Monday, December 6, 2010

Letting You Know What I Know

by Sherry Cao, CAPS Marketing Assistant

Over the past several months of working at CAPS, I've learned a lot about all of the resources that CAPS offers. Here are the top 5 most important things that you should know (if you don't already):

  1. We have some powerful, experienced Alumni

    And thankfully, they love to talk to us. The programs we have here feature alumni who have gone through everything that we students are going through now, and who have used what they learned here to make it—-in every sense of the word. Just recently, I made a flyer for our January 4th event “Can you use your legal skills to change the world?” that featured two alums who are using their degrees to—-you guessed it—-change the world! Learning about our alums’ stories is inspirational and helpful, especially when trying to figure out your own story.

  2. The staff here has tons of relevant experience

    And they love sharing it. There are 40 people at CAPS who are focused on your future, whether that’s in business, health professions, journalism, arts, higher education, law or science and technology (yes, I did just list all the Chicago Careers In… programs off the top of my head). And what’s more,there are people who are here to help especially if you don’t know what you want to do! Each program CAPS puts on takes a lot of planning, and the staff here works really hard to make sure you are getting the most out of each program. They also take feedback, so don't be afraid to speak up if you have an idea about a program you want to see!

  3. Ida Noyes Hall--where are the CAPS folks live--is on the Midway.

    This is just a logistical question, since, sadly, I'm fairly sure there are a lot of people who have no idea where CAPS is located. To get here, you can take University down to 59th St, turn left, and find Ida on the corner of 59th and Woodlawn Ave. We’re right by the Booth School of Business and Rockefeller Chapel. It’s really pretty in here!

  4. Lots of big names come through our doors

    It’s kind of mind-boggling to look at some of the names that come to our career fairs and put on presentations for students—-the Boston Consulting Group, JPMorgan, Bank of America, Draftfcb,the CIA and Teach for America, just to name a (very!) few. Learning about these companies at career fairs and at their presentations can help you decide what to do in the future, or just give you a few more ideas. The resources are definitely here—and since you know now exactly where Ida Noyes is (see #3), there’s no excuse to not take advantage of them.

  5. CAPS is all about Facebook.

    Being a member of the CAPS Facebook group is a great start to having CAPS more involved in your life. CAPS puts all of their events on Facebook, and will even send you invitations (though you should always check CCC for employer information sessions, since those are separate from CAPS events). There are a ton of great events coming up in Winter Quarter, so be sure to join the Facebook group to get all the info!

So, there you have it—some insider information about all of the great resources at CAPS! Come over and say hi sometime.

P.S. I’ve noticed that I’ve been organizing my blog posts numerically for quite some time now—I’ll change it up once we get back from break! If you have any questions about careers, internships or your future, leave me a comment and I’ll try to talk to the right people and address them as I blog more.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Career in Careers

by Lauren Fish, CAPS Event Liaison

My freshman year, I had no idea what CAPS was, or what the letters in the name even stood for. Now, entering the second quarter of my third year, CAPS has become a bigger part of my life than I ever would have expected. For me, CAPS is much more than just a place to work: it is an invaluable resource, one that has already given me a good deal of opportunities and insider information.

I snagged my job as an Event Liaison through networking: a friend on the rowing team who worked here last year e-mailed the team listhost to see if anyone would be interested in applying for a job that had just opened up at CAPS. I replied immediately, and after sending in my resume and cover letter, I landed an interview with the office. When I came in for my interview, I knew right away that I wanted to work here: the woman who interviewed me, my potential boss, was incredibly friendly and welcoming, the other student workers seemed cool and interesting, and the job sounded stimulating and fun. I was thrilled when I found out I had gotten the job.

Working as an Event Liaison is as challenging and interesting as I had hoped it would be. My responsibilities range from setting up the sign-in computers (we call them kiosks) that you type your ID number into when you come to an event to meeting with employers from companies all over the world to help make sure their presentations run smoothly. I’ve collaborated with recruiters from Teach for America, The Boston Consulting Group, Citi Bank Asia, and the Peace Corps, to name just a few. I’ve also gotten to know the other members of the CAPS staff, from the practice interviewers in the 3rd Floor Resource Center to the AV/Tech guys in their basement offices. I’ve gotten some really awesome career advice from the people I work with, who know about all kinds of internship and job opportunities. I’ve gotten to sit in on presentations from a wide variety of employers, broadening my knowledge of the kinds of careers available to students like me after graduation.

My job has allowed me to see, and participate in, all the things that CAPS does to benefit us, the students at this university. There are so many great things going on here at Ida Noyes and all over campus; CAPS really does everything it can to give us students every opportunity to excel during and after our time here. Honestly, it’s too bad it took me almost two years to realize this—but now that I know what CAPS has to offer me, I’m doing all I can to take advantage of this great resource while I can!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Several Seriously Spectacular Study Spots

by Sherry Cao, CAPS Marketing Assistant

In addition to all the alliteration, this blog will be awesome for two reasons. First, I’m seriously going to discuss my favorite places on (and off!) campus to get some of my dense Sosc/Hum reading done. Second, for this blog post, at least, you don't have to hear about daunting subjects like getting a job and the future because with midterms and essays upon us, I figure we all have enough to worry about. Plus, it does relate to the general theme of this CAPS blog because studying = good grades = graduation + job. Obviously.

  1. My first spot is the Reg, kind of. On the side facing Bartlett Quad, there are these cozy little niches underneath the Reg’s giant dripping gray concrete exterior. I understand that it’s outside and that it’s getting quite cold now (or trying to, anyway) but since the area is composed of large metal grates atop some component of the Reg's heating system, warm air actually blows up onto you, making for a very cozy, very unique studying experience.

  2. If you’re a snack-while-you-study kind of kid, I’d suggest going to Bartlett or your preferred dining hall. I guess this only works at non-peak hours, but the several times I’ve found myself hungry and with an hour or so of free time between classes and work, I’ve gone to Bartlett and parked myself at a smallish table toward the back. The din of Motown and dishwashing provides nice background noise, and when no one else is there, it’s a great, spacious, well-lit area to study. I’ve also been thinking about going up to the second floor of Bartlett (where students used to run laps back in the day when Bartlett was a gym) and parking myself up there. I’ll do that soon. Facebook me if you want to know how it goes.

