Summer Reflections 2010 – Post #3

John Hughes just graduated from SIPA and during his second year of study worked in our office.  He is spending the next two months in the office to assist with projects and help fill in for a staff member on maternity leave.  John is set up for a job in Washington, D.C. and will be moving there in August.  I asked him to reflect a bit on his experience as a SIPA student and contribute to the blog over the summer.  This is his third entry.

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One of the things people rightly often ask when thinking about SIPA is what sort of job prospects people have after completing the program.  This is indeed a great question, since a major reason for attending a professional school for many people is landing a job that they otherwise would not be able to get.

This was definitely true in my case, and I found that SIPA offered many resources for me to do this.  First, during your first semester SIPA has everybody take a one-credit career development course.  There are a number of different sections of this course, each one focused on something different to suit different interests.  For example, there are courses on job searches for career changers, job searches for consulting, job searches for careers in development etc.  These are typically offered at the beginning of the semester, and provide a good foundation for students to begin thinking about the job search immediately.

SIPA’s Office of Career Services also offers a number of services to students to help them in their job and internship search.  These include résumé and cover letter critiques, mock interviews, and countless guides on careers in different sectors.  Career Services also posts internships and jobs that they find daily to a site accessible to students only, and students are free to apply to any of these.  Some are offered through alumni or through companies that have a strong relationship with SIPA, and others are simply interesting positions that the Career Services staff has found that they wish to alert students to.

The Office of Career Services also brings in companies and organizations throughout the year for recruiting sessions, and sometimes these recruiting sessions are combined with on-campus interviews.  To be completely honest there were not a huge number of these interviews in the last couple of years due to the recession, but those of you incoming or thinking of applying should have many more such opportunities.  Even when times were bad as of late SIPA still managed to bring quite a few banks, consulting companies, non-profits and governmental agencies to campus, to name a few, and I know some classmates who got jobs and internships through these opportunities.

The greatest resource that Career Services provides, however, is the alumni database.  This is truly where SIPA outshines its competitors in my opinion.  Because we are such a large school with students with so many varied interests, we literally have thousands of alumni working in every type of field.  SIPA students have access to a searchable database where they can find alumni through field of interest, location, sector or a number of other criteria.  I found that all of the alumni that I e-mailed through this database (and I e-mailed quite a few) were very receptive to hearing from current students.  Every one that I talked to was willing to do an info interview over the phone at a minimum, and most offered to do one in person.  The majority helped put me in touch with other people to expand my network, and a couple even helped me to get interviews.

The caveat to all this is that getting a job after school really is the result of how much work you put in to get one.  Though academics are of course important, the job search needs to be your number one priority while in school.  This means that you should treat the job search just like a class, and spend at least a few hours each week working towards your goal.  My advice is to go beyond this and spend as many hours as possible doing this (as long as you manage to still have some fun), and I can confidently say that things will work out if you put in such effort.

I’ll be leaving New York in August to go work for the State Department as a PMF.  This position, ironically, came about through a standardized test rather than networking.  However, every other opportunity I had this year was the direct result of speaking with people who knew other people who knew of a position etc.  Almost everybody else I know here that is currently working got a job the same way, so I can’t stress enough the importance of reaching out to people while you are here.  This extends beyond just e-mailing alumni, of course, and includes things such as attending networking events, attending lectures by people in fields you are interested in, talking to professors and classmates about people they may know in fields that interest you, and hitting up friends and family for any connections.  Don’t be shy.  The more that you put yourself out there the easier it will be for you.

It’s easier to forget this advice once you’re actually here and you have 3 mid-terms and a paper staring you down.  However, it’s important not to lose sight of why you came:  to get a job.  Keep that in mind and you’ll be well on your way to being in the position in the future to have current students contact you about your great job.

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