The Perks of Storytelling in Interviews

By: Gina Anselmo, former career advisor for the DePaul University College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

The formal process of an interview can sometimes feel awkward, stiff, and formal. In order to make an authentic impression and put your best foot forward, it’s helpful to think about stories that demonstrate your interests, strengths, and achievements. Practicing and applying the art of storytelling can strengthen your ability to share meaningful elements and can help an interviewer visualize a transferrable application of your experiences to professional roles and settings. Recently, I developed a workshop that uses storytelling as a primer, so to speak, to translate meaningful experiences from a conversational format to formal interviewing. This workshop was inspired by the many conversations I’ve had with students about interviewing and feeling stuck about the right things to say, or even having enough to share.

Based on this workshop, I’ve compiled tips on using storytelling in an interview:

Why Storytelling? The Perks:

  • Enables you to see the relevancy of life experiences to career development
  • Allows you to uncover patterns or themes that can connect to your identity and skills
  • Brings to light the connection between stories of life experiences and interviewing
  • Supports a deeper insight into your career path in a creative and less intimidating way

Where to Start:

Ever heard of blackout poetry? Blackout poetry focuses on editing or rearranging text from a newspaper or magazine article by using a permanent marker to cross out words that are not needed. Blackout poetry can be used as an initial reflective exercise to find what excites you, what motivates you and what is important to you. With the words or phrases that are left behind, ask yourself: What words speak to your interests, skills, work values, or represent parts of your personality? This exercise will ultimately help you think about the words that best describe your professional identity and can be shared in traditional interview questions, such as the infamous, “Tell me about yourself?” question.

The Approach:

Taking a more conversational approach to storytelling can shake the nerves off a bit and help you identify the most meaningful experiences or traits without the pressure of diving for the perfect response. After trying this reflective exercise, take it to the next level by adding personal, specific content to your stories. To help you master this, craft a response to these three points:

  • Tell me a time when you felt a sense of pride.
  • Think of someone who is important to you. How would they describe you?
  • Tell me about a time when you felt connected to a group, event, or other experience.

Pulling it All Together:

Now is your chance to pull a Mr. Miyagi move and put all your reflections and storytelling to use by translating your notes from narrative storytelling questions to traditional interview questions. First, it’s important to think of common interview questions that are presented in most initial interview situations:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why are you interested in our company?
  • Tell me about a successful project you completed.
  • Tell me about a time that you had to respond to a challenging situation.
  • Can you share your strengths and weaknesses?

To analyze an interview question consider this: What is the question behind the question. In other words, why are they asking these questions and what do they genuinely want to know? After you have given this some thought, revisit your narrative storytelling questions and think about the responses that you can translate or develop further for traditional interview questions. Here are a few translations of storytelling questions to interview questions:

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My advice to you when preparing for an interview?

Storytelling is simply another approach to laying a foundation and applying parts of your best stories to traditional interview questions. When you give yourself permission to think about the “why” behind interview questions and practice for interviews through causal conversation, then the interviewing process can feel less daunting and the authentic traits that best describe you professionally will shine through.

Need help preparing for an interview? The Career Center offers workshops each quarter to help with interview preparation. Visit Handshake to find upcoming events and workshops.

Reframing the Idea of Networking

So, are you networking?

This is a question that almost every student I advise will hear. The importance of making connections in the world of work cannot be underscored enough. More than once, a student on the receiving end of my inquiry has squirmed a bit in their chair before expressing a deep-seated discomfort with the whole idea of networking. This often stems from the commonly cited phrase, “It’s not what you know, but who you know!” Rightfully so, these students feel uncomfortable with the idea that a job might be undeservingly secured by way of a back room handshake rising out of nepotism. In over 12 years at the Career Center, I have found DePaul students to be firm in their desire to earn a position based on their knowledge and skills.

With this in mind, I challenge students to reframe their concept of networking by putting my own spin on the “It’s not what you know…” claim. I ask them to consider that it is indeed WHO you know that allows you to PRESENT what you know. I find this to be a far more accurate way of describing the importance of networking.

The simple fact is that for every available position, employers receive far more applicants than they can accommodate. As such, referrals and past interactions can be welcomed channels for sourcing candidates. Building relationships by way of networking can help you get your application noticed. Being a known candidate or having a trusted colleague speak on your behalf can go a long way when it comes to being on a hiring manager’s “must interview” list.

With all of this in mind, here are a few quick tips for successful networking:

Start with warm connections: It can be more comfortable and fruitful to first approach those with whom you have an existing relationship – faculty, classmates, former supervisors, family friends, and neighbors, for example. As part of your conversations, ask who else they might recommend you talk to. Personal introductions are among the best ways to grow your network!

Build rapport: Don’t start by asking for a referral. Instead, take time to build a relationship with the contact first. They’ll need to get to know you as a professional before they feel comfortable recommending you to others.

Frame it as an opportunity to learn: As you build rapport, relish in the opportunity to gain insight into the profession, field, and industry that your contact has established him or herself in. Conducting an “informational interview” is a great way to get insider information about your contact’s career and organization, and gather recommendations for those who wish to follow a similar path.

