Career Center

Search Strategically



Ready to move forward with your search? Here are a few characteristics that successful and savvy experience seekers possess and implement throughout the search process. These characteristics apply whether you are pursuing an internship, job, volunteer role, fellowship, or membership in a student organization.

Successful seekers REFLECT!

Time to search for an opportunity. But wait! What type of experience are you seeking? Why? Take time to reflect before, during, and after an experience. It is crucial that you evaluate your skills, strengths, likes/dislikes, and what you want to learn next. Being able to communicate the answers to these questions will allow you to conduct a search with purpose and direction, ultimately saving you time and minimizing frustration. Reflection is a key component that should be used throughout the process. 

Successful seekers conduct a TARGETED SEARCH!

Pursuing any and every opportunity you find will produce results that may not align with your professional goals. Navigate opportunities by targeting organizations and industries that are of genuine interest to you and tailor your approach (resume, cover letter, proposal, and pitch) to reflect the experiences and skills most relevant and salient for those opportunities. 

Successful seekers RESEARCH!

You may know the top five employers in your industry of interest, but who are the top 10? Top 20? Don’t limit your knowledge of the world to what you already know. Apply research skills to acquire knowledge for short- and long-term professional goals. Take time to expand upon this base of knowledge and to learn about opportunities and experiences that are interesting to you. Researching organizations and employers allows you to learn about their culture, values, and specific opportunities for career development. Your research will help you determine whether or not there is a potential fit between you and a possible opportunity, helping you make an informed decision about your next step!

Successful seekers are ORGANIZED!

Some searches are especially time consuming. You should anticipate spending several hours a week on your internship, job, or fellowship search. The same may be true of other opportunities. Develop a system that allows you to keep all of your contacts and notes in one place and keep a calendar of relevant events and deadlines. Consider having an email address, folder, or use tags dedicated to your search-related communications. Store your search-related documents electronically in a centralized folder so they are easy to access if needed immediately.

Successful seekers have ENDURANCE and PATIENCE!

Since some searches can last several months, be prepared to participate in a process that may not always agree with your preferred time frame. Each organization, employer, or funder works at their own pace for legitimate (if obscure) reasons. As a candidate for the opportunity, you will benefit from being aware of and sensitive to this fact.

Successful seekers FOLLOW UP! 

Following up on your applications and conversations can be the difference between securing an opportunity and remaining in an undifferentiated pile of resumes. By following up, you can confirm that your application is in the right hands, restate your serious interest in the position, and demonstrate follow-through skills so important in professional roles. As with all communications with employers, it is critical to act in a timely, professional, and courteous manner. While you may be eager to know the status of your application, be aware that they may not be able to provide much information at any given time. Your positive follow-up will nonetheless make a positive impression.


Being told no in your search is never fun, but it’s bound to happen at some point. Rejection can hinge on a number of factors, many of which are out of the your control. While rejection can be frustrating, it is very important to remain positive and not let a setback with one opportunity affect how you present yourself for another prospective experience. Transform rejection into motivation, staying confident that you have many strong attributes to contribute. Use setbacks as an opportunity to reevaluate goals and to clarify your purpose and motivation. Adapt career plans based on challenges that arise throughout the search process.

Successful seekers project PROFESSIONALISM AND MATURITY!

You are more than the sum of your skills and previous experiences. Professionalism and maturity can take you a long way. As you connect with people throughout your search, there are many opportunities to demonstrate this, including how you communicate and present yourself.


You know that employers use the Internet to research potential job candidates. Thus, a necessary part of any job or internship search is to create and maintain a positive online reputation. Use the following steps to move from damage control towards proactive ownership of your online first impression.

Increase Your Awareness.

Be sure you know what information is or could be available about yourself online, where it is, and what impression it may create.

  • Search your name (and different versions of it) on major search engines, on different social networks, and sites where you comment. 
  • Know the privacy agreement and settings for the various online communities of which you are a member.
  • Request feedback from peers and professionals on impressions based your online presence alone.  Would they hire you?  Why or why not?
  • Familiarize yourself with sites where your potential colleagues or supervisors gather and participate online.

Protect Your Image.

