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4 Steps To Acquire A Political Internship

October 15, 2014

by Nicole Chacin

Students from high school to college across the country seek the opportunity to intern for a Member of Congress. As a former intern for both the House of Representatives and the Senate, I have a personal understanding of the process to apply and the factors that make a candidate desirable. To prepare for the application process I have outlined four key steps to stand out amongst the applicant pool that can easily consist of hundreds of students for any one internship.

1) SPEAK TO AN ADVISOR
In high school and in college your advisor is of key importance. This individual will get to know you better as you arrange your school schedule with their assistance and will come to see how your interests translate into student activities and accomplishments.

Advisors are also able to recommend certain steps like getting involved in student government, which they know have proven to be valuable in gaining experience and maturity while standing out amongst other candidates also applying for a political internship. In addition, certain colleges allow for interns to receive college credit, so it’s good to check in with your advisor about that. Advisors certainly will also be able to work with you in making a plan to raise your GPA if this is something you need work on. Having a good academic record speaks volume about a candidate.

2) ASK FOR A REFERENCE
Knowing a professor, teacher, or professional who can contribute a good word about you is crucial. More than 50% of your application consists of your own testimony regarding your candidacy for a political office. While you may find that you are the best candidate for the position (and very well may be), the office wants to know you have the respect and trust of others who can attest to your good qualities as well.

The reference you obtain for your application is also important, because this individual could very well notice attributes about yourself that you did not notice or were too bashful to convey. The reference is really a necessary personal touch which summarizes the very best of you as a candidate in a sincere, relatable way for the reader of your application.

3) CONVEY INTEREST
Whether you are a high school or college student, you need to demonstrate in your application a serious interest in politics or the political process. Demonstrate knowledge about the member of Congress you wish to Intern for, namely their stance on issues and the work they began since taking office. Being able to discuss this individual’s achievements and efforts really makes a difference when trying to choose between candidates.

The first office I interned in gave a questionnaire with content that ranged from questions about the Majority and Minority Leaders to requirements for office and term limits.

Having taken political science courses and being an avid reader of American History, I was prepared and gave a good first impression to my colleagues and supervisor. Depending on the environment of the office whether it is a District or DC Office, the expectations might be higher of interns, so understand there might be some curveballs.

Also important when applying for these positions is to show your ambition and how such an internship can both advance your academic and professional goals as well as be of assistance to the Office providing the opportunity. In the same way that you as a candidate want to benefit from your time interning, so do the Staff of that political office want to know that your presence will be helpful and positive as they will be the ones to train and spend time guiding you throughout the internship.

4) PREPARE FOR THE INTERVIEW
Provided the chance to interview with that desired political office (a good sign), it is always good to review the application you submitted and run through key points beforehand. This strategy is a good re-fresher and ensures that in person, you are prepared for any questions and can easily expand upon something if asked.

On the day of the interview be sure to arrive on time and be dressed appropriately either in business casual or business formal, depending on what is more appropriate. In a political office, less is more - in other words, the key focus should not be your attire, hair, or makeup, but rather the qualities you bring and are willing to improve upon during the internship.

Overall, you want to leave your interviewer with the impression of your serious, genuine interest in that particular political office as well as your ability to contribute and willingness to learn.

Following such an interview, also be prepared if your interviewer asks if you have any questions. The worst thing is to say nothing, because it usually translates to lack of preparation or disinterest.

Oftentimes, you will find that your interviewer will be the key person you go to throughout your internship, it is nice to show a respectful, but formal interest in that person’s role in the office. If you really have no questions to ask your interviewer about the internship or the office, you might convey a polite sense of gratitude for their consideration and express you are looking forward to hearing of their decision.

I wish you the utmost success in applying. As I am sure you will discover, if you take such an internship, it a sheer privilege and irreplaceable learning experience that a select percentage of the country have been able to take part in.