  3. At the risk of sounding completely cliché, I’m going to say Harper. Cue the Harry Potter comments, the “I fell in love with UChicago when I saw this library” squeal, and cue the fact that admissions uses its picture every time a prospie receives a postcard. The fact is, Harper really isn’t an accurate representation of ALL of UChicago, but it definitely is beautiful. And well-lit, studious and quiet. I know those who go to Harper often say that the Harper reading room is where it’s at, but I’d like to rep the Stuart reading room, which is around the corner from the Common Knowledge Café. I like Stuart during the day because there are always people napping on the super comfy chairs, and when there are sleeping students, you know it’s going to be good and quiet.

So, there you have some of my favorite places to study. What are yours? Leave a comment, and I’ll spread the word!

Note: “Studying” is what you make it to be. These areas also work well for napping, cuddling, eating ice cream and generally spacing out.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Getting, keeping and managing a job as a first-year student

By Sherry Cao, CAPS Marketing Assistant

Earlier this summer, I delved into all things college with gusto—changing my Facebook network, buying pink shower caddies, painting my nails a sparkling shade of maroon. Such collegiate gusto also included e-mailing University of Chicago employers to secure a job as soon as possible—a move that landed me with the marketing assistant job at CAPS. I’ve been coming to work Monday, Wednesday and Fridays ever since O-week ended, but lately, I’ve been getting a lot of “hey Sherry—hook me up with a sweet job.” So, now that my fellow first-years have apparently settled into their collegiate niches and are itching for some money, I’d like to offer some words of wisdom* for said first-years:

0. As a precursor to everything else, you have to realize that work actually means work. The concept of getting a job and working 5-10 hours a week sounds do-able, and it is, but it requires mental (or physical) work for those 5-10 hours.

1. If you really want a job, stop thinking about it, and start looking. The student employment site— has positions for work-study, non work-study and even off-campus jobs. Consequently, you should also know whether or not you have work-study (as I learned, apparently, term-time employment is not the same thing and does not qualify as work-study). If this still baffles you, call the Financial Aid office to clarify things.

2. Once you land your dream job (as a sandwich maker or some kind of assistant, perhaps), you should enjoy it. Like anything, approaching a job with a positive attitude will make the 5-10 hours of work you do a week much more enjoyable. Here at CAPS, I’ve met so many great people just doing my job—sitting at my desk, standing by the water cooler, working the student registration booth at our recent Career and Graduate and Professional School fairs. Be friendly and start conversations—work won’t even feel like work. Of course, it also helps if your job interests you in the first place.

3. But remember, you’re a student first. If you honestly overestimated your capability to balance a job and do well in school at the same time, don’t be afraid to talk to your employer and adviser about it. Especially on this campus, employers realize that student workers are students first and foremost, and they want you to do well in school. So, talking about changing around/cutting down on hours shouldn’t be stressful.

Even if it is a little big stressful, getting, keeping and managing a part-time job is definitely worth it. Having this job at CAPS has helped to give my personal schedule some structure, and it has also allowed me to do something enjoyable that I wouldn’t do in class (design cool posters). The paycheck at the end of the two weeks isn’t bad either.

*Not really. I’ve only been working for a month and a half, but I have learned a couple of things.

Have questions about getting a job during the school year? CAPS isn't just for those students looking for full-time positions! Make an appointment by calling (773) 702-7040.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lessons of the Uncommon App

by Sherry Cao, CAPS Marketing Assistant

As Columbus Day weekend drew to a close, the waves of prospective students faded away—the voices of tour guides telling us that Bartlett was originally a gymnasium and that the gargoyles on the top of Hull Gate tell the story of a UChicago student grew quieter while both bright and bleary eyed prospies alike shuffled slowly away from the busiest walkways. In the past, Columbus Day had been nothing but a day off and a reminder that in 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue (or so they say). But this year, thanks to prospective student weekend, it took me back to a year ago—when I, along with the majority of the class of 2014, had no idea where to go and what to do.

The college application process was nothing less than painfully long, but to its credit, it also taught me a few things that are very much applicable to college—and beyond.
  1. Don’t overdo it

  2. I wasn’t the kid who applied to 14 schools (really—I wasn’t), but I knew a couple of people who did, and their senior year lives were just awful—as in, didn’t-even-go-to-homecoming, got-two-hours-of-sleep-a-night awful. I found that it really was easier (and more meaningful) if I focused on one or two schools. So, as RSOs charm unsuspecting first years with Facebook events and free food, I’d suggest that same concept now. So, although a couple of events and some free pizza (…gelato, Korean beef, curry…) never hurt anyone, make sure you find what interests you most and stick with it.

  3. Let your personality shine through

  4. I worried a lot about how I could change myself to be the best possible applicant—but then realized that I had no idea how to be everything good that one could find in a student…and besides, that would be extremely exhausting anyway. So instead, I wrote my UChicago essay about my neon day-glo bike and panda t-shirt, and got in (somehow). The point is, I learned that I should be respectful and professional, but also be myself, because talking about myself (in a respectful, professional manner) is a lot easier than talking about the person who I thought I should be. I expect that when it comes time to enter into the job/internship application process, this will still hold true.

  5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

  6. I had a lot of questions, and I asked them. I had the names and lunch hours of the admissions office workers memorized (seriously). I was adamant. And it helped a lot, as I found that I learned a lot by just releasing my sillier inhibitions and asking my questions (though at the risk of being repetitive, remember the importance of professionalism). College, especially the University of Chicago, has so much to offer, and though flyers and sidewalk chalk messages are very effective, you might be able to find even more opportunities—or opportunities that you really want—if you just ask.
The CAPS staff if always happy to answer your questions about college and life beyond. Call (773) 702-7040 to make an appointment.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Confessions of a First Year

by Sherry Cao, CAPS Marketing Assistant

If this is your first time ever reading the CAPS blog, you're probably wondering who writes it. Well, my name is Sherry Cao, and I’m a first-year. I’m a marketing assistant here at CAPS, which means I design various flyers and the cool tri-folds that we all read at Bartlett. I’m probably a lot like you--I'm still figuring out what the names of the campus buildings are, where to get food at 2 AM, and what the best study spots on campus are. I should also confess that I have almost no idea what I want to do with my life. I say "almost" because I know that I wouldn’t [read: shouldn’t] be a doctor or anything else that involves pointy objects and blood.

