Jan 05

Navigating Change in the New Year

This guest blog post was provided by Larry Westfall, newly retired Director of Graduate Career Services.

And suddenly you know...it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”
In time-held tradition, we awake on New Year’s day and resolve to make a change in some aspect of our lives as the new year unfolds before us. We are hit with a barrage of ads from media sources encouraging us to lose those extra pounds, pay off our home loan faster, feel ten years younger, or join the fitness challenge. And with the best of intentions, many of us sign up for our ‘free consultation’ or click the download button in hopes that in some way this first step will evolve to some lasting change of our former self. But are we focusing too much on the past and what we want to change versus shifting our sights to the future and what we want to become?
Dan Millman, world champion gymnast and athlete, writes in his book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, about the physical and mental challenges he faced in his early life and the spiritual growth he experienced through his fictional mentor and counselor, “Socrates”, an all-night gas station attendant not the renowned Greek philosopher. At one enlightening moment in the conversation, Socrates offers to Millman,
“You have many habits that weaken you. The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
How often, during our own moments of seeking a change do we focus more on the past and what we want to change about ourselves or our situation rather than focusing and envisioning what we want to create for the future. We get caught in a paradigm of retrospection as opposed to setting our minds free to envision a myriad of possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead of us.
I’ve encountered over the course of my career numerous situations that found me at the proverbial crossroads. Life’s crossroads create opportunity for us to choose between different options, and when we see someone embracing the moment when choices are made, it can be awe-inspiring. Crossroads are about change. Choices must be made — not just when things are not working out as we had planned, but also during positive moments when we must choose to continue the course or pivot into something new. When we experience an ending in a relationship, a change in careers, political turmoil, the loss of a friend, or challenges with our health, the crossroads we find ourselves facing can either inspire us to choose differently, or during these moments of change we can paralyze ourselves with fear.
Making a crossroads a moment of profound and lasting change and learning how to thrive when life’s changes descend upon us can be learned. Here is what I’ve learned about weathering change…
  • Don’t settle for acceptable.  When our habitual response leads to what is normal or customary, we can typically expect less than remarkable results and then suffer disappointment or regret.
  • Don’t resist the effects of change.  Controlling or forcing things to happen is typically a response to the fear that comes with change. Not making a decision or taking action when faced with change due to fear or uncertainty is itself a choice. Reevaluate your coping mechanisms with stress and apprehension. Move with the change instead of against it.
  • Trust your inner voice.  Deep within ourselves lies our inner voice that guides us between right and wrong and tells us what we need to do, how we need to react, and how we need to think during times of change. Learn to trust this ingrained wisdom to guide you toward a new destiny.
  • Dream big(ger).  Change what you expect from life and then create a plan and work to orchestrate the right conditions for your growth and success.
  • Create balance amidst the chaos.  Let go of agendas, push away daily demands, limit distractions and give yourself the gift of time to reflect and contemplate the areas of your life that may need more balance.
  • Fail forward.  Failure is inevitable in the face of change and in life. And that’s okay. Make the best possible decision you can and move forward knowing that if it turns out to not be the right decision, you can always start again. Remember, failing creates not only additional opportunities for success, but fosters courage and determination for those of us brave enough to attempt it.
When I’m standing at the crossroads or faced with the inevitable fear of change, I’ve learned to look it squarely in the face and say, “you can do this!” Things may not always turn out the way that I envisioned, but I’m stronger for having risked, taken a stand, trusted and believed in myself. Come join the fun and let life’s adventures unfold.

Nov 30

Thank You Notes


We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! If it was anything like mine, it featured at least four different kinds of carb-loaded dishes, and you are looking forward to the new Smith Center for Recreational Sports opening in January like I am.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to focus on the important art of writing Thank You Notes. As I mentioned in our post on September 7th, thank you notes are essential to the recruiting process. They confirm your interest in the opportunity, demonstrate your initiative and professional follow through, and help you stand out from other candidates who don’t follow up appropriately. Students often ask us about the process of sending a thank you note. Here are some answers to your FAQs:

When should I sent it? 

