Turn Your Part-Time Job into an Internship & Fulfill Your Experiential Learning Credit

By: Laura Droste, Liberal Arts & Social Sciences career advisor

Did you know it was possible to turn an existing part-time job into an internship? Many students I meet have paid part-time jobs that can be hard to give up in order to intern somewhere else. There are only so many hours in the day. This is why it is important to know how to ‘upgrade’ your part-time job into an internship experience.

Here are some recent examples:

Position: Expeditor at casual dining restaurant

Original Duties: Work in the kitchen to ensure orders are cooked in a timely fashion; work with servers to confirm food was delivered to customers’ tables.

Internship Upgrade: In addition to working as an expeditor, the student committed 10 hours per week for 10 weeks to the following responsibilities:

  • Assisted managers with bi-weekly inventory counts
  • Trained a new employee
  • Helped transition the restaurant to new software system by learning how to use the program and attending webinars to learn how to teach staff to use it

Position: Floor Associate at retail store

Original Duties: Greet customers entering store, clean and organize merchandise on floor and work at the register.

Internship Upgrade: In addition to regular store duties, the student committed 10 hours per week for 10 weeks to the following responsibilities:

  • Assisted in the hiring process of a new employee by participating in interviews
  • Trained new hire
  • Assisted managers with staff scheduling
  • Shadowed conference calls with direct managers and other store managers to learn about business metrics and plans
  • Compiled business reports for store manager by first learning how to read and articulate reports

Sound great? Here are the University Internship Program (UIP) standards that must be met when upgrading your part-time job:

  • Allow you to explore career development issues and interests
  • Open up opportunities for you to enhance analytical, technical and interpersonal skills
  • Cannot entail more than 25% clerical work
  • Involve substantial interaction with professional staff
  • Be supervised or mentored by a paid professional within the organization
  • Require a minimum of 10 hours per week and a minimum of 100 hours total work experience
  • Require at least 10 consecutive weeks of work, or same amount of weeks as the term of enrollment (e.g. Winter intersession term is only three weeks long)

Enrolling in a UIP course while you intern will allow you to fulfill your experiential learning requirement. This is why it is important for your upgraded part-time job responsibilities to meet the above standards. While this is an opportunity to make the most of an existing part-time job, also keep in mind that internships are helpful when exploring career options and critical when building experience for the career path you want to pursue. Whether you create an internship opportunity from an existing job or apply to a new company/organization, always be working towards your career goals.

Spark Career Ideas: What Did You Love to Do as a Child?

Students I meet, who are undecided on a career path, often don’t know where to start. Trying to come up with what you want to do for the rest of your life is certainly a daunting task! Moreover, when you hear about someone’s career success that you admire, doesn’t it just seem to make sense? How did they get to that point and how can you get there too?

There are four key areas to think about when envisioning your future career: how will the career path you choose encompass your (1) interests, (2) values, (3) skills, and (4) personality traits. Focus on using your childhood as a starting point when brainstorming career options with these key areas in mind.

I recently attended an event at Chicago Ideas Week where David Korins (award-winning production designer from Broadway’s Hamilton) and Zac Posen (well-known fashion designer) spoke. I heard a theme arise as the two discussed their career beginnings. David mentioned that, as a child, he loved to rearrange the furniture in his bedroom over and over again. Flash-forward to school, he had his mind made up on being an actor. After dealing with rejection from auditions, he decided to try his hand at building sets. This was his “ah-ha moment” when he discovered his passion for set design, connecting it back to rearranging furniture as a child. Zac stressed that you should let children play and experiment because in that playtime, passions can be found. Zac’s father is an artist and encouraged him to explore. Zac found his love of design while making doll dresses out of his grandparents’ yarmulkes and scraps of material in the trash. This was the very beginning of what inspired his career as a fashion designer.

After hearing both designers talk about how their career aspirations were cultivated when they were young, it got me thinking about other examples. My brother, for instance, loved Legos and any toy where he could build something mechanical. Now he is an engineer where he creates and tests jet engines. My friend Holly explained that she knew she wanted to be a counselor because she enjoyed being a listening ear to her friends growing up.

After reading this, spend some time reflecting on what brought you joy as a child. It could bring you closer to your “ah-ha moment.”

