Semi-unsolicited career finding advice

A few years back, I was concerned my younger brother was not living up to his potential. After a number of phone calls, I knew I was being that overbearing family member, telling him all the buzzwords when it comes to getting a job. I decided to — as best I could — craft a list of actual goals and tasks, beyond the cliche advice. 



Hello Chris,

Here are some things I think you should do or to keep in mind with the UMaine Career Center people and jobhunt.  These are just my thoughts, but I would seriously consider them – maybe even bringing a complete list of questions with you so you make sure you cover everything you want to go over.  (I don’t know how much time you have with them, so you obviously need to be mindful of that, but unanswered questions could always lead to your next conversation with them!)  I know it can be easy to say “You should be networking!” or other such generic and meaningless suggestions.  I hope these are a bit more specific and useful.

I’ve broken this down into three parts, which is how I think of it:


  • To personally connect with the staff at the UMaine Career Center; they can become huge advocates for you and are often gatekeepers to professional alumni and/or University Relations contacts with corporations that hire UMaine graduates.
  • To identify ways for you to connect with professionals, perhaps UMaine alumni in engineering or university relations at companies of interest; sub-goal: to gain their advice and maybe leverage their connections in finding not only a place to apply, but a “good fit” for you
  • To get their advice on how to talk about or sell yourself to a prospective employer, i.e. how do you talk about what you’ve been doing in the last four years and relate any transferrable skills; sub-goal: identify ways to practice your interviewing skills, and to refine your resume
  • To be prepared for your meeting with The Career Center; 2 days prior to your meeting, confirm your meeting time, and ask if there is anything they recommend you bring.
  • What goals do you have?

Remember, finding jobs to apply for is the “easy” part.  Standing out as a candidate – being noticed – is another thing entirely.  You need to be doing both, and I hope The Career Center will be able to help you with the latter.  You might even say that to them.

Conversation Pieces, etc. (no particular order)

  • You should take the time to tell them about you (personal stuff too, about meeting your fiancé at the University, joining the fraternity, hockey, etc.), where you have been, where you want to be, your strengths and weaknesses; you want them to get to know you, and to be in your corner, sharing this information can help
  • Where you want to be: don’t worry about specifics, just speak honestly about how you are trying to get a career started and you really need help in figuring it all out (if that’s where you’re at right now); maybe mention your interests in environmental engineering, waste water treatment, etc., and that you have widened your search in the past year or two
  • Ask them about UMaine/Engineering career fairs they can recommend
  • What things do they recommend you should be doing right now?
  • Ask them about specific companies they might recommend, given what they know, who are hiring, where they might have strong University Relations contacts, perhaps an alumnus/ae whom they could refer to you (makes the introduction part a lot easier)
  • Ask them if you can leave a copy of your résumé, that you could setup a time to review over the phone
  • Do they have a résumé book?  i.e. a collection of student résumé that gets shared with companies
  • Bring copies of your cover letter(s) and résumé(s)
  • If you want, tell them your thoughts on leaving Walgreens by August, get their reactions, maybe even ask if it is a bad idea, and why.
  • You might ask if there are other graduates in similar positions – that is like you, and looking for a job – and what they are doing
  • (It’s okay to ask open ended questions, remember you’re there to listen too!)
  • Bring a complete list of companies and jobs you have applied for, if and when you interviewed for a position, and the outcomes (job descriptions if you have them too)
  • What are the challenges for someone who has been out of school since 2009 and is looking for work in their field of study with no prior professional experience?
  • Are there things you could get involved with immediately that might help give you some experience/credibility?  (e.g. I got involved with RPI’s Annual Giving Office as a volunteer formally just last summer; I met with the Director of Annual Giving at RPI and the VP for Advancement at Central Connecticut State University to get their advice on transitioning into a career in Advancement/Development/Fundraising; I was able to leverage both of these things on my resume, my cover letter, and in my interviews with RPI and Connecticut College.)  Maybe a local internship or project or something with a company could spur into a job, could lead to a more professional recommendation, etc.
  • Take notes!  Go with a pen and paper, write stuff down: jot down questions you think of, things to follow up on, anything and everything.  This becomes a list of things to follow up from, and some people see it as a sincere gesture that you are paying attention and possibly organized
  • Ask them about any Professional Development types of services/programs you might consider
  • Ask them about industry journals, publications, literature that you should consider reading.  (I am not quite where I want to be myself, but I am trying to build a better discipline to reading – I get the NYTimes on my iPad/web and The Economist.  I am also learning of other publications and conferences in my new job – asking my new boss on Tuesday if I can attend a conference in May.  You might consider this too – not these specific publications necessarily – as I think it is important to be aware of what’s going on in the world, in business, in science, in your industry, etc.  Employers are looking for qualifications, and they get this from your résumé, when they are interviewing you they are looking to verify your knowledge, but also looking for other things too, and I think reading helps round us out and keep us informed of other things too.  You can probably use my NYTimes and Economist login on your iPad too.  I’m sure Dad disagrees with my list of periodicals, HA, but it might be a starting point.  That’s my attempt at a joke, Dad.)
  • If you don’t know how to work a question into the conversation, try something like “My Dad/Brother suggested asking <insert question here>”.  It let’s them know that you are also talking with family and friends too.
  • What do you want to talk about?

Next Steps

It’s important to finish your conversation with them, but not to end it.  You want to be sure you identify – with them in some cases – your next steps.  The purpose of this visit is not just to get information and move on, it is to partner with them – realizing part of the University’s success is based on the professional success of its graduates – so if they become aware of a new opportunity they think “Oh, I bet this could be a good thing for Chris”.

  • You have asked about alumni/corporate contacts, maybe they have offered a name, maybe not, but ask them how best to get this information – perhaps they can make an email introduction for you and you can call the person back?
  • You have given them your résumé, maybe they can take a better look at it and you could connect by phone a week later to review together?
  • Send a “Thank You” note a couple days later.  I send a written note myself, but I do not have any evidence there is anything right or wrong however you do this.  (I just think a handwritten note stands out more these days with so much email.)
  • Anything you can come up with during the course of your conversation – it’s important to sit down, write other thoughts, observations, comments or anything so you don’t a) forget , and b) so you can follow up where appropriate – I recommend just walking up to the tables in the Union there and reflect on all of it.  I’ve even used the Reminder and the Voice Memos apps on my iPhone.  Whatever works for you.
  • Be explicitly clear on this stuff, even if it’s loosely defined (e.g. we’ll get back to you next week).  In the past sometimes we ask you when you might hear back and you say “I don’t know, I’ll call them next week if I don’t hear from them” – that’s no longer good enough.
  • What are the next steps you anticipate?

I am not sure if this is a complete list, but I think it’s a good start.  If I think of anything else I’ll add it and send to you.  I’ve Cc’d Dad/Mom to see what they think too. Let me know if you need any clarification.  Good luck!


—Your Brother

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