Considering Grad School? 3 Time-Sensitive Factors to Keep in Mind

It’s the time of year when seniors—and some proactive juniors—begin thinking about the next steps after graduation. For some, this could be transitioning directly into a career. For others, it’s exploring the possibility of graduate school, either to hone in on a particular area of study, or to switch gears and try something completely different.

There are a lot of factors that go into researching potential graduate programs, such as the number of years required to complete further schooling, the financial responsibilities, the career outcomes of individual programs, and so on. With that said, there are three specific and time-sensitive factors that everyone should get clarification on right away.

1. Admission Deadlines

This may sound like common sense, but this will vary from program to program. Some masters programs will have rolling admission, which means they accept students year-round every semester or quarter. This is an ideal scenario, as it gives you flexibility as to when and how quickly you need to gather your application materials. However, some programs may only accept students once a year, in which case you want to make sure you’re ahead of the game; if you miss the deadline, chances are the program won’t consider you until the following year, at which time you might not be able to consider further schooling.

If you’re looking at multiple programs—and it’s recommended that you do—be sure to jot down the admission deadline for each institution. If it’s unclear on a university website, contact the Admissions Coordinator for further clarification.

2. Testing

The most common exam that people will need to complete for graduate school is the GRE. The good news is that some masters programs will not require a GRE (woohoo!). If they do, though, you want to make sure you give yourself enough time to not only take the test, but factor in any preparatory time you need before the exam. Similarly, you may want to factor in time to retake the exam if you’re looking to obtain a higher score before the application deadline.

For students interested in specialized advanced degrees, you will want to do some research to ensure you take the correct exam for that program. Whether you’re considering law school (LSAT), medical school (MCAT), an MBA program (GMAT), etc., the same rules apply: give yourself plenty of time to prep, take, and (if necessary) retake the exam before the application deadline date.

3. Work Experience

While this is becoming less common, it’s possible that some masters programs will require that applicants have at least 1-2 years of professional work experience prior to entering the program. For some, this could be experience in any field, while others will be seeking applicants who have been working in the field of their intended program. Either way, this is a requirement to take into consideration early, so that you can begin to map out post-undergraduate career plans that will be an ideal fit for your long-term academic goals.

Other Considerations

Beyond the time-sensitive requirements noted above, it’s important to review each admission requirement very carefully. Some items, such as a personal statement, can be created on your own time, while others, such as letters of recommendation, will depend on how quickly you can reach out to and receive a response from a potential reference.

Ultimately, it helps to meet with a career community advisor first to determine whether graduate school is right for you, and what programs would be the best fit given your professional and academic interests. By knocking out this first step, you’ll be ahead of the game and more prepared for any and all graduate admission requirements.

3 Ways the Career Center Can Help in The New School Year

The start of a new school year can bring about a lot of change. After several months off we’re getting accustomed to new courses, a shift in the weather, and all-things pumpkin spice. It can take some time to regain one’s footing, but when it comes to career advice at DePaul, we can help right off the bat.

One significant way that the Career Center can help is through our advising model, which offers five industry-specific communities across the following areas:

  • Business, Entrepreneurship & Consulting
  • Education, Non-Profit & Government
  • Health Care & Science
  • Media, Communication, Arts & Entertainment
  • Technology & Design.
  • There’s also a sixth community, Career Exploration, that’s ideal for anyone looking to dive into their unique skills, interests, and values as they pertain to the world of work.

This advising model is flexible and can be tailored to your goals; you can stick with one community or opt in to as many as you are interested in. Each community has a designated career advisor you can meet with to learn more about yourself, explore career options, and explore how to gain experience.

If you think you might want to visit with a career advisor, but are unsure of how we can help, here are a few ideas based on your current student status.