The old standard of “within 24 hours” still applies, but the electronic age and the pace at which hiring decisions can be made are pushing that to “within 12 hours.” You don’t need to send it from your phone in the parking lot after the interview, but later that day, that evening, or early the next day are best if sending by e-mail. If planning to send a hand-written card, put it in the mail no later than the next day.

Email or postal mail?

Either is usually fine. However, if you know the interview process will proceed rapidly (e.g. the interview is a Thursday and they will follow up with candidates on Monday), then definitely send an e-mail so that your thank you note is included as part of their decision making process.

How long should it be? 

It shouldn’t be the next great novel, but it also should be longer than just a sentence or two. Rather than simply the basic “Thank you for meeting with me…I enjoyed learning about your organization…I look forward to hearing from you…” try to add some details from your background that remind them of how great you are, or follow up on a question you weren’t quite sure of and needed to research further. If sending by e-mail, 1-3 short paragraphs will be sufficient. If writing by hand, 3-5 sentences will be fine as long as you include something that connects the card to you as a candidate (see links below).

Who should get one? 

While I know that “everyone you talked to” is not always practical, it really is your goal. E-mail makes it easy to send a personalized thank-you note to every member of the search committee individually. It’s best if you can provide slightly different information that will be interesting/relevant to each person (e.g. the interviewer from Human Resources may care about one of your past jobs while your director might find your education more important). To make it more management when interviewing with multiple panels throughout the day, you could potentially send one e-mail to each group of interviewers you met with.

After phone interviews, too?

YES! Any time you speak with someone who is evaluating you as a candidate or could influence your chances of being hired, thanking them is a polite and professional courtesy. This is a highly American custom, but can be critical to your success. Employers have indicated in general that only 20% of candidates follow up, so it definitely helps you stand out in a positive way.

What should it look like?

Rather than re-inventing the wheel here, I encourage you to check out the following articles that are also posted on our Pinterest page:

Phone Interview Template

Multiple Thank You Templates

Anything else I should know?

As I mentioned in this September 14th post, it is important to continue following up periodically over the weeks and months after the interview. If you haven’t already followed up with the folks you met at the Fall Career Expo and other recruiting events in September, now would be a good time to check in with them.

Do you have any success stories that relate to sending thank you notes and/or following up after an interview or recruiting event? Please share them in the comments below!

Nov 20

Leverage Your Grant Writing Skills in a Cover Letter

This week’s guest blog post comes from Hannah Babbini and the Graduate School Office of Grants and Fellowships.


When I work with graduate students on fellowship applications, I always try to impress that funding is not the only endgame. The skills developed through grantsmanship can be adapted to many opportunities, including live presentations, project management on the job, or other professional writing, such as cover letters. Those personal statements frequently attached to grants are in many ways analogous to the cover letter accompanying your CV or resume: both serve to convince your audience that you are the best person for this opportunity. In particular, there are six essential skills developed when writing a grant. Use these to your advantage in your cover letters!

The key to any successful grant or cover letter is persuasive writing.

  1. Start with More than the Minimum

Gather as much information as possible up front. Underline key points from the solicitation or job posting for easy reference. Investigate the organization’s website and other sources. What products, projects, or people are emphasized? How does your profile align? Consider contrasting competitors’ approaches.

Determine who will review your materials. Your readers are as diverse as the opportunities available; you may be writing for academic reviewers, government officials, or administrators. Adapt your writing for the intended audience every time.

When you write a grant, I will tell you to research previous essay examples or reach out to past winners. When a job is on the line, look to your network through LinkedIn or IrishCompass for additional insight.

  1. Manage Your Time; Manage Your Project

Project management is an in-demand skill, and when you write a major grant – even if you do not win – you demonstrate serious commitment and project management skills along the way. Planning ahead to balance deadlines, content development, reviewer feedback, and other duties is a skill you will use throughout your chosen career. Likewise, managing content and feedback from multiple sources like your collaborators, recommenders, or reviewers can be utilized time and time again. Make those comparisons clear in your cover letter. If your grant deliverable was ultimately successful, highlight that as well!

