How to Have a Successful Skype or Virtual Interview


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LauraBy Laura Myers, associate director of student career advising, serving students in the School of Communication and Bienen School of Music.

Congratulations, you landed an interview! You’ve been practicing answering interview questions but you just found out it’s not over the phone, or in person, it’s virtual! Whether it’s a Skype interview or a digital interview using a program such as HireVue, it’s important to plan ahead and present yourself in the best way possible for ultimate success.


Practice: Mock virtual interviews with a friend or career adviser can help you gain confidence, improve your interview skills, and get familiar with the technology.


Make your space interview-appropriate. A quiet room free of distractions with a neutral wall to serve as a backdrop is best. Ideally, this is a space that you have to yourself, but if others will be nearby, let them know in advance so that they can give you privacy for the duration of your interview. The last thing you need is a knock on your door in the middle of your interview. (If you’re in need of a quiet space for your virtual interview, interview rooms are available for Northwestern students in NCA’s Interview Center at 630 Lincoln St. Email to reserve a room.)

Think about lighting. You want to try to look the same virtually that you would in person. Place a lamp at either side of your desk (at the same height as your webcam or higher) to ensure the room is well lit. At the very least, make sure you don’t have a light shining behind you.

Consider the location of your webcam. I think we all know by now that the selfie shot from above, though annoying, is a really flattering angle. The best position for your webcam is at your eye-level, pointing slightly down.

On-Camera Presence

Present yourself professionally. Dress in business professional attire for a virtual interview, just as you would for an in-person interview. Also, be mindful of your body language. A smile and good posture convey confidence and enthusiasm!

Make eye contact with the camera. Instead of looking directly at your computer screen, focus on the camera to maintain natural eye contact with your interviewer. It may help to place a post-it note with a smiley face above the camera hole.


Test your connection. Confirm that audio and video are clear prior to your interview for both you and the person with whom you’re connecting. Make sure that you have a strong Wi-Fi connection (or, even better, connect to a router with a network cable to avoid a disconnection).

Update your profile. When doing a Skype interview, your interviewer will see your Skype username and picture, so it’s important that both are professional.

Minimize interruptions. Shut out of other computer programs beforehand so that the video screen is the only window open during the interview. This especially includes applications that make noise, such as social media and Gmail.


Send a thank you note. Make sure to get your interviewer’s contact information, if you don’t already have it, and send a note within 48 hours. Find tips for writing a thank you note on the NCA website.

Sources and Additional Information on Virtual Interviews


How to Write a Master’s Student Resume with Little or No Experience


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BrettBy 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 Northwestern Career Advancement’s (NCA) international master’s student blog series.  This series is designed to provide international master’s students with career information and strategies.  Find our previous posts here. We will add more posts during Fall Quarter 2017.  This blog series is a collaboration between NCA and The International Office.

As a graduate student at Northwestern, you will be developing a strong skill set that will benefit you as you seek jobs/internships or as you progress to the next steps in your career. An important tool to develop sooner than later is your resume, as it will be needed for the internship or job search process. Your resume will assist you to tell your story to employers highlighting your key skills, experiences, and interests so you can gain an interview for a desired job/internship.

Northwestern master’s students begin programs with varying backgrounds. Some students have previous related work experience that they can easily apply to new job/internship opportunities. It is also the case where master’s students might start a new program with little experience, or in the case of career changers, little related experience. The purpose of this blog is to address the later, assisting students with less experience to develop a resume that will strengthen their argument for interviews.

This blog will focus on key areas of your resume that are intended to draw attention to experiences you already have. For a comprehensive guide to developing all parts of your resume, review the “Resume Building” section on the NCA website to learn how to format your resume, key tips, and see samples.

Using Master’s Program Skills and Experiences

The obvious and strongest starting place, when you have little or no related experience, is to focus on the skills and experiences you are gaining during your master’s program. Key areas to reflect on include class projects, skills learned/developed, and courses.

Course projects offer a way to identify and display key skills and experiences that can resemble practical work samples. When choosing projects for your resume, it is important to be selective and choose only those projects that are applicable to the skills sought by an employer of interest. It is always best practice to customize your resume to the needs of each employer. When selecting projects, limit the number of projects you present to the employer to a select few (1 to 3 projects) because you will want to provide a description of what you accomplished.

