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




Finding Home Country Networking Contacts for Your Job Search


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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 the final installment of Northwestern Career Advancement’s (NCA) 5-part 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. This blog series is a collaboration between NCA and The International Office.

Networking is a strategy that is essential to any Northwestern student’s job/internship search. Networking assists you to learn valuable industry, company, or job information. This information can aid you in making career decisions as well as provide insider tips for application and interviewing success. For international students, American-style networking may be quite different than the cultural norms in their home country. This can make networking confusing and intimidating. In the U.S., it is acceptable to contact Northwestern alumni or professionals to ask questions about a certain industry, company, or even that person’s job.

A common question international students ask at the beginning stages of networking is how they can identify and contact individuals. Who is acceptable to contact? What if I don’t know the person? What do I say?

It is always best to start networking with individuals you know. It is acceptable, however, to contact individuals who you do not know. A great way to start identifying people you don’t know, is to find individuals with whom you have something in common. Northwestern alumni are a great option since both you and the alum have Northwestern in common. Alumni can be helpful to international master’s students and should be used in any job search. Another way to find contacts with a connection to you is to find individuals from your home country, whether you are job searching for a position in the U.S. or at home. The intention of this blog is to present useful ways in which international master’s students can find home country contacts to begin networking.

How to Find Home Country Contacts Living in the U.S.

LinkedIn allows you to search through public profiles from any university that you attended, providing search criteria such as “where they live”, “where they work”, or “what they do”, to assist you in finding alumni who can be most helpful for what you are seeking. You can find alumni at various universities and colleges by typing the name of the university/college in the search bar (upper left-hand corner) and clicking on “see alumni” once you are on that institution’s profile page.

If you attended a university for your undergraduate degree in your home country, you can use LinkedIn to find home country networking contacts living in the U.S. or abroad. Find your home undergraduate university (for example, Beihang University), then search for profiles of alumni who work in the U.S. city that interests you.

Some Northwestern Master’s degree program departments offer access to alumni through events, listservs, or lists to assist students with networking and professional development. This can be a great way to identify home country contacts living in the U.S.

How to Find Contacts Living in Your Home Country

The Northwestern Alumni Association (NAA) offers two web-based resources that can be helpful to find Northwestern alumni who live in your home country.

  • Our Northwestern is a networking community of current students and alumni, with the purpose of professional and career development. Current students can access the alumni “directory” and use the “advanced search” to search alumni profiles by location (examples: India, Germany, Korea), company, or NU degree.
  • Mentorship Program is a networking resource where current students can develop meaningful relationships with an alum who can guide and support them in their job search.

Students can also use professional societies or associations to identify individuals from your home country. For example, the Society of Women Engineers has a number of international members which you could contact for networking purposes. You could contact either the Northwestern chapter or the U.S. national society to inquire about contacts. Ask NCA about how to contact individuals within professional societies/associations.

How to Contact Alumni for Networking

Now that you’ve identified home country contacts to network with, your next step is to schedule a time to speak to them. This conversation is called an “informational interview”. The informational interview is an inverse interview where you are interviewing the contact for career or professional information. You can first connect with your contact using email or telephone. Here is what should be included in your first communication with that new contact:

  • Introduce yourself, mentioning that you are currently studying at Northwestern.
  • Tell them how you found their contact information (LinkedIn, Our Northwestern, department contact, etc).
  • Ask for a 20 minute informational interview. 20 minutes is a reasonable amount of time for this type of request.
  • Be transparent and tell the contact what you would like to discuss with them. Do your research and ask informed questions. You do not want to ask questions you can easily find on a website.
  • Mention your willingness to meet them in-person (if working in Chicago), speak over the telephone, or Skype.
  • Avoid asking them for a job or internship referral in your first meeting. Get to know each other first.
  • Find a sample email in the networking section of NCA’s Career Guide.

Views from the Cube: Trading Technologies


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Daniel Ruswick (WCAS ’18) is an economics major interested in pursuing a career in software/media. He interned this summer at Trading Technologies. His advice for students looking for internships in software? 1) Use your spare time to get additional exposure to different programming languages. “Data structures and algorithms are useful for interviews, but pragmatic skills are also important,” he says. And 2) Cast a wide net when searching for opportunities. “I think the most effective strategy for finding internships is searching in several different places.”

This summer, I interned at a company called Trading Technologies. TT makes a cloud-based platform for futures trading, which it sells to trading shops and banks. I completed a 12 week software engineering internship in the Chicago office. I was placed on the Diagnostics Team, which is responsible for developing a suite of applications to monitor and diagnose issues within our system.

