Your Guide to Connecting with Alumni on Linkedin

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

Scoping out potential contacts on LinkedIn can feel like a never-ending quest—the options are literally endless. There is, however, an art to finding that perfect connection on LinkedIn and sparking a conversation. Check out our guide to connecting with alumni on LinkedIn.

The Search

Crafting a LinkedIn search requires a few critical filters. Start off by typing in ‘DePaul University’ in the search bar. Once you’ve clicked on DePaul’s official page, click on the ‘see alumni’ button and you will be presented with a detailed breakdown of alumni interests, places of employment and fields of study.

Now it’s time to narrow your search. DePaul University’s Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) Associate Director Leslie Chamberlain has a few pointers for students:

“Decide why you’re looking to connect with alumni. If you’re looking to explore a specific field or if there’s a city you’d like to be in, this is going to influence the keywords in your search for connections.”

Once you’ve used a couple of keywords and identified a potential connection, it’s time to actually hit the ‘connect’ button and send a message.

The Ask

This initial message is key to ensuring you get a response. Leslie advises that your message follows this classic, business outline: Them. You. Time-Bound.

Let’s break that down.

Them: Your first line should be a sentence about them, recognizing a particular involvement or position that caught your interest. For example, you could say, “your work as a social media analyst with the American Red Cross looks exciting.”

You: Your next two sentences should introduce you and provide some background. Think of it as a shortened elevator pitch. For example, you might say, “as a current public relations student at DePaul, I’m interested in working in the nonprofit sector. I’ve had the opportunity to take courses where I’ve constructed social media campaigns for companies and I’m looking to expand my knowledge in this sphere.”

Time-Bound: Finally, your last sentence should be time-bound to solidify a time to talk. “Fifteen to twenty minutes is the perfect amount of time to ask for. It’s enough time to get a feel for the person. If you vibe with the connection really well you can always ask for a follow-up meeting and if you don’t then you’re not trapped in a long conversation,” Leslie explained.  For example, you could say, “I would love to chat with you about your experiences as an analyst. Would you be available to talk over the phone for 15-20 minutes sometime in the next two weeks?”

The Follow-Up

Once you’ve sent the message and had the opportunity to talk over the phone, follow up with a simple thank you message.

This thank you should follow the Past. Present. Future. outline. First, acknowledge your previous interaction with a simple line, such as, “thank you for taking time out of your day to discuss your career.”

Next, bring up an insight they mentioned that you’re going to take action on. For example, “I picked up a copy of the branding book you mentioned and I’m looking forward to reading it.”

Finally, if you’ve really hit it off, the future portion of this thank you should be focused on a second meeting. For example, you might ask, “could I reach out to you next month? I’d like to talk to you about this book once I’ve finished it.” If you didn’t quite hit it off, a simple, “I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors,” will work.

Easy as that! Connecting with alumni is a great way to learn more about your industry and develop a mentorship with someone who shares common interests. Curious about other ways that alumni can help you? Check out the Alumni Sharing Knowledge network for more information on connecting with alumni.

Don’t Attend a Job Fair Without Reading These Tips

By: Jennifer Delay James, Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) mentor with an MBA from DePaul University

Standing out among many job seekers can be challenging at job fairs. In this article, Jennifer Delay James, DePaul alumna and mentor, and program manager at Pearson, shares how you can prepare and excel at your next job fair.


Target Specific Employers 

Review the list of companies attending and the positions they are looking to fill before the career fair. Identify the five employers you definitely want to meet, and then create a separate list of the other employers that you will visit if time allows. This will help you prioritize your time, and if you finish early you can still meet with employers that are not on either of your high priority lists.

Prepare in Advance

You will only have a few minutes to meet with an employer’s representative; be prepared so you can make the most of this time. Practice a short 15-30 second introduction to use when meeting with employers. Also, be ready to share why you are interested in working for each employer, highlighting your relevant skills and experiences, and asking thoughtful questions about the organization or position.

Bring Hard Copies of Resume

Even if you submitted your resume online prior to a career fair, bring plenty of hard copies so the employers can refer to it during your discussions. Employers may also ask you to submit your cover letter and resume online through the company website.

