Career Building

Is it too Early for my First-Year Student to Start Thinking about a Career?

The time has arrived when your son or daughter has headed out of your door and into the door of their first dorm room. This experience is often nerve-wracking not only for your student, but for you as a parent as well. Your student’s first few weeks of college will probably be strange and sometimes difficult for them. Most students cannot even begin to imagine what college will be like before they start because none of the experiences they have had thus far are comparable. Even though it seems impossible to some, your student will soon find themselves at home at Carnegie Mellon. They will find numerous orientations, fairs, and clubs that will pique their interest and help them to integrate into the community. Along with getting to know their new school and making friends, students should also start thinking about what they want to get out of their time at CMU.



“It is Winter Break and I don’t have any offers- now what?”

What to do over break, aside from Netflix Bingeing

While a break is a time to rest and rejuvenate before the coming semester, it is beneficial to put in some work on the job hunt! Even over the short winter break there are many things a student can do to facilitate the job search process. Here are several tips you can suggest to help guide your student through the process.

  • Apply to jobs or internships you‘re interested in. You’ll never get the job if no one knows you wanted it! Stay organized. If you need to, create a chart and set a goal for yourself such as apply to five jobs/internships a week.


  • If you don’t have some jobs or internships in mind, log onto TartanTRAK and check out your recommended jobs. Research companies and opportunities available at companies coming to the spring EOC (Employment Opportunities Conference). Create a list of companies you’d be interested in working for and learn about what positions they have open. If you’re still stumped, check out the employers that have hired CMU students in the past (



  • Brush up on interview skills. Try the CPDC’s resource Impress (accessed through TartanTRAK) and record yourself answering common interview questions.


  • Update your social media, make sure your privacy settings are the way you’d like them and KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL! Remove anything you wouldn’t want your grandma to see!
    • Create, or update your LinkedIn profile.
      • Make sure to include a picture (appropriate and professional), update your “About Me” section, add your “Skills/expertise” and complete all areas to the best of your ability.
      • Join the CMU Alumni Networking Group.
      • Use the free trial of the premium version to get additional insights into jobs and your applications.
      • Ask for letters of recommendation


  • Develop a list of people you would like to speak with
    • Family, friends, neighbors, professors you know
    • Professionals in your field that you may or may not know
    • Send an email to your old bosses, supervisors, colleagues, etc.
    • Talk with family, friends, and friend’s parents about your job search

The more people you connect with, the better!

  • If applicable, explore graduate school options

****The CPDC staff is available for meetings (phone, Skype, or face-to-face) with students during the break.  Students can schedule a meeting through their TartanTRAK account and indicate whether they would like a phone, Skype, or face-to-face meeting.  To request an advising appointment, students should use the Schedule an Appointment link off of the CPDC homepage.****

Career Exploration and Networking through Job Shadowing

The Career and Professional Development Center offers students experiential learning opportunities that can help them navigate their unique career paths. The Take a Tartan to Work job shadowing program is an excellent resource that allows students to explore a career field by visiting a host professional at their business or organization. The first-hand experience can help them in choosing a major, assessing their fit in a work environment, or preparing for a summer or professional job search.

The Take a Tartan to Work Job Shadowing program is offered to undergraduate students each year during Winter and Spring breaks. During Winter Break, alumni from around the United States will be offering job shadowing opportunities between January 5-9, 2015.

To participate, students must apply online and submit a resume through TartanTRAK (beginning November 5th), our online job recruiting system. Students will be matched based on their industry interest and geographic region.

It is a great way for your student to connect with current CMU alumni and employers at great companies and to explore a career field while gaining valuable professional experience and networking contacts. And… a productive way to spend time off during their school break!

Take a Tartan to Work Job Shadowing Program

The Take a Tartan to Work job shadowing program is a valuable way to allow alumni (or parents), to provide students hands-on exposure to assess their “fit” in different work environments, clarify career goals and direction and better understand the connection between academics and the world of work. As an employer volunteer, or “host”, you will be expected to host a student between January 5th and 16th during the student’s winter break and help the student experience a typical day at your work. Students will be matched with hosts based on their shared industry interests.

A few students from last year agreed to share their experiences with the program.

“The most beneficial part was being able to work collaboratively with the other student shadower on a company research project that the two partners in the firm will actually use in their upcoming trip.” -Statistics major, 2016

“It was definitely helpful to realize that I don’t want to work in a place like that!” -Psychology major, 2017

“The most beneficial part was asking each person what skills are most useful and what they wished they had learned. This allowed me to bring the experiences to immediate relevance. I learned a lot about the field of lobbying and made some really great connections with the people in the office.” -Social & Decision Science major, 2015

If you are interested in participating please fill out the following registration form.

