Thursday, November 30, 2017

“The Gig Economy: Is It for Me?”

I don’t know about you, but it seems like each semester I see more and more students who have a wide variety of career interests and strengths, and can’t seem to pinpoint exactly which direction to take their career. They aren’t really looking for the “traditional” 40 hour a week, 8:00-5:00 kind of career that we tend to assume is the ideal. Does this sound like you? What if a wide range of interests isn’t such a bad thing after all? If you’re a student who values working independently, a flexible schedule, and constant change and variety in a fast-paced environment, then keep reading to learn about the growing popularity of the “gig economy.”

Personally, when I hear the word “gig,” I tend to think about my dad’s middle-aged folk band that plays in wine bars and art galleries on the weekend. I’ve never thought of this work as steady income and employment, and more of an on-the-side, fun job for nights and weekends. However, this upward trend of “gig economy” workers refers to individuals who are self-employed, or work via temporary contracts, and can span across all industries and occupations. These “gigs” often require high-level skill sets, can be done remotely, and most often eliminate a middleman such as a temp agency. Before you write off this type of work just yet, let’s talk pros and cons, because there are several.

Pros to “gig economy” work:

·         Independence. You make the decision as to which jobs you take and pursue. This means that you can pursue opportunities from your wide variety of interests and abilities.

·         Flexibility. There aren’t necessarily any set hours, unless you’re under temporary contract for an employer that requires them. You can pick and choose when, where, and how you work. A lot of students today prioritize the work/life balance factor; this type of employment would allow you to work around family schedules and life events if you so choose.

·         Constant change & variety. Not only does this appeal to individuals who aren’t quite sure of their niche (or have many niches), but it also presents an opportunity to be constantly challenged in your work. Taking on a variety of gigs can open up more connections, provide ample networking opportunities, and help you discover a passion or skill set you perhaps didn’t even realize you had.


·         Lack of benefits and insurance. If you are working for yourself, or for a variety of employers under contracts each year, there will be no benefits package included. Everything will have to be purchased independently.

·         Work is everywhere. While working from home and on your own time sounds like a dream, for some, the temptation to constantly check email and communicate with clients can quickly turn into working 24/7. The lack of a structured work location and schedule can sometimes eliminate a “stress free” zone where we can unplug. 

·         No guarantee. While the variety and excitement seems great, keep in mind that even a busy “gig” employee won’t necessarily make the same, consistent, salary as a full-time employee. Sometimes, gig employment is not stable, is not easy to find, or simply doesn’t add up to the same kind of salary you could receive working for one employer depending on the field and industry.  

Several sources agree that 40-50% of the workforce is working independently to some degree. Perhaps this is encouraging if you are one who feels like your path might be leading you somewhere other than the traditional careers we so often think of. At the end of the day, each of you will always be unique in terms of a “best fit” career. But it does seem that for the time being, the prevalence of the “gig economy” is only growing, and should be explored by those of you who think you could thrive in it.


Dahlberg, N. (2017). The gig economy is here to stay. Chicago Tribune.  Retrieved from

Pickerell, D.A. (2017). Ethical Practice in the “Gig Economy”. The Changing Nature of Careers, 33 (3), 7-10.

Torpey, E. & Hogan, A. (2016). Working in a gig economy. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from

Written by: Anne Funke, University of Dubuque
Assistant Director of Vocation & Civic Engagement 

Edited by: Stacie Hays, Morningside College
Career Counselor

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Pathway into Federal Internship Programs

Current students and recent grads: Are you interested in working for the federal government? The Pathways Program may be your first step to a federal internship or career. There is need for new workers as many federal employees become eligible for retirement. The purpose of The Pathways Program is to provide a great resource for agencies to boost their civil service ranks.  

These opportunities are offered in all states within the United States, as well as internationally. 

1.    Internship Program: If you are a current student in high school, college, trade school or other qualifying educational institution, you may be eligible.  This program offers paid opportunities to work in federal agencies and explore federal careers while completing your education.