Keep Track of Conversations

When meeting with multiple employers in a short amount of time, it can be easy to lose track of who shared what information. Take notes on the back of the business cards you collect or in a separate notebook. Your notes will be helpful when following up with each employer.

Follow Up

Collect business cards from the individuals you speak with so you have their contact information. Take the time to follow up with a short, personalized thank you note to each representative you met.


The Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) network connects DePaul students and graduates with alumni to explore college and professional transitions, life challenges, and university and career questions. To connect with Jennifer and other ASK mentors like her, visit HandshakeQuestions? Contact ASK at ask@depaul.edu.

Behavioral Questions: What Employers Really Want to Hear

By: Lynn Gibson, Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) mentor and DePaul University marketing graduate

Have you ever wondered what the hiring manager is really looking for in your answers? In this article, Lynn Gibson, DePaul alumna and mentor, decodes the underlying meanings of job interview questions and shares what hiring managers are really listening for. 


During interviews, the hiring manager has one primary goal: Choose the candidate with the highest success potential for the role. While the necessary skills are certainly a part of that, candidates who don’t have the skills usually do not get an interview. So, the decision comes down to behavior. Since it is believed that past behavior predicts future behavior, most interviews are heavily weighted toward discovering your behavioral strengths.

Now, let’s discuss how to frame your strengths in response to behavioral questions to make sure you highlight your success potential.

As a hiring manager, here are a few things I’m listening for when I ask behavioral questions:

  • Do you take responsibility for your actions in a challenging situation, or do you project the problems onto others?
  • Can you accurately and concisely identify the real problem or challenge, explain your actions, and describe the result of your actions? (CAR)
  • Does frustration/irritation show in your answers, or does a can-do attitude shine through?
  • Do you show empathy for and understanding of others in situations, or do you project a my way or victim attitude?
  • What did you REALLY do on that team project? Can you relate the situation/assignment, tasks you were assigned, actions you took, and results that you measured? (STAR)
  • How do you assess or explain your successes? Are they all “just about you,” or do you appropriately share credit?
  • Are you enthusiastic when you talk about helping others or going above and beyond on something, or do your answers show more obligation than eagerness?

Here are a few more things I’m listening for:

When I ask about failures/weaknesses/disappointments, etc., I really want to know if you “own” your behavior, know how to break down and solve problems, view obstacles as stumbling blocks or opportunities, have the motivation to push through and finally succeed, and grow from the experience.

When I ask about successes/achievements, I want to know how and what you actually contributed, how humble you are in terms of assessing your success, and whether you can clearly and concisely tell me about the process you used to gain the success. In other words, is your success repeatable because it is process driven or did you get lucky?

When I ask questions about your goals, I am looking to gain insight into your values and how you measure success or progress. Can you articulate why something is important and can you chart a reasonable course to try to achieve it? This also provides insight into your “core” motivation, which is what will drive you to reach your success potential.

When I ask about the types of environments that have brought out the best in you, it helps me to know whether you prefer a hands-on or hands-off approach, and if you are a self-starter or need someone to provide motivation.

Hopefully, after reading this, you will understand that the interviewer is using behavioral questions to try to gauge how you will react and respond to daily situations in their firm. They are listening for more than the “answers.” They are attempting to discern the traits/strengths behind those answers and measure your success potential based on how their other successful employees behave – or react/respond. And, that is a very good thing! A really great interviewer will never offer a job to someone who can’t be happy and successful in the role. As much as you think you want a particular job, always hope that the interviewer is very capable and will spare you much disappointment if it really isn’t a great fit for you.

With that said, you are responsible to make certain that you are responding in a way that best captures your success potential. Now that you have a little more insight into the real questions behind the questions, it may be time to give a little more thought to your answers.


The Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) network connects DePaul students and graduates with alumni to explore college and professional transitions, life challenges, and university and career questions. To connect with Lynn and other ASK mentors like her, visit Handshake. Questions? Contact ASK at ask@depaul.edu.