  1. Structure Your Content for an Overwhelmed Reader

Your first paragraph is crucial. In a grant, your first paragraph should establish context for your project and outline your approach – demonstrating relevance for this specific opportunity. Similarly, a cover letter should immediately verify that you are eligible for this job. Once those basics are established, you have more freedom to balance details about different criteria with your expertise and how each component is weighted.

  1. Be Specific!

Whether you are working on a dissertation fellowship or a competitive job application, assume the shortlist of candidates will meet the basic requirements. Show how you exceed those expectations using experiences that might not appear on a short resume. Compare these hypothetical examples about leadership:

The second version shows a lasting commitment, personal growth, organizational skills, teamwork, clear results, and dedication to public outreach. The job posting might not have explicitly asked for those things, so now you have an advantage.

  1. Proofread for More than Typos

Proofreading is not limited to grammar and spelling. Ensure that you are answering all questions – ideally in a compelling manner. If you submit a resume instead of a CV, compare your long CV to the cover letter. Did you leave anything out that supports this application?

Lastly, adhere to formatting guidelines. A grant application may be rejected during format review. If cover letter guidelines are not explicitly stated, limit yourself to one page, 1-inch margins, and 11- or 12-point font, along with your header and contact information. Academic cover letters may be longer.

  1. Analyze Feedback from Multiple Sources

Use your networking skills and take advantage of professionalization resources! In addition to online resources, get personalized feedback on your job materials by making an appointment with Graduate Career Services. Related campus resources include the Office of Grants and Fellowships, Writing Center, One Button Studio, LinkedIn groups, and department resume books.


Hannah Babbini is the Assistant Program Director in the Graduate School Office of Grants and Fellowships and ND graduate alumna. She has helped hundreds of ND graduate students develop successful funding proposals and increase their competitiveness. Reach her at hannah.babbini@nd.edu.

Nov 02

Your Research Matters

Today’s guest blog post was provided by Laura Carlson, Vice President and Associate Provost, Dean of the Graduate School, and Professor of Psychology.


I want our graduate students to know that Your Research Matters.

This is not a generic slogan.

This is the Graduate School remix of an old Notre Dame classic. Perhaps the Notre Dame classic.

I am referring to Father Sorin’s legendary claim that Notre Dame will be a force for good in the world.

Or, as he put it, in a letter to Blessed Basil Moreau on December 5, 1842: “This college will be one of the most powerful means of doing good in this country…”

Father Sorin had just arrived in South Bend when he wrote these words. He was confronting one of South Bend’s coldest winters for the first time. He was twenty-eight years old.

I am moved by Father Sorin’s words—by their zeal, and by their conviction. They’re powerful. And they’re consistent with the types of scholars that the Notre Dame Graduate School attracts.

We draw scholars who are different. Scholars who are passionate. Scholars who truly want to be forces for good in the world. And scholars who approach their research with the perspective that their research matters.

Because it does.

For me, this concept captures the essence of what makes graduate training at Notre Dame different. It’s what’s so unique about being a graduate student in this place.

My job, from an administrative standpoint, is to marshal our resources so that the graduate students can extend their research into the world beyond Notre Dame as effectively as possible.

This includes promoting an outstanding Office of Professional Development, and supporting the four spires our Professional Development office advances: Research, Teaching, Ethics, and Career.

The Career spire is sustained by the Office of Graduate Career Services. In concert with the other three Professional Development spires, this office can serve as a key launchpad from which graduate students introduce their impactful research into the world.

Whether a student is in the internship phase, seeking a career in a top corporation, or pursuing an academic role, Grad Career Services is an indispensable resource.

Consider one of our students who knows this first-hand. Last summer, Yushan Zhang, from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, was one of eight Notre Dame students to complete an internship with IBM Research.

From a lab in Dublin, Ireland, Yushan applied machine learning to forecast wave conditions. Her team ultimately developed a deep learning framework that can predict wave conditions 12,000% faster than current models can—with dramatic reductions in computational expense, and comparable levels of accuracy.

