NEXT ’18: Job shadowing @ The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center

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Antonia is a first-year student in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences majoring in psychology and minoring in music cognition. She participated in the 2018 Northwestern Externship Program (NEXT) and spent a day job shadowing a Northwestern alumnus at The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center in Schaumburg, IL.Job shadowing at The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center as part of the Northwestern Externship Program.

I applied for NEXT because I wanted to gain more specific knowledge on clinical psychology. Although I have learned a lot about psychology in general, I have not been formally taught about clinical psychology. All I really know is that clinical psychology focuses on the treatment of patients with emotional and mental disorders.

In April, I shadowed Edward Oriole at the Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center. Lighthouse offers individual, family, and couples therapy, and they gear their services toward the improvement of one’s mental and emotional health. Edward pursued both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Northwestern University, majoring in psychology and clinical psychology, respectively. His work mostly involves the use of Rational Emotional Behavior Therapy, encouraging active thinking and changes in one’s belief system regarding others’ intentions. He also works with patients that have suffered from drug addictions with the same methods. I was intrigued by Edward because his education followed the same path that I have planned.

Throughout the externship, I observed the environment of the lobby and offices. Although I could not observe any of Edward’s therapy sessions due to confidentiality and comfort levels, I still gained knowledge about what is effective in a clinical psychologist’s workplace. I frequently heard white noise and saw calming imagery such as fish and warm yellow walls. The comfortable, intimate environment of Lighthouse benefits the emotional well-being of a patient before they visit their therapist.

My biggest takeaway from this externship is that the main goal of clinical psychologists is to put mental health first. When Edward conducts couples therapy, his goal is not to keep couples together at all costs; he wants what makes each member of the couple happy. In general, the main goal of therapy is to advocate for positive mental health, not keep people in one’s life.

Finally, Edward offered one important piece of advice that I had not previously thought of: the more you relate to your patient, the more they will prefer you and stick with you. Patients want to feel confident in their therapists, and they want to feel an intimate connection. They need someone in their life that will listen to them and know how to help them because they have lacked that figure for most of their life.

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Career Q&A for International Students: Recruitment Jumpstart

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Photo of Rachel Garson Taylor, M.A., LPC, NCA assistant director of student career advising, serving students in Kellogg Certificate Program for Undergraduates.By Rachel Taylor, NCA Assistant Director, serving students in the Kellogg Certificate Program for Undergraduates.

Welcome to the International Student Career Advice blog series! Each month, NCA will feature a Q&A with current and/or former Northwestern international students about their experiences navigating the U.S. job/internship search process. In this month’s edition, NCA solicited feedback from two former international students now working in the U.S.:

  • Chinese undergraduate in Industrial Engineering and Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences, now working in consulting
  • Turkish undergraduate in Industrial Engineering and Economics now working in financial services

Here are their responses to questions related to preparation for the U.S. based job/internship search:

In your first position after Northwestern, what have you learned about the U.S. work place?

  • Make a friend at work! Building personal connections with colleagues is critical to get up to speed quickly, and to be happy. It takes conscious efforts to go beyond the “transactions” – pure work interactions, emails, and grabbing coffees – and to maintain friendship. Do small things to make yourself useful, organizing team happy hours, community service events, etc. go a long way.
  • I interned both in my home country (Turkey) and in the U.S. U.S. workplace is much more focused and work driven. Everyone pushes you to do your best at any given time.

Please describe any cultural norms that you have observed that are different than your country of origin.

  • Hierarchy exists in the U.S. for sure but is not as rigid as in Asia. Taking initiatives and claiming credit are mostly rewarded, but back-fire in a team-focused culture in the U.S. Gender bias is a very real issue in the U.S. and everywhere else, and you need to be prepared for how different cultural settings may generate and respond to these issues.
  • There is definitely a more intense environment than Turkey. Culturally people are more reserved and sometimes less open to help. They kind of want you to figure it out on your own.

What surprised you most about transitioning from being an international student to a working professional?

  • My accent/English was not a barrier as much as I thought. Perfect English doesn’t guarantee good communication. I have found that proactively seeking immediate feedback after presentations from colleagues also enhanced trust and my personal brand.
  • Actually I was expecting to struggle more with the workload. Northwestern has prepared us well in this manner, I did not have a problem taking on a big workload as the only entry level analyst in my group.

