My Career Journey at DePaul

by Kyra Buenaventura

As a wide-eyed, excited freshman, I entered DePaul with two years of work experience and the mindset to conquer the world. One of the most formative experiences of my career path was participating in the EDGE program at DePaul. EDGE, or Education and Development Grant for Employability, is a program that is designed to combine career development and job skill development for first-year students. Through this program, I designed my first resume and completed projects where I learned many transferable skills. 

During this time, I was also applying to many on-campus jobs. I wanted to be able to have a sustainable job by the time my sophomore year came around. I received interview invitations, but I was never able to secure a job acceptance. After multiple rejections, I had to reflect on why I was not getting job offers when I received an interview.

Through this reflection period, I realized that my interview skills were lacking. I was not making myself and my skills appealing to other employers. Luckily, EDGE was conducting mock interviews where I was able to receive feedback firsthand. Through this mock interview, I built upon my previous knowledge and worked on making myself a more appealing candidate. I asked my friends and the Career Center to review my resume and cover letters, and I took all of their advice and feedback and applied it to my resume. 

Courtelyou Commons at night!

At the beginning of sophomore year, I was hired to be a Crew member at the Student Center. Through this experience, I learned about teamwork and time management. I was now juggling classes, homework, a social life, and my new job. My job as a part of the Crew is an experience that was formative to who I am today. I learned more about who I was as a student and employee, and it felt like my first real job in two years. Unfortunately, that job was interrupted by the pandemic, so my experience as a Crew member was cut short. 

During the pandemic, I applied to become an Orientation Leader at DePaul. Becoming an Orientation Leader was a dream job that I had ever since I entered DePaul. It combined all of my experiences at the university, and I was able to guide incoming freshmen into their first year at DePaul. It has been my favorite experience at DePaul thus far. I gained interpersonal skills and was part of a community of like-minded individuals, and I had freedom to create projects and outreach to students. 

Me with a couple of my Orientation Leader friends!

As of the start of my senior year, I am currently working as the Health Care & Science Career Community Ambassador at the DePaul Career Center. This opportunity has been the culmination of all of the work I have done at DePaul. I advise students on improvements they can make to their resumes and cover letters, conduct mock interviews to help students feel more comfortable when applying to jobs, internships, and graduate school, and more. 

Throughout my career journey, I have learned to never give up even in the face of adversity. Now, I do not see rejection as a reflection of my character. Rejection motivates me to reflect on my actions and see if there are ways that I can improve whether that means reaching out and asking for help or taking advantage of the resources that are available. 

How I Used Cover Letters to my Advantage in a Competitive Job Field

By Hannah Coleman, Operations Coordinator, Career Center

Getting a cover letter right can be difficult, especially when the style and tone vary depending on the job and the company you are applying for. When cover letters are done well though, the payoff can be crucial to prompt employers to give your application more than just a cursory glance. 

I have a story that I like to tell people who are skeptical about the importance of cover letters: 

About a year ago, I applied for a job as an Editorial Assistant at a well-known independent publishing company. I knew my application was a long-shot, as jobs in the book publishing industry are scarce and highly competitive. Still, I had 2 years of relevant experience, and was hoping to finally get my foot in the door to move up into a more active role in the industry. 

In my cover letter, after summarizing my relevant experience, I included a paragraph at the end of my letter stating why I admired the company and some specifics on why I was interested in the types of books that they published. I brought up projects that I had worked on in my previous role and talked about similar projects I saw the company was currently working on. I also brought up my own career goals and why I thought working at this company would accomplish those aims. Because I really did invest in the projects I had worked on in my previous job, and personally enjoyed them, I tried to make sure that interest showed in my letter. 

The next day, I got an email from a manager expressing interest. This part of their response really stood out to me:

“Your experiences and interest that you shared in your cover letter immediately stood out to us. Although you may not have some of the technical skills we are looking for, we would like to discuss options with you in an interview.” 

I was grateful for the interview opportunity even though I knew I had a little less experience than needed. I was glad that I went ahead and applied anyway, because you never know! While I didn’t end up getting the job, the managers were still impressed with my effort and interest and they offered me some freelance work. Although this was a pretty rare instance, it made me hopeful that all the effort I was putting into my cover letters was starting to pay off. 

With that said, here are some things I have picked up on through my job search experiences that I personally find helpful: 

Research matters!

