21-Day Challenge

Welcome to the 21-Day Career Challenge:
Get Your Career in Gear!

The goal of this program is to provide information, guidance, and support for your job search. Over the 21 days of the program, we’ll focus on a critical area of career or job search management.

This program is entirely virtual so that you can participate around your schedule. This is your opportunity to focus on your career. We hope by the end of the challenge, you’ll feel more prepared, confident, and motivated to move ahead in your career or job search.

Let’s start at the beginning. When you’re thinking about a job or career change, it’s helpful to take some time to re-define your purpose and determine your career goals.

Before choosing a career field, company, or job, take some time for a self-assessment. In doing an assessment, start by making an inventory of the following categories: interests, passions, values, talents, skills, strengths, weaknesses, and accomplishments. Once you’ve determined who you are and what you have to offer, you can better determine where you’ll fit in, and conduct a targeted job search.

There are many resources to help with self-assessment, and it can be beneficial to take advantage of these as you begin the process.

  • RIT Career Counselors: Explore factors that contribute to career choices that include interests, abilities, personality, and values. Through discussion, resources, and assessment testing as appropriate, our team can help you bring clarity to the next step of your career journey. Call our office at 585-475-2301 to set up a career counseling appointment, in person or by phone.
  • Personalized Career Coaching Services: We invite you to take the next step in developing and managing your career by working directly with a career coach. Our career coach partners have been screened by our office and often share their advice through workshops and panels. Learn more about career coaching

Considering a job change?

Consider if you are better suited for a job change, or a career change. Read through our checklist to explore which change is better suited for you:

You might benefit from a job change if…

  • You have experienced a personal or occupational change that causes you to reevaluate whether or not you feel valued by your employer
  • You are not sure about prospects for advancement in your field
  • You might be ready to move to the next or a different level, but worry that your employer doesn’t see it.
  • You would be much happier in your role if you could change an aspect of your work such as your supervisor, a co-worker, or your work environment
  • You find yourself looking a job posting in your current field with interest
  • You still feel passion for your field, just not your current role
  • You can identify ways to enhance your skill set at work and increase your daily job satisfaction, such as maintaining friendships at work or taking on new projects

You might benefit from a career change if…

  • You have experienced a personal or occupational change that causes you to reevaluate your interest in your current path
  • The outlook of your current field is declining
  • You are so stressed at work that you feel your current job is detrimental to your work life balance, health, and wellness
  • When looking at opportunities in your field, you cannot imagine yourself doing that job
  • You have identified a hobby, interest, or skill set that could become a potential new career

You feel a lack of interest in your career, or are not motivated to learn new skills in your current field

We’d like to encourage you to take advantage of Handshake, our career and job search platform. 

This powerful platform is available to students and alumni and offers the ability to find jobs, connect with employers, get information on upcoming workshops and employer events, and personalize your experience to get system recommendations for career exploration. 

To get started, go to our Job Search Strategies Handshake Platform Page.

You also have access to a dedicated Career Services Coordinator, who can work one-on-one with you on your job search materials (i.e. résumé, portfolio, LinkedIn profile), job search strategies, and resources for your targeted industry or field. You can find your coordinator through our Staff Directory or email Kris Stehler with your major or field and we’ll provide that information.

What’s holding you back? Take a minute to think about where you are in your job search process. Acknowledge and admit what might be holding you back and to find ways to overcome these obstacles. Potential obstacles and tips to overcome:

  1. Gap in employment
    • Address gap as part of your story, not whole story
    • Be factual but brief
    • Be professional and focused on your next job
    • Show enthusiasm
  2. Ageism
    • It exists – face it head on
    • Address typical concerns
      • Being bored in job
      • Not wanting a lower salary
      • Resistance in taking direction from others
      • Not wanting to do lower level tasks
      • Not wanting to work for younger boss
      • Having an overconfident, superior attitude
    • Emphasize why you’re the best candidate
      • Will have a shorter learning curve and will accomplish more in less time
      • Bring a broader range of experience and greater depth of knowledge to role
      • Bring more transferable skills and life experiences to supplement technical skills
      • Have a proven record of success, loyalty, reliability and demonstrated accomplishments
      • Ability to communicate with a wide range of people
  3. Rejection/failure
    • Deal with rejection
      • OK to grieve – then get back out there!
      • Debrief – what went wrong
      • Ask for feedback
    • Failure
      • Effective teacher
      • Makes you resilient and persistent
      • Trying and failing is better than not trying at all
      • Catalyst for revising goals or changing course
  4. Lack of confidence
    • Determine reason
      • Embarrassment – losing job
      • Past failures
      • Not qualified
      • Desperation
    • Focus on strengths and achievements
    • Develop positive self-talk
    • Practice marketing pitch
  5. Introversion
    • Job search can feel overwhelming
    • Break into manageable steps
    • Take breaks
    • Don’t just search online – include face-to-face interactions
    • Relationship building, one at a time
  6. Unmotivated
    • Create job search plan and clear goals
    • Support system
    • Routine – other than job search
    • Acknowledge successes

It's important to realize just how much your attitude affects your success or lack of success. Recognizing the obstacles is the first step in overcoming them. Your coordinator in our office can help in this process as well. Use your personal support system as well, all of your family and friends, members of your professional association, colleagues, and former coworkers. If you are feeling depressed, you might need counseling. Don't hesitate to take advantage of all the resources that are available to you. 

Additional information:

The job search process has changed. To help you stay current, we provide an annual slate of on-demand webinars featuring the nation’s top career authors and experts to share tips, tools, and best practices that will help you manage your career and job searches. Join your fellow alumni each month for a talk that can help you build or maintain a successful career strategy. Listen live or access the archived recordings at any time. Register for and access the webinars on the Experts Webinar Series website.

The webinars are organized into four categories: CareerSearch, CareerDiscussions, CareerSkills, and CareerEncores, and by different focus areas: interviewing, career exploration, networking, leadership, retirement, job search, and personal skills.

In addition to the webinars, this career management community offers a career forum, where you can join other professionals in discussing career related issues, and My Career Plan, to help you build a strategy to get where you want to go. A resources page provides additional information and tools for your job search.

Emotions and attitude are often a less recognized but no less important part of any job search. It’s important to recognize that these emotions are real and have a powerful impact on your ability to conduct a successful job search.

Being let go from a company can be humiliating and can negatively impact your job search. You may find you actually go through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You may struggle with a loss of identity, lack of self-esteem, and the financial stress that comes with being unemployed.

As a job search goes on, the emotional wear and tear can create an ongoing cycle of negativity, slowing the process. Seekers may feel that they are worthless and that they will never get a job again. The stress of applying to many jobs and not hearing back from the companies, the self-doubt that comes from being rejected, and the many unknowns associated with a job search (I thought the interview went great, why didn’t I get the job?) all contribute to negative emotions and a negative attitude about your search.

