Chicago Career Exploration Trip

Today we have an entry from guest blogger Caitlin Burke. Caitlin is a first year MSES student.

For those of us who reluctantly attended those dreaded career fairs during undergraduate years, the idea of a trip based on career exploration may sound daunting.  It is much more stress free to sit at home and send out a few emails or make a couple LinkedIn connections.  However, when companies are looking to hire, they are not going to remember one out of hundreds of generic job applications they receive.  They are going to remember those people that have made an effort to reach out to them and met with them face to face.  It is always easier to make a lasting impression in person than on paper.

SPEA’s Chicago Career Exploration Trip is just the place to make a lasting impression.  Annually, the Office of Career Services organizes a trip to Chicago for current students to meet with employers and SPEA alumni. The panelists from different companies are there for YOU, and it is your decision to take advantage of the insight they have to offer.  The panels during those two days focused on policy, environment, and nonprofit work.  The panelists described the type of work they do and took us through what a typical week would be like for them.  Having all of the panelists side by side was the perfect opportunity to get a sense of what options are out there and to envision myself working for one of those companies in the future.

After the panels, various site visits were available to see some of the companies firsthand.  Among other things, this is your chance to show off your fancy business attire out on the city streets!  In the evening, a more casual networking event was held where we could talk to panelists and other SPEA alumni.  I was impressed by how willing the panelists were to offer advice on anything, from appropriate business attire to surviving an interview.  On this trip, I learned as much from other SPEA students as I did from the panelists.  Many students at SPEA have spent some time in the workforce already, and it was helpful for me to listen to them talk about companies they used to work for and see how that has influenced where they are right now.

The takeaway message from this experience, for me at least, is that networking is an extremely powerful tool.  One of the panelists I listened to made a great point when she said that it doesn’t matter who you network with, it can be as informal as talking to family, friends, or colleagues.  You never know who might have a connection to something that interests you!

There is nothing to lose by attending the career exploration trip, and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a summer internship or full time job…or if you’re just in the mood for some good old fashioned face-to-face networking.


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