Finding Summer Research Opportunitites

Compared to tips and advice about how to obtain an internship position with companies, how to compete for research opportunities is a bit different. There are many differences between research intern and company intern, including purpose, method of selection, funding, payment, etc. The goal of going to a research program in summer is to accumulate research experience and facilitate graduate school applications. Meanwhile, interning in a company can make you more qualified for a desired full-time job after graduation. Research applications are associated with essay writing and recommendations while company internship applications emphasize resumes and interviews. The following discussion about research programs is exclusively for undergraduate science and engineering research in summer from my perspective.

 

First, it is very important to clarify your plan after graduation. If you are looking for graduate studies for science and engineering, then doing research in the summer can be very helpful to equip you for graduate school. It is generally known that the admissions committee members value research experience. You can choose to stay at your own school for research or participate in research programs funded by National Science Foundation (NSF) or companies at other universities, which are more formal.  Doing summer research at your own school means that you can continue the work you did during school year and spend plenty of time on one single project, which can be long enough for you to get concrete results or actual achievement. However, even if it is considered full-time in summer, this kind of research job may not be paid and housing is not guaranteed. NSF funded research programs are generally called Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs, which are commonly paid summer research programs. A list for REU sites can be found on NSF website. There are also a small amount of research programs, which are built through gifts from companies. They are usually better paid and offer more benefits in terms of housing facility, travel compensation, site visits opportunities, and so on. Participating in REU programs and company supported research programs normally mean housing and higher stipends than just staying at one’s own school.

 

For formal research programs, the eligibility for these programs is usually as simple as pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in STEM fields and being a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Sometimes there is also a GPA requirement. The application mainly includes essays, one of which must be a purpose of statement, recommendations, application forms, transcript, and resume. The request for interviewing and the opportunity to talk to recruiters are rare. Rather than being stressed by hour-long interviews, research intern applicants need to put more time to polish their essays and get good references. Prior research experience is not required but preferred. Excellent performance on coursework is also important in obtaining a desired research opportunity.

The application period for a summer research program is usually from December to February of next year and the results come out in March or April. One program can include 5 to 15 undergraduate students. Participants are expected to do a research project culminating in a presentation or poster and complete a research report at the end of the program. There are always graduate mentors to assist these projects. Besides doing research, there are also fun activities built into the program summer.

- Jackie Yang, McMurtry Peer Career Advisor

“So… What do you do?” : how to learn more about a job without saying these words

A big question that you may want to ask recruiters is “so… what do you do?”

What you really mean: I want to learn more about what I’d be doing if I worked here.

How it’s perceived: I sauntered into your booth… I have no idea what this company does… I’m only here for the freebies….

 

There’s a ton of good reasons why you should know what a position in a company entails:

1)   you’ll figure out exactly what you’ll be doing if you join the company

2)   you can talk about why YOU fit the bill for that position in the interview

3)   the company will see how serious you are for wanting that position when you speak to them

 

The problem is that it’s hard to learn more about a person’s specific role in a company when you don’t want to appear like you didn’t do your homework; here are ways of finding out what employees actually do in a company without making a bad impression.

 

At career expos and info sessions:

1) Talk to recruiters and ask the question in a way that makes you look like you did your homework. Instead of “so what do you do?” you could ask what position they work as, and follow up with “as a _______, what are examples of some projects you have worked on?” It shows recruiters that you’re genuinely interested in their work and what they’ve accomplished, and it’s great for you because it’s easier to imagine yourself in that position when you know exactly what kinds of projects you’ll be working on if you joined. This way you can learn the details behind their vague titles! Another question I like to ask: “If you could describe the kind of person who would enjoy being a ____, what qualities would they possess?” It gives a more candid perspective on the job position and you can also emphasize these qualities in an interview if you go on to apply for that position.

 

Using LinkedIn:

2) Did you know LinkedIn has job descriptions for different positions in a company? If you type the company name along with job position title, you can find a job posting that describes in more detail what responsibilities that position entails. It’s great for learning what kind of person the recruiter is looking for (sometimes they EXPLICITLY list qualities they’re looking for) and you’ll be able to emphasize your strength in these qualities in a cover letter / interview.

 

3) Also, when you search for a company name on LinkedIn, you may have a lot of unfamiliar faces populate your screen. These people appeared because they are a friend of a friend who works at the company you’re looking at. Even though they’re strangers, don’t hesitate to try to find their contact info from that mutual friend. For example, I saw that a woman working for my dream company shared a mutual friend from my childhood. I Facebooked that friend and asked him if he could ask her if she would be willing to answer a few questions I had, and if so, if he could hook me up with her email. A few days later, I’ve been corresponding with her learning about her experience at the company, why she loves it/dislikes it, what it’s like to climb the ladder at the company, etc. I know so much more now about that company, and if an interviewer asks me where I see myself in the company, I know exactly what position I want, and I can talk about why I think I can satisfy the responsibilities with that position.

