Oct 15

Interviews Over Lunch Or Dinner

A student reached out to us recently for tips on interviewing over lunch. As the fall recruiting season reaches the point where on-site interviews will become more common, and in preparation for the academic flyouts in the winter, here are some tips for successful interviews that take place over lunch or dinner.

1) The meal is definitely still part of the interview process. While you likely will have the chance to ask questions, your interviewers or search committee will probably dig deeper into how you fit with the team and what you bring to the role. Part of that process is gauging how well you get along with everyone at the table, how smoothly the conversation goes, and how at ease they feel with you as a member of their group. They’ll be making sure they’d want to have more lunch meetings with you in the future, so try to feel like you’re part of the team.

2) Should I get the lobster? If they say they’re taking you to a restaurant that has the best lobster in town, that’s your cue to get the lobster if you want. Otherwise, don’t get something too expensive. Order from the “middle of the menu.” Not physically the middle, but in terms of price range. Don’t feel like you have to order the least expensive menu item just to show you’re being sensitive to their budget, but don’t order the most expensive thing either.

3) Is that my water or yours? If the place settings at the table are close together, your bread plate is on the left and your drink glass is on the right. You can easily remember by either the acronym BMW (Bread plate is on the left, Main course dish is in the middle, and Water glass is on the right), or by making your fingers into the shape of b and d:

4) Take SMALL BITES of food. Inevitably someone will ask you a question as soon as you take a big bite of food, and then everyone will wait awkwardly while you chew and swallow as fast as possible. 🙂 Taking small bites will speed up that process.

5) Absolutely avoid anything messy. If they take you to a sandwich place, it’s ok to get a sandwich that requires use of your hands, but it shouldn’t be so saucy that it runs all over your fingers or drips down your chin. Also avoid things that can splatter your clothes like pasta. Good options generally include a fancy salad (rather than just a basic house salad…see #2 above), a skillet style dish that you eat with a knife and fork, or a sandwich wrap that would stay contained better than bread or bun sandwiches whose ingredients can spill out the back. And again, small bites.

If you get something like a chicken salad wrap, it can be helpful to eat about 50% of the “guts” first with your fork, then either continue with your fork or pick up the wrap with its more manageable amount of filling that won’t spill out as easily.


Ultimately you want them paying attention to what you’re saying and how they feel having you around for a lunch meeting. Ideally they won’t even notice that you’re eating because it will be seamless, but you do have to eat so hopefully the above steps will help you avoid some of the common pitfalls of the meal interview.

Additional Resources

If you’re not just meeting at the restaurant and you have the chance to see the office space itself, this Forbes article provides tips on what to look for around the office.

Don’t worry about every minor piece of “proper” dining etiquette (there are far too many to keep them all straight), but this article offers a pretty succinct list of good ones.


What other tips do you have for interviews over lunch and dinner? What has worked well for you in the past? If you have any questions or concerns, consider scheduling an appointment with your Graduate Career Consultant.

Sep 13

Q/A: Headhunters and Third Party Recruiting Firms

Recently a student contacted us with a question about a “headhunter” or recruiter who reached out. Here’s our advice if this happens to you.

Question: I was recently contacted by a headhunter for data related positions in the Cleveland area where I am looking to work.  I’m hesitant to trust working with him as he had a very used car salesman-like approach, and I feel like I would be put at a disadvantage applying through a headhunter given that the employer would have to pay a fee in order to hire me through a headhunter. He did not mention having any special connections, so to me this seems like its not a good option for me. I wanted to check with you to see if you agree with my thinking on this.

Answer: First there’s a difference between a “headhunter” and a “third party recruiting firm” (TPRF). It’s pretty common lingo for someone to refer to both as a “headhunter,” but TPRFs are usually legitimate sources of viable opportunities. Companies and organizations do not always have the manpower to conduct their own hiring processes, and may contract with a TPRF to source candidates and to conduct initial screening interviews. They’ve often already paid up front for these services, and if you were to engage the company outside of this TPRF they may end up having to pay the fee anyway depending on how the contract is set up. Some companies in those cases won’t talk to you outside of that process, so you might not ever learn of those opportunities otherwise. It’s just the process they are using, and again it’s usually when they don’t have the human resources team to put in the grunt work (or the capacity to search for a specialized skill, such as working with data). Consider TPRF opportunities as one option within a diversified job search approach. Don’t ignore them, as you’ll miss out on opportunities, but don’t put all your eggs in the TPRF basket.