If you’re in a job search (no matter what stage), it’s a good idea to consider the emotional aspects and create a proactive plan for how you’ll manage them, and keep moving forward in a positive way. Here are some tips and suggestions.

Maintain a positive outlook. Think about your strengths and achievements. Celebrate each success and step along the way. You may find keeping a journal helpful, to vent about your frustrations and struggles, but also helpful affirmations to keep you motivated. Try to separate your self-identity from your job – you are more than your work.

Break out of your isolation, maintain “people contact,” and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Figure out who the members of your support system are – your family, friends, other job hunters you meet at networking groups and so on. Talk to them on a regular basis. Tell them what you’ve been up to, what seems to be working, and what seems to be frustrating you. Make them part of your team. Ask for their feedback and advice. Seek a job-hunting coach who can understand and relate to you, and provide both guidance and the occasional “kick in the pants” when it is called for. 

Maintain your mental and physical health. Eat healthy foods. Exercise at least three times each week. If it’s been a while since you exercised with any regularity, start slow and gradually build yourself back up. Get those endorphins flowing and you will look better, have more energy, and feel better about yourself.

Balance your job-hunting activities. You can’t be everywhere all the time. Strive to create a balance over the course of a week or two in a cycle. If you think of your search for work as a job hunt, then imagine each tool or tactic as one arrow in your quiver.

Adopt a new attitude towards your search. Your primary goal is to find a job of course, but try to look at this time as an opportunity to expand and grow, professionally and personally, instead of just finding a job. Be a key opinion leader in your field, find ways to share insights, ideas, and trends. Increase your visibility: join boards, be active in the community, volunteer, teach/take class, or write articles/blog posts. Create a launch pad for a new professional direction or your own business, expand your focus, keep ontop of new industries that can use your skills. Don’t box yourself in on just replacing position that might no longer exist. 

Present yourself in a professional way. When in a job search, you must always present yourself in a positive way, even though you may not be feeling particularly positive, energized or enthusiastic. You never know when you will meet someone who will lead you to your next job. Have a positive attitude, with no negativity towards your situation or especially your former employers. Prepare what you will say if and when someone asks you how you feel, what happened at your last job, or anything related to your job situation. Prospective employers will be looking for resilience and your ability to handle adversity. Take the opportunity of unemployment to update your professional image – get a makeover and update your wardrobe, and to update your skills and maybe learn some new ones relevant to your field or industry. Project confidence, and this comes from being comfortable with your brand. 

Adopt a wider outlook. When networking, offer to help colleagues and key contacts; be a connector, mentor, or a good resource - take focus off you and your job search. But with your contacts, ask for something they can do for you specifically, apart from knowing of a job - don’t expect them to keep an eye out for you and your career, i.e. a referral to one of their contacts, advice on or further information on a trend in the industry.

Webinar: Branded for Success

Personal branding guru Tom Peters said that “we are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be the head marketer for the brand called You.” With increased competition in today’s job market, it’s necessary to differentiate yourself from the competition, and demonstrate your promise of value. Join us for tips on creating a brand that effectively sets you apart and sells you to prospective employers. Presented by Kris Stehler.

Recording of Branded for Success webinar | Transcript of Branded for Success webinar

At various stages along your career and job search process, you’ll find it necessary to conduct research. Once you do some self-assessment, you’ll hopefully have some targeted industries and/or fields in which you’re interested. In depth research will help you determine where and how you’ll fit in, the skills and qualifications you’ll need to be successful, and the information you’ll need before applying and interviewing for specific jobs. 

Knowledge is the key to success, so make the commitment to this critical step of the job search process. Your efforts will pay off when you impress prospective employers with your knowledge of the industry and their organization, which demonstrates your passion and enthusiasm.

Things to determine:

  • Industries that are growing, or in decline
  • Key growth areas of the country
  • Highest-paying industries
  • Key companies within those industries
  • Typical positions needed and recruited for the industry – is there a place for your skills and qualifications?

Use all available resources for your research. Here are some good suggestions.

Occupational Information

  • Career One Stop: Occupational and economic information including lists of the fastest growing occupations and the highest paying occupations.
  • Career Zone: Explore careers related to your strengths, skills and talents offered by New York State Department of Labor.
  • Explore Careers from the College Board: Find profiles about various occupations and majors
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook: from the Bureau of Labor Statistics covers hundreds of occupations, describing work environments, job duties, salaries, and more.
  • O*NET: Search for occupational information or browse by similar careers at this comprehensive website. You can also search for occupations that use your skill set.

Industry and Company Information

  • Forbes: Forbes compiles information about companies in the U.S. and around the world, calling out innovation, small companies, start-ups, and more
  • Fortune 500: A variety of lists of the “best” and largest public companies, as well as links to industry information, and other lists.
  • The Inc. 5000: A listing and short description of the 5,000 fastest growing privately-held companies in the U.S.
  • Glassdoor.com: Get insider information on more than 100,000 companies, including company salaries, reviews, and interview questions.
  • Professional Associations: Available for most fields or industries; will have industry and company information and contacts.
  • Handshake: Company database searchable by industry. Reviewing results will help you find key skills and typical opportunities. Find this database in the Jobs section.
  • Vault Industry Guides: Available through Handshake, in the Career Center pulldown, under Resources.
  • LinkedIn: Research companies, search for RIT alumni in targeted field, industry and company, to get additional ideas for companies to target. Join groups for your targeted industry and field.

References can help clinch the job for you, or they can cause you to lose the opportunity. Make sure your references are an asset to your job search by carefully selecting and then continually managing them. Candidates have lost jobs through negative references, so keep control of this important aspect of your search.

  • Maintain a current list of references. Keep in touch and update their contact information as needed. Include name, company/organization name, email and phone number, and a brief statement indicating how you know the person and for how long.
  • Secure a good number of references. Some experts recommend up to 10, who can speak to various aspects of your qualifications. You’ll then be able to choose the most appropriate references for each job to which you apply.
  • References should be a mix of supervisors, co-workers, faculty (if you’re a recent graduate and/or have maintained a good connection with a faculty), and possibly others (for example if you’ve volunteered at an organization for an extended period of time and led a project).
  • Be sure you always check first, to make sure people are willing to provide a positive reference for you. If you don’t ask, you may find people have a different opinion of you than you thought and may give negative information to employers.
  • Keep your references updated on your status, as well as any new skills and accomplishments you have. Send them a copy of your resume, and/or a PDF of your LinkedIn profile so they have a good sense of all your skills, qualifications, and achievements.
  • Notify your references when you apply to a job for which you plan to use them as a reference. Outline the specific skills the job requires, and even send a job description. 
  • Follow up and thank your references for their assistance with your job search.
  • References are listed on a separate page, not directly on your resume. Sometimes you can use the line “References available upon request,” at the bottom of your resume, but that’s not necessary; it’s understood that if you’re asked for references, you’ll provide them. Usually, you’ll be asked for references during the interview process, though some companies may ask you to provide them with your application.

