How Do I Even?
How to Make Your Own Opportunities
It’s time. You’ve decided that you want an internship, or a job, or you have some other opportunity that you want help with. Here’s a basic framework to guide you toward making an internship, job, or other opportunity, a reality.
If you are a student of any year looking for opportunities outside of Reed, this is for you. If you are a student about to graduate and looking for something that isn’t grad school, this is also for you.
So, what do you do?
Step One: The Why and What
What's your area of interest? What excites you? If you need ideas, start with our Communities of Purpose. Find a sub-heading there, and start Googling terms from the sub-headings that interest you. Look for names of organizations associated with those terms: companies, non-profits, cities, counties, and research institutions. Then look at the websites for them and look for jobs, titles, and research programs that interest you. “Careers” tabs and “about us” tabs are good for this. Cast a wide net.
If you find a position that really interests you, look closely at the list of required qualifications and think of that as a checklist of things you want to learn. It’s also possible that you’ll find something you want to apply to this way.
Step Two: The Who
Make the alumni directory in IRIS your friend. Click on "show advanced search," which allows you to search by company, location, job title, etc. Start with fewer search terms, and check the box to “limit search to Reed Career Network.” These people are more likely to be responsive. If this doesn’t provide enough results, go back and uncheck it. Some alumni don't provide contact info in IRIS so look them up in LinkedIn and/or focus on people with email addresses. Ask your family and friends about connections they have in fields and locations you are interested in. Once you have some people you want to contact, and the means to contact them, it’s time to get in touch.
Note: Remember that your family and friends, as well as your faculty, are a resource here too. Your faculty especially are experts in their fields, and might be able to direct you to opportunities you wouldn't otherwise find if you approach them with your interests. Family and friends can be of great help. Don't stress about using that network if you have it. How you get the job is less important than how you do the job.
Step Three: The Introduction
Before you can ask anyone for anything, you need to start a conversation. Begin by introducing yourself in an email, telling them why you’re contacting them, and asking specific questions. Here’s an example:
“Dear [use Ms. Mr. or Dr. plus last name],
I researched your contact information in Reed’s alumni directory. I’m a junior English major and I’m looking to find out more about [your field of interest that this person is associated with]. I see that you’re working at, or worked at [their organization].”
Here you can tell them what you’re interested in and why. Be succinct. Two or three sentences are sufficient. Next, ask them some specific questions. Remember that people generally want to help you, and that they often like to be asked about themselves. Here are some examples (you’ll likely be able to be more specific):
“Could you tell me about your role as a [occupation] at [organization]? What were your day-to-day activities like? How much of your work involved lab work? Do you manage a team?
Any information you can share with me will be helpful. I appreciate your time.
Your name and year [ex. Jo Bane ‘19]”
Step Four: The Wait
People want to help students, and you may not get a response the first time due to their travel/work/life schedule. Shoot them another note in three to five days. If they still don't respond, don’t give up! Ask up to five times before you give up. Then, just ask more people. You may also be able to contact people through LinkedIn or Switchboard. When you do hear back from someone, great! Make sure to respond promptly (1-3 days).
Step Five: The Conversation and the Ask
Somebody has responded to you; great! Perhaps they’ve answered your questions. They also might have some further questions for you. Make sure to respond thoughtfully. If they seem like the right person to talk to for you, i.e., they have something to say about an area that interests you, it’s time to tell them what you’re looking for. Your goal is to communicate what you want to find without putting someone on the spot. Here’s an example:
“Ultimately, I’m looking for an internship or summer job this summer doing [fill-in-the-blank]. It would be really great if you could help me figure out whom to talk with or where to look in my search.”
Remember, as a student, it is your job to ask for things. Other people know and expect this and often want to help you. Asking for things means also being gracious, humble, and very aware to do great due diligence. In other words, do your homework before asking anything. People whose advice you seek justifiably can get a bit annoyed when you ask them questions that you could easily answer by reading their bio, their website, LinkedIn, or just by doing rudimentary due diligence. Equally important, remember to thank anyone that has responded to you for their help and engagement, even if it hasn't come to anything.
Note: keep in mind what you’ve asked for if someone offers you an opportunity. Transportation and housing will generally be up to you to provide. Sometimes people offer additional help, but never expect it. If you need to find somewhere to stay, try searching the alumni directory after checking the "local hosts" box. That check box indicates people who are willing to help with housing in some way.
Step Seven: The Score
If you secure an internship, job, or some other opportunity, please send us a note (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let us know with whom you’re working so that we can note that person's volunteer service and so that someone else in the future may know that the person offered a help. If you have questions or concerns, let us know. Good luck!