“Headhunters” on the other hand are individuals or firms that try to collect good candidates and then sell them to companies for opportunities they might have posted. This can in fact be shady, and that’s why they differentiate from TPRFs where companies have specifically requested the services ahead of time.

Additional Notes

  • You the job seeker should never have to pay a TPRF for their services. The hiring companies pay the fee, as you mention. If anyone asks you for money as the applicant, that’s a big red flag and you should move on.
  • If a TPRF believes you are a good candidate for a job they’re trying to fill, they will go out of their way to help you prepare for success in the interview process. It’s in their best interest for you to succeed, since that’s how they get paid (and also if you work out then they’re more likely to get additional contracts in the future). However, remember that you are not their client (the company is). Therefore, there are times when they might drop communications with you completely. As frustrating as that is, try not to take it personally. Continue to follow up periodically with them in a tactful and professional way, and hopefully they will give you the professional courtesy of confirming you aren’t being considered for a particular opportunity anymore. In most cases, though, they’ll just put their time into the people who are still being considered, but the savvy ones will keep their positive relationship with you in case other jobs come through where you would be a good fit.
  • If a recruiter reaches out to you for a job you’re not interested in, politely indicate that this particular opportunity does not align with your current career goals, but that you would be interested in positions that fit [insert your criteria here]. They might have other opportunities you’re not aware of.
  • Understand that sometimes the TPRF cannot tell you explicitly what company a particular opportunity is for until you actually apply and make it through an initial screening. This sounds crazy, but sometimes it’s to keep you from going around them in the event the company would be willing to hire you directly to avoid the fee, and sometimes other kinds of privacy issues are involved. Remember that you might not be able to find the opportunity on your own without the TPRF, so if the work of the job itself appeals to you and “large healthcare corporation in Cleveland” or whatever generic description they provide sounds interesting, you can always apply and decide later that the actual organization itself is not a good fit if that ends up being the case.
  • Try not to be too put off by the used salesman shtick, but do use it as one data point in the overall relationship you would have with the recruiter. They’re in a “sales” field of sorts, though, so that can attract a stereotypical type of sales personality. If you don’t feel like it will be a positive relationship, and enough red flags pop up that you’re not comfortable engaging them in the process, then definitely don’t feel like you have to work with them. Also, keep your eyes and ears open for any kind of fine print obligations to make sure you don’t get stuck doing something, and also any kind of confidentiality agreements where you agree not to go separately to a company once they’ve disclosed the name of the organization.

Use your judgement, but don’t rule them out without getting all the info. Good luck, and happy “hunting”!


Have you encountered TPRFs before? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

Sep 04

Fall Recruiting Season is Underway

Fall is one of the busiest times of year for organizational recruiting, and this year is no different. Below are a few opportunities to know about, and here are some additional resources to get you started:

1) STEM Coffee & Careers. This is a great opportunity for graduate students with STEM backgrounds to engage with employers in an informal setting to better understand their organizations, cultures, talent needs, and to showcase research and academic training. More details, including the list of registered organizations, can be found here. 10:30am-12:30pm Wednesday 9/5.

2) Fall Career Expo. Over 250 organizations are expected to attend this year’s Fall Career Expo from 4:30-8:30pm Wednesday 9/5. Find the list of companies in Go IRISH under Events à Career Fairs, and target 5-10 employers that you particularly want to speak with at the fair.

3) Employer Information Sessions. Throughout the fall semester, organizations come to campus to provide workshops with information about their opportunities, hiring processes, culture, etc. These are great ways to learn more about the companies and build relationships with recruiters, alumni, and other reps. The sessions are publicized in Go IRISH under Events à Information Sessions.

4) On-Campus Interviews. Throughout the fall semester, employers come to campus to interview candidates for their opportunities. While many of these will target undergraduate students, there are some for which graduate students are eligible. Search for jobs in Go IRISH (you can set up alerts to notify you when new ones get posted), and apply for any that interest you. Ones with on-campus interview schedules will be noted.

