Help Me, I Need to Be Employed

OCA Managing Editor Stephanie Bailey asked the Career Development Center all the questions you need answered - and more.

As the semester draws to a close, the reality that NYU Shanghai is a four year deal has started to grip a few seniors. There’s that scary thing coming up in the distance and it’s called the future. The future. Soon, we are going to have to