Reinventing Career Services
April - June 2015
"Work in Progress" was a product researched, conceptualized, and pitched over ten weeks for the Spring 2015 University of Chicago course "Introduction to the Design Process," a class team-taught by members of the innovation consultancy gravitytank. Each team of five chose a problem area, and then pitched a product to be a solution. My team chose to tackle the frustration many students feel with our university’s career services.
Much of the coursework at UChicago is extremely theoretical; the subject matter of both core and major courses are catered to the significant amount of the undergraduate population who continue on to graduate school. Additionally, the Chicago Career Connection (CCC) job database was difficult to use and often hindered or discouraged students from applying to jobs.
Through extensive interviewing with University of Chicago students and alumni, a robust survey, and several weeks of research we learned that the pain point wasn't CCC - students who knew what they were looking for in a job often found those opportunities with little difficulty. The problem was students logging in, seeing the search box, and having no idea what to type. Students did not know their career ambitions, and were stalled before they could start.
Our interviews also pointed to another problem: translating skills learned in the classroom into desirable professional traits. Students in "Experimental Physics" or "Analysis in R^n" had little idea how skills developed in these classes would be applied in industry. Students were also unclear in which skills they should be investing in order to be competitive on the job market.
Through in-depth research into the University of Chicago's Career Advancement and Advising programs, we determined qualities that allowed some programs to succeed and others to fail. Consider the two cases below.
The UChicago Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (UCISTEM) program sends several lengthy emails a week containing events and job and internship opportunities across a wide variety of fields. The information overload is difficult to navigate, and the advisers for the program lack a depth of knowledge across all STEM fields. Different industries have different standards for resumes, expectations for research, and emphasis on personal projects, and not every UCISTEM adviser was prepared to help every science major. A particularly illuminating moment was when we were interviewing a math major interested in actuarial science who said her career adviser just googled "actuary jobs" during their appointment. This illustrated the impersonal experience many students cited as a negative of UChicago's career services.
UChicago Careers in Law (UCIL) advises all majors who are interested in pursuing law school, and provides support for the application process, an email list host with opportunities only relevant to law, and various workshops throughout the year. Students in this program were able to find opportunities, receive relevant resume and coursework advice, and then successfully apply to and be offered jobs.
With this in mind, we put together "Work in Progress" (WIP), a new university career advising service. Each major had its own career adviser, who kept an active alumni network for underclassmen to connect with and learn about potential career paths. Students would meet with the adviser to explore different post-graduate paths based on specific major coursework they liked. Resume and interview prep would be geared towards the field of interest. The most important part of WIP was providing students with the personal attention needed to translate their schoolwork into real-world career options.
Our final project was to pitch our product to the class. Each student was given $1000 in fake to invest across five different groups. After presenting, over 90% of the class voted to fund our product.
Our final pitch deck is available here.