Follow up the right way: Following your initial conversation, send an email to thank your contact and connect with them on LinkedIn. Should you come across an article or other resource that might be of interest based on your previous conversations, share it by email.

Finally, when an opportunity presents itself that the contact may be able to help you with, reach out. Thank them for their previous help, mention the connection you believe they may have to the opportunity (e.g. they work with the organization or may know the hiring manager), and ask if they might be open to helping you think through your approach. At this point, they may offer you advice on how to best frame your materials or, if they’re able and comfortable, offer to recommend you.

So, are you ready to network? Consider utilizing the Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) Program to connect with DePaul alumni who have volunteered to be networking contacts for students, just like you. By jumping on Handshake, you can explore the many alumni who are willing to connect today, as well as search for upcoming networking events and workshops.


Getting Your Ducks in a Row When it Comes to Job Searching

By: Gina Anselmo, former career advisor for the DePaul University College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Job searching can feel a little daunting at times. Formatting resumes and cover letters, researching companies, making to-do lists, initiating handshakes and introductions, and interviewing all start to swirl together.

It’s important to take a step back and start from a place that allows you to center your interests, skills, work values, and personality all in one place so you can focus your search in a way that is intentional and makes sense to you. Before the job search, begin with a bit of reflection:

Your foundation

By answering these questions, you will be able to create a foundation that will ultimately help you approach your brand, resume and cover letter, and will act as an aid during your job search.

  • Interests: What areas are you naturally drawn to and how do they connect to career choices?
  • Work Values: What motivates you and supports job satisfaction?
  • Skills: What areas are you good at? What areas would you like to develop further? What skills do you enjoy using? What skills would you like to use every day?
  • Personality: What existing qualities influence how you approach decision-making and work style?

Consider settings and titles

In continuing the reflection process, it is important to give yourself a clean slate before you start your research to allow yourself to jot down gut thoughts that come to mind in these areas:

iStock_000081482779_LargeSettings: It is important to consider all the types of settings and environments that you would be comfortable working in. It could be a broad list such as non-profit, for-profit and government, or a specific list of companies and organizations. It’s important to consider how comfortable you are expanding to a range of settings and which work place settings are deal-breakers in order to streamline your search.

Titles: What job titles come to mind for your area of interest? Sometimes titles can range for a particular field (ex. Program Coordinator in Social services) and it helps to consider adaptations of that title paired with populations or areas of specialty (ex. Youth Development and Coordinator). This can sometimes yield a greater search to places and positions depending on how your key words align and are filtered in your search.

Dive into a search

A great way to get started is to browse sites, such as Indeed, using keywords based on your initial list of skills, settings, and occupations. Give yourself permission to see where the search takes you and pay attention to the titles, organizations, and areas of focus that tend to always catch your eye. Start to use your search to tighten your initial focus to a more specific list of positions, work settings, and areas of focus.

Develop job search materials

Now that you have taken time to reflect on how you want to articulate your brand and how you want to direct your search, it is time to develop or update your resume and cover letter. Make sure to always lead with your strengths and demonstrate evidence of success.

Prepare to network

Building a foundation to articulate what skills you have and want to develop, what motivates you in a career, and what specific interests you want to pursue can deepen the types of questions you ask in an informational interview or to jump start a laundry list of professionals to connect with. Make sure the questions you ask incorporate your skills, values, and interests so the professional can offer the most useful advice and resources to your specific case.

My advice to you when starting your job search?

Musings matter! Reflection is key and an important part of the job search process. Set time aside for exploring areas that make up your professional identity and brand in order to set the tone for your job search and to be more aligned with who you are and your short/long term goals.

Need additional help with your job search? Schedule an appointment with your career advisor! You can also participate in our Job Search Strategies workshop offered each quarter.

Break Into the Game Development Industry

By: Diane Hu, Former Career Advisor for the College of Computing & Digital Media

You’ve probably heard many times about the importance of completing internships to gain experience, and to apply knowledge from classes in order to find a full-time position after graduation. This is great advice to pursue, but what about networking?

Ashley Ruhl (CDM’10), a cinematic designer at BioWare, is an advocate of networking during the job search. In fact, many of her positions since graduating six years ago were obtained from networking.

It all started with attending the Game Developer Conference (GDC) during her junior year. There, she met industry professionals who gave her advice on her reel, which then helped her realize what she needed to do to enter the industry. She started competing in the 11 Second Club, where she created work outside of DePaul and continued to receive feedback. Her work outside of the university reiterated to employers her passion for the field; She was able to obtain her first position after meeting a company in-person at a student organization event.

As she continued to attend and volunteer at the GDC and network in Chicago, she started building relationships with industry professionals. “Networking is about building friendships,” Ashley shared. She continues to maintain and start new friendships even today. Ashley also advises current students to build friendships with classmates. Developing relationships on both lateral and vertical levels are all important throughout your career.

