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:

Employer Spotlight: Carlo Varquez (MS ’18) LifeStart

The Health Care & Science (HCS) Career Community wants to introduce students to a wide range of careers. Students may be familiar with popular clinical roles (e.g., nurse, physician, veterinarian), but less familiar with jobs like healthcare data analytics, health administration, or biotech research.  

Today, we highlight a certified personal trainer, certified nutrition coach, and small business owner. In a virtual interview, Debbie Kaltman (HCS Employer Engagement Specialist) spoke with Carlo Varquez (MS Exercise Physiology ‘18) to learn about his educational and career journey, insights into pursuing preventative health and fitness professions, and advice to students.

Carlo’s educational and clinical experiences in the healthcare industry shifted his perspective and career goals to focus on preventing rather than treating health issues. In the health promotion, wellness, and fitness industry, Carlos serves as a general manager for LifeStart and founder of Pride Wellness, a small business built to empower clients to invest in their overall health via online classes and coaching sessions. As a certified fitness trainer and nutrition coach, Carlos seeks to take care of other people’s health so they come to feel better about themselves, believe they’re part of something, and vision their life in different ways. He plans to keep learning to become a “master trainer” who has a well-rounded skill set and is well-known as a person who will work hard for his clients.

Carlo’s advice to students interested in preventative health, wellness, and fitness: “Invest in yourself first before you invest in others! A) It gives you credibility. You practice what you preach. B) If you’re not following the right steps to keep yourself healthy, it’s going to be hard to advise others to be healthy.”

“Take every opportunity no matter how big it may seem. If you feel like it’s the right thing in your gut, just do it. I’m a big advocate for that gut feeling. It doesn’t make sense, you don’t know why it’s making you feel this way, but it feels right at the same time. Just follow your gut and take care of yourself.”

How I got this job: Valentina Djordjevic Physician Assistant

During Spring Quarter 2021, the Health Care & Science Career Community team sat down with DePaul students to learn about the educational and career journey of DePaul alum, Valentina Djordjevic (Health Sciences, ‘16). After completing the Physician Assistant (PA) program at Rosalind Franklin University, she is now a PA-C at Able Psychiatry. Valentina shared her story of gaining research, work, volunteer, and clinical experiences while at DePaul, deciding to pursue a career as a PA, her current job responsibilities, and her future career goals. In this event, Valentina highlighted what being a PA means to her and the importance of pursuing your passions.

Words of wisdom from Valentina Djordjevic

Valentina on deciding to become a PA:

“For me it was pretty easy to be a PA because it was quick. Two years seemed pretty doable for me. It offered me the opportunity to work in multiple specialties which I liked at that time because I wasn’t exactly sure that I wanted to be in psychiatry. The GRE also seemed more doable than the MCAT for me. I also liked that there wasn’t a residency requirement for PA school. I really liked that I could get this degree and then start working right away. I wanted to stay in the sciences. I wanted to help people. I wanted to be financially independent and be able to have a good income. I think it was a pretty easy decision for me to go into the PA track.” 

Valentina on the importance of mentoring for a PA:

“A piece of advice about post-PA school is that you really want to find a job where you will be taught. There are a ton of opportunities for PAs out there, and they seem really appealing. They’re going to throw a lot of money at you, and just be careful that they don’t throw you out to the wolves because PA school is really fast. You’re getting this degree with the hope that you’ll be trained really well at your first job, but if you aren’t, you’re gonna have a huge stunt in your growth. It’s really important to have a mentor: someone that you can ask questions to, someone that is expecting you to not know what you’re doing. If it’s a good growth opportunity, that might be better than a more appealing pay stub at the end of the day because if you get good training, you can go anywhere.”

How I got this job: Nia Hurst Research Biologist

During Winter Quarter 2021, the Health Care & Science Career Community team sat down with DePaul students to learn about the educational and career journey of DePaul alumna Nia Hurst (’14). From an Environmental Sciences major to working as a Research Biologist in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nia shared her story of getting involved at DePaul, gaining experience with research labs, and her current job responsibilities. In this event, she highlighted the power of networking because the connections she made  opened doors to so many opportunities.

