By Angela Mennecke
After working in retail for the past 14 years, Christina Strand had a moment of realization. Her job was no longer fulfilling and she wanted to step out of her comfort zone. In 2014, hoping to maximize her earning potential, she came to College of DuPage to explore her options.
Impressed with the College's reputation in the community and talented faculty, Strand enrolled in the Office of Technology Information program working towards an Administrative Associate degree in Applied Science with dreams of an accounting career.
Four years later, Strand’s vision became a reality. She landed her dream job as a junior accountant in Chicago after a recruiter found her LinkedIn profile, an online resume she created for one of her OFTI classes.
“This is such a pivotal moment in my life,” she said. “I’m 48-years-old! You have a vision and you just know you can do so much better for yourself. I never in a million years imagined I would land a job like this. I now work in the Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue. It’s a whole new way of life that I’m adjusting to, but I am so grateful.”
As a single parent, Strand took two classes a semester, while continuing to work full-time at her retail job. She credits COD for allowing her to take classes that fit her busy schedule.
“Being a single parent of two kids is difficult, and while I knew this program would take me longer than it would most of my classmates, I was determined to finish what I started,” she said. “What I love about COD is that they supported me on my individual journey and allowed me to work at my own pace.”
Strand began the OFTI program with an interest in accounting, but it wasn’t until she got deeper into the program that she realized how much the two programs went hand in hand.
“I knew that in order to land any administrative job, especially in accounting, I would need to develop skills in computer technology, including mastering the Microsoft Office suite,” she said. “The vital skills I developed from the OFTI courses were incredibly impressive to my current employer and gave me a leg up.”
The most rewarding class for Strand was one where she created a professional resume and a LinkedIn profile, a professional online tool she had not properly utilized in the past. Once she finished the OFTI program, she planned on pursuing job opportunities, but a recruiter on LinkedIn reached out to her first.
“I never knew how important LinkedIn was until it literally changed my life,” she said. “The funny thing is that I wasn’t even looking for a new job. I was planning on tackling that stressful endeavor after I finished the program. I am so thankful to my professors, especially Casey Emerich, at COD for showing me the importance of putting yourself out there because you never know where it might lead.”
Strand said the interview process for her current job was rigorous, but thanks to a personal development class she had taken as a part of the OFTI program, she felt prepared for each of the seven interviews she endured.
“The interviews were not as daunting as I thought they would be because during my courses at COD we spent a lot of time focusing on soft skills that would benefit us in the interviewing process and ultimately the workplace,” she said. “Every question I was asked, I had answered in one of many mock interviews we had in class. COD puts a lot of emphasis on getting you ready for life outside of the classroom.”
Strand is one class away from earning her Associate in Applied Science as well as her Administrative Support Essentials certificate. She plans to finish her last class in the fall of 2018. She wants to work her way up at her current company and ultimately go back to school to earn her CPA.
Her advice to anyone considering College of DuPage is to not be afraid to do something different.
“No matter your age, never give up on yourself,” she said. “You don’t have to stick with the status quo they’ve been living for so long. I feel so fortunate that COD invests time in older students and encourages learning at any age. Take a chance on yourself because it will pay off!”