What advice do you have for international students preparing to launch their career?

  • Be strategic about what you develop. My strategy is to extrapolate and build on what made me successful on campus to the top 5%.  My strategy is to extrapolate and build on what made me successful on campus to the top 5%.  By focusing on what you are able to contribute, rather than your weak spots and fears, you will be able to make an make impact and enjoy the work more.
  • Definitely pay attention during the recruitment cycle. Communicate with professionals and try to make your name known during the interview process. You can be really, really good but not end up with a company that has a big name, and that is okay. Try to choose the workplace that will support you and develop you.

What you should know about the arts & entertainment job/internship search

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The arts and entertainment job/internship searchSavannah Christensen, marketing & communications intern for NCA, interviews Laura Myers, associate director of student career advising for students in the School of Communication and Bienen, to gain insight into the job and internship search process in the arts and entertainment industries.

SC: What majors or minors would you recommend for students interested in arts & entertainment?
LM: Well, here at Northwestern, students are not defined by their major. I would say that what’s nice about Northwestern is that you could be, for example, an Econ major, and go into the arts, if you shape your experiences by what your internships are and what your involvement is. So I don’t think that there is one major that is the major for these fields.

SC: You mentioned internships. Do you think they are key to arts & entertainment career paths?
LM: Oh, yes. Like any industry, internships are really important. But I will say, everything doesn’t have to be called an internship. For example, within entertainment, if a student were to have an opportunity to help out on a film set, they might not call that an internship, but it’s definitely still a valuable experience. On the flip side, within arts, we’ve done panels where we’ve brought alumni back who are doing arts administration, and an overwhelming amount of them say that their “in” into arts administration was really from, not an internship, but from a volunteer experience that they’d had. Let’s say they had a day job or volunteered as an usher at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra…they got to know people. That way when a position did open up, they had that advantage.

SC: For students who are looking for an internship, or to volunteer, what organizations would you recommend they look into? In the Chicago area specifically?
LM: I think there’s a lot of opportunity in the Chicago area. For the arts, there are many amazing museums, and almost all of them post internships in CareerCat. There’s the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art. There are also a lot of strong music organizations and orchestras like the CSO and Grant Park Music Festival. For entertainment, there are a number of talent and casting agencies in Chicago. I would strongly recommend students do some research into those organizations and reach out to people and network.

SC: Speaking of networking, how important is it to arts & entertainment?
LM: In all industries networking is important, but I would say in entertainment specifically, with film and TV, it is probably more important than any industry. Here’s the myth I try to bust for students: they think they have to know someone already or their family has to know someone. That’s really not true. We have such a strong Northwestern network… we have such a presence in the entertainment world. And I would say, from my experience… I’ve taken students three times now to L.A. for the film & TV career trek that we do, so I’ve learned a lot about the industry and I’ve gotten to know a lot of alumni. They are the nicest, most willing alums to talk to students, because it is a very work-your-way-up industry and a lot about who you know. But the “who you know” can be a Northwestern alum that you meet. So I try to reassure students that you don’t have to know someone already. You can use that Northwestern connection.

SC: Would you recommend students actively engage in these industries? Go to events or shows? Interact with performers or directors?
LM: Yes for sure. A film producer who is part of the career trek always emphasizes that you have to know what’s happening. You need to read Variety, you need to know what’s coming out and what films are being made. If you have an opportunity to go to a show or event, and go up to someone and be bold, do it. A student I currently advise shared a story with me about a very bold move she made. When there was a very famous entertainment alum on campus, she gave that person her resume, and it paid off because less than nine months later, she was contacted for an updated resume to apply for a position and landed an internship! So I tell students all the time, the more proactive you are, the better.

*This interview has been edited and condensed.

Career Q&A for International Students: Recruitment Jumpstart

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Photo of Rachel Garson Taylor, M.A., LPC, NCA assistant director of student career advising, serving students in Kellogg Certificate Program for Undergraduates.By Rachel Taylor, NCA Assistant Director, serving students in the Kellogg Certificate Program for Undergraduates

Welcome to the International Student Career Advice blog series! Each month, NCA will feature a Q&A with current and/or former Northwestern international students about their experiences navigating the U.S. job/internship search process. In this month’s edition, NCA solicited feedback from three current international students:

  • Chinese undergraduate in Industrial Engineering working in financial services (sales & trading)
  • Indian undergraduate in Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences and Economics working in consulting
  • Chinese undergraduate in Computer Science and Mathematics working in technology

Here are their responses to questions related to preparation for the U.S.-based job/internship search:

What is one thing that surprised you most about the recruitment timelines for your industry?

