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Career Development

If you need help writing a cover letter, developing your résumé or CV, preparing for an interview, or strategizing about your upcoming job or internship search—you’ve come to the right place.

The CIPA Office of Career Management is here to assist you with all of your career needs throughout your tenure at CIPA and as an alumnus

To make an appointment with a career counselor, please contact:
Millie Reed
Assistant Director, Office of Career Management
190 Caldwell Hall  (*Send mail to 294 Caldwell)

Career Services Include:

  • Confidential advising appointments: explore strengths, identify interests, map out career goals, and discuss job/internship search strategy. Please bring a current résumé or CV with you to each appointment.
  • Interviews: Schedule a time to do a mock interview. You will need to provide a copy of your current résumé, a description of the job for which you are applying, and any other available application materials. Following the mock interview, you will receive feedback on your presentation. (Telephone/Skype, Behavioral, Case (consulting), and Finance (banking).)
  • Career Development Workshops: Sessions on a variety of career topics are offered each semester and are listed on the CIPA Events Calendar (link to Events Calendar).

The following resources will be instrumental in helping you develop your career plan.

  1. The Self-Assessment & Career Exploration Guide can be used as to map out your career steps during your two years at CIPA.
  2. Complete the Career Interests Survey as a first-year Fellow.
  3. As a second-year Fellow, please complete the Second-Year Individual Development Plan – including an inventory of interests, strengths, and weaknesses, and a list of target organizations.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the comprehensive, online Career Resources Toolkit. It offers a multitude of free, career development resources.

1. The Top Five Strengths Exercise (Part 1) (Part 2)

Whether you are a first second year graduate student, whether you are seeking an internship, grad school acceptance, full-time work, or a volunteer role, your chances of success will depend largely upon your being able to explain:

  • What you want to do
  • Why you are qualified to do it. 

Once you have some ideas as to what you want to do, completing the Top Five Strengths Exercise (Part 1) (Part 2) can be a BIG help in: 

  • Exploring careers –knowing your favorite strengths makes it easier to find ways to engage them
  • Identifying suitable positions without worrying about job titles, i.e., you tell people the strengths you wish to use and they suggest options
  • Conveying a sense of career direction before you have focused on a particular position or role
  • Writing personal statements, resumes, cover letters, applications, and conducting interviews
  • Gaining confidence – this is especially key to a successful interview

2. Cornell Career Services

You may be referred to Cornell Career Services (CCS) for additional self-assessment tools such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). After taking one of the assessments, you can meet with a CCS career advisor to review the results. Note: These services are for current Fellows only.

Your résumé is key to your job search. You will be presenting it to many potential employers. You may also use it as a “calling card,” offering it to people who could be valuable contacts in your field. In writing an effective résumé, your goal is to describe your key experiences and accomplishments in a way that resonates with employers and other readers. It is a summary of your education, employment history, experiences and qualifications. If your résumé is already good, then focus on making it great. When you think you’ve made it great, concentrate on making it stellar.

One version of your résumé is not enough. Each time you apply to a new position, you will want to tailor the design and substance of your résumé and cover letter to target the needs of the individual company and position to which you are applying.

Please plan on filing one version of your résumé with the CIPA Office of Career Management. Because we use these résumés for reaching out to employers en masse, we ask that this version conform to the CIPA template. This template is based on best practices in résumé writing, as well as feedback from alumni and employers. Collection and presentation of our Fellows’ résumés is one of our most visible and effective marketing tools for conducting employer outreach. It is vital that all résumés be professional, effective and free of spelling and grammatical errors. Résumés that do not conform to the CIPA template format will not be included in CIPA résumé collections*.

* If your résumé is withdrawn from a résumé collection, you will be notified by the Office of Career Management and you can meet with a staff member to review concerns. Please note that based upon the organization you are applying to, you may need a federal style résumé or a CV.

Preparing Your Résumé

Please refer to the guidelines and the sample résumé below to develop your CIPA résumé.