A big mistake that a lot of people make is not customizing their cover letter to reflect that they have done research on that specific company. If you are sending out the same generic cover letter for every job application, then it’s not likely to get much attention. The cover letter is your chance to prove beyond your resume that you have a personal and professional stake in the job or company. 

Research the company’s mission and goals, get familiar with the current staff and their roles so you can reference them when necessary, and understand the company’s work and look into their projects. Use that knowledge to highlight if you’ve worked on something similar or applicable, and explain what nuance or perspective you could bring to the company’s current aims.

Specificity is key 

Be as specific as possible when you explain the utility of your job experience. Avoid common phrases like: “Based on this job description, I would be well suited for this role and have all of the capabilities listed in your requirements.” This doesn’t tell us about your strengths. Instead, be specific so employers know exactly what your abilities are. For example: “In the job description, I notice your preference for candidates who have experience using Adobe Suite. In the past year working as an Editorial Assistant, I used InDesign and Photoshop on a weekly basis to create page layouts for manuscripts and to touch up and edit photos for final production.” 

This helps hiring managers feel more confident about your skills and experience when inviting you for an interview. Hiring managers do not want to have to dig to find out if you meet their standards. 

Have someone review your cover letter 

This one seems like a given, but it surprises me how often I hear people say they skip this step. Errors in a cover letter or resume will typically remove you from consideration pretty quickly. It is always a good idea to have someone look over your cover letter, even if you think it’s fairly polished. For particularly important applications, revising multiple drafts has served me well. 

DePaul Career Center has skilled and resourceful career advisors that can give you feedback on cover letters. You can also check out the Writing Center as they can also provide hands-on feedback for writing style and grammar. 

Detailed cover letters are fuel for great interview conversations

In the interview that I mentioned earlier, the hiring managers brought up content from my cover letter several times, which led to productive conversations that allowed them to understand me and my interests better. I find that when hiring managers are able to converse with you in an interview more freely, then you are more likely to move forward in the interviewing process because you have had a memorable interaction with them and connected with them on a deeper level. This also allows your personality to show. In your cover letter, if you provide interviewers with just enough of a doorway to ask follow-up questions in an interview later, then this will help spark that conversation. For example, in my cover letter, I wrote this about a current editorial project I was working on: 

“A project that will be published this spring, Words is a Powerful Thing by Brian Daldorph, is a book written by a creative writing instructor and poet at the University of Kansas. His book recounts his experiences teaching creative writing at a county jail in rural Kansas. His own commentary, experiences and reflections are intermingled with some of the inmates’ own poetry and interviews. In the early stages, I worked with the author and editors closely to provide writing style suggestions and critiques on organization and flow of the manuscript.” 

This type of commentary isn’t always entirely necessary for a cover letter, but it completely depends on the context. In this case, I wanted to introduce the type of work I was doing without oversharing details. In the interview, the hiring managers asked me to discuss this project and similar ones I was working on. We had great conversations about the project itself and it was a great moment to connect with them on our shared enthusiasm for this work. 

Cover letters can be a surprisingly powerful tool if you can use some of these tips to work in your favor! 

Job Search Tips for 2021 Graduates

Be Distinctive

Right now, the job market is the hottest it’s been in recent years as companies are hiring following the COVID-19 pandemic, but that also means the competition is fierce right now.

Because many 2020 graduates had to put off their job hunt while companies went through closures and lay-offs, there are even more of your peers applying for the same jobs you are right now. That means your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile need to be polished and stand out. 

However, for the same reason, the competition is stiff in the current job market; the popularity of remote jobs and internships also opens up the ability for you to apply to opportunities across the country—and the world!

Be Open-minded

While job postings on Handshake are at a high, not all sectors are hiring equally. The top industries looking to hire new graduates were the pandemic’s big winners: tech, financial services, education, and professional services, according to Handshake data. It’s essential to be flexible in your job search at a time like this and think about what skills you could bring to a role as well as what skills you could gain, even if the job isn’t exactly your dream role. 

Settling for what is available doesn’t have to be a bad thing either! While working in your not-dream-job, you can spend that time also taking classes and getting additional certifications, attending webinars and events, and upskilling.

Be Prepared

Having classes, meetings, and hangouts over video chat platforms like Zoom has become commonplace in the past year, but it’s still important to treat virtual interviews the same way you would an in-person one. Make sure to dress professionally, prepare for any questions they may ask, know how to work the features of the platform being used for the interview, and that your setup is well-lit without any distractions in the background.

