Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Interview Dilemmas: Dos and Don’ts for Getting That Call

by Laurel Mylonas-Orwig

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve had a bevy of interviewers roll through our offices. This is good news for students: even in a down economy, many companies are still hiring for entry-level positions. In fact, according to a September Chicago Sun-Times article, entry-level jobs are the least affected in this economy, because they’re the least expensive. Because of staffing shortages caused by layoffs, this is also a good time for recent graduates to get higher-level experience than they might otherwise.

So, that’s the good news. The bad news is that, as you might have guessed, this job market is even more competitive than usual. That means that job-seekers need to be on top of their game at all times to snag that illusive and all-important interview. You’ve probably heard the most important tips: make sure your resume and cover letter are targeted and polished; try to submit your materials to a person, not a database; do your research on the company and the position. You also probably know that setting up an appointment with CAPS is a good way to get advice and feedback on your materials and your job search, as well as practice for an interview. Once you’ve taken care of the obvious steps, however, here are a few more tips to keep in mind:
  • Get a business card. Even if you don’t have a title to list under your name, a business card is a lot less likely to wind up in the trash than a scrap of paper with your name scribbled on it. Printing companies like Kinko’s offer relatively inexpensive cards, as do a lot of web-based companies. Don’t try to be fancy—stick to your name, address, and contact information. The bottom line is that when you meet someone unexpectedly—on the bus, in the grocery store, at a cultural event—you want to give them a way to remember you. After all, personal connections can go a looong way when you’re looking for a job. And speaking of networking...
  • Look for a person, not a position. Try to figure out what company or companies you’re interested in working for, then look for people you know who can help you get there. Talk to anyone you can think of, because you never know who might know someone who knows someone get the idea. According to the same Sun-Times article, 80% of jobs are filled by personal referral. The bottom line? Make your network work for you. And remember that your network also includes thousands of University alumni. Check out the Alumni Careers Network (find log in instructions at to make contact with those working in the industry you’re interested in.
  • Dress to impress. True story: one prospective candidate wrote in her cover letter, “I have been in professional environments and I know when I need to pull my hair up and act like a lady.” Then, she showed up to her interview in jean shorts. Bad call. Whether you’re going to an interview or simply meeting an acquaintance for an information session, make sure that you’re dressed professionally and appropriately. Be mindful of your audience—i.e., whether you’re talking to someone in a formal or informal company—but when in doubt, wear a suit. One recruiter who was recently at CAPS told us that when making decisions about which students to invite back, how an interviewee dressed can make or break it.
Once you've gotten the interview...
  • Use your waiting time effectively. Keep in mind that you aren’t just trying to impress the interviewer—you can make important connections in the waiting room, too. One job-seeker found out that the receptionist at the company she was interviewing with was a friend of a friend, a connection that worked in her favor. While you won’t necessarily get that lucky, you can learn a lot from the waiting room, like the culture of the company and the types of personalities they are looking for. Whatever you do, don’t get on your cell phone and loudly recount your exploits from the night before. Be professional at all times.
And finally, mistakes not to make in an interview... has built a website around funny, stupid, and in some cases, unbelievable mistakes that job-seekers have made in cover letters, resumes and interviews. But as you laugh, remember to proof your materials thoroughly...some of the resume and cover letter mistakes could happen to anyone.

Some of the top interview tips, courtesy of Not Hired:
• Don’t stretch out on the floor to fill out a job application.
• Don’t bring your dog to the interview.
• Don’t wear an MP3 player and tell the interviewer that you can listen to it and
him/her at the same time.
• Don’t challenge the interviewer to an arm-wrestling match.
• Don’t ask to see the interviewer’s resume to see if he/she is qualified to judge
• Don’t tell them that if you’re hired, you’ll demonstrate your loyalty by having
the company logo tattooed on your forearm.
• Don’t whistle while the interviewer is talking.
• Don’t throw up on the interviewer’s desk, and then start asking questions about
the job although nothing has happened. Actually, don’t throw up at all.
• And most importantly, don’t offer the interviewer cocaine (or any illegal substance) at the start of an interview.

Check out to read more hilarious, scandalous, and awkward job-search mistakes.

Questions, comments, tips or interview stories of your own? Post a comment!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How to Think Yourself Into a Job

by Laurel Mylonas-Orwig

Chances are that at some point you’ve encountered a promise that sounded too good to be true. Marketing campaigns promising things like “you’ll lose 10 pounds overnight!” are usually at the top of my “To avoid” list, since I’m pretty sure the only ways to lose 10 pounds overnight involve stomach flu or the amputation of a major extremity. That said, don’t fear, wary job seeker: new research proves that you really can think yourself to job search success.

Here’s the deal. Researchers at the University of Missouri studied the efforts of 327 job seekers between the ages of 20 and 40. The goal of the study was to identify how personality traits—specifically positive thinking, extraversion and conscientiousness—influenced the job search process. Researchers conducted three surveys over the course of eight months, collecting data on demographics; personality; emotions; planning and goal setting; job search results; and job offers. What the study revealed is both groundbreaking and commonsense: it turns out that developing a plan at the beginning of a job search, sticking with that plan, and maintaining a positive outlook are all key to success.

Since we at UChicago are especially interested in theories, let’s break down this one a little bit further. According to the study, conscientiousness and extraversion are both important qualities. Job seekers with these traits engaged in more metacognitive activities, like setting goals, assessing their own skills, and keeping a record of their job search progress. These activities, in turn, led to a higher number of resume submissions and first round interviews.

Researchers also noted that conscientious job seekers had another edge: they conducted higher quality job searches and followed up with employers more effectively. When I was little, my grandmother went to great lengths to remind me that after-Christmas thank you notes are important. The same is true for after-interview thank you notes! Never waste an opportunity to make a good impression.

The final piece of the puzzle, according to the study, is the ability to think positively. The study questionnaires revealed that extraverted job seekers reported feeling positive throughout the job search process. Researchers also discovered that optimistic job seekers were more likely to score follow-up interviews, and thus received a higher percentage of job offers than other applicants.

At this point, you’re probably feeling pretty good if you consider yourself a conscientious, extraverted person. If you struggle with the whole job search process, however, don’t feel dejected: you don’t have to change your personality to get a job. What you can do is utilize the same set of behaviors that proved beneficial in the study. The first step is to set goals, and the second step is to make a plan. As you might have guessed, this being the CAPS blog and all, CAPS counselors are a great resource if you need help with these steps! We can assist you with determining realistic goals, figuring out where to start your search, and making an easy-to-follow plan.

Finally, it’s important to monitor your job search progress. If six months have passed and you haven’t achieved the goals you wanted to, be honest with yourself about it. Sit down and assess your goals and your accomplishments, and make a new plan. As Professor Daniel Turban, chair of the Department of Management and the lead researcher on the study noted, “Some of these recommendations seem like they are commonsense, but they are just not that common. People don’t have strategies, they don’t assess their plans, and they don’t think about their strategies and reflect on whether [they are] working or how to make them work better. They just don’t do it." By making sure that you do take these steps, and keeping a positive attitude, you can beat the odds and up your chances of job search success.

Source: Effects of Conscientiousness and Extraversion on New Labor Market Entrants’ Job Search: The Mediating Role of Metacognitive Activities and Positive Emotions.

What steps have you taken to make your job search successful? Please share your tips and leave your comments below!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Real CAPS, Part 2

by Laurel Mylonas-Orwig

Last week, I discussed three of the myths about CAPS: The Crystal Ball (we can't tell you what your future holds), The Box of Jobs and Basket of Internships (sadly, getting a job is not that easy) and The Secret Map to Success (everyone's path will vary). This week I’ll discuss the top three myths about CAPS, as well as some more information about the real resources that we have to offer, which are way better than a crystal ball.