Nicole Chacin is a Chicago native and student at the George Washington University where she studies business administration. Nicole aims to obtain a dual masters degree in Law and Business Administration by 2017 and ultimately dreams of working in health policy and administration.  This is Nicole’s 2nd year writing for Forté as she had the opportunity to learn about the organization through the first Forté C2B Leadership Conference.

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5 Ways to Succeed at Your University Career Fair

October 13, 2014

by Stephanie Watkins

Career Fairs are in full swing at colleges across the country as companies begin their fall recruiting process. This can be both an exciting opportunity and a little bit overwhelming.  If you go in with the right know-how, you can come away with valuable information and new connections to use in your job and internship search.

1. HAVE A GAMEPLAN

Most schools will have a list of the companies attending the career fair available on their website. Take the time to go through and see which positions or companies you might be interested in beforehand. You can also check to see if the layout of the event is available, so you can strategize the order of booths you go to.

Knowing and prioritizing the companies and positions you are most interested in will make sure you allocate your time efficiently and have a goal in mind before going.

2. LOOK THE PART

We’ve all heard the phrase, “First impressions are everything!” At a career fair, this most certainly holds true. Employers expect a professional appearance and certain level of preparation from the people they meet. Women should take into consideration their outfit choice and make sure it is both professional and appropriate.

Acceptable attire can include either pants and a blouse with a suit jacket, or a knee length dress skirt and blouse. Don’t let your makeup or jewelry be distracting to employers; ensure it’s your personality and skills that make the impression!

3. COME PREPARED

It’s important to come prepared with several copies of your resume. The worst thing that could happen at a career fair is to make a connection with an employer and have no contact information to give them.

Additionally, coming prepared with some background information about the companies you are most interested will allow for more deep conversation and a lasting impression. Employers want to see that you are expressly interested in their company so coming prepared with a little bit of general knowledge about the company can go a long way.

4. BE ENGAGED

Demonstrating enthusiasm and communication skills are some of the most important aspects recruiters are looking for in an intern or new hire. With so much going on around you at the career fair, it can be easy to get distracted or disengaged.

Focus on the employer and what they are saying, and remain engaged in the conversation. Be prepared to ask some questions to show that you were listening and are genuinely interested in knowing more about the company and/or the position. Don’t forget that career fairs typically last several hours, meaning both you and the recruiters are bound to get tired. Be mindful of this so that you can keep your own energy levels up and hold the recruiter’s attention after a long day.

5. FOLLOW UP

Attending the career fair is only half of the journey — you must follow up with the contacts you met! Be cognizant of this when you’re speaking with various employers. As your conversation is finishing up, ask the recruiter for their business card or contact information. This ensures that you have their email or address for a follow up note after the career fair ends. It’s a good idea to jot down a few quick notes about the recruiter you met on the back of their card to help refresh your memory and give you some specific points to add in when writing thank you notes later on.

Follow up emails should try to go out within 24 hours of the career fair, and should serve as a means of reintroducing yourself, demonstrating your enthusiasm for the company, and thanking them for their time. While email is sufficient, handwritten thank you notes make a really impactful impression in this digital era. Whether by email or handwritten note, remember that following up with recruiters is a crucial part of the career fair process!

It’s okay to be nervous when at the career fair! But if you plan out a little beforehand, you will go in with more knowledge and confidence. This preparation and poise will shine through to the people you meet, and you will leave with a handful of great connections and opportunities that you can pursue in the future.

Stephanie Watkins is a senior at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduating in 2015. Her major is in Management and Society and her dream job is to be a marketing and social media consultant which allows her to travel all over the world. Stephanie’s spirit animal is Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec and you can find her on Twitter at @StephanieWatki5.

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HeForShe: If Not Now, When?

October 9, 2014

by Nicole Chacin

On September 20, 2014, HeForShe was unveiled by British actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, the first ever solidarity movement and campaign of its kind for the United Nations.

