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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Career Success During Difficult Times

Whenever the economy is hurting, it is justifiable to worry about your career. It is especially concerning if you are nearing graduation and poised to enter the professional workforce for the very first time. In times like these, there seems to be no shortage of doom and gloom. You hear about layoffs, hiring freezes, recessions, depressions, unemployment, and more. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and uncertain.

You must acknowledge and accept that you are up against a lot that is outside of your control, but you cannot give up or wait out the storm. Now is the time to focus on the things that are in your control. Fortunately, a great deal of your personal career exploration and development falls into this category.

In this guide, and its supplemental materials, we provide guidance to help you prepare to stand out from the crowd in your internship and job searches and uncover a more direct path to your most fulfilling career.

Take Aim

It’s hard to end up where you want to be, if you don’t know where you’re going. Spend time exploring your strengths and potential careers with the following tools to narrow your search to the specific kinds of internships or jobs you want.

  • Gain insight into your interests by taking the Strong Interest Inventory assessment. Complete the questionnaire (bit.ly/casstrong) and you will hear from the CAS Advising Office regarding next steps.
  • Explore possible career paths based on your major on WhatCanIDoWithThisMajor.com. Access the site for free by visiting bit.ly/suwcidwtm and accessing the link on the righthand side of the page.
  • Review job postings in Handshake (syr.joinhandshake.com) and other major job listing sites like Indeed (indeed.com) and LinkedIn (linkedin.com).

Connect with people who are working in the jobs, companies, and industries that you are interested in for “informational interviews.” How? Check out the “Expand Your Network” section that follows.

Perfect Your Materials and Interview Skills

To convince potential employers that you are the best person for the job, you will need to articulate your capabilities and experience, in writing and verbally. These materials will also be necessary for networking with valuable new connections (like alumni and other professionals) and calling upon the help of your existing support network (advisors, professors, family, and friends).

  • Complete your Handshake (syr.joinhandshake.com) profile and indicate your Career Interests within. This allows employers and advisors to help identify you for opportunities that best match your interests!
  • Build a killer resume (bit.ly/suresumes) and LinkedIn profile (university.linkedin.com/linkedin-for-students). You want to be able to share a resume or connect on LinkedIn at a moment’s notice.
  • Prepare and practice a list of questions you need answers to about the jobs you want (see networking guidance). An elevator pitch script is included there as well to concisely describe yourself during any interaction.

Practice your interview skills through your free Big Interview account by logging into your Handshake account, clicking Career Center > Resources > Big Interview.

Prepare to Network

The cliché says, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Technically, it’s both, but the people you know, and the people you meet are perhaps the most valuable resource you have at your disposal for your career development and employment search. They can provide valuable information and influence when properly engaged.

  • Talk to your existing support network about your goals and interests. Use Zoom or a phone call to connect remotely when you can’t in person. It will help you express your goals and open yourself up to their advice and assistance in low-pressure interactions.
  • Hone your conversation skills. Follow the tips in Celeste Headlee’s insightful TED Talk, “How to Have a Good Conversation (bit.ly/conversationatsu).” A big part of effective networking and interviewing is having the ability to have a great conversation with someone new. You can learn this skill even if you feel awkward or shy.
  • Practice asking questions with friends, classmates, professors, parents, your barista, …anyone!

Test your elevator speech out and ask for critical feedback (see the networking guidance in the supplemental materials).

Expand Your Network

  • Expand your network by seeking out people who share your passions and interests by attending events, joining organizations, and taking classes you enjoy.
  • Use the LinkedIn alumni tool (bit.ly/sulinkedinalumni), alumni events and programming, and established connections to identify valuable connections.
  • Join LinkedIn groups that foster alumni-student connection such as the College of Arts and Sciences LinkedIn group (bit.ly/caslinkedingroup) and CuseConnect (bit.ly/cuseconnect).
  • Connect directly with new people on LinkedIn and be sure to include a note explaining why you want to connect (in 300 characters or less). For example:
    • “Hello (__________)! I am a student at SU studying (_________). I’m very interested in learning more about (your career journey/ your job at _________ / the __________industry) and would love to connect! All the best, ( _________)”

Use tact when contacting people you don’t know. If you don’t get a response, leave it be and seek out another strong contact. Do not connect with someone with the sole purpose of getting a job or internship. Being connected to someone on LinkedIn is not enough to expect them to refer you for an opportunity at their company. You will need to build a relationship with them over time.

Conduct Informational Interviews

  • Informational interviews are conversations with people in your network in which you can gain insight into someone’s organization, career, and background. These are not job interviews; however, if you make a good impression, you never know when an opportunity may arise.
  • Go in prepared, curious and gracious. Use Headlee’s conversation tips (bit.ly/conversationatsu)!
  • Be ready to deliver your elevator speech or hand off a copy of your resume.
  • Establish clear goals for the interaction. What do you want to learn from this person?

Be prepared to ask questions as well as answer questions about your own background and experience (find sample questions in the networking guidance in the supplemental materials).

Apply for Jobs and Internships

  • Review job postings in Handshake (syr.joinhandshake.com) and other major job listing sites like Indeed (indeed.com) and LinkedIn (linkedin.com).
  • Read job postings thoroughly and identify the problems that the company is trying to solve by posting the position, tell how you can solve those problems. Indicate that you have the skills and experience needed to address those problems in your cover letter (bit.ly/sucoverletter) and resume. Select references that have experience related to the job as well. Every resume and cover letter you submit should be tailored to the job you are applying for! Be responsive, humble, and professional in all interactions. Make it easy for them to hire you!
  • Set realistic expectations. You may not hear back from every company. You may not find the perfect fit. Be open to opportunities that you can build on in the future. Your dream job may not be available to you now, but if you put in work where you can and gain experience, you’ll be that much closer to it!