3. The Incantation of Employability

Like the Secret Map to Success, this myth is related to the idea that one visit to CAPS is all it takes to find a job. While the CAPS staff is here to help in any way that we can, there is no incantation of employability to magically make you the ideal candidate. And yes, it often takes more than one visit to CAPS, and a fair amount of leg work, to reach your employment goals. The truth is, becoming competitive in the job market requires knowledge and skills that must be developed over time. As you go through college, and then enter the work world, this knowledge will become more substantial and more useful. When you're look for ways to build this knowledge after college, remember that CAPS isn’t just for undergrads. Our services can be used by alumni, too. Basically, we’re here for you forever.

2. The Unchanging Temple of CAPS

True story: My first two years as an undergrad here, I refused to visit CAPS. Why? Because I wasn’t interested in business or finance, and from everything I’d heard, those were the only industries CAPS was useful for getting into. As it turns out, this was another myth I’d fallen for. While there are a good deal of employers who recruit for positions in business and finance, CAPS also caters to students looking for careers in the nonprofit sector, the arts, law, journalism, teaching…you get the idea. In fact, CAPS has staff members specifically focused on bringing in employers outside of business and finance. These folks have worked in their industries, so they know how to make connections that will help students. The truth is, CAPS is not an unchanging, unresponsive organization that only exists for a narrow student population. We are here to help all students explore their career interests, regardless of what those interests are. We are also creating new ways to connect with students—services like Live Chat and same-day appointments—so that we’re working with your schedule, instead of asking you to work around ours.

1. The Magic U of C Feather

Okay, allow me a moment of school pride: the U of C is a pretty great academic institution. Whenever people ask me where I went to college, I puff out my chest (just a little) and smile like a mom whose kid just scored the winning goal. That said, here’s a reality check: just because you went to an outstanding school doesn’t mean that doors will magically open for you. In fact, as anyone who’s had to explain the difference between U of C and UIC knows, not every person on the street knows what U of C is. The same is true for employers. For each recruiter that’s impressed, there will be another one who could not care less. The truth is, what’s important to most hiring managers is not so much where you went to school, but what you have gotten out of your education. This is where the U of C experience becomes a key factor. Even if your interviewer has never heard of the University of Chicago, they will appreciate the skills you have honed here—like critical thinking and a strong work ethic. The key to career success is combining these skills with self-reflection and career exploration, so that you are able to identify your abilities, talents and interests, and understand how to use those to your advantage. And, as you’ve probably figured out by now, that process of reflection and exploration is exactly what CAPS is here to help with!

Are there any myths or misconceptions you know about that weren’t mentioned here? Leave them in a comment below!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Getting to Know the Real CAPS

by Laurel Mylonas-Orwig

Now that the mercury is falling and the homework is piling up, summer might seem like a distant dream. In fact, looking for work is probably the last thing you want to think about as the quarter kicks into gear. But next summer—and for fourth-years, graduation—tends to come more quickly than you think. That doesn’t mean that you need to start looking for a job or internship today. But when you are ready to start, the good news is that you don’t have to figure things out alone. Whether you’re looking for a job in finance, the nonprofit sector, government, the arts or journalism (among others!), the CAPS staff is here to help you.

You may have been to CAPS several times, or never. Either way, you probably have a few ideas about what we do here…and a few impressions about how we do it. As an undergrad, I was fairly certain that it was CAPS’ job to get me a job, and I was a little disgruntled when I realized that CAPS is primarily a planning and career exploration service. Once I figured that out, I wondered what other myths about CAPS were floating around. So, to help you get to know the real CAPS, over the next two weeks I’ll be exploring, in descending order, the top six myths about CAPS, as well as explaining what we actually do.

6. The Crystal Ball

Imagine the following: John Doe, a fourth-year, is looking for a job, but isn’t sure what he wants to do. He figures that he should go to CAPS, since they can tell him what to do with his life.

Sound like anyone you know? The truth is that no one but you can tell you what to do with your life, or what’s in your future. Life is unpredictable, and the process of figuring out what you want to do is an internal one. While you might have wanted to be a ballerina or a firefighter when you were younger, your career goals have probably changed as you’ve grown up and figured out more about yourself. At CAPS, we offer resources such as career counseling, career exploration workshops, and a wealth of programs and networking events to help you learn about and explore your options. However, we can’t do it for you, just like we can’t look into a crystal ball and tell you what your future holds.

5. The Box of Jobs and Basket of Internships

When I started working for CAPS, more than a couple of my friends asked, “So you can find me a job now, right?” They were joking (sort of), but it reminded me of my mistaken assumption that it was CAPS’ job to find me a job. While it would be great if all CAPS counselors had a magical box of jobs or basket of internships under their desks to dispense to students, that’s not the case. The truth is, job and internship searching requires dedication and hard work, and it can be a long process. The old saying “looking for a job is a full-time job” is often true. That can seem daunting—but the good news is that CAPS does have a bevy of resources to help you out. First and foremost, we teach job-searching and networking skills, so that when you find that golden opportunity, you can take advantage of it. Second, we help connect students, employers and alumni, because networking is a big part of finding a job. Third, we have an extensive online job board, as well as several job fairs each year. If you invest some time in your search, and take advantage of the resources CAPS offers, chances are you will be well-positioned to capitalize on opportunities that come your way.

4. The Secret Map to Success

It’s commonsense that the most direct route between two points is a straight line. With this in mind, it would seem that there must be a “direct route” to the job or internship of your choice. The myth is that every CAPS member has this ”secret map to success” tucked away in a desk drawer, and that getting the job you want is as simple as following the prescribed steps. While this is partly true in some cases (you need to go to medical school if you want to be a surgeon, for example), for the vast majority of students there are a number of different ways to reach the same goal. Your path may have branches, loops or dead ends. The most important thing to remember is to be flexible and keep an open mind, because you are the one who determines your career path. What CAPS can do is help you learn more about the career(s) you are interested in, and connect you with people and resources in that field. One last thing: never feel that your major must determine your career. Film studies majors can work in finance, just like Economics majors can become actors. It’s all about how you choose to pursue your interests.

Check back next week to read about the top three CAPS myths...

Comments? Questions? Criticisms? Please leave your feedback below!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cover Letter and Resume Tips from a Tired Resume Reader

True story: this anonymous blogger works in an office that is currently hiring. The hiring process obviously involves reviewing the resume and cover letters that candidates submit for an open position. And after reviewing many, many cover letters and resumes, I have some tips about using key words and tailoring your cover letter to a particular position.

Here's what not to do, based upon my personal experience:
1) Do not state in your cover letter that you do not possess the skills that I am looking for. Instead, highlight the skills that you do have, and indicate how those are relevant to my position.
2) Don't be vague. Instead, use key words that are found in the job posting. If my job description says I am looking for a strong writer, in your cover letter discuss your strong WRITING skills.
3) Don't use a generic resume. Just as your cover letter should be targeted, the same is true for your resume. If my job description calls for management experience, your resume should indicate when you've MANAGED a project or a team.