 

3) If you don’t have a very large network on LinkedIn and you can’t find friends or friends of friends who work in the position you want to learn more about, you can search for Rice alumni in that position. Go to linkedin.com/alumni and you can actually filter the search for Rice alumni in the industry you want. You may not have any connections through friends to this alum, but they’ll probably be happy to talk to a fellow owl about their experience in their job.

 

It may take extra work to get to know a job position more, but it’ll help you in so many ways! Take the effort to research positions and you’ll have a lot more confidence when you apply for the jobs you want!

- Lisa Chiba, Wiess Peer Career Advisor

Prepping for the Career Expo

So did you miss the “Do this, not that…at the Expo” the CCD? Never fear. Here is the bulk of what you missed.

Attending a career expo gives students a great opportunity to learn more about various industries and companies, to network with recruiters, and to pass out their resumes. Where else but at a career expo can you find a large number of companies in one place wanting to meet potential candidates?  However, remember that the recruiters are there not just to meet but also to screen out applicants.  Therefore, you want to maximize your efforts and learn what to do before, during, and after the expo to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

While a career expo is just one small part of your entire job search, you want it to be a successful part.  Take advantage of the expo and strategically put yourself above other attendees by paying attention to the tips below.

Before

  • Get Your Resume Ready: Highlight skills and accomplishments, and make sure it’s error-free, concise, and easy to read.  Have a Peer Career Advisor critique and proofread it.  Print 10-15 copies, and carry them in a portfolio.
  • Do Your Homework: Research the companies you’re interested in because the last thing you want to ask an employer is,  “So what do you guys do?”  The more informed you are, the more it is that you will make a positive impression.
  • Develop Your “Elevator Pitch”:  This is what you would say if you had only 30 seconds to summarize yourself.  When a recruiter says, “Tell me about yourself,” think of an answer that promotes you and what you have to offer and that will pique the listener’s interest.
  • Have A Game Plan: A layout of employer booths will be available the day of the Expo.  Use both map and guide to determine which employers you’re most interested in and where they are located.  This way you can use your time at the expo to focus on those companies.

During

  • Dress Appropriately: Generally, business casual is fine, but be careful that it’s not too casual.  You want to look like a professional, not a student.  If you have doubts, check your appearance with a Peer Career Advisor, or err on the side of being a little overdressed.
  • Take the Initiative:  Don’t wait for the employer to start the conversation, but instead approach him/her with a firm handshake, a smile, and a brief introduction of who you are and why you’re interested in the company. In many ways, a career expo is a test of your social skills. Employers are almost always friendly and outgoing; they’ll expect the same of you.
  • Ask Insightful Questions: If you’ve studied up on the organizations, you’ll probably have some questions. Not only will you get some answers, but you’ll also show yourself to be someone who does his/her research.
  • Ask For Business Cards:  Having the business cards will enable you to remember who you spoke to and have a direct contact with a company.  You’ll also have the correct spelling of the recruiter to put on the thank-you note.  If business cards are not available, be sure to ask for and write down the recruiter’s contact information.
  • Respect Employers’ Time and Give-aways:  Remember, you’re at the expo to make a positive impression on employers. Don’t undo that by dominating their attention or by grabbing as many freebies as you can get!

After

  • Take Notes:  As soon as you can, write down notes about conversations you had with company representatives. If you wait too long, the conversations will start running together in your head, and you’ll forget what you said to whom.
  • Follow-up on Any Promises: For example, if the recruiter asked you to submit a writing sample, be sure to do so.
  • Send Thank-You Notes: Write or email each of the people you met and thank them for their time. Reiterate your interest in the company and your relevant skills and experience. This simple act can make a big difference.

There may not be many times in your life when employers will make such a concerted effort to get your attention. Your small investment of time and effort—before, during, and after the expo— might very well turn into an opportunity you would not have had otherwise.

Do:

  • Arrive early and walk around
  • Take the initiative to talk first
  • Ask Questions
  • Try to go back to important employers before you leave
  • Thank the recruiters
  • Enjoy yourself

 Don’t:

  • Spend too much time in line
  • Monopolize the recruiter’s time
  • Interrupt your peers while they’re talking with the recruiter
  • Try “winging it” with employers
  • Debate, bad-mouth or complain

It is never too early to be a LinkedIn pro!