I learned about this internship by searching on LinkedIn. I submitted my resume and went through a phone screen. The second round consisted of a video call with an engineer. The interview involved both conceptual questions and coding. I chose Ruby as my language for the interview because I was most comfortable with it. TT’s process went very quickly, and they were the first offer I received. I liked the company so I accepted the offer right away and declined to move forward with the other companies I was interviewing for.

My projects mostly centered around building features for one of our applications. The app I worked on had a JavaScript-heavy front-end that communicated with an API written in Python. I got to work on several new features, including a tool to simulate network traffic for testing purposes, as well as a feature for automatically scaling AWS instances depending on the workload of the app.

I learned a lot during this internship. First and foremost, it gave me some valuable technical skills (such as knowledge of Python, Backbone, Chef, the AWS stack, etc.) These technologies are commonly used in the industry, so I definitely feel like this internship has helped build out my skill set. Second, the internship gave me a good background on futures trading. Part of our training involved an explanation of trading strategy and the financial mechanics that underlie futures, which I found very interesting. TT even ran a trading competition among the interns (which I won!).

Job searching while in short-term master’s programs


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By 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.

BrettWelcome 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.  This blog series is a collaboration between NCA and The International Office.

New graduate students entering short-term master’s programs can have a number of concerns. Some are thoroughly engaged in pursuing scholarship and classes, while others are considering their career options beyond Northwestern – will they seek a job with a new employer or seek a new role with their current employer?  If your case is the latter, you are likely wondering how you’ll manage your job search and your program. Short-term programs will require you to be planned and motivated. The extra challenge will be if you are a new international student. The adjustment to the US and Northwestern can complicate job options and searching. The intention of this blog is to provide international Master’s students, who are in short-term programs, with a strategy to manage job searching while at Northwestern.

Note: For this blog, “short-term master’s programs” refer to those whose duration lasts 12 to 18 months.

Consider Your Job Search Plan
If you have already met with your career adviser and developed a job search plan, then make sure that you are following your plan and are achieving your goals. Meet with your career adviser frequently to stay motivated. If you have not developed your job search plan, it is strongly suggested that you meet with a career adviser as soon as you can. Your career adviser at Engineering Career Development, Medill Career Services, EPICS, or NCA will assist you to create a customized job search plan that is unique to your situation and interests. A planned job search will mean a more efficient, effective, and less stressful search. You will better understand what to do and when and what resources and strategies will best fit your search.

Meet with Your Academic Adviser Regularly
Your Academic Adviser and/or department can be a great support during your job/internship search as they can provide program-specific information and resources. Some programs offer listserv or LinkedIn groups for information and networking. Ask about any alumni resources for networking!

Understand Recruiting Cycles
During your planning meeting with your career adviser, make sure that you have a discussion on the hiring style and cycles that align with your industry of choice. Not all industries or recruiters hire right away in the Fall Quarter, but it is important that you get accurate information on when your industry hires. This discussion will drive much of your job search. Furthermore, your career adviser can suggest strategies and resources that are helpful for your industry of choice.

When to Start Job Searching
If you are in a short-term program and if recruiting for your industry of choice does not follow a spring hiring cycle, it is advised that you start the job search process at the beginning of your program. This of course can put you in a challenging position since you may be just starting to learn the skills that the employers you are applying to are seeking. Your career adviser can assist you with your resume, LinkedIn profile, and elevator pitch to make sure you are in the best position you can be in based on your unique experiences. Your academic adviser/department can also inform you on helpful strategies that have been used by other students from your program.

Do I want an Internship?
Internships can be another option for international students to gain practical experience in their industry of choice. If you are in a short-term program, you should consider your options carefully. Depending upon your industry of choice, it may be that you will need to search for an internship at the same time you are searching for a full-time job. For technology jobs for example, the full-time job search can run from early Fall Quarter to early Winter Quarter, while the internship search can start in October and can last until February. It is advised that you meet with your academic adviser or department so that you can give careful thought to your academic plans – you may need an extra quarter for your internship.

Additional Steps
As you complete the first quarter of your short-term program and begin your job/internship search, there are a few things to complete:

  • Create and have your resume & cover letter reviewed
  • Talk about networking and learn to use resources with your faculty and advisers
  • Learn about career-related programs and events specific to career service offices and your academic department
  • Follow your plan to make your search manageable

Views from the Cube: FCB Chicago


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Agustin Chacin (Bienen ’17) is a music education major pursuing a certificate in integrated marketing communications and a minor in business. This summer, he interned at FCB Chicago. Following graduation, he will be starting his career as a Consulting Analyst at Accenture in Chicago. His career interests include working in education and business.

Where did you intern this summer? Describe your internship role.

I interned at FCB Chicago in the New Business team. It was a fantastic learning experience, as the new business team in an advertising agency works with all the different departments in order to pitch to prospective clients and identify new opportunities. Everyday was different: one day, I was a production assistant in a video for a prospective client. On some days, I researched prospective clients and did in-depth industry analyses, and consistently, I supported the logistics of creating pitches. FCB has had some major business wins in the past year, in no small part due to the hard working, talented, and intelligent people in the new business team- it was truly an honor to get to work with them!