  • Consider attending the CIPA Career Networking events in Washington, DC or New York City to conduct employer outreach and network for positions private, public, nonprofit NGO, and international development sectors.
  • LinkedIn – Join the Official CIPA LinkedIn networking group to connect with alumni, fellows, faculty, staff and friends
  • Review and contact individuals on LinkedIn based upon your career goals; conduct informational interviews
  • Schedule an appointment to meet with a career advisor to discuss career options and strategy. You must bring a résumé to this meeting.
  • Attend alumni events, CIPA Colloquia, Public Affairs Roundtables, employer presentations, and conduct informational interviews.
  • Attend the following career fairs:

It happens to many of us at some point: We reach a dead end in our job search or have hit a wall in our career growth. No amount of LinkedIn connecting, job post reading, or online researching can answer our tough questions so we actually need to sit down and ask someone for advice.

Career advice articles will call this "informational interviewing," but I'd rather call it "relationship building." Relationship building implies making authentic connections with people who could become friends, mentors, or maybe future colleagues. And real conversations are where the magic is.

The power of informational interviews

In my recent search, I knew what I wanted (a career in sustainable fashion) and knew a bit about the field, but I was still an outsider to the industry. And as an outsider, I had a lot of questions about how I would fit in: What job titles should I search for? Where my skills would apply best? How certain individuals do end up with these coveted CSR jobs in the first place?!

But it wasn't until after my search that a friend told me I had done something unique. Over the course of my search, I became really good at sending cold emails, getting a 100% response rate, and truly enjoying the conversations I was having. I didn't mean to engage in "informational interviewing," I just love meeting people and had questions that I couldn't get answered any other way. I was living in a city where I wasn't meeting people interested in what I wanted to do, so I had to search for them.

How you can get started

Somehow at the end, I had a job without asking for one; I just wanted answers to my questions. So before we started, get rid of your expectations of talking to someone and magically getting a job. Done? Ok, now let's focus on having a great engaging conversation with someone you admire.

Identify what you want to learn

Whether you are focused on one field or you are feeling quite lost, reflect on where it is that you are stuck. What are your questions that you wish you could have answered? It could be as broad as, "Would my job experience be helpful at a nonprofit?" Or it could be as specific as, "What type of experience do I have to have to work in the CSR department?"

Take time to make your questions thoughtful: the more thoughtful the questions, the more likely you'll get a response.

Identify who might be able to help you

Now that you know what you want answered, you need to find someone to talk to. If your questions are really broad ("What do I do with my life?"), consider meeting with a career advisor.But if your questions are more specific to your goals or interests, finding someone who shares that experience will be really helpful.

I started by reaching out to my own address book.Did I know anyone who could answer my questions? Did I know anyone who could introduce me to someone who could answer my questions, even if it was a distant contact?

Start with your personal networks: friends and family, your high school and university alumni associations, and any clubs or organizations you might belong to. Truly use all of the networks you're already a part of: a response is much more likely when you have a shared connection. Send an email to friends; peruse your undergraduate alumni network directory online. Obtain referrals from the CIPA Office of Career Management.Join the Official CIPA LinkedIn group to connect with alumni, faculty and staff.

No luck? Then try the cold outreach. Think about whom you admire. Can you find a way to get in touch with them? Did you read an article that mentioned someone who inspired you? Did you find someone on LinkedIn with your dream job and you want to know how she got there? Put on your detective cap, and see if you can track down an email address.

Reach out

Now that you have the name and contact information of someone you'd like to connect with, it's time to start the conversation. Rule #1: Always email; no phone calls. You get more opportunity to spell out why you'd like to connect, and your potential connection is given time to respond on their own schedule without interruption.