  • One thing that really surprised me is how early you have to prepare for recruitment. The timeline keeps moving up and the diversity recruitment/accelerated process can happen even earlier. Once the interviewing starts the spots can fill quickly, and there’s only a handful of firms that hire international students. It’s helpful to submit application early and check in with recruiters periodically to get a sense of how far along in the process they are.
  • The timeline for consulting is very regimented and easily discoverable through CareerCat. It is imperative to compile the timeline early so that you know which companies will be on campus on which dates.
  • I recruited for two industries at once in fall quarter, which is something that not most people would do. Tech industry’s timeline starts early in the summer – I unfortunately started a little bit late in the fall. Consulting industry timeline is pretty much what I expected so no surprises there.

When and how did you prepare for recruitment?

  • I started my recruitment preparations fall quarter of junior year, which in hindsight was late. I ended up being lucky but most people actually start to network and prepare their sophomore even freshmen year, which is now even more important given the shift in recruitment timing. When I was searching for junior year summer internships I didn’t really have a clear idea about which specific area in finance I wanted to pursue. It took me a lot of time to figure that out and then prepare for my technical interviews in the specific division. I think it’s good to join some finance clubs on campus, talk to the people in the industry and get a sense of what the career really is like early on. I also started following the markets in spring and that helped with the market questions during interviews.
  • I attended any recruitment events that were organized by firms I held an interest in during the spring and fall quarter. During summer break, my preparations predominantly focused on reaching out to former and potential connections at firms I was interested in in order to learn more about the nuances of the firms and build my network.  In addition, I did case prep to brush up my skills.
  • I started preparing for both tech and consulting in the summer. I studied really hard on the technical for software engineering internships, such as algorithms and data structures. For consulting, I did finish the whole Case In Point book and a few practice cases from Kellogg’s MBA casebook.

How did your preparation give you an advantage in the search process?

  • Talking to people and having a genuine interest about the business really helped. I think it’s something that takes time to build up and it really shows during the interviews. Also for S&T a lot of the preparation is following the markets, interpreting information and being able to talk about it. I got a lot of market related questions during the interview and it would have been hard to give solid answers if I hadn’t been following along for months.
  • Understanding early that networking was the most effective way to an interview selection allowed me to focus a substantial amount of my time and effort in the right place, instead of going overboard with interview prep too early in the process.
  • Because I had prepared for interviews over the summer, I was able to use the time during fall quarter to maximize my time at events that allowed for networking and information gathering.

What advice do you have for undergraduates about using spring and summer to prepare for recruitment?

  • Finance is a very competitive industry, especially for international students, so if you think this is what you want to do you have to start early: researching, networking and prepping for interviews. It’s also important to talk to as many people as you can during spring and summer to get a sense of the different divisions. Because the recruitment process can be so different for each division, I recommend first figuring out what’s better suited for you, then focusing on that specific area.
  • Take time in the spring and summer to zero in on the firms that interest you, and build your network at these organizations. This is a down time for recruitment at these firms, and as a result, first and second years are very open to speaking to prospective candidates, either on the phone or in person over coffee.
  • Know what industry you want to recruit for. Don’t spend time on industries that you are not interested but feel compelled to apply due to peer pressure. Use summer time to brush up your skills on the technicals because once fall quarter kicks in there will be very little time to spare while managing your classes and activities.

How to Break into Arts Administration

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How to break into arts administrationBy NCA’s Arts & Media Industry Team with the help of LaWanda May from the Chicago Children’s Museum and Darius Epps from the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts

Have you been thinking about pursuing a career path in arts administration? Perhaps you aren’t completely sure what working for an arts organization entails and want to learn more. We’ve got you covered with expert advice from two professionals in the field: LaWanda May is the Human Resources Manager at Chicago Children’s Museum (CCM) and Darius Epps is the Internships and Community Programs Manager at Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts (WT). We interviewed them to give you this insider’s perspective.

What exactly is arts administration anyway?