The importance of LinkedIn as a professional business tool can’t be understated. LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional social network. It’s widely used by recruiters and hiring managers to find qualified candidates and by individuals for professional development, networking, and to find job opportunities. With 60-70% of all jobs found through networking, it’s essential that you take full advantage of LinkedIn as a networking and job search tool.

There’s a lot of information on LinkedIn. Your career services coordinator can help you develop a strong profile and make suggestions for groups to join and potential networking contacts.

Why you should use LinkedIn:

  • Stay informed about your contacts and industry
  • Find the people and knowledge you need to achieve your goals
  • Research companies and industries
  • Build and control your professional identity online
  • Search for jobs 
  • Make and search for connections who have the power to refer you and/or hire you

Build a strong, branded professional profile:

  • Craft an informative profile headline/tagline with career ambition or expertise. Use keywords that convey what you know how to do and what you want to be doing moving forward in your career – what you have to offer, where you are a specialist. Concentrate on your future self and targeted position(s). Optimize with keywords specific to your field that are likely to be searched by recruiters, hiring managers and Human Resource Directors
  • Display a professional photo. Invest in a professional photo that is up to date. You will look confident, polished, approachable, enthusiastic, and hirable! Target to your field.
  • Develop a comprehensive summary statement with type of position seeking. It’s key that you differentiate yourself from the competition – even if you use the right keywords, you’ll want to demonstrate what makes you unique and the best candidate. You’ll want to do some self-assessment to uncover what your niche is, and the key strengths and specialties that support that. It’s helpful to do research for your field as well, and a good way to do this is to check out other LinkedIn profiles for your targeted field and position. Once you have your summary put together, do an advanced people search with your industry keywords, to see if you show up in the results. If you find yourself, you know recruiters will be able to find you too.
  • Fill your “specialties” section with keywords relevant to your targeted field, job, industry. Include information on your specialty, core skills, and accomplishments. Focus on your value to a potential employer. Use in your headline, summary, experience.
  • Collect diverse recommendations and endorsements for your targeted field. Get endorsements for the skills you want to emphasize. Add your own skills to your profile. Top 10 endorsed skills are automatically shown. Only accept endorsements for the skills you want. Clean up endorsements regularly – edit profile and remove skills that aren’t relevant. Manage endorsements – move, demote. 
  • Get recommendations that are relevant to the skills and experiences you want to emphasize. Make targeted requests. Consider managers, teammates, volunteer experiences, former colleagues. Guide what they say – let them know what you’re trying to focus on – include keywords.
  • Work experience - Keyword rich. Emphasize results – accomplishments, successes. Measurable, quantifiable. Get recommendations for each job.
  • Highlight your education, including courses, projects, and any recent additions to your education, i.e. certifications, online courses (MOOCs). You don’t have to put dates.
  • Other: What makes you unique and supports your skills and value?  This could include: projects, patents, publications, honors, awards, languages, volunteering, organizations.
  • Remember that LinkedIn allows you to add rich media. If you have a recorded presentation you’ve done related to your field, add that link. If you’ve written an article, add it. Add links to groups you’ve held leadership roles in, and talk about your volunteer experience. Whatever sets you apart and further supports your value is good to add to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Claim your unique LinkedIn URL, and put it on your resume
  • Keep your profile fresh and updated. This will keep your search rankings high (SEO). Update your group memberships. Share regular status updates. Add any new credentials, skills, experiences – including volunteer. Continue to acquire new and relevant endorsements and recommendations.
  • Change your LinkedIn Privacy settings so your email is visible to all LinkedIn Users.
  • Make sure “Open Candidate” is turned on, and optimized for your needs.

Networking

  • Who should you connect/network with?
    • Social contacts (family, friends, co-workers, faculty, social groups)
    • Find and ask them to connect with you. Personalize your connect invitation. 
    • Alumni tool. Find alumni in your targeted industry, field, companies.
    • Use keywords for your industry, research results, decide who you want to contact
    • Hiring Managers (*key to your job search)
      • Name of targeted company, department you’re interested in
      • Results – determine which of your connections will best help you (with recommendation or referral)
      • Click “Get Introduced through a Connection”, and ask your connection to forward your resume/cover email to your targeted contact
  • Join groups:
    • Can join up to 50 groups
    • Targeted field, industry, job
    • Professional associations
    • Areas of interest
    • College – career and alumni – RIT Career Services, RIT Alumni
    • Share your expertise – start discussions, share resources, relevant trends and information. Contribute to discussions, answer questions posed, offer support to other members. Connect with members for networking. Research – members’ companies, competitors. Jobs discussions and postings. Company groups.
  • Find and follow targeted companies and influencers for your field
  • Third party recruiters:
    • Find recruiters for your field and geographic location and connect with them
    • They can work for you
    • Many companies use recruiters to source jobs

Job Search

Up your connections – networking (groups, alumni, leaders in field)

Finding a job with LinkedIn:

  • LinkedIn Jobs
  • Use your connections – let them know you’re looking, ask for contacts in your field
  • Participate in Groups – RIT Alumni, RIT Job Seekers, industry specific, professional organizations.  Members of groups share job leads, articles of interest, and tips to assist each other.  For example, employers frequently post active job openings on our RIT Career Services group.
  • Search and follow companies (company page). 
  • Search for alumni at companies of interest, reach out and make a connection with them; collect information on the company and tips for getting into the organization.
  • Find out where people with your background are working using industry key words – where your skills are being used.  This may give you additional companies to research.
  • Check career paths/company histories of people with similar skills
  • Find start-ups to join – search by industry or keywords ‘startup’ or ‘stealth’. Start-up companies may have a need for your skills; this is a chance for you to get in on the ground floor of an exciting opportunity.
  • Research and reach out to hiring managers – how you can help them
    • Try to get to hiring managers or HR through your connections (no more than 2 degrees away), ask for introduction
    • Look at “companies in your network” section

All job seekers should have a professional representation of their skills and qualifications – something that showcases their brand that’s compact, concise, and readily available for any situation or environment. Typically, this has been an actual professionally printed business card, and this is still a good option. Today there are also digital networking options that can take the place of a printed business card for keeping track of contacts and displaying your brand. You may want to have a combination of both, for use in different situations, or depending on your industry or field. Here are several options.

Business cards.