A great introductory email should include:

  • How you learned of this person (i.e. "my friend Jane" or "through an Idealist article")
  • Mention any shared connections or interests
  • A brief summary of what you are doing now, what you hope to do, and where you are stuck/what you want to do
  • Why you think this person could be helpful ("I find your experience inspiring" or "It's great to see a fellow alum with similar interests to myself")
  • A very simple request to connect. Here's what I found helpful: "If you would be willing to have a conversation by email or a phone (or Skype), I would be incredibly grateful."

What an introductory email should NEVER include:

  • A request for a job
  • A suggestion of meeting over a full meal (too long!) or alcohol (too unprofessional!)
  • Your whole life story. Give them enough information to understand your present situation, but not the whole thing.

Can you follow up?

Yes. Once. Give them at least a full week before you email again. Can you include your resume or a link to your LinkedIn profile? Yes. You can say… "I'm attaching my resume for your reference."


If you've received a response and set up a time, congratulations! You're already prepared: You have a list of specific questions and a time to talk to someone who potentially has a ton of experience you can learn from.

Before your "interview" time, take 20 minutes to review your questions, read the LinkedIn profile and/or bio from the organization website of the person you're speaking to and the history of their organization, and then just be yourself.

Use this time to learn by asking thoughtful questions and listening to their answers. One of the best questions to open up the conversation is to ask: "How did you get to where you are?" which allows them to tell you a bit about their journey. And, as I mentioned earlier, ask for advice, not a job.

Say "Thank you"

Send an email or a hand written card to follow up, regardless of how the conversation went. Be grateful and be specific about what you enjoyed about the conversation – this will show your appreciation as well as help make your connection memorable. Share anything you promised to follow up on, and feel free to include a reminder if they promised to help you out ("Thank you for offering to introduce me to your colleague. I look forward to talking/meeting them!").

Depending on how your conversation went, keep in touch! You might feel comfortable sending updates, perhaps if you see a job posting or your situation changes.

At the end of the day, if it was an engaging conversation, this is the beginning of a relationship, not a one-off "interview." Relationships require nurturing and sharing, so don't forget to give too.

Written by Rebecca Magee, Social Consciousness Coordinator at EILEEN FISHER, Inc. (Edited by MR/CIPA 8.1.14)

Informational Interview Handout

There are a variety of resources available for researching sectors of interest. Part of this research may involve online review of sector and employer information, as well as networking with individuals in the field.

  • Consult Career Field Guides. These guides, listed by sector, include valuable information on career opportunities, career paths and entry level salaries, qualifications necessary to enter the field, listings of sample employers, future challenges for the profession, and resources for more information.
  • Analyze CIPA graduates’ past employment outcomes
  • Vault Guides (available to current Cornell students only) – includes more than 70 industry, employer, and career guides (downloads are free).
  • Wetfeet Career Resource Site - provides insightful profiles of companies, careers, and industries to guide job seekers toward finding the right career, industry, company and the right job for them.
  • International Student Guide to Employment in the U.S

Cornell Career Services (CCS) is part of the Academic Support Group of Cornell's Division of Student and Academic Services. They offer centralized services in Barnes Hall, plus services in each undergraduate college and the Graduate School, to meet the diverse needs of the Cornell student population. Resources including self-assessment, effective résumé and cover letter writing, interview skills, and informational interviewing.

Career Services offers an extremely valuable web-based system to bring you career-related information, job and internship postings, on-campus recruitment opportunities, and alumni mentor contacts. This site is strictly limited to use by Cornell students, faculty, and alumni. You will want to register for CCNet here.

The main career library, 103 Barnes Hall, serves all Cornell students. It is one of the largest in the country, consisting of approximately 605 books, 518 websites, MP3s, and paper files of career development resources, information on law schools, medical schools, and test prep materials. There are three kiosks for conducting library database searches in 103 Barnes Hall as well as a media room for accessing the web, printing information, and using other media. Hours are 8:00 am—4:30 pm, Monday—Friday, year-round. Numerous additional online resources can be found by visiting the Cornell Library information page.

Also, each College Career Office has a career library with resources relating specifically to the academic offerings of that college. Several have career library databases (see the links below).