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Interests: How did you spend your time as a child? Did you have any hobbies or favorite school subjects? The way we choose to spend our time as a child can uncover interests that have not been encouraged in awhile due to school and work responsibilities.
  • Skills: What were some of the skills that came easier to you in school? Did you participate in any activities outside of school where you developed other skills? Strengths are revealed earlier in life since strengths come more naturally.
  • Values: Did you enjoy being competitive playing sports? Did you volunteer because you value contributing to society? Thinking about the activities you chose to participate in can help you connect to the values that are important to you.
  • Personality Traits: Did you enjoy hanging out with a large group of friends or prefer one-on-one? Did you structure your time to do homework early and then play, or did you prefer to play first and then do homework at the last minute? Personality traits might be tougher to reflect on, but the Career Center offers the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment to help you identify your personality preferences. Since your personality traits do not change from when you are a child, understanding your innate preferences now can help you narrow in on a satisfying career path.

Is applying to graduate school right now right for me?

So many students I meet in my career advising appointments tell me they know they want to pursue a graduate degree. It is a life goal to continue their higher education, which I really relate to since I felt the same way after graduating with my bachelor’s degree. Now on the other side of my master’s degree and as a Career Advisor, I have some tips to help you decide if pursuing an advanced degree directly after graduation is the right plan for you, or if you should consider a gap year or working a few years before applying. Like all career decisions, spending time to reflecting on your reasoning will help you to be the most strategic in your graduate school choice.

Are you uncertain about your career path or do you know exactly what you want to do?

Reflecting on your ‘why’ for going to graduate school is critical. Sometimes people will go to graduate school because they have no idea what career they want to pursue. This is a red flag because graduate school is not only a large investment of time and money, but graduate programs are also very specialized. Graduate education is different from your undergraduate education, which can be applied in a variety of career settings. For instance, graduate programs run the spectrum of being professional (ex. Master of Business Administration, M.B.A.) to being more scholarly (Doctor of Philosophy, Ph.D.). Without knowing how you want to apply the knowledge you’re learning, a graduate school program could end up not preparing you for what you ultimately decide is next. By having an idea of the career you want to pursue, you are more informed when researching different graduate school programs and can narrow in on the best fit for your academic focus, professional goals, and culture preferences.

How will graduate school enhance your skillset?

You will have the skills you need to enter the workforce when you graduate with your bachelor’s degree (and yes that includes all colleges and majors). However, some career paths require an advanced degree from the start in order to be qualified for a particular position or role. It’s important to ask yourself if it is absolutely necessary to pursue a graduate degree right now, or if you have the option to wait.

Does graduate school give you room to advance now?

If you are considering applying to graduate school, ask yourself if attending directly after receiving your bachelor’s degree will increase your opportunity for immediate advancement in your career. Sometimes working before going to graduate school can positively impact your experience as a student down the road. For example, gaining practical work experience after receiving your bachelor’s degree can enhance your graduate degree by allowing you to contribute your experiences to classroom discussions as well as applying what you observed in the workplace to what you’re learning in your program. Furthermore, some companies and organizations offer graduate school tuition benefits to employees which means waiting could also mean saving money on that degree.

Do you meet all of the requirements yet?

Graduate school applications can require prerequisite courses and/or standardized test scores. Additionally, some graduate school programs recommend a few years of work experience before applying. These requirements will factor into your timeline for applying to graduate school. Planning ahead while pursuing your bachelor’s degree can allow you to be ready to apply right away in your senior year. However, if you end up needing more time to study for an exam or take an additional class a gap year could be beneficial. Taking a gap year(s) can allow you to travel, volunteer, or work, while also gathering your application materials and meeting the requirements in order to apply for graduate school. These experiences gained in gap year(s) can also make your application more competitive. Having a clear understanding of the requirements and what makes a competitive application will help you make a choice on timing for graduate school.

How do you plan to finance graduate school?

While attending graduate school allows you to defer undergraduate loans, this should not be a reason to go to graduate school since those loans (and likely more loans) will be awaiting you when you graduate. Understanding how you can finance your life as a graduate student as well as having a plan for how you will pay back student debt can help inform your decision of when to attend graduate school. Additionally, considering programs with a +1 year could be financially beneficial as well as utilizing the ‘Double Demon Discount’ for your graduate education. Furthermore, many programs offer ways to help pay for graduate school through graduate assistant or teaching assistant positions, or by doing research. So there are a lot of factors to consider with finances, which is why I’m going to give a shout out to my friends at DePaul Central, especially the Financial Fitness program. This program offers students one-on-one confidential financial counseling. To request an appointment, email FinancialFitness@depaul.edu or call (312) 362-6482.