Physical business cards are still a quick way to exchange information and can be a physical reminder of someone. Also, if you’re changing careers or jobs, you’ll want specific contact and branding information. Be sure your cards are professionally printed and that they showcase your brand. Some people use a title that is a good representation of their targeted job; otherwise, you can use bullet points to highlight your brand attributes or just a simple personal branding statement. You can also use the space on the back of the card for brief quotes from your references or further details on your qualifications, though some people recommend leaving the back blank so that people you meet can jot notes about you. 

Creative networkers have started using a variety of unique business cards, including Rubik’s Cubes, small jigsaw puzzles, pyramids, cards that look like credit cards, and cards with different thicknesses, shapes and colors. This further demonstrates their brand and style and helps set them apart from the competition. Carry your cards with you at all times, and bring to all networking functions and informational interviews. Sometimes they can take the place of resumes. 

Electronic business cards. 

There are electronic options for business cards that take the place of a paper card and are easily exchanged with networking contacts by smartphone. With these, you can add links to your online portfolio. These include MyCardInigo Cards, Camcard, and Haystack. You can also film a short video clip about you - your brand and qualifications – and include your contact information. You can then share by smartphone, or download the video onto a flash drive.

Digital Networking:

  • LinkedIn. Be sure your profile is up to date and complete, is a good representation of your brand, and targeted to your preferred industry and field. It should list all your relevant skills, qualifications, and achievements. Since LinkedIn has the capacity for more information, including links, presentations, articles, and your portfolio that showcase your brand, it can often take the place of a business card, and sometimes even a resume. You can instantly connect with networking contacts on LinkedIn and build your networking relationship. The majority of professionals have a LinkedIn account, which makes this a viable option in most cases.
  • Twitter. Twitter offers ease for connecting and maybe a good option for connecting with people in your field, especially influencers.
  • Facebook. Typically more of a personal platform, connecting with contacts on Facebook allows them to see a more complete and well-rounded picture of you. You’ll want to use this platform strategically and be sure your profile represents what you want your professional contacts to see.

Conduct research to see what’s accepted in your targeted industry or field. Whatever means you choose, you’ll want to have an easily accessible representation of who you are and what you have to offer a potential employer. 

Everyone needs a support system throughout their career and especially during a job search. You’ve most likely heard of mentors, or people who can help guide you through your career. A newer concept is the Personal Board of Directors. Along the same lines as a company’s board of directors, gathered to provide advice, support, and guidance for a company’s future success, your personal board of directors is a group of people who know you well and can serve in an advisory capacity as your career moves forward. This group can serve as a sounding board for new ideas, roles they think would be a good fit considering your strengths and weaknesses, and offer suggestions for personal and professional development that can get you closer to your targeted job. 

To determine who should be in your board of directors, do some self-assessment to determine your professional goals, and the skills needed. You can then cultivate board members who can help with each of those aspects, whether it be someone with functional knowledge of an industry or field, or someone who excels in non-technical skills such as delegation or event planning. The people on your board should know more than you about something, be better than you at something, or offer different points of view, so that you can grow and develop.

Put thought into selecting board members, don’t just rely on the same family and friends you typically ask for advice. Create a diverse board with different backgrounds to provide you with unique perspectives. You may want to include:

  • Someone older and more experienced, who can help fill in your knowledge gaps, see more of the big picture, and provide guidance based on their experiences.
  • Someone younger, who can bring fresh insights and perspectives. If you’re an older job seeker, a younger board member can help with new technologies and trends that may be essential to putting you on par with younger job seekers in your targeted field.
  • Someone you look up to, or aspire to be. Is there someone in your field you really admire? Perhaps someone from a company in which you’re interested, a colleague from a professional association, or even an RIT alumnus or alumna who is doing something interesting (you can find alumni on LinkedIn).
  • Someone who will give unbiased and straight forward advice and feedback, whether positive or negative. You don’t want only “yes people”.
  • Consider someone from a previous job or other experience, someone who has worked with you and may be aware of your shortcomings as well as strengths.
  • If you’re transitioning to a different career, someone who works in your new targeted industry or field can be helpful in helping you build critical skills for your new role.

Once you have assembled your board of directors, spend quality time with each member. You’ve selected them because of what they can offer you, so make an effort to spend more time learning from them. This doesn’t have to be a formal process, but you want to consult regularly to get advice and feedback. Be appreciative and keep them updated on what you’ve done with the advice and feedback they’ve provided. Make the relationship reciprocal; as with any mentor relationship, think about ways you can bring value to your board members. What skills, qualities or contacts can you share with them?

Time to take a look at your resume to see where it might need strengthening. Your resume is often the first introduction you have with an employer, so it needs to be the best representation possible of your skills, experience, and achievements as they relate to the job to which you’re applying. 

This recorded webinar 6 Seconds to Success: Tips to Get Your Resume Noticed offers to resume writing tips. A transcript is available.

Your career services coordinator is available to review and provide feedback on your resume and other job search materials.

Additional resources:

The best way to be memorable to prospective employers is to tell your career stories in exciting ways.

The ability to tell a good story during a job search comes from doing in-depth self-assessment and reflection. Determine all the things that make up your brand – your values, strengths, passions, motivations, what got you into your career, what has been your journey to date – this is your one big story. This becomes the overarching narrative of your job that will resonate with your audience. You also need shorter stories - one expert calls them Dragon-slaying stories – that show the high impact you’ve had on your employers’ success.

You want to engage your audience (prospective employers), so know who they are and tailor your stories to each by what’s most relevant to the company and specific role. Have a story for each of the top three reasons you’re the best candidate for the job.

Here are the elements of a good story:

  • Identify the characters; who will be a part of this story – you obviously, but who else?
  • Start at the beginning to set the scene. Tell the audience everything they need to know to understand why what you’re about to say is essential.
  • Describe the situation. What was the challenge or struggle you faced? Sharing this background will make your accomplishments stand out more.
  • How did the story unfold; what were the specific actions taken? Provide details that will make your story more memorable, so people will want to know how it ends.
  • Provide the resolution, or how the dilemma or challenge was resolved. What were the results, what was achieved?
  • Lastly, explain why this story is important – what was the impact, why does it matter, how does it contribute to your career narrative or journey, what did you learn, and especially how does it fit into the current job you’re applying to/interviewing for. In other words, what did you gain or acquire that will help you succeed in this position?

Where will you use your career stories? In all your marketing materials, including resume summary and LinkedIn profile, and of course, during interviews. All materials should be loaded with examples of accomplishments that show value to your target audience and directly correlates to what they’re seeking in a candidate. Look for where else you can tell your career story also, in a blog, website, portfolio, on LinkedIn groups of which you’re a part, at networking events, in professional associations, and during informational interviews.

To get into storytelling mode, read a short story, comic book, or watch a movie; think about how a good story is told. Prepare your stories – the big one (your career journey), and little ones that support your journey – and practice them with a friendly audience. Get feedback, so that when you’re ready to tell them to prospective employers, you’ll be a master storyteller!

