By: Gracie Covarrubias, DePaul University organizational and multicultural communication major ’18 and Career Center communications assistant

Since DePaul is a service-focused university that commits over 518,848 hours of community service each year, it’s exciting to hear about students considering post-graduate service either in the U.S. or abroad. While committing a year or two of your life after graduation to service is an exciting step, there are challenges that one may face when reentering the workforce. For example, students who commit to post-graduate service don’t always jump into a career path that directly aligns with that service. Although this can make resume building and elevator pitches more complicated tasks, there are ways to effectively market post-graduate service to employers. We sat down with DePaul University’s Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) associate director and Peace Corps alumni, Leslie Chamberlain, for insight on how to navigate the hiring process as someone who has done post-graduate service.

Just like with any prospective employment opportunity, there is a process attributed with catering your skill sets to the job description. Leslie broke it down simply, “It’s very powerful and meaningful to do post-graduate service, but you want to be able to quantify and qualify that experience. You have to talk about why it was powerful and meaningful.” How exactly do you get to this point? Leslie suggested a three-step solution: self-assessment, research and connection.

Reflection/Self-Assessment

The first step in qualifying and quantifying your new skills requires you take the time to conduct a self-assessment. Strive to identify specific skills that you gained from your post-graduate experience. The key to maximizing these skills is being able to articulate what you learned in employer-friendly terms. Check out our blog post about marketing service experience to employers for a step-by-step guide on how to leverage engaging language when talking about your skills.

Research

Next, you want to conduct research on the company just as you would for any other employment opportunity. Explore the company’s website and start building a case for why you would want to work there. Determine which values and what aspects of their mission and company culture stand out to you the most and why. This would be a perfect time to reach out to your contacts at the company and ask for an informational interview to gain a better understanding of whether or not the employer might be a good fit for you.

Connecting Skills to Opportunities

Based on what you learned from the self-assessment and about the company, begin connecting the dots between the two. When it comes to connecting skills to opportunities, Leslie reminded us, “Employers are turned off by students who cannot articulate why an experience is important to a job they are interviewing for.” Apart from quantifying and qualifying experiences, you should strive to get excited about the ways in which your skills will be an asset to a team—this is where your company research comes into play.

Connecting the dots between existing company issues and your newfound skill sets also exhibits your ability to think critically. The idea here is that you should be able to relate the skills you gained from post-graduate service to how you can solve an employer’s problems.

At the end of the day, successfully leveraging your post-graduate experiences means taking the time to reflect upon yourself, research the company and ultimately connecting the dots between the two. Remember, post-graduate service is a great way to give back and gain incredible experience that could set you apart in the hiring process. Don’t let the challenges discourage you; rather, allow them to excite you! Need more insight on how you can connect the dots? Stop by the Career Center to schedule an appointment with your career advisor.