2.    Recent Graduates Program: This program is intended to promote possible careers in the civil service to individuals who, within the previous two years, graduated from a qualifying educational institutional with an associate, bachelor, masters, professional, doctorate, vocational or technical degree.

3.    Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program: This is the federal government’s premier leadership development program for recent graduates with an advanced degree -- Masters, Ph.D. or J.D.

4.    Department of State Student Internship Program: This unpaid program for students with a minimum of 60 credit hours, provides the opportunity to work in U.S. Embassies and Consulates throughout the world, as well as in various bureaus located in Washington, D.C. and at Department offices around the United States. It is designed to provide substantive experiences in a Foreign Affairs environment.

5.    Virtual Student Foreign Service: This is an eight-month remote internship program for U.S. students, college-level and above, who would like to make a real difference in the work of the U.S. government.

More Pathways Program information can be found at Click on “Students & Recent Graduates”. We hope this information will be helpful to you as you start your job/internship search.   When you are ready to apply for the Pathways Program, view this Resume Writing Video, and stop by your institution’s career services center to have your resume reviewed.  

Written by: Jan Gray, Graceland University
Career & Advising Specialist  

Edited by:  Stephanie Gronowski, St. Ambrose University
Internship Coordinator & Career Advisor

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

What to Look for in an Internship 

Now that fall semester is underway, employers have begun to fill our job-boards with summer internship opportunities.  Internships have become highly valued as they allow students to apply the knowledge they’ve gained in a classroom to a real-world setting.  However, I’ve learned from working with students, that the quality of internships can vary.  The purpose of this blog is to encourage you to seek out the below factors when considering your options.

1) Alignment with your professional goals.
Does the position description match your major field of study?  Will the expected tasks and responsibilities allow you to put into practice the concepts you’ve learned in college?  Consider sharing descriptions of your positions of interest with your faculty members and/or career center staff for review.

2) Direct supervision and mentorship.
Will you be directly supervised by one person?  Within the description, or during the interview, was there talk of how frequently you would meet with your supervisor to receive feedback?  Having at least weekly feedback will give you room to grow while also building your confidence. 

3) Appropriate levels of responsibility.
What types of tasks and projects are anticipated?  Will they challenge you appropriately?  On the flip side, is there a professional staff member in your field at the company who can guide you?  For an internship to be sustainable, you must strike a balance of feeling challenged while also feeling supported.

4) Connection to the company.
How will you be integrated into the company culture?  Are interns included in company-wide meetings, service projects, and/or social outings?  Being treated like a true member of the team can build your loyalty and increase your drive.

5) Appealing environment.
What will your workspace be like?  Will you be sharing it with anyone?  Are there opportunities for collaboration?  What type of attire is expected?  While there are not right answers in this category, it is important to find a suitable environment for your personality. 

6) Appropriate compensation.
Will you earn what you should according to the Fair Labor Standards Act?  If unsure, ask a staff member within your career center to complete the 7-factor test for unpaid internships with you.

As you’re being interviewed for internships, remember to interview the companies as well.  You have a lot to offer prospective employers and owe it to yourself to be thoughtful in your search. Enjoy the process and best wishes on finding the right opportunity for you.

Written by: Bobbi Sullivan, Simpson College
Director of Career Development and Civic Engagement  

Edited by:  Kim Matteson, St. Ambrose University
Director, Career Center

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Your Mentoring Playlist

Music is an important part of our everyday lives.  It can evoke strong emotions, motivate, and help set the mood of the environment.  Many students have playlists for different activities; to study, exercise, or to pump up for an athletic event.  I present you with my mentoring playlist; a list of song titles that can help direct how you interact with your mentor!

Million Reasons, Lady Gaga; Stronger - Kelly Clarkson
Mentoring has loads of benefits; for example, it can help you learn more about your desired career area while providing you with practical information you can use to build related experience.  In addition, the connections you make with your mentor may lead to contacts which may generate your first internship or job. Identifying and communicating with a mentor can help you sharpen your communication skills, your employment materials, and overall make you better equipped to pursue opportunities as the strongest candidate.