As mentioned above, it is important to provide some details, in bullet form, on each project. Give careful thought to both the technical side of your project and how you completed your project. Yes, you want to walk through the steps involved in developing your research project, but if you worked as a part of a team, you will want to discuss your role within that team. If you led the project or you led part of the project, you will want to talk about that. Always make it clear to the reader what skills you used and what your role was on the project.

Crafting a skills section on your resume can provide quick information that can show an employer what you have to offer. It also helps you to include key words from a job/internship description, which can benefit you if the organization you are applying to uses resume scanning software in their recruiting process. Guidelines for developing a skills section include:

  • Focus on those skills that are evidence based. Avoid those skills that could be seen as opinion, such as “fast learner” or “great communicator”;
  • More is not always better. A resume is not a place to tell your complete story, it is the place to present your best, strongest argument to get an interview. Carefully consider your skills developed in each program and customize your skills list to those that are applicable.
  • Place the most relevant skills toward the beginning of your list
  • You might also note your proficiency level with each skill. Proficiency levels range from basic knowledge to expert.

You can also use selected courses to identify knowledge or skills that are applicable to internships and jobs. It is common for students to participate in courses offered by organizations like Coursera or Microsoft outside of their programs. This information can be listed in your “Education” section and separate from your Northwestern degree program. When presenting your course(s), identify the title of the course, who offered the course (Coursera, for example), and the date when you completed it.

Transferable Skills

Transferable skills can be another way to present applicable skills to employers. Transferable skills are relevant skills that were developed/gained in an unrelated experience. These skills tend to include: leadership, team work, research, communication, problem solving, resourcefulness, and others. You can find transferable skills in internships, past work experience, undergraduate experiences with student groups/organizations, and volunteering.

You can represent transferable skills on a resume by mentioning them in your bullet point descriptions of the above examples. For instance, if you were the president of a student organization as an undergrad, and you led your organization to host a student program or festival, you could speak specifically to how you led your team to this achievement, highlighting these skills that align best with the new job/internship.

Resume Assistance

Along with other Northwestern career services offices, including Engineering Career Development and Medill Career Services, NCA offers appointments and Express Advising to have your resume reviewed. Feel free to schedule an appointment with an adviser that fits your school and program.

#InternsofNU: Mikowai (McCormick/Bienen), General Motors


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I’m Mikowai, a rising senior in the five-year McCormick/Bienen Dual Degree program! Yeah it’s definitely an unusual combination. I’m studying Industrial Engineering and Piano Performance, with an Integrated Marketing Communications certificate from the Medill School. When I graduate, I’m hoping to combine the technical aspects of engineering with the creativity and storytelling of marketing.

Describe your summer internship.

This summer I’ve had the incredible opportunity to be an intern at General Motors in Detroit, Michigan. I’m working in the Global Customer Experience team, specifically dealing with social media marketing and analytics.


Beautiful Downtown Detroit

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

Last fall quarter I received my first interview with GM. The Northwestern Career Advancement website had many interview tips and tricks that I read through while preparing for this interview. Anticipating specific questions that I assumed would be asked and planning out detailed and comprehensive answers to each of these questions gave me security and calm during the actual interviews. While planning was an essential piece of the interview process, I believe that it is just as important to make a personal connection with the interviewers so that they can see you as an actual person that they would want to work with. For example, finding something that you can both relate to or have a common interest in can help you achieve this.

What did you enjoy most about the experience?

Being in Detroit was a wonderful experience. The beautiful company-provided apartments with close proximity to the Renaissance Center, GM’s world headquarters, gave me access to the exciting regrowth of Detroit’s downtown. There are many fantastic restaurants and museums that I was able to explore, making my foodie heart happy. A week off over July 4th allowed me to travel to Thailand with another intern. It was an incredible chance to travel for an extended period – an opportunity that I haven’t found at any other company.


Exploring Bangkok

What is the biggest takeaway from your internship?