Some workplaces have also started requesting pre-recorded video interviews in which you answer a list of questions they have provided. Though this type of interview is not live, there is still not much time between receiving the questions and the deadline for sending the video, so it’s still important to prepare in advance.

If you’re nervous, ask a friend or family member to take you through a mock interview, or schedule an advising appointment, or drop in with a peer coach!

Be Creative

You should also be ready to explain how you spent 2020, especially if your summer internship disappeared because of the pandemic and a gap in your resume. Did you do any freelance work? What about personal projects? Did you take any new classes in your free time? Did you volunteer anywhere? You can also highlight any new hobbies you picked up to show you’re willing to and capable of learning new things.

You may have skills you never even thought about that you can highlight, including soft skills!

And if you are still looking for ways to add to your resume, there are plenty of ways to gain experience outside of a traditional internship.

Be Authentic

While your network is a valuable resource in job hunting, it’s also a great space for building relationships with peers in your industry. Not every contact in your network will be in the position to give you a job when you need one, but it’s still essential to maintain and build relationships without expecting a transaction. Professionals in your industry — especially DePaul alumni — can give you helpful advice and share their experiences.

Consider setting up an informational interview with someone in your field or bringing up the possibility of job shadowing at a company you’re interested in or with someone whose role is appealing to you. Check out the ASK Network to connect with alumni.

And don’t forget to give back when you can and open yourself up to meeting with students as a professional in your field, or pass on opportunities you come across to your peers if it’s not something right for you!

More information:

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.

Building a Demo Reel for Animation

If you’re pursuing a career in animation, the demo reel is the single most important element of your job application. Without examples to show what you’re capable of creating, you’ll have very little success getting your foot in the door for an interview.

Knowing this, you may be asking yourself: how do I decide what work to include? How should I arrange my reel? What site should I use to host my work? Consider these guidelines as you navigate these questions and start building your reel.

What to Include

You want to present your very best work. Look at the pieces you have—do you have a project you’ve completed that you aren’t entirely in love with? If your mind is gravitating toward a yes, decide whether to continue to refine the project and get it demo-reel ready, or toss it. Never include subpar work. Rather, create new things. The more work you generate, the more high quality work you will have to show off.

One complaint employers often make is that applicants fail to make their inspirations and processes known in their demo reels. Consider including process pieces:

  • Include a base mesh along with your final sculpt.
  • Show your wireframes and textures.

This doesn’t need to be done for every piece, but a well-placed process piece can give an employer a lot of insight into your workflow.

Adding written breakdowns of every piece—including the tools you used to create it—is also a smart move. If you have pieces that were part of a group effort, make sure you let it be known what your part of the project was.

You may also want to try tailoring your reel to the employer. Again, the more work you have, the easier this will be to do. When putting together your reel, create a list of a few companies you’d like to work for. Look at the pieces you have and figure out which ones match with those companies’ styles. Gritty hyper-realism may not work for Pixar, but it might be a good fit for ILM. Always remember who your audience is.

How to Arrange

Include your best work first. Don’t save the best for last, because an impatient employer might have lost interest by that point. Your demo reel should be no more than three minutes. As a student, you may only have enough great work for 2 minutes, and that’s perfectly fine. In fact, if you only have 30 seconds of amazing work, it’s better to just show that rather than add another 90 seconds of filler or subpar work.

Be careful with the inclusion of music. Consider these tips:

  • You don’t want music that will be distracting or take away from your work.
  • Avoid anything with vocals.
  • If you decide to use music, make it as unobtrusive as possible.

Overall, when it comes to arranging, present each shot or piece separately, make sure you are allowing each piece some room to breathe, and consider using a title card prior to each shot.

What Platform to Use

The final piece of the puzzle is figuring out what site you should use to host your demo reel. The two main contenders, Youtube and Vimeo, both have pros and cons. Youtube is more widely used and can offer a way to have your work seen by more people. The downside is that it’s plagued by pop-up ads and will have a lower streaming quality. Vimeo offers a cleaner presentation and higher video quality. It also offers more detailed analytics to give you greater insight into who is viewing your reel. However, Vimeo has far less traffic than Youtube, which means far fewer people will stumble across your work.