The campaign, led by UN Women, is a formal invitation to men all over the world to speak out against gender inequality. The movement uses forms of social networking including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

HeforShe has already amassed over 45,000 male followers in the United States alone by September 30, just ten days following Watson’s speech. This following includes well-known male celebrities such as Harry Stiles, Russell Crowe, Tom Hiddleston, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

In the unveiling of the campaign HeforShe, Watson speaks from the heart about the importance of this movement to her; sharing what it was like growing up with the stereotypes about girls and women being projected on her both in youth and as world-renown actress and model.

She calls the male mentors, teachers, and family supporters who believed in her the “inadvertent feminists” and “gender equality ambassadors” who gave her a strong foundation to flourish in spite of chauvinistic attitudes and behavior.

For the half a year as UN Goodwill Ambassador championing women’s rights and equality, Watson has come to understand the word “feminism” has often been synonymous with man-hating. As a feminist since her teens, Watson notes that she did and does not support man-hating and stands by the true definition of the word “feminism” which holds the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

“I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights.”

For Watson, these rights are “human rights” which both men and women should acknowledge as essential to gender equality. Watson goes further to note that in order to truly address and call attention to the gaps in gender equality, there needs to be room for boys and men to join the conversation and feel comfortable expressing their opinions and feelings as well.

“Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too.”

Watson feels that men will feel encouraged to join the campaign when they understand gender equality is not a one-sided issue, actually the movement is a joint effort of both men and women to highlight the unfair biases, expectations, and attitudes towards both sexes. Males as well as females can be imprisoned by the stereotypes society and the media circulate.

Watson acknowledges the nervousness she had before coming to speak and presenting this campaign and the fact that the easiest thing is to do nothing and to hide behind the “someday” verbiage so many retreat to. She asks herself, and asks us as well the question: If not me, who? If not now, when?

Not just as a woman, but as a sister, daughter, and future mother I know that I would not want these issues to persist unchallenged. Digesting such a large issue and making a tangible difference is far from easy.

The first big step is to actually acknowledge the problem. My gratitude goes out to Emma Watson for taking this first leap on the world stage to address this issue of many decades in a new light with a refreshing, inclusive format. In a sense, HeforShe is revitalizing and harmonizing a national and global movement by reaching out to both young and old via social media, framing it as a two-sided male and female issue.

The next steps after calling attention to such a campaign, is one of collective action- one that is not dependent on one person or entity- rather one in which we are all called to take part in. Taking Watson’s lead, let us ask ourselves, If not me, who? If not now, when?

Image: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Nicole Chacin is a Chicago native and student at the George Washington University where she studies business administration. Nicole aims to obtain a dual masters degree in Law and Business Administration by 2017 and ultimately dreams of working in health policy and administration.  This is Nicole’s 2nd year writing for Forté as she had the opportunity to learn about the organization through the first Forté C2B Leadership Conference.

 

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Tips for a Successful Senior Year

October 8, 2014

by Kaitlyn Lannan

The idea of starting your senior year can be scary, especially if you are unsure what field you want to after graduation. However, if you stay on top of your goals, you can show up to graduation excited and prepared to start your post-grad life. Here are some tips to help you figure everything out!

1. Get started with your job search as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the less jobs will be available for you to apply for. Stay organized with a spreadsheet of the company you applied to, the date you applied, the position you applied for, and whether you have heard back or not.

2. Contact your old supervisors from previous jobs and internships to see if the company is hiring any entry-level employees. If not, ask for a letter of recommendation and to keep in touch. Start this process early in the school year and try to build up your relationship again before asking if you haven’t kept up regular contact.

3. Don’t slack off on school. It can be tempting to forget about academics when you are about to enter the “real world,” but don’t let this happen. Although it happens relatively infrequently, some employers do take your GPA into account. If you start to see your grades slipping, remind yourself to finish the year strong.

4. Stay engaged on campus. Some seniors quit their extracurricular activities and become less involved with their school, but try to stay away from doing this. You are only an undergraduate student once, don’t get too caught up in your future to enjoy the present.

5. Take advantage of any events offered specifically for seniors. Some schools offer fun bonding events or networking events for seniors only—check out what your school has to offer.

While your senior year of college can definitely be stressful, it also has the potential to be the best year of your college career. Start out strong with these tips and you will be well on your way to adult life!


