place in a core class that might be largely theoretical.

For more information about any of these programs, call CAPS at (773) 702 - 7040 and ask to meet with the program director. Or, post your questions here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Informational Interviewing: Networking's Evil Twin

Last week we talked about networking, why it can be challenging, and why it's necessary when you're looking for a job or internship. Today we meet networking's evil twin: informational interviewing.

As if interviewing for actual positions wasn't nerve-wracking enough, informational interviewing is the interviewing that you go through when there may not even be a position for you to be offered. But as painful as this sounds, informational interviewing is just an important as networking when it comes to exploring career fields and applying for jobs or internships.

So why do it?
Here are a few reasons why informational interviews are important:
1. Informational interviews are an opportunity for YOU to ask questions, gather information about a career field or organization, learn about job options and career paths, and make contact with people who can help identify opportunities in their fields.
2. Informational interviews help you practice for the interviews that you'll have for future positions. What better place to stumble a little over your words than in a conversation where an internship or job isn't on the line? Sure, you want to be prepared for the informational interview, but it's an opportunity to improve your interviewing skills, without worrying that a "wrong" answer might lessen your changes of receiving an offer.
3. Informational interviews get your foot in the door. Pretend you do an informational interview at company X, but company X isn't hiring. You learn more about the work that this company does, and you gain insight into the culture of the organization. 6 months later you're looking for opportunities on Chicago Career Connection when you see your dream internship posted at company X. The first thing you should do is email the person at company X who conducted your informational interview and let him or her know that you're hoping to apply for their internship. Already, you have a leg up on the competition, because you know someone inside company X and you know what their organization is all about - and you've expressed your interest in that company months ago, so they will know that you really want to work there.

How do you do it?
Start by writing an email requesting an informational interview. If you're writing to someone who you've met in the past (perhaps someone you met through networking!), introduce yourself and remind the person of where you met and when.

If you're contacting someone who you haven't met before (perhaps someone who you found on the Alumni Careers Network), introduce yourself and explain where you got their contact information. Then express your intent to gather information only.

In both cases, indicate why you want to interview your contact, and add a sentence or two about your own background and goals. Finally, request to do an informational interview over the phone –about 20 minutes in length. Be sure to accommodate the interviewee’s schedule.

Also check out career exploration websites like OwlNotes.com, which does the work for you and provides in-depth informational interviews with professionals in a variety of fields.

REMEMBER: Informational interviews are NOT job or internship interviews. You shouldn't be asking the person who you speak with for a position, but you should be learning more about the organization and expressing your interest in working there.

For more tips on information interviewing, check out this CAPS' Handout. To schedule a practice interview before you begin informational interviewing, call CAPS at (773) 702 - 7040.

More questions about informational interviewing? Post them here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Internship Post Mortem

This is the time of year when people start saying things like "Can you believe it's almost Labor Day?" and "Wow, the summer really flew by this year." The end of summer is usually bemoaned by pretty much everyone, as students prepare to head back to class and the lazy days of summer start to come to an end. There's still plenty of time between now and the beginning of fall quarter at the University of Chicago, but for many students, their summer internships may only have a few weeks left to go. Whether you're in the home stretch, or if you're working right up until the day before classes start up again, here are a few tips for leaving your internship and making it work for you even after your hard work is over.

*Be clear about your last day of work. If you haven't already, be sure to talk about your supervisor about when your last day will be. This doesn't mean letting the organization know that tomorrow (or worse, today) is your final day in the office. Whenever possible, give your supervisor at least two weeks notice, so that you can wrap up any projects that you're working on and transition your other day-to-day work to employees who will be staying on.
*Ask for an evaluation. Many internship programs have an evaluation period built in, but even if yours doesn't, ask your supervisor to spend 30 minutes with you, going over your accomplishments from the summer, and areas in which you can improve. Take any constructive criticism seriously - internships are a chance to learn a great deal about the workplace, so if your supervisor is telling you how to improve, make an effort to address those areas.
*Ask for a recommendation. Depending on how your evaluation goes you should plan to ask your supervisor to serve as a professional reference in the future. As long as the majority of what your supervisor has to say about your work is positive, ask him or her if you can add his or her name to your list of references. When you apply for future positions (both internship and full-time) you'll want to have a list (3 - 4 people) of individuals who can vouch for you, and let a potential employer know that you're hard-working and reliable. NOTE: Be sure you actually ASK your supervisor to be a reference, and receive an affirmative answer, before you put him or her down as a reference. Even if you think you have a good relationship, you want to give your supervisor fair warning if he or she will need to speak on your behalf in the future.
*Collect business cards. Take some time to speak with the other full-time staff in your organization who you've worked with, and ask them if you can keep in touch with them in the future. Even if you didn't report into these staff members, you never know when one of those individuals will find themselves in the position to make hiring decisions - or may move over to another organization where you might like to work. The same is true for fellow interns. Collect emails of other students you've worked with this summer and keep in touch. Those interns could be your colleagues in the next few years, and you want to maintain communication with them.

For more tips about how to finish up your internship and make the most of it, schedule an appointment with CAPS by calling (773) 702 - 7040.

Questions or suggestions for finishing up in style? Post them here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Networking = Necessary Pain

Networking. Also known as schmoozing, chit-chatting, making connections...no matter what you call it, for many students (and non-students) it's intimidating. And even worse, it's necessary when it comes to an internship or job search.

What is networking?
Networking is "building relationships based on trust."
(Black Enterprise Guide to Building your Career)

Schmoozing is "noticing people, connecting with them, keeping in touch with them – and benefiting from relationships with them … connecting with people in a mutually productive and pleasurable way."
(Vault Guide to Schmoozing)

Networking is "a reciprocal process that is mutually beneficial, where we share leads, ideas, and information [that] enhances our personal and professional lives and involves follow-up behaviors that create ongoing connections." (How to Work a Room)

And why, you ask, do I have to do this? Why do I have to put myself through the pain of approaching complete strangers, making awkward conversation with them, and then promising to follow up for more awkward conversation in the future?

Many, many jobs are never found on job lists. Even in the case of a posted job listing, it will be to your advantage to know people in the organization – if nothing else, this will make you a better-prepared candidate. Furthermore, networking has many advantages that can pay off for you in the long-term. Networking/schmoozing is a critical tool in your "career tool chest."

Ok, so if you have to do it, then you should learn to do it well. And the good news is that networking, like many things in life, is something that can be learned, practiced and perfected.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:
1. Check out the CAPS' Networking Handout. It features more advice and discussion about networking and how to start building your network (hint: don't be afraid to ask your parents, your parents' friends, or your friends' parents for help).
2. Consider this advice from author and blogger Lindsey Pollack: "Over the years I’ve developed a plan to take the guess work out of follow-up. It’s super simple and works every time. When I meet someone I’d like to connect with again, I simply say, 'I’ve really enjoyed meeting you, and I’d like to keep in touch. What’s the best method to reach you?'" As Pollack explains, this tactic gives the person you're speaking with the opportunity to provide a phone number or email address - or to politely tell you that they're too busy to be a part of your network right now.
3. Make an appointment with a CAPS' staff member or practice interviewer by calling (773) 702-704o. Let the person that you meet with know that you'd like to start building your career network - and you need some help starting out.

Do you have a networking horror story or victory tale? Post the best and worst of your networking outcomes here.