Webinar: Interviewing Success

It’s often said that it’s not the candidate who is best qualified for the position, but the candidate who interviews the best, who gets the job. Improve your interviewing skills and gain confidence with our success tips. Topics include interview preparation, determining and selling your value proposition to prospective employers, types of interviews, and how to respond to tough questions. Presented by Kris Stehler.

Transcript of the Interviewing Success webinar

Job Search Marketing Plan: What is it?

  • Powerful job search tool
  • Strategy to take your brand into your targeted market
  • Brings focus and direction to your job search
  • Guides networking contacts to provide appropriate help

This is comparable to a business plan for a company; it’s a plan for selling a product, which in this case is you. A marketing plan addresses the key points of marketing yourself, product, and placement, and is your strategy to get from thought to action. It combines your qualities, skills, and competencies with some targeted industries and companies from your research.

Components of a Marketing Plan

  • Preferred job titles
  • Preferred functions
  • Summary of qualifications/value proposition
  • Core competencies
  • Experience/work history
  • Market preferences –industries, geographic locations, size of companies
  • Targeted companies

Your marketing plan offers your unique selling proposition – what’s in it for the employer, what can you do for them, what are they buying, what challenges can you provide a solution for. It’s your clear value proposition. These are the components of a marketing plan. It’s not a resume, though it has some of the same elements, but a strategic document. In addition to these components, you also should have a clear idea of compensation – based on research, your bottom line, desired compensation, the market average for the area, job type and your level of skills, abilities, experience, and knowledge.

How to Use Your Marketing Plan

  • Promote your brand
  • Keep your job search on track
  • Networking

Use your marketing plan in several ways. First, to help promote brand: to connect with the right people in your industry, and targeted companies. As part of your strategic networking plan, you will determine who, what, where, when, and how you will connect strategically, both face to face and online. In networking, you can use your marketing plan when you meet with contacts for informational interviews.  For example:

  • Past co-worker – ask for additional job titles for what you want, any potential contacts
  • Neighbor/friend/family/social contacts – any people they know in your targeted companies
  • Employees in targeted companies (alumni?) – review your summary of qualifications; does your background fit company?
  • Potential Hiring manager – is your background of value
  • Be strategic in what you share (may share all but targeted companies with a hiring manager, for example) 

Targeted Companies

  • Industry research before applying
  • Company research before the interview
  • Determine how you’ll fit in
  • Know the company environment, products, services
  • Use all resources:
    • Company website
    • Industry reports
    • Professional Associations
    • Research sites
    • LinkedIn
    • RIT Library – library.rit.edu
  • Add to your marketing plan

Instead of randomly applying to every job you see, target those companies that best match your goals, skills, and qualifications; this goes back to the self-assessment you did. Once you have your list of targeted companies, you’ll want to do intensive research before you apply. You want to find out everything you can about the company – their products and services, the company culture and environment, recent news items, their outlook and future plans, and what type of employee they typically hire. This will enable you to determine where and how you will best fit in, and how you’ll be able to help contribute to the company’s success.

Use every available resource to conduct your research; it’s best, of course, to begin with, the company website. Dig deep to find out all you can, including reviewing all posted positions, as this will give you the best idea of their preferred type of employee. Also, use industry reports to gain a sense of how the company fits into their industry. Professional associations will give you information on the company and employees that are part of the association. Research sites like GlassDoor and Hoovers have great information and don’t forget the RIT library, at library.rit.edu. They have a wealth of company research resources available for alumni, many that you can access remotely. LinkedIn is another great resource for research; companies have pages, and you can search for RIT alumni at the company, with whom you can do informational interviews. Once you are confident that a company fits your overall goals, you can add it to your marketing plan and strategize about how you will connections that will lead to a job. 

Additional Resources:

It’s hard to deny that age and experience play a factor in the job search, and this may happen for recent graduates as well as experienced job seekers. Recruiters and hiring managers may have personal biases which are certainly frustrating but are hard to fight. The best you can do is to acknowledge these may exist and make yourself relevant to your targeted industry and field, and a perfect match for the jobs to which you’re applying. Here are some tips to age-proof your candidacy.

Overall:

  • Present an enthusiastic, can-do attitude – be willing to try new things, are flexible, stay current with technical skills.
  • Know your skillset – education and specialized knowledge for your field, non-technical strengths and value you offer, and transferable skills gained from previous jobs and experiences that will fit into any new company. Be prepared to make a match between your skills and the job.
  • For experienced seekers; focus on the positive aspects of age – a wealth of experience, challenges you’ve overcome, skills you’ve developed and accomplishments.

Resume:

  • For recent graduates:
    • Emphasize all accomplishments, including internships/co-ops, projects, and volunteer experiences. Use powerful achievement statements, supported by metrics, and this may be a good area to add testimonials that support what you say.
    • Indicate that you’ve continued to learn and grow professionally since graduating, gaining additional skills and education (MOOCs, projects, professional associations)
    • Emphasize any opportunities you’ve had to demonstrate leadership experience (Professional associations, volunteer)
    • Find a mentor in your field who can suggest options for professional growth and development and guide you with career advice that will help you get jobs and advance in your field.
  • For experienced seekers:
    • If you’re a seasoned professional with a record of success, it’s up to you to help prospective employers focus less on your age and more on your talents and capabilities. 
    • In all of your marketing materials and interviews, it’s essential to emphasize your accomplishments and strengths, as they relate to each particular company.
    • You may want to list only the most recent 15-20 years’ experience, again keeping relevance in mind. 
    • Another way not to draw attention to age is to substitute words like “extensive” and “significant” for numbers, i.e. Significant experience instead of 15 years’ experience. 
    • You can remove your graduate dates from your education section, keeping only the college name and degree received; do keep education on your resume, however, as many jobs require a college degree. 
    • Show that you’re current by having appropriate keywords for your industry and updating your technical skills and certifications or courses, and by adding your social media links like your LinkedIn account. 
    • Add updated education – courses, certifications – stay current
    • Always emphasize accomplishments, achievements, metric-driven results – focus on your proven track record of success
    • Don’t be tempted to lie or omit key data, as this deception will always be found out in the end; be honest and focus on your strengths and accomplishments.
    • If you do use a functional format, be sure that your accomplishments are highlighted throughout. 
    • If you have employment gaps, a good technique may be to use a hybrid chronological/functional format, in which you include highlights and core values from your experiences, as you would in a functional resume, but include your key accomplishments and more details on your work history as you would in a chronological resume. 
  • Here is a website with good samples of experienced level resumes for many industries and types of positions. There are also samples of experienced alumni resumes on our website. More samples are available on The Expert Resume website.

