Referrals: A Boost to Your Career Search

By: Michael

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know?’ Check out this article by CNN, where they focus on this very question. In this article, CNN takes the time to explain that it isn’t just who you know, but that there are a variety of other factors that come into play, such as how you know them, how well you connected, and whether they are a respected member of the organization. After my previous internship experience, I have been spending a lot more time networking and relying heavily on the ‘who you know’ aspect of things. It has helped me narrowly define the companies and careers I want to apply for as I approach my graduation this December.


A perfect example is one that occurred very recently. I had met with a good friend of mine whom I went to high school with and inquired about his position as a credit analyst and that I was graduating soon. He was dismayed to tell me that if only I had asked him a couple months prior, there was a position open that I could have applied for. This discussion occurred at the beginning of the summer, but two months later I received a message on LinkedIn from his manager notifying that my friend had referred me and asked if I would send my Resume. I scheduled an interview that next week.

Another example was when I was applying for an internship through Minnesota Power. Although I did not receive the position, I met a lot of valuable contacts through referrals from one of my classmates who had interned there previously. I ended up going through informational interviews and even getting a referral for the position.

The most important lesson I take from this idea of ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ is that it is important to connect with others while networking, and I mean really connect. The more you get to know a potential reference while networking, the more valuable and viable their recommendations of you will be. I know that many of you will probably be attending the upcoming job fairs this fall, and my advice to you is this: take some time to research exactly which companies you are interested in talking to, don’t try to rush from table to table, take as much time as you can at an individual company’s table and make sure to get business cards to follow up with potential contacts. Be open, talk about your interests, why you want to work for the company, etc. Try not to focus on meeting the most contacts, but focus more on having a pool of contacts that have a much clearer idea of who you are. That’s how you will get to that next step towards your dream job: The Interview.

Of Possible Interest:

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Ways to Showcase Research on Your Resume

By: Glen

Previously, I have discussed how research is helpful as a career builder, and how to get involved in research. Once you have been a researcher, being able to put your skills into words is important. Explaining your project(s) to potential employers could make or break your application for employment. Today, we will break down a few examples of how to write about your research participation on a resume. All four of the following examples are used directly from the University of Minnesota Duluth Career & Internship Services Career Handbook, 11th Edition.

Example 1

Example 1

Example 2

Example 2

The above examples are located in the “Experience” section of the resume. When writing in the sections featuring your positions, the bullet-point list is a tool that can (and should) be used to your desire. Depending on how much you want to extrapolate from each experience, you will find that positions, projects, and activities will vary in the amount of points you can write. If your involvement in research is something you want to highlight as a main focus, I would recommend having around three to six bullet points with the details of the project, as shown in Example 2. If an experience was worth noting, but you only wish to cover a couple of details, two or three bullets is a good range to shoot for, as per Example 1. If a specific position is not the most important thing on your resume, do not be afraid to just write a brief piece like this:

Example 3

Example 3

In this example, the bolded title of the research position is the name of the program. The Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program was formed to give undergraduates at UMD a chance to lead research. This includes writing a competitive grant application to be funded for their time researching. If your research project was a part of a larger organization, you could put the organization’s name as the title, as shown above in Examples 1 and 2.

Example 3

Example 3

This final example uses the “Education” section to briefly note undergraduate research involvement. Similar to the previous example, featuring the position was not the main goal. These examples use the brief indications of lab work to supplement other experiences on the resume.

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Surviving the First Year of Grad School

By: Justine

Editor’s Note: We’re welcoming Justine back for a guest post! Check out all her previous work on the blog from when she was a student!

Even though I can hardly believe it, I have completed my first year of doctorate degree in physical therapy. The year has gone fast and with this post I will share a few things I found helpful throughout my first year in the program.

Surviving Grad School

Get to know your classmates

Once you have made it past the application process, your acceptance into a grad program marks the end of the competition with your fellow peers. Getting to know your classmates has many benefits beyond forming friendships. Each of my classmates shares a common interest in physical therapy but our backgrounds and past experiences make us each unique. Some students with an athletic training background are more familiar with sports injuries while others have a background in geriatrics. You can learn from your classmates as they may be able to share ideas or explain concepts you have difficulty with.

Set up a study schedule

Another benefit of getting to know classmates is to find other students who have a similar study method as you. A big part of physical therapy is patient education which requires not only that you are able to understand a concept but are also able to explain it to your patients in terms that they will understand. Due to that focus, I would frequently get together with a few classmates before or after our classes to go over lectures and break down the more complicated concepts so we could fully understand the material. Find classmates who have similar study methods as you in order to make your study time the most effective for your learning.

Learn to manage free time

This one isn’t much different from an undergrad piece of advice. However, once I started school again I became a bit jealous of my graduated friends working full time jobs without an extra homework load to do in the evenings. This was a change from my undergrad days because at that time all my friends were in school and had times where they needed to study as well. Someday, I will be able to relate to a 40 work week without homework (and a paycheck instead of loans!) but until then I will be spending a little more time with my nose in my textbooks. For the time you are in graduate school, make it a priority to get comfortable with a study schedule, with a few study breaks squeezed in for the occasional social outing or get-together with a friend.