All in all, there are many factors to consider when choosing to go to graduate school, but please do not let that discourage you! As you know, your Career Advisor is here to support you through this decision and to help you consider all your options.

Two Life Lessons From a Career Changer (& Your New LAS Advisor)

Hello from your new Liberal Arts & Social Sciences career advisor! I want to share a bit of my personal background, so you can understand why I’m so passionate about career exploration and using college as a time to learn about yourself.

As a freshman in college, I chose a business major because I thought that was a responsible choice. My mom had a heavy influence in this decision, as she told me I needed to choose a major that would lead to a job. Now, I know she said this with my best interest at heart, but it definitely impacted my major and career decisions. Truth be told, I ended up disliking about 75 percent of my classes—and to this day, I’m still paying off my student loans for those classes. I chose a concentration in marketing because that seemed like the most creative career option, and those classes were among the ones I found most interesting. While I learned valuable skills and met a few good friends in my business classes, I can’t help but wonder—what if I had chosen differently? What if I had followed my interests and the subjects I enjoyed most in high school when choosing my major?

At that time, my college major equaled my career—a statement I now know does not have to be true. In fact, in most cases, it is not true. I had a couple of marketing internships during my junior and senior years, but ended up getting my first job out of college at an advertising agency. I dedicated my career to advertising for nearly 10 years while also trying to find myself by moving around to different companies and roles within the industry.

Life Lesson #1: Employers really do want to hire Liberal Arts & Social Sciences majors.

This brings me to my first life lesson I want to share with you. The last place I worked before deciding to change careers was at a large media communications agency headquartered in Chicago. As a way of exploring different roles within the agency, I joined the campus recruiting leadership team. Through this role, I worked with the human resources department to train employees on how to staff college job fairs and give presentations in undergraduate classrooms. When describing the type of student HR was trying to recruit for entry-level positions, they told me they were looking for a variety of different majors and not necessarily just advertising, communications or marketing. In fact, HR specifically shared with me that they wanted to target liberal arts majors.

My former employer sought to hire graduates with analytical, problem-solving and communication (i.e. “transferable”) skills and found over the years that entry-level professionals with expertise in the humanities or social sciences are “the icing on the cake.” Advertising, much like many other industries, is all about understanding human thought and behavior along with bringing critical thought and creativity to assignments. Now, the “college major does not equal career path” message is nothing new, but I wanted to share my experience with you in hopes of reinforcing this message. I would even dare to say that liberal arts and social sciences majors have a competitive edge, as they are not only learning those transferable skills, but they have subject-matter expertise that employers truly desire.

Life Lesson #2: Career exploration takes time, but it’s so worth it.

OK, onto the second life lesson. As I moved from company to company and role to role, I reflected on why I continued to feel unsatisfied in my work. I decided to take an assessment to learn more about my unique strengths and I read articles on exploring career paths. Then, I brainstormed career options within and outside of advertising where I could use these strengths to grow as a professional and as a person. This is when I had the idea of working with college students. I knew I enjoyed managing recent graduates as a supervisor and being a mentor to students—it made sense. I talked to my friends about my career ideas and they helped connect me to people working at universities around the city. The next thing I knew, I was meeting with professionals to learn about the in’s and out’s of their jobs, while continuing to personally reflect on everything I was learning along the way. This career exploration took time, but it got me even more excited about my future. So, my second life lesson is that career exploration and the decision-making process takes time and patience; you need to give yourself time to reflect on what’s a good fit for you. It took me over two years to decide I wanted to pursue higher education and career counseling, but in the end, it was all worth it. Your happiness and fulfillment is worth discovering; put in the time and effort to learn about yourself and explore your post-graduation options. With all of the resources and support at your fingertips as a student, there is no better time than now.

I feel very fortunate to be here at DePaul as one of your Liberal Arts & Social Sciences career advisors. I’m here to provide space for meaningful conversations around your ideas, thoughts, concerns, and fears for what comes after graduation. Oh yeah, as well as provide internship and job search strategies, resume and cover letter reviews, and all that other good stuff. Feel free to make an appointment directly through Handshake, and remember it’s never too early to start!