Host registration Form

Introducing Tartan Talks: Informational Interview Series

The Career and Professional Development Center is excited to announce a new option to the Take a Tartan to Work (TATTW) Job Shadowing program beginning fall 2014. In addition to offering students job shadowing opportunities, we will offer informational interviews called Tartan Talks. Our goal is to provide students with more networking opportunities and ways to learn about their career path.

We would like to invite interested parents of Carnegie Mellon students to volunteer as hosts for this program. Students who sign up will be matched with a host based on their mutual industry/field of interest for a short discussion via Skype or phone.

If you would like to participate, complete the form below and be sure to indicate your interest in job shadowing or informational interviews, or both. For questions about the program, contact Pati Kravetz, Associate Director for Experiential Learning and Student Employment, at
Job Shadowing Host Application

Please provide responses as appropriate on this form. Once your application is received, a staff member from the CPDC will contact you with more details. Thank you in advance for volunteering!

CPDC Approach to the Career Search

Will my daughter get a job? Should my son aim for an internship as a sophomore? How does CMU help students find a career that is a good fit?  These and similar questions are asked by parents all the time and one of the reasons the Career and Professional Development Center launched “myCAREER PATH”.  By simplifying the process and stressing the interwoven approach, the CPDC aims to provide students with a career exploration approach that will serve them in their present and future career efforts.


My Career, My Way

The Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC) believes each person is unique – and thus each person’s career journey will be unique. We also realize working on one’s career journey will often fall outside of traditional business hours.  Knowing this, in addition to face-to-face meetings and in-person workshops, the CPDC offers self-paced and self-directed career resources to CMU students and alumni.

Personalized, comprehensive career development allowing you to follow Andrew Carnegie’s words: “My heart is in the work.”


The CMU Career and Professional Development Center offers a variety of resources to understand your individual “mySelf.” Interest assessments delivered by certified practitioners, individual career consultations, and online career databases can help you verbalize the skills you have developed through your work, academics, meta-curricular activities, travels, etc.  However, your “mySelf” is much more than WHAT you can do; it is about WHO you are.  What are your values, interests, and priorities at this stage in your life? Possible activities in the “mySelf” arena:

  • Individual career counseling session to discuss self-evaluation
  • Personalized self-assessment interpretations
  • Directed online research
  • Speak with family, friends, and mentors about how they perceive you, your strengths, and persona
  • Take time for self-reflection using an examination of conscience


Knowing who you are and what you want allows you to tell your “myStory.” Having a coherent, comprehensive, and consistent “myStory” will allow others to understand your aspirations and how they may be able to help you reach your goals. You have a tale to tell the outside world; let the CPDC help you with your “myStory” by:

  • Personalization of your resume, curriculum vitae, personal statement, and other application materials to specific audiences
  • Instruction on your verbal presentation through mock interviews and “30-second pitch” practice
  • Education concerning non-verbal messages communicated through appearance, body language, and etiquette
  • Coaching on a creation of a comprehensive outwardly facing presentation including online presence through social media


Who do you know and who knows you?  You may be surprised when you begin to consider all the people who are in your life.

Family – Friends – Faculty – Advisors – Career Center Staff – Coaches – Neighbors – Recruiters – Coworkers – Supervisors – Members of Professional Organizations and Social Media Groups – Alumni – Mentors – Greek Life Members – Classmates

If any of the people on the list above would call you and request 20 minutes of your time to talk or reach out to you to ask for your help, would you be willing to accept their outreach?  So would they if you only ask.

The CPDC will work with you to mobilize your “myConnections” to enlist their help with your exploration.  It takes a village; let the CPDC work with you to help you rally your village behind your efforts.

Making the Most of Your Student’s Summer

Students need time during the summer to rest after a difficult academic year.  Long days and nights of projects, papers, and tests will wear down everyone at some point and thus recharging one’s batteries is a priority during the summer break.  While catching up on sleep is important, the summer should also be used to build one’s career foundation.  In this blog installment, the Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC) offers a handful of tips of how students can make the most of their summer break and be ready to tackle the upcoming academic year.

Be the Rockstar Employee: Students who have a summer experience (work, intern, volunteer, etc.) should strive to set the bar high at their workplace.  By not focusing on the minimum but rather looking to excel, students can help their career foundation.  The “rockstar” employee is the one who completes projects on-time (or early) and ensures the project is completed at a high level.  The “rockstar” asks for feedback and then implements the suggestions in order to improve his/her performance.  Finally, after taking care of all assigned projects in a timely fashion and at an superior level, the “rockstar” volunteers or asks for additional projects.

When summer employees do these steps, they are often assigned or pulled into higher level projects.  Because of this experience, the “rockstar” leaves the summer experience with a strong reference and much to add to his/her resume.  Future interviewers will be impressed when your son or daughter speaks to how they were invited to work on a mission critical project during the summer.

