DePaul Diaries: Life as a Career Center Intern

By: Renee Radzom, DePaul University graduate, former University Internship Program (UIP) assistant

DePaul Diaries is a day-in-the-life blog series written by DePaul students. The series unveils DePaulians’ experiences as interns in their field of choice. Students share their honest thoughts about their experiences, what they learned as an intern and advice for students who are interested in the same field.


While working in the DePaul Career Center as a receptionist, Alex Nguyen, DePaul University mathematics major, was given an advancement opportunity to assist with the overall operations of the Loop office. This opportunity gave Alex more responsibilities and allowed him to further his professional development while helping students do the same.

Alex said he has the opportunity to oversee and create the schedule for the receptionist team and train new staff. “I assign daily tasks and give them regular feedback as to how they can improve their customer service skills.” The managerial opportunities have proven invaluable to Alex who “never thought it would be something [he] would be good at.” Along with supervising and training, Alex keeps inventory for the Loop office.

During the internship, Alex decided to take a UIP class offered through the Career Center’s University Internship Program; Alex took the class titled UIP 250: You, Your Work, and the World. One of his favorite aspects of the class was that he created his own career portfolio, which allowed him to think about what professional skills he already has and which ones he wants to work on. “The class encouraged me to go outside of my comfort zone and think about what other capabilities I have within my current internship,” Alex said.

The biggest piece of advice Alex has from his experience: “…Step out of your comfort zone and responsibilities and see what else you can do. Just because it isn’t in the job description, doesn’t mean you can’t take initiative and give yourself more opportunities.”

Alex’s story is an example that you can gain new responsibilities and even move up to a new position at an internship when you work hard and push yourself above and beyond your daily routine.


Want to learn about DePaul’s University Internship Program? Check it out, here, or send inquiries to UIP@depaul.edu. Need help finding an internship? Visit depaul.joinhandshake.com, or come into DePaul’s Career Center to meet with an advisor.

4 Chicago Meetups That Need to Be on Your Radar

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

Chicago is a hub for creativity, innovative conversations, and collaborative efforts amongst the most inventive minds in the city. With that said, Chicago’s best and brightest have come together in a variety of different ways and spaces to make knowledge, ideas and connections not only accessible, but engaging and entertaining. Check out this list of the top four monthly meetups that should be on your radar this year!

Coffee and Conversations

Cost: Free

Coffee and Conversations (C&C) is the brainchild of DePaul adjunct and consulting guru, Levi Baer. This Chicago-based group of entrepreneurs and innovators meet on Saturday mornings once a month to partake in collaborative conversations and learn about community-wide projects. C&C unites professionals across all fields including, health and wellness, event planning, photography, fashion, nonprofits, education, business, and tech. The exciting conversations take place at a new location each month in an effort to explore the wide range of businesses in the Chicago area. Stop by to learn from Chicago’s driven network of young entrepreneurs.

Publicity Club of Chicago Luncheons

Cost: $25

The Publicity Club of Chicago (PCC) is recognized for the connections and resources it provides Chicago’s leading public relations professionals. This group hosts monthly luncheons at Maggiano’s Little Italy where they moderate a panel of communications aficionados ranging from broadcast assignment editors to successful crisis PR professionals. These luncheons provide a space for PR lovers, both established and aspiring, to engage in critical conversations surrounding industry trends and innovative PR strategy. Visit their website for more info on their upcoming events.

CreativeMornings

Cost: Free

CreativeMornings is a meetup that provides out-of-the-box minds with a space to connect and share ideas. CreativeMornings began in 2008 with Tina Roth Eisenberg’s dream of hosting an accessible event for New York’s creative community. This dream snowballed and is now a reality in over 100 cities worldwide. Chicago’s local chapter hosts a CreativeMornings once a month on Fridays to help celebrate the overflowing talent in the city. Revamp your Friday mornings and attend one of their meetings.

Mac and Cheese Productions: Idea Potluck

Cost: $10

Mac & Cheese Productions is a consulting movement spearheaded by Saya Hillman, a community-building expert. Mac & Cheese Productions offers a variety of consulting services to companies and individuals, but beyond consulting, idea sharing is at the top of their to-do list. As a result, the “Idea Potluck” was born. This potluck is made up of ideas rather than food, and it brings together Chicago’s most hilarious, brilliant and visionary citizens and invites them to share wisdom for just 6 minutes at a time. Idea Potluck presenters have ranged from documentary filmmakers and love coaches to Chicago Tribune columnists. This Idea Potluck is a must see event year-round.