Working for a top-notch large company provides learning experiences that cannot be received anywhere else. Seeing how teams interact with each other on projects, understanding how culture shift takes place, and interacting with upper-level management have been invaluable learning opportunities for me. I was thankful to have a fantastic team that I loved working with – coworkers that work hard together, but also enjoy spending time with each other outside of the workplace.


RenCen Work Location

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

While there are so many internship opportunities, it is also competitive and difficult to land one. One piece of advice: keep an open mind to opportunities. Apply to as many internships as possible, even if you aren’t necessarily thrilled about a certain company. It’s all about the relationships! Once you’ve interviewed somewhere, email them back and thank them for taking the time to interview you.

Most importantly, the GM internship has been FUN. It’s been a blast going to Tigers games with coworkers and working on projects that I really enjoy.

Consulting internship recruitment while studying abroad


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lizjoseBy Liz Abello, Assistant Director, Employer Strategy & Jose Santos, Associate Director, Student Career Advising

If you have chosen to study abroad this fall and are interested in consulting internship recruitment, you’re on the path to developing skills that consulting firms value! Adaptability and global competency are key to being a successful consultant.

Consequently, going abroad should not prevent you from participating in consulting internship recruitment. Recruiters have shared that, like on-campus candidates, quality of application is the determining factor in whether or not a student gets an interview.

We would be misleading you if we said that consulting internship recruitment while abroad is easy. Being abroad will require additional preparation, but it is possible; students have successfully secured a consulting internship while abroad. We know you can do it, and NCA is here to support you throughout the entire process.

Employer Perspective
Consulting firms handle study abroad candidates in one of three ways:

  1. Most firms will have study abroad candidates apply through the normal fall recruitment process and will interview the candidate virtually for first-rounds.
  2. Some firms will have an accelerated process for study abroad candidates. For those studying abroad, a firm will have an earlier application deadline, will conduct in-person interviews in a regional office during the summer, and will extend an offer before a student goes abroad.
  3. Rarely, consulting firms will choose not to interview a study abroad candidate because they value an in-person experience.

Since you will most likely be leaving for your study abroad program in August, it is imperative that you start preparing early! NCA has created a Consulting Internship Recruitment Preparation Timeline for Study Abroad Candidates (PDF) to help you maximize your summer. You do not need to inform consulting recruiters that you will be abroad since this will be on your resume. Remember, your career adviser is available to meet with you via phone, Skype, or in-person.

Interview Logistics
NCA can technologically support first-round interviews and will work with you and the recruiter on logistics. If you are selected for a first round interview:

  1. Sign up for an interview slot in CareerCat that works with the time zone in which you are living or will be travelling.
  2. Email the recruiter and Liz Abello ( to remind them that you are studying abroad; share your Skype account and international phone number in case there are issues with internet connections.
  3. Review NCA’s Best Practices for Consulting Virtual Interviewing (PDF).
  4. Log into Skype at least 5 minutes before your assigned interview time, and NCA will call you via video conference to start the interview.

For second-round interviews, companies typically do one of the following:

  1. Interview you virtually, much like the first round.
  2. Bring you to a nearby international office for an in-person interview.
  3. Fly you to a domestic office for an in-person interview.
  4. Wait until you are home in December to interview you in-person.
  5. Continue the interview process in-person during winter quarter.

Second round logistics are at each company’s discretion. NCA is always available to help you navigate this process.

Next Steps

  1. Make an appointment with your career adviser to discuss consulting internship recruitment while abroad.
  2. Review NCA’s Consulting Internship Recruitment Preparation Timeline for Study Abroad Candidates (PDF).
  3. Review NCA’s Best Practices for Consulting Virtual Interviewing (PDF).

Good luck!

NEXT 2017: Job Shadowing @ The Richards Group


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beccaBecca Smith (SoC ’17) is a Communication Studies and Spanish double major. Becca spent a day job shadowing a Northwestern alumnus at The Richards Group via the NEXT program.

Tell us about the organization and alumnus that hosted you. Why were you interested in job shadowing this alum?
I completed my NEXTernship with The Richards Group, an advertising agency located in Dallas, Texas. I shadowed Brad Todd, one of the Principals at The Richards Group. I was interested in The Richards Group because I wanted to get a feel for the advertising and marketing scene in Dallas, as I am very interested in working there after graduation. Brad’s position interested me because I could tell that he had experience and connections in every branch of The Richards Group, giving me overarching exposure to the advertising industry.

