Following Your Passion May Mean Changing Careers

By: Jade Sobczak, Health Care & Science Career Community Advisor

What are you willing to give up to have the life you keep pretending you want? — Elizabeth Gilbert

At age 24, for the very first time, I was working a full-time job as a medical professional at a world-class hospital utilizing the degrees I had worked hard to earn. I was living in the beautiful city of Chicago, and I had been blessed with an army of incredible family and friends who treated me better than I deserved on most days.

I would wake up in the morning feeling like I had a purpose, which motivated me to utilize every minute of my day. But despite it all, I still found my mind often wandered to a time far in the future, and I couldn’t help but wonder if what I was doing was enough. I would ask myself questions like:

  • What am I doing now to ensure I feel fulfilled later in my life?
  • Am I on track to reaching my greatest potential?
  • Do I give enough of myself to others?

I wondered if I simply hadn’t mastered the ability to stay in one place long enough to grow where I was. I went back and forth with myself trying to resolve this internal struggle, but I couldn’t shake the feeling. There was something terribly off, and I knew it.

It was that gut feeling that led me to consider a career change. 

Today, I’m working in the Career Center at DePaul University as the Health Care and Science Career Community advisor. I have the privilege of working one-on-one with students and alumni interested in the same field I worked in and still love, despite my career transition.

Sometimes when I tell people about my experiences and they find out what I’m doing now, they say things like, “Wow, that’s really different from what you were doing” or “Don’t you feel like you wasted your degree?” The truth is, no education is education wasted.

Don’t let people guilt you into staying the course just because it’s the course you’re already on.

Looking back, I believe there were a lot of factors that contributed to my career change. I was experiencing some serious patient burnout, there were some big components of my job I didn’t love, and I recognize now I had serious lack of energy. I loved my patients, the people I worked with, and the environment I worked in, which made showing up and working long hours every day a little less excruciating.

How did I know it was time?

  1. Negative energy was quickly creeping into every aspect of my life. I had trouble seeing the good in anything, which was out of character for me.
  2. I began making careless mistakes.
  3. I dreaded getting out of bed in the morning. And once I did, I continued to watch the clock all day long.
  4. I began feeling mentally unhealthy and lost my appetite almost entirely.

What did I do about it?

If you’re unhappy in your current major or career, start by giving yourself grace. Then, make ample time to research other options, conduct informational interviews, and continue building your professional network. Don’t forget to talk to people you trust about how you’re feeling! The people closest to you just want you to be happy, so they’ll be supportive… even if it takes them time to come around.

Appreciate where you stand, what you’ve achieved, and all that it’s brought you, but never feel sorry for wanting more or something different. Make the choices that bring you happiness, even if that means choosing to walk away from something that no longer helps you grow.

No matter what your future holds, happiness will forever be enough. I urge you to have the guts to choose it.

 

The Career Center will support you in a variety of ways including helping you explore how your interests, values, skills, and personality fit into different career paths.

Schedule a career advising appointment on Handshake today!

Cover Letters: Media, Communication, Arts & Entertainment

By: Michael Elias, Media, Communication, Arts & Entertainment Career Community Advisor

The idea of customizing a cover letter to each individual position you apply to can feel like a daunting task, particularly if you want to cast a wide net and apply to multiple roles.

For students with an interest in Media, Communication, Arts & Entertainment, cover letter writing can feel especially tedious when, more often than not, a portfolio or demo reel is also required. Your resume highlights your career history, the portfolio/reel provides concrete evidence of your work, and the cover letter can be a space to fill in any relevant gaps that those materials don’t convey.

Advertising, Public Relations, and Digital Marketing

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Professionals in these industries are going to expect some level of creativity in applicant cover letters, even if you’re not applying for copywriting roles. One of the best ways to do this is by grabbing their attention in your opening paragraph, ideally by telling a story. This story might express your enthusiasm for the specific company, highlight relevant skills, and/or emphasize your passion for a relevant cause.

If you’re stuck, review some of the campaigns that firm or agency has developed. Do any of them inspire you? Does your individual writing style match theirs? Are there specific values evident in these campaigns that align with what you want to convey in your work? Any of these can be a strong starting point to tell a relevant story and make a direct connection to the company.