Career Exploration

One of the most common ways that career advisors help students at DePaul is with career exploration. This can be done in a variety of ways, and your first step might be to meet with an advisor in the Career Exploration community. For students who are still exploring their major and career interests, we offer free career assessments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Strong Interest Inventory, which can serve as a helpful guide in finding career paths based on personality preferences and interests. Some students have a clear idea of what type of job they want after graduation, and so we work backwards to determine which types of internship opportunities, majors, and/or minors would help students reach that particular goal. Whatever your concerns might be regarding career paths and opportunities, we can help bring your options into greater focus. It also helps to meet consistently with your academic advisor to make sure you’re on track to graduate, and to see if you can fit in a double major or minor that might aid in reaching your post-grad career goals.

Gaining Experience

A common thread among returning sophomores, juniors and senior tends to be an interest in internships. This is the perfect time to begin pursuing these opportunities, as you will already have a few classes under your belt and can begin exploring a particular career path in a hands-on way. If you take on an internship and love what you’re doing, we can help you identify similar opportunities down the road; if you have the opposite experience, we can work with you to identify what might be a better fit and help you to pursue those options.

For many students, applying to an internship—whether it’s your first, second, or sixth—can be a daunting task; career community advisors offer insight on how to tackle this process with greater confidence and share employer insights specific to your career community.

Applying to Post-Grad Opportunities

Graduating seniors most often seek out career advising to gain greater clarity around applying to post-grad jobs. Given that each industry has a different hiring season—some industries, like accounting, make their full-time hires much earlier in the year than other fields—it’s a good idea to meet with a career community advisor early in the year to develop a plan of attack for the application process. This plan may include an internship, identifying networking contacts, or diving right into the full-time search.

Keep in mind that the above suggestions are just a few ideas for visiting with us. Some of you may have questions about pursuing graduate school, teaching abroad, and/or volunteer opportunities—we can help with that! Similarly, you might find that you have slightly different needs than those outlined above; maybe you’re a freshman ready to dive into your first internship, or a senior who wants to explore career paths. The good news is that we can help you with every step of the process, and wherever you’re at in the process. Classes and the weather may change, but strong, student-focused support from the Career Center will always be our top priority.

What Do Employers Want to See When They Ask for Writing Samples?

Regardless of industry and experience level, every job or internship application will require that job seekers submit a resume and, in most cases, a cover letter. Depending on the role, though, you may be asked to provide additional materials to paint a fuller picture of your professional and academic strengths. These materials can range from a copy of your transcripts to a digital portfolio. However, the one question I get most often from students is what to submit when an employer asks for a writing sample. Some job descriptions may indicate specific details about what they’re looking for; e.g. A two-page academic paper that highlights your research skills. Others, however, are not always as clear, which can make it difficult to determine what will stand out to the hiring manager.

Based on employer feedback, the best way to think about which samples might be relevant are to consider the options below.

Option 1: A Writing Sample from Work

This option is ideal for applicants who have previously worked in a job or internship and can provide a writing sample that’s industry-specific. For creative writing and/or journalism majors, you might want to submit any piece of yours that has been published. (The DePaulia would count!) For most majors, these can vary from formal reports you may have written to professional email communication with clients, supervisors, and/or customers. The strength of these samples is that they show hiring managers that you have successfully demonstrated writing skills in a professional context. With work samples, you just want to make sure you have permission from your supervisor to include it with your application materials, and of course, triple-check that it’s free of spelling and grammatical errors.

Option 2: A Major-Specific Writing Sample

If you haven’t had the opportunity to produce writing samples on the job, the next option would be writing samples that are specific to your major and/or intended industry. For example, a public relations professional will be required to write press releases on the job, which is a specific style of writing; if a public relations major has written a sample press release for a professor this would be an ideal writing sample to share with employers. For a history major seeking a research position, you might showcase paper that highlights how you integrated primary and secondary research to prove a point. An English major might submit a literary analysis of positions in the publishing industry. Most students applying to internships will fall into this category, and if you’re unsure about what employers in your industry might be looking for in a writing sample, shoot an email to your career advisor and we can offer additional insight.

Option 3: A School Paper

If Options 1 and 2 aren’t feasible, then think back to any class you may have taken in college that required you to write a paper (or several), specifically those in which you received an A from a professor.

