Keys to career success
Pursue impactful experiences
Maybe you’ve had your career mapped out since you were a kid. Maybe you have zero clue what’s next. No matter where your head is at, you can always get a headstart on gaining experience.
Experience will help you expand your skills and grow in self-awareness, giving you a taste of the day-to-day, so you can start cataloguing your likes, dislikes, and "must haves" for a career. Experience comes in many forms, from low-commitment gigs like job shadowing to more involved opportunities like internships.
Design your life
Gaining experience gives you the ability to analyze how the experience made you feel. Were you left feeling engaged and energized? Motivated and inspired? Dispassionate or disillusioned?
Using your experience as a measuring stick, you can begin to map out plans that bridge the gap between who you are and who you want to be. No plan is going to go off without a hitch, so we encourage you to be flexible, adaptable, and able to roll with the changes (which happens to be exactly what your employers will be looking for, too!)
Share your story
Being able to share your story means so much more than looking good on paper or acing the interview.
It’s the practice of intentionally crafting your personal brand; consistently promoting your talents and assets in a way that intrigues, attracts, and adds value to employers. We will help you tell your story with purpose and poise, connecting the dots between classroom and career and building a strong profile through application materials, networking skills, interviews, and more.
Build meaningful connections
Throughout your journey, you'll come across many people who are invested in your success and ready to help, from your teachers and career coaches to the powerful network of College alumni who've been there, done that—and are ready to give back.
For those of you who get chills at just the thought of networking, fear not, your day has come. We want to help you use your natural skills of building meaningful relationships to help you in your career development process. We’re not talking about asking someone for a job or introducing yourself with the hopes of getting a business card. We are talking about getting to know people and letting them get to know you. Don’t worry about how much or where you do it – whether one-on-one or in groups, it is more important just to start.
As Lindsay Pollack, author of Getting from College to Career explains, “I encourage you to drop any negative connotations you associate with networking – images of schmoozy guys shaking dozens of hands and giving out their business cards like free samples at a supermarket. In my definition, networking is about building and maintaining relationships. (p.89)” You’ll be able to rely on the connections you build for company, emotional support, to obtain help, gain and share information, and form alliances to better your life.
Why should I build relationships?
There are many reasons to develop relationships throughout life. Right now, one of the most valuable reasons is the chance to get to know others who share your passions.
On top of that, did you know that most jobs are not posted or advertised publicly? According to Matt Youngquist, the president of Career Horizons, “At least 70 percent, if not 80 percent, of jobs are not published. And yet most people — they are spending 70 or 80 percent of their time surfing the net versus getting out there, talking to employers, taking some chances [and] realizing that the vast majority of hiring is friends and acquaintances hiring other trusted friends and acquaintances.” Relationship building is not contacting everyone you know when you are seeking a new job and asking if they know of any job openings. Instead, it is an exchange of information. When you develop a career networking contact, you may not have any pertinent information to share immediately; however, you can always be available to help in the future.
Where can I do it?
Everywhere! There is no bad place to start building a relationship with people around you. Think about people you meet on campus, at work, in classes, during community events, etc. These are all great places to build relationships.
When should I do it?
Always! Whether you believe it or not, you are always building meaningful relationships with people around you. It is what you do with them and how much you invest in them that matters.
There’s a little bit of prep work to do in order to find out who’s already in your network. These are probably people you see quite often. Let’s get started.
1. Brainstorm Your Relationship Circles
Fill out the Mind Map with the names of people you know and who you might go to for help or advice. Friends, family, classmates, acquaintances—anyone is fair game and no one should be left out.
Be sure to remember: there are over 170,000 living College of Arts and Sciences alumni, most of whom want to help other Arts and Sciences students with jobs and advice.
Note: The Mind Map is courtesy of Indiana University Edge.
2. Find People
Now that you’ve had a chance to think about some people in your circles and what speed you want to take, let’s talk about how to find more people and expand your circles.
- LinkedIn and other social media: make sure your profile is professional and that you always attach a personalized note to your “connect” requests
- Walter Center Success Network: start with the IU alumni who have already said that they want to help you
- Look at your relationship circles again: review who you wrote down during the brainstorm. Who can you start contacting now?
3. You’ve Found People, What’s Next?
- Reach out to schedule an informational interview
- Have some questions prepared that show you have done your homework
- Tip: stay up to date on the news. Current events in news and in your industry are great conversation starters and may even connect to the organization or person you are interested in
4. Remember the Golden Rule
Building a meaningful relationship means that you both are there to help each other.