Yushan credits Grad Career Services with helping her score the internship, and make the most of the opportunity once on-site. She utilized the office’s 1:1 consultation resource, meeting several times with a highly-specialized Career Consultant to polish her resume and discuss interview preparation strategies.

After landing the internship, she attended a meeting led by the Director of Grad Career Services to gain practical wisdom for professional conduct, networking, and more. “I definitely referred to my handout sheet and notes [from the meeting] multiple times during my internship to refresh my mind and motivate myself,” she says.

Yushan’s research is a force for good in the world. Her research matters. It will help meteorology professionals provide accurate information, and marine industries maintain safe conditions. Therefore it is important to us that Yushan position her research from a vantage point with reputation and reach.

The Graduate Career Services Office empowers Yushan to do just that.

For information about the other spires of professional development, please visit the Professional Development homepage, or the pages associated with each spire: Research, Teaching, Ethics, and of course, Career.

Oct 19

CGS Career Pathways Project

Today’s guest blog post was provided by Laura Carlson, Vice President and Associate Provost, Dean of the Graduate School, and Professor of Psychology.


This past August, the Grad School was awarded an $80,000 grant from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS). This funding allows us to participate in the PhD Career Pathways Project, a high-profile investigation seeking to better understand how and where doctoral graduates apply their educations professionally.

Twenty-eight other institutions will collaborate with us in this research study, co-funded by NSF and by the Mellon Foundation, so we’ll be able to dig up quite a cache of information. With this vast data store, we gain a huge opportunity to enrich our Graduate School and serve our students:

♣ We’ll strengthen our relationships with our amazing doctoral alumni.
♣ We’ll acquire a better understanding of the significance of doctoral education in the real world.
♣ We’ll learn how to better prepare our students for a wide variety of diverse career options, including all the traditional ones, too.

We are now ready for the first step of the project: sending surveys on career pathways to the PhD alumni. We’re asking them questions about where they’ve landed since graduating from Notre Dame, and how they’re applying their expertise and education in their daily lives.

I can’t wait to see those completed surveys.

I already know that our graduate students’ research matters. I am reminded of this when I hear of the government tapping Sarah Lum to address the national sexual assault kit backlog, or when I read Emily Maiden’s blog as she helps combat childhood marriage in Malawi.

But what I don’t always know—and the potential that excites me the most—is how our graduates are changing the world, in ways big and small, since leaving Notre Dame. Each and every student cultivated his or her impact while at Notre Dame. But what does that impact look like today?

Once we have answers to these questions, we’ll ask more questions. It’s a three year project, after all.

♣ What can our current students learn from our high-achieving alumni?
♣ What features of our professional preparation approaches best served our graduates?
♣ What are some career platforms from which PhDs can change the world that we may not have thought of before?
♣ And how can we invigorate our professional development and career preparation to prepare students to shine in these roles?

As we interpret our findings, we’ll collaborate with our graduate programs in STEM and Humanities, as well as our twenty-eight partner colleges in the study. Sharing our data with them—and seeing theirs—will be a huge asset.

And we will feed these data to our Graduate Career Services Office to help that team strategize on the best ways to communicate out-of-the box career options to our students, and to implement tools to help them prepare for and obtain these roles.

Our students’ research matters. I am #IrishReady to investigate how our alumni mobilize their research to be forces for good in the world today, and to brainstorm with us on the best ways to enable our current students to enter into this tradition of using their research to change the world.


Have questions about the CGS Career Pathways Project? Leave them in the comments.


Oct 05

Grad Student Appreciation Week – Campus Quotes

In honor of graduate student appreciation week, we wanted to find out what folks from all corners of campus appreciate about our graduate students. The responses flowed in, and it is clear that you are greatly appreciated! #thanksbetograds


Laura Carlson, Vice President and Associate Provost, Dean of the Graduate School, Professor of Psychology

Their passion! I am inspired by their desire to pursue questions that matter in the world.

Mandy Havert, Digital Research and Outreach Librarian, Hesburgh Libraries

I find that graduate students are so enthusiastic for their research. Whenever I meet a new graduate student it is fascinating to see their faces light up and their conversation become animated because in most cases their research is their passion. When that energy ignites it’s inspiring.