Make the Most of Any Job: Last fall a student came into the CPDC and asked to have her resume reviewed prior to a career fair.  During the past summer, the student had worked as a server in a busy restaurant.  On her resume and in conversation she described the role not as taking orders, delivering food, processed payments but as working in a time pressed situation, ensuring accuracy, offering recommendations to customers, earning the second-highest tip average among servers, and developing skills such as communication, problem solving, and management.  She also shared that she asked her supervisor if she could arrive early and shadow him in order to learn about inventory, ordering, personnel management, marketing and budgeting for the restaurant.

While many students will have summer roles such as sales associates, server, lifeguard, etc. – especially first year and sophomore students – making the most of any opportunity can put a student in a better place for the following summer.  This student can speak to more topics from her summer experience than just waiting on tables; she used the summer opportunity to its fullest capacity.

Career Exploration Through Informational Interviewing: If students are honest with themselves, the vast majority will say they do not know what they want to do after graduation.  Some students may have an idea or two of possible career fields, so why not encourage them to take the remaining summer months to conduct some exploration through informational interviewing.  Research possible career fields online and then reach out to family, friends, neighbors, and Carnegie Mellon alumni and ask for a 15-20 minute phone call.  It is always best to talk to a handful of actual professionals in a target field as opposed to only online research.

The CPDC has a resource students can use to help make the prospect of informational interviewing less intimidating.  Most professionals are willing to share career information with students and the outreach can help your student return to campus with a more focused idea of possible career paths.

This summer, let your students rest up and recharge their batteries. But also encourage them to make the most of this time by implementing some of the above ideas to help advance their career planning efforts.  It could lead to an even better summer in 2015.

****The CPDC staff is available for meetings (phone, Skype, or face-to-face) with students during the summer.  Students only need to schedule a meeting through their TartanTrak account and indicate whether they would like a phone, Skype, or face-to-face meeting.  To request an advising appointment, students should use the Schedule an Appointment link off of the CPDC homepage.****



Who We Are and What We Do

Our hope for every Carnegie Mellon student is that when they leave CMU they will be able to successfully and independently navigate their career path. We strive to educate students on how best to present themselves in everything from their online presence, to cover letters and resumes, job interviews, and more. We do this in a variety of ways. We offer individual career counseling, with career consultants assigned by college (College of Engineering, College of Fine Arts, etc.). Students may schedule a meeting with their career consultant by logging into TartanTRAK, our online system. TartanTRAK is also where students can view our upcoming events, see which employers are holding information sessions on campus, connect with recruiters, apply for jobs (including student employment), and sign up for interviews.

Students can meet with their career consultant to go over anything from the basics—how to write a cover letter and a resume—to discussing what career options interest them, or to engaging in a practice interview (among many other things). In addition to our career consultants we have 14 Career Peer Mentors (CPMs). CPMs are students that work in the Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC), and have been trained on how to help freshmen and sophomores with some of the CPDC’s services. They also run a variety of career workshops. CPMs are available in our office for drop-in resume reviews, and they conduct workshops on a regular basis in the residence halls. They are also available to provide workshops on specific subjects that can be requested by campus groups (e.g., by Greek organizations, clubs, etc.) We see almost all majors, with the exception of Tepper MBA students, Heinz college students, Ebiz having their own career centers or career counselors. [. Maybe: “We see almost all majors, with the exception of Tepper MBA students, Heinz college students, and Ebiz, entities which have their own career centers or career counselors. Is there a group called Ebiz? E&TIM or ETC maybe???]

We encourage students to visit with their career counselor regularly. We don’t want students to wait until senior year to come visit! The more we get to know each individual, the better assistance we can provide. We hope that students take advantage of as many of the CPDC’s resources as possible, which will assist tremendously as they progress along each step of their career path.


Starting the Job/Internship Off on the Right Foot

Whether starting a new internship, summer job, volunteer experience, or first full-time job, the transition from college to the workplace can be nerve-wracking. The advice below offers strategies to ease the transition. Please share this information with your student or graduate as they navigate their first days in the workplace. Hopefully being prepared will soothe the nerves inherently associated with beginning something new.

Before the first day, a new employee should:

  • Have all paperwork for Human Resources organized (if not already completed). Students who are unsure if all necessary paperwork has been completed should contact the company’s human resources office. During that call, students should ask what they will need to bring on the first day (e.g. social security card, passport, driver’s license, etc.).
  • Know the dress code of the office, the hours they are expected to work, parking or other transportation situation, and any arrival procedures (e.g., check in with security or their supervisor when they arrive).
  • Find out whether there is a cafeteria or if they will need to bring lunch.
  • Complete a test commute a few days before the first day of work. Ideally the test commute will be during the same time as a normal work commute.
  • Research the company and industry to learn as much as possible about the current products/services/goals of the organization. Industry research will allow the employee to understand the major industry forces her/his new boss and colleagues may be dealing with.

