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The College should provide more opportunities for informal interaction with career professionals

By Maroon Editorial Board

If job-searching has a single rule, it is this: Networking is vital. Forming links with peers and professionals is crucial to success. From collecting business cards to striking up small talk, the value of networking has never been higher, and there’s no better place to do it than at Taking the Next Step, the annual CPO-planned career exploration day.

The event, which consists of a keynote speech, lunch roundtable, and two specialized panel sessions, is usually among the best organized pre-professional opportunities for students, and last Saturday’s event was no different; The shuttle system to the downtown Marriott was reliable, the food was excellent, and the padfolios were as confidence-boosting as ever.

However, it also shed light on how underexposed we are to these kinds of interactions. Speaking to these people—professionals dealing with the imperfections of their respective industries, candidly revealing the level of satisfaction they garner from their jobs—brings home just how important it is to be connected to the real world.

In short, there should be more opportunities similar to the lunch at Taking the Next Step, with informal interaction with alumni and professionals. This doesn’t mean undergraduates require a classy, large-scale function downtown every week, but more professional and real-world events, filled with professional and real-world people, would be highly productive. Opportunities like Venture to Adventure and the Winter Career Fair, which cover job searches in broad, generic strokes, pale in comparison to what in-depth and honest conversation provide.

There is no dearth of information sessions on various career paths, and we certainly aren’t lacking in interview preparation, résumé advice, or internship searches. All of these things, which are provided mostly by CAPS, are useful and enriching. But meeting professionals and hearing their perspectives on their working lives is a different experience altogether, an experience that is a rarity on campus.

Such experiences would not only supplement our educations, but also level the playing field for many undergraduates. With a student body of such diversity and disparities, students don’t enter college with equal connections or knowledge of the working world. More informal discussions of this sort would ensure that every student can plug into the U of C’s alumni network and leave the University with meaningful connections of their own.

The CCI (Chicago Careers In…) programs, which encompass health professions, law, business, and much more, could lead this project by more frequently holding small, intimate discussions with experienced professionals and alumni. These interest-specific seminars wouldn’t demand too many resources, but would still personalize and bring into focus the realities of a job search. What makes Taking the Next Step such a refreshing opportunity is the simplicity of its premise: Students talking to professionals without any pretense, barriers, or formalities.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief and the Viewpoints Editors.