Anyway, I’m writing this post to allay any fears that first-years may have about the future, or at least, let you know that there’s someone else who’s in the same boat. Far too often, I hear conversations that are more intimidating than they are truthful—i.e. Sarah (not her real name) wants to double major in Finance and French while minoring in Eastern Asian studies and work for the United Nations at the same time that she's starting a nonprofit wildlife organization. These are all wonderful and worthy goals, but with all the stuff that I’ve learned in my Hum and Sosc classes during the 1.5 weeks that I’ve been here, I seriously doubt that I could plan out my life solely based on what I learned in high school.

Some people may already know what they’d like to do, but for everyone who doesn’t, I’d like to make a case for exploration, discovery and finally, surprise. In a school where AP credits hardly make a dent in the Core, one might as well embrace these requirements to their fullest extent...for example, take an astronomy class because you’ve always wondered about the stars, or take “Power, Identity and Resistance” because you’ve always wondered what the heck that class title actually means. My wonderful roommate said to me today, “Life is what happens when you make other plans.” I’m finally feeling the full extent of that-— and hopefully, you do too.

But in case you’d like to explore your options and perhaps get a better idea of what the world has to offer, feel free to come visit CAPS! To schedule a one-on-one appointment with a CAPS career counselor, call (773) 702-7040. To schedule an undergraduate same-day appointment, log in to your Chicago Career Connection (CCC)account from the CAPS homepage to sign up. Hours: Monday – Friday, 11 am – 2:30 pm.

Undergraduate walk-in appointments are available on a first-come, first served basis and are 15 minutes long. They are available Monday-Friday, 3pm – 4:45 pm for quick job-search questions.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Crescat scientia…

by Neil Weijer, Project Administrator, Chicago Careers in Business

Greetings new first years! By now you’ll have left your parents behind in a drone of bagpipes, all of your carefully-acquired items will have been meticulously arranged (or thrown at random) into your new dorm room, and you’ll have even completed the whirlwind tour that is O-Week at the University of Chicago. But that’s far from the end of it. Soon you’ll be joining students from other years at the RSO Fair (October 1st: mark your calendars), and all that information about classes, calculus, professors, and PE requirements will be competing with a wave of potential extracurricular activities.

By the end of next week, you’ll likely be receiving more listhost email than you could possibly read, and come December you’ll wonder why you ever even gave your name to some of these lists in the first place. When they explained the motto of the University to you (“let knowledge grow from more to more…”), they couldn’t have been talking about this, right?

Not quite. At least for the moment, resist the urge to unsubscribe from the lists. Skim the emails when you have time. Who knows when something interesting might come up? Whether it’s a lecture, a one-time event, or just a chance to meet and talk with new people, there’s nothing like a flash of the unexpected once the grind of the weekly schedule (not to mention the Chicago winter) sets in.

The point of O-Week, and of events like the RSO Fair, is not to bombard you with more information than you could ever possibly need. Rather, it is to let you see just how much is out there for you to do and to see while at the U of C. It’s easy to feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, especially in the first few weeks, but as you go on through the year you might find time to try some of the activities and clubs you’ve signed up for, and may very well end up liking them.

In just the same way as the activities fair can help you find clubs and societies that you’re interested in, it’s never too early to start looking for things to do over the summer or after you graduate. On October 1st, I’d encourage you to stop by another event –the Fall Career Fair, which happens right before the RSO Fair—to see what I mean. You’ll hear people from different companies and areas pitch their lines of work to you. You’ll put yourself down for even more e-mails. You’ll probably even get some free stuff. Most importantly, even if you’re not looking for a job, you might see something and think “I might like to do that,” or even “I might like to work there.”

At CAPS, we’re happy to provide all the resources we can to help you along the way: whether they’re structured (like our growing number of Chicago Careers In… programs), more general (like counseling), or even more listhost emails. If you’re eager to look at internships, industries, or specific companies, or if you’ve simply seen something interesting (a job posting, a seminar announcement) in one of our emails, come talk to us.

One thing that I wish I had known during my first year (and subsequently after) is that finding a job after graduation works much the same way as finding classes and activities does while you’re in school—the more you know, the better off you’ll be. While all the information may seem like a lot to process at first, you never know when something truly interesting may present itself, or when you might remember a club, an activity, or an internship or career area and think to yourself “that might be fun, let me try it.”

One of the most important things that you can take away from your time at the U of C is this: it pays to keep an open mind. It’s one of the reasons we make you take the Core (another is to provide fodder for t-shirt slogans). But even after your first quarters are done—after you know how everything works, after you “know” what you plan to do next year (and beyond)—keep looking, be curious, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

So if you’re new here, welcome. If you’re starting another year, welcome back. We’re happy that you’re here, and we’re just as interested as anyone else to see what you’ll do with the information we give you. After all, life isn’t going to simply enrich itself…

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Is the Grass Greener? The Pros and Cons of Job Hopping

by Laurel Mylonas-Orwig, Manager of Strategic Programming and Outreach

For those of us who spend time every day on Chicago public transit, the RedEye newspaper (a bite size edition of the Chicago Tribune, for those not in the know) is a necessary distraction from the slow plod of buses through the city. And a week ago, while traffic meandered through the mess on Michigan Avenue (thanks, Transformers 3), a RedEye cover story caught my eye. Entitled “Confessions of a Job Hopper”, it discussed young professionals’ increasing propensity for moving from job to job in a relatively short period of time. One of the women interviewed has held six jobs in the past seven years. Her reason for so many transitions? To enhance her skills and challenge herself. But while she indicated that she enjoyed her many moves, such frequent shifts may elicit concern from prospective employers.

