These days jobs are a form of currency. They’re inordinately valuable. Everyone’s clamoring for one like a brains-deprived zombie. The second an opportunity surfaces, hundreds of unemployed folk immediately throw out their resumes without even looking at the initial job description. No kidding. Job hunting has become a tense, aggravated practice that millions of Americans deal with day in and day out. It doesn’t stop there, either. Headlines like “Unemployment Rises!” or “Where are the jobs?” creep into our nightmares each time we set our heads down on the pillows. We wake up sweating profusely, staring at our digital clocks, watching as each minute passes and we’re out there yet again. Scared yet? You should be.
Reality check, folks: You’re still in college. You’re about the safest population out there. Yes, you have loans. Sure, the clock’s ticking, but you still have time. Supporting yourself might be rough, but as a student, there are several opportunities and resources to take advantage of – especially as a DePaul student.
“Welcome to the Career Center. Please, come in.”
Pleasant words, huh? They may change your life. Or, they might just make you realize you’re in the wrong office. (Hey, it happens.) Odds are they’ll kick off something highly lucrative: your prospective career. As the office’s title suggests, this is a place where career specialists dwell, providing students, alumni, and employers with opportunities to connect. Whether or not your snow-caked boots cross through its doors is up to you, but it’s a wise visit. After all, everyone needs a helping hand sometimes, and given this market, you could use a ladder.
Just ask Gina Anselmo. As Assistant Director for the Career Center, she develops ways for students to shape their own identity and prepare themselves for the current and future job market. This goes deeper than just crosschecking that resume of yours, too. This includes everything from constructing mock interviews to creating specialized workshops – the sky’s the limit with her. What’s more, and especially exciting for you readers, is that she’s also the Career Specialist for the School of Education.
“I wanted to create specialized programs just for SOE students,” Anselmo admits. “Being an introvert myself, I know networking isn’t always the most desirable thing on people’s lists.”
Having been here for a little over three years, Anselmo has created an intense collection of programs for students enrolled within the School of Education. Students have the option to schedule an individual advising session, where current students or alumni can meet one on one with a specialist, they can attend networking events, which are panel discussions focused on any number of topics like teaching, counseling, and educational leadership, and they are invited to attend the annual Education Job Fairs, held each winter quarter. The workshops tend to be popular with students, especially given the variety.
“One of the first events I put together was the Teacher’s Forum, which everyone is familiar with now,” Anselmo digresses. “This is a large event I host in the fall, and I have over 25 different principals involved. I invite a keynote speaker who is a veteran educator and I also invite seasoned principals and other educators to lead round table discussion leading a range of topics from classroom management to the culture of the school to thinking about the first year in teaching.
“I also include another component in which principals provide mock interviews to our students. I encourage them to treat it as authentic as possible. Students receive an evaluation sheet from the principal and have an opportunity to debrief with the principal about the interview and what to prepare for real interview. It can be an intense experience but I think this is needed in order for our students to be thoughtful of the process. All of the students who sign up for that portion have to research the school, dress to the nines, etc. I’m very strict. In the end this event gives students an edge to make genuine connections so they can reach out to these professionals.”
Another popular event is the Tours for Teachers series. This one sees Anselmo taking students to different schools, widening their perspective of what different public, private, and alternative settings look like and expect. “I’ve taken students to over 25 different schools,” Anselmo says. “We meet the principal, teachers, and sometimes student ambassadors. We tour the school. Students ask the questions they always wanted to ask. Later they can write a cover letter to that principal explaining they were part of the Tours for Teachers program and would love to connect further in some capacity. I’ve had a lot of students make great connections that way.”
But, as we all know, the School of Education doesn’t just produce teachers. Principals, superintendents, reading specialists, you name it, all walk out of the school doors year after year. Anselmo makes sure they have places to go, as well. “Last year I created a pilot program for Ed Leadership students, called the Educational Leadership Summit,” Anselmo explains the program, which is aimed at seasoned teachers or returning alumni, all looking to advance their career by receiving a Type 75 certificate or pursuing other administrative opportunities. “This is where I had a rockstar panel of superintendents present their perspective of leadership.” She goes on to explain how she even snagged the superintendent of all parochial schools, the president of the Noble Schools Charter School Network, several Chief Area Officers from Chicago Public Schools, and a few suburban superintendents on the panel. As for the event, activities include the aforementioned panel discussion, multiple concurrent workshop components, and an open networking segment with all participating guest professionals. Very serious stuff.
That’s not all, either. In one new program, titled Counselor Connections, Anselmo again focuses on students in advanced programs – though, namely those in the Counseling program. Here she opens student’s eyes to what’s going on in the community, touching upon topical discussions within the field of learning development. “It’s similar to Tours for Teachers but more trend-based,” Anselmo says. “When we visit the organization or school and focus on a larger perspective of the culture of the organization as it relates to trends in the field, for example, What does bullying have to do with being a school counselor? What does advocacy really mean?” Wouldn’t Dr. Eva Patrikakou be proud?
