BOLINGBROOK – Like many college graduates, Katie Brennan thought she had the world at her fingertips after receiving her bachelor’s degree last May from the University of Iowa.
The 22-year-old Frankfort native had gone above and beyond undergraduate expectations.
A communication studies major – minoring in Spanish and human relations – Brennan was an active member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority, volunteered with Ronald McDonald House Charities, spent free time working as a student leader and tutored Spanish classes.
But, her good academic standing and laundry list of extracurriculars did not translate into professional opportunities.
“I had the mindset that I would land a job in three months following graduation,” Brennan said. “That didn’t happen.”
Brennan moved back to Frankfort; she worked as a personal trainer and applied for countless communications positions.
Undeterred, she sought the advice of her father, who recommended writing letters to hospital directors and healthcare CEOs.
“I was a little skeptical, but what did I have to lose?” Brennan said, explaining that snail mail seemed slightly outdated in a world dominated by social media and mobile connectivity.
A couple interviews later, Brennan landed an unpaid, 12-week internship with Adventist Midwest Health shadowing human resources employees, attending leadership events, doing clerical work and arranging company functions.
In February, her hard work paid dividends when she was offered a full-time job as a recruiter for Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital.
Brennan now finds the hospital’s interns, as well as clinical and non-clinical staff.
“It was a 12-week interview,” Brennan said of her internship. “Even though a post-graduate internship wasn’t ideal, I learned so much. You have to trust yourself and your abilities.”
As she plows through applicant profiles, Brennan laments that the job market is no better than it was a year ago.
In fact, while the national unemployment rate is improving, the unemployment rate in Illinois has gone from 8.8 percent to 9.5 percent, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
Brennan says it is crucial for undergrads to gain work experience in college.
“Interning in your desired career field is great, but any kind of employment or volunteering experience shows initiative,” Brennan said.
She also advises recent graduates to apply directly to the corporations by finding human resources managers or company executives, and corresponding with them directly.
“It is easy for recent graduates or young people with less experience to get lost in the shuffle,” Brennan said. “Take that extra step, show that you really want the position and you are more than capable of doing a good job. Be proactive, and make yourself stand out from the crowd.”