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Advising/Counseling FAQ

To protect the well-being of our staff, students, and employer partners, NCA will continue to provide full virtual services.  Virtual appointments can be scheduled through Handshake and we offer Live Chat daily for quick career-related questions.  Handshake will also support all of our employer partners recruiting needs. 

The responses to many commonly asked questions that the NCA team has received are below.  We will continue to update these FAQs as new information becomes available.  If you have additional questions after reading this page, please contact NCA at nca@northwestern.edu or 847.491.3700 and we will respond quickly.  (Last updated 5/7/2021)

How will COVID-19 affect recruiting?

All NCA sponsored recruiting activities, including career fairs, information sessions, and interviews will be held in a virtual format until further notice. This approach provides students the greatest access to full-time and internship opportunities, and also aligns with employers' preference to move their process virtually. NCA continues to work closely with employers to schedule virtual recruitment offerings. Through these conversations, employers have reaffirmed their commitment to recruit at Northwestern. Check out our website for articles related to maximizing your success in a virtual environment.

Can I talk with an adviser/counselor?

NCA is available for virtual and phone appointments which can be scheduled through Handshake

I have an immediate concern and can’t schedule an appointment. Is there another option for me?

If you are unable to make an appointment for an immediate concern,  visit our Live Chat daily from 12-3 p.m.  Use Live Chat to ask questions and gain tips and resources related to navigating NCA services, job/internship searching, networking, negotiating offers and writing resumes and cover letters and more.

Resources

Career Ambassadors are available via Live Chat for Resume Parties on Wednesdays and Thursdays 6-8 p.m. and Sundays from 9-11 a.m. During this time undergraduate students can ask questions and receive 1:1 feedback about their resumes. Utilize the Live Chat link or search "Resume Party" under Handshake events to access the Resume Parties.

Can I get documents reviewed?

Yes, you can get all documents reviewed by NCA. These include resumes, cover letters, graduate school letters, CVs, personal statements for graduate and law school.

Tips

If you have already been meeting with a career adviser, ask your adviser if they are open to providing you with feedback on your documents via email instead of through an appointment. When emailing an adviser to ask for feedback on a document, always give the deadline (if there is one) because the adviser might not be able to get back to you on the same day.

Resources

Both the NCA resume writing guide and the NCA Career Guide contain resume writing instructions and resume samples

  • Utilize VMock to have your resume and LinkedIn profile reviewed in addition to working with your career adviser.

How is COVID-19 affecting hiring?

While there are some industries that have been hard hit by the pandemic (e.g. hospitality, airlines), others may be thriving. In addition, NCA is still receiving new listings within Handshake every day. 

Tips

  • We encourage you to consider a wide variety of companies within a given industry which to gain skills and experience.
  • When searching for opportunities, sort by 'Date Posted' to reveal the most recent internship/job postings so you know those are the ones that are still hiring right now.
  • On Handshake, use the “meets employer requirements” along with filters such as job function and/or industry to get the most viable results

I feel behind on my internship/job search when I look around at my peers' career planning. Do organizations hire beyond fall quarter?

Simply put, yes - employers hire all year round. Depending on the industry and job function of interest to you, hiring takes place at various times. NCA hosts a fall and winter Job & Internship Fair for this very reason. See the NCA hiring timeline guide in the Career Guide for more information on when your industry of interest may be hiring. Our survey data shows that 65% of students secure their internships in March, April or May. Schedule an appointment via Handshake to start planning your search strategy.

What should I do if my internship was canceled in Summer 2020 due to Covid-19?

The experience can still go on your resume to highlight that you were chosen (see example below).  You can also follow up with the employer to inquire about remote possibilities, project-based options or just to show interest in being considered for future opportunities.

 Include company name, internship/job title, dates and location. You have the option, if you have a position description, to add a bullet or two describing the experience will likely help provide additional clarity and context. 