What did your day entail?
When I arrived, I was greeted by Brad and Kelsey Hoffmann, one of his team members. I chatted with different members of The Richards Group before sitting in on a brainstorming session. Much to my surprise, my opinion was encouraged and accepted with the same attention and importance as everyone else in the meeting. We took a tour of the building and I saw how much of an emphasis The Richards Group puts on a balanced and healthy lifestyle. The building includes a full-size gym, free healthy snacks, and exercise classes. After lunch, my day finished with sitting in on a few meetings and talking to people from different departments.

What was your biggest takeaway from your day? What new insights did you glean from this experience that will help you most as your prepare for or make decisions about your career path?
As cliche as it sounds, I left The Richards Group feeling at home. I already had a network of brilliant people in an amazing company, simply by spending eight hours with The Richards Group. After my NEXTernship, I realized just how important it is to think about how you and a company “fit” together. I had an absolutely amazing experience and I am so thankful to The Richards Group, Brad Todd, Kelsey Hoffmann, and the NEXT program for giving me this opportunity.

The Northwestern Externship Program (NEXT) matches Northwestern students with alumni for a day of job shadowing each spring, co-hosted by NCA and the Northwestern Alumni Association.

Northwestern grads: 10 pieces of career wisdom from alumni and NCA staff


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Photo credit: Student Affairs Marketing

As this year’s graduating class of Wildcats prepares to begin a new chapter, we’ve collected some parting words of wisdom from alumni and our own NCA staff to help guide them in their professional pursuits.

Whether you’re beginning a new job, graduate school, or another career endeavor, like public service or a fellowship, we encourage you to take these 10 tips wherever you go. (Curious about where the undergraduate class of 2016 is now? You can find that here.)

First, we asked five members of the NCA team to share their advice for new graduates. Here’s what they had to say:

Geni Harclerode, Director of Employer Recruitment and Engagement, on asking questions and building connections while on the job:

Remember your first 6 months on the job will be a huge learning curve so give yourself permission to be curious – asking a lot of questions is a sign of interest, not weakness, and people are going to want to help! Cultivate your professional network and pay it forward by answering questions of current students when they reach out.

Matt Formica, Assistant Director, Career Advising Team (serving students in Medill), on applying your Northwestern education and experiences to future opportunities:

You’ve been given an amazing opportunity by receiving an education at Northwestern. I would encourage you to leverage that opportunity not only for your own personal and professional fulfillment, but also to make a positive impact on others.

Laura Myers, Associate Director, Career Advising Team (serving students in SoC & Bienen), on allowing each new opportunity to inform your career path:

It is completely OK if you still don’t have a clear idea of how your career path will take shape. Please remember that your first job is not your last job, and each position you have will be a learning experience to help you figure out what you should do next.

Larry Jackson, Assistant Director, Career Advising Team (serving students in McCormick & WCAS), on considering your long-term career goals:

The days of staying with one company one’s entire career have passed. Consider pursuing opportunities beyond your first job that will allow you to continue building relevant skills and experiences to help you achieve your long-term career goals.

Jeff Jenkins, Senior Assistant Director, Career Counseling Team (serving students in SoC, WCAS, Bienen & SPS), on staying true to yourself:

Keep what you value in front of you as your guide. If you feel you are being asked to compromise what is important to you, have the courage to do the right thing.

Similarly, we collected five quotes from past #TakeNUToWorkDay alumni Twitter Takeovers, NCA’s virtual job shadowing program. When asked, “What’s the best career advice you’ve received?” here’s how our alums responded:

Derek Tucker (McCormick ’15), FCB Global:

Jo Lee (SESP ’14), HackerOne (FuelX during the time of this Twitter Takeover):

Natalie Bortoli (Medill ’98), Chicago Children’s Museum:

Victor Shao (WCAS ’13), DoorDash:

Andrew Christy (WCAS ’14), Alzheimer’s Association (ALS Association during the time of this Twitter Takeover):

So, there you have it! We wish our graduates much success in their next opportunity. It won’t be long before we’ll be asking you to share your best career advice for new graduates! Congratulations, class of 2017!

