Students, young adults and experienced professionals throughout the Chicagoland area may have different levels of education, incomes and occupations. But despite the differences between these groups, nearly every Chicago resident is bound together by one factor: work.
Practically every resident of the Chicagoland area has or is currently experiencing the pressures of searching for employment opportunities in the cities daunting job market. So how are these young adults and eager laborers preparing to enter into the job sector, and what qualities give workers a competitive advantage in the contemporary job market?
According to a study done by city-data.com, Chicago’s economy is “based on manufacturing, printing and publishing and finance as primary sectors.” With the onslaught of jobs in high-technology on the rise, many students and young workers are scrambling to earn degrees and certifications as a means of entering into Chicago’s ever changing and fiercely competitive workforce.
Teresa Stock is a career counselor at the Roosevelt University Office of Career Development. According to Stock, one of the ways that students can gain real world experience in the workforce is through pursuing an internship.
“Internships can help you determine if you see yourself staying in a particular industry, and can help you build your professional network,” said Stock. “Sometimes interns are hired on full-time upon graduation if they did well and the company has a position available. They now also have some solid experience to put on their resume.”
Even if a summer intern position is unpaid and requires students to work full-time, Stock claimed that applying for these internships could still be a good opportunity.
“Everyone’s financial situation is different, so you need to do what is best for you. However, I do encourage students to think long-term,” said Stock.
“For example, is there a good chance you will be hired on full-time after the internship? Is it at a great company where you will gain valuable experience to put on your resume? If that is the case, it may be worth making a bit of a sacrifice now for a bigger payoff in the end.”
Internships are a great opportunity for students to attain valuable experience in the workplace. The market for part-time summer internships in the Chicago area is massive, but remains competitive as multiple students often apply for the same limited amount of positions.
“The Chicagoland area is huge and definitely provides lots of opportunities, so getting an internship is certainly an attainable goal,” said Stock. “ However, you will need to work for it and it is unlikely to just be handed to you.”
If the market for internships is so competitive, what can students to in order to stand out to future employers throughout the application process?
According to Stock, students should focus on what experience that they do have instead of the experience that they do not have.
“Students should make sure they are focusing on information that is most relevant to what they are applying for in their resume,” explained Stock.
“For example, if you don’t have much work experience, list your education section first. List some of the coursework you have completed to show employers what areas you are knowledgeable of.”
If students continue to get rejected from multiple job opportunities, Stock advised students to remember that they are not alone.
“It can be tough to deal with, but rejection is typically a part of the job search and sometimes that can feel like a lonely place,” said Stock. “I would also ask if there is a certain point where they seem to get stuck – for example, are they not getting any interviews? Then perhaps we can look at their resume and see if edits can be made.”
By utilizing resources such as the Roosevelt University Office of Career Development, editing and revising a resume and keeping up to date on job postings, students and young professionals can increase their opportunities of finding valuable work experience.
Daniel Sappington is a hiring recruiter and office manager at The Chicago Hire Company. Sappington recommends adding extracurricular activities to a resume along with selected professional experiences.
“Make sure to include any fraternities, societies, and extracurriculars in which they may have held leadership responsibilities if the work history is slim,” said Sappington.
In addition, Sappington recommends working a temporary position, as many businesses offer new graduates short-term contracts or non permanent positions as a means of gaining work experience.
“Don’t be afraid to explore temp agencies as a way to gain experience and get your foot in the door,” said Sappington. “Many temp agencies are used to working with fresh grads.”
Veronica Nunez is a hospitality and tourism management major at Roosevelt University, and is somewhat of a success story when it comes to finding student employment in the Chicago area. Nunez has been interning at the Hilton Palmer House since early September.
“I first learned about the internship position through the Hospitality Business Association, which sends emails about employment opportunities to young professionals throughout the Chicago area,” said Nunez. “I noticed that a paid intern position had opened up at the Palmer House, and thought about possibly applying. I didn’t really want to do it, because they probably wanted someone more experienced.”
The concerns expressed by Nunez highlight a common fear shared by many students seeking employment. Young professionals who lack experience within their discipline often feel insecure about applying to jobs, and fear being rejected from notable companies.
“I thought about it and decided to apply,” said Nunez. “The next day a lead manager contacted me, and after the interview I was offered a job on the spot.”
Nunez’s advice to students seeking internships would be to just go for it. “I thought I wouldn’t get hired since I’m only a freshmen, but there surprisingly wasn’t a lot of competition for the internship. I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t tried.”
Evidently, the efforts of the Roosevelt University Office of Career Development and the ambitions of young professionals across campus are leading to some positive results. According to a study done by niche.com, 91 percent of Roosevelt University alumni were employed two years after graduation. With a such strong alumni network and an abundance of career-advancing resources, the job market for Roosevelt graduates is looking optimistic.
Career Development is here to help both students and alumni, and Stock encourages students to take advantage of the resources available if assistance is needed.
“It is important to try to put a face or voice to your resume, and having contacts that can help get your resume in the right hands,” said Stock.
The Office of Career Development is located in Wabash Room 324 and Schaumburg Room 125, and is available to set up appointments with both Roosevelt students and alumni.