The idea of using key words is also important, because in some cases it's not a person like me reading your resume or cover letter, it's a computer program. This can be true when you're applying to large organizations who simply do not have the human resources staff on hand to review hundreds of resumes a day. To help crack those software programs and get your resume into the hands of an actual living and breathing human being, here are some more tips, courtesy of Edison International's website:

To maximize our computer's ability to read your resumé, you should provide a "clean" original, and use a standard style. Follow these style tips:
• Use white or light-colored 8 1/2 x 11" paper
• Provide a laser quality original if possible
• Do not fold or staple your resume
• Use standard fonts such as Times or Courier
• Use a font size of 10 to 14 points
• Place your name at the top of the page on its own line
• Use standard address format below your name
• Use boldface and/or all capital letters for headings
• Avoid fancy treatments such as italics, and shadows
• Avoid vertical and horizontal lines, graphics, and boxes
• Avoid two-column formats
• Don't condense spacing between letters

A Word about "Key Words"
Because the computer extracts information from your résumé, you may want to include a few key words that will increase your opportunities for matching job requirements. Recruiters and managers access the résumé database in many ways, either to search your resumé or search for specific experience. Here are a few tips to get your resume noticed:
• Use enough key words to define your skills, experience, education, professional affiliations, etc.
• Describe your experience with concrete words rather than vague descriptions
• Be concise and truthful
• Use more than one page if necessary. The computer can easily handle multiple-page resumes
• Increase your list of key words by including specifics
• Use common heading such as: Objectives, Experience, Employment, Work History, Skills, Affiliations, etc.
• If room allows, describe your interpersonal traits and attitude
• Use jargon and acronyms specific to your industry (spell out the acronyms).

Bottom line: Tailor your resume. Because even if a person is reading your materials and not a computer program, trust me when I say that presenting your most relevant skills in an easily understandable format will really make that person really happy.

Questions or comments for today's blogger? Post them here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

When I Network I Feel: Dirty, Desperate or Discouraged?

An article on MediaBistro(create a free MediaBistro account to read the article in its entirety) last week asked the following question:

I wish more people thought of me as:
a) Aggressive
b) Obnoxious
c) Annoying
d) Pathetic
e) Slimy
f) A name-dropper

This pop quiz is useful, because it explains why so many people, especially students and recent alumni who are entering the job market for the first time, cringe when they think about "networking." It can feel slimy, irritating and sometimes desperate to actively be seeking out individuals to talk to, in the hopes that they will help you land a job.

We talk about networking A LOT on the CAPS Blog, and with good reason - there is no way around it, you must network to find job leads, especially in this tough job market.

Some of our favorite points that this most recent article made, include:

"This is my mantra: Stop looking for a job and start looking for a person. The right person will lead you to the right job. This applies whether you're looking for a job or just personal and professional connections in general..." That's the thing with networking - it's about making personal connections. So even if your roommate's brother's girlfriend works in an industry that does not at all relate to your interests, she might have a friend, cousin, neighbor who does. The point being, don't discount the people you meet - they might have an insider connection that will help you out.

Also good advice - Be specific: "Don't tell people 'I'll do anything' or 'I'm interested in everything.' They can't help you without specific guidelines about what you want. You are not being flexible; you are being naïve. I'm willing to talk to you and open my Rolodex but I need parameters: specific jobs, industries, geographical areas. Help me help you!" This doesn't mean you need to know EXACTLY what you're looking for or EXACTLY what type of job you want - but it helps to provide a little bit of background information. For example, "Wow, I didn't realize you were a biology major in undergrad. I'm actually graduating with a degree in biology this spring, and I'd like to use my degree at work. Do you have any suggestions of organizations I could look into?" Simple, right?

Our favorite piece of advice from MediaBistro? Use your career services office: "These offices and associations range from the highly structured to informal or nonexistent; private institutions in particular place great emphasis on maintaining these kind of networks. You can call up the alumni association, career or magazine office, explain that you're interested in talking with alumni in your industry or area, and see what they come up with. Some schools have online databases or alumni magazines, some with "class notes" sections. Read these to find names of like-minded alumni and find out if they're willing to be contacted and what their preferred mode of communication is. Your class may have regional officers or representatives; reach out to them. The people who volunteer to serve in these roles are generally connectors. Attend local gatherings or reunion events." The good news - the University of Chicago DOES have an on-line database of like-minded alumni who are willing to serve as career contacts for students and fellow alums. It's called the Alumni Careers Network, and to log on, click here.

Sick of hearing about the importance of networking? Tell us about it - and post your comments, suggestions and ideas here.

Friday, May 8, 2009

International Experience Grants and Summer Action Grants awarded to 23 University of Chicago College students

Today's post comes from guest blogger and CAPS' staff member Shayna Plaut, Assistant Director, Employer Relations, specializing in non-profit and government fields.

From rural China to downtown Chicago, from predatory loans to foreign diplomacy – this year’s recipients of the International Experience Grants and the Summer Action Grants span the spectrum of geographic region, thematic focus, class year and major – but all share one thing in common: ideas of action, generated by the student, and funded (at least in part) by the College.

Experiential education, the idea that learning takes place by doing, is a not a new idea. It was most formally promoted by John Dewey and has served as a cornerstone for liberal education. The University of Chicago has supported the notion of experiential education in many fields however, much of the support was tied to particular disciplines.

And there are times where students' ideas just don’t quite fit into a specific discipline.

The International Experience Grants and the Summer Action Grants were a response to this. The Grants allow students to propose their own ideas, to pitch themselves and explore the nitty-gritty of budgets, personnel and proposals. And when students are given such creativity and responsibility, they excel. This is the first year the College has offered the International Experience Grants and the Summer Action Grants and the student response to these opportunities was very strong.

We want to thank Dean John W. Boyer for providing the funding, the committee members for providing the time and energy and the students for providing the ideas. Due to the diverse and rich reach of the program, the funding for these grants will again be available next year.

Below you will find the recipients of the 2009 International Experience Grants and the Summer Action Grants; and please offer your congratulations to these students:

International Experience Grants

• Samuel Berkowitz, Economics, Beijing Global Village, China
• Lee Davidson, Economics, Community-based Conversation and Development, China
• Peter Slezkine, History, European Court of Human Rights, France
• Lady Velez, Biological Sciences, Hospital de Manta Rodriguez Zambrano, Ecuador
• Brittany Jackson, Anthropology, Marj Rabba, Israel
• Shashin Chokshi, Political Science, Self-Employed Women’s Association, India
• Jessica Dragonetti, Anthropology, Tshulu Trust, South Africa
• Karry Lu, International Studies, U.S. Commercial Service, Australia
• Anonymous, U.S. Department of State, Russia
• Shengziao Yu, Undeclared, Zhejiang, China

Summer Action Grants

• Rebecca Maurer, Interdisciplinary in the Humanities, interactive community mapping program, Chicago
• Charles Gerstein, Economics, Bronx Legal Aid, New York
• Rachel Cromidas, Law Letters and Society, Chicago Studies Olympic Bid, Chicago
• Lucy Little, Undeclared, CircEsteem, Chicago
• Isabela Blatchman – Biatch, Political Science, Center for Wrongful Convictions, Chicago
• Abimbola Oladokun, Political Science, Coalition for the International Criminal Court, New York
• Meredith Spoto, Law, Letters and Society, Cook County Public Defender, Chicago
• Jonathan Hartley, Economics, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Chicago
• Kathryn O’Mara, Public Policy, Glaser Progress Foundation, Seattle
• Lauren Winer, English, Global Witness, Washington, DC/London
• Dallas Donnell, African American Studies, Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition, Philadelphia
• Alexander Abbott Boyd, Economics, Neighborhood Economic Development Agency, Chicago
• Pater Salib, Philosophy, STRIVE, Chicago

Questions, ideas or feedback about grants, internships and summer plans? Post them here.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The New Academia: Should Graduate School be Restructured?

Earlier this week the New York Times published a somewhat controversial opinion piece about the current state of academia and graduate school programs. The author, Mark C. Taylor, who is the chairman of the religion department at Columbia University, boldly stated that faculty tenure should be eliminated, permanent academic departments should be abolished, and that graduate programs should focus on such broad, interdisciplinary topics as "water".