Making the first year a great year


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LarryBy Larry Jackson, NCA Assistant Director of Student Career Advising, serving students in McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science and the science fields in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

You got your first job after graduation. Congratulations! You probably have a lot of excitement about the company you will be working for, the work you will be doing, the location you will be living in, and/or the new friends you will make with your colleagues. The possibilities are limitless! Along with this opportunity comes a responsibility to put your best foot forward. Here are seven tips to help you maximize your first year on the job so that it is a productive and enjoyable year:

Build a strong working relationship with your boss. Engage with your manager early on to better understand his/her role, experience, and expectations regarding your work. When expectations are clear and you know how you will be evaluated, you can use this information to meet (or exceed) the performance objectives set for you.

Be respectful in all professional communications. Emails and memos should be formal in tone, concrete and concise. Always use appropriate grammar and punctuation. Sometimes your messages may be shared with superiors and other stakeholders so it’s important to compose content that is polite in tone yet easy to understand. Also, in personal interactions, be well-mannered and specific with your talking points during discussions. People are more likely to listen to your input when you are articulate, concise and considerate.

Prioritize and manage tasks and deadlines. Some of your work assignments will be planned and others may arise spontaneously. Identify your most urgent tasks based on the level of involvement that is required, and the length of time it will take and plan accordingly.

Actively engage with your colleagues. In the workplace, there will be a diversity of ages, work styles, backgrounds, attitudes, and experience levels, to name a few. Try to build rapport with your colleagues by buying them coffee or inviting them to lunch. Ask about their experiences and interests inside and outside of the workplace. By having a positive, inviting attitude, your colleagues will be more interested in wanting to develop a relationship with you which could make for a friendlier work environment. Speaking of colleagues…

Stay away from office drama. Every work place has its issues. There will be people who won’t like a certain colleague, people who don’t enjoy their work, and people who will talk ill of management and/or the company for a multitude of reasons. It’s important to stay impartial during these discussions, as you never know who is listening. Your goal is to be likable among as many colleagues as possible in order to build healthy, working relationships. When you feed into divisive conversation and interactions, it only creates a greater divide within the office.

Be change agile. Priorities in the workplace can shift at a moment’s notice so you have to have an attitude of flexibility in order to adapt and succeed in your work. Consider how you can mentally prepare yourself to pivot from one task to the next. Think about what makes it easy and what makes it difficult so you can make a plan beforehand to address those challenges.

Accept feedback gracefully. Your manager (and sometimes colleagues) will have ideas on how you should perform your work. The feedback you receive will be positive and negative. Listen to their ideas and focus on the most important aspects of their feedback. Considering and adhering to the content of their suggestions will show that you are invested in your professional success as well as the success of your team and organization.

Following these seven suggestions will propel you to greater heights during your first year. Chart your course conscientiously as these efforts lay the foundation for a rewarding career. Many well wishes in your new position (insert your name here). I am rooting for you all of the way!

Developing your professional narrative for first year students


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JeffBy Jeff Jenkins, NCA senior assistant director and career counselor, serving students in the School of Communication, Weinberg, Bienen and School of Professional Studies.

Many first year students we meet say they are not sure how to introduce themselves to employers or alumni. The idea of telling someone who is new to us about ourselves may seem difficult. However, let us look at this in a different context. Often when asked to describe a movie we have seen or a concert we have attended, we are able to tell the story to our friends. We use the same set of skills when meeting someone new in social situations.  If asked to introduce ourselves to an alum or employer, we are suddenly at a loss for words.

When asked about the elements of a good story in the spring issue of Northwestern Magazine, Northwestern University Theatre Professor Rives Collins offers some advice on storytelling. “It has to be a story that the teller loves to tell,” Collins says. And, “Know why you’re telling the story, and that will guide you as to what to leave out.” Your story in a concise manner is the professional narrative.

What is a Professional Narrative?