On the first day a new employee should:

  • Arrive early to meet their supervisor and get assignments for the day.
  • If possible, schedule some time with their supervisor to go over expectations (workload, attendance, dress, communication methods, deliverables, etc.) and what projects they will be assigned. If they’ve done their research on the company (as they should) this may be a good time to mention his/her interest in a project they heard about.
  • Take advantage of opportunities that arise at work. It is a great way to make connections and learn more about the company.

Other helpful tips to share with your student:

  • Don’t be the last one in or the first to leave.
  • Avoid taking long lunches.
  • Leave problems at home; you’re there to work.
  • Update your supervisor on your progress, or lack of it. If you are having issues it is best to address them before it becomes a larger problem. Also, there is no need to update them on every step (unless asked to do so). Ask questions if you have them. It shows you care about doing the work correctly.
  • If you successfully complete your current projects/assignments, take the initiative to ask for more. It is hard for supervisors to gauge workload of new employees and your initiative can help your supervisor see you as a top performer.
  • Limit socialization and stay off social media (unless it is part of the job). Think of an internship as a three-month long interview.
  • Remember to stay positive and show interest in your role. Even if the company decides not to offer a full-time role after a summer internship, receiving a good recommendation is important for the future.
  • Maintain a professional attitude in all situations, even activities outside of work with fellow co-workers.
  • Don’t bring a smelly lunch. J


Before employees leave their internship (or job) they should:

  • Start their professional network by inviting coworkers to connect on LinkedIn.
  • Set up an exit interview, if the company does not require this already. This is a good time to ask for a letter of recommendation.
  • Thank coworkers, fellow interns, supervisors, and anyone else who may have helped them successfully navigate their job or internship.
  • Update their resume right away while all the information is fresh.
  • Consider sharing their experience with other students at the Internship Showcase program in January (returning students only).

If your student is seeking extra advice, Chloe Hawker, one of the Career and Professional Development Center’s Career Peer Mentors (CPMs), writes a personal blog which includes lessons she learned during her internship in Washington, D.C. Here are a few of Chloe’s tips to share with your student or graduate;

Hopefully this advice eases some nerves on both your part and your student or graduate’s. Encourage them to reach out to us directly if they have questions; even during the summer and after graduation, the Career and Professional Development Center is always here to help!


No job? No internship? No problem?

As the end of the school year approaches students (and parents of the students) who have not yet secured a summer opportunity or full-time job may be starting to panic, but it is not too late! While many positions have already been filled, that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities still available. The job search process may need to be reframed at this time of year. Rachel Amos, assistant director for employer development and career counselor for the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, offers her advice on what to tell your student about looking for jobs during crunch time.

  1. “First, tell them to know what they are looking for. This is important so that they can cater their resume to those types of industries or jobs.”  A more general resume makes it difficult to stand out among other applicants.
  2. Second, “Tell them not to be deterred if they read a job description and think they can’t do it. No one has ever fit 100% of a job description. The skills they do have are more important.”
  3. “Be open to searching in creative ways. While TartanTRAK is a great resource for your student, they can use LinkedIn, their academic advisors, professors, career counselors, and the alumni network. There are more things to utilize than just Utilize all resources!”
  4. “Most importantly, students need to be able to articulate their strengths and to tell employers what they can offer, this could even be step one. If you don’t think you are valuable, people will agree.” Be confident and use confident language in your application materials.

Many students hit a mental road block while searching for a “perfect” job or internship, adding unnecessary stress. “The first job is not the last job.  It does not have to be your dream job as long as the role allows you to develop professionally,” says Amos. “Consider your options; it is not going to be perfect. It’s your first job out of college. Be open to the experience you will gain.”

There is no shame in continuing to look over the summer, there is no deadline. It doesn’t hurt to take a temporary role while continuing your search.  Those jobs help develop skills that can apply in many different careers. For example, providing good customer service in a stressful and hectic environment is useful in any industry.

Kevin Collins, assistant director and career consultant for the school of computer science, offers additional advice for students still seeking.

“If you did not attend some of the big job fairs, go back and look at the companies that attended and check their job postings. If there are companies you talked to and didn’t hear anything from- reconnect. Tell them you are still interested. Look at the stats on our website about where students went to work last year- jobs or internships- check those websites because they hired our people in past.”


Last year the CPDC hosted the first “Final Countdown” event geared towards students who are still seeking in the final days before graduation/summer break. This year the event will take place the Thursday and Friday before graduation (May 15th and 16th). The CPDC will have career counselors available to check over cover letters and resumes, and to guide students of where to look to for opportunities.