The main thing to consider here is length. You may think that your strongest writing sample is a 10-page paper you wrote for ENG 104, but most employers will not take the time to read a sample that is longer than 1 or 2 pages. In these cases, it’s best to submit an excerpt from a longer paper or to direct employers to a specific point in the paper. You could frame the piece by saying, “While this is a longer paper, pages 5-6 highlight my persuasive writing skills, which are most pertinent to this internship.” For any sample you submit, it’s always a good idea to write a sentence or two at the top of the page that clarifies what the sample is, why you wrote it, and what skills are on display within it.

Additional Considerations

If you come across an application that asks for a writing sample, it is okay to reach out to hiring managers and ask for additional clarification about what they might want to see in one. If a contact isn’t listed, reach out to us in the Career Center for additional guidance, and your career advisor can offer suggestions for what might be more relevant given the position. We can offer support to help make applying for jobs and internships as smooth as possible.

3 Ways Your Career Advisor Can Help In the New School Year

The start of a new school year can bring about a lot of change. After several months off we’re getting accustomed to new courses, a shift in the weather, and all-things pumpkin spice. It can take some time to regain one’s footing, but when it comes to career advice at DePaul, we can help right off the bat.

Every student has a designated career advisor at DePaul based on your major—including those who are currently undecided and exploring. This allows us to not only answer general career questions, but also offer a deeper dive into your post-graduate career plans.

If you think you might want to visit with a career advisor, but are unsure of how we can help, here are a few ideas based on your current student status.

Freshmen: Career Exploration

One of the most common ways that career advisors help first-year students at DePaul is with career exploration. This can be done in a variety of ways. For students who are still exploring their major and career interests, we offer free career assessments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Strong Interest Inventory, which can serve as a helpful guide in finding career paths based on personality preferences and interests. Some students have a clear idea of what type of job they want after graduation, and so we work backwards to determine which types of internship opportunities, majors, and/or minors would help students reach that particular goal. Whatever your concerns might be regarding career paths and opportunities, we can help bring your options into greater focus. It also helps to meet consistently with your academic advisor to make sure you’re on track to graduate, and to see if you can fit in a double major or minor that might aid in reaching your post-grad career goals.

Sophomores and Juniors: Gaining Experience

While every sophomore and junior who comes to the Career Center will have a different set of needs, one common thread tends to be an interest in internships. This is the perfect time to begin pursuing these opportunities, as you will already have a few classes under your belt and can begin exploring a particular career path in a hands-on way. If you take on an internship and love what you’re doing, we can help you identify similar opportunities down the road; if you have the opposite reaction, we can work with you to identify what might be a better fit and help you to pursue those options. For many students, applying to an internship—whether it’s your first, second, or sixth—can be a daunting task; your career advisor can help to lighten the load by offering insight on how to tackle this process with greater confidence.

Seniors: Applying to Jobs

Graduating seniors most often seek out career advising to gain greater clarity around applying to full-time jobs. Given that each industry has a different hiring season—some industries, like accounting, make their full-time hires much earlier in the year than other fields—it’s a good idea to meet with a career advisor early in the year to develop a plan of attack for the application process. This plan may include an internship, identifying networking contacts, or diving right into the full-time search. Ultimately, the process itself will vary from student to student, but meeting with your career advisor sooner rather than later can ensure that you are ahead of the game regardless of your post-grad career goals.

Keep in mind that the above suggestions are just a few ideas for visiting with us. Some of you may have questions about pursuing graduate school, teaching abroad, and/or volunteer opportunities—we can hep with that! Similarly, you might find that you have slightly different needs than those outlined above; maybe you’re a freshman ready to dive into your first internship, or a senior who wants to explore career paths. The good news is that we can help you with every step of the process, and where ever you’re at in the process. Classes and the weather may change, but strong, student-focused support from the Career Center will always be our top priority.