Also known as arts management, professionals in this industry work behind the scenes to operate the business side of an arts or cultural organization. Arts administrators are the bridge between art, artists, and audiences. Arts administration roles can be found within orchestras, theaters, dance companies, museums, galleries, educational institutions, arts centers/agencies, arts festivals, operas, and more. If you are interested in reading a bit more about this you can find more information on NCA’s Arts Industry page.

How can students break into the industry?

CCM: “It really depends on which institution you are interested in. Some arts institutions are only interested in artists that are working artists and that show work, while institutions like CCM, have interests in those who have more of education-based job experience. Also, involvement is the best way to break into any industry. A lot of working multiple part-time jobs and doing contract work.”

WT: “Take advantage of opportunities when they’re presented. Being open to exploring new possibilities can expand your network and provide you with valuable information and skills. No one’s career path is ever linear, so remain open to change and growth.”

How can a resume stand out when you are reviewing so many?

CCM: “List specifics. Pull out the little pieces that relate to the job description that you are applying for. Do your research and customize your resume so that it reflects the same values and skills requested for the job. Proofread your resume. Have someone with fresh eyes look at it as well.”

WT: “Any additional experience outside of the workplace (i.e.: service organizations, community groups, etc.) are always great to see. They can often provide insight into leadership qualities, the ability to work on a team, and willingness to show initiative.”

What is your process for reviewing cover letters? How important are they in your decision to interview a candidate?

WT: “Cover letters are a chance for applicants to share their story and convey their passion or interest in our organization. This gives an added personal touch to the application that simply cannot be communicated through the job experience listed on a resume.”

CCM: “Use the cover letter to express your interests and to highlight your past experiences and what you can do/learn in the new role that will enhance the position. With the cover letter, it never hurts to do your research and to mention specific attributes the institution has and how that complies with your career choices. Write a cover letter and cite how you are suited for the specific job and organization you are applying for. Being detailed oriented (not just creative) goes a long way.”

What does your interview process look like?

WT: “Interviews for our internship and apprenticeship program are conducted over the phone with a hiring supervisor, and sometimes a few colleagues within the same department. Questions can vary depending on the position, but generally cover work experience, interest in the program, professional goals, etc.”

CCM: “For our organization, we typically phone screen first (HR), if the candidate moves on, they are invited in for an in-person interview (HR and Hiring manager – in some cases an interview team). Some common questions include:

  • Why are you interested in our organization?
  • What is appealing about the position that inspired you to apply?
  • How has your experience prepared you for this role?
  • What are your strengths that would help you succeed in this role?
  • What do you feel are growth opportunities/what can you learn from this role?
  • What are your short and long-term goals?
  • What would you expect to gain from this opportunity (expectations)?

What advice do you have for students about interview preparation?

WT: “Prepare for your interview by practicing answers to standard questions, as well as researching the hiring organization. With the technology available today, it’s very easy to find information about current and future endeavors that are sure to impress during an interview.”

What specific skills and qualities do you typically look for when hiring for internships and entry-level positions?

CCM: “A willingness to learn, assist the supervisor in their development (open communication, letting them know what they are hoping to get out of the experience), enthusiasm about the opportunity, [and] flexib[ility] with the learning process.”

WT: “It can vary from position to position. Overall, we like to know how the internship/apprenticeship opportunity will encourage your professional growth. The opportunities offered at Wolf Trap for interns and apprentices place education at the forefront with an emphasis on professionalism and fun. Hired applicants can expect to leave their internship or apprenticeship ready to enter the workforce.”

Learn more about opportunities at the Chicago Children’s Museum and Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts by visiting their websites and keep an eye out for upcoming NCA programming to learn more about the arts administration industry. Remember, you can always make an appointment to meet with your career adviser or counselor via CareerCat!

How to Network as an International PhD

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Elysse Longiotti is an assistant director of student career advising serving doctoral students in The Graduate SchoolBy Elysse Longiotti, M.A., M.S., Assistant Director, Student Career Advising, serving doctoral students in The Graduate School.

Note: This post is part of NCA’s blog series for international students, but the following networking advice is relevant for all PhD students.