A professional narrative is a brief 30-second statement that introduces yourself using some key facts about you designed to generate a conversation with a networking contact or employer. The introduction allows someone to learn more about you and connect over a shared interest or experience. If you are engaged in an internship or a job search, one fact should relate to your professional goals

Take some time to reflect on who you are and include the following six elements.

Elements to consider:

1. Briefly introduce yourself
Think about your interests. Why are you at Northwestern? What do you hope to accomplish while you are here? In addition, it’s helpful to let the listener know the following about yourself:

  • Year in school (or year of graduation) and major(s)
  • Your interest in the particular industry or career
  • Your knowledge of the organization
  • Why you are speaking with them

2. Highlight strengths
Are you taking time to reflect on your strengths? Perhaps you are good at writing, research, math, playing an instrument, or talking with people. This is a good time to highlight your uniqueness. For example, you can briefly discuss research, awards or presentations you have given. Maybe you have recently joined a student organization or plan to volunteer this summer. Do not repeat anything you mentioned in your introduction.

3. What are your goals for this conversation?
Identifying your goal or purpose may help the person you are speaking with point you in the right direction for further assistance. Be succinct. If your goals are not clear, they will not know how to help you.

4. Wrap it up
Pull everything together in a brief but interesting concluding sentence. This will reaffirm what you want and how they can help you.

5. Ask a question
Be curious. People enjoy sharing their own interests. Ask questions, such as:

  • What do you do?
  • How did you get involved in this career?
  • What do you like most about your job?
  • What advice do you have for a student exploring this career?

6. Follow-up
While still in conversation, explore possible opportunities for continuing the conversation, for example:

  • Perhaps we could meet and discuss (name of industry) further?
  • Can we meet again and discuss my resume?
  • Whom else would you recommend I speak within your organization/outside your organization?
  • Can I follow-up with future questions I may have?
  • Can I get your business card?

The first time you use your professional narrative, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Learning how to construct your narrative takes time and practice. It is most important to maintain good eye contact and show enthusiasm and interest during the conversation–this will leave a far better impression than repeating a perfect narrative that may sound rehearsed.

Want to learn how to build and practice sharing your professional narrative? We invite you to make an appointment with a career counselor or adviser at NCA to get started at any time.

A look back at NCA’s 2016 NYC media career trek


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By Geordan Tilley


Hearst was one of many stops on the Summer 2016 Media Career Trek in NYC.

Geordan Tilley is a junior majoring in journalism and political science, and participated in the 2016 Media Career Trek in New York City. She plans to continue her work as both a producer and a reporter in broadcast journalism. She joined the Media Career Trek to gain a better understanding of the vast range of possibilities within the media field, and to learn more about the industry as a whole.

This summer, Northwestern Career Advancement took students across the country to learn about various industries as part of the Career Trek program. These trips connect current Northwestern students with alumni and other professionals in fields students demonstrate a strong interest in. I had the pleasure of traveling to Manhattan with 16 classmates to learn about the media industry. We visited 10 organizations in three days — ranging from NBC Universal to Viacom to The New York Times – learning about the vast array of possibilities that await us in the field and how we can use our time at Northwestern to best take advantage of them.

We began day one at Hearst, where we received expert advice on how to make ourselves stand out on resumes, cover letters, and interviews. We then went to Vox Media Inc. where we heard from a panel of editors and reporters about their career paths and the significance of passion in each of their careers. Next, at Time Inc. we talked to several Medill alumni about what they wish they had known during their own time at Northwestern and how Medill helped them get to where they are today. For our last stop on day one, we ventured into Brooklyn to visit Slate Magazine. Several reporters discussed Slate’s unique style and the emphasis it puts on its reporters as individuals.

Day two was just as busy. We started by touring NBC Universal, where we ran into Olympic gold medalist Simone Manuel on her way to the “Today” show. We then learned about NBC’s internship program and toured the studios. Next, at MediaLink, we heard from Medill alumni about a potentially less known – but just as fascinating – path in media. MediaLink guides companies in their media strategy, helping them keep up with the industry as technology continues to evolve. We heard from even more Medill alumni at our next stop at Quartz, a digital news outlet within Atlantic Media that prides itself on “intelligent journalism.” We learned about “obsessions” at Quartz, which is their way of acknowledging that the world doesn’t fit neatly into beats and encouraging their reporters to follow what excites them. We wrapped up day two with a trip to The New York Times, touring the newsroom as reporters covered Donald Trump’s surprise speech in Mexico. Northwestern alumni at The Times spoke with us about the importance of jumping on any opportunity that comes our way.