In the past, academia seemed to be a natural path for many University of Chicago students - the vast majority of a given first year class believes that they will attend graduate school immediately following graduation from the College - but as the years pass, this number declines, and more students push off grad school for a few years, or leave the ivory tower completely, instead pursuing full-time career paths in a variety of industries. Now, the academic market is as challenging as the full-time job market, with Ph.D. candidates vying for just a few select faculty positions, and most graduate students relying on adjuncting to gain work experience and pay the bills. Students in graduate programs grapple with the choice between continuing their work in academia, and hoping that job prospects will materialize, or leaving academia to pursue another career all together - an oftentimes frightening and jarring possibility.

Which begs the question: are undergraduates reconsidering the move to graduate school? And are graduate students thinking more about leaving academia? Is Professor Taylor right - does the American academic landscape need to be restructured entirely?

Post your comments and ideas about this topic here.

Want to hear more about the academic job market? Come to these upcoming CAPS programs:

Faculty Forum on the Economy and the Academic Job Market, May 4, 5pm, Ida Noyes Library Lounge (first floor)

Your First Year as a Professor, May 20, 4pm, Id Noyes Hall East Lounge (second floor)

Academic Networking, June 1, 5pm, Ida Noyes Cloister Club (first floor)

Preparing for the Academic Job Market, June 2, 4pm, Ida Noyes East Lounge (second floor)

Always check the CAPS Calendar for updated dates, times and locations.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Inconvenient Truths of Finance

During her lecture at the University of Chicago yesterday afternoon, which she presented as "The Inconvenient Truths of Finance" New York Times Best-Selling author Beth Kobliner introduced what she calls the "Suri Cruise Moment" - in which she stated that more young people in their twenties and thirties can identify Suri Cruise (TomKat's daughter) than know what the interest rate on their credit card is. Frightening. Ms. Kobliner provided several other sobering statistics to the crowd of roughly 30 undergraduate and graduate students, including:

*More adults under the age of 35 now spend 20% of their income paying off credit card debt than ever before.
*If you take inflation into account, people in their twenties and thirties are actually making less income today than our parents did at our age.
*The unemployment rate for individuals aged 20 - 24 is at 14% - higher than it's ever been since anyone's been tracking this stuff.

So what's one to do, faced with these daunting statistics? Kobliner also has some tips and tricks all of us, including what can sound like commonsense, but actually makes good financial sense. Read on if you're worried about your financial situation (and that's pretty much everyone these days):

*Preserve your credit score: According to Kobliner, missing one bill payment, on your credit cards, your car payments, your bills, can negatively affect your credit score almost immediately - so sign up for automatic payments for your regular bills and be sure to always pay them on time.
*Don't carry a balance on your credit card: Here's the example that Kobliner shared. Say you have a $1000 balance on your credit card, and each month you pay only the minimum payment. If you do that, it will take you 13 YEARS and cost you an additional $850 to pay off that original $1000.
*Save: Set up an automatic withdrawal system that takes money out of your checking account and puts it into saving. Even if it's $5, $25, $75 - save something everything single month.
*Don't spend what you can't afford: Sounds simple - but living on credit is what got us into this mess in the first place (ok, it's more complicated than that, but you get what I'm saying).

Looking for more tips on personal finance? Check out for more info from Beth and links to other financial planning websites.

Are you worried less about your personal finance, and more about actually having a paycheck after you graduate? Come into CAPS for an appointment (call 773-702-7040 to schedule) or attend one of our upcoming programs about finding jobs and internships in a recession. Check out the CAPS calendar for dates, times and locations.

Questions, comments, feedback or ideas? Post them here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

As Interest in Business Careers Wanes, What's Next?

CAPS struggles sometimes with a common misperception on campus that our services are only available or useful to students interested in banking, finance or consulting. Time and time again we read editorials in the Maroon, or hear feedback from students, that rail against us for not serving the hundreds of other students interested in careers outside of the traditional business realm. What about journalism, science, non-profits, etc.? Nevermind the fact that with over 30 staff members at CAPS, our expertise ranges from the law, to communications, to the government, to market research, to, yes, even business. Students seem to ignore, or else just forget about, the non-business programming that we offer, which ranges from immersion camps in the sciences, arts and non-profit industries to workshops with alumni from a wide range of backgrounds, Chicago Careers in...Programs in not only business, but also journalism, law and health professions. Students who were interested in non-business careers sometimes don't come to CAPS at all - and as a result, they miss out on large portions of programming that may have been of use and interest.

Well, if a recent article in the New York Times is correct, maybe that's about to change. Because according to this article, finance jobs, once the most coveted by many graduating college students, are about to be replaced in popularity by jobs in the government, the sciences and public service. The article states, "And early indications suggest new career directions that are tethered less to the dream of an immediate six-figure paycheck on Wall Street than to the demands of a new public agenda to solve the nation’s problems...What will the new map of talent flow look like? It’s early, but based on graduate school applications this spring, enrollment in undergraduate courses, preliminary job-placement results at schools, and the anecdotal accounts of students and professors, a new pattern of occupational choice seems to be emerging. Public service, government, the sciences and even teaching look to be winners..."

So what does this mean for University of Chicago students? There are a variety of scenarios that may play out for you over the next several months - here are just a few, and ways in which CAPS can help:

1) You're about to graduate, or enter the summer, or you've been laid off, without job or internship plans, and like the students interviewed in the NYT article, you're interested in a government or public service career. Action: a) Attend the CAPS/UCSC Public Service and Non-Profit Career Fair, taking place this Friday, April 17 from 12 - 4pm in Ida Noyes. Meet with over 30 non-profit and government organizations that are hiring interns and full-time opportunities. b) Make an appointment with a CAPS counselor. We have several staff on hand with backgrounds in non-profit and government work, including Max Brooks and Shayna Plaut. Come in with your resume and work with them to put together a job search plan.

2) You're about to graduate, enter the summer, or you've been laid off, and you don't know what industry or field you want to go into. Action: Make a career exploration appointment with a CAPS counselor. Regardless of what stage of your career you're in (no internships, three internships, no experience, 5 years of experience) a career counselor can help you think about what you actually LIKE to do - and career paths that will help you do that.

3) You're about to graduate, enter the summer, or you've been laid off, and you ARE interested in a career in business or consulting (what does the NYT know anyway?): Action: Make an appointment with a CAPS career counselor. We have several staff on hand with backgrounds in investment banking and consulting, including Michael Paone and Lauren Baker. And just because the media is claiming that finance careers are "disgraced" doesn't mean you shouldn't go after the job you are interested in - as long as you are being realistic about your goals.

To make an appointment with a CAPS counselor, call (773) 702 - 7040.

Is the finance industry really disgraced? Were you considering a career in business or consulting, but are now looking elsewhere? Post your comments here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Honesty is the Best Policy for the Job Search

We've all been there - you tell a little white lie to make yourself sound better, or to avoid starting an argument. Or maybe you diffuse a tense situation by altering the truth just a little bit. While standard social graces may dictate when to bend the truth just a little, ("You look great in that dress you just spent $500 on. No, really, you do.") there is a time and place for half-truths like that - and the job search is NOT the time or the place. In fact, when searching for a job or internship, honesty is the only policy to follow. A recent article from Career Builder goes into greater detail about reasons why candidates sometimes lie on their resumes or cover letters - and the alternative, which is to tell the truth:

"Dates of employment
Why job seekers lie: People think it's necessary to cover up or omit potentially negative employment situations like gaps between jobs or short-term employment, Mininni says.
How to spin it: Address discrepancies about dates of employment in your cover letter. Be honest about what you did during the breaks between employments and identify any relevant transferable skills you learned during that time.

