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

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

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, for international jobs (especially focusing on the intersection of communications and activism/social change in terms of: health, children, gender etc.) go to For more general non-profit/NGO jobs, internships and volunteer activities visit
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. 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.