Networking in the Polar Vortex: SSP's Annual Career & Internship Fair

by Melissa Larson, Round Lake High School ’10, Macalester College ‘14

College Scholars met with representatives from companies and nonprofits that recruit locally and nationally. 
Last week, Schuler Scholars proved that not even a polar vortex could stop them from pursuing professional development opportunities. After mingling during breakfast at the DoubleTree Hotel, we made our way into the Schuler Scholar Program’s 2014 Career and Internship Fair. Over 35 organizations greeted us, along with a resume consulting table and a photographer ready to take professional headshots for our LinkedIn profiles. We spent the next two hours networking with representatives from companies ranging from the Chicago Botanic Garden to Jumpstart to the Steppenwolf Theatre Company for a variety of internships. While many of the positions focused on education administration and programming, opportunities were available for those interested in areas such as ecological conservation, finance, engineering and media as well.

Following a break for lunch, Scholars and Schuler’s AmeriCorps volunteers were invited to two information sessions: Nothing is Certain, but Anything is Possible and Next Up, Beyond a Bachelor’s Degree. The first, led by AmeriCorps Scholar Coach Altagracia Montilla, helped us understand the “Chaos Theory of Careers” and put into our minds the idea that we do not need to panic if our professional aspirations and plans are not rigidly mapped out just yet. Instead, we were encouraged to constantly refine individual strengths and learn from new experiences in order to gradually figure out our ultimate professional goals. This session concluded with a talk by Eli Rollman, who described his incredibly non-linear path towards becoming the current SSP School Director for Round Lake High School – essentially a story of writer, turned taxi driver, turned lawyer, turned educator. I do not think the session could have ended on a more interesting note.

The final presentation of the day focused on another postgrad option for students: graduate school. Director of Diversity at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Sunny Nekae, guided us through the application process (a bit reminiscent of applying to colleges back in high school). Whether describing the different kinds of advanced degrees available to us or giving suggestions regarding how to choose a graduate program, Sunny presented all of the information in a very personable, matter-of-fact way. Seeing as she is currently a PhD candidate and constantly reads graduate school applications, she was able to give us some pointers as to what distinguishes the good applications from the bad. For example, don’t just say you have chosen to pursue a certain path; demonstrate how you have come to that decision. Among the most amusing, but still relevant, pieces of advice: never begin an essay with a cliché quote and never try to express artistic liberties when formatting your application materials. Apparently this happens more than we would like to think…

This annual event made professional development resources available to all Schuler Scholars regardless of class standing or academic interests. The professional and supportive environment of the Schuler-hosted fair gave us the chance to practice networking with potential employers for internships and careers after college. The internship fair served as a stepping stone towards the unknown professional goals that lie ahead.

Melissa Larson is a senior majoring in international studies at Macalester College. She is pursuing minors in Japanese and English as well as a concentration in community and global health. She recently returned from a semester in Denmark, studying public health with the Danish Institute for Study Abroad.

Melissa has written for the Schuler Scholar Program blog before, sharing tips on professional networking on social media as well as a reflection on the differences between studying abroad in high school and in college. To learn more about Melissa’s professional goals after graduation this spring, visit her LinkedIn profile.


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