"If you've only spent one month at a job, it should still be included in your employment history," Mininni says. More employers are conducting background checks and/or confirming dates of employment, so take a paragraph in your cover letter to say that you're looking for a job where you can really thrive and grow professionally -- you just haven't found it yet.

Why job seekers lie: There are many lies job seekers tell about education: alleging that they attended college when they didn't; declaring a degree at a school they never went to; or claiming to have a degree at all when they really never finished college.
How to spin it: "Companies are looking for the value you bring to the organization and often have 'or equivalent' statements in their job requirements," Mininni says. "If you have the equivalent amount of experience in lieu of a degree, you will want to highlight that experience."

If you went to college but didn't finish, don't focus on the lack of a degree. Instead, outline other education you acquired through professional certifications or company-sponsored education, she suggests.

Experience, accomplishments and job titles
Why job seekers lie: People often inflate previous experience, undertakings and job titles when they apply for jobs where they aren't qualified, Mininni says. "It's interesting how many people don't know their actual titles," she says. "If you don't know, don't guess. Ask your manager."
How to spin it: "If you don't have the required experience, focus on your natural talents. Are you known as the idea generator, the communicator or the process improver? This will be important to highlight and provide examples of how you have demonstrated those natural talents and how it aided the company," Mininni says.

Why job seekers lie: Candidates inflate their salaries in an effort increase their starting offers, Mininni says. Unfortunately, upon checking, the employer discovers the exaggeration.
How to spin it: Keep in mind the responsibilities of the position, the scope and the job market. If you've stayed at your company for 25 years and haven't received market increases, you may be behind the market. Researching what the current market pays is critical in knowing your leverage points when it comes time to talk salary.

Criminal history
Why job seekers lie: Some people lie through omission because the extent of their criminal record is a misdemeanor assault charge from high school. Others lie about more serious offenses. Perhaps they had a drug problem and got their nursing license taken away, or they were jailed for embezzlement.
How to spin it: Own up to the situation or use that experience to reinvent yourself, Mininni says. Look for jobs that don't tie in to your criminal background -- for example, if you had drug issues, don't try to work in medicine, and if you embezzled, don't work with money. Learn to use your skills in different ways and sell that to the employer."

In addition to these tips, there are other areas that you should always be upfront about when applying for jobs or internships - that includes your GPA, the courses you are taking, and the extracurriculars you're invovled in. For more information about "creative" GPA rounding and other no-nos that might come up for students or recent alumni, check out this CAPS blog post from earlier this academic year.

If you have questions or concerns about how to present yourself to a potential employer, come in to CAPS to talk about it (call 773/702-7040 to make an appointment). We can help you come up with a strategy to emphasize your accomplishments and strengths, without telling any white lies.

Questions, comments or ideas? Post them here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Etiquette 101: Why Being Polite is Essential to Networking

This is a true story: a personal friend of mine who works at a large digital advertising agency in Chicago agreed to do me a favor and speak with some University of Chicago undergraduates who might have questions about the industry, how to get into advertising, etc, etc. This friend is not an alumnus of the University, but he wanted to help out, and as we all know, the best way to get your foot in the door at an organization is to network and set up informational interviews. A few weeks later, I saw this friend and he told me that he had been in touch with a University of Chicago student, and had found his interactions with this student unsettling - in trying to set up a time to speak with the student and answer questions about his company and his work, this student was very inflexible and demanded that my friend be available during very small windows of time on specific days of the week. When my friend suggested another time and date, this student replied that it was almost finals week and that it would be impossible to set up another time to talk.

So what's wrong with this picture?

Hopefully most readers cringed (as I did when my friend told me this story) to hear that a University of Chicago student would be so inflexible when trying to build a professional relationship. If you didn't, here's why you should have:

1. When reaching out to an alum or another professional contact (someone you met at a career fair or information session, perhaps) remember that this person is doing you a favor. It's not the other way around, and you should be as polite and as accomodating as possible.

2. Yes, we know that you are busy - you have class, homework, studying, extracurriculars, a part-time job and you'd also like to have some time to work out, go out, or just chill out. However, when you're communicating with a professional in the working world, remember that the person you are talking to likely works 40 plus hours a week, commutes for at least an hour a day, if not longer, may have children or other family obligations, as well as other personal responsibilities outside of work. In other words, you should rearrange your schedule to make it easier on the person you are networking with. This does not mean skipping class or blowing off homework - but it does mean suggesting large chunks of time when you are available, and offering to call the person or come to his or her place of work to meet. You want to make it as easy as possible for the person who is helping you, to actually be able to help you.

For some more (harsh) advice, I'm borrowing some information from the Booth School of Business (I'm also borrowing their title for this blog post). Earlier this year, the Booth student newspaper ran an article called "Etiquette 101," written by a class of 2009 Booth student. And while some of this advice is tough to swallow, it reinforces the point we're trying to make - BE POLITE.

Here's some of what the Booth article had to say - the CAPS Blog thinks this is good advice for anyone on the job or internship hunt:

1. "Introductions: When you’re asking me for help, can you not be so demanding? It’s not like I owe it to you. I’m not your mother and the last time I checked, you were the one who needed help. While my positive karma points go up with every mock interview/case practice/tips/help session I give, I’m doing you a favor. Remember that and don’t send me an e-mail like “send me your availability.” Can I? Can I really? I think hell is available…"

2. "Punctuality: If you don’t call or show up when you’re supposed to, that’s not called 'fashionably late.' When it comes to appointments, you’re just late. Tardy. Truant. Obnoxious and disrespectful of people’s time. If I wanted to sit around and do nothing, that’s my prerogative. But it is not the highlight of my day to wait for you. There are so many ways to know the time in modern days: watch, cell phone, crackberry, computer—dude, you can even ASK someone. Just be on time. Otherwise, don’t blame the person you’re meeting for giving you an attitude."

3. "Apologies: Let’s say you’re late for a reason. You have a legitimate alibi. At least say you’re sorry. I realize that many of you may not have such a word in your vocabulary, but most children learn it before they ever step onto school grounds. Go relearn it. It’s five letters that will serve you well in life. And don’t apologize while not sounding apologetic. That’s just rude because then it’s clear to me and everyone else that you’re just making excuses for yourself..."

Again, hopefully this sounds like commonsense to you. But if it doesn't, or if you think you're guilty of being rude, inflexible or demanding when you're building your network, learn these lessons now - and don't do it again.

Questions, comments or networking horror stories? Post them here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Importance of Cover Letters in a Down Economy

This week we continue with tips and advice for students and alumni who on the job or internship hunt during this difficult economy. One of the most challenging things about a job search is that feeling that your resume is going into a black hole somewhere - and unfortunately, you may not hear back at all from some of the organizations that you've applied to. One way to combat the gravitational force of these resume black holes is to send your resume along with a cover letter. This may seem like commonsense, but for students and recent alumni who are just getting started on the job hunt, it may not be immediately clear why a cover letter is so important. And when you're applying for five, ten, fifteen, maybe even more, positions per week, the temptation to do away with cover letters all together can be tempting. Here are some reasons not to give in to that little voice that is telling you not to write that cover letter:

An article earlier this year in the New York Times focused on the importance of cover letters. As that article points out: "'Cover letters are a graceful way to introduce yourself, to convey your personality and to impress a hiring manager with your experience and your writing skills,' said Katy Piotrowski, an author of career books and a career counselor based in Fort Collins, Colo. 'You can also tailor them to a specific company in ways that you cannot with a resume.'" It's almost impossible to fit all of your relevant skills onto your resume, and contextualize those skills for the position you are applying for - the cover letter gives you the opportunity to provide a potential employer with that context.