Kaitlyn LannanKaitlyn Lannan is a junior at Northwestern University. She is majoring in economics and communication studies and plans on attending business school in the future. Her dream job is becoming the Chief Marketing Officer at a Fortune 500 company. You can find Kaitlyn on Twitter at @KaitlynLannan.

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What to Expect When You Intern at a Startup

October 7, 2014

by Kaitlyn Lannan

The world of startups is exciting and fast-paced, but the office culture can be very different from other work experiences that you have had in the past. These tips will help you to know what to expect!

Work Hard - And Then Some

Everyone works hard and they will expect you to do the same. Before my first day at a technology startup this past summer, I incorrectly assumed that every aspect of the culture would be more laid-back than a larger company.

While each company is different, be prepared to work just as hard as you would at a larger company or even harder, since the company is likely still trying to get established. The hours might be long, but think of it as an opportunity to bond with your co-workers and earn valuable work experience for your future.

Take Your Work Seriously

While you might have to put in a little more work, you have the chance to make a real difference. With smaller companies, there is a lot of inter-team work, such as collaboration between the marketing and engineering teams. You will be given work that can directly impact your company’s future, so take it very seriously.

Share Your Opinion

Don’t be afraid to take initiative or to offer your opinion. As I mentioned earlier, smaller companies value your opinion and can be more likely to implement your idea than a well-known company that has had the same procedures for years.

Be a Sponge

Learn as much as you can. Internships at big companies sometimes end up with you stuffing envelopes all day long, but this is more unlikely to happen at a startup. Small companies can’t afford to have someone on the team who doesn’t contribute, so you will probably be learning real work experience in your field.

For me, this involved being proactive with researching SEO tips for my blog posts, and learning how to use software like Google AdWords. Feel free to ask your supervisor to help you out with something that you want to learn, or even to ask them how they ended up getting hired by the company.

Build Relationships

Try to fit in with the office culture. It might feel a little strange to have your desk right next to a Ping-Pong table, but understand that great ideas come from all office environments. Take advantage of office outings, they can be great networking opportunities! Something that I loved about my internship was how accessible the top leadership was. The CEO was willing to chat with the interns about his experiences, and I learned so much.

Interning at a startup can be a truly rewarding experience, especially if you see them playing a part in your future. Even if you decide that the culture is not for you after your internship, you will still have had a great hands-on work experience that will impress future employers.

Kaitlyn LannanKaitlyn Lannan is a junior at Northwestern University. She is majoring in economics and communication studies and plans on attending business school in the future. Her dream job is becoming the Chief Marketing Officer at a Fortune 500 company. You can find Kaitlyn on Twitter at @KaitlynLannan.

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The Importance of the Goal Wall

October 2, 2014

by Imani Nicols

There are sticky notes all over one of the walls of my dorm room.

They are organized into two columns, each headed by a yellow Post-it Note marked either “In College” or “After College.” To the left of these two yellow column headers, there are two rows, each led by a yellow Post-it Note marked either “Personal” or “Professional.”

Goals that are personal and to be achieved in college or after college are written on green Post-it Notes. Goals that are professional and are to be achieved in college or after college are written on blue Post-it Notes.

As of this writing, I have 36 goals on my wall ranging from “get 100 connections on LinkedIn” to “secure a summer 2015 job” to “move to Chicago.” I created my goal wall in August. I performed uncharacteristically poor during my freshman year of college and I needed to gain my momentum back.

Remind yourself often

The only way for me to do this was to create a visual reminder of my priorities so that I can constantly remind myself of what I’m working towards. I placed my goal wall next to my bed. Before I fall asleep, the wall of tri-colored Post-its is the last thing I see. When I awake, it is the first thing I see. When I’m sitting at my desk, the Post-its are in plain sight.

On Saturdays I try to sleep in, but when I open my eyes, I see my yellow, blue, and green Post-it Notes. As I contemplate dozing off again, my subconscious always questions me, “How can you do anything on that wall if you’re still in bed?”

