Walking into the first of my four years at UChicago, I knew the College offered students the resources they needed to succeed, but I hadn’t yet experienced those resources first-hand. As a first year, one of the things I immediately began exploring was the Career Advancement Office. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to work with their advisers, I can confidently say that Career Advancement is one of the best resources at UChicago.
Every first-year student at UChicago is assigned a career adviser. I like to say that a student’s career adviser is the person who knows their hopes and dreams and helps them achieve those hopes and dreams. Career advisers can help students navigate the process of finding part-time jobs, identifying full-time positions or internships, and crafting potential career paths as a whole.
The Career Advancement Office at UChicago also has the Metcalf Internship Program. This program serves to ensure that students have paid, substantive summer experiences, whether these experiences are in research, finance, teaching, management, or something else. The descriptor of “substantive” means that students are guaranteed actual experience, mentorship, and insight into the professions they’re considering. Through the Metcalf Program, students can also find unpaid opportunities that interest them and apply for funding through the College, meaning that even volunteer positions could become paid if they are substantive experiences.
For students who don’t know what they want to do, Career Advancement offers “trek” programs: tiny glimpses into different industries, fields, and careers that take students across America and even the world. They’re basically like short job-shadowing opportunities. Treks give students the opportunity to figure out what career they want to pursue by getting a better picture of what a typical day in a particular field would look like.
In my case, I knew confidently that I wanted to get a research position in college. We went over that during my first meeting with my career adviser, and she walked me through the process. We devised a three-step plan of attack through which I could find out what kind of research I wanted to be involved in, reach out to faculty and professors, and then find a position. I don’t think anyone gives their career adviser as much work as I do, but I sent her every draft email I planned to send. With her help, I found a position as a research assistant at the Patnaik Lab and have had the opportunity to work on cancer research that I find thrilling and fulfilling.
Aside from proofreading my draft emails when I was an anxious first-year student trying to navigate the world of sending “professional” emails, my adviser proofread and edited my resume, the 20 or so cover letters I submitted for different positions and programs, and helped me prepare for interviews. Beyond that, whenever we’d talk about any new interests that arose—and many did arise—she would send me links to different positions and opportunities related to those interests.
As of February 2020, I had been accepted into the EYES on Cancer program at UChicago, which provides an intensive, substantive, and immersive research experience in addition to a lecture series and more resources for participants. However, when the pandemic came about, it looked like my program would be cancelled to align with social distancing and quarantine regulations. Panic set in and I set up an appointment to talk to my adviser, and she reassured me that we’d find something. We knew in-person research was out of the question because my parents are at a high risk of infection and have pre-existing conditions, so we started looking into other interests. She sent me a daily digest of opportunities, and every time she found something that seemed like it might be up my alley, she sent it my way. She helped me find a position to prepare for the possibility that my research internship might be cancelled.
A group of extremely skilled advisers who find a home in Ida Noyes Hall make a significant difference in our students’ career choices and outcomes. Our career advisers are at the center of our UChicago education, and they are a clear example of the manner in which our College allocates resources to undergraduates to ensure their success.