So the question for young professionals becomes, what is the appropriate balance? The days of graduating from college and going to work at the same place until retirement are certainly gone. Nowadays, experts expect that, over a lifetime, the average Gen-X or Y-er will hold more than 10 jobs over at least five different careers. That’s a huge change from the model our grandparents held to. But while few will begrudge someone who leaves their current job for one with more power, prestige, and/or higher pay, if that person has left three jobs in less than three years, prospective employers may begin to worry that this person will not be fully invested in the success of the company, and their own success in a given position. The bottom line is that you need to be aware of the story that your resume tells. There’s nothing wrong with being someone who enjoys change, but companies will notice frequent job hops, so be prepared to explain how each experience has benefitted you, and to combat an employer’s concerns about your early exits.

Some pros and cons of job hopping:

Pro: Pay increase. Moving from company to company can often be a good way to increase your pay grade at a much faster rate than you would if you were to stay at the same company, because with each move you bring more experience to the table.

Pro: Networking. Like it or not, networking is a HUGE part of today’s job market, as this blogger can personally attest (all but one of the jobs I’ve held were found through networking contacts). The more contacts you have, the more likely you are to find out about a position that fits your personality, interest and experience. If you’re frequently moving around, you’ll definitely meet more people than if you stay in the same place.

Pro: Learning new skills. Any new job will come with a new set of skills, which you’ll be expected to master quickly. If your learning curve has stagnated in your current job, a new position will likely offer a different set of challenges for you to tackle.

Pro: Figuring out what you love. Most people need to try something to know whether they like it or not. So, while you may feel that your college coursework has helped you figure out what you want to do with your life, the reality of your “chosen” profession may prove less exciting than you anticipated. By moving through a series of jobs early in your professional life (between the ages of 20 and 30, the average person will have eight jobs), you’re more likely to find out what your passion is.

Con: Moving too quickly. Most jobs require at least 6 months to one year of continuous learning before an employee has mastered the position. If you move on too quickly, you may be missing out on the chance to fully develop your skills in that position.

Con: Lateral (or backward) moves. If you end up in a job that you’re not in love with, moving to a different one may seem like a good idea. And it certainly can be—but be careful that you’re moving forward, not sideways (or worse, backwards). Each new job should reward you in some way, whether that’s in pay grade, increased responsibility, or the chance to do something you’re really passionate about.

Con: Burning your bridges. As someone who’s had more than one unpleasant employment experience, I’m very familiar with the urge to go out with a bang (euphemistically speaking, of course). But even if you hated every minute of your time at an organization, make the most of the connections you made there, and never burn a bridge if you can help it. It’s a networking world, and every contact can help (or hurt!).

Con: Turning off prospective employers.
In the words of one hiring manager, “When I look at resumes, if someone has jumped from job to job very quickly, it makes me nervous—I never want to hire someone who may be using my organization as a stepping stone. That's why, in an interview, I often ask the question ‘How does this position fit in with your long-term goals?’” This concern is shared by many employers, and is something that you should be prepared to respond to if you’re frequently on the move.

Con: Losing sight of your narrative. Your experience is your narrative, and your resume is your record of that narrative. It’s important to make sure that your story makes sense, and that you can easily explain to an employer how each step led to the next.

Ultimately, the choice to job hop can be both risky and rewarding. When deciding what your next career move should be, make sure that you have evaluated your reasons for moving, and that you are being mindful of how the next chapter of your narrative will portray you to future employers. Most importantly, commit yourself to making a measureable contribution wherever you go. If, like most young professionals, your goal is to move quickly up the corporate ladder, make each step count, no matter how long (or short) your time with that company is.

Do you have a job hopping success or horror story? Leave a comment below! And remember, if you ever have questions about your career path or your personal narrative, CAPS counselors are here to help. Make an appointment today!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Know Thyself: A Guide to Your Summer Self-Assessment

by Shoshannah Cohen, Associate Director, Administration and Planning

Whatever you’re doing this summer—whether it’s an internship, short-term job, studying, volunteering, writing your dissertation, teaching, or something else entirely—making even a little time for self-assessment in relation to that work will pay off for you.

A good way for all of us to learn about how much we enjoy, and how good we are at, certain tasks is to observe ourselves doing those tasks. In this article, I will discuss how to work some self-assessment into your summer, and how to get the most out of your self-assessment results.

How to do a self-assessment this summer

There are several ways to assess yourself in relation to your summer activities. You should choose the one(s) that best suit you, meaning the one(s) you’ll do consistently!

Some people like to write a short journal entry at the end of each day or week expressing their reactions to what they have been doing. This can be a nice way not only to get a record of how you’re liking (and how well you feel you’re doing at) your work, but also to get thoughts and feelings out on paper (or a computer screen).

If you choose this method, be sure to do it regularly—otherwise you may end up choosing to write, for instance, only when something extraordinary occurs, thereby disproportionately representing either (or both) very good or very challenging experiences. Be sure to including those middling “regular” days in there as well!

Others prefer a list of their tasks, and a ranking scale—rating each day or week, on a scale of, say, 1 to 5, how much you enjoyed each of your tasks. How well do you feel you did at each?

When writing down your rankings, it’s important to break the tasks down as much as possible. If you are working on a dissertation, for instance, don’t just say “Research” or “Writing”. Note the smaller pieces: “Reading recent secondary texts in my field”, “Performing bench work”, “going into archive to find primary texts”, “formulating an argument”, etc. If you are interning, don’t just say “helped plan event”. Think in terms of steps: for example, “visited possible venues for event”, “assessed budget”, “talked with clients about their goals”. These breakdowns help you identify where you’re strongest and where you’re happiest! (And, where you might need work or prefer not to spend a lot of your time.)

Some people do better with self-assessment in groups or pairs. To use this method, find a partner or a bunch of friends who’d like to sit down on a regular basis and talk together about how things are going—tell one another about your experiences, like what you’re enjoying or not enjoying, and what you think about your skill level. Listen carefully to each other, and ask follow-up questions to help each person delve into your experience this summer.

Using the results of a self-assessment
Your self-assessment lets you get to know yourself better, a valuable achievement in itself. It can also help you refine your career planning, by showing you more vividly what you like to do, what kinds of work energize you, and what work you may find draining or frustrating. A self-assessment also helps you to see what work you’re good at, and what work you find doesn’t come as naturally.

To understand your assessment, think about taking some or all of the following steps:
  • Ask yourself: does your self-assessment this summer surprise you in some ways? Or does it mainly confirm what you thought about your work preferences and skills?