Invest the time

Calculated decision making is quickly emerging as a strong suit of mine. I credit this completely to my goal wall.  I am investing years of planning, drafting, saving, and networking into my goals. When I am presented with a potential employment, volunteer, academic, or leadership opportunity, it has been noticeably easier deciding if that opportunity is viable.

If the opportunity will help me develop at least one of my goals, then it is viable. If not, it isn’t worth my time.

Achieve your goals

So far, I’ve achieved one of my goals and it was both a personal and professional goal. There’s a program through the local student volunteer center at my school and I’ve had my eye on it since the beginning of my freshman year.

It is a (competitive) application-based opportunity for students to serve as volunteer tax preparers for low income families and individuals in the community. I was accepted into the program in September. As I intend to with achieved goals, I checked off the “Volunteer with CASH program” sticky note and wrote the date of achievement. Just as it is important for me to acknowledge the goal, it is equally as important to acknowledge when the goal is achieved.

I’m not sure if I was more excited about being accepted into the program or being able to check it off on my goal wall. This was such an incredible confidence booster and it gave me more momentum to knock out the next goal.

Start your goal wall

I encourage you to create your own goal wall and place it in a location where you will see it multiple times a day. Before creating your goal wall, making a simple list of goals is a good place to start.

Don’t worry about not knowing how to achieve a particular goal. Once you organize your visual priorities, they will become embedded in your psyche and you will seek out and accept opportunities that will bring these goals to life.

What goals do you have? What is it that you want to do? Create your goal wall and then make it happen.

Imani Nichols is a student at University of Virginia graduating in 2017. She is considering Media Studies or American Studies as her major. After college, Imani plans to consult for a management consulting firm in Chicago and earn an MBA. She enjoys Forté webinars and working out.

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Why Every College Student Should Have a Mentor

October 1, 2014

by Valeria Tirado

College can be a tough journey; that’s why I think it’s important to have people who will help you along the way. Your family and friends are always good people to have around you, but one person in particular that you can benefit a lot from is a mentor.

A mentor, at least by my definition, is someone who you admire and learn new things from. They also provide you with the proper guidance you need. As a college student, this person would preferably be someone who has gone through similar schooling like you or is working in the field you’re interested in, but that’s not exactly a necessity.

Here are 3 reasons why a mentor can be invaluable during your tenure as a student.

They Know the School

A college mentor will, ideally, know the school. The mentor acts as more than just an advisor to you in terms of academics, they know the ins and outs of the campus. Their knowledge ranges from things like the best bus route to take to get back to the dorms at a reasonable hour to when and where events that may interest you will take place. This information, gained through experience and passed onto you, will make the simple yet crucial act of navigating the campus that much easier.

A good mentor can also let you know what extra-curricular activities on campus would be most interesting or beneficial to you. If there’s a club or hobby you’re interested in, it’s almost guaranteed that your mentor has at the very least heard about it and can point you in the right direction.

Life Experience

A mentor usually has experience that you, as a new entry into the world of college life, lack. A good mentor usually knows what you are going through when you confide in him or her about your problems because they’ve been through similar situations themselves. They have the most valuable thing a person gets out of college besides the education; the life experience. They’ve made the mistakes you’re going to make, had the successes that you’ve had, overcome the hurdles that are on the horizon for you and tasted the failures that are still just on the tip of your tongue.

There isn’t anyone better to get advice from than a mentor who has gone through the same trials you’re going through and come out the other side more experienced for it.

Networking

A mentor can be the conduit to a valuable resource of networking opportunities. A mentor has experience on campus, and with that experience a number of acquaintances with a wealth of experience of their own. Maybe your mentor won’t know everything, but your mentor will know where or how to get the information they lack and who to talk to about it.

If your mentor is also studying in your field, they’ll most likely know the professors, tutors, and aides who can help you along on your academic path. They may even be able to help you get a head start on your career by exposing you to internships or job openings in the field you’re interested in.