Have you had success recently or in the past through these fall recruiting initiatives? Please share your stories and advice in the comments below.

Aug 16

Welcome Advice From Our New Director

(Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)










Today’s post comes from our new Director of Graduate Career Services, Rob Coloney.


Welcome (back, should it apply to you) to the University of Notre Dame! Since 1842, the campus has always been most exciting when you, our students, grace it with your presence. Like some of you, I am new to the Notre Dame family; joining the Fighting Irish family after spending my entire life in the Northeast. It is my distinct privilege and honor to serve as the new Director of Graduate Career Services.

I firmly believe that life and our purpose therein becomes clearer as you allow yourself to embrace change, challenge, and faith. As I navigated to South Bend to begin a new chapter in my life, many of you are doing the same; either for the first time, or to continue a journey of exploration, striving to have a profound impact on the world around you. Much like Father Edward Sorin, each of you have seen beauty, promise, and a future in the University of Notre Dame, and yourselves. Upon arriving on the banks of the St. Joseph River, and writing back to Father Basil Moreau in 1842, Father Sorin knew of the tremendous potential, believed in the opportunity, and in turn, founded our University…YOUR University. As we begin this academic year, we, the administration of this University, see that same tremendous potential, and believe in your opportunity to enact positive change on our nation, and our world. Throughout this year, and your time at the University of Notre Dame, I encourage you to stand by a few principles (from a career perspective, and beyond):

  • Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable. Allow yourself to be challenged. Go beyond the realms of where you’ve ventured before. Say “YES,” more than you say “NO.” By allowing yourself to experience all that the University has to offer, you will be immersing yourself in the tremendous educational opportunity you’ve afforded yourself through your tireless effort and work to this point. To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice your innate gift; experience everything.
  • Find a Sherpa. No one would dare climb to the top of Mount Everest without one. In turn, no one is expecting you to navigate a challenging journey alone. Find a mentor, administrator, staff member, faculty member, or better yet, all of the above. Ask questions! Graduate School is challenging, but we’re all in this mission together. We want you to succeed, and want to ensure you have every tool available to you in order to make that dream a reality.
  • Failure is not permanent, unless you allow it to be. Each one of us, at one point or another, has been humbled in this life. We’ve all succeeded, but, personally, I’ve learned far more from my failures than my successes. In fact, I attribute any success I’ve had to the learning experiences that bloom from failure. In the words of the inspiring Randy Pausch, “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.”

When Father Sorin founded Notre Dame, and corresponded with Father Moreau, he recognized that while the future was unclear, and the undertaking significant, the potential was tremendous. “…this college cannot fail to succeed…Before long, it will develop on a large scale…It will be one of the most powerful means for good in this country.”

Since 1842, the University of Notre Dame has held true to those incredibly powerful words. Now, YOU are tasked with continuing the mission. I encourage you to take advantage of this very special place – we are lucky to have you, and cannot wait to work with you on achieving your dreams, and realizing your full potential.

Your Research Matters. You Matter. Be a Force for Good.

Robert J. Coloney

Aug 02

Personal & Professional Development

Today’s blog post was written by Liz Loughran, Graduate Career Consultant for the College of Science. Liz also has her Ph.D. from Notre Dame, and provides her perspectives below.


Why engage in personal & professional development (PD)? There are multiple ways to consider this question. From a holistic perspective, engaging in PD can lead to a happier, healthier, more fulfilling graduate education. A more pragmatic perspective is that fantastic research and publications alone may not be enough to land you a job or career you want in a dynamic economy after graduating. Not only does PD lead to a well-rounded graduate education and a smoother transition to your first destination post graduation, it provides the opportunity to develop skills, perspectives and relationships you will carry past graduate school into the rest of your life. In this post, I share about two of my PD experiences from my Ph.D. at Notre Dame and give a few tips for engaging in PD as a graduate student.