Other tips from the NYT include:

- Your cover letter should be short — generally no longer than three or four paragraphs.
- In your first paragraph, explain why you are writing — it may be that you are answering an ad, that you were referred to the company through networking, or that you learned that the company is expanding...
- In the middle paragraphs, explain why you are a good candidate, and show that you are knowledgeable about the company. Then convey a clear story about your career, and highlight specific past achievements...
- A cover letter with typos, misspellings and poor sentence structure may take you out of the running for a job. If you cannot afford to pay someone to review your cover letter and resume, enlist a friend or a family member with good language skills to do it instead.

For more information about writing cover letters, check out the CAPS "How to Write a Compelling Cover Letter" webcast or the newly revised and redesigned CAPS Handout on cover letter writing. Still not sure what to write? Call CAPS at (773) 702 - 7040 and schedule an appointment to go over your cover letter with a CAPS career counselor.

Questions, suggestions or other thoughts? Post them here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tips for WBEZ Followers - and Anyone Else Looking for a Job

The WBEZ Chicago Public Radio blog "Hard Working" recently featured advice from CAPS' staff member Marthe Druska for students and alumni conducting job and internship searches in this tough economic climate. Click here to view the original blog post. Read below for the tips that Marthe provided to WBEZ readers:

1. How has the recession affected the demand for your services, both by soon-to-be grads and alumni?

The economic climate is certainly at the forefront of everyone’s minds, especially for students about to graduate. We’ve seen an increase in the number of alumni who have contacted our office, both recent alumni who are 1 to 5 years out of school and more experienced alumni. These are individuals who have either been laid off, are concerned about being laid off, or are considering a career transition. Student demand for our services has remained strong as students are thinking about summer plans and planning for internships.

2. What are the biggest obstacles facing your students and how can they overcome them?

The obvious answer is the economy, and the fact that fewer organizations are hiring. We’re advising both graduating students and alumni to start early and to be open minded. Students who may have been determined to go into a particular industry, or even to work at a specific organization, really need to widen their search. In addition, more than ever, networking is such an important career search tool right now. Companies are still hiring, but the more connections students can make with alumni and other professionals in their fields of interest, the better. We’re really encouraging students to reach out to alumni, and to go on information interviews. Even if there isn’t a position open at this time, it never hurts to learn more about an organization and express your interest in working there.

The other piece of important advice is not to get discouraged. This can be difficult when it seems as if there aren’t many jobs available right now. Being organized is very important: keep a spreadsheet of the positions that you’ve applied to, the people that you’ve met with, and the follow up that you’ve done with each organization.

3. What are the 3 most important pieces of advice you give to imminent grads looking for jobs?

1. Expand the areas that you are looking at. Especially for students at the University of Chicago, where a liberal arts education is so important, they have strong, transferable skills. So consider fields or lesser known organizations that you may not have planned to apply to. Education and healthcare are two areas that are doing well right now, despite the economy. And even in hard hit areas like financial services, there are smaller, boutique firms that are hiring.

2. Make sure you have a targeted resume and cover letter. For every position that you apply for, the resume and cover letter that you submit should reflect that you’ve read the job description carefully and researched the organization. Sending a generic resume or a generic cover letter to an organization is one of the fastest ways to remove yourself from consideration. It’s also important to relate the experience that you already have back to the position you are applying for. It’s not enough to state in your cover letter what you’ve accomplished in previous positions - you also have to explain why those skills are relevant to the position you are applying for. Imagine that you tell a potential employer about a skill set you already possess. Now imagine that employer asks, “So what? What can that do for me?” Try to answer those questions in your cover letter.

2b. It goes without saying, NO TYPOS in your resume or cover letter. Have a friend, roommate, partner, someone read your materials to make sure you’re not missing any grammatical or spelling errors.

3. Follow up. Following up includes sending a thank you email or note AND checking back in if you don’t hear from an organization or individual. You don’t want to be pushy (calling or emailing every day is not acceptable) but you also want to stay on people’s radars. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve heard from a student “I submitted my resume, but then I never heard anything back.” But that student never called to follow up and emphasize his or her interest in the position.

3b. Say thank you. Always. You’d be surprised how many people don’t send thank you notes after an interview. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get the job, but it does make you stand out from the pack.

4. How has the recession affected the level of on-campus recruitment and recruiters’ interest in your students?

We haven’t really heard that recruiters would prefer to hire alumni, as opposed to graduating seniors. We have seen a decrease in the number of organizations who came to campus for full-time recruiting this past fall. We’ve seen a slight decrease in the number of organizations who attended our fall and winter career fairs this year, but that was very slight—for the most part those numbers have remained strong. However, at the same time we’re still seeing quite a bit of interest in internship recruiting. We currently have over 250 Jeff Metcalf Fellows Internships available to our students—these are paid, substantive summer internship opportunities exclusive to University of Chicago undergraduates—so while it’s been challenging, we have still seen some growth.

5. For the coming school year, how does CAPS plan to continue helping students through this difficult time?

Our mission continues to be to connect undergraduates, graduate students and recent alumni to opportunities in a wide range of fields—this has not changed. At the same time, we do want to provide as much support as possible to both students and alumni during this difficult time. On the undergraduate side, we are developing new programming for this spring that will address looking for positions in a difficult economy, and strategies for seeking out those “hidden” positions in this job market. On the graduate side, there is a similar series of workshops planned for this spring, for students both interested in continuing in academia, and for those who are looking to enter the post-academic job market. To read more about the undergraduate programming, you can go here; for upcoming graduate student programming, you can visit here. And for alumni who are entering the job market, we are continuing to work with our colleagues in Alumni Relations and Development to provide both one-on-one advising and programming for individuals with more experience. This includes offering more appointments for more experienced alumni, and developing regional networking events for alumni across the country who are seeking job resources.

Questions, comments or suggestions? Post them here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

8 Tips for Gaining a Competitive Edge in a Competitive Job Market

Last month the University's Chicago Alumni Club organized an event for alumni who are currently seeking employment during this difficult economy. The event featured a panel of alumni and non-alumni speakers discussing their experiences of both being laid off and helping others seek employment. One of the panelists, Russ Jones, of First Transitions, Inc. provided the following information, which we're borrowing for today's blog post:

Looking for a New Position in a Difficult Economy

The media has frightened employers, employees, job seekers and investors to a level not seen since the early ‘80s. The picture painted is bleak. In many cases, if we were aware of the rest of the story, we would be concerned, but not engaged in the full blown panic we see, hear and experience in the marketplace each day. Each day we seem to get a fresh dose of the doom and gloom of our economy as we read the print and broadcast news headlines concerning the reductions in force of thousands of employees by organizations across the country. These reports frighten many people who take the news at face value.
Let’s take a closer look. In many cases what the media fails to explain is that a job force reduction of, say, 30,000, doesn’t mean that 30,000 people are losing their jobs the next day. Certainly, some of the affected employees will lose their jobs immediately, but many others will accept early retirement or severance packages with generous payouts. Still more job cuts will come from attrition or not filling currently open positions. The headcount will dissipate over the course of perhaps several years, not immediately. In many cases, these large headcount announcements are made to make shareholders content with the actions taken. With the profit pressure placed on CEOs, announcing a large scale workforce reduction appeases stockholders and Boards of Directors and is a quick way to show potential savings of millions of dollars.
So, the next time you hear or read about a large scale reduction in force, read the fine print and realize how many are affected immediately versus the number announced. Recognizing, however, that those at the helms of organizations are also reading these headlines, they too have a bit of fear about the future instilled in them. There is a higher rate of unemployment than there has been in several years. Market conditions dictate that finding a new position is more difficult than it has been in several years. After all, there are more individuals pursuing fewer positions.
The question then becomes, “How do I give myself a competitive advantage in such a competitive job market?” Here are 8 factors that can give you the edge.
1) ATTITUDE is the single most important attribute in finding a new position. Organizations have no interest in hiring individuals that don’t think positively about themselves, their abilities or the company with whom they are interviewing. Attitude is your best friend or your worst enemy and you have control over your outlook and how you choose to see the world.
2) Take inventory, know what you have to sell and how will you add value to an organization. Take the time to consider your skills, abilities, interests and accomplishments. Write them down and think through what employers want in the positions that you will seek. Determine how you will bring across your personality, values and marketable skills to the interview—whether in person or on the telephone.
3) Consider the possibilities. Think about how your skills can be marketed to a variety of employers. Your training, education, and work experience have prepared you for a variety of options. Career assessment inventories can help you uncover some of these possibilities. Community colleges can provide inexpensive or free access to these assessment tools.
4) Be realistic. Finding a new position takes time. Be patient, allocate time to work on your search every day and don’t spend too much time researching positions on the internet. After all, only 4% of job seekers are successful in finding new positions online.
5) Do your homework. Make sure that you are knowledgeable about the organizations and individuals that you contact. Google, LinkedIn, Zoom Info, association websites, company websites, etc. provide information about organizations and people. Taking the time to be knowledgeable can give you the edge.
6) You can’t network enough. It may be all we hear about, but in today’s market, more than 70% of job seekers’ success comes from networking. Networking is about seeking advice, information, ideas, referrals and coaching while being able to discuss your interests without asking for a job. Good dialogue will create opportunities. Make a list of friends, co-workers, past co-workers, family members, professional contacts, etc. and develop a game plan for contacting and staying in touch. Join job clubs, attend business and professional meetings and seek out your alumni. Don’t forget your network once you have landed.
7) Rely on your friends. Ask a trusted professional friend or friends to be your support and confidante during this process. We all need “cheerleaders” in our lives to maintain our spirits.
8) Be relentless. Though a job search can be painfully difficult, as there is far more rejection than acceptance, we must remain focused on the task at hand. Each day have goals regarding contacts, expanding our network and gaining face to face interviews. After all, each new interaction has the possibility of leading to the position that you are seeking.
Strategies for finding a new position in a down economy are no different than times when our economy is robust. Securing a new position in any economy is competitive. Our current economy, where there are more applicants for fewer positions, requires us to be more competitive. There is a smaller margin for error. As a result, we must plan and strategize, prepare, make a stronger effort and execute each aspect of our search in order to gain a competitive edge over other job seekers.

Questions, comments or suggestions? Post them here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Upcoming Academic and Post-Academic Programming at CAPS

CAPS Graduate Services staff seeks to support graduate students at every stage of their professional development, regardless of their program or goals. We will continue to work closely with graduate divisional and Divinity School deans and deans of students, program directors and coordinators of the MA programs and faculty; University partners such as the Center for Teaching and Learning, Office of Graduate Affairs, and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs; and our counterparts at peer institutions to address graduate student, post-doc, and alumni needs.

In addition to department specific programming, here is a taste of what is coming up for grads and post-docs this spring:

Career Exploration
Career Exploration Seminars for MAs (Session 1 begins April 6, Session 2 begins in May)
Career Exploration Seminars PhDs and Postdocs (begins April 28) 5 week seminars include self-assessment of skills, interests, and values, methods for crafting a resume and cover letter, and interview preparation. Registration begins March 16- Call 773-702-7040.

Academic Job Market

May 20
Your First Year as a Professor is an annual event that is part of our yearlong Navigating the Academic Job Market Series, and is an opportunity for PhD students to hear more about life as a new faculty member. Topics include balancing research and teaching, how to be a good colleague, and working towards tenure

May/June (TBD)

Academic Networking, is a workshop featuring faculty and advanced doctoral student speakers on the topic of networking at academic conferences and making a good impression on campus visits. Following the presentations, students will participate in general networking exercises in a cocktail reception setting.

Faculty Forum on the Economy and Academic Jobs is a Spring Quarter forum for faculty from across the divisions and Divinity School to address how the current economic climate is affecting the academic job market and to offer advice for students planning on entering the market during the 2009-2010 job cycle.

Diversity in Academe (co-sponsored by Office of Multicultural Student Affairs)

Post-Academic Job Market

March 13
Science Career Forum, a career fair for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the sciences, will also include a panel on Diverse Careers in the Sciences where PhD scientists will talk about their transitions to post-academic paths that took advantage of their graduate training.

April 13
PhDs Careers in Consulting is a panel of PhDs working at McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group.

May 14
Demystifying Post-Academic Careers will feature graduate alumni who have pursued careers outside of academia.

We continue our work with a member of the Employer Development team, Dillan Siegler, in doing targeted outreach to employers on opening new job and internship opportunities to graduate students. We’d also like to encourage graduate students to make use of all CAPS resources, including Career Fairs, industry-specific programming, employer information sessions, one-on-one counseling, and our myriad web resources. If you are looking for answers, why not email? Grad staff members are available for your area of study:
Heather Sevener—Biological and Physical Sciences,
Lesley Lundeen—Humanities and Divinity School,
Johanna Schoss—Social Sciences,

Ideas, suggestions or questions about graduate student programming at CAPS? Post them here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Summer and Full-Time Job Resources from CAPS

If you haven't heard already, the economy is in crisis right now, and that means that more students than ever are thinking about their summer plans and their plans for post-graduation. We're well into internship season right now, but if you're still making plans, or if you're still not sure how to start making plans, we have good news - CAPS is offering a wide range of workshops this spring to help students find opportunities for the summer and beyond.

Here's a snapshot of what's coming up (be sure to check the CAPS calendar for updated dates, times and locations for all of these programs):

March 4, Time TBD, Ida Noyes Hall
Use Your Spring Break to Find a Valuable Summer Experience, Part I: Spring break might be for laying out on the beach. It's also for making connections and finding out more about summer opportunities.
(Part II will be planned for after spring break, to help students turn the connections you make over spring break into an internship.)

April 2, Time TBD, Ida Noyes Hall
Finding Summer Opportunities: No, April is not too late to start looking for a summer internship, research position or other opportunity. Attend this workshop to learn more about places to look for internship postings, preparing your application materials, and landing that position.

April 9, Time TBD, Ida Noyes Hall
CAPS Stimulus Package: Job Searching in a Weak Economy: Yes, the economy is weak. No, this does not mean there are not any jobs available - but the search is more challenging that in year past. Attend this workshop for tips to continue your job search, even when it feels like there aren't any jobs out there.

April 20, Time TBD, Ida Noyes Hall
Recession Job Search Strategies: Where are the jobs? Attend this workshop to learn more about searching for full-time positions when the economy is struggling. The job search is changing, and you need to adapt your skills to find those hidden opportunities.

May 12, Time TBD, Ida Noyes Hall
Finding Summer Opportunities: It's still not too late - in fact, it's never too late to look for a summer opportunity. Attend this workshop to learn more about "just in time" opportunities and conducting an internship search this spring.

May 19, Time TBD, Ida Noyes Hall
For 3rd years: Strategizing for the Full time job Search — What to expect and look for next year. This one is self-explanatory. If you're a third year, and you're planning to look for a full-time job next year, attend this workshop. It's never too early to start planning your job search strategy.

Questions about any of these programs? Contact CAPS at (773) 702 - 7040. Ideas for other workshops or programs we should be offering? Post them here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tips from the "Internship Queen"

Today's post provides some tips, courtesy of the "internship queen" - Lauren Berger was recently profiled by Chicago Public Radio about her internship web page, and why internships are more important than ever.

