6 Steps for New Master's Students Getting Started at Duke

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Dave McDonald, Ph.D. and the Graduate Student Career Services Team

The Duke University Career Center is excited to welcome you to your master's program. We are looking forward to meeting you this academic year.
Many master's students are surprised to find that for a number of industries, such as consulting, finance, and tech, recruiting for internships begins early in the fall semester. Because this happens so soon after you arrive, we want to provide you with information and resources to help you prepare for your search before you arrive on campus.

Here are our top 6 suggestions for being prepared:

1. Slow Down

You will have to adjust to a lot of new environments and people when you start your master’s program. Focus first on becoming a good student. Meet your classmates. Find groups of people that you want to spend time with both to study but also to have fun. Learn where your classes are on campus and what your professors’ expectations are. Explore Duke’s beautiful campus.

There will be a lot of activity on campus in the fall around recruiting for internships and jobs. Resist the pressure that you should be going to all of the events. Pick a couple that sound most interesting to learn how the process works.

Of all of the companies in the U.S. and the world, a very, very small number come to Duke’s campus to recruit. You have opportunities for internships and jobs far beyond the limited number of organizations that you’ll see at Duke. Many of these organizations hire interns throughout the academic year, not just in fall.

Overall, take the slow, methodical approach to searching. Figure out what you want first (see #2) and how you can talk about your experiences to highlight your skills (such as in #5). Then you can progressively work on the rest.

2.     Define Your Objective

It is important that you know what type of internship opportunities you are looking for.
What industries are you interested in? Why?
What types of positions? What do you want to gain from the experience?
What companies are you interested in?
A student intern gathered data on the internships and full-time positions of Duke economics master's alums. If that interests you, watch this video.
Consider the famous brand names that you know, and then explore other options including small- and medium-sized organizations using the Similar Companies features on LinkedIn, Idealist and/or Google Finance. If you are an international student, check on myvisajobs.com to see if companies have a history of sponsoring international students.

3.     Meeting Professionals and Recruiters

The strongest way to find internships is to talk with professionals and recruiters. If you are searching in the U.S., hiring managers will pay more attention to applicants who have met someone at their organization compared to applicants who only submit a resume.
To understand the purpose of and steps to networking, we recommend How to Network Like an American by Judy Shen-Filerman. American and international students can benefit from the insights and excellent examples that the author shares. Once you have officially started your program, you’ll also have access to the Duke Alumni Network, and we’ve made this video about how to use LinkedIn and the Alumni Network to find people to meet.
Search for people to talk to about companies and positions. See if you can find people with a similar background as you or who graduated from Duke or other institutions you’ve attended. It is a good idea to request an informational interview to learn more about their backgrounds, education, experiences in that industry, and advice they have for you. Just don't ask for an internship directly as that can make people feel uncomfortable; instead, seek advice and useful information for your career and search. 

For international students wanting help with learning American culture, you can watch these videos on how to make small talk, the job search process, and how to talk about your experiences. Interact with Americans in your program and in the local community as often as possible by finding an American roommate, volunteering with a Durham organization such as Habitat for Humanity, or meeting up with American classmates socially.

4.     Fall Career Events at Duke

The Fall Career Fair is Duke's largest and it takes place on Wednesday, September 26, 2018. Other important career events for your first semester include TechConnect; Ignite Your Internship Search; Virtual Diversity Career Fair; Duke Entertainment, Media, Arts Network (DEMAN) Weekend; and the NC Master's and PhD Career Fair. Check our events page for more information on these fairs. We also offer a guide to help you prepare for these fairs.
Information sessions are hosted by employers, to introduce you to their organizations, answer your questions, and create opportunities to network. Once classes start, you can see the dates and times of information sessions and other events on CareerConnections. We list other career events on CareerConnections such as workshops that are designed to help you conduct your internship search, prepare your applications, and practice your networking skills.

5.     Preparing Resumes and Cover Letters

While the best way to apply for jobs is networking, you will still have to submit application documents such as a resume and a cover letter. This summer is an excellent opportunity to polish up these documents and we can continue to assist you when classes begin.

Use our video guides to writing resumes and our guides to writing cover letters on the Career Center website. The Duke Economics Department also has a detailed guide to writing resumes and cover letters on their website for a variety of different career paths such as consulting, nonprofits, law, finance, insurance, banking, and project management.
The resume you submit will likely be one or two pages long, but it can be helpful to keep a longer “master resume” that describes all of your experiences. Look at some internship descriptions on LinkedIn and company websites to see how you can use some of their key words and phrases in your own resume.

6.     Setting Goals

Searching for internships is a lengthy process, so setting goals for yourself is important. Consider using some of these goals.

  • Create a list of 10 professionals that you want to talk with or meet in the fall semester, and explain why you want to talk to them
  • Identify 10 organizations that have internships that interest you. In a few sentences, explain why these organizations made your Top 10 list.
  • Write a master resume and a starting cover letter using the resources above
  • Make a plan to attend career events

You can also develop goals around communicating your strengths, motivation and fit with employers and obtaining key skills needed for your careers of interest.
In the meantime, we wish you safe travels, and hope to see you in a couple months.