Ethical Leaders in STEM

Ethical Leaders in STEM was a precursor to LASER (Leadership Advancing Socially Engaged Research). These are amazing opportunities and I encourage all graduate students to consider applying for LASER. Two among many highlights of EL-STEM were:

  • Crucibles. Over the course of the year, each fellow shared a reflection on a crucible, or a challenging moment or experience that allows a person to grow through reflection on values, motives, assumptions and judgments made. Crucibles are often pivotal moments in the life of a leader. This practice of sharing crucibles helped me adapt a framework with which to understand and make use of difficult events or experiences in my life. I became quicker to recognize that difficult situations can help me grow. I now have more hope that difficult situations will produce something new.
  • Career Uncertainty. EL-STEM provided a forum for conversation with peers and speakers about the uncertainty involved in career discernment. More often than not, the road to our goals is circuitous. Learning to expect the unexpected, accept uncertainties and to stop worrying has been really valuable to me.


The Graduate School Shaheen Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition is an opportunity to showcase your research to a general audience in 3 minutes. This is why I chose to participate in 3MT and how it benefited me:

  • I wanted to enhance my ability to communicate my research to a general audience.
  • I used some of the content and my slide (which I spent a lot of time on!) in my defense introduction. It was a great way to engage my audience, many of whom were not scientists, right off the bat.
  • If you are a finalist, you will have a published link of yourself presenting that you can share during a job search. Even if you don’t make it to the finals, you’ll have a recording of your first round presentation that you can share.
  • Both in high school drama productions and graduate school presentations, I always got the jitters for the first 5 minutes of presenting. After that, I calmed down and enjoyed presenting. 3MT was a unique challenge for me because it’s only 3 minutes! There’s no time to settle into presentation mode. I knew I wanted to learn to manage adrenaline and nerves at the beginning of presentations more effectively, and practice makes perfect.
  • 3MT is fun. It affords a chance to meet other grad students from diverse fields and do something challenging together.

A few tips from Liz

  • Think of professional development as part of your graduate education. During my dissertation work, I had a piece of copy paper with a green outline of a shamrock. In each of the 3 leaves was written Research, Writing, Professional Development. This served as a visual reminder to engage in PD and “gave me permission” to take the time to engage in activities other than my research.
  • Connect with other graduate students, including from other disciplines. Graduate school can feel isolating at times, with large amounts of time spent in your library carrel or laboratory. Know you are not alone! There are many people eager to connect with you. Gradlife events are great way to connect with others, as are professional development opportunities through the graduate school, departmental clubs and associations like AWIS and SWE.
  • Pick 1-3 personal/professional development items each month. Keep an eye on the professional development webpage of the Graduate School and come meet with your Graduate Career Consultant.
  • The unexamined life is not worth living. Carve out time to engage in self-reflection. In June, Erik Simon wrote a blog post stressing the importance of reflecting on and understanding ourselves. Reflections on our values, skills and interests and how they intersect is an important piece to your career development. Engage in assessments on gradcareers.nd.edu as well as through myIDP (STEM) and ImaginePhD (Humanities).
  • Apply for Grants and funding early and often. Applying for funding is critical whether or not you plan to stay in academia or pursue a career outside academia.
  • Go out to lunch with faculty candidates, attend their job talks and participate in student-led interviews within your department.
  • Apply for a Common Good Initiative (GGI) seminar with the Center for Social Concerns and reflect on how your discipline can benefit the common good. I participated in CGI Haiti 2015 and it was a profound experience.

What are ways you engage in PD and how do you think about PD in the context of graduate education? Please share your ideas and experiences in the comments section below.

Jul 19

Resource Spotlight: ReferenceUSA

One of my favorite resources is a database called ReferenceUSA. I’ve been telling so many students about it during one-on-one consultations recently that I thought a blog post might come in handy.