Lessons Learned: Believe in the Company You Work For

By: Kenny Lapins, Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) mentor and DePaul University graduate from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

In this article, Kenny Lapins, DePaul alumnus and mentor, and senior copywriter at Simple Truth, discusses the process of identifying your core competency and defining your career. And, finally, the power of believing in the company you work for.


Each of us has a core competency. In my case, it is writing. My core competency can be applied in many ways: technical writing, corporate communication, advertising, online copywriting, or journalism. Each type of writing has its advantages and disadvantages.

  • Technical writing is challenging, but potentially dry.
  • Online copywriting allows for creativity within confines of strict word count.
  • Journalism provides freedom, but often comes with impossible deadlines.

Once you identify your core competency and narrow your focus on the applications that best suit your personality, you define your career. However, one aspect remains: where to apply your skills. You may have an industry that appeals to you, such as consumer-packaged goods, automotive, or finance. Then, within the industry you choose, identify the companies that appeal to you.

What might not be obvious during this process is that you really must believe in the company you work for. Whether it is morality, ethics, or simply a desire to work somewhere you can feel proud of, what your company does and what it stands for will become important the longer you work there. If you choose a consumer-packaged goods company, are the products ones you would use? Are the manufacturing processes harmful to the environment? If you choose advertising, is there a chance you are going to have as your client a company that you are morally opposed to?

The lesson learned from my career is that I will not last long at a company I do not believe in. After all, if career advancement is a long term goal, would I really want to become senior management at a company I do not believe in? Even if that company is giving me a great opportunity to ply my core competency in creative and satisfying ways, if I don’t believe in the result of my work, I will not thrive.


The Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) network connects DePaul students and graduates with alumni to explore college and professional transitions, life challenges, and university and career questions. To connect with Kenny and other ASK mentors like him, visit Handshake. Questions? Contact ASK at ask@depaul.edu.

Handshake Hacks: Connecting with Mentors

By: Leslie Chamberlain, associate director of DePaul’s Alumni Career Services & Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK)

Connecting with a mentor allows you to explore college and professional transitions, life challenges, and university and career questions.

As you connect on Handshake with DePaul mentors or alumni in the Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) network, follow this guide on how to maximize your mentoring experience.

1. Be clear on your purpose: What are the top two or three reasons you want to connect? What are your expectations for this connection? Be prepared to address these topics, and make sure the questions you have are clear. Base your mentor search on who might be able to answer your industry, career, college or life questions.

2. Use appropriate search terms: You can browse through the mentor directory on Handshake by clicking Mentoring in the left menu, and then visiting the Find Mentors tab in the top right corner. From there, utilize the search bar by typing in specific keywords that correlate with your career and life interests or goals; choose strong keywords that communicate your reasons for connecting with a mentor. You can also use the Industry, Major, Job Function, Employer, Organization, Skill, and additional search criteria for an excellent, more advanced search.

3. Reach out to a variety of mentors: Your mentor search results may have multiple pages. Check the full list before making requests. The best fit for you might be listed on the last page, so make sure to take your time and browse a variety of profiles. The value of speaking with several professionals is that you can compare their experiences.

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Consider requesting at least five mentors. For example, you may reach out to three within your major or field of choice and two that share an interest with you (ex. running, art, movies, etc.). You never know what a mentor has to share until you meet!

4. Write a great introduction letter: Make your introduction letter stand out, and personalize your request based on the mentor’s bio. A short three-line message is best that includes the following:

  1. Explain what interested you about the mentor
  2. Share some background information
  3. Request a specific time range to meet (ex. 15-minute chat in the next two weeks)

In addition to reading the mentor’s Handshake profile, see if the mentor has a LinkedIn page, as you may be able to find more information.

5. Follow up and stay connected: When a mentor accepts your request, you will receive an email notification. Here are a few steps to take once you receive that notification:

  1. Send the mentor a follow-up message thanking them
  2. Schedule a time to speak in person or over the phone
  3. Schedule an “update” meeting after you meet
  4. Give the mentor updates about discussed goals

To send and read your messages, click, View Mentorship Details, on your list of mentorships.

[Please note: Handshake has a built-in direct messaging function, so your email address will not be displayed or public.]