At networking events and career fairs:

  • Plan ahead; try to get information about companies who will be attending career fairs, or who may be attending a networking event. Research company websites, and LinkedIn profiles.
  • Arrive early to ensure quality time with recruiters or networkers.
  • Be confident in your approach. Prepare and practice a 60-second commercial, or elevator speech, that clearly and concisely introduces your brand and your targeted career goals and emphasizes why you’re a perfect fit for this particular company. A solid introduction will be a good lead-in to your conversation. Research, of course, is essential; know the companies that you approach as thoroughly as you can so that you can demonstrate your fit and have a good conversation with the recruiter.
  • Bring business cards, a portfolio, or other marketing materials that further showcase your brand and differentiate you from other candidates.
  • Try to build rapport with the company representative as you talk with them; be personable and find commonalities, which will further show that you’ll fit right in with their company environment. This will also make them more amenable to providing information on other people within the company that you should connect with, including appropriate department managers for your targeted field, or HR recruiters who work with experienced hire positions.
  • Know the company – products/services, culture, mission, posted jobs
  • Try to gain information on appropriate people in the company to follow up with (department managers, HR person who recruits for experienced hire positions)

Interviews:

  • Understand why companies have concerns. Many experienced candidates are worried about being perceived as overqualified, and/or too old. However, it is a legitimate question for a company to ask anyone who has done work similar to the job to which you’re applying.
    • You will be bored and unchallenged, and quit
    • You won’t be able to keep up with the team and will be too set in your ways
    • You won’t take direction from younger managers and will have a “know-it-all” attitude
    • Your salary requirements will be too high

It’s important to recognize these potential concerns and address them head-on with an attitude and responses that are honest and show your determination to get the job. 

  • Demonstrate a positive, forward-thinking, enthusiastic attitude
    • Show you’re keeping current with technology for your field, new education or training – an agile and lifelong learner
    • Be clear and upfront with the hiring manager; tell them why you want the job
    • Ask the manager what they’re looking for in a perfect candidate, so you can gain insight into what qualities and skills the employer is looking for, and can alleviate these concerns
    • Emphasize transferable skills and core competencies all employers look for
    • Emphasize your experiences – work and life; both related to the job and other experience, including volunteer
    • Focus on the benefits of age and experience
      • Loyalty, dedication
      • Commitment to doing quality work
      • Someone to count on in a crisis; don’t just react, but bring perspectives and can think through complex issues and problem solve
      • Solid performance record; in job and industry
      • Team player; work across generations
      • Great mentor, understand the importance of building relationships
      • Confidence from experience
  • Practice – do a mock interview with a career services coordinator, someone in the industry, even a younger person to see how you’re presenting yourself.  As appropriate, practice technical and case interview questions as well

LinkedIn is the gold standard in professional social media platforms. Everyone should have a strong LinkedIn profile and fully utilize its extensive networking and job search features (see Day 9). But it’s also advantageous to utilize other social media platforms in a professional capacity during a job search. Here is a couple that can be helpful.

Twitter

  • Build credibility:
    • Extension of your resume – highlights your key qualifications
    • Profile that highlights qualifications and career goals
    • Contribute to the industry community
  • Networking:
    • Make connections with key players in your industry
    • Develop relationships
  • Generate job leads:
    • Find opportunities not posted elsewhere
    • Search Twitter sites by company, field, job type, region

You may be unfamiliar with Twitter, or know it as a medium for letting people know what you’re doing at any particular moment. It can also be a powerful tool in your job search by helping you further expand your network and even through specific job tools.

Build Credibility – Your Name is your Brand – Twitter handle @BrandYourself

  • Create a focused and powerful profile
    • Use your real name as your Twitter username
    • Upload a professional headshot (same for all networking sites)
    • Write a professional, targeted bio – only have 240 characters
      • Use industry keywords – so when recruiters search, they’ll find you
    • Create a custom background (Twitter tools): promote your other websites, add text/photos to support your skills

Building Your Online Network

  • Follow major players in your industry – get noticed, stay up on trends, ask questions, retweet messages, comment on content
  • Find people in your industry and area – find the most influential tweeters in your field, develop and maintain relationships, can lead to recommendations
  • Find out who’s talking about your industry (Twitter search tools) – monitor keywords, connect with like-minded people
  • Search for people in your area – make face-to-face connections
  • Quality over quantity – focus your efforts and connect with those who will be valuable contacts
  • Turn your followers into relationships – try to connect at a more in-depth level – email, phone, meet in person

Twitter for Your Job Search:

  • Create a strong, professional profile that highlights your qualifications and career goals
  • Add a link to your online resume
  • Follow experts for your industry and field – find them by searching for a relevant keyword and clicking on “People” in the left-hand module
  • Follow targeted companies, and people who work there
  • Share your expertise through Tweets, including articles and relevant news stories you find
  • Use job search hashtags such as #hiring, #recruiting, #joblistings, #nowhiring; companies use these to advertise positions
  • Make connections with key people in your industry
  • Use Twitter Chats to make connections and be involved in discussions about specific topics

Facebook

  • Develop a ‘job search friendly’ profile
    • Strategically include relevant info – resume, link to Twitter, LinkedIn profiles, a professional photo, blogs or articles you write – anything that demonstrates your expertise
    • Don’t include inappropriate materials, photos
  • Develop a ‘friend’ strategy
    • Organize your connections by category, using the List function – include business contacts as well as friends, family
    • Share updates with appropriate contacts
    • Check your privacy settings, so no one else can post inappropriate things to your page
  • Become a fan of your targeted companies
    • Get company, career information, updates
  • Include your resume, link to your LinkedIn profile, and other materials that demonstrate your expertise (blogs, articles) on your profile
  • Keep your professional groups separate from your personal groups with privacy settings and list function; include business contacts as well as family and friends
  • Become a fan of your targeted companies – check regularly for upcoming events, changes in the company, other pertinent information you can use
  • Use the Marketplace to search job opportunities
  • Use Classmate search and Coworker search for networking – RIT, other schools (including high school), and former companies – see where your friends are working now


Facebook is generally known as a social networking site; it's going to be necessary to make your profile professional and also again to monitor your Facebook page regularly to ensure that all the information on your page stays professional. Make sure you have a professional photo and keep your social pictures off your page. You'll want to include things that showcase your expertise including your resume. Facebook does have an application that lets you put your LinkedIn profile or your resume on Facebook, and they have a bunch of applications. You can also post any other things you've done on the internet, like blogs or articles that you've written, professional associations that you belong to, and anything else that again represents your professional brand. Facebook also allows you to organize your connections by category. It's necessary to check your privacy settings and monitor your page freely to make sure that other people are not posting inappropriate things on your page, including links to pictures and things. 

Additional information:

Do you need a makeover? If you’ve been out of the job search process for a while, it’s a good idea to look for ways to update your image in preparation for competing with all other job seekers and to be sure you’re presenting the best possible version of yourself to prospective employers. Most job seekers concentrate on updating their résumé, and possibly other marketing materials, but it’s equally as important to project a positive image – in person, through electronic and offline communications, and in social media.