Even this Forbes article agrees with us. You should always build and maintain your network, even as a student. LinkedIn is a great tool to help facilitate this process. We do a monthly LinkedIn class. Be sure to attend! They happen every first Tuesday of the month at noon. Our CCD Director Nicole Van  Den Heuvel presents on this topic. Do yourself a favor and attend!

(Click the pic to read more or go here)

 

Come to the CCD Open House!

We want you to come to the Center for Career Development open house tomorrow!

We missed all of the students over the summer! It is just our way of welcoming you back to campus. We are going to have Good Dog and Monster PB&J there, along with pizza and cupcakes. It is all on a first come, first serve basis, so be there early and enjoy the music and free food. Pick up some info on the CCD and our programs over the fall and take a break from the busy first week of school.

We will also have a few drawings for $50 Amazon.com gift cards. There are a two ways to win. Tag us in a post with #RiceCCDconnect or enter to win at the event at the “Hooo did you work for?” table.

Be there! It is going on, rain or shine!

 

 

A message for the first day of school…

We missed seeing all the students on campus this summer and are looking forward to the programs we have for you this fall. Don’t forget to visit the blog throughout the year for tips, advice, and articles on fun career topics brought to you by your friendly Peer Career Advisors and the Center for Career Development.

Welcome back! Come and see us soon!

New program available at Rice!

Are you interested in a career in business? Would you like to be a Certified Public Accountant?

The Jones Graduate School of Business is launching its Master of Accounting (“MAcc”) Program in Fall 2016.
Specifically designed as “4+1” program for Rice undergraduates
Open to all undergraduate majors
Just 12 months to launch a career
Segue into global professional services firms
Paid internships for those who plan ahead
Benefit from an accomplished and supportive Jones School alumni network

Q: How many of the “Big 4” public accounting firms were listed in Fortune Magazine’s 2014 100 Best Companies to Work For?
A: All of them! Deloitte: #61, EY: #78, KPMG: #80, PwC #65

Q: How many public accounting firms were rated in Businessweek’s 2009 Best Places to Launch a Career survey?
A: All of them! The Big 4 public accounting firms take the top 4 spots!

Applications will be accepted starting this Fall 2014. Visit business.rice.edu/macc for a full list of program highlights. Fee free to contact Prof. Ben Lansford, Director of the MAcc, with any questions: lansford@rice.edu

Avoid resume cliches

Since we are talking about resumes do’s, there are some resume don’ts that we should talk about. A common mistake would be using cliches.

Dedicated. Detail oriented. Motivated. Self starter.

Have you used any of these in your resume lately? It is not that these are bad words. They are just over used. Instead of writing the word “dedicated”, show it through your resume entry description. For example, instead of saying “results oriented” (what does that mean anyway?) show them by quantifying what you accomplished. Perhaps something like “Implementation of  the new recommendations increased efficiency by 40%” would be better.  Another overused example we see often is “works well in teams”. Well, okay. That’s nice. However….that doesn’t tell the recruiter much. Everyone says that they work well in teams whether it is true or not. Who in their right mind is going to write “works better alone” or “does not like people”? Instead, demonstrate teamwork though a descriptive bullet point. Try “Worked with a team of four to successfully build a solar car over the course of a semester to compete in a nationwide competition”.

Much better. Now go forth and update your resume!

Time to update your resume!

 

Now that the summer is drawing to a close and you are about to finish your internships, research, or other summer jobs and projects, this is an ideal time to update your resume. It is not as hard as you think. Here are a few tips that might help:

1. Review what you learned and accomplished this summer. Don’t just list down the duties that were written in the job description. What exactly did you do? What projects did you work on? What were the results? Did you pick up any new skills? It sounds silly but get out a piece of paper and brainstorm all you did. List it all down and pick out the ones that stand out to add to your resume.

2. Be descriptive and quantify when possible. This is the time to really help the reader understand why what you did this summer is relevant. Don’t just write “wrote a report” as a bullet point. Something like “Aggregated data from the past two years to identify trends and compiled the results into a report that was presented to the manager” sounds a bit stronger.

3. Highlight transferable skills. Perhaps you did something this summer that is not directly inline with what you want to do when you graduate. That’s okay! Just highlight the transferable skills. If you spent the summer as a camp counselor, you can emphasize the communication skills and ability to manage groups when writing your resume.

4. Edit. Now that you have a new experience under your belt, you may have to remove older entries on your resume that may be redundant or outdated. You want to keep your document to one page. It doesn’t mean you have to remove everything just because you have something new. Just think critically and ask yourself if the older entries add show a different facet of your skill set to the reader.

If you are unsure of any of this, be sure to have a Peer Career Advisor look at your resume or attend our annual Resumania event in early fall to get your newly updated resume reviewed.