6. Be remembered for your strengths and interests, not for your needs: Share your values, goals, strengths, and interests with your mentor. For example, instead of being known as an English major who needs a job, be known as an English major who enjoys understanding the needs of the community and making a difference through writing. Go beyond job discussions and share with your mentor what motivates and inspires you. This will help you build a stronger connection with your mentors – you never know what door that conversation may open.

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7. Show appreciation and gratitude: Show your appreciation by thanking your mentors whenever they set aside time to meet. Honor their generosity by making your meetings more convenient for them. For instance, offer to meet them at or near their office rather than asking them to meet you at DePaul. Try to be more flexible with your availability so you can accommodate their schedule. If you tried something they suggested, tell them what happened. If they assisted you in selecting a career path, preparing for an interview or a job application, or simply building your courage and confidence to pursue the next step, share with them your progress and acknowledge how they helped. The best way to thank someone is to express how his or her support has helped you.


The ASK team is here to help! At any step of the way, please do not hesitate to contact the team by email at ask@depaul.edu or phone at 312-362-8281, if you need assistance connecting with ASK mentors on Handshake.

The Gaming Industry: An Inside Scoop

By: Brett Prank, DePaul University computer game design major ‘19

I had the privilege of interviewing the DePaul University Fundamentals of Game Design Professor JJ Bakken, and ask him a few questions about the gaming industry. Not only does JJ teach at DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media, but he is also a producer for the gaming company, Wargaming.net, which is known for the popular “World of Tanks” games.

Brett: What got you interested in game design?

JJ: I’ve been playing video games for basically my whole life. I’ve always been interested in tinkering with and creating things, so when it came time to start thinking about what to do in the future, I thought, ‘Video games are real neat, I bet I could make those!’

Brett: What is your position at Wargaming and what are your goals?

JJ: I’m a producer. The Production department is the one that’s traditionally given the responsibility of being the glue that combines engineering, art, design, and QA. Our goals include managing the project, creating schedules, prioritizing work, etc. I personally run all our localization for World of Tanks. The game is translated into twelve different languages and I manage this process making sure that all new English text is translated on time and implemented into the game correctly. I also schedule all our Tank Production work, which means I make sure all the new tanks get made and put into the game on time. Finally, I also work with our external partners like Sony to ensure each new version of the game arrives safely and securely on the PlayStation 4.

Brett: On average, how much work is required of you in a single day?

JJ: I work a standard day; the great thing about Wargaming is we strive to have a good work-life balance. The goal is to make sure the game is running on time, and nobody has to work crazy long hours.

Brett: What has been your favorite moment working at Wargaming?

JJ: It may be cheesy, but February 12, 2014. This was the day that World of Tanks launched on the Xbox 360. I started my career in mobile games, but this was my first time shipping a console game. It felt great to see the game servers go live and people start playing the game. The reaction was positive! So many new people got to enjoy the game and we received some really great feedback.

Brett: What has been your least favorite moment working at Wargaming?

JJ: I don’t have a specific “least favorite” anything about Wargaming, but it’s always tough when some aspects of a project change unexpectedly or don’t finish on time. This is always a reality of making games, as it’s a complicated process! Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, but it’s important to be flexible and have some plans in mind for when these things happen.

Brett: Is there anything you’d like to share with people trying to start a career in the gaming industry?

JJ: The best part about making games is that everybody can start doing it immediately. You don’t have to wait to finish a degree or get a job; the resources exist out there to start right now. There are tons of information and tools that exist for free on the Internet for people to make their own games. Even more basic than that, people can create board or card games in their living rooms tonight. As far as getting into the industry is concerned, the best advice I’d give is to be passionate. If you want to make games and that’s your passion, you need to work hard at it, spend those nights and weekends creating games, reading about design, art, or engineering, whatever your goal is. The key to success is just putting in the time to really understand and grow your skills.


Are you interested in connecting with a professional in the gaming industry? One way to get insider perspectives on an industry that interests you is by searching for a DePaul ASK mentor on Handshake! ASK mentors are here to provide information about what it’s like to work in the role or industry that excites you.