This email isn’t quite right. I think I just need to read through it one last time and tweak that description of myself at the end. Is he going to be interested in talking to me? Is this a truthful description of who I am and what I’m looking for? Ok, I just want to read through his profile one more time too… and there we go, email sent. Oh man, here comes the self-doubt. Is this person going to email me back? If he does email me back, am I going to make a total fool of myself? What happens if this actually goes well? I can’t believe I spent all that time on that email after the crazy day I just had on campus. Am I really putting myself through this all over again?
Nothing is quite so exhausting as putting yourself out there and figuring out what you want. Not to mention the sheer number of options you have—you’re a hot commodity with all those MIT brains! It can become a third job on top of classes and your research responsibilities—combing through webpage after database after matching service, reaching out when you find a potential match, and anxiously waiting to hear back.
Like online dating, figuring out the next step in your career can be an overwhelming journey tangled up in self-doubt, anxiety, and way too much time spent re-reading your cover letter. MIT provides some career resources that can be helpful for career exploration.
Hm… this is an email address I don’t recognize. Wait a minute, is this that guy I reached out to a while back? Is this… is this a response? All hope isn’t lost!
“I apologize for my delayed response.”
Does this mean it’s not a good match? It has been a while since I reached out. Maybe I’m just not good enough.
“I’d be delighted to talk to you.”
A glimmer of hope?
“Let me know times that work best for you to talk.”
Might as well give it a shot!
Personal connections have served me best in my career search (and in dating, actually… but I’ll save that for another blog post!). In some ways it feels like the over-connectedness provided by the Internet can unnecessarily draw out the process of the job hunt. But at the end of the day, even with all of the best resume search algorithms in the world, you really don’t know whether a company is a good match for you until you talk to someone that has been in that position.
Luckily, MIT has a community of over 100,000 alumni (http://web.mit.edu/facts/alum-association.html) that know all too well what it’s like to be a lost, confused graduate student trying to find a calling and build a successful career out of it. That’s a whole lot of brains to tap into!
That phone call went way better than I expected. There’s an email from him in my inbox already—man, that was fast.
“Hi, Katie, it was great talking with you today. I passed along your CV to my boss, and we would like to offer you the opportunity to come talk in person.”
The Alumni Association keeps the MIT community in touch through Infinite Connection (https://alum.mit.edu/home), a collection of resources online for both students and alumni. It’s home to the single best resource that I’ve encountered during my career exploration at MIT—the alumni directory.
Infinite Connection provides alumni with email forwarding for life, so that means you have access to all alumni signed up for the service. You can search by degree program, student activities, employer, employer location, and home country or state. Some alumni even serve as student advisors or offer to help with finding a job at their current company or organization.
I used Infinite Connection this past summer to set up informational interviews with MIT alumni in order to explore whether I wanted to jump into a policy career in Washington, DC, after I finished my Master’s or continue on with a PhD. I reached out to a bunch of different people, including alumni of my program (the Technology and Policy Master’s Program), and MIT alumi working at federal government agencies, think tanks, and consulting firms that seemed interesting.
Most of the people I reached out to got back to me, and one conversation even turned into an on-site interview. Ultimately, I’ve decided that I want to continue on with a PhD, but I don’t think I would have been able to make an informed decision on this matter without Infinite Connection.
I’m here way early. I’m not sure if that was the right decision or not, but I go over my resume one more time. I look down at my skirt and pick some lint off of it, nervously twirling my hair in my finger. Was this the right outfit choice? What the hell is going on with my hair this morning?
“Hi, Katie! Great to finally meet you in person! Can I get you coffee or anything before we get started?”
I stand up, take a deep breath, and walk in for my day of interviewing.