Words of wisdom from Nia

Nia on building her network and maximizing connections:

“I think it’s really true that you have to expand your network and connect with people to let them know what you’re interested in. Expressing what your interests are to as many people as you can like your advisor and other graduate students. I would also really recommend going to events like conferences, luncheons, and other networking events.”

Nia on the primary responsibilities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

“When there is a regional issue that needs to be addressed (e.g., wetland development to offset phosphorus pollution, mangrove forest development to alleviate hurricane impact), we conduct longitudinal research studies on best practices for that regional development project. There are a lot of different projects. It’s applied research that you do for the sake of knowledge.”

Nia on the diversity of scientific roles available in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

“I’m a research biologist, but we work with engineers, statisticians, computer specialists. There’s a lot of people to build out a team with, a lot of opportunities for a lot of different types of scientists.”

Employer Spotlight: Michael Reynolds (MPA ’21) at HealthJoy

The Health Care & Science (HCS) Career Community wants to introduce students to a wide range of careers. Students may be familiar with popular clinical roles (e.g., nurse, physician, veterinarian), but less familiar with jobs like healthcare data analytics, health administration, or biotech research.  

HealthJoy is an app that aims to improve the healthcare experience by guiding users to accessible professionals and resources. In this interview, Debbie Kaltman (HCS Employer Engagement Specialist) spoke with Michael Reynolds (MPA ‘21) to learn about his educational and career journey, his insights to students about making career changes, and his current role as a Customer Success Operations Manager.

Michael’s passions for learning as much as he can, building relationships with people, and supporting others have helped him grow in his professional goal of being a public servant. His career journey brought him to different professional industries — including theatre (fun fact: Michael has a BFA in Playwriting!), retail sales, and healthcare — and they all allowed him to explore his broader passions. As a Customer Success Operations Manager, Michael analyzes customer data and feedback to solve problems, improve their services, and help build the platform. This data-centered role is a professional pivot from Michael’s previous work in customer relations and success, but he views it as an opportunity to continue learning. Michael continues to seek experiences where he can build meaningful relationships and help others.

Michael’s advice to current students: “What you study in undergrad does not dictate what your career will look like. Taking advantage of the communities around you can be helpful. Volunteer, network… see what’s going on in the world around you, and see where your passions take you!”

4 Benefits of Enrolling in a UIP Course

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

Before becoming DePaul’s University Internship Program (UIP) manager, Erika Mercado (CSH ’16) dipped her toes into a few UIP courses herself as a student. Because of the UIP courses she took and the positive experiences she had at DePaul, she was able to discover her interest in the education industry. I sat down with Erika to gather key benefits of enrolling in a UIP course, aside from being able to cross off your Experiential Learning requirement. As the current manager of the program and fellow student participant, Erika had a lot to share

1. You’ll get help visualizing your future career: Erika said one of the reasons she wanted to work for UIP was because of a very beneficial experience she had as a student. Erika took the UIP 240 course Explore Your Career Options in her first year after transferring to DePaul. She felt it was a “great eye-opener” and allowed her to visualize future career goals. “UIP 240 helped me discover that I loved higher education and led me to pursue student jobs on campus, including front desk receptionist and peer career advisor roles,” Erika said.

2. You’ll be able to jumpstart your portfolio: Erika also took UIP 250 titled You, Your Work, and the World and enjoyed the ability to make an online career portfolio. Erika said she felt much more confident applying for jobs and going in for interviews after the class.

3. You’ll learn how to make the most of your internship or job: One of the things Erika really loves about UIP is that the program allows you to make the most of your internship or job. If you’re looking to fulfill your Experiential Learning credit, Erika said UIP is a great tool to “navigate your internship in order to stand out and make the most of the experience while developing job search tools to help you land your next position.”

4. You may just discover your career calling: “If it wasn’t for UIP and my positive experience working at DePaul, I wouldn’t have discovered that my dream job was somewhere in higher education helping out other students – you never know what you can discover through UIP and through an internship,” Erika said.

“It’s great to hear other students get excited to start UIP, and to start their internships,” Erika explained. “Having once been in their shoes myself, I understand how the process of finding and securing an internship can be stressful. But the experience you gain and the new skills you learn are worth it – and UIP is there to help!” If you have any questions about UIP orientation or enrollment, or any inquiries about the internship proposal process, Erika encourages you to get in touch with the team at uip@depaul.edu.