  • Come talk with a CAPS staff member about what you’ve learned from this summer and how to use it to develop the next steps in your career planning.

  • Talk with friends about what you’re learning and ask what they think. Sometimes our friends have insights about us that can be very helpful in the assessment process.

  • Reflect on the self-assessment as you begin to write your next round of application materials or prepare for interviews—this is a useful tool for talking about yourself effectively in relation to work.
Finally, enjoy having gotten to know yourself a little better, and try to make self-assessment of this sort an ongoing practice. It’s something from which we can all benefit, at any stage of our careers.

Do you have a self-assessment success story to share, or an idea about another way to gain some perspective on your summer experiences? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

You've Landed Your First Job. Now What?

by Pat Rosenzweig, Career Coach

You’re curious and analytical. You know how to ask questions and how to synthesize information. Of course. You’re a UChicago student or alum. For some, however, these very characteristics that are the foundation of a success at the UChicago are left on campus when they join the working world outside.

These examples are about recent grads, but they apply equally to undergrad internships.

A UChicago rhetoric major’s first job was for a small marketing and public relations firm. He wrote clearly and compellingly, and he was gracious with the firm’s clients and the rest of the staff. A significant part of his job was to interview clients and explore what about them was innovative and worthy of publicity. At the beginning of his tenure, the Account Executive would accompany him to the interviews to make sure that all avenues of inquiry were pursued. She also needed to see how well the interview was reflected in his written story. She was working to develop trust in his listening, inquiry and “translation” abilities, so that ultimately he could handle interviews alone.

One of the clients they met with was a not-for-profit housing finance agency that had just launched a new program piggy-backing on existing Federal and a city finance programs. Small, not-for-profit housing developers were the target audience for any article that came from the press release he would write. When the Account Executive reviewed his draft, she found that there was nothing in it about the programs’ requirements. “Why?” she asked. “We spent a lot of time on that.”

“It wasn’t important,” he responded.

“Why not?”

“It’s boring,” he said.

Was it that he couldn’t admit that he didn’t understand it, or that what was important interrupted his fluid prose? In either case, if he was going to build trust with his superior, he should have asked for an explanation, clarification, and pursued why it was significant. Where did his questioning ability go?

An investment banking firm had a lot of new hires from various schools on a rotational program. Most of them came from top tier colleges. But because the bank actively looked for “diamonds in the rough” from smaller colleges, there was one student who came from a very small liberal arts college in Michigan.

One of the young associates’ first assignments was to sit with a trader for a morning and document a trade. They had to write a small paper detailing the trade, explaining it technically and recording their observations. When the papers were submitted, the new grads from the prestigious schools had done a beautiful job of writing about all the steps from the trader’s first thoughts to the actual pulling of the trigger and closing of the deal. They had all clearly explained the mechanics of the trade and the technical details. However, one paper stood out.

The graduate from the small school in Michigan had not only documented the trade reasonably well, but also followed the trail. Obviously, a trade doesn’t just end with the trader; it goes to the operations area (back office) where the grunt work is done. Details and instructions are checked, contracts and confirmations sent, and the movement of monies carefully observed so that there won’t be an account in the red, or one with too much surplus.

This “diamond in the rough” received the highest grade because of her ability to look beyond what she had observed with her eyes and ears that day. Remember, any activity occurs within a context. Those who care to look for that, and who understand the whole process, will outperform those who are more academically gifted but lack a complete understanding of their role. Where did the curiosity of the students with 3.9 GPAs go?

A recent College grad was paired with two senior members of an organization and tasked with putting together a new employee training manual.
The two senior staff members were seasoned HR professionals, but wanted the input of the new hire to give the manual a fresh perspective. When they got together to work on the training manual, the recent grad suggested revamping the new hire on-boarding process entirely. He had some great suggestions for using new technology to improve the training process, but the seasoned staff only wanted to make small changes to the procedures and update the employee manual, largely because they knew they were working within a limited budget and a tight timeline. Unfortunately, when the recent grad was told that his ideas could not be implemented, he felt slighted by the more experienced staff and argued that he was not being taken seriously. The more experienced staff members—who admittedly were not familiar with the technology solutions that the recent grad had proposed—felt that he was being stubborn and was turning a blind eye to the very real budget concerns their organization was facing. What could have gone differently? The recent grad could have asked more questions about project limitations—but instead of learning more about his colleagues’ concerns, he simply assumed that his idea was the most logical solution, and did not take into account other behind-the-scenes considerations. He could have used his ability to synthesize information to reach a compromise or staged implementation. What happened to his abilities to ask questions to understand the context and the operational challenges?

In all of these examples, the recent grads failed to consider the context of their assignment. In some ways, they didn’t respect the more senior members of their team. Rather than revealing their own ignorance, they avoided, challenged or limited their opportunity to build a relationship with their boss.

A marketing coordinator for a large architecture firm worked with the VP of Marketing at his firm to review a cover letter he had written to a prospective client. The VP and he spent about an hour reviewing the one-page letter, mainly discussing the differences between a letter of transmittal and a cover letter. Because he took the time to really understand what his boss wanted, the recent grad became the best cover letter writer in the group. Years later he told the VP for Marketing that he never, ever wanted to be criticized for his writing again, so when the opportunity to improve came along, “I really listened.”

Want to know more about how to approach your first job? Take a look at “So you’ve landed your first job. Now what?” in the Summer Undergraduate Newsletter. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact a CAPS counselor!

Friday, June 4, 2010

What to Expect (and Not Expect) from Networking

by Susan Dennehy, Assistant Director of Graduate Services, Social Sciences

Many people feel awkward or uneasy about networking. Instead of thinking about networking as “making contacts” or meeting the “right” people, think of it as professional relationship building. When you enter a career path you are, essentially, joining a particular community. It behooves you to meet and connect with as many people within that community as possible. These are, after all, your potential future colleagues. If you’re interested in a particular organization/company or employment path, you should also be interested in meeting and getting to know the people who currently populate it.