Kayla August, Assistant Director of Evangelization, Campus Ministry

I appreciate the hard work and dedication of the graduate community. These students are often far from home, working multiple jobs, heading families, balancing their personal and professional lives, or within the long process it takes to complete their PhD, but they still manage to go above and beyond. They excel in classes, make time to engage their mind, body, and soul and even participate in the life of the greater community.

In the Campus Ministry Department, I am happy to offer them a free meal and a chance for fellowship on the first Friday of every month, but daily they show me so much more through their dedicated spirits and drive to learn despite long hours of studying and endless workloads. Their perseverance is inspiring and their presence on campus is a continual blessing to all those who encounter them.

Tony Oleck, Assistant Director for Off-Campus and Transitions, Office of Housing

I appreciate their role in our shared project of building a preeminent research institution with an excellent undergraduate education. Our graduate students contribute much to the production of knowledge, while also forming our undergraduate students by serving as Assistant Rectors, TA’s, course instructors, or RCIA sponsors.

Mara Trionfero, Assistant Director Assessment & Education, McDonald Center for Student Well-Being

We love graduate students at McWell- from those that visit our spaces, to those participating on the Healthy Campus Coalition and even those working with us on various projects we find the diversity of perspective and experience that they bring to the campus community to be extremely rewarding.

Larry Westfall, Director Graduate Career Services, Graduate Career Services

I appreciate their curiosity to explore options, their willingness to seek and accept guidance, and their commitment to always do their best

Rebecca Overmyer, Administrative Assistant, Sociology Department

I appreciate how helpful and supportive our students are to each other both in academics and in their personal lives. They work very hard to create a sense of community which is so important when you spend so much time independently reading, studying and writing! We have the best students!


Thank you to everyone who participated in this initiative, and especially to our graduate students for being so awesome! Want to tell us what you appreciate about grad students? Leave a comment below!

Sep 21

Navigating Your Career with IrishCompass

Today’s guest post was written by Sharon Keane, Notre Dame Alumni Association.


Important dynamics are at play in today’s marketplace and in the minds of professionals. They include the mindset shift from “career for life” to “career for me,” the rise of the “gig” economy, and increased job changes. Research reveals that individuals will experience more job changes going forward. Key stats include:

  • The average person changes jobs 10 to 15 times during his/her career.
  • Many workers spend 5 years or less in every job.
  • Millennials will constitute 50% of the workforce by 2020 and will change jobs on average every 3-5 years.

What does this mean to a Notre Dame graduate student who will enter the job market?

It is reasonable to assume that working professionals will need a robust network in order to navigate these realities successfully. Actively cultivating your network now so you have the positive relationships over the life of your career is the way to go. For many, networking is uncomfortable or disappointing. You want to network with purpose and clarity as you build relationships. One concrete step in this direction is to develop a clear, concise elevator pitch so that as you connect with others, you are able to communicate your distinct value. In return, you want to listen well as others share their professional pursuits so you can help direct them too.

Many say that the time to build your network is before you need it. I agree. No question that building your network takes time, energy, and focus. You want to invest these resources wisely.

Enter the Notre Dame network, filled with people who are successful and willing to help others achieve their professional aspirations. To start, there are 140,000 alumni who have valuable experience, perspective, and referrals. How do you plug into this network?

Join IrishCompass.

IrishCompass is the University’s new official online community for professional growth and development in support of students and alumni. As a member of the Notre Dame family, you can participate in a wide variety of ways — from networking and mentorship opportunities to a private job board and industry groups. Here are a few specific ideas for this exclusive community:

  • Match with alumni based on interests and career goals to engage in 30-minute career conversations or three-month mentorship relationship.
  • Participate in the industry-specific online discussions by joining industry groups for your current and desired fields.
  • Access the job board featuring professional positions (as graduate students, you also retain access rights to Go IRISH.)
  • Explore the library with helpful videos, webinars, books, articles, guides, and worksheets that address a variety of career-related topics and help with the career discernment process.