Vimeo is currently the more generally accepted platform for hosting demo reels. You’ll be giving up some potential views for the sake of a stronger presentation, but most industry professionals believe it’s worth the trade-off.

Remember, the key to a successful demo reel is tailoring your best work to fit the interests of your audience. If you need added guidance on demo reels, be sure to stop by the Career Center to chat!

What Recruiters Like to See on a Resume & What Makes Them Cringe

By: Kristen A. Urhausen-Kummerer, Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) mentor and former Big Four recruiting and operations leader

I have read thousands of resumes in my career with the Big Four and have seen all styles, formats and lengths. Having a resume with the right information, format and presentation can make or break your chances of grabbing the attention of a recruiter. There is no doubt that resume writing is one of the hardest things to do. It takes time and patience, but if done right, you can capture a recruiter’s attention and score an interview that will help you get one step closer to your dream job.

Here is a list of five things that are eye-catching to recruiters:

1. Notable accomplishments vs. a list of responsibilities  

When you include notable accomplishments, you are immediately showing the reader how you added value to your current/past employers, and how you could do the same for their company. Notable accomplishments should include quantifiable information, if possible, and a concise explanation of how you achieved the accomplishment. For example, the line, “Helped company save $300K in expenses annually” should be edited to say, “Key contributor in helping company save $300K in expenses, annually, by re-negotiating all vendor contracts and implementing an automated approval process workflow for all expenses.” A list of responsibilities doesn’t help sell you, your skills or capabilities is what will get your foot in the door.

2. Modern and slick format  

The format of your resume must be clean and easy to read. If your resume doesn’t have a format that is easy to follow, you will lose the reader’s attention in the first few seconds. Consider these guidelines:

  • Make sure your name jumps off the page by using at 20 pt. font
  • Include a bolded headline under your contact information (i.e., Innovative Information Technology Consulting Director)
  • Stray away from Times New Roman or Book Antiqua as the font. Use a font such as Cambria, Arial or Helvetica
  • Bold important information at the beginning of each notable accomplishment in an effort to encourage the reader to continue reading

3. Simplified contact information.

The key contact information to share is your name, e-mail address, phone number and a link to your LinkedIn profile. There is no need to include your physical address.

4. Career summaries that highlight expertise, experience vs. soft skills

Most candidates highlight their ability to communicate, get along with people and build relationships in their career summaries. Although this is important, recruiters want to know what your sweet spot is. When people think of you professionally, what comes to mind? If you are an IT consultant, you probably have strong experience assessing current information system infrastructures and providing custom solutions that meet client needs and business objectives.

5. Tables

Use tables to highlight technical skills and other competencies vs. including them in a bulleted list.

Now that you know what recruiters like to see on resumes, here are five things that make recruiters cringe:

1. Resumes longer than two pages

Recruiters spend an average of less than one minute reviewing a resume, and will most likely put your resume in the “no thank you” pile if it is longer than two pages.

2. Detailed company descriptions about current, past employers 

If you choose to include a company description, try to limit it to one sentence. Including more than one sentence takes up valuable white space and will lose the interest of the reader.

3. Objective statements

Adding an objective statement is out-of-date and will not help you stand out from the crowd. By applying for an open position, you are implying that you are looking for a new opportunity that will utilize your skills and career interests at a specific company.

4. References available upon request

Make it easier on employers, and yourself, by offering your references early on. In some cases, employers will automatically ask for references either on the job application, or after they have decided to extend you an offer of employment.

5. Misspellings and grammatical errors

Be sure to double and triple check your resume. Print it out and read each word out loud to make sure that it reads perfectly. Consider sending it to a friend to review as well. You need to demonstrate to the reader that you pay close attention to detail.

So, how does your resume stack up?


Kristen A. Urhausen-Kummerer received her Bachelor of Science in commerce from DePaul in 1992 and has 22 years of Big Four recruiting and operations leadership experience at KPMG LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Arthur Andersen & Co, SC. She has interviewed and hired hundreds of professionals ranging from administrative assistants to senior executives over the years. Kristen is currently an independent resume designer and career advisor who focuses on partnering with job seekers as they prepare for their job search. She provides job seekers with insight on current resume trends, prepares them for interviews and helps to increase their confidence. Kristen is also an active ASK member and has helped students prepare for job fairs and interviews, in addition to providing career guidance and mentoring.