Here are some areas to consider:

  • Project a positive attitude: Be enthusiastic and energetic, with no negativity toward your situation or former employers. Prepare what you will say if and when someone asks you how you feel, what happened at your last job, or anything related to your job situation. Prospective employers will be looking for resilience and your ability to handle adversity. Be open to new opportunities and express a willingness and ability to learn and grow.
  • Polished/professional appearance: Update your wardrobe, including a suit for interviews. Even though many industries and companies today have business casual policies, the expectation is to dress neatly and appropriately for the industry and job; this may take research on your part. Also pay attention to your hairstyle, accessories and makeup; you want to be perceived as relevant and in touch. Consult people in your targeted field, and get feedback from trusted friends on your appearance. 
  • Current: Be sure your skills are relevant to your industry and field. If not, get additional education or training as needed. There are many options for training, including courses at local colleges or community education facilities, online opportunities, and MOOC’s – Massive Open Online Courses. These are online courses, often short and often at no or minimal cost, in a wide variety of subject areas, taught by college professors. Find them at www.edx.org and www.coursera.org, among others. Here’s a MOOC listing to get you started.
  • Technology: Update your technology skills. Show that you’re up to date by having a modern email account – Gmail instead of Yahoo for instance. Be sure your email address and voice mail message are professional. Get, and use appropriately, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts so you demonstrate your knowledge of current social media platforms.
  • Social media image: Update your LinkedIn (and other) social media profiles. Get a new professional headshot, be sure your information is current, add an eye-catching title, and get recommendations (not just endorsements) from co-workers, former supervisors, and customers. Check your other social media platforms – remove inappropriate or controversial photos and comments from Facebook or Instagram, delete offensive tweets.
  • Confident: Project confidence, which comes from being comfortable with your brand and all related marketing materials. Updating your professional image will build your confidence and help you present yourself as the best candidate for the position.

Using a third-party recruiter, or search firm, can be a good job search strategy because your resume will be submitted to openings that may not be advertised. A search firm can be an integral part of your job search, but because this is a passive, not proactive, step it should not be your only resource.

Employers use search firms when they do not have the time or expertise to fill positions using their own resources. Reasons may include the need to fill contract positions, rapid company growth, a needed internal change requiring an outsider, or higher level or specialized openings where there are fewer qualified candidates. A company may work with one preferred search firm or several firms.

Search firms are typically divided into large global companies or small specialists or “boutiques.” Global search firms can be organized either as highly centralized and integrated or as independently run branches or networks. Integrated firms can have more consistent standards and adopt a common way of conducting searches while branches can be more entrepreneurial. Boutique firms tend to be specialized by sector or industry niches, for example, biotechnology, financial services media, software, and emerging technologies.

How Search Firms Work

The search firm exists to help client companies find employees, not to help people find jobs (even though that is the outcome). The client company pays their fee. Fees are usually a percentage of the annual salary for the position being filled. Positions can range from entry-level to the upper level for experienced individuals.

The process involving a candidate usually includes the following: the recruiter creates an initial list of possible candidates for an assignment, these candidates are then screened and appraised to create the final shortlist of highest quality individuals (usually 3-4 contenders who have a real interest in the position) presented by the recruiter to the client. The client will then interview the short-listed candidates possibly resulting in an offer to the best candidate. Hiring decisions are always made by the client.

Be aware that in your initial conversation and evaluation as a potential candidate, the recruiter may not divulge confidential information about the client or position until after you have been identified as a legitimate candidate. Even then, there are times when certain client information must remain confidential.

Types of Search Firms

Search firms can run from “traditional” temporary help services such as office/clerical and industrial to firms that provide more highly skilled workers in technical and professional areas. They can offer a wide range of employment-related services and solutions to their client companies, including temporary and contract to staff, recruiting and permanent placement, outsourcing and outplacement, training, and human resource consulting.

For contract and temporary services, the jobs may last from a few hours to several months or even years depending on the industry. The contract employee may be paid directly by the client company or they may work for and be paid by the staffing agency.

Executive Search Firms mainly recruit for exempt-level managers or professionals at an executive level. The recruiter is sometimes referred to as a “headhunter.”

Choosing a Firm

As with any potential employer, do your homework before selecting a search firm with which to work. Research to gather information on industries and functions served, geographic locations, and whether they are general or boutique firms. Check their legitimacy as a recruiting agency. Get a referral to the company from a client, colleague or friend who has worked with the firm. Above all, do not sign with a search firm who tries to charge you a fee; reputable agencies collect their fees from the client companies for which they fill positions.

Tips for Connecting and Working with a Search Firm

Here are some tips for making an initial connection, and developing and maintaining a productive relationship:

  • Contact a specific person within the firm, preferably the contact for your field of interest, if the firm represents many industries. You will be better able to establish a connection with someone who shares your industry knowledge and interests.
  • LinkedIn is a good resource for finding a search firm. Do an advanced people search, putting your industry or field and the word “recruiter” in the keyword box (i.e. IT recruiter), and add your location.
  • Be professional and ethical at all times; respect your relationship with the recruiter and treat them as an employer.
  • Limit the number of recruiting firms with which you work, and if you do work with multiple firms, let them know, so they don’t promote you to the same employer. Also, don’t “back door” the firm, or go behind their backs to send your resume directly to the client company.
  • It’s important to establish a good rapport with the recruiter, so he/she can represent you well to their client companies. Make sure you feel comfortable with the recruiter and fairly treated by the firm.
  • Give the recruiter specifics on what type of job you’re looking for, so they don’t waste their and their clients’ time; discuss things like preferred location, job type, and salary range in detail.
  • Recruiters will be selling you to potential clients, so they will select candidates based on a combination of experiences, achievements, relevant skills, and personal attributes that match well with their clients’ needs.
  • Know your brand; all your marketing materials, including your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and elevator pitch should be a good presentation of your skills and qualifications. Generally, search firms do not do career counseling or write resumes.
  • Emphasize achievements (in experience, education, and the community), skills related to the industry and types of jobs you’re applying for, and quantitative results wherever possible. Demonstrate industry knowledge.
  • Once you’ve begun working with a recruiter, you will both need to put forth the effort to maintain a productive relationship.
  • Give the recruiter a list of companies that you would like to work for; it’s possible they may have contacts at these companies and can check for available positions that may fit your qualifications.
  • If the recruiter sets you up for an interview with a client company, get as much information about the company as possible before the interview, so you can research and prepare for the interview.
  • Be realistic; research the industry and salary norms so that your expectations are in line with the market.
  • Keep in contact; email the recruiter at least once a week to demonstrate your enthusiasm. This will keep you at the forefront of the recruiter’s mind, and they’ll hopefully make more effort to place you.