ReferenceUSA is a database of companies and organizations. Students can use it to identify potential employers, and it’s particularly helpful when you are interested in a particular industry or field and have a particular geographic location of interest or necessity. Here’s what you can do:

  • Visit www.referenceusa.com (NOTE: You must be connected to the ND network or use off-campus proxy access like any other ND library database).
  • Click the “U.S. Businesses” link (see screenshot above), and then the “advanced search” tab.
  • On the left submenu that appears, under “Business Type” check “Keyword/SIC/NAICS.”
  • In the search bar that comes up, search for different keywords related to your interests, and select the related fields that pop up. You should be able to select as many different ones as you want, and some of them can get very specific/niche. Note: the “industries” are based on what the company does, not on what the job would be. You might have the opportunity to do communications-based work at a company that manufactures engines, for example. Think of the contexts you would enjoy writing about.
    • Advanced tip: start with a quick search and look up a company you know you’d want to work for. See how the database classifies them through the SIC or NAICS codes. Then use those codes rather than keywords for your advanced search.
  • After you’ve selected your industries, go back to the submenu on the left and expand “Geography.” Select the geography type that fits you best, and define your geographic search parameters. If you’re open to relocating anywhere in the country, don’t feel obligated to narrow it down geographically, I’m just offering it as a suggestion. You could also do a few different places, like all of Indiana, and part of Chicago.
  • If you want to preview how many results you will have, click the blue “update count” button first. That can tell you if you need to narrow or widen your search parameters.
  • You can also narrow the results by size of company (# of employees).
  • Once you’ve got your fields and locations, click the green “view results” button on the upper right.
  • On the results page, you can simply click the name of the company to learn more about that company. The database has a lot of information, but it’s not infallible. If you don’t see a website listed, for example, just google the company. Chances are they actually do have a website.
  • To download your results to excel, click the blue “download” button at the top of the results page. You can download up to 100 results at a time, and go back for the next 100 after each download. The only kind of downloading I have done is to excel, but you can do the others if you prefer.
  • If you find a company you like, look at their “industry profile.” You can use the SIC codes to look for similar companies in step #3 above in lieu of keywords.

Have you used ReferenceUSA yet? Any other great resources you have found? Share your stories in the comments below.

Jul 05

Networking: Your Tactical Advantage to Stand Out from the Crowd

Today’s blog post was written by Larry Milks, Graduate Career Consultant for the College of Engineering.


Whether you are a 1st year grad student looking for an internship, or a 5th year student approaching the last stages of degree completion, or somewhere in between, at some point you will face the sometimes daunting challenge of seeking meaningful employment among scarce options in a highly competitive environment. So how can you set yourself apart and stand out from the crowd? How can you gain a competitive advantage?

The answer is NETWORKING! Forbes senior editor Susan Adams cites data that show 42% of 59,133 job seekers obtained their position as a result of networking. The next highest source of obtaining work was internet job boards at 21%. Networking is twice as productive as job boards in this survey and far more effective than any other single job search strategy such as using a search agency or online system.

However, as I talk with students I find that many are reluctant to network and find it a bit intimidating, particularly when they are considering asking for an informational interview, perhaps the richest form of networking. They have some fear that they will be rejected, that the person they reach out to won’t have time for them or even want to talk with them. Others are not really sure how to go about it. So be encouraged, you are not alone, and there are good antidotes to these issues.

First, consider for a moment that an undergrad in your department approached you with something like this.

“Hi Feng, I’m an undergrad in electrical engineering and getting ready to graduate next year. I’m thinking though my future and am wondering if a PhD in EE would be a good fit for me. Would you be willing to spend 15-20 minutes with me to help me understand how you decided to take that route, and what it’s like to be a grad student doing research? Maybe I could even meet you in your lab for this conversation so I could get a sense of the environment and get a peek behind the scenes.”

I’m quite sure that most of you would be happy to help out such an earnest and thoughtful student who is interested in considering the path you have taken. You would probably even find it rewarding to be able to share a bit from your life with a younger student. You would also likely be quite supportive and speak positively with your DGS if they did apply in the future.

If you had pressing deadlines at the moment, then you would politely decline the student’s request, but likely you would have an idea of someone else who could help. Alternatively, you might just suggest a delay in the meeting to accommodate your schedule.

Now reverse the roles, and realize that those people you would like to do an informational interview with will generally want to be helpful, just like you would be for the undergraduate. When they understand you are not asking them for a job, but seeking to understand their career area and how to best prepare for a move in that direction, they might even be honored that you asked them. They will also remember you when a future position becomes available in their organization.

In my own recent job search this past year I reached out to 8 different college career advisors. These were all cold call emails with no one to introduce me to them first. I received “yes” responses from 4 of these 8! Imagine the improved response rate that you will get if you can find a bridge person to introduce you to the individual you hope to interview!