It is often said that networking is an essential part of any job search (and it is). What is not always discussed, however, is how to set appropriate expectations for networking.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

Expect that it will take time to get used to networking. Be patient with yourself and with the process. Networking is a skill and, like all skills, it takes time to develop and hone. Set small, achievable goals at first, like talking with 2 to 3 people you don’t know at a reception or networking event. Then grow your goals incrementally over time. The more you approach people and talk with them, the easier it will get.

Expect that you will get better at it over time. Remember what they say about getting to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice! The more often that you make a point of talking with someone new about their line of work and professional experiences, the more naturally it will come to you. Again, this takes time, so be patient. (And be sure to keep an eye out for networking opportunities offered through CAPS, and take advantage of them! Hint: Any program with panelists is an opportunity to network.)

Expect that the people you meet will ask you a few things: What are you interested in doing? What is your background/training? What do you have to offer (in terms of skills, knowledge, and experience)? They may even ask for your business card. Be prepared. Work on your “elevator speech”—a brief introduction to your skills, interests and abilities—beforehand. Bring some business cards. If you have questions, come see a CAPS counselor!

Expect to ask questions yourself. In addition to your elevator speech, you should approach each networking situation with a set of questions like, how does someone get started in this field? What do you like about your occupation? What skills and qualities does a person need most to excel in this field or organization/company? Asking questions is a sign of respect. It shows that you’re interested in what the person has to say, and that you value their feedback. And as I mentioned above, since entering a career path is like joining a community, you should have a genuine interest in what people on that path have to say.

Expect to be organized. Keep notes on whom you have met (and where), what you have talked about, and how to contact that person in the future. Once you begin meeting and connecting with a variety of people, it can be difficult to keep everyone’s name and information straight in your head, so write it down. Review your notes before attending an event where you might meet that person again, and keep in touch with people when you have positive news to share (a job interview, an interesting and relevant article you’ve come across, etc.).

And now for what not to expect in networking…

Don’t expect that networking will always lead to immediate opportunities. Just as you have to be patient when building up your confidence and skills, take the long view here as well. It may be a few months, or longer, before someone you have met and have had great conversations with contacts you about a job lead. Don’t despair, and definitely do not give up. Remember that you are building relationships. If you do this right, they will last a long time—and when something eventually does come up, you may be the person they call on.

Don’t expect your degree, background, or even your experience to speak for you. You have to do the work of identifying what you bring to the table that is beneficial to employers. This means you have to identify the skills and experiences that are most relevant to the job you’d like, and make the case that you have what it takes to excel in that line of work. Consider all of these things as you are composing your elevator speech.

Don’t expect that someone has nothing to offer if they don’t match perfectly what you’re looking for. Think about the six degrees of separation—the idea that each person is six degrees away from everyone else. If you want to break into art, or sports, or financial services, or whatever, the person you just met may know someone (a spouse, a friend, a former co-worker) who works in that field. Don’t dismiss or ignore someone just because they are currently working in a field that is not your own target field. Instead, ask if they know anyone who might be good for you to talk to.

Don’t assume that all networking takes place “out there”. You can also network with your friends, family, and friends of your friends and family. You never know where you might find someone who works in an industry or organization that interests you (remember those six degrees again!), so keep an open mind and begin with the people you already know.

As a final note, LinkedIn is a great way to see who is connected to the people you know. Anyone who is connected to you in the first, second or third degree will appear with a 1, 2, or 3 next to their name in a LinkedIn search. This is a great way to see the extent of your own network.

Remember, CAPS is here to help you! If you would like help finding networking events, identifying your skills, composing your elevator speech, or with any other aspect of the job search, make an appointment to see a CAPS counselor by calling (773) 702-7040.

Friday, May 28, 2010

How to Make the Most of Your Summer Internship

by Marthe Druska, Senior Associate Director, Employer Relations and Development

As the end of the academic year approaches, many students are preparing to begin summer internships in a wide range of fields across the country and around the world. Whether you’re headed off to your dream internship or into a temporary position that’s just meant to pay the bills, here are some important tips for making the most of your experience:

  1. Be on time. This may seem commonsense (because it is), but being punctual at your internship is of the utmost importance. This doesn’t just apply to the first few weeks on the job--we mean the entire summer. Even the Monday morning after your significant other was visiting for the weekend? Yes. Even the day after you returned from a vacation with your family? Yes. Even the very last day of your internship, when all of your projects are done and you’re just showing up for a farewell lunch? Yes. Be on time to your internship every single day. Punctuality shows an employer that you are reliable and that they can count on you to be in the office when they need you. And since you likely want your summer employer to either offer you a full-time job or serve as a fantastic reference for future applications, you definitely want that person to know they can count on you.

  2. Dress the Part. The transition from classroom casual (sweatpants and yesterday’s semi-clean t-shirt) to business casual (somewhat dressy clothing that is clean and ironed) can be a jarring one when first starting out. Dressing well for a position doesn’t stop after the interview (although check out this article for tips on proper interview dress and presentation). You need to dress professionally and appropriately every time you show up at the office. Don’t let the day that you go to work in ripped jeans and flip flops be the day that your supervisor calls in sick and asks you to deliver an important document to the director of the company. As a general rule, plan to overdress on your first day of work--that is, wear an outfit that you would wear to an interview. Take stock of how the other staff in the office dress, and then aim to dress slightly better than they do. Why? Because they already have full-time jobs. If you want to stand out as an intern, make sure you’re doing so on all fronts.

  3. Do your work. You may be thinking, “Well, what else would I do?”, but picture this: it’s 3:45 PM on a Friday afternoon in July. The weather outside is perfect: 85 degrees outside, with a sunny blue sky. Your roommate has already texted you twice to say that he is on his way to the beach/pool/your favorite coffee shop with an outdoor patio. You, however, have been pouring over a spreadsheet, analyzing data for the past three hours, and you have at least three more hours of this ahead of you before you’ll be done for the day. What do you do? Don’t leave the office! Unless you have express permission from your immediate supervisor, resist the urge to cut corners, fail to see projects through to completion or just flake out in general. It only takes one slip-up to make a bad impression on an employer. And while you may think that it’s “only” a summer internship, the connections you make at your internship can easily influence your next step. Which brings us to…

  4. Network. We know--you hate it. If you have to hear about the importance of networking one more time, you’re going to throw your laptop out the window. You don’t want to contact complete strangers, and you especially don’t want to become buddies with that weird guy down the hall who always wants to talk about his latest family vacation. Too bad. Networking--with your fellow interns, with other staff in your place of work, with alumni on the Alumni Careers Network (yes, that’s a shameless plug)--is crucial to your continued career development. Make an effort to get to know the people who work in your office. What do they do, where did they come from, and what advice do they have for a college student who wants to work in the same field they are in? Then, stay in touch. As you approach the end of your internship, ask your colleagues if you can take their business cards, and if you can be in touch in the future with questions about your resume and positions that might be a good fit for you. If you’ve made a really good impression, they may even contact you when positions open up that you might be interested in.