Engage with the ND network. Give others the benefit of your experience as you gain from theirs. Your active participation will ensure that IrishCompass is a vibrant community of alumni and students who learn and achieve together.


Sharon Keane ’84 serves as the Director of Professional and Academic Programs in the Notre Dame Alumni Association. She is responsible for career services and intellectual engagement of Notre Dame alumni. In her role, she draws upon her work experience in government, business, and academe.

Sep 14

Following Up After a Career Event – Part 2

In Part 1 last week, we covered the process of following up the day after a career fair or other networking event. Today we’ll look at steps to take in the coming weeks and months to maintain and foster the relationship with the individuals and organizations you met there.

A few weeks after the event

Depending on how quickly and actively the organization is hiring, you will want to stay engaged with them to maintain momentum after the event. Some recruiters will respond to your thank-you note and immediately proceed into an interview process. Others may not even have any jobs available right now, and those are the ones you must remember to stay in touch with. Check in every 3-6 weeks with the person you met at the event, depending on the timing of their search processes. This achieves two goals: 1) you stay at the forefront of their mind, so that they think of you if an opening arises in their organization, and 2) they don’t assume you are no longer interested or have accepted a position elsewhere. These e-mails can be fairly simple, and follow a format similar to the following:

Dear [his or her name],

I hope the [project they mentioned at the event OR current season e.g. fall, winter, etc.] is going well. I am still very interested in potential opportunities at [their organization’s name], and am available to answer any questions about my background that might have come up since our conversation in [month of the event or previous conversation since].

Best wishes for an enjoyable [upcoming holiday/event/project].

[Your name]

Over the months and years following the event

Especially if you attended the event while not actively seeking new opportunities (e.g. prior to the last year of your program), you will need to take a strategic approach to maintaining the connection over a longer period of time. It won’t work to just keep sending the same general follow up mentioned above, because you are not adding new value to the relationship. Instead, keep an eye out for articles you think they might appreciate, and periodically forward it to them with a note such as:

Hi [their name], you may have seen this already, but I noticed it today and thought you might find it interesting as it relates to [their ongoing project/initiative or general industry].

<provide the link or attachment here>

Warm regards,

[Your name]

Another approach would be to update them on new developments within your own research activities, or something of mutual interest you accomplished or experienced. For example,

Hi [their name], our latest discoveries on [your topic] were published last week, and I thought you might be interested in seeing them as they relate to your [their ongoing project/initiative or general industry].

<provide the link or attachment here>

Warm regards,

[Your name]

The idea is to remind them of your interest and relevance to their organization, as well as provide information that can benefit their work. That value will be appreciated and ideally rewarded in the long run.

Bonus tip: engage with the organization on social media as well. Retweet their news, send follow-up information as comments on their posts, or tag them when promoting your own work. This would likely be more general engagement with the organization rather than specific recruiters or reps, but can keep you on their radar and provide opportunity to be seen as an expert on their topics of interest.

For more tips and resources about finding success before, during, and after networking events check out our Networking and Following Up boards on Pinterest. And please leave a comment here with your own favorite way to stay connected with employer representatives.

Sep 07

Following Up After a Career Event – Part 1

We hope you had a chance to participate in the Fall Career Expo or STEM Networking Breakfast events yesterday. Events like these should be considered the opening introductory touchpoint in an ongoing meaningful relationship. As such, there are steps you must take to foster and cultivate that relationship now that it is off the ground. Today will focus on some things to do the next day (ideally). Part 2 covers the following weeks and the long term.

Immediately following the event (ideally within 24 hours)

Hopefully you know the importance of sending a thank-you note within 24 hours after an interview, but did you know you should also send a thank-you note after a career fair or other networking event? The employer took time out of his or her day to speak with you personally about your career interests, their organization, and opportunities where those two topics might come together. You need to show appreciation for this time, and indicate that you feel there is a mutual connection between your background and their organization. This does not need to be as long as a cover letter. A few sentences in an e-mail will suffice, but avoid being too generic. They met with many individuals at the event, so you want to remind them of something unique about yourself or of interest from your conversation so they can picture you in their mind. Rather than “Thank you for your time last night; I enjoyed learning about your company; I look forward to hearing from you;” consider the following example:

Good morning, [his or her name].