Outside of these events, students can also take advantage of the Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) Resources, where mentors with education experience or degrees share their knowledge and skills, essentially giving back to their school. Employers from all industries visit the campus, as well, offering presentations to prospective employees. Surprisingly, it doesn’t stop there. Anselmo digresses on more resources, but contends that it’s really up to the student’s willingness to attend and get involved.
“Students come at all points in the process” Anselmo notes. “Many students are becoming more proactive in the job searching process and come to see me right away, others feel more comfortable coming on the heels of student teaching as preparation before their teaching experience, and those who are in student teaching and/or just finished and need support before they job search.” She insists that students start early and stay committed. It’s a learning experience and one that takes time. Students should expect more than just a resume building session…and they do. More and more students are getting involved in the workshops, networking, and exposing themselves to opportunities galore. Anselmo feels this is the smartest way to stay strong – especially in today’s market, where identity is harder and harder to construct.
“There are more and more professionals interested in becoming an educator or a part of the helping field in general,” Anselmo says. “You have to be as proactive as you can. Going to events, making connections, allowing yourself to be exposed to many different clinical opportunities, volunteering, etc. It is important to widen your focus and take part of as many things as possible to enhance what you are able to present to perspective employers. Try to enhance your professional story as much as possible in addition to clinical observations and your student teaching experience.”
Anselmo also brings up the comfort of the digital age. More and more applicants have turned to online applications to apply for positions. Technologically speaking, this makes sense; however, given the high traffic, students’ resumes can get lost in a faceless system. In other words, it’s become even more competitive. Though it’s dependent on the school’s functionality – for instance, parochial schools tend to prefer the more traditional “snail mail” application process; whereas, suburban schools accept only online submissions – Anselmo feels a solid mix of both does justice.
Don’t rely on your digital fingerprints! If there’s an option to drop off the application, take advantage of this. Also, be smart with how you manage your digital profiles. Anselmo name drops LinkedIn, a popular social networking tool that’s become rampant over the past few years in terms of employment. Not surprisingly, the Career Center offers a very popular workshop, where students can learn the do’s and don’t's of the system. Here’s a tip on the house, though: quantity doesn’t necessarily provide results. As Anselmo insists: “Be very selective as to the professional connections you make.” Also, when it comes to more socially friendly sites like Facebook or MySpace, stay alert and use your privacy settings to your advantage. “First thing people do, regardless of the industry, is that they’ll Google your name,” Anselmo adds. So, next time a friend tags you in a photo from your recent holiday party, try and picture who you don’t want to see it. (Personally, you should just untag it anyhow.) The internet is a stage for embarrassment.
As most of you might have guessed already, there’s also a heavy emphasis placed on face to face interaction (e.g. interviews, networking, etc.) when it comes to employment. Anselmo covers these areas in most of her programs and workshops (i.e. Tours for Teachers, Teacher’s Forum). As she says, “Principals want to know three things really: Are you good at what you do, are you passionate about what you do, and do I like you.” Simple enough, right?
Easier said than done, that’s for sure. But hey, nobody said life was easy – especially for educators. Though given this market, it’s admittedly tougher than it has to be. Anselmo, on the other hand, insists that the market shouldn’t dissuade anyone.
“I like to be an optimist and a realist,” Anselmo says. “If you’re willing to broaden what you’re interested in, entertain more variables, it’s going to be a good opportunity when you look for your first job.” She discusses the idea of a fluctuating market, one that offers plenty of windows at different times and in different areas. “There’s more than one variable to the job market. It’s not just one area. Regardless of whether an area is in high need or popular with a high volume of applicants, the region, type of school, grade level, endorsements, and many other things need to be considered.” Lesson to learn? Never limit your job search. “Start with 20-25 schools you actively want to pursue whether they have jobs or not,” Anselmo suggests. Every school has different needs – for example, yes, Special Education is a hot area, but not every school district is hiring – so go with the mantra that “you can always look further.”
Here’s another reality check for you. Today, you might find a lack of job opportunities in your search. Tonight, you might not push aside those stressful nightmares. Later tonight, you might even wake up and gaze away at the glowing red LED lights from your clock radio. And tomorrow, there might not be any job offers calling you up (or is it emailing?). But, that’s today and tomorrow. What the Career Center invests in you is your future. That’s something to feel good about, especially if you take the time and effort to work with them. Now, you might have scoffed at all those extracurricular activities your mother begged of you. (Did anyone really want to join the Boys Scouts?) But, this is your life. This is your future. Is there anything else more important? Rhetorical question, folks.
But this one isn’t: When do you plan on visiting the Career Center?