  5. Be a team player. In many job descriptions, after the listing of responsibilities and qualifications for the position, there is the caveat that reads something like “Other duties as assigned.” For a summer internship, these “other duties” can range from pitching in on a brainstorming session to taking out the trash. So go into your internship prepared to do just about anything. Don’t be intimidated if you’re asked to be part of a high-level project--they hired you for a reason, and they value your work. Likewise, don’t turn your nose up at menial, clerical or manual labor that you might be asked to do. Like it or not, you’re an intern, which means you’re at the bottom of the totem pole. If someone asks you to do something unappealing, do it well, and do it with a smile. Being willing to pitch in and help out at all times makes you stand out, and standing out (in a good way) is what you want at the end of the day.

  6. Stay late. We know. You’ve been at work since 8:30 AM. You had to get up at 6:00 AM and ride the subway for an hour and a half to get there. Now, it’s 5:00 PM and all the other interns are going to the bar downstairs for happy hour, but your supervisor needs help finishing up a last minute presentation. What do you? By now, we hope the answer is obvious—you stay late and help your supervisor. This goes back to being a team player. If there’s an opportunity to step up and help out, regardless of the time of day, take it.

  7. Watch your behavior (and your mouth) outside of the office. It’s 7:00 PM and you've finally finished the presentation you were slaving over all day. Luckily, all the other interns are still at the bar downstairs, three drinks in and SO excited that you finally made it. Here’s the moment of truth. Are you going to be able to resist the urge to immediately drink four drinks—just to catch up—and make a fool of yourself? There is a time and a place for revelry, but that time and place is not when you're with your co-workers (not even if they're fellow interns). This means no over-indulging when you’re at the office happy hour, no gossiping about other interns or co-workers, and, if you learn nothing else from this post, no posing for inappropriate photos that will inevitably end up on Facebook! Seriously, we promise you won’t think they’re nearly as funny five years from now, so just avoid embarrassment and swear off cameras when you’re out socializing.

For more tips about preparing for your internship and making the most of your summer, make an appointment with a CAPS staff member by calling (773) 702 – 7040.

Still looking for a summer internship? There still a variety of summer internships listed on Chicago Career Connection. Log on today to view your options, and then come to CAPS for help creating a targeted resume and cover letter.

Friday, May 7, 2010

I Want To Do Sales, But I Don’t Like People

by Keith Dipple, Assistant Director, Employer Relations and Development

“What can I do for you today?” I asked the student in my office.

“I wanna be a trader,” he said. “Have done ever since I can remember. I don’t want to do, try or be anything else. It’s trading or bust.” He’d convinced me up that point, so I thought I’d ask the most sensible question.

“You like taking risks then?”

He looked surprised, sat back slightly and said, “Ooh, no. I don’t like risk. Never have.”

There are many types of businesses that make up the world we refer to as “financial services,” and just because you are a good fit in one doesn’t mean you will be in another. They all require different skill sets and traits. Now, this doesn’t mean that introverts can’t be good sales people, but it sure helps to be a tad outgoing. What I offer here are some simple guidelines as to what you’ll need in just a few select areas—trading , sales, equity research, investment banking and private wealth management.

To be a good trader you need to buy low and sell high, for the other way around is a shortcut to a very quick end to your career. But that is no more than 20% of the job, because lots of people can do that when times are normal and markets stable. But what about when they’re anything but, you find yourself $500,000 down, and the boss is looking at you wondering what your next move will be? How will you react? Do you have that rare ability to think logically under extreme pressure while maintaining the same level of rationale that you had when you opened the position? Think carefully, because psychiatrists say that only one in 1,000 people can actually say “yes” to the last questions, which is why most people chose to do something else for a living. It’s 80% of the job, so the ability to think clearly and logically when chaos surrounds you is vital.

What about sales? Well you may have heard about the four P’s in Marketing 101 (product, price, place, promotion), but you need the three P’s in sales: product, price and personality. Imagine you’re on the sales desk at ABC Bank selling currency options. Your trading desk is great, especially the woman who trades the Dollar against Yen. So you have the product and you have the price, but so does DEF International, GHI Trust and JKL Bros. So how will you sell $/Yen to your clients when these things don’t differentiate you? Easy—make them like you more than they like the competition. In short, do you have the personality? Sales are all about dealing with people, and to do that, you’ve got to get them to like you. (And it helps if you like them too.)

With equity research, you need to know about equities, and you need to know how to, well, research. But once you’ve done your homework you will have to pitch your stock and convince your bosses or clients why the one you’re advocating for is the best at that moment in time. For this you will need superior presentations skills (no animation or sound effects on your PowerPoints, please) and the ability to write and communicate well. But you’re also going to have to defend your pitch in front of people who are there to pick it apart piece by piece, so you need to have a very thick skin and the fortitude to not take things personally. Those who are attracted to equity research—but offended if someone calls them a silly rabbit--need not apply.

Investment banking, or “I-banking” if you’re hip and trendy (or simply IB for those of us who are fully paid up members), is not for anyone worried about beauty sleep. It’s about hard, grind-it-out work, incredible attention to detail, and dedication that borders on the insane. But it’s also about immense creativity and finding new and inventive ways to satisfy clients’ needs while making money for your institution. To be successful here you have to be an innovator and a superior critical thinker. Is it good money? Sure. But that’s the worst reason to go into it. The best reason is because you want to work shoulder to shoulder with staggeringly smart, motivated and successful people in the ultimate meritocracy. Good money? Yes—but you’ll earn every single penny of it.