Our conversation at the Career Expo last night was very engaging, and I greatly appreciate the time you spent discussing how my background in [your field] would add value to [name of their organization]. My research into [your specific topic] seems to fit well with [project names or brief description of 1-2 current projects at their organization]. You mentioned you will be conducting interviews in the coming weeks, and I would sincerely enjoy participating in that process. Please let me know if you have any questions about my background or if there is anything I can do in the meantime to help foster this relationship.

Warm regards,

[Your name]

If your specific research topic did not come up in the conversation or is not related to the organization’s work, then connect back to another aspect of your background you discussed, such as a leadership role, teaching experience, or something else from the conversation. You want to remind them of who you are, and reiterate something great about you that should interest them. If they are not conducting interviews as shown in the above example, refer to something else that they mentioned to demonstrate you were listening and are interested in their organization moving forward.

Check back next week for Part 2, focusing on steps to take over the coming weeks and months after a career event. In the meantime, leave your comments below with your own tips and experiences for being #IrishReady to follow up with an organization’s reps.

Aug 24

Employer Guest Post – Success at Networking Events

The Fall Career Expo, Breakfast with Graduate STEM Champions, and CBE Symposium are less than 2 weeks away (September 6th). Lisa Kochert, leader of the North America campus talent acquisition team at Avanade, was gracious enough to provide us with this guest blog post from an employer’s perspective on how to succeed at networking events on campus. Avanade will be at both the STEM Breakfast and the Career Expo.


To Play Like a Champion You Need a Strategy

How to Get the Most Out of Networking on Campus

For many, the thought of attending a campus event where employers are present can lead to eye rolling and thoughts of wasted time. I’d like to argue that nothing could be further from the truth. Avanade, a leading digital innovator has hired many “Fighting Irish,” and we met all of them on campus!

In today’s competitive job market, employers are increasingly in pursuit for the best talent, and there’s no better way to meet those candidates than in “your backyard,” at a campus organized event.

If you’re able to get facetime with an employer, there’s no such thing as waste. Every contact has value in preparing you to talk about your strengths and learn about prospective career opportunities and employers. Who knows – the company president may even be in attendance.

Although we’re in a digital era, nothing takes the place of a meaningful human interaction. Too many students have unrealistic expectations about the effectiveness of blasting out resumes to potential employers without considering their game plan – which is so old school! Just because you send out 20 resumes per day, doesn’t mean that you’re going to land a position you want. In fact, that may not get you anywhere at all.

Developing a game plan for a campus event doesn’t have to be difficult – come on, you are the Fighting Irish – you have been taught how to play strategically and act like a champion. To remove barriers to starting your game plan, ask yourself a few important questions:

  1. What do I hope to accomplish at the event?
  2. Who would I like to meet with and why do I want to meet them?
  3. What do I need to know about the companies before I meet with them?
  4. What questions will I want to ask?
  5. What are the take-aways that I want to leave potential employers with?

Asking yourself these questions will help you create a plan for putting that hard-earned degree to use; and developing a solid professional network of people to connect with as you build your career.

To take full advantage of your time at a campus event, use your “Champion Approach.” Employers have taken the time to come to your campus for a reason – they want to meet you! With “soft skills’ like communications becoming increasingly important in our technological age, the ability to demonstrate your interpersonal skills, combined with a professional demeanor and appearance, you’ll stand head and shoulder above your competitors.

Now that you’ve bought into the value of networking at these campus events – remember it’s important to be the real you. Relax and be yourself – networking is about building and maintaining relationships. Remember, it’s not a test or even a judgement, it’s just an effort to get to know you and establish a connection; because at the end of the day, these employers need you as much as you need us.


Lisa Kochert leads the North America campus talent acquisition team at Avanade. In her role, she leads the strategic direction and delivery of the campus talent acquisition organization across several key functions including sourcing, full life-cycle recruiting, and event management. Lisa has been with Avanade since 2011. The opinions presented above are her own.

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