How did you learn about your internship? What was your internship search and application process like?

Last summer, I came to NCA asking for advice on how to get an internship at an advertising agency. I knew interning at an agency would give me a hands-on marketing education of today’s best practices that would supplement what I’ve learned in the classroom. My advisor at NCA introduced me to a recent NU alum who was working at FCB Chicago, and after an informational interview at FCB’s office on the Mag Mile, I came away with more knowledge about the agency life and in which roles I was interested.

Before the school year started, I went on NCA’s Marketing Career Trek in New York City last summer, which was my first time in NYC! We even got to visit FCB’s New York office, which in no doubt helped me know more about the company, and got me excited to apply to work there.

In the fall, I met a recruiter from FCB at NCA’s Career Fair, and I mentioned the conversations I had with people who worked at the agency, what I liked about the agency after my visits to the NYC and Chicago offices, and about which roles I was interested in. A few weeks after applying on CareerCat, I followed up with the campus recruiter, and then after interviewing with a few members of the new business team, I got my offer in early December. What’s unique to FCB Chicago is that they recruit fairly early for some positions, while most marketing jobs and agencies tend to recruit in late Spring.

What were some of your biggest accomplishments?

I had the great opportunity to present to different groups of people throughout my internship. Whether it be presenting research on a brand’s competitors to the creative and strategic partners working on a pitch or presenting to members of the C-Suite during FCB’s intern pitch project, I really got to flex my public speaking chops, which was a lot of fun.

What advice do you have for students pursuing internships in this field?

One of the best ways to make connections or create warm leads with companies is to reach out to alumni and hear about their experiences. During my summer at FCB Chicago, I reached out to Northwestern alums who currently worked at FCB, and they were very excited to chat with a current NU student. Even people who were 5-6 years out of school were excited to hear about how NU has changed and the clubs/groups with which I’m affiliated.

Above anything else, do your homework on a company. If you ask great questions and are excited about the opportunity, you will stand out. One of the biggest frustrations for recruiters is talking to students in career fairs who don’t know anything about advertising or what being an account manager is like. Showing an understanding of the industry and an opinion on best practices will make you stand out from applicants who haven’t done their homework.


Beyond a Job Board: Incorporating Additional Strategies into your Internship & Job Search


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maggieBy Maggie Smith, NCA assistant director of student career advising, serving students in Weinberg.

During any internship or job search, strategy becomes an important question. Where will you search? How do you find what you’re looking for? Where else should you be looking?

For many students, the most common response tends to be online internship/job search sites or databases. Most students begin their search by identifying relevant postings online.

Many employers post positions on a variety of search sites in an effort to increase visibility and collect a larger number of applications. Some internship/job search sites and online databases are specific in what they offer and/or who is able to access their postings (i.e. Idealist or USAJOBS). Other online databases are more general; they post internships and full-time positions across a variety of industries and are open to anyone (i.e. LinkedIn or Indeed).

CareerCat is Northwestern’s internship and job database. Employers across a variety of industries post positions in CareerCat to encourage Northwestern students and alumni to apply.

Postings are a logical place for students to begin their searches for several reasons:

  • The employer is looking for interns or full-time hires; if the employer posted a position, they’re likely ready to review applications and make a hiring decision.
  • You can find what you’re looking for; online databases typically allow you to indicate your specific criteria (industry, location, position type, etc.) so you can apply for what interest you most.
  • The position description is often provided; you can review job responsibilities, qualifications, and necessary skills before choosing to apply.
  • There are clear application instructions; employers will typically specify within their postings how and when they want candidates to apply.

Identifying opportunities online through internship/job boards and databases is a great place to begin your search, but it shouldn’t be the only strategy you implement.  Why not just apply to online postings?

  • Although you can find postings relevant to most industries, some industries rely more heavily on search sites and databases than others. Further, some industries might not use this method at all. You might not always find what you’re looking for if this is your only method of searching for opportunities.
  • Some employers prefer not to receive a large number of applicants or share their opportunities too widely, so they may avoid search sites and databases in favor of a more tailored approach.
  • Positions posted on search sites sometimes get a large number of applicants; you might not always hear back following an application or receive an automatic reply.
  • Students often begin their search with postings and spend the most time applying online, but it is not the method used most often by employers to identify potential talent.

So, what else can you do? You might be wondering what options you have beyond reviewing internship/job boards and databases and applying to positions online. NCA encourages students to incorporate the following, additional strategies into their internship or job search:

  1. Source Employers

Employer sourcing involves researching potential companies in your industry of interest in order to target and pursue specific opportunities. Many employers only post opportunities on their own websites in an effort to identify the right candidates; these employers might not utilize search sites or online databases.