Example:

XYZ Company, Title - Internship offer obtained and rescinded due to COVID-19 New York, NY June 2020-September 2020

-Bullet 1: description/overview/key responsibilities

-Bullet 2: If known, you can include information on the selection process: “Selected from over 200 applicants through a three-part interview process”

How do I identify companies that are hiring remotely?

Many companies are working diligently to attract and maintain talent by moving internships and jobs remotely.  Expand your list of target companies/organizations to those who are hiring remotely right now through resources such as Handshake and LinkedIn.

Tips

  • Reach out directly to employers and inquire about summer opportunities.  Sample prospecting email (PDF)
  • In Handshake go to "Jobs" - "Employers" (top right tab) - see listings of company profiles, which often include a contact email (sort by location, industry, and company size).  Click the star to follow companies so that if/when they do post an opportunity in Handshake you will be notified.Click the star to follow companies so that if/when they do post an opportunity in Handshake you will be notified.
  • Use search terms such as "remote" "virtual" "telecommute" "cyber commute" when using Handshake or other posting sites
  • Consider past employers - since they already know you and your skills they may be able to provide recommendations to other employers they know are looking for candidates, or identify internal projects you could work on remotely

Resources

These websites were created to help students find remote opportunities during COVID-19:

How do I prepare for a virtual interview?

You should prepare for a virtual interview much in the same way that you would for an in-person interview. Make sure that you do your homework on the company culture, reach out to peers and alumni that have interned and/or worked at target companies, and be ready to talk about why you are a good fit in terms of skills and goals.

Tips

Schedule a virtual mock interview w/your career adviser via Handshake. You will not only get advice on how to prepare, but can practice conversing in a virtual setting, test out your technology, background etc.

Resources

Should I still reach out to alumni?

It is likely that alumni are trying to navigate the situation as well, both professionally and personally, so you may not hear back from "cold emails"to alumni with issues regarding hiring, company, or industry information. However, don't take this personally! We encourage you to use the Northwestern Mentorship Program to sources alumni who have already agreed to be mentors to current students.

Tips

Consider reaching out to alumni that you have engaged with in the past for advice during this time instead of cold emailing for informational interviews right now. You'll likely get a better response.

Resources

Northwestern Network Mentorship Program: Northwestern Alumni Association-sponsored database of Alumni that would like to mentor current students

If I can’t find an internship this summer, will it look bad?

This is a global phenomenon; therefore, everyone is being impacted in some way. Employers and graduate schools will take into account that every college student at this time may have a gap on their resume or transcript due to the pandemic. It’s also important to focus on the experiences and credentials you do have, not those that you don’t.

Tips

  • Learn a new skill: research skills that are valued by industries of interest (e.g. financial modeling, design, programming, foreign languages)
  • Volunteer: In your own community or remotely, there are volunteer positions where you can gain skills while helping others
  • Explore careers: explore industries and careers through talking with a career counselor, or using online resources such as Vault.
  • Talk with your peers to discuss topics such as how they chose their major, their major(s), skills development, and specific company culture in former internships
  • Explore project based work: take advantage of the gig economy and work on short term projects
  • Start your own project: designing a product, starting a small business, exhibiting your art or music online count as experiences

Resources

Are there other things I can do this spring/summer that are good alternatives to a traditional “internship”?

Employers and graduate schools often look at the many ways in which you have gained skills and industry knowledge.

Tips

Some examples of how to gain experience and skills are:

  • Take a Class: Taking a class will help you to help you learn/develop skills and get projects to add to your resume/portfolio
  • Student groups: Are there opportunities you may not have thought of as a member of a student organization. For example, try a new role, work on a project or develop a career related skill.
  • Volunteer: Activate your value of making a difference and giving back. Now more than ever organizations need talented individuals to step up and help out. Utilize idealist.org and VolunteerMatch, and Chicago Cares to find opportunities
  • Research: Work with faculty on an existing project or think of a problem you wish to solve.