3 Ways Storytelling Can Enhance Your Interview

Whenever we meet someone new, we’re actively engaged in storytelling. We start by introducing ourselves and, depending on whom we’re meeting, cater our story to that particular audience. This can become tricky when we’re engaging with potential employers; what should we include in our stories, and what types of stories do employers want to hear?

Storytelling in interviews doesn’t simply mean providing a storybook narrative for all of your answers. Employers are looking for specific types of stories, and these can vary depending on the type of question being asked. Below we’ve identified three specific ways in which storytelling can enhance your interview, while highlighting the specific ways employers prefer these stories to be told.

Resume Questions

When an employer brings you in for an interview, it means you’ve submitted a strong resume. Since a resume is often what gets you through the door, the employer will most definitely have questions about the content in the document. Therefore, it’s essential that you can tell a story about everything on your resume, including those volunteer and extracurricular experiences you may have only been involved with for a few months (or days, or hours).

It’s essential that you can tell a story about everything on your resume, including those volunteer and extracurricular experiences…

This doesn’t mean that you have to prepare a story with a beginning, middle and end for everything on your resume. It means being prepared to justify the inclusion of everything on your resume, since we can’t anticipate what an employer will want to know more about. If you choose to include a list of relevant courses on your resume, you should be prepared to talk more about each of those courses in case an employer has a question about a specific one. For example, an employer may ask: “I see on your resume that you took a course called ‘Advertising & Society.’ What was that class about?” Take some time to review everything on your resume so that, if an employer asks a question about something, you can answer more thoughtfully than “I thought it would make me look good!”

Behavioral Interview Questions

One of the most common types of questions you’ll encounter in interviews are behavioral questions, which are designed to understand how you’ve handled a particular scenario in a previous role. These questions are popular with employers, as one of the strongest indicators of a candidate’s future performance in a position comes from understanding how they handled similar situations in the past. Behavioral questions require you to tell a specific story from a past job, class or extracurricular experience, but employers are looking for a specific structure to this story. Specifically, you should answer these questions by touching on four key areas: the situation, the task, the action, and the result. Together, these make up a formula best remembered as the acronym STAR. Let’s break this down with an example.

Behavioral Question: “Tell me about a time when you had to address an angry customer?”

  • Situation — Set the scene for the employer (e.g. Where were you working when you addressed this angry customer, and why was he/she upset?)
  • Task — The goal you set to accomplish in this situation (e.g. To diffuse the situation and ensure the customer leaves satisfied.)
  • Action — The transferable skills you implemented to achieve the task and address the situation. (e.g. Listening, communication and conflict resolution skills would make sense here.)
  • Result — The happy ending to your story! (e.g. “After implementing the above skills, the customer was pleased and left satisfied.”)

Following the STAR formula when answering behavioral interview questions will ensure that you are not only telling a complete story, but that you are telling a story that includes the key points an employer wants to hear.

Situational Interview Questions

There’s some confusion about what the difference is between behavioral and situational questions, and it can be best described as the following: while behavioral questions put a spotlight on how’ve handled scenarios in the past, situational questions are concerned with how you would hypothetically handle scenarios in the future, particularly those that pertain to the specific position you’re applying for. Examples of situational questions include “How would you sell our product to a resistant customer?” and “What strategies might you implement to increase our followers on Instagram?”

…behavioral questions put a spotlight on how you’ve handled scenarios in the past, situational questions are concerned with how you would hypothetically handle scenarios in the future…

In answering these questions, you don’t want to simply say you would do “x, y, and z.” It helps to provide some context for why you would respond in this particular way. Maybe you tried something similar in the past that proved successful (e.g. “In my previous job I would do x when I encountered resistant customers, and it was very successful. Here’s how I might implement something similar with your clients…”). Maybe you’ve conducted research about the industry that could influence your answer (e.g. “I read in Advertising Age that x strategy has been very effective in increasing social media followers. Here’s how I might implement something similar with your Instagram page…”). Ultimately, situational questions are great opportunities to share your ideas for how you would succeed in the role you’re applying for, and doing so by telling a story based on your own (or other’s) experiences will help drive these answers home.