Hello, Adele; Call on Me, Starley
Make regular contact with your mentor.  Many students are great at the initial introduction with others, but fail at maintaining the relationship.  Your mentor needs to know how you are doing!  Did you take their advice?  How did it go?  Are you looking for work now?  What has been your progress?  Regular communication keeps you fresh in the mind of your mentor and allows them to help you in meeting your personal and professional goals. Mentoring is about establishing personal relationships.  Get to know your mentor and let them get to know you.

I Got You, Bebe Rexha; Stand by You, Rachel Platten
Asking for help is part of the mentoring process and in many cases, your mentor WANTS to help you! However, you have to be specific in how your mentor can support you; mentors are not mind readers.  It also helps to ensure you are asking for appropriate requests based upon your relationship. It’s not necessarily appropriate to ask a mentor you just met for access to their professional contacts.  Instead of asking directly about jobs, perhaps ask where you should be looking, what sites would be recommended, or ask your mentor if they would be willing to review your employment materials and provide a critique.

Treat you Better, Shawn Mendes; In Case You Didn’t Know, Brett Young
Mentoring is a two-way street, as well as a mutually beneficial relationship.  You might wonder how you could help someone in a professional position as a college student, but you have to think outside the box.  Providing information on your generation can be helpful to your mentor, whether they market products or supervise other employees.  If your mentor has a family with children or grandchildren, do you have connections that could be useful to them (ie; tutoring, babysitting, athletic lessons, etc.)  Send your mentor an article about their industry, tag them in a post on LinkedIn, and let them know that you are thinking about them too.  The more you can add value to the mentoring relationship, the more valuable you become to your mentor.

Can’t Stop the Feeling, Justin Timberlake

Who can listen to this song without feeling great??  And after you have landed a great career opportunity, you will feel like singing and dancing!

Written by:  Stacie Hays, Morningside College
Career Counselor, Career Services 

Edited by:  Bobbi Sullivan, Simpson College 
Director, Career Development and Civic Engagement

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Finding Meaning in Your Future Career

As a Career Services professional, I often hear students say to me, “I don’t know what I want to do, but I want to make a difference, and have a sense of purpose in whatever it is.” Students seem to know not what position or title they seek, but rather what emotional response they want to receive from that position. As an employee of a university whose mission incorporates fulfilling and discerning one’s vocation and life call, I’m supportive of students’ desire to do something significant after college. The difficult part lies in how to go about finding a meaningful career. Consider engaging in the following:

1.  Take some serious time to reflect on your values and strengths. If you haven’t spent significant amount of time truly thinking about what your strengths are, and what they value in life, finding meaning in a career will be difficult. If you don’t know where to start, try taking a values, interest, or strengths assessment, ask someone who knows you best, or look around you to see what causes or issues awaken your passion. Some of the assessments our campus uses for this purpose include StrengthsFinder by Tom Rath or the tool, which assesses your interests and suggests potential career matches for you. If you can articulate what you value and what your strengths and talents are, you can have a better idea of how you might maximize those to make a difference in any industry or field.

2.  Keep your options open. The worst mistake a new graduate can make is to assume there is one perfect job for them in the world, and to only focus on that one option. Most professionals who we see as successful probably have the most twisted, curved career paths of them all, because they were willing to consider opportunities that perhaps weren’t exactly what they thought they wanted. They took chances, said “yes” to opportunities that presented themselves, and learned from them. Your first job out of college won’t be your last. Be willing to take an opportunity, to change plans, to try something new. If after some time the opportunity is no longer a good fit, reflect on what you’ve learned from it, and move forward.