In the last two Q&A blog posts for international students, advisers and alumni discussed the importance of networking in the job search. Just as networking plays an important role in securing a postdoctoral fellowship, it is essential to learn more about different industries, career pathways, and positions outside of the academic job market. This can seem particularly daunting, as many enter into networking situations feeling as though they need to make an inauthentic sales pitch for themselves with the goal of getting something explicit from a conversation. However, this is a misguided approach to networking that will seldom result in successful relationship-building.

The first challenge to overcome when approaching networking is to re-frame what you hope to accomplish. Conversations should not be viewed as transactions intended to gain an immediate referral, interview, internship, etc., but instead, as the first step in developing a professional relationship. Chances are, contacting a random person on LinkedIn at a company of interest with a transparent goal of securing one of the aforementioned opportunities will yield little response. There needs to be a deeper intentionality and connection when you reach out to professionals. For example, contacting individuals with whom you share something in common – your department, your graduate or undergraduate institution, your field or discipline – and calling immediate attention to those commonalities will only increase your chance of receiving a response. Keep in mind, those you choose to contact are potential peers and colleagues in an industry or at an organization you hope to, at a minimum, learn more about.

The first thing, then, is to consider how to be authentic and maintain your values when reaching out to strangers. Though the bulk of initial networking conversations will be focused on your contact, you should have your own narrative prepared – commonly referred to as an elevator pitch. Crafting your elevator pitch requires you to take time to think through how your research and other professional experiences have led you to explore whatever opportunity you’re hoping to learn more about. Your pitch does not need to sell yourself, your awards or your accomplishments, nor does it need to go into the same type of technical detail with which you might provide someone from your field at an academic conference. You should instead tailor the story you want to tell based on the individual you’re reaching out to, or the industry you’re hoping to explore. Consider some of the following: what have you enjoyed most about your research?; how does that tie into what you hope will be your next professional role?; what (if applicable) experiences do you have in the industry you’re hoping to enter – past positions, internships, contract work, etc.? Preparing a thoughtful professional narrative helps set the tone and direction for initial conversations.

Equal consideration needs to be shown to those you connect with. Devoting time to think about your interest in the person you’re contacting is essential to facilitating an authentic exchange. What do you hope to learn from the person on the other side of your LinkedIn request, email, or phone? Think about questions you have about their day-to-day work load and projects. How and with whom do they collaborate, what is their work environment like, etc.? See the NCA Career Guide for more examples of potential questions. As a PhD, you may want to target employees with PhDs in an industry or company you’re exploring. You can then ask further tailored questions about challenges they encountered transitioning from academic research, primary differences, and ways they continue to apply training and experience gained during graduate school. Notice – all of these questions are focused on gleaning advice and insight, not an interview. When you engage someone with a genuine interest in the information and expertise they have to offer, you set yourself up to have more points of contact in the future.

The most important thing to keep in mind when approaching networking is that it is through relationships from which referrals are made, not stand-alone conversations. As Joseph Barber from the University of Pennsylvania wrote in his recent article, A Networking Rule to Live By, “[n]etworking is not the process of reaching out to people. Networking is the process of thinking about whom to reach out to, why, with what goal.”

4 Considerations When Selecting a Writing Sample

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By Taylor Kinn, NCA Assistant Director of Student Career Advising, serving students enrolled in the Harvey Kapnick Center for Business Institutions MinorBy Taylor Kinn, NCA Assistant Director of Student Career Advising, serving students enrolled in the Harvey Kapnick Center for Business Institutions Minor

If you are in the process of applying for an internship or full-time position there is a chance employers may request a writing sample as part of your application. Ultimately, an employer wants to know more about your written communication and evaluate your ability to perform in the role. Below are a few questions I recommend you consider when selecting a writing sample:

  • Who is your audience? Consider what you know about the employer: the industry, client focus, or other aspects of the employer’s work can provide guidance on selecting a topic for your writing sample. For example, if the organization focuses on public policy in urban areas and you’ve written a course paper about the impact of educational policy in Chicago, this could demonstrate both your interest in the employer’s work and the knowledge that you’ll bring to the role. This is an example of how industry and employer research can help to inform your application.
  • Why are they requesting a writing sample? You also want to consider the style of writing the employer is interested in reviewing. Consider the role and how writing and communication play into the tasks you will be asked to accomplish. For example, writing press releases, blog content, and client reports may require three distinct styles.
  • What do you hope to share? The content and style of your writing should ultimately showcase your Both the topic and style of writing are ways for you to demonstrate the knowledge and skills you can offer the employer. For example, if an employer wants to see that you can analyze information, this skillset may be better showcased in a research paper rather than an opinion based essay or non-fiction piece of work. Or, if creativity is important, sharing a piece that clearly conveys your ideas and point of view will be most effective.
  • Should you draft a new sample or use an existing one? There may be a situation in which creating a writing sample specifically for the application makes the most sense. The employer may even request this. For example, an employer may want to see how you communicate professionally and request that you submit a mock email. However, just because you haven’t written a course paper or other piece about the industry to which you are applying doesn’t automatically mean you need to create a sample. Still, you may decide that tailoring the content and/or style of writing to a given employer or industry is most effective for your application.

Keep in mind that most writing samples will be 2-3 pages, unless otherwise specified, and a section of a larger work can be used. Be sure to follow instructions about the requested writing sample and always proofread. Your ability to follow instructions is another way employers assess your attention to detail.

Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your career adviser (for job/internship applications), or career counselor (for graduate school applications) if you have any additional questions about how to select a writing sample or other aspects of the application process. The Writing Place can also provide you with guidance and feedback. Best of luck selecting your next writing sample!

#InternsofNU: Emma (Medill ’20) @ Taste of Home Magazine

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Emma Kumer is a sophomore in Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. 

Emma (Medill '20) interns at Taste of Home Magazine

Photo credit: Taste of Home Magazine

Describe your summer internship. 

This summer I was fortunate enough to work for Taste of Home Magazine, America’s #1 Cooking Magazine and an affiliate of Trusted Media Brands, Inc. (although you might know them as the Reader’s Digest Association!). My official title was “Digital Editorial Intern,” so I worked mainly for the website staff on Tasteofhome.com. In a typical day, I researched and wrote roughly two food-related articles, prepared past content for social media, and curated small graphics for stories using Illustrator. Oh, and how could I forget? We also had two optional taste-testings each day!

How did you learn about the opportunity? What resources were especially helpful in your internship search?

I actually stumbled on this job on Indeed.com. Working at a magazine has been my dream since I published Emma’s Word in elementary school, so knowing there was an open slot only 20 minutes from my house seemed ideal.

What did you enjoy most about the experience?

This was the first time in my life when I received immediate anonymous feedback on my writing. At first, it was depressing to read the hateful comments and see the glaring Facebook dislikes on my stories from people who didn’t even know me. Soon, though, I realized that for every furious commenter were probably a few quiet admirers who looked at my stories and learned something new about the food industry. A few times I even received gifts from companies who wanted me to review their products. Putting your work on a public platform is scary, but there are unexpected benefits.

What is the biggest takeaway from your internship?

When you run out of things to do, don’t ask for more work. Find it yourself. I think I annoyed my bosses in the first couple weeks when I constantly asked for more article assignments. Eventually, I learned that they really appreciated when I suggested my own ideas instead of waiting for them to come up with some. This worked in our favor when I wrote and published a piece about Teavana closing before our biggest competitor, Delish.com! 

Oh, and when you work at a food magazine? Eat a big breakfast because every single thing you write about will make you hungry!

Emma (Medill '20) interns at Taste of Home Magazine

Photo Credit: Taste of Home Magazine

What advice do you have for students pursuing internships that will help them be most successful?

Don’t let the job requirements scare you if you think you have the necessary skills for a job. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or your major is not exactly what they asked for—no job is going to be perfect. Taste of Home was looking for an intern who was at least a junior in college. At the time when I applied, I was a freshman. If you can fill out 80 percent of the application’s requirements, you can prove that you’re worth that missing 20 percent.

Alumni Career Q&A for International Students: Job and Internship Searching

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Photo of Career Adviser Brett, author of this blog postBy Brett Boettcher, NCA associate director of professional program strategy & management, serving students in the School of Professional Studies and master’s students in The Graduate School.

Welcome to the Alumni Career Q&A for International Students blog series! Each month, NCA will feature a Q&A with former Northwestern international students about their experiences navigating the U.S. job search process. The goal of this series is to help current international students understand what they can do to successfully plan their career and excel in the job search.