Additional Resources for Interview Success

It can take practice to feel comfortable with storytelling in interviews, but the Career Center has a number of ways to help! You can meet with your career advisor to learn more about interviewing tips, or take part in a practice interview with an alumnus through our Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) program. We also have a terrific interview prep tool called InterviewStream where you can practice answering common behavioral and situational questions. Take advantage of one or all of the resources to ensure that you are telling the types of stories employers want to hear!

How to Successfully Network Online & Make Connections that Will Last

Professionals often talk about the importance of networking, but the act of networking itself can be daunting. Living in a now digital-reliant world, many feel more comfortable engaging with a potential networking contact electronically, whether through formal social channels like LinkedIn or by simply emailing a lead. Networking over the digital sphere, however, means your writing skills will be put to the test; it’s important that you bring intriguing, professional language to the table.

Below are a few different scenarios you may encounter when networking online with professionals in your field, and some best practices to ensure you are making the best impression when doing so.

DePaul’s Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) Network

Our Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) network is where over 1,000 DePaul alumni volunteer to be networking resources and assist DePaul students and fellow alumni in exploring college and professional transitions, interviewing best practices, life challenges and career options. Although these contacts have volunteered, you want to be respectful of their time by crafting a well-written introduction that includes the following:

  1. Who you are: Include your full name and major/career interests or passions
  2. Why you wish to connect: Do you want to learn more about his/her role, company, career path, etc.?
  3. What stood out from his/her profile: Personalize your request by noting one or two things that really piqued your interest in the volunteer’s profile

Your message doesn’t have to be lengthy, but it should include each of the above components. Afterwards, request 15-20 minutes of their time to either speak with them in person or over the phone; this way, you have set the expectation that you don’t intend to take too much of their time, which may encourage a quicker response. It can be much harder for a contact to set aside 30-60 minutes without advance notice.

The thing to remember about the ASK network is that these alumni have all volunteered, so you never have to feel intimidated or uncomfortable reaching out to them.

LinkedIn

The most popular channel that students lean on to seek potential networking contacts is LinkedIn. The good news is that it’s very easy to make new connections on LinkedIn; simply click “Connect,” and a potential new contact awaits. However, if you don’t take the time to personalize your connection request, you’re less likely to be accepted into someone’s network.

The best thing to do is review a potential contact’s LinkedIn profile before you send him/her a request, and try to identify one or two things you have in common. Maybe you share the same major, or perhaps you were both involved in the same student organization; mention this in your invitation request. If you’re reaching out to someone you don’t know personally, he/she is much more likely to respond if you identify some kind of shared experience or, at the very least, a reason why you want to connect with that person. What not to do? Send a blank invitation. Anyone can do that, but most professionals don’t want to accept just anyone into their network.

Once you’ve established a connection with this person, consider sending a lengthier introduction inquiring about his/her professional background. From there, simply follow the steps outlined above—the same rules that apply to the ASK network also apply here.

Email Referrals

There may come a time when a friend, professor or advisor will refer you to a contact at a company you’re really passionate about. These interactions may feel a little more intimidating, but many of the same rules apply:

  • When reaching out via email, be sure to introduce yourself and clarify your reason for writing.
  • You may want to look them up on LinkedIn to see if there are any commonalities you can refer to, or research the company website in case they’ve included a bio.
  • Most importantly, you want to be extra careful that you communicate with referrals professionally, and that you take the time to follow-up with them if they agree to do so.

In these instances, it’s not just your reputation on the line but that of the friend, professor or advisor referring you, so it’s especially important that you be mindful of any and all communication you have with these contacts.

Steps to Take Right Now

It’s always beneficial to begin seeking networking contacts through ASK, since these are people you have something in common with already (specifically your DePaul experience), and they have already volunteered to assist you! You can also meet with your designated career advisor to identify potential leads through ASK, LinkedIn and other industry-specific channels. Finally, we’re always happy to review any email communication in advance; simply email your advisor with the text you want to send to a potential contact, and we’ll help you to put your best (e)foot forward.