Irish Compass is a great resource which can connect you with ND alumni who have already agreed to do informational interviews for ND students! Additionally, they could possibly be a bridge person who introduces you to the individual at their company who would be a perfect fit for an informational interview given your specific needs.

So be bold! Reach out! You have nothing to lose and much to gain!

Do you have a story to tell about how networking has worked for you? Please share below!

P.S. For more on this see strategic networking

Jun 21

YOU are the EXPERT of YOU

Today’s blog post was written by Erik Simon, Graduate Career Consultant for the College of Arts and Letters.


YOU are the most important part of YOUR life, so why is it that we often aren’t given the time, or don’t take the time, to reflect on ourselves. Understanding WHY you do what you do could be the best investment and use of your time. Answering basic questions such as WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, HOW and  WHY from a variety of angles can bring CLARITY, COMFORT, and ultimately, CONFIDENCE in both your personal and professional life.

From a very young age, we are taught the importance of education and learning how to read, write, and do well in subjects such as math, social studies, and science. These are the skills and information that we are often evaluated upon when it comes to assessments and grades. This “technical/content” knowledge tends to be at the forefront throughout our schooling. After hours of researching, studying, memorization, test taking, writing, and completing assignments, how much time is left to better understand yourself? Have you taken the time to reflect on what encompasses your “foundational” skills such as passion, purpose, leadership, character, integrity, and resilience; or your “transferable skills” such as communication, organization, problem solving, and teamwork?

These “foundational” and “transferable” skills are formally taught through subjects such as “Character Education” and “Senior Survival Skills” within the K-12 system and through courses and services such as the “First Year Experience,” “Health & Wellness,” or “Career Services” within higher education. Often, these are not required and tend to be taken less seriously than academic and discipline-specific courses. The focus is drawn to “real” subjects that can be assessed through more tangible methods such as publications, coursework, and standardized testing. Assessing and improving character is certainly more subjective than objective, so is this why we tend to avoid it? Is it that statistical numbers are difficult to derive and we don’t have the time to take a deep dive into our own mental and emotional capabilities?

This article is not meant to answer these questions but to encourage you to ask more questions around the importance of self-reflection in a world that tends to focus more on what takes place around us than what takes place WITHIN us. Does content knowledge carry as much importance if an individual’s emotional intelligence, mental health, and personality are not understood? What is the priority between research and reflection, content and confidence?

If YOU want to be the EXPERT of YOU, take the time to consciously and consistently research YOU. Below are some resources and services that can get you started in better understanding the most important research topic in your life, YOU:

Jun 07

Underqualified? Overqualified? Here’s What To Do

One of the most common questions students ask is regarding what to do when they see a job posting for which they are underqualified (or overqualified). For example, you might see a job for a “Director of Research Initiatives” that requires 15 years of experience leading interdisciplinary research teams. You have plenty of experience conducting research, and this is the kind of job you will eventually want to take on, but at the current moment you are not a good fit for this specific position. However, you love the organization and would be thrilled to work there, but no other positions are posted at this time. What should you do?

The answer is to reach out to the organization, indicate that you see the Director position posted, acknowledge that while you do have X amount of experience you realize you are not quite qualified for that specific role, and inquire about potential opportunities that might better fit your skills and experiences. (The opposite for jobs you are overqualified for). Sound intimidating or unrealistic? It’s not, and seven potential outcomes could result from taking such initiative.

Worst case (which really isn’t all that bad):

1) You receive no response. Bummer! Follow up again, and if you still receive no reply to your second e-mail then try calling. Some folks just operate better via phone than e-mail, and it can demonstrate a genuine interest in working there. Not sure how to find their contact info? Your grad career consultant can help.

2) They reply to thank you for your inquiry, and to confirm that this Director position is truly the only position they are hiring for at the moment. They’ll wish you well in your search. No harm, no foul. Move on with confidence, and check back again in about 6 months to maintain the relationship.

Now for the good news! FIVE potentially positive responses:

3) They could reply and say yes indeed they do have an opening for someone with your experience that’s just not posted anywhere. They would send it to you and you can apply!