Maintain the knowledge

This is going to be your career field. One of the big switches I had to change in my brain from undergrad to graduate school was commitment to the material. I can confess that in some of my undergrad classes I would hold onto the material until the exam and then it would fade away. Now it’s much easier for me to see the application of the material I am learning, it will help me to understand my patient better and allow me to answer patient questions when they arise. Finding the right career path for you will make learning much more meaningful and purposeful and eventually support a career in a field that you love.

One of the most rewarding aspects of grad school is that I’m being taught by physical therapists, in a classroom of students who want to be physical therapists, who will one day be working in a field with people who need physical therapy. It’s a very welcoming environment and after making it through my first year, I know that this is the right field for my future. To anyone else who is starting or continuing within a graduate program, I wish you luck and hope that you find success in all that you do!

Read Justine’s other posts

3 Skills Undergraduate Research Can Improve

By: Glen

I recently posted a piece extrapolating on how to get involved in research as an undergraduate, but what is the fuss about undergraduate research? Is that not what graduate school is designed for, practical experiences to fully certify the student? This may be true, but research at the undergraduate level can give you much needed experience earlier in your career. Here are some skills that (in my experience) undergraduate research can improve.

Critical Thinking Skills

Here is a truth that conducting undergraduate research has driven home: If you are going to make a claim, you need to be able to back it up. Research experience can teach you how to ask questions about the world, and search for good answers to those questions.

For example, the internet is filled with posts filled with information that may or may not be true. When you find yourself reading some of these reports, your research experience will have taught you the correct way of being skeptical. You will find yourself asking instinctive questions such as: who conducted the research, what methods were used to make this judgment, can I see the actual data? Heck, maybe you are reading this post right now, and asking questions like: why should I listen to you, what are your qualifications, what proof of these claims do you have? All I can say is this is my personal experience, but I digress. Point is researchers are trained in the importance of hard facts. This is a great skill to have in the workplace.

3 Skills Research

Creative Problem Solving

I have found that the development of my critical thinking skills has led to an increased ability of solving problems in the work place. In the past, I was someone who could solve problems that I had faced before with ease, yet I would struggle with new problems I encountered. I am finding that pattern to be changing as I become more educated. If I were to point toward a cause of this growth, I would point toward my experience conducting research and time spent in my research-oriented classes. Discussing the methodological construction of research studies has opened my eyes to the many ways questions can be answered. Do NOT underestimate this skill.

Lab Skills

This might seem pretty obvious. “You gained lab skills by doing research? No way!” The important fact is that gaining lab skills as an undergraduate can look fantastic on your resume. I am very glad to have my own research experience, because if I decide to go to graduate school, I will be prepared! A number of my professors have told us students stories from former students explaining how grateful they were to have research experience. Apparently, the students with lab practice were much more comfortable with their graduate programs, due to training with statistics and methodological design.

In conclusion, I figure research experience just makes for better people and better employees. Having technical experience looks good, and will make you a more efficient thinker. Now, this is not to say that every person needs to have research experience, but if the opportunity arises, try it out. Perhaps your career path is taking you in a different direction. Maybe you feel like you would be better served with on the job training, internships, or some similar method of gaining experience. Even then, I would highly encourage any student to conduct research if they have the opportunity. It will diversify your skillset, and that looks mighty impressive.

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160 Characters to Tell Your Story

Guest Post By: Ellen (Career Counselor & overseer of all social media for UMD Career & Internship Services)

I am a huge fan of social media. Then again, I have an undergrad degree in Communication and love everything about the process of how individuals communicate with one another. Of all the social media platforms available to us in this era of instant communication, my favorite is Twitter. As one of my favorite higher education social media people noted while he was visiting UMD this past Winter, Twitter is 140 characters of awesome.

Personally, I love Twitter because the information is quick and easy to digest. I organize all the people I follow into lists. I have lists like: Student Affairs, Twin Ports, Career-Related, and Travel. The lists are great because all the tweets I’m reading are about the same general subject. I’ve used to Twitter to connect with professionals in field, to live-tweet from events and conferences, follow conferences from afar, share my life, and much more. It was the easiest way for me to connect with other professionals in Higher Education from around the United States while I was in graduate school. Now that I’m in my professional career, it’s still the easiest way for me to do that networking and connecting.

Twitter Bio

Okay, now on to the real reason for today’s post about Twitter.

Your Twitter bio.

You have 160 characters to tell the story of who you are, what you do, and anything else you want to share. Sounds impossible, right? Fear not, here are a couple of tips to help you be on your way to crafting an awesome Twitter bio.