Ensure potential employers only see information that conveys a positive image. You do not want them to question your professionalism, judgment, or ability to represent their organization.

  • Appropriately adjust the privacy settings for all online accounts.
  • Remove content and tags that could negatively influence a potential employer’s first impression.
  • Hide or delete old accounts that do not best represent you.
  • Request that information about you posted by others be removed if you are opposed to it.

Build a Professional Presence.

Present your name, accomplishments, and aspirations in ways that can be accessible to others.

  • Use social networks to create and maintain a public profile that you want the public to see. One that communicates your accomplishments and projects with a sense of the professional you are becoming.
  • Display a copy of your resume and a portfolio of your accomplishments online.
  • Compose and deliver your professional story based on reflection of key experiences.
  • Promote your profiles and/or website, e.g., add a link to your email signature.
  • Contribute to conversations relevant to your fields of interest through media like blogs, LinkedIn groups, and/or Twitter.

Own Your Presence.

Assert greater control of your online identity by owning it yourself.

  • Create a personal website that serves as a professional resume and portfolio. Update this regularly with new content.
  • Continue your activities online and watch your name and professional identity become more prominent in search engines.
  • Set a goal to take over the whole first page of Google when someone searches your name.


Before you jump into your search, consider a few recommendations that will help you to search smart, manage your time, and implement an effective plan. 

A search is a long-term process. Longer than many people anticipate, so plan to spend four or more months gearing up and implementing a search for a full-time or highly competitive internship opportunity. Many students have compared this commitment to taking an additional class.

Set aside time on a regular basis. Unlike a paper or project that can be postponed or worked on in surges, the best searches are spread over time. Put time on your calendar each week—an hour or so for downtime and several hours during peak periods.

Prioritize your interests. Spend time reflecting to effectively target your search to your interests. Three highly focused applications to great-fit opportunities tend to reap more rewards than 100 scattershot applications. 

Learn what an optimal candidate profile includes. The better picture you have of the person who would be selected for your desired role, the more effective you will be at presenting your own experiences. 

Practice communicating your professional story in writing and in conversation. Your ability to articulate what you want and why comes only through reflection and practice. Create opportunities to rehearse before you find yourself in an interview for that coveted position. 

Get feedback. Have others read your resume and guess what kind of position you are seeking. Practice introducing yourself and effectively communicating your professional interests to family or friends. Ask your roommate to role-play an interview with you.

Track your progress. Keep records so that you know what applications and documents have gone where and when. Track whom you have talked to, when, how you have followed up, and whether more follow up is expected. This helps you when preparing for an interview or actively managing your conversations and professional relationships. It also gives you a record of your progress for days that feel stalled.


While you are keeping track of all the elements of your search, be sure your ethical conduct remains a constant the whole way through. Should you have questions about the ethical thing to do in a given situation, please contact the Career Center. We are here to help clarify and explain whatever may seem muddy. If you are in a pinch for time, always err on the side of caution.

The following are expectations for how to conduct yourself in a way that is ethical so as to prevent situations that could result in a permanent scar on your professional reputation within an industry as well as damage to the reputation of Duke students as a whole: 

Be 100 percent truthful and accurate on your resume.

Embellishments and exaggerations are considered lying. Employers often look beyond candidates’ resumes to verify information
that candidates have provided. Don’t falsify, stretch, or bend information such as your GPA, SAT scores, involvement in activities, leadership roles you have held, or results in competitions in which you have participated. 

On-Campus Recruiting Policy:  Falsifying your resume may result in being reported to Duke’s Office of Student Conduct and being subjected to sanctions, being banned from the Career Center’s On-Campus Recruiting program permanently, and forfeiting employment opportunities. 

Attend interviews to which you have committed.

By agreeing to an interview (whether through CareerConnections, email, or phone), you are making a commitment. Should you need or desire to withdraw from an interview, timely notification is a must. 

On-Campus Recruiting Policy: You may remove yourself from an interview schedule no less than two business days prior to your interview. Students who withdraw any later or do not show up will be barred from the On-Campus Recruiting program. Reinstatement will require a letter of apology to the recruiter and a meeting with a Career Center staff member.   

