Year of Graduation and degrees: BA in English 2006
Current Position: Program Coordinator at UIC and Founder of Social Media Account “Chicagoismyboyfriend”
Describe a typical day at work.
“My day job is not very glamourous.”
Shelley says her day mostly consists of dealing with things that come up in the office. She plans events, answers phone calls, and manages projects for the department that she works for at UIC– administrative tasks for the most part. At night, Shelley switches gears and becomes more creative as she manages her social media account, Chicagoisnotmyboyfriend, by going to events and places around the city. If Shelley ever needs to shoot photos for a brand, event, or partnership she will do this at night or on the weekends depending on what type of photo she can get at the time. She goes through photos to figure out what she would like to post, edits the chosen photo, and double checks the post’s caption to ensure she is communicating the correct information to her followers. Shelley says that she likes to be relaxed so she can pay attention to her posts and do a bit of engaging with her followers.
How did you find your first job after graduation and/or your current position?
“My love for the city made me the go-to person for my friends when they wanted a cool thing to do.”
Shelley started working at UIC right after she graduated from DePaul, beginning as a student aid before she transitioned into a full-time position. She has since been able to switch departments and has worked in her current position for about eight years.
Shelley says that she has always been an explorer and loves Chicago. Her love for exploring Chicago began in high school when she used to go to the library and check out books to find things to do in the city. When she was in college, blogs were extremely popular, and she even tried to start a few herself but could never fully commit to writing blog posts. In regard to Instagram, Shelley imagines the platform is a “micro blog” and is easily digestible. As opposed to having an entire photoshoot and writing a whole blog post, she is able to post one photo and a caption at a time, which is easier to manage day-to-day. Shelley admits that she didn’t think anything big would come of her Instagram account; at the start, Chicagoismyboyfriend was simply a place for her to share what she was doing around the city. When she started to gain a following and people began to show more interest in what she was doing she decided to expand the account. She recalls that everything snowballed around winter of 2015. Shelley decided to take a less personal route with her account and center it around things people could do in the city. Since then, her account has only grown larger.
How important has networking been in your employment searches? How did you find or build contacts in your desired field? How important is networking in your field?
“Networking is kind of like dating.”
Shelley advises that, when it comes to networking, you aren’t going to get a lot from your immediate friend group or other close connections. People in your periphery of your relationships will introduce you to others.
Shelley recognizes the value of utilizing websites like LinkedIn, but she prefers to make her connections in person. She is an extroverted person and tries to make friends wherever she goes. By doing this, she is able to find out what the person is passionate about. She encourages students to communicate with people they meet, talk to them to try to establish a friendship, and try not to reach out only when you need help with your job search. By creating a friendship, the person might remember things you are interested in and that connection will think of you when they come in contact with someone in their field down the road.
Shelley stated that networking is really important in her day job because she works at a large university. Through networking, she is able to make connections with people in different departments, thus allowing her to have more people to reach out to when she is in need of information or assistance.
In the realm of social media, Shelley says that she is constantly meeting people at events. She knows a lot of Chicago Instagrammers and bloggers because she has been doing this for so long and everyone goes to the same events. Yet Shelley is not just meeting other Instagrammers or bloggers at these events: she befriends chefs, marketing people, business owners, and photographers. While this can get overwhelming at times, Shelley explains that keeping a good rapport with someone will help you remember one another. These types of connections go a long way in the social media field and can lead to brand partnerships or ad deals. The biggest tip that Shelley can give students regarding networking is to build good relationships with the people that they meet because you never know when that person will recommend you for an opportunity that interests you.
How does your English major help you in your current position?
“I basically created a mini magazine with my social media account.”
During her time at DePaul, Shelley dreamed of working for Chicago magazine but quickly realized that this would not be a reliable job. Print journalism wasn’t doing very well in the mid 2000s. Shelley considers herself a practical person and wanted a job that provided a steady income and insurance.
She admits that her desire for a steady job is one of the reasons she is not completely self-employed and why she remains working in the coordinating job she currently has while maintain her successful Instagram account. DePaul helped her develop a lot of skills that allow her to complete her daily administrative tasks. Nonetheless, Shelley says gets the most use of her English degree on her social media platform. The creative writing skills she gained, in addition to a writing for magazines course she took while at DePaul, helped prepare her to take this large task on her own.
What advice would you give current English majors about their studies or extracurricular activities while they are still at DePaul?
“My biggest regret in college is that I only did one internship.”
The most important advice Shelley wants to give English majors is to look for internships in places that interest you. Shelley explains that one of the biggest regrets she has from her college years is only having one internship and now encourages current students to actively seek out internship opportunities. She advises students to write a list of places they dream of working at and going to the relevant websites to see if those places offer internships.
Shelley also wishes that she was a part of a publication on campus. She says that extracurriculars ultimately help students decide what it is they want to pursue once they begin their job search.
Describe your experience at DePaul. What did you like best/value most about DePaul’s English major?
“I didn’t get the warm fuzzies from any other university.”
Shelley shares that one of the reasons she loved DePaul so much was because it felt like she was on a college campus right in the heart of Chicago––she was getting the true college experience while still in a major city. Chicago was an experience too.
When it comes to Shelley’s experience with the English Department, she says she is thankful that she learned how to think and read critically and view things from different perspectives. She recalls a class she took during her first year at DePaul: the subject revolved around research and literary writing, exposing her to several tools that she continues to utilize in her writing today.
What advice would you give to graduating students as they move into the job market?
“Enjoy it. Being in college is like being in a cocoon.”
The piece of advice that Shelley gives to graduating students is: enjoy it.
Once you leave college, you will be experiencing your first year of being an adult. Once you leave college and begin your first job and start paying bills, it can be a pretty big shock to your system. Shelly suggests students take a step back and enjoy their last year before they experience this shock. She wants to remind students that, in the midst of graduation, do not forget to live in the moment. Nothing is like your undergraduate years––they should be savored.
What advice would you give first year students?
“Don’t take yourself so seriously.”
College can seem like a very overwhelming and scary place. Shelley advises first year students allow room to make mistakes and to grow from said mishaps. It is okay to utilize your freshman year to figure out what it is you want to pursue. It is okay to not have everything solved. Shelley encourages students should take the time to test the water and explore different courses.
Profile by Sara Shahein,
Contributor to The Underground