Day three was a bit shorter, but just as valuable. We began at Viacom, discussing the state of the industry over a lovely breakfast they provided for us. A young alum spoke to us about the culture at Viacom, her work within different stations like Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, and the value she found in each of her roles. Finally, our trek ended at The Wall Street Journal, where one last group of alumni spoke to us about their career paths and gave us valuable advice on being journalists, mentioning that you don’t have to be a financial genius to work there.

We emerged from the trek with a different perspective on what it means to work within the media industry. We took away from this experience a deeper understanding of how to use our strengths in our future careers. While we may not have all the answers for what we want to do in the long-term, we gained incredible insight in what questions to ask in order to get there.

Thinking beyond student organizations: The benefits of professional associations


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lynn-pageBy Lynn Galowich Page, JD, Assistant Director, Student Career Advising, serving students in the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP); Northwestern’s pre-law adviser

As you research different career fields, it’s likely you’ll come across a professional association focused on your industry of interest. What is a professional association? And can students benefit from joining one?

Professional associations exist for almost any career field and joining one in a field you are interested in pursuing, or even just exploring, can offer additional opportunities for professional development. Many of these associations encourage students to join, offering reduced membership fees and scholarships, or reduced fees to attend their conferences and workshops. Even without membership, you can often take advantage of an association’s online resources to stay up-to-date on key topics and trends relevant to your preferred industry—for free. For example, there are great articles, trends and tips you’ll find on an association’s website or social media, or in its e-newsletter.

If you’re considering joining a professional organization, here are a few of the benefits offered to members. I encourage you to meet with your NCA adviser to discuss which professional associations might be the right fit for your interests, as well as cost-benefit and any steps required to join.

1. Career Exploration

As a member, you will have access to a plethora of professionals in this field, as most associations maintain a member directory and offer local chapter meetings and workshops. These present great ways to access and reach out to professionals in the field in order to conduct informational interviews.

2. Professional Development

In addition to local meetings and workshops, most associations host annual conferences where you will have the opportunity to hear from leaders in the field and learn about everything from current trends to best practices in the industry. They also typically offer newsletters and other publications that provide up to date information helpful to professionals in the field, and, often, membership is not required to subscribe to association’s e-newsletter.

3. Networking

Once you know you want to pursue a career in a specific field, joining a professional association can provide countless opportunities to network with those in the profession. You will have the opportunity to network face-to-face at conferences, workshops and meetings. A great way for a student to gain access to these events for free is to offer to volunteer—and what better way to meet all attendees and scope out who is attending a conference than working the conference registration desk? In addition, many associations offer a way to connect online through LinkedIn groups and their own websites.

4. Find a Mentor

Many professional associations promote mentorship by pairing younger professionals with more seasoned ones. Having a shared connection through an association can help students or recent graduates meet professionals who are at the top of their field and might otherwise be harder to access. Participating in a formal mentorship program, or seeking out a mentor on your own through a professional association, can be another avenue to establish a relationship with an accomplished person in the field.

5. Find an Internship or Job

Most professional associations maintain their own job board, and that will be one of the first places a member will go to post a job opening. Of course, networking with members is another way to access the “hidden job market,” which is when a job opening will be filled before it ever gets publicized. Instead, those companies searching to fill a vacant position will turn to their fellow association members to seek referrals for the opening.

As always, we welcome you to make an appointment on CareerCat with your career adviser or counselor to discuss the many opportunities and resources that exist for Northwestern students to grow professionally and network with professionals, including identifying and accessing professional associations that might be of interest to you.

Examples of professional associations that offer student memberships include:

American Bar Association
American Marketing Association
American Society of Mechanical Engineers
American Management Association
The American Finance Association
The Society of Human Resource Management
Entrepreneurs’ Organization
Social Media Club
Association for Information Science and Technology
American Counseling Association
Society of Professional Journalists