As you’ve no doubt heard, when it comes to the job hunt, it’s not what you know, it’s who. Our GC alumni find great jobs, both inside and outside the academy. These are people you should know.
On April 6th from 6:00 – 8:00 pm in the GC’s room 9100, you can meet nine alumni mentors from a range of non-academic careers in small group settings at our Alumni Mentoring Roundtable. Here, you will have opportunities to ask them about how they started out in their career, get tips about how you might do the same, and find out what they enjoy and find challenging about their jobs.
Group discussions will be informal and interactive, giving students a chance to ask lots of questions. Each student will be paired with potential mentors for three small, rotating group discussions (four-six students) lasting 20-25 minutes each, giving students the chance to chat with alum from three different fields. The last 30 minutes will be an open networking session.
GC alumni mentors at this event include:
Karen Altfest (History, 1979)
Principal Advisor and EVP of Client Relations, Altfest Personal Wealth Management
Michael Conn (Environmental Psychology, 2000)
Independent Consultant – Research, Evaluation & Planning
Subir Dhamoon (Mathematics, 2013)
Bank Examiner, Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Saul Fisher (Philosophy, 1997)
Executive Director for Grants and Academic Initiatives
Professor of Philosophy, Mercy College
SVP Global Partnerships, New York Academy of Sciences
Jerry Kestenbaum (Clinical Psychology, 1983)
Founder & CEO, BuildingLink.com
Henry (Hengyong) Mo (Economics, 2007)
Managing Director and Chief Economist, AIG
Ray Quinlan (Economics, 2007)
Chairman & CEO, Sallie Mae
Marilyn Puder York (Clinical Psychology, 1977)
Psychologist, Executive Coach
Ying Zhou (Business, 1995)
Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers
This is also a great chance for you to practice your networking, storytelling, and interviewing skills in an informal, low-pressure environment!
Remember, a strong network is an extremely helpful asset in securing a job. Entrepreneur and business coach Michael Ellsberg notes that 80% of jobs are gained through the informal job market: your network of friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and so-called ‘weak links’ (Granovetter). You shouldn’t just think about connecting with prospective employers. Even meeting fellow graduate students who are pursuing academic and non-academic careers is a great way to grow your network!
Why might you attend a roundtable session like this one? First, to get information about jobs and careers. Second, to learn about how alumni from the GC have navigated and succeeded the pleasures and challenges of switching careers. Third, to grow your network and get potential referrals for job openings. Fourth, to learn about aspects of professionalization within your chosen field — including professional associations, journals, events, and trends — that may not be obvious to an outsider.
If you would like to learn more about how and why to network and conduct informational interviews, you can read our recent blog posts full of useful tips and advice you can use straight out of the box.
How do I start?
You may be wondering what to prioritize in these small-group sessions. Smart questions generally yield smart conversations. Greater focus on your part lets your alumni mentors help you more. Before you attend the session, do some research the field, organization, and industry of your selected alumni mentors.
Some good general questions to ask your mentor might include:
- What motivated you to switch from academia into your current role?
- What do you enjoy most, and find most challenging, about your work?
- What skills does your job involve?
- How does this job vary by organization and industry?
- How does one typically enter a field or organization?
- What jobs are typically available but not advertised in this field?
During your conversation with the presenter, be sure to engage and chat with your fellow colleagues at the roundtable. It’s helpful to have a 30-second “elevator pitch” about yourself and your career trajectory to the present. The elevator pitch should briefly explain your career direction and why it matters to you, while highlighting some of the skills and accomplishments you’ve achieved along the way.
Remember that people relate most strongly to stories; some handy ways to frame your elevator pitch include using language like: “I want to challenge myself”; “I want to do something that requires body and soul effort”; “I’m proud of what I’ve done, but I’m ready to move on.” Demonstrate how your change of path is not just a change but a maturation; or, explain why you want to reinvent yourself.
Also, you might want to ask the alumni mentor about what skills their job involves. If the job function they currently hold suits your needs and desires, there will be opportunities for you to use it productively moving forward in your career, which may include transitioning between industries in roles that share similar job skills and characteristics.
Finally, show that you are interested in your interviewee, and demonstrate your appreciation for their perspective and accomplishments. Try to elicit a sense of the culture of the company they work for. This lets you know how you should pitch your cover letter and interview materials, should you want to apply for a job.
Remember, never ask an alumni mentor directly for a job! If anything, state that you would love to keep in touch about future possibilities in their industry, and offer to exchange your contact information or business card.
You can read more about the event and RSVP on our event page here.
The event takes place on Thursday, April 6th from 6:00 – 8:00 pm in the Graduate Center’s room 9100. Please RSVP directly here to attend.