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Finding an Internship/Job: From Start to Finish

Prof PhotoBy: Elizabeth Neely MEng ’15

It’s simple: Getting an internship/job is not easy. Unfortunately, I don’t hold the secret to finding an internship or job with great speed and no pain. However, I can offer a few pieces of advice that have helped me in the past. The key is starting early.

In an ideal world, we would all follow the schedule below, but we all know that timing never plays out the way we want.

(Let’s assume you’ve been admitted into Duke’s MEM or MEng program as of March 2014):

April 2014: Email your professors and any industry contacts (current/past supervisors) to inform them of your next step…going to Duke!

May 2014: Start working on your “ideal list.” Ideal list = the companies that you would love to work for (and don’t forget to look at their competitors – you’ll most likely want to work for them as well, as they will have a similar mission).

June 2014: Finalize your “ideal list” (consult your family, friends, professors, and anyone that you have developed a professional relationship with to ask their opinion or other suggestions).

July 2014: Go back to the emails you sent in April and resend each of them an email. Let them know that you have taken the time to dig deep and think through your goals for graduate school and the years to come after (I would even use part of your admission essay and send it their way – let them see your passion). Finish the email by explaining your “ideal job” and the possible companies that might offer that job/internship. Hopefully you have a strong relationship with each of the people you are emailing and can ask them to brainstorm ways to get in touch with people at this company.

August 2014: If any leads came out of the emails sent in July 2014, follow up with them first. The goal is that you already have a contact at one or more of the companies you want to work for – but if you haven’t developed contacts yet – devote all your effort to networking. What this means is: sift through LinkedIn, the career service sites (that you already have access to!), talk to friends/family, etc.

September 2014: Take the opportunity (that they offer many times to us!) and meet with Career Services. Schedule a 1:1 appointment with them, rather than drop-in hours. And most importantly, come prepared! Come to the meeting with your “ideal list,” a progress update from the past few months, and current leads. (This is assuming you’ve already put in the effort to beef up your resume and you’re ready to send out). People are willing to help you if you have first put in the work for yourself. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m sure that career services would be more than willing to assist you with furthering your networking – put you in touch with recent alums, recruiters and more.

October 2014: Reach out to everyone on your most updated “job/internship” contact list (including personal contacts, alumni contacts, career service contacts, etc.) – if this is your first time to contact – it’s great to introduce yourself and ask if they have a few minutes to walk you through how they ended up where they are today (especially if they went to Duke- ask them to lead you from their departure from Duke to their current position). If it’s someone you have reached out to before, make another “touch” (someone once told me to make as many “touches” as possible when networking. This just means to make sure to reach out to as many people as possible – a touch can be an email, a LinkedIn message, coffee, meeting, phone call, etc.) This is the time to let your consistent contacts know that you are currently looking for an internship or job (and let them know your timeline, i.e. your ideal start date). If you have made the effort to develop the relationship, by starting to reach out in April, and continue to reach out, they are going to be willing to help. People want to help each other- it’s in our nature- but they also want to know you have put in the effort.

November 2014: This should be listed in October as well, but apply to internships online, via career fair, etc. and get some practice! If given the opportunity to interview, this is a great chance to gain experience interviewing and talking about your background and your goals. It might not be your ideal job/company, but practice makes perfect. And when you’re off to your dream job interview, you’ll feel even more confident.

December 2014: If you’ve had great progress over the last few months, this is the month where you’ll see this effort come to fruition. Aim to have 5 interviews (phone interview, informational interview, behavioral interviews, etc.) by the end of December. The holiday season creates a delay in the recruiting process and its important to get your face (or voice) out there before the season.

January 2014: Continue interviewing. Hopefully, you’ve reached some 2nd round interviews. Set goals for yourself, i.e. 3 informational interviews by the end of October, 5 interviews by the end of December, 3 second round interviews by the end of January, 1 offer by the end of January, and 2 offers by the end of February. The goals might seem unrealistic, but if you set these goals in advance, you might just hit them.

February 2014: Continue interviewing and following up with contacts. Meet with Career Services if you are finding yourself in a rough patch and need new ideas.

March – April 2014: Job offers! Now it’s your chance to make the decisions. Make sure to have thoughtful conversations about your offers (ask all the right questions) and leverage your offers. Career Services can offer some great language for conversations about offers.

May – June 2014: Start your job/internship!

As we all know, graduation dates are across the board, so please know these months can be applied to any month, just know it can be more than a year process! Make sure to give yourself that time. And also note that this timeline is something that has worked for me in the past and doesn’t necessarily mean will work for everyone or take this long.

Attend: Go to TechConnect Night, go to all the Career Fairs and don’t miss out on any industry events that appeal to your interests. This is a game of quantity – the more companies you talk to, the better you’ll understand your passion/interests, and the more likely you’ll find the right fit for yourself.

Remember: Even though you are trying to find a company that wants you, don’t forget that the company wants to find the right person for them. This needs to be a mutual fit – so always remind yourself that you are interviewing them as well!

I’ve listed a lot of steps here, with not a great deal of detail. If you want help with appropriate “language” to use in the emails or need help brainstorming your “ideal list” or anything else, please consult with a Career Advisor. As I keep saying, they are very helpful!

*To see another guideline on what do each month, take a look a the Student Checklist: 2 and 3 semester options 

 


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