Arts and Arts Administration

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For students seeking opportunities in graphic, photography, and/or studio arts, your creative portfolio will do much of the heavy lifting. Your cover letter, then, can be used to make a case for how your aesthetic sensibility aligns with the studio you’re applying to, and/or what inspires you about the work being done by that particular artist. Behavioral attributes, such as the ability to provide and receive constructive criticism, are worth mentioning as well, particularly if you can provide an example of how you’ve demonstrated these in the past.

If you’re looking to break into arts administration, your task is two-fold.

  1. Make sure you are speaking to relevant attributes outlined in the job description, which may range from advocacy for the arts to building relationships with patrons to event planning to writing funding proposals.
  2. Genuinely and enthusiastically express your passion for the organization you’re applying to. If it’s a children’s museum, talk about your interest in kid-friendly content; if it’s a gallery that specializes in, say, sculpting, describe your passion for the art form. Additional tips and skills for arts cover letters can be found in this post from BalanceCareers.com.

Entertainment and Production

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The entertainment industry can be broadly defined as anything from film/television to music to sports to digital programming. Whether your interests lie in working with a film festival or a music label, you’ll want to spend some time talking about your passion for the projects being produced by these organizations. If there’s an opening with the Chicago Underground Film Festival, express your passion for experimental cinema. If a music label specializes in punk rock, don’t waste time discussing your interest in other genres like country or opera; be sure you’re relating to their unique specialization.

For production roles, the good news is that you can generally keep these short and sweet. Unless you’re applying for a full-time position, many production jobs are going to be temporary or contract-based, and the people who hire for them generally need talent ASAP. After (briefly) summarizing your skills and expertise, use the cover letter to explicitly outline your dates of availability and other practical requirements, such as access to a car, relevant film equipment, etc. These are competitive positions, but a strong demo reel won’t compensate for your inability to arrive on set at the drop of a hat.

Journalism and Publishing

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For many journalism students, strong writing and the ability to tell a story will come naturally and serve them well in cover letter writing. What you don’t want to do is get too long-winded, which can be a challenge when you’ve been trained to write in a particular way. While hiring managers will definitely want to assess your written communication skills, let your writing samples do the heavy lifting here; keep the cover letter short and to the point. For broadcast students, it’s important to demonstrate that you are a visual storyteller and the various platforms you have experience with. Your reels will communicate many of the skills employers are looking for here, but if your samples only emphasize one broadcast medium (e.g. podcasts), use the cover letter to talk about other relevant production skills (e.g. videos, blogs) and other relevant media you may have experience with.

If your interest is in the publishing industry, you’ll find that many of the same tips for arts administration professionals apply here. Specifically, roles in the publishing field may include editing and writing, but also span everything from sales to marketing to legal to accounting. Make sure that you’re highlighting experiences that are directly related to that individual position. If you have a particular passion for the output of the company (be it a publishing house, literary journal, trade publication, etc.), be sure to talk about this, as well.

Conclusion

The above strategies provide insight into industry-specific cover letter tips, but it’s important to be aware of the appropriate structure and format needed for these documents. If you’re writing your first cover letter (or just need a refresher), this online guide provides a great template. Afterward, stop by the Career Center to take advantage of our drop-in resume and cover letter advising service; we’ll help you to become more prepared and confident to take the next step in the application process.

6 Non-Tech Roles at Most Tech Startups

By: Lorne Bobren, Technology & Design Career Community Advisor

A recent study by Glassdoor found that nearly half of all job openings at tech companies are for non-technical roles. So, if you are craving that startup environment but don’t know Python from PHP, that’s ok!

In looking at the job functions listed below, be aware that there is often crossover between different roles. For example, sometimes the title of Project Manager is used interchangeably with that of a Product Manager. Use these categories as broad entry points that will help you get started.

Business Development

Do you consider yourself a people person? There will always be a strong need for sales and business development in the startup community. This could mean brokering a deal with another business to make your company’s product more widely available or pursuing leads to connect with new clients.

  • Business development could encompass both inside sales (phone and email communication), along with outside sales (face-to-face meetings and networking)
  • A good salesperson doesn’t need to know how the product works, but they should know the product thoroughly in order to answer questions and alleviate potential concerns from a new client.

If you can build trust and personal relationships through your interactions, you’re well on your way to being successful in business development.