3. Recognize (and believe) that all people, and jobs, are important. This advice comes from a book I’ve read several times, The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn. In it, postman Fred shares with readers four principles he uses to approach his career as a mail carrier.  One of his principles is that all people, and positions, are valuable. A quote spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. reiterates this point well: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” If you can take pride in what you do, and truly believe and see that you are impacting a person, an organization, or a mission in a positive way, you create meaning for yourself no matter the position or job title. 

4.  Find a mentor. Sometimes, it is the people we surround ourselves with that help us truly unleash our potential and innermost desires. If you don’t have a mentor right now, start thinking about who in your life (or who you might want to seek out) you look up to, potentially within your career field. Build a relationship with someone who can provide you advice, has a career background similar to the one you want for yourself, and really get to know what helped them find meaning and purpose in their own unique experience. Mentors can also help be an external motivator to be successful, set and reach new goals, or unlock potential career paths that we would never have considered on our own.

5.  Think about life outside your career. I personally believe that if anyone tells you they love their job 100% of the time, they aren’t being honest with you (or themselves!). No matter how great a career, there will be aspects that don’t feel fulfilling, that don’t feel important, that don’t feel purposeful at all times. Rather than focus on that small percentage of time and tasks, reflect on where else you find fulfillment and enjoyment. Yes, your career is a big part of the next 40+ years of your life, but there are other activities and opportunities outside your career that can perhaps bring you the joy and satisfaction that you are looking for. Find a cause to volunteer for; learn a new skill; set a goal and find a friend to accomplish it with you.

Satisfaction and meaning will come if you truly want it and seek it. You’ll find some within your career, you’ll find some in other aspects of your life. Reflection, an open mind, and relationships can help lead you down a path of a fulfilling and satisfying career.

Written by:  Anne Funke, University of Dubuque 
Assistant Director of Vocation & Civic Engagement  

Edited by:  Sarah Moss, Dordt College
Career Development Coordinator  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Adventure Awaits: Gap Year Opportunities

As seniors begin their final semester of college, reality strikes that life after college is fast
approaching.  While some will enter the workforce or continue to graduate school, others will seek time in between their undergraduate degree and their next professional step.  This time in between the two phases has come to be known as a gap year.

Students take a gap year for many reasons: to gain experience, to learn a new language, to explore career options, to serve, and more.  To read about the pro’s and con’s of a gap year, check out this article.

If you are a student seeking a gap year, you might consider the below options:

AmeriCorps Vista: AmeriCorps VISTA members are passionate and committed to their mission to bring individuals and communities out of poverty.  Members make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency within the United States.

Camp Adventure Youth Services: Students and recent graduates participate in this service learning program that allows them to gain skills and experience related to youth services and program management.

Critical Language Scholarship Program: The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is a fully-funded overseas language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students

ISV: Impact Your World: ISV's mission is to support sustainable development initiatives around the world through life-changing student volunteer and responsible adventure travel programs designed to positively change our world and to educate, inspire and result in more active global citizens.

The JET Program: The JET Program is a competitive employment opportunity that allows young professionals to live and work in cities, towns, and villages throughout Japan.

Peace Corps: The Peace Corps is a service opportunity for motivated changemakers to immerse themselves in a community abroad, working side by side with local leaders to tackle the most pressing challenges of our generation.

Purdue University Military Extension Internship Program: With the help of the Department of Defense and USDA, the Military Extension Internship Program helps university students and recent graduates gain professional skills through unique internships that provide real-world work experience with military child and youth programs.

Teach for America: Teach for America’s mission is to enlist, develop, and mobilize as many as possible of our nation's most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence.

For additional ideas, check out this link from Yale’s Office of Career Strategy.  Taking a gap year may help you clarify your career direction, broaden your network, expand your worldview, and build your resume. 

As always, as you consider your post-graduation options, be sure to consult the professionals in your institution’s career development office. 

Written by:  Bobbi Sullivan, Simpson College Director, Career Development and Civic Engagement

Edited by:  Anne Funke, University of DubuqueAssistant Director of Vocation & Civic Engagement