Here is some of her advice:

1. When applying to internships, it’s important to have all the materials together and prepared. Your resume only needs to be one page long, currently updated and it can’t have nothing on it. A lot of times, the problem with freshmen and sophomores is they have no experience, but they need to know they have had experiences, they just need to look at small experiences–volunteering with their families, high school activities–and pick out the important tasks they have learned.

2. Before interviewing–and even before you apply–go online and find out the company’s mission statement. Find out if it’s something you want to be involved with, and tie that into your answers at your interview: make it clear you understand the company’s mission and you want to help work on the goals the company is trying to achieve.

3. When interviewing, go in there with a sense of passion and excitement for what you’re doing.

Having trouble finding internships to apply for, let alone showing passion and excitement in your interview? Use CAPS resources to find opportunities that interest you - the next Metcalf deadline is this Thursday, February 19. Make sure you're checking the list of opportunities and upcoming deadlines, and applying via Chicago Career Connection. There are also hundreds of other non-Metcalf internship opportunities in Chicago Career Connection right now - log into the "Jobs" tab and search by keyword, location or industry.

Still not finding what you're interested in? Come into CAPS and meet with a staff member to talk about what type of internship your looking for, where you've been applying and where you need some help. You can call (773) 702 - 7040 to schedule an appointment, or come to walk-in hours.

To read the complete article about Ms. Berger and her internship kingdom, click here.

Questions, ideas, frustrations about the internship search? Post them to the CAPS blog here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Job Search Tips for a Tough Economy

A recent article in the New York Times profiled the increasing number of white-collar professionals who are out of work and seeking employment. These are professionals with advanced degrees, and years of work experience in corporate settings, who have faced recent lay-offs and job loss. The CAPS' Blog isn't highlighting these folks to worry you - but some of the techniques that these more experience job seekers are using are also applicable to students who are conducting their first full-time job searches this winter and spring. Here are a few tips from the article:

1. Start Early: it's always been true that the average job search can take up to six months from start to finish. It's not as simple as submitting a few resumes and then waiting for the offers to roll in. This is even more true during these tough economic times. Referring to one of the job search support groups profiled in this article, the NYT states, " of nine members have been out of steady work for six months or longer; the other two are approaching the six-month mark." The bottom line: give yourself enough time to network with alumni and employers and apply for jobs that interest you. If you aren't sure where to start in your search, come into CAPS and develop a strategy with one of our staff members.

2. Keep Track of Your Efforts: The professionals profiles in this article keep serious logs of the number of positions they've applied to, the number of follow-up phone calls they've made and the number of hours they spent searching for positions. You should follow the same model - keep a spreadsheet or a running list of the positions you've applied for and when you submitted your applications. And don't be afraid to follow up, via phone or email. A job search is a lot like taking on another course - you have to put in the time and complete your "homework" day after day.

3. Stay Positive: One of the least desirable qualities that employers look for in a potential employee is a negative attitude. We're not saying it's easy - because we know it's not. When you've applied to position after position and haven't made much progress, it can be hard to continue with your search - but it's also important to focus on what else is going on in your life right now. The article states, "Nevertheless, the group’s sessions are intentionally businesslike and upbeat. Griping and self-pity are discouraged. Meetings begin with members reporting two highlights from their job search — even if they are hard to name — as well as two activities they did besides looking for work." If you can remain upbeat during your search, your positive attitude will shine in interviews and make an impression on potential employers.

4. Ask for Help: This isn't in the NYT article, but it is relevant for University of Chicago students and alumni. Come into CAPS; reach out to your parents' friends; contact alumni who are working in organizations that you're interested in. No man or woman is an island, and the key to a successful job search is talking to as many people as possible and getting your name (and resume) out there. We'll say it again: if you're not sure how to start this process, come into CAPS and meet with a staff member who will help you put together a game plan.

Ready for an appointment with CAPS? Call (773) 702 - 7040 to schedule one.

Comments, ideas, frustrations or suggestions regarding you job search? Post them here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For

Now that the inauguration week is over and it's down to business in Washington, DC the focus for many individuals is back on the economy, and the continued downturn that the country is facing. There's no denying that these are tough economic times - but even in the midst of so much dismal news, there is some good stuff out there. Case in point, Fortune Magazine recently released its list of the 100 top companies to work for. These are 100 companies that are weathering the economic storm, offering great benefits to their employees and growing (or at least holding steady) during these difficult times.

For students, especially those thinking about upcoming graduation and a full-time job search, the list is a great jumping off point when considering which organizations you might be interested in working at. BCG, Goldman Sachs and Google - all companies that come to campus to find interns and full-time staff - are in the top ten. But there are may also be companies on this list that you haven't considered before, and learning more about what got them into the top 100 could influence some of your plans for job applications down the road.

As CAPS staff member Michael Paone advised students this past fall, the key to a successful job search during this time is to think outside the box. And as Michael said, "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."

Use this list of 100 companies to start identifying companies that weren't on your radar screen before. If you're not sure how to contact these companies, or you're not sure where to begin, call CAPS (773 - 702 - 7040) and schedule and appointment to talk about which organizations interest you and how you can reach them.

Questions or comments? Post them here. And if there are companies that aren't on this list - but that you'd really like to see recruiting on campus - post those suggestions here as well.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Questions to Never Ask in an Interview

2009 is underway, and along with the start of winter quarter, the inauguration of a new president and MORE snow, this time of year is also the time when many students are applying for summer internships - and applying for internships means preparing for interviews.

For students who have never interviewed for a position before (and for those who have) internship interviews can be stressful and at times overwhelming. However, CAPS has a wide range of resources to assist students as they prepare for their upcoming interviews, including our interview skills handout, our interview skills webcast and our practice interviewer staff members, who will take you through an interview and then give you feedback on your answers.

In addition to these resources (which are available throughout the year, for both internship AND full-time interviews), this week the CAPS blog takes a look at some of the questions you should never ask when once you make it into the interview room, courtesy of an article from Yahoo's Hot Jobs.

First off, you might be wondering why you would be asking questions in an interview to begin with. After all, isn't an interview a chance for your potential employer to ask you questions? While it's true that in most interviews the employer is doing most of the asking, it's also true that there will almost always be a moment during your interview when you will be asked "So, do you have any questions for me?". When this happens, it's important to have at least two or three questions prepared - these are questions that should demonstrate your knowledge of the organization your interviewing with and your interest in the position. Which is why you shouldn't ask questions like:

"What does your company do?" As Hot Jobs points out, "This was a reasonable interview question in 1950 or in 1980, before the Internet existed. Today, it's your job to research any company you're interviewing with before setting foot in the door. We need to show up for a job interview knowing what the employer does, who its competitors are, and which of its accomplishments (or challenges) have made the news lately."

Also on the list of inquiries to avoid: "When will I be eligible for a raise?" Negotiating a job offer is part of the job search process - but asking about salary during your first interview is generally not the best approach. Instead, as Hot Jobs points out, wait until your second interview, and then "you can ask (at a second interview) 'Does your organization do a conventional one-year performance and salary review?' "

Another tricky area to navigate in the job search process is the idea of upward mobility. Very few people want to take a job that provides zero room for growth or promotion - however, when and how you ask about this can make a big difference in your interview. For example, don't ask "How soon can I transfer to a new position" - as Hot Jobs says, "You're broadcasting 'I'm outta here at the first chance' when you ask this question. If you like the job, take the job. If it's not for you, wait for the right opportunity. Almost every employer will keep you in your seat for at least one year before approving an internal transfer, so a job-search bait-and-switch probably won't work out the way you'd hoped."

For more questions you don't want to ask in a first-round interview, visit this Hot Jobs article.

For more interviewing help from CAPS, call (773) 702 - 7040 to schedule an appointment with one of our practice interviewers or a CAPS staff member.

Questions, feedback or ideas regarding interviewing? Post them here.