O-Issue 2014: Career? What career?

By Summer Fields

When it comes to figuring out what career you want to pursue as an undergraduate, every experience is worthwhile. Now is the time to sample. Think of these opportunities, from summer internships and career treks to job fairs and spring break externships, as standing in line at the ice cream shop and being “that guy” who takes six samples before just going ahead and getting cookies and cream anyway. When it comes to your professional development at UChicago, you’re encouraged to be “that guy”—or that kid, if you will. Some job experiences will end up being your flavor exactly, which is a beautiful thing. But in most cases, it’s about sampling and discovering what isn’t for you. And what’s your one-stop shop for kissing all these frogs? UChicago Career Advancement.

When the Jeff Metcalf Internship Program began in 1997, it offered just nine paid internships for students. By the 2013–2014 academic year, Career Advancement was offering around 1,000 10-week summer internships, each of which provides a $4,000 stipend. According to Career Advancement’s website, “over 4,500 students and 1,000 employers both within the United States and abroad” have taken up these opportunities to explore the 9-to-5 world beyond Hull Gate. Alternatively, the more self-directed path is the Summer Action Grant route, where an undergraduate must propose and find their own internship and mock up a budget, and the University will bear the brunt of the expenses. While Summer Action Grants apply exclusively to unpaid jobs in the United States, also up for grabs are International Experience Grants, which provide funding to work abroad. Stipend amounts vary.

To access Chicago Career Connection (CCC), the central online portal of University-supported job listings and internships, you must first make an in-person appointment with a career adviser. At this meeting, the adviser will look over your résumé and then activate you in the system. Advisers are available by appointment for undergraduates for all four years and can ease a wide range of career-related headaches, from revamping cover letters and résumés to simply chatting about goals.

CCC is an expansive database of all career opportunities—internships, jobs, grants—the University has to offer. Searching the database is fairly simple. First, you browse by location, industry, and opportunity type. Next, you apply directly through the site by uploading your materials—résumés, cover letters, writing samples, and transcripts.

However, when applying specifically for Jeff Metcalf internships, the process is slightly different. Say you apply for a Jeff Metcalf internship at Peace Corps. First, an in-house adviser or advisory board from UChicago’s Career Advancement office—not the host employer themselves—will be the first round of eyes to screen your application material.

From this, Career Advancement will then decide whether or not to pass you on up to the actual employer, for an additional round of screening. From there, the employer may choose to contact you directly in order to set up a phone or in-person interview. Non–Jeff Metcalf internships and jobs (which are listed on CCC but also exist out there in the, you know, “real world”) involve direct contact with the employer without any middleman screening rounds. And so goes the mad scramble to bolster one’s résumé, from late fall to early spring.

Yet another wing of Career Advancement are the UChicago Careers In (UCI) programs, which bundle a vast array of funding and educational opportunities into singular preprofessional tracks: business; education professions; entrepreneurship; health professions; journalism; arts and media; law; public and social service; and science, technology, engineering, and math. The majority of these UCI groups are non-competitive and open for any student to join—you just have to make an appointment with an adviser or drop by the Career Advancement offices, located mostly in Ida Noyes Hall. Just the business and education professions groups involve competitive application processes. Through the UCI programs, you have access to workshops, tailored career advice, site visits, and treks.

UChicago offers treks across the country and the world that help you clarify your career goals, get your networking sea legs, and learn how to really nail down your dream job. From day trips to downtown Chicago to weeklong visits to London, Beijing, New York, and San Francisco, these treks can be an invaluable experience for expanding one’s horizons.

Employment opportunities through Career Advancement are vast in scope, hitting practically every industry. Want to work in a food truck for the summer? Get out your taupe, because the Eastman Egg truck offers a Metcalf. Determined to become the Wolf of Wall Street? There are dozens of investment banking internships here and abroad. Angling to be the mayor of New York City or the governor of Illinois? Easy there, tiger—it’s too early for you to run for office yourself, but you can intern for Mayor de Blasio or Senator Cory Booker while you’re considering it. Do you live vicariously through Kevin Spacey as you binge watch House of Cards? Get out of bed and take a trek—a public service trek, that is—with the UChicago Institute of Politics to D.C. and meet the real realpolitikers as they live and breathe. Wanna make movies or fancy yourself an artist? You could work for Paramount in L.A. or a slew of film festivals across the country, or even secure funding to do your own creative project for the summer. You can even create your own apprenticeship during the academic year and get a travel stipend to follow around your dream employer for 10 weeks. Overwhelmed yet? Go talk to a career adviser.

As for the career of life, well, that’s a whole other matter.

For more detailed information, visit Career Advancement’s website at careeradvancement.uchicago.edu.