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The University Magazine

Searching for a job? RIT can show the way

Colleen McCarthy ‘03


When Colleen McCarthy ’03 (professional and technical communications) was an RIT student, she expected to work for an advertising/public relations agency after graduation.

She did a co-op at a Rochester agency, which led to some contract work. But then her career path went in an unexpected direction. She worked for the Labor News, a Rochester trade union publication, as director of communications for the Monroe County (N.Y.) Democratic Committee, and in the communications bureau for Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy ’93 (multidisciplinary studies). Last year, she became assistant director of the Government and Community Relations Office at the University of Rochester.

McCarthy’s best advice for people seeking jobs? “Don’t focus too narrowly,” she told students at RIT this spring. “Keep your options open.”

McCarthy was one of the participants in a panel discussion titled “How to Conduct an Effective Job Search.” Organized by RIT’s Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services, such panels are among the services available to alumni at any point in their work life as well as to students and new grads. It’s just one of many career resources offered.

A growing number of alumni are taking advantage of the services, says Emanuel Contomanolis, associate vice president and director, Co-op and Career Services. For the last three months of 2008, 344 alumni accessed the system. From January through March 2009, the number jumped to 855.

“We know alumni are being affected by the economic downturn, and they are looking to RIT,” says Contomanolis. “We’re prepared to help.”

For starters, he offers these considerations:

  • Determine how much flexibility you have. Can you relocate to a distant city or does your personal situation make moving difficult?
  • Are you willing to take a lower-salary position, or perhaps work on a contract or consulting basis without benefits? Many companies are looking for alternatives to hiring full-time employees.
  • What are your interests? In addition to your job experience, your extra-curricular activities may steer you toward a new career.
  • Start your job search early. If it appears that your position is in jeopardy, don’t wait to be laid off. If you have lost your job, don’t wait until your unemployment benefits are exhausted before starting your search.

“Earlier is always better than later,” says Contomanolis, “and the fact is that it is always easier to look for a job when you’re currently employed.”

  • Tap into your personal and professional network. The people you know are often the best sources of information about jobs. That includes professors and departments at RIT.
  • Consider using search firms, “head hunters,” employment agencies and temp firms.
  • Further education “is an option for some,” says Contomanolis, “but we don’t recommend returning to school for everyone.” For people who do need to expand their skill set, RIT offers certificate programs and tuition assistance that can be of help for dislocated workers in particular circumstances.
  • Degree programs – undergraduate and graduate – can be a route to a new career for some, but be sure to do your homework and choose a program that leads where you want to go.
  • Do take advantage of social networking options including Facebook, Linked In, RIT’s Alumni Online Community, Twitter and other online resources. “Any job seeker who is not leveraging social networking, online job postings and similar tools is simply missing an opportunity,” says Contomanolis.

Members of the RIT community share expertise on a variety of subjects in FYI.

You can help, too

There are many ways to assist alumni and students in need of career guidance. For starters, individuals may:

  • Participate in panel discussions, forums or career networks.
  • Alert the Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services regarding career and co-op opportunities within their place of work.

To learn more, go to or call 585-475-2301.

Career assistance

RIT alumni can access the Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services for free services including one-on-one career counseling, group sessions, online job postings, career fairs, on-campus interviews with employers, resume forwarding, databases of alumni career volunteers and other resources. Visit or call 585-475-2301.