  • Include information about your major and/or your intended field. I have that I am a career counselor at UMD. For the UMDCareers account I manage, the bio is a condensed version of our mission statement.
  • Include relevant hashtags or Twitter handles. In the UMDCareers bio, I’ve included my own Twitter handle so that our followers can see that the UMDCareers account is managed by a real person. A possible hashtag we could use (if we had more characters) would be #UMDProud since it is widely used on the UMD campus. Another example is the UMD Admissions office. They use #futurebulldog in their bio as another way to tie with all of their online and print branding. That’s right, hashtags and handles can help with your personal branding!
  • Have a professional profile photo. Using the same photo as you have on LinkedIn will help with branding across your social media platforms.
  • Use the header photo to show off your personality, hobbies, and/or interests. Mine has a photo of a sunrise that I took. It conveys that I have an interest in photography and I enjoy the outdoors. For UMDCareers, we have a photo of Aerial Lift bridge, which is an icon in Duluth.
  • Update your profile as things change. This could include your major, intended field, finally graduating, or when you’ve gotten a full-time position.

Here are some snapshots from bios of people I follow. Great examples of how to tell your story and show your personality.

  • Career Counselor at UMD Duluth, traveler…photographer, & loves working in Student Affairs.
  • Higher ed geek who thinks new year always refers to August…Accidental techie, bookworm, hiker, and traveler.
  • Advocate for Awesome…Dislikes standing still.
  • Leadership Educator. Runner. Yogi. Speaker. Delta Zeta Alumna.
  • Aspiring archivist, lover of history.

Now it’s your turn. If you’d like help with writing your bio, make an appointment with one of our counselors today!

If you’d like, you can follow @UMDCareers or myself @Ellen_Hatfield.

2012-2013 Graduate Follow-up Report

In the past month, we released the newest edition of the Graduate Follow-up Report. We’re excited, as this is one of the major reports we produce each year. We use the report almost daily in our office as a way to show off what UMD grads have accomplished and also to help current students brainstorm jobs, internships, and graduate/professional schools they could pursue with their majors.

GFUR Infographic (half)

You can view the full report in all its glory on our main website.

UMD Homepage story written by External Affairs can be found here.

Previous blog posts we’ve written about the Grad Follow-up Report

Thanks to UMD External Affairs for creating the awesome infographic shown above!

3 Steps to Get Involved in Research as an Undergraduate

By: Glen

Some of you may have heard that doing research is a great way to get experience and to build your resume. There is truth in those statements! I would definitely advise all students to conduct undergraduate research if you have the opportunity. The first step is where I usually get the question, “How do I get that opportunity?” Depending on your department and where you go to school, the methods can differ. Fortunately, there is an underlying theme for which to approach the situation.

Research as an undergrad

Be Proactive With Academics

My advisor was thoughtful enough to share with me why he allowed me to join his research team sooner than I probably should have. Even as a first semester sophomore without having took the recommended classes yet, my resume showed that I had the potential to be successful. If you are invited to join honor societies, take that invitation. In my personal situation, being in an honors program may have been the key to the gate. My advisor was impressed to see that I was maintaining high grades while being active in other facets of the university.

If the whole honor society thing is not your gig, do not worry, there are other ways to show your professors that you are a fully capable student. One option is to be involved in an academic club or clubs. For me, that was the Psychology Club. Another option would be to participate in some sort of organization that serves the community. This could be the city community or the university community, it does not matter. If your grades are good and you can show that you are being active with your life, you have a much better chance of being accepted into research opportunities.

Find the Opportunities Available to You

While you are maintaining your grades and being active on campus, it is important to think about what you want to research and why. Find some question that you honestly care about answering. Research is a big commitment of time and energy. You are going to need to care about the subject.

There can be multiple ways to get into research once you have a research idea. Here at the University of Minnesota Duluth, we have a number of labs who hire students as paid research assistants. Do not forget to look at the student employment website to check if there are positions open in your research area of interest. In addition, we have the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) for students who have the yearning to write a competitive grant to research their own ideas. Wherever you are, do not hesitate to find what is available to you.

Talk to Your Professors

Once you know what is available to you as a student, you need to make a connection in order to get into a lab. Whether the first contact is an interview or an email, you are going to want to have discussions with the person you are going to be working with. Personally, I started my research experience with a professor because I was interested in the linking of personality and behavior research. The semester in the lab taught me a number of things about the research process, which I enjoyed greatly. Later, I returned to the same professor with my own research idea that was sparked from a class I was taking at the time.

Glen research

Look where I ended up! It was pretty fun.

A great way to find research opportunities on campus is to check what the faculty members in your department are studying. Your faculty members are highly trained, and will definitely know more about current research than you do.

So, there you have it! Maintain your grades, see what is available, and dive in to the research. If you get enough experience, you may find it will get easier and easier. It is never a bad thing to get that first time experience out of the way early, especially if you are going to graduate or professional school.

Of Possible Interest: 

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