Product Management

A product manager is often in charge of designing the overall look of a product. Typical duties include:

  • Wireframing to mockup a product’s appearance,
  • Designing user flows or journey maps to show how an end user may move through a service or site
  • Communicating with engineers and designers to create updates
  • Collaborating with marketing to determine the best way to introduce a new product or updates to a customer

While a product manager won’t be the one doing the coding, they should be tech-savvy enough to understand the limitations and possibilities of what the software development team can do. 

Project Management

The project manager ensures accurate planning and forecasting throughout a product life cycle. They oversee the project to make certain that it comes in on time and on budget. They often act as a buffer between company executives and the development team. A good project manager knows how to oversee and communicate with multidisciplinary teams, manage resources, has excellent negotiation skills, and is proficient at strategic planning.

Customer Support/Account Management

Once new customers have been acquired, they are usually handed off to the customer support or account management team. Working in customer support means making sure that the client stays a client.

  • A good account manager (or customer support specialist, user evangelist, customer advocate, etc.) will frequently touch base with clients to ensure they are satisfied with their experience.
  • The account manager may also be involved in product training, troubleshooting, dealing with policy issues and collecting feedback.

Customer support staff play an integral role in improving a company’s product because they are the most in tune with customer needs, wants and concerns. They should also be intimately familiar with the product so that they can easily relay any information or help the customer is seeking.

Community Management

A community manager’s duties may vary by organization but their primary role is to help customers feel appreciated and connected to the product, the company, and each other. As the name implies, this person is responsible for growing and cultivating an organization’s community. This can be done via managing social media, creating blog content, organizing events, and motivating users to give feedback.

In a small company, both community management and customer support may be run by the same person.

Marketing and Public Relations

Marketing and PR overlap heavily, and they may be in the same department depending on the size of the company. Since a marketing budget in a startup will be much smaller than at a large firm, you’ll need to be strategic and creative. An expert marketer is also a strong writer who can put together engrossing and succinct ad copy. What’s key here is the ability to break down complicated ideas and technical jargon in ways that are easily digestible for your target audience. Marketing departments can help articulate essential questions for a tech firm: Who is your target audience? How does the product or service help them? Are they even aware they need it?

 

The Career Center will support you in a variety of ways including connecting you with employers through networking events and job fairs as well as providing individual career advising. Many students visit us for mock interview practice, feedback on resume and cover letter writing, and to ask questions about navigating the job search process. We can also help you explore how your interests, values, skills, and personality fit into different careers.

Schedule a career advising appointment on Handshake today!

Self-Care for Your Job Search

By: Jen Fleming, Education, Nonprofit & Government Career Community Advisor

The job search can be stressful. The transition process and vulnerability can bring out anxiety. Here are 5 tips for practicing self-care during the job search to ensure you don’t burn out.

1. Find a Mentor

You will have a lot of decisions to make! Mentors can help you pinpoint job opportunities and evaluate offers. They may point out things that are not even on your radar (e.g. one job offer includes great health care coverage but your other offer pays a slightly higher salary with no health coverage). Mentors can also assist with career advice and share industry specific information regarding trends or potential interview questions to impress a hiring manager. Don’t have a mentor yet? The ASK Network is a great place to find one!

2. Have Fun

Make sure you’re having fun with the experience! An upbeat attitude will help hiring managers notice your talents, passion, and drive. Get involved in volunteering or attending professional development events related to your career interests. Not only is it a great way to meet people and network within your industry but it also gives you unique topics to discuss in an interview.

3. Limit Your Time Spent Applying

Rather than spending hours on end applying to every single job you can, be strategic. Consider the types of roles you’re most interested in and qualified for and keep your focus there. The best piece of advice I ever received about the job search was a mentor telling me to limit it to 2 hours a day. This advice gave me permission to focus on other aspects of my life and stop feeling guilty about taking breaks from my search. Too much time spent on the job search can quickly lead to burn out and frustration. Set goals and boundaries on how much time you’ll focus on your job search each day.

4. Be Intentional

Self-care looks different for everyone but, it should be something that rejuvenates you (for some people it may be reading a book, listening to music, walking your dog, getting dinner with friends etc.). It’s truly individual; take some time to think about healthy self-care strategies you may already do but haven’t necessarily identified as such. If you don’t think you have any, start a list of things to try and keep track of your feelings after doing each. Choose something that you enjoy and gives you energy to keep moving forward.