- Share your insights
- Share useful resources
- Offer to help answer questions they may have or use your expertise to help them
Relationship building “is not just about who you know; it’s about who knows you. You’ve got to get out there, introduce yourself, and become known and respected.” (Pollack, p.89)
5. THANK YOU!
Remember to always send a thank you letter to the person you talked to. Thank them for their time and reference a specific piece of advice they gave you.
Expand Your Search:
In a classroom setting:
- Get to know faculty who interest you
- Faculty are very well connected on campus and can make simple referrals to another faculty member who shares your interest
- Ask good questions
- Share academic and career interests
- Ask about faculty members’ fields of interest
In a club or student organization:
- Join an academic or professional club that attracts students of like interests
- Get involved in school governance
- Join a multicultural group to expand your understanding of another culture
- Find a special interest group
- Many upperclassmen have asked the same questions you’re asking and may have already learned “the best person to talk to” about your area of interest
In an advising appointment:
- Your academic and career advisors are terrific resources for academic and career information because that’s what they do best
- Tip: Club advisors (typically faculty and staff with an interest in the organization) and special program directors can be very helpful to you as well
At a panel or workshop:
- Academic and career advising offices, academic departments, and student organizations host many opportunities for you to learn more about careers, including information sessions, career fairs, workshops, and expos
- Learn more from faculty, community professionals, and alumni
Note: This section is courtesy of Indiana University Edge.
Informational interviewing is one of the best ways to make your growing community work for you. It is your opportunity to begin building your community with professionals in your field and learn about what the work is really like. An informational interview is not an opportunity to ask for an internship or a job. Rather, it is a fact-finding mission about the career, industry, or company you are interested in. Talk to as many people as you can – there is always more to be learned about your chosen field based on the diversity of work settings, different organizational structures, and visions and missions that drive different organizations. Many professionals are happy to share information on their jobs or the industry. You just have to ask!
What Does it Look Like?
An informational interview is a 20-to-30-minute conversation between you and a professional in a career field of interest. Use these resources to find professionals to contact:
- Walter Center Success Network
- IU Alumni Association
- Campus organizations
- Professional organizations
- Chambers of Commerce
Joining a professional association is a great step toward developing a large network of potential colleagues. Here are some resources that can help you learn about associations related to your career goals.
- Associations Unlimited (IU Libraries)
- Google or other search engines
I found someone. Now what?
When you find someone to contact, send an email similar to these examples to ask for some of their time. During the meeting or phone call, you can ask questions about their background and what led them to their current position. You can also ask about the culture of their organization and any advice they have for entering the field. It is not acceptable to simply ask them for a job; this conversation is about gathering advice and information.
Don’t forget to stay in contact
Stay in contact with new connections after completing informational interviews. Many students keep a Microsoft Excel file of their connections to help them keep track of new contacts.
You should track the date of your last contact with each person. You could use LinkedIn to manage your connections. You should periodically connect with important members of your established network – such as former supervisors or professors. You never know when you might want to ask them for a letter of recommendation or reference!
I did it, now what?
Based on what you learned and what you know about yourself, do you think this industry or company is a good fit for you? Do you have the necessary skills? Does it fit with your values and things you enjoy doing? If there are differences, how much of a problem will those differences be for you? Are you going to continue to pursue and/or research this career more? If NO, ask yourself why? Did you not like the person interviewed? Did you not like the job itself? Did you not like the environment?
In your follow-up thank-you note, acknowledge how appreciative you are of their time and help and share how the information helped you make any decisions or take further actions on your own career path.
Example Request Email 1
Dear Ms. Julien,
My name is Katherine Taylor. I’m a Psychology and International Studies major at IU researching a possible career in healthcare. I found your name using the IU Alumni Directory. If you have the time, I would like to meet with you for 20 minutes to discuss your field. If you’re unable to meet, perhaps you could suggest a co-worker or someone you know for me to contact. I appreciate your time.
Example Request Email 2
Dear Mr. James,
I’ve been researching public relations professionals on LinkedIn who have experience in campaign planning, and your profile caught my attention because we both studied at Indiana University and have similar interests. Would you have a few minutes that I could talk to you more about your experiences in campaign planning?
Example Follow-Up Email
Dear Ms. Smith:
Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you last Tuesday to share your insights on your career. Our discussion was most helpful and has confirmed my interest in pursuing a [major] degree at [university]. I will definitely be [action you’ll take, given the information you’ve learned] and will follow up with [contacts they gave you]. The information you shared has been of great value to me. As you requested, I will let you know of my progress. Again, I deeply appreciate your time and consideration.
Let us guide you
Everything you need to navigate your journey from student to professional is right here in the Walter Center Career Planning Guide.