The Cover Letter Conundrum

Every student I have advised over the years has presented a unique set a questions pertaining to the job search. But, there’s one topic that seems to confound even the most seasoned applicant: cover letters.

A significant number of applications require a cover letter, yet there’s so much anxiety around how to craft one. In fact, students will admit that they simply won’t apply to any position that asks to see one. Just think of all the missed opportunities.

Concept of studying. Student buried under a pile of books, textbooks and papers. Flat design, vector illustration.

The main reason cover letters seem so daunting is because they should be tailored to each position. Unlike a resume—which you might tweak here or there for individual applications—your cover letter should be very specific to each job, as employers use it to get a greater sense of why you’re passionate about their company specifically and the role they’re hiring for.

The process of crafting a new cover letter for each application can seem tedious or time consuming, but there are a few tips you can take advantage of to make this process easier while also meeting the expectations of your potential future employer.

Structure

Unless an employer asks you to format your cover letter in a very specific way, the structure of your letter can remain the same for 95% of the positions you apply for. Think of structuring your cover letter as you might structure a paper for class: one introductory paragraph, two or three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.

Your introduction and conclusion will stay fairly consistent across the board. The introduction should include the specific position title and company you’re applying to, and the conclusion should restate your enthusiasm for the position and highlight your contact information. You might want to make little tweaks, particularly in the introduction, such as highlighting how you found the position and clarifying why you’re interested right off the bat, but these are easy updates that shouldn’t take too much time to complete.

Buzz Words

The body paragraphs are where you want to make the most changes for each position you apply to. Use language from the job description—often referred to as “buzz words”—and incorporate them throughout your cover letter. The biggest mistake applicants make in their cover letters is simply rehashing content that’s already on the resume, when the focus should be on highlighting how the skills from your resume specifically relate to the position you’re applying to.

A smart way to begin a body paragraph is some variation of the following:

“In reviewing the job description, I understand that this position requires an applicant with skills in _____, _____, and ______.”

Fill in the blanks with buzz words from the job description that you are a match with. Doing so will let the employer know right off the bat that you understand a few of the key components of the role. This will also help highlight how your past experiences directly relate to the requirements of the position.

More good news: you can use a variation of the sentence above in each of your cover letters, and simply fill-in-the-blanks with buzz words that are unique to each specific position you apply to. This is a great way to personalize each of your cover letters without having to completely rewrite each one.

Company Website

While it’s always a good idea to research a company before applying, it can be especially helpful in gaining additional insight that you can incorporate into a cover letter. Information that might not be evident in a job description—such as a company’s mission, values, goals, client base, and office culture—can often be found by reviewing the company’s website. If, for example, you find that your career values are a direct match with an individual company, mention this in your cover letter. This is a smart way to highlight that you would be a great fit beyond your skill set, and employers will appreciate that you went above and beyond the job description to learn more about them.

The company website can also come in handy in the absence of “buzz words.” Some job descriptions you come across may be slim and not provide enough information about the responsibilities and qualifications needed. If the position description is bare, focus on what you learned from the company website to personalize your cover letter.

Next Steps

Take a look at some cover letter templates curated by the Career Center’s Peer Advising Team. This packet includes cover letter samples, as well as samples of other job search letters such as thank you notes. Once you’ve drafted a cover letter, bring it to the Career Center for a walk-in advising appointment to get it touched up before sending it off to employers!

Do You Have Questions for the Interviewer? You Better

At the end of almost any interview, you will be asked, “Do you have any questions for me?” How you respond to this can make or break the interviewer’s overall impression of you—so make a plan to respond to this prompt wisely.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts to help you develop a strategy for asking questions after the interview:

Do aim to elicit valuable and relevant information from your interviewer that would help you decide if the opportunity would be a good fit, should you be offered the position.

Don’t feel limited to asking only about the specific position you are interviewing for. Aim to learn about the organization’s culture so that you can assess whether you would both feel comfortable and flourish there.

Do ask questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the field, organization, and position.

Don’t ask questions that could be easily answered through research via the organization’s website or other resources. Instead, use the information that you glean from such pre-interview research to demonstrate your knowledge, as advised in the preceding tip.

Do explore how the position at hand might fit into your larger career path. With that said, however, be careful not to suggest that you see this position as a simple stepping-stone. Instead, you might ask about where the last person in the position has moved on to or what skills you can expect to hone in the role.

Don’t inquire about salary, benefits, or perks—you haven’t yet been offered the position, so now is not the time to request this information.

Do come prepared with multiple possible questions and don’t ask those that have already been addressed throughout the course of the interview!

Looking for more guidance on formulating smart questions to ask an interviewer? Check out this article from Business Insider for inspiration.

