Building Career Resilience

Paloma Mendoza (BUS ’20) (in beige sweater) got her foot in the door of advertising firm FCB during a class visit.

Paloma Mendoza (BUS ’20) (in beige sweater) got her foot in the door of advertising firm FCB during a class visit. (Photo courtesy Andy Clark)

DePaul helps business alumni stay career competitive

Like many Class of 2020 graduates, Michael J. Smith had to pivot his career plans last spring because of the pandemic-driven economic downturn. Smith was looking forward to joining KPMG as a tax data and analytics associate in June. But on the eve of earning his master’s in business analytics, Smith received word that KPMG was delaying start dates for new hires until January 2021.

Despite the setback, Smith remained confident because he knew he had a strong ally to help him navigate his next career step: DePaul. DePaul business students and alumni “have access to a tremendous amount of resources” that support career searches and advancement, says Smith, resources that include personalized career coaching.

Michael J. Smith (BUS MS ’20)

Michael J. Smith (BUS MS ’20) received personalized career coaching to land an
analytics position in the spring.

Smith asked the Kellstadt Career Management Center (CMC), which helped him land the position with KPMG, for assistance in finding an interim data analytics role until his new start date. A CMC career coach helped Smith “identify the right opportunities for me and network with a purpose,” he says. “I broke my strategy into three steps: create an elevator pitch, analyze the market and identify my target companies and audiences.” Smith identified industries that would need data analysts, even in a tough economy. With election season in full swing, he added political parties to the list.

The strategy paid off. Smith was hired as deputy state data director for the Republican Party of Wisconsin in July. The position was a perfect fit for his need to deepen his data analytics experience before beginning his assignment at KPMG, which remains committed to bringing him on board in 2021. “I feel extremely honored and valued during such uncertain times.”

Since the pandemic hit in March, the CMC, which supports graduate business students and alumni, and the DePaul Career Center, which serves undergraduate business students and alumni, have been expanding their resources to help Blue Demons stay competitive in a dramatically altered labor market. The centers offer alumni remote career coaching, webinars on job search strategies and online networking, as well as a wealth of web-based resources, including Handshake, a comprehensive career services portal that provides job and internship listings, as well as information about career events.

One of the DePaul Career Center’s newest initiatives is a job search club for alumni and new graduates “to talk about challenges people are facing and share goals and questions,” says Karyn McCoy, the center’s assistant vice president. “It’s a way to let people know they are not alone.” McCoy also recommends the CMC’s new skills labs created to help graduates think about upskilling, as well as the Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) Network as a nexus for alumni to share career insights.

Paloma Mendoza (BUS ’20)

Paloma Mendoza (BUS ’20) | Photo by Kathy Hillegonds

At the business college, faculty, departments and centers are stepping up to connect students and new graduates to career leads through an extensive network of alumni and industry connections. Certificate and graduate degree programs are also available for alumni to build career resilience, especially if they have been out of school for a while. “We encourage alumni to return to refresh their skills and see our college as a resource for growth throughout their professional life,” says Interim Business Dean Thomas Donley.

Business faculty—and their contacts in Chicago’s business world—offer a fruitful networking resource. Paloma Mendoza (BUS ’20) got her foot in the door at the global advertising firm Foote, Cone & Belding (FCB) in July with the help of Andy Clark (MBA ’87), the sports business program director.

Mendoza became interested in advertising agency work as a student in Clark’s sports sponsorship marketing class, which visited FCB’s Chicago office to discuss Super Bowl ads with executives last winter. In the spring, when she learned that FCB was offering virtual account management internships, she applied. “Mentioning Professor Clark’s name and my class experience visiting FCB definitely helped,” she says. Mendoza landed the coveted internship, which pairs her with a FCB account director mentor and puts her into consideration for future job openings.

“She did a fantastic job of following up with FCB and secured a very tough-to-get internship, especially in this environment,” Clark says. “I think Paloma’s story represents the very best of what a DePaul education offers.”

Omar Ortiz

Alumnus Omar Ortiz prepared for a promotion by earning a DePaul marketing strategy certificate.

For alumni who are midcareer professionals, DePaul certificates and graduate degrees have become an attractive option to advance their careers in a competitive market. “At least 35% to 40% of our students are DePaul alumni or family members of alumni,” says Jurate Murray (MBA ’02), associate director of the Kellstadt Marketing Center, which offers a wide range of advertising and marketing certificate programs for professionals to refresh their skills.

Omar Ortiz (BUS ’17), marketing manager for, completed the center’s content marketing strategy certificate program online in March to prepare for a recent promotion. “I thought it’d be a great idea to further sharpen my skills and solidify myself as an expert,” he says.

Upskilling for Andrew Catanese (BUS ’14), club and theatre ticketing manager for C3 Presents, meant enrolling in DePaul’s MBA in hospitality program this fall. Offered entirely online, the program gives Catanese the flexibility to continue working remotely from Austin, Texas, for C3, a nationwide concert promoter. “I’ve been out of school six years, and I think that’s a big gap as far as new techniques,” says Catanese, who hopes to run his own music venue in the future. “I am excited to further my education in the hospitality program.”

By Robin Florzak

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