Resources

I am worried about the impact of Credit/No Credit (C/NC) or Pass/No Pass (P/NP) on my GPA for internships, jobs, and graduate school

For students considering taking courses for Credit/No Credit (C/NC), please keep in mind the following:

  • We recommend talking with your academic and career advisers if you have questions about this decision. Please know that there is no “right” choice for all students. Every student’s situation is different, and this choice while important, will not make or break your future career plans.
  • GPA and strong academic performance are factors for some employers when reviewing candidates, but also not the only factor. For those postings with any mention of a GPA minimum, they can range from 3.0-3.5. So if taking a C/NC option is the difference between a 2.8 and a 3.0 for a role that has a minimum 3.0 GPA listed as a qualification, the impact on your application could be a factor in your decision. Keep in mind that most employers only want to see your GPA to the tenth or hundredth i.e. 3.4 of 3.44.
  • The C/NC option is intended for situations where your performance was so impacted or not representative of your academic ability that your GPA would be drastically affected. Reflect on your performance in the course you are considering changing to CR/NC or P/NP- are you happy with your letter grade? Do you feel it is representative of your performance?
  • NCA continues to stress to employers that the past academic year has been unusual, and shares context around the academic decisions made in response to COVID-19. Northwestern is not the only campus that offered or changed grading and course credit policies, so if choosing the C/NC option is what is best for you, know that employers and graduate/professional schools are reviewing recruiting guidelines to consider these changes.
  • Employers know there are many factors in the past year that could have impeded your academic participation and performance. While employers may review transcripts, keep in mind that they are often not diving deep into individual course grades when you first apply, they are only reviewing your overall GPA.

To reiterate, while GPA can be a noted qualification on an internship, full time, or graduate/professional school application, it is not the only factor in selecting you as a candidate. GPAs would fluctuate in a year without C/NC options and the goal of this grading option is not to eliminate any fluctuation in your GPA (i.e. receiving a "B" in a course that drops your GPA slightly is not necessarily a reason to utilize C/NC).


Resources

Does NCA still offer career counseling/assessments if I am undecided on a path to pursue?

The events of the last year may have made you consider or reconsider your career goals. This is a great time to engage in career exploration and self-assessment. Please make an initial appointment on Handshake and select “Choosing a Career Path” as the appointment type.

What are NCA's offer policies? Have they changed?

In our offer guidelines, NCA kindly requests that organizations extend two weeks for students to consider offers of full time employment or internships, or three weeks for return offers at the conclusion of a summer internship. Given the current climate and rapid changes in the recruiting landscape, NCA strongly encourages students to fully consider any/all offers extended.

What NCA services will I have access to if I decide to take a quarter or more away from Northwestern due to the pandemic?

You will have access to all NCA services: appointments, Handshake, and events. If your NetID is deactivated, you will be able to access Handshake using your email address instead of NetID.  If you experience issues logging into Handshake, please feel free to email handshake@northwestern.edu.

I’m not seeing the employers that I’m looking for on Handshake. What should I do?

Please talk with your Career Advisor if there is a specific employer that you have not seen on Handshake. They may be able to update you on the hiring activity of that employer, as well as help with strategies for reaching out to specific employers.  Make sure that you are also utilizing the employer’s website (can be listed under “careers” or “jobs”) and the “Employers” section of Handshake to source openings and companies.

What help can NCA provide if I am unsure about an offer for a full-time or internship opportunity?

As soon as you receive an offer NCA can help you to evaluate your next steps. While most organizations will follow the recommended hiring policies, it is best to meet with an NCA team member early in your decision making process. NCA can help you to advocate for yourself as you evaluate your options, discuss your decision timeline and navigate the process of communicating with your future employer.

Will taking a quarter off affect my access to NCA and recruiting?

You will still have all NCA services and resources available to you, including Handshake, as long as you have an active NetID. It is also unlikely to affect your status with employers.