Communicate in a timely manner with employers.

Don’t ignore phone calls and emails from employers as you go through the process of accepting or declining interviews or job offers. If you need more time when determining details such as start dates, relocation information, etc., it is best to be in touch, be straightforward about the reason for delay or uncertainty, and request more time. 

Consider your verbal or written acceptance of an offer a binding contract.

Reneging on an offer is when you accept an offer and later then turn it down. This behavior typically ends any chances of employment with that organization in the future. 

On-Campus Recruiting Policy: Students that renege on a job offer will have their CareerConnections account inactivated and will have to meet with Career Center staff to discuss the particular situation as well as take steps to repair the relationship with the employer. 

End your search upon accepting a position.

Once you have accepted a job or internship, whether verbally or in writing, you must terminate any other hiring-related activity with other employers. This includes contacting employers with whom you are scheduled to interview and removing yourself from candidate pools. 

On-Campus Recruiting Policy: Continuing to pursue other opportunities once you have accepted a position is a violation of the Career Center’s On-Campus Recruiting policies. Your account in CareerConnections will be deactivated and you will be expected to meet with a Career Center staff member to discuss the situation and to work on repairing the relationship with the organization.


It is important to understand the value in using multiple strategies as you think about connecting with employers. At the beginning of a search, much of the contact with employers begins with you, the job seeker, being proactive in making the first contact. As you begin hearing back from employers, it is just as important to respond to them in a timely manner. Your communication with employers should embody professionalism and maturity, right down to your email address and the message on your voicemail. Keep in mind that even during the process of connecting with employers, your candidacy is being evaluated. These first impressions can have a tremendous amount of influence in how employers view you as a candidate.

Use the following as an introduction to some of the resources and programs available to you and find more detail on the Career Center website.


Search and Apply for Internships and Jobs.

CareerConnections is the main tool for jobs and internships posted specifically for Duke students by employers and alumni--as well as all Career Center and employer-hosted events. 

Career Fairs 

The Career Center hosts or sponsors a variety throughout the year. Whether you are actively seeking a position or casually exploring options, a career fair is an excellent opportunity for you to:

  • Apply research skills to acquire information about specific organizations and the kinds of candidates they are seeking.
  • Explore career fields that may be of interest to you and that align with your skills and values.
  • Gain confidence networking by connecting with employers, some of whom are Duke alums.

2017-2018 Career Fairs. Keep an eye on CareerConnections for information about additional fairs.

  • Fall Career Fair— September
  • Nonprofit & Government Career Fair— October
  • Career & Summer Opportunities Fair— January

Employer Information Sessions  

Some employers choose to hold information sessions to build awareness about their organizations and positions (internships and jobs) they are seeking to fill. These sessions are meant to be educational for any student who is considering positions at these organizations. Information sessions are also useful for students who are simply exploring career paths and want to learn more about specific industries.  

Make a great impression on recruiters and connect with potential employers at their information sessions!

  • Dress to impress! A business suit or business casual attire is appropriate. For certain organizations, demonstrating an understanding of their brand and image is also important.
  • Prepare and ask thoughtful questions that indicate you have done research on the employer.
  • Arrive on time!
  • Come early or stay late to introduce yourself to a recruiter on a one-on-one basis.

Next Steps and Selected Resources:
   Search Strategically

▢ Check out our Professional Goal Setting Guide. Goal setting can set you up for success.  
Schedule a career counseling appointment to be sure you are presenting yourself effectively in writing and speech as well as finding opportunities that match your interests.
▢ Utilize Drop-In Advising at Smith Warehouse to get advice the same day you need it, no appointment necessary!
▢ Create an account and routinely check each of these databases to become aware of internships, jobs, and employers.
   ►Internship Series Online    ►CareerConnections     ►LinkedIn  

▢ Use these lists and databases to increase your awareness of opportunities at Duke and beyond.
   ►Short-Term Opportunities  

▢ Refer to these helpful guides.
   ►Interviewing    ►Cover Letter    ►Resume    ►Networking   ►Nine Domains to Find Your Fit    ►Job and Career Research LibGuide