5. Celebrate the Good

There will be ups and downs. Doing self-reflection after each experience can help you keep track of what you’re doing well and identify areas for improvement. Make sure to celebrate each of your wins – big and small. Maybe you made it to a final round interview and did your absolute best but didn’t end up getting the offer—celebrate your accomplishments, learn from whatever you can, and keep going!

 

The Career Center will support you in a variety of ways including connecting you with employers through networking events and job fairs as well as providing individual career advising. Many students visit us for mock interview practice, feedback on resume and cover letter writing, and to ask questions about navigating the job search process. We can also help you explore how your interests, values, skills, and personality fit into different careers.

Schedule a career advising appointment on Handshake today!

Harnessing the Power of an Internship

By: Jade Sobczak, Health Care & Science Career Community Advisor

An internship is the perfect opportunity to learn valuable skills and to begin building a vast professional network.

As many of you continue to search for, and even score, the perfect summer opportunities, you’re coming into the Career Center looking for advice. The advice you’re seeking varies, but the sentiment is the same: you want to know the secret to standing out.

The bad news is that there is no secret. The good news is that while each internship is completely unique, there is always one common factor – you. And you have the ability to control so much of your experience.

So while there isn’t a one-size-fits-all piece of advice, start by showing up and by being true to yourself. Remember, a positive attitude goes a long way.

And while you’re at it…

  • Take some risks, and if you’re gutsy enough, take plenty of them.
  • Seek a balance between hustle and rest and strive to be compassionate about both.
  • Stay in touch once it’s all said and done.
  • Think of failure as a positive thing. Learn from your mistakes and fail smarter next time.
  • Do work that you love and nudge those around you to do the same.
  • Be persistent in your search!
  • Keep in mind that sometimes done is better than perfect.
  • Break out of your comfort zone and try something that seems a little scary every day.

You only get as much out of your experiences as you put into them, so learn something from everyone around you, and be devoted to your work… ultimately, your success depends on it.

Good luck!


Internship Resources

  • Get your application materials ready by making an appointment with a career community advisor or stopping by our offices (LPC/Loop) for walk-in resume reviews with peer career advisors – no appointment necessary!
  • The Internship Plu$ Program provides $1,200 in financial assistance to eligible undergraduate students working in a quarter-long, unpaid internship while enrolled in a UIP or departmental internship course.
  • UIP’s practical 4-credit courses can help you make the most of your internship experience and fulfill DePaul’s Experiential Learning graduation requirement.
  • There are thousands of internship opportunities for DePaul students and alumni posted on DePaul’s Handshake platform. Check back regularly – new opportunities are posted every day!

“What Are You Doing With Your Life?” 5 Ways to Answer When You’re Not Sure

Spring Break is right around the corner! If your plans include seeing your family, chances are they’ll ask what you plan to do after graduation. When you’re not quite sure or are still weighing options, this can be a stressful question to answer.

Taking time to explore is actually a really smart approach to planning your future! Consider the following strategies for helping family see the value of active career exploration:

1. Explain the value of self-assessment: Knowing your values, interests, and personality will help you evaluate your fit with potential career paths (as well as sell yourself to potential employers down the road). Share the results of your career assessments with your family. Haven’t taken one yet? You can access several assessments via FOCUS2 online to get you started!

2. Explore together: Log on to the ASK Network and browse the platform with your family. As you read the career profiles of our volunteer alumni mentors, discuss what seems interesting and not so interesting about the paths they’ve taken. Make a plan to follow up with the mentors that intrigue you the most.

3. Ask about their exploration: Have an impromptu informational interview by asking friends and family to share their own career path. How did they end up where they are and what other options did they consider or try along the way?

4. Shift the conversation to skills: Family may be surprised to learn that 9 of the top 10 attributes sought by employers are transferable skills like communication, problem solving, and the ability to work as part of a team. These are things that are woven throughout the undergraduate experience regardless of your major. By building these skills you’re preparing yourself for success across industries.

5. Let them see your progress: Sometimes your family just wants to know that you’re setting yourself up for success. By letting them know that you’re tapping into the resources here at DePaul, you’ll help them gain insight into your approach to exploration. Tell them about your recent appointment with an exploration advisor. If you haven’t done this yet, make an appointment with us today!

Happy Exploring!

Hilarie Longnecker & Ed Childs
Exploration Career Community Advisors