Professional associations are a valuable resource for your career and tool for your job search. You may have heard that 60-70% of all jobs are found through networking, so the more you expand your network, the more you increase your chances of meeting someone who is the key to your next job opportunity. 

People sometimes think that professional associations are only networking events where members talk with other members they may not know very well, exchanging business cards. But a professional association offers many benefits to members. 

The top reasons to join a professional association include:

  • Broadening your knowledge of the industry: Classes, seminars, and workshops are often offered to members, and keeping up on trends for your industry gives you a critical advantage in a job search.
  • Resume builder: Adding a professional association membership to your resume demonstrates a passion for your field and a commitment to your profession.
  • Job postings: Many associations list jobs only available to members.
  • Enhance your leadership and teamwork skills: Associations offer opportunities to take on a leadership role for a project or committee, as well as participate in a team outside of your workplace. These skills will be valued by all potential employers.
  • Expand your network: Make connections in your targeted field or industry, for professional, as well as personal growth. Associations often have annual conferences, both at the local and national levels, as well as smaller networking events throughout the year.
  • Give back: There are opportunities for you to be a mentor and participate in community-related activities through your organization.

Not all association activities are in person; there are many online resources you can take advantage of, including a directory of association members, job listings, and other industry or professional resources, and there may be opportunities to participate in committees virtually. So if you’re hesitant to get started, this may be a way to ease into an association.

You can find a professional association by Googling your industry or field + professional associations. You can also search LinkedIn for groups which may provide links to associations, as well as looking for people in your targeted field or industry and see what associations they belong to. 

If you’re already a member of a professional association, look for ways to expand your presence and become more active; take on a leadership role, join a committee, attend an event, or even do an informational interview with another member. Don’t forget to join and become active with LinkedIn groups as well for your industry and field.

The best way to gather information about your prospective field or industry, or targeted companies, as well as make contacts for networking and potential job opportunities, is to conduct an informational interview. This valuable tool furthers your research and career exploration and helps you clarify whether a particular job (or company, industry, or field) is a good match for your skills, values and interests. It’s always helpful to learn from someone who’s been down the road before you; they may have had some of the same challenges and you can benefit from their advice and experiences. If approached in the right way, most people are willing to share their experiences.

Here is the basic process for conducting an informational interview:

  • Determine your goals for the interview; these may vary depending on the stage you’re at in the exploration process – whether you’ve been able to narrow things down to a specific job title/position, or maybe just a field or industry. You may even have a specific company in mind that you’d like to see if you would fit into. The overall goals for all informational interviews are information, advice, recommendations, and referrals.
  • Select potential interviewee – there are resources below for finding a potential contact for your interview; determine who would be a good resource to help you reach your goals.
  • Set up a meeting – outreach using the method below.
  • Prepare – research (individual, company) before your meeting. Use industry and company guides including Hoovers and Glass Door, the company’s website, and the contact’s LinkedIn profile.
  • Conduct meeting – remember you’re in control with informational interviews, so prepare your questions and stick to your agenda. Don’t ask for a job!
  • Close - be sure you’ve met your goals (information, advice, recommendations, referrals), think reciprocally – how might you help your contact.
  • Follow up – thank your contact, follow up with status updates.

Outreach:

  • Send an introductory email
  • Introduce yourself and your situation
  • Context for how you found them (referral, LinkedIn, alumni network)
  • Explain the purpose of your contact, what you’d like
  • Ask for meeting/email/phone conversation – 15-30 minutes

Tips for initial contact

  • Be flexible and open to availability
  • Be persistent in your contact attempts (but not pushy)
  • Have goals and objectives in mind before you make contact
  • Have questions prepared
  • Use a script
  • Be pleasant, polite, and professional at all times
  • Don’t over-share about yourself

The interview:

  • Use proper business etiquette
  • Lead the interview/maintain the flow, using your prepared questions
  • Respect their time
  • Stick to your stated objectives
  • Listen more, talk less
  • Try to get recommendations or next steps that will move you along the career exploration/job search process
  • Ask what you can do for them – all encounters should be reciprocal
  • Resume optional – you may want to bring a networking resume tailored to your specific career goals

Here are some potential goals for your information interview:

  • Learn about a new career field
  • Clarify your potential career path; do they think your skills are a good match for this career
  • Learn about company, industry
  • Day to day realities of job – anecdotal information
  • Future outlook for this field
  • Resources for further information
  • Learn about professional associations applicable to this field
  • What skills and qualities are needed to be successful in this field or company
  • Problems/challenges/barriers
  • Are there other professionals in the field they to whom they can refer you to further develop your professional network

Follow up:

  • Thank you – as with any interview, within 48 hours, handwritten or email
  • Take advice – act on suggestions given, and then let your contact know you’ve done this
  • Further exploration – use the information you receive to conduct additional research and make more contacts
  • Referrals – connect with any referrals given, conduct additional informational interviews
  • Job shadow – there may be opportunities to shadow your informational interview contact to gain even more insight into your targeted field or company
  • Volunteer opportunities – sometimes there may be options to volunteer at a company, or within a relevant professional network for your targeted field
  • Additional meetings – it may be possible to arrange follow up meetings to further explore topics of interest, based on the interest and availability of your contact

Resources for finding contacts for informational interviews:

  • Handshake: Our online job listing system has a mentor database with alumni and employers who have volunteered to connect with students and alumni for networking. Link to Alumni/Job Search/Handshake
  • RIT Alumni Association: The RIT online community is only available to RIT alumni, and provides you with access to our more than 135,000 RIT alumni worldwide. Once you register in this system you can search the Tiger Locator directory by major, industry, job type, geographic location and other criteria. The system will give you a list of alumni who meet that criteria, and if they have agreed to share their information, you’ll have the ability to see their in depth job and education details. You’ll also be able to send them an email, in which you can introduce yourself and request advice, information, and contacts to help in your job search (don’t ask for a job directly). As with other networking contacts, your goal is to establish a mutually beneficial connection, which will hopefully lead you to other contacts and resources.
  • LinkedIn – Alumni: Find RIT alumni in LinkedIn who have your targeted major or work in your targeted field, or have similar skills (use the keyword section). Also, check companies of interest to see what alumni may work there.
  • Professional associations: Once you join a professional association for your targeted field, you’ll have access to the member directory and can use this for informational interviews. Join LinkedIn groups of interest as well, to gain access to group members to whom you can outreach.
  • Personal network: Think about who is your own network; family, friends, professional contacts, volunteer organization members, churches or other affiliated groups, your children’s sports parents, etc. Remember you’re building a network of contacts that will hopefully eventually lead you to a potential job, so use informational interviewing to gain the information and referrals that will get you closer to your goal.