Private Wealth Management (PWM) combines many of the traits needed for all the roles I’ve discussed already. You’re going to have to understand markets like a trader, get on with people a la sales, be able to get your ideas across to experts and laymen alike, just like in equity research, and you’re also going to have to be innovative and work like a dog to be successful—as if made for IB. You always have to look good and display charm while inwardly getting ready to kill the competition. You are a living paradox because you must be a friendly, smiling assassin.

So there you have it. We have scratched the surface and taken a look at the most important qualities needed for a few roles in financial services. Ask yourself the question, which one do I like the most? Now ask yourself, which one do I best fit? Are they different? Hmmm…food for thought guys, food for thought.

Keith Dipple worked in financial services for more than twenty years before joining CAPS as an Assistant Director for Employer Relations and Development. Keith advises students who are interested in careers in financial services and technology. To make an appointment with Keith, call the CAPS reception desk at (773) 702-7040.

Monday, May 3, 2010

All the Right Answers

by Laurel Mylonas-Orwig

Last week, I wrote about the importance of asking good questions in an interview. If you do your research prior to the interview, and think critically about why you want the position, you can impress the interviewer with your preparation, insight and interest. But as important as asking good questions is, an equally (probably more) important part of the interview is answering the employer’s questions well. After all, the point of an interview is for the interviewer to get to know you in a professional context! And no matter how good your questions are, if you bumble your way through the rest of the interview, you probably won’t get the job.

To get ready for an interview, consider what questions you might encounter, and then prepare yourself accordingly. Below is a list of ten of the most common interview questions—culled from experience and the all-knowing Internet—as well as advice about how to answer them. Of course, every interview will be different, and you should try not to over-prepare…you don’t want to sound like a robot or an actor just reciting lines. If you’re having a difficult time finding the right balance, remember that you can always schedule a mock interview at CAPS by calling (773) 702-7040. Your practice interviewer will be able to give you advice and feedback about your interviewing style, and pointers on how to improve. Remember: interviewing is a skill, and as with most skills, the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

Tell me about yourself.
This is one of the most common questions to start an interview with, and it can be a really tough question to answer because it’s very broad. Additionally, most people have a hard time talking about themselves, especially in a laudatory way. The best thing to do is keep your answer short and relevant. Touch on your education and work history, current life situation, and a few details about how/why you became interested in the position. The interviewer doesn’t need to hear where you were born or how you ended up in a particular city, but he or she is interested in learning why you are interested in the field that you are now applying to work in.

Why are you interested in this position?
If you didn’t include this information in your answer to the first question, this is the time for you to highlight how and why you’re great for this position. Try to avoid self-descriptions like the “ideal” or “perfect” candidate (no one is perfect), but feel free to talk about relevant experiences and accomplishments that fit well with the job description. You can also include information about why you’re looking for a job, but if you do, stay positive. Bad-mouthing a current or former employer won’t score you any points with the interviewer.

Why are you interested in working for XYZ Company?
This is a chance for you to let your preparation show. You will have done your homework, so address anything you’ve learned about the company that you found interesting or exciting. As always, stay positive and enthusiastic. “Because I need to make money” may be the honest answer, but in an interview, discretion is certainly the better part of valor.

What relevant experience and/or skills do you have?
If you have relevant experience in spades, this will be a straight-forward answer. If not, a little more creativity may be required. Draw on co-curricular interests and hobbies to paint a picture of why you’re qualified. Be careful not to lie, though—if you don’t know what a vlookup is, don’t tell the interviewer you’re a master of Excel.

How would your current/previous coworkers or supervisor describe you?
Hopefully, your coworkers and supervisors would use nothing but superlatives to describe you. However, if expletives are more likely, now is NOT the time for full disclosure. Again, don’t lie—you never know who the interviewer might know—but try to find a way to maintain a positive tone. If you’ve ever gotten a really nice compliment from a coworker, this is a good time for specific quotations.

How well do you work when under pressure?
The super-obvious (and correct) answer to this is “Very well” or something along those lines. You can say this in a variety of ways: you work well under pressure, you prefer working under pressure, you thrive on a challenge. Whatever you say, keep it positive and as close to the truth as possible. After all, if the reality is that pressure gives you hives, your employer will find that out if they hire you. If you have to lie to get the job, you probably shouldn’t be in that position.

What’s your greatest strength?
This is a chance for you to toot your own horn, which can be difficult for some people. If you have trouble talking about yourself, pick one quality you’re proud of and give a relevant example. If you could be Narcissus’ twin brother, try to keep your answer short. Arrogance, even when warranted, is never an attractive quality. Also important: the employer is looking for a work-related answer. This may seem obvious, but now is not the time to boast about your beer pong prowess. Instead, give an example of a skills that translate well into any work environment, like stellar organizational skills or the ability to do eight different things while walking and chewing gum (if one of those actually is a strength of yours).

What’s your biggest weakness?
The key to this one is positivity. Although there might be a number of things you feel you could improve in yourself, this is not the time to make a list as long as your arm. Answer the question honestly by picking one small, work-related flaw and giving an example of how you’re working to improve it. Whatever you do, don’t say that you don’t have any flaws (that’s just a lie) or that you’re “too good at your job” or some such nonsense. You might be great at your job, but everyone can improve in some respect.

Would you rather be liked or feared?
This is a trick question: you’d rather be respected. You don’t want to say “feared” because this gives the impression that you’d be hard to work with. You don’t want to say “liked” because this could mean you’ll be a human doormat. If your coworkers respect you, you can get the job done and still have friends afterward—the best of both worlds.

What kind of salary are you looking for?
This can be a tough one, especially for young job seekers. Be realistic, but be careful. If you throw out a low ball estimate, you may not be making as much as you could. If you go high, the employer may pass you over. The best answer is to ask about what this position has earned in the past and what qualifications they consider when making salary decisions. This is also another opportunity to show that you’ve done your research. Use sites like to get an idea of what an average employee at that or a comparable company makes. Then, if pressed, you can throw out a range. But always end with “However, I’m flexible with regard to salary, given my interest in this position/organization.”

Is there a popular question that got left off the list? Leave a comment below!