Job Fairs for Introverts

By: Ellen Barrett, DePaul University women’s and gender studies major ‘17 and peer career advisor

Networking is about finding connections in every corner, and using any opportunity to make the most of those connections. It’s not about walking into a job fair and feeling as if you’re forcing yourself upon employers; networking should feel like a natural process, one in which your curiosity and genuine interests are your best traits. Job fairs are the perfect way to make connections. You may not get the job you want right away, but that’s not the only reason why job fairs are so important.

Remember you are worth their time

Recruiters are at the job fair because they want to talk to you. They know you are a student and don’t expect you to have much professional experience. No matter how inexperienced you may feel, though, you do belong there. Remember, a major reason job fairs are important is because the employers you meet are capable of providing you with invaluable connections.

If you are only going to the fair because you want a specific job being advertised with one company, then you’ll automatically have a major advantage by meeting the employer face-to-face compared to your competition who is sitting at home filling out the same job application. I always recommend students to visit the job fair even if they’re not looking for a job at that moment because you never know whom you’ll meet or what conversations you’ll have.

Creativity engages your audience

Are you a storyteller? Telling a quick story about a positive, related experience you’ve had at work or school is a great tactic for networking, as it shows that you’re able to recognize your skills and accomplishments. For example, “As a communications intern last spring, I developed a marketing strategy that increased our social media following by 200%, which is why I am now interested in pursuing business marketing and learning more about your team’s current projects.” If you don’t have any internship or work experience, you can talk about class projects or coursework instead.

Set small goals to overcome anxiety

Psychologists will tell you that avoidance of a fear only increases anxiety, and this is also true in the case of job fairs. You can begin to overcome your fear of fairs by setting small goals for yourself. Make a goal to meet with 2-3 companies, for example. Know that you should always have some background knowledge about the company before you walk up to their table.

The dreaded elevator pitch

Keep it simple. The employer should know who you are, but also what you are looking to learn from them. Introduce yourself with your name, the degree you are pursuing, and explain why you are interested in their company. You don’t need to go into extensive detail about everything you’ve done and hope to accomplish, but if you’re genuinely enthusiastic about the company, it should show.

Workshop your way to confidence

Use DePaul resources to prepare for the fair. Check out Handshake for upcoming Career Center events, including the workshop, “Maximize Your Job and Internship Fair Experience,” which is usually held the same week as all job and internship fairs and designed to teach you the skills to make you confident when approaching employers.

The final touch

Ask for the recruiter’s business card and send a follow-up thank you email. Reflect on the conversation you had and what stood out to you. Thank them for their time, and show your enthusiasm about their company by mentioning one part of the conversation you found particularly interesting or exciting. An example might be, “I really enjoyed learning about your strategies for creating engaging social media initiatives, as this is a skill I’ve been interested in developing since my experience as a communications intern last spring.” This is a best practice for introverts and extroverts alike.


Meet with a career advisor today, and learn ways to overcome job fair anxiety and gain the confidence you need to have meaningful conversations at your next career event.

What to Expect From a Scientific Research Internship

By: Nina Pelsi, DePaul University health sciences major ’19

Once I landed my first internship freshman year, I was ecstatic. As part of DePaul’s Undergraduate Summer Research Program (USRP) of the College of Science and Health, I was chosen to work with a former professor of mine, Dr. Kim Amer, who I respect immensely. With decades of experience working as a registered nurse, Dr. Amer had extensive advice and knowledge in science and medicine to offer.

So, what did I learn from my first research position? Managing expectations is key. Here is what you should (and shouldn’t) expect from your first scientific research experience:

1. Don’t expect to change the world or cure cancer. I’m not trying to burst your bubble, but this is unlikely to be the research that catapults you into fame and success in science. Instead, expect to learn a lot about the research process itself, and you will come away with boatloads of applicable knowledge on how to find what you’re looking for and present it in a meaningful way.

2. Expect to sift through dozens and dozens of unrelated and possibly unhelpful articles before finding one that aligns with what you’re looking for. Throughout this entire summer, Dr. Amer and I only found 20 articles to analyze for our review of literature. This is normal! Remember, quality trumps quantity in scientific research.

3. Expect it to be challenging and time-consuming, but equallyif not morerewarding. Research is very much a process; it’s going to take a long time to conduct initial research, compile the information into figures and/or charts, interpret and analyze results, draw conclusions, and put together a written, oral, or visual display. This last step is when you finally get to see that all of your hard work has paid off, and it is one of the best feelings!

Good luck! I hope this advice helps you mentally prepare for your research position and get the very most out of your experience.