4) They could reply and say that while they are hoping for an experienced person to take on the Director role, the job has been open for a while and they haven’t found anyone. Perhaps it would be worth talking to you about what you can do, and then consider adjusting the position to align with your background. That way the projects that are piling up can start to be accomplished, even if it’s not at the level of a Director. (This scenario may be more likely when the position is Senior Researcher, for example, and they bring you on at the Associate Researcher level instead).

5) They could reply and say that as of now they are only hiring for the Director, but once that person is on board he or she will be adding roles to the team, and your HR contact will pass along your resume/CV once the person is hired.

6) They could reply to say that you have a solid background and they would be interested in investigating opportunities to create a role for you on the team right away.

7) They could reply to say that while they don’t have any openings now, they will keep your resume/CV on file in case anything opens up down the road.

The likelihood of each of these scenarios being realized varies at every organization, but with such little risk for negative reactions and a potentially huge reward, we highly encourage you to actively engage the organizations you admire for the potential opportunities they might have. This can be achieved through a “prospecting cover letter,” and we can help you write it. To get started, take a basic application cover letter and switch the focus to inquiring about such potential openings.

Additional considerations:

When evaluating whether or not you are qualified for a position, know that you really only need to have about 60% of what they are looking for. If you have that, and you feel you can do the job and are interested, go ahead and apply. Let the employer decide that other candidates are more qualified than you, because you never know who else is out there. Someone with the exact qualifications described in the posting may not even exist in real life, aside from the chances they will actually want to apply for that same job. So be realistic, but also confident in your skills and experiences. You’ll miss out on 100% of the opportunities you don’t apply for (or at least inquire about).

Have you had success reaching out to an employer to inquire about opportunities? Share your story in the comments below!

May 24

Colleagues and Collegiality

Today’s guest post was submitted by Trish Bredar, 3rd year English PhD student and grad assistant in Graduate Career Services. The views presented are her own, but we highly support them!


Graduate students are required to constantly negotiate different professional roles. They might act as a student, teacher, researcher, advisee, and mentor, all within a single afternoon. While wearing many hats can be exciting and rewarding, it can also cause confusion and conflict. Kelly Hanson’s GradHacker post “Student or Professional? The Paradox of Being a Graduate ‘Student’” demonstrates that the way grad students think about their professional or student capacities has major implications for how they conceptualize and organize their responsibilities. The same holds true for our working relationships. In a profession where nearly everyone you work with juggles a variety of professional and personal roles, it can become difficult to set the tone for those relationships.

One way to reconcile some of the conflicts between your many roles while also making an investment in your future career is to think in terms of collegiality. On the surface, this may seem like common sense—”obviously the people I work with are my colleagues”—but this simple term can actually entail a significant shift in how you conceptualize and cultivate professional relationships.

So, what makes a good colleague? Maria Shine Stewart’s Inside Higher Ed blog post asks this exact question, and offers several potential definitions, identifying key qualities such as encouragement, support, and guidance. All of these definitions imply that a good colleague meets the basics of professional conduct, but also acts according to values such as respect and good will that contribute to positive and productive working relationships. Melissa Ridley Elmes’s discussion of collegiality provides some concrete examples of what these practices look like in academic context. While her blog post centers on the academic conference scene, her core points about generosity and good conduct can translate into any professional environment.

So how does this concept of collegiality factor into your career success? For one thing, it can help you to build strong professional connections. We tend to think about networking as a discreet activity centered on making connections in a particular field or industry, but your network is largely made up of the people you work with on a regular basis. This includes not only advisors or senior faculty, but also your fellow graduate students. Your peer relationships will extend far beyond your time as a graduate student. How you interact with them now may leave lasting impressions that can follow you throughout your career.

However, collegiality is about more than just making connections right now—it is also a transferable skill. Just like project management, written communication, or public speaking, being a good colleague is an ability that can help you no matter where your future career may take you. As Karla Zepeda has pointed out, your professional persona and interpersonal skills are two of the post important areas that graduate students should cultivate in order to prepare for your future career search. Being a good colleague requires you to leverage both. Chances are that you already follow many strong practices of collegiality but, as with other skills, it becomes much easier to build and articulate those abilities once you start to be mindful of them.

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