It is important to remember that mentorship is a two-way street; you learn from your mentor but they also learn from you. I know people who still keep in touch with their college mentors even years after they’ve graduated. That kind of relationship with someone is unique so I strongly encourage that you be on the lookout for a mentor at some point during your college career; you won’t regret it!

Valeria Tirado is a junior at Rutgers University – New Brunswick with a major in Environmental and Business Economics and an Anthropology minor. She plans to get a Master’s from Rutgers in Food and Business Economics and attend NYU Stern for Economics after graduation. Valeria is the captain of her intramural volleyball team and can be found on Twitter at @valeriat94.

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4 Tips to Keep in Mind Senior Year: Transitioning from your Small Pond to a Big One

September 8, 2014

by Nicole Chacin

Seniors, you might picture yourself as a big fish on campus. Most of you have spent the last three years in the same setting, experiencing the hustle and bustle during both the exciting months when a new semester begins, and the grueling weeks of research papers, labs, and final exams. (I would not be surprised if you know exactly how many minutes it takes you to walk to the library from your dorm.)

Given this well-worn collegiate feeling, it is quite tempting to fall into a know-it all approach your senior year. While the goal after graduating high school was more about exploration and discovery, the goal after graduating college is professionally putting passion into practice.

So before making your splash in new territory, I have outlined four areas I have personally found indispensable for the journey ahead:

1. Choose your Send-off Wisely

Now that you are a senior, the full weight of your accomplishments amount to a degree and transcript upon your graduation. They cannot possibly detail who you are as a person, but it is truly telling of how you invested your time. Those two-three letter acronyms BA, BS, BBA, and three-digit number for your GPA will account for you in your last year and many years afterwards. They can open educational and professional doors or vice versa.

The proof is in the pudding, so make sure to invest in the right ingredients.

2. Strategically Plan your Destination

Taking time to reflect and research where graduates from your institution and academic background have ended up is essential to predict the success of your own trajectory. Visit your institution’s career office early and establishing a visible hand-on approach to your job search. Taking yourself seriously means others are more than likely to as well.

More than this, you will not be taken for any surprises if you know early on the kinds of positions and recruiters your campus is known to attract. For those seeking graduate school and beyond, professors, alumni, and graduate students are an invaluable resource. A good portion of those that comprise these groups have either taken this pathway or chosen a different route for various reasons and most definitely can shed light on the application process and likely outcome. They may even be able to aid you by writing a letter on your behalf or putting in a good word for you.

3. Strengthen Contacts and Connections

Soon you will have the honor of alumni status from your educational institution. Future Nobel Laureates, celebrities, and national and international leaders have all at one point called your campus home. As a graduate of the same institution, your pathway is instilled with a great deal of promise as you remove your cap and gown following commencement and put on whatever new hat you choose to wear.

Don’t lose contact with the change-makers and visionaries you had the privilege to meet as an undergraduate. Think of reasons to re-connect with your classmates down the road as you progress. If fate placed you on the same campus once, who knows if you are destined to see some of these familiar faces again? Try and be open to these exchanges, as you mutually carry the memories of college years.

4. Leave Room for Changes to the Plan

Many of us have a checklist of places to see and things to do before graduation. Some of the to-do list we put off for our last year is biting at our heels waiting to be realized. Whether you are that person with a mental pen and paper, taking note of the benchmarks, or just getting through your last year step by step, I encourage you not to get too fussy about the details and focus on the big picture of your education.

Avoid situations that might backtrack you from reaching your main goals. Inevitably, there are those not on such a bright track as you, having squandered their four years for other priorities. Do not be discouraged or misled by these individuals.

As small pond memories are almost at its end, brace yourself for the waves to come, prepare well, and let your dreams empower you.

Nicole ChacinNicole Chacin is a Chicago native and student at the George Washington University where she studies business administration. Nicole aims to obtain a dual masters degree in Law and Business Administration by 2017 and ultimately dreams of working in health policy and administration.  This is Nicole’s 2nd year writing for Forté as she had the opportunity to learn about the organization through the first Forté C2B Leadership Conference.

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