In this month’s edition, NCA solicited feedback from three international student alumni:

  • French master’s graduate from civil engineering program working in structural engineering
  • Chinese master’s graduate from analytics program working as a data scientist with an insurance company
  • Korean undergraduate from electrical engineering program working for a financial software, media, and data company
  • Chinese master’s student from integrated marketing communications program working for a marketing strategy company

Here are their responses to questions related to interviewing and networking for positions within the United States:

What challenges did you experience with the U.S. job search and how did you handle those challenges?

A lot of employers do not know the process to hire international workers and are afraid to look into it. A good way to prepare employers to that process is to give them a brief summary of how it will go, and to reassure them that nothing is asked from them while you are on OPT.

I got a lot of rejections. Also it was quite unclear to me what I did during the interview [that] was wrong. So I talked to a lot of alumni, asked for referrals, and asked them to help me (with) mock interviews.

Many challenges are regarding immigrant status. I dealt with them with people skills and tactical skills.

What advice would you give current international students who are seeking jobs in the U.S.?

Practice your networking skills. Build your network and get referrals.

Networking is the key no matter what position or industry it is.

Read the job description carefully, find the ones that MATCH your training background the best.

What resources did you use since the start of the school year for your job/internship search?

LinkedIn, CareerCat (NCA), Glassdoor, personal network.

NCA (Northwestern Career Advancement), ECD (Engineering Career Development), Department (MSiA) alumni network, online applications, etc.

Stay tuned for next month’s blog post on the non-academic job search for PhDs!

Pay attention to “the little things” in your job/internship search

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Photo of Rachel Garson Taylor, M.A., LPC, NCA assistant director of student career advising, serving students in Kellogg Certificate Program for Undergraduates.By Rachel Garson Taylor, M.A., LPC, NCA assistant director of student career advising, serving students in Kellogg Certificate Program for Undergraduates.

At some point, you have probably heard a cutesy saying about the “little things.” It is the little things in life. It is the little things that matter the most. Little things make big things happen. There are too many to list and you get the point. The applicability of these phrases is widespread, including your approach to the internship and/or job search.

The little things that make a big difference on your resume:

  • Size of your name – If you make it too big, it may say something about the size of your ego or be perceived as filler. If you make it too small, it may make your name less memorable.
  • Relevant course list – Select courses that give additional information so that an employer understands what relevant knowledge and skill base you have to offer.
  • Order of bullet points – Be strategic about the order of information you present. Lead with the strongest and most relevant skills as they align with your pursuits. If you are applying for an analytics job, lead with analytics skills; if you are applying for a communications internship, lead with your communication skills.

The little things that make a big difference on your cover letter:

  • Correct position title – While this sounds obvious, this error happens with great frequency. Use of the incorrect position title may communicate to an employer that you are either not detail-oriented or you did not invest the time to write a letter for them specifically – neither of which will support your candidacy.
  • The why you need to know – The body of the cover letter is intended to demonstrate to a potential employer how you have used your skills in other experiences to make an impact. Take this one step further and articulate why this adds value to the position you are pursuing. This demonstrates understanding of the role and directly aligns your experience to the position you are pursuing.

The little things that make a big difference in your interview:

  • Your chair – Although you may know where to sit, wait until offered a seat. This demonstrates respect and good manners.  Both are important as employers think about your potential to interact with other staff, clients, and leadership.
  • Their name – As you are saying goodbye, use this opportunity to thank them personally using their name. This adds a layer of familiarity and warmth to the impression you are hoping to create.
  • Thank you note – Write one! Because not many applicants are doing this, I can’t think of a better way to set yourself apart. Additionally, if you are going to write a thank you note, personalize it to your conversation with that specific interviewer.

The little things that make a big difference on your job/internship search attitude:

  • Potential – See the potential in yourself and the opportunities available. When you see the potential, your excitement will be conveyed in your commitment to the search, the effort you exert, the application materials you submit, and the way you present yourself.
  • Success – While your ultimate goal is to secure a job/internship, celebrate each success along the way of making this happen. For example, an invitation to interview is a huge step forward and one that you should acknowledge as it means the employer sees your potential.

I encourage you to embrace the “it is the small things” mentality as you approach your search. The little things will help you to stand out as a candidate. All these little things will add up to make a positive impression with employers and ultimately a difference in your search. For more guidance on the job/internship search, schedule an appointment with your NCA career adviser.