In addition to networking, Ashley suggested that students create multiple reels (30 seconds to 1 minute) where each one is tailored to the studio. Understanding fundamentals through classes such as ART 218 Figure Drawing is essential to growing advanced skills, which you will also learn on the job. Taking ANI 310 Motion Capture and ANI 350 Advanced Motion Capture Studio will also help students gain important skills. Finally, Ashley advises students to be flexible in the following:

  1. The skills you gain
  2. They way you perceive yourself (Animator? Designer? Developer?)
  3. The companies you consider

It is important to gain experience first before deciding on locations, companies, and positions. By networking, and with more experience and knowledge of your industry, you will be fully equipped to find your career path and role.

Studying Animation or other degrees in the College of Computing and Digital Media, and have questions about your career path? Make an appointment with a career advisor! Appointments are also available onsite at the CDM Graduate Admissions Office; sign up on MyCDM.

How to End Your College Years With a BAM

By: Alejandra Ruiz, DePaul University honors marketing major ‘16 

Stop what you’re doing! Take a step back, and enjoy the moment.

These past few months have been flying right past us, and we haven’t had a chance to enjoy our last year as undergrads. Two months from today we will be walking across the stage, saying goodbye to friends, professors, and for some, to Chicago. We’ve been so focused on getting good grades, finding a job, and trying to be ‘official’ adults that we’ve forgotten the most important thing – to enjoy the ride.

Whether or not you have plans after graduation, there are a few steps that you need to take before you walk across that stage:

  1. Build your Network. I know, I know, you’ve been hearing this from everyone. But it is truly essential. I’m not asking you to go talk to people you don’t know. I’m just saying that you could have a great network of people if you stay in touch with classmates, professors, office staff, coaches, and pretty much anyone here at DePaul. It is simple; connect with your classmates via LinkedIn, Facebook, or other social media outlets. With professors, you can do the same, but it will be more beneficial if you get to talk to them one-on-one before you leave. Remember, finding a job after college isn’t just about “what” you know, but “who” you know. From experience, connecting with a professor will help you reach mountains you never thought were possible in such an early start of your career.
  1. Visit the Career Center. I know we’ve all been avoiding meeting with our career advisors, it’s a nerve-wracking situation. But to be honest, going through that experience of meeting with them is very much needed. I can assure you, there is no one more dedicated and knowledgeable. They will help you through each step – from revising your resume, to showing you where and how to apply, to connecting you with people and events, and, they even help with mock interviews. Trust me, as a senior going through the scary process of searching for a job, my career advisor has been of great help!

I encourage you to not only follow these tips, but to also enjoy the last few months you have here at DePaul. Make sure to take some time to walk around campus, eat that disgusting Student Center food, watch a game, visit your dorm hall, and reflect on the past four years of your life. DePaul has been the best four years of my life so far, and I’m excited to see what’s coming my way. Congratulations to all graduating seniors, and I hope my short checklist will help you finish your undergrad with a BAM!



Experiencing the Life of a Professional…in One Day

By: Rachel Chessky, DePaul University marketing and economics major ’16

Thank you to all who have applied for the 2015-2016 Professional Exploration Program (PEP). It was a great success! Not familiar with PEP? PEP is a one-day learning opportunity that offers students the chance to experience firsthand the life of a professional. The University Internship Program and the Employer and Internship Development Team were very proud to see how DePaul students took advantage and made the most of this opportunity.

DePaul students, Cassandra Baron and Jessica Brana, took part in PEP this year and shadowed at two very different organizations. Cassandra was given the opportunity to shadow at the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute with the Population Management Team, while Jessica spent the day at the Office of Congressman Mike Quigley.

They both had an excellent experience and would recommend PEP to any DePaul student. Here is what they had to say about their one-day learning opportunity:

Sneak Peek: Shadowing Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute

Cassandra spent the day going to different nature preserves collecting hair samples, re-bating traps, collecting images taken from tree cameras and going to the lab to test the hair samples for a stress hormone as well as participated in an animal trading simulation. She was fully immersed in the Lincoln Park Zoo experience and was able to solidify that this is the career path for her.

When asked what she took away from the program, she responded, “the need and benefit of networking; I made so many great connections through this program, which will hopefully lead to an internship.” Cassandra went on to add how great PEP looks on a resume and how the experiences can help students get a feel for the career they hope to pursue.

Immersing yourself with professionals in your field of interest and witnessing firsthand their daily responsibilities will help you better understanding whether this career is truly right for you.

Sneak Peek: A Day with Congressman Mike Quigley

Jessica, on the other hand, spent her day learning about the different roles everyone plays in supporting the congressman. She also spent a lot of her time with Congressman Mike Quigley himself downtown and at different events throughout the community. While the day was busy from the very beginning, Jessica noted it was a great experience to see what a typical day looks like.

Similar to Cassandra, when asked what she took away, Jessica replied, “Networking is key!” Networking is an essential part in meeting professionals in your field who may one day offer you a job. As a result of her PEP experience, Congressman Mike Quigley offered Jessica an internship during winter and spring quarter!

If you want to spend a day shadowing someone in your field of interest, gaining new experiences, and building your network, don’t miss out on PEP! If you would like more information about PEP or scoring an internship, please reach out to us at