This is a proactive, tailored approach to your internship or job search and might involve the following steps:

  • Develop a comprehensive list of employers that you already know of and those that surface in your research.
  • Visit the website of each employer on your list to learn about current opportunities.
  • Apply to specific openings on the company’s website.
  • Think longer-term; there might not be positions posted the first time you look, so consider establishing connections within the organization in anticipation of future opportunities.
  1. Network
    Networking is the most effective search strategy and the one used most by employers. From an employer perspective, networking allows a recruiter to more easily identify high-potential candidates. As a student, networking provides you with an opportunity to develop contacts, learn about specific employers, and share information regarding interests and opportunities. Networking can allow both employers and students to more easily identify the right fit.

Employers often begin their search for potential candidates with networking and it is frequently where they spend most of their time. Students should consider making networking a significant part of their internship/job search to better align with employers’ strategies.

Networking is valuable across any industry or with any employer. Some employers, however, rely completely on networking to fill positions. If they have a position available, they utilize their networks to share opportunities and identify potential talent; they might never post a position at all, even on their own site. This is especially true within creative industries like media, communications, advertising, and entertainment.

A successful internship or job search involves a combination of identifying opportunities online, sourcing employers, and networking. You can’t rely completely on any one strategy. Think broadly about your approach and consider building upon your existing strategy to better position yourself for success. Your NCA career adviser can assist you in developing a strategy to best fit your industry of interest; set up an appointment to get started!

Views from the Cube: National Association for Community Health Centers


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Laura (SESP ’17) spent her summer supporting advocacy initiatives at health centers with the NACHC.

Laura Hefner (SESP ’17), a social policy major, interned at The National Association for Community Health Centers (NACHC) this summer. She is interested in pursuing a career in public health.

Where are you interning this summer? Describe your internship role.

This summer, I interned with NACHC in their department of Grassroots Advocacy. As an intern, my duties included developing resources to promote advocacy initiatives at health centers, supporting time-sensitive advocacy requests to the advocacy network, assisting in the planning of National Health Center Week, and collecting and organizing health center advocacy best practices through direct outreach to health center advocates.

How did you learn about your internship? What was your internship search and application process like?

In the summer of 2015, I completed my SESP practicum (a quarter-long required internship program for all SESP students) in Washington, DC, which I really enjoyed. I knew that I wanted to return to DC for summer 2016, so I got an early start on the application process for public health internships in the DC area back in January. I reviewed the information on the SESP website about internships other students have done, but I also went online and looked up as many public health internships in Washington DC as I could find. Because the DC area is competitive for summer internships, I sent out over 20 cover letters and resumés. I also interviewed for a couple positions in Chicago as well. I had five interviews for DC positions and was hired after two phone interviews with NACHC. My first phone interview at NACHC was with their internship coordinator and the second was with the director of the Grassroots Advocacy department, the division I was applying for, as well as with the directors of a few other departments. Several of the internships, including NACHC, required a writing sample along with my resumé and cover letter. The application process was arduous but well worth the effort. Even after I accepted the position, I still heard back from several programs.

What were your main internship responsibilities, from daily tasks to bigger projects?

Every day, I helped out with approving local events for our annual National Health Center Week celebration. I also organized submissions for the National Health Center Week picture and video contest and made sure that all submissions complied with contest rules. I wrote a few blogs for their website about individuals selected as Outstanding Advocates of the month, created a couple infographics, and wrote a couple one-pagers for their website. I worked on two big projects at the end of my internship: One was a podcast about engaging individuals in the health center movement, and the other was a final presentation for the entire department on training and adult learning principles. In between the writing and bigger projects, I also was asked to do other smaller jobs on an as-needed basis, like data entry.

What have you enjoyed most about your internship?

NACHC arranged for all of the interns to visit three health centers in the DC area in June and July. These visits gave me the chance to see in-person how the work I am doing at NACHC impacts the work being doing on the ground.  I have also especially enjoyed writing the blog posts highlighting the outstanding advocates in the health center movement. It has been inspiring for me to hear about the work that these individuals have been doing for the health center movement and to see how passionate they are about health centers.

What advice do you have for making the most out of an internship?

If you have the chance, conduct informational interviews with other staff members in your office. I found this to be invaluable in learning about topics that I was interested in but not directly working on through my internship projects. I would also say to try and go above and beyond what is asked of you in the office. Your supervisors will appreciate your extra effort and they will go out of their way to make it a rewarding experience for you. Finally, if it’s not offered to you, feel free to ask your supervisors for feedback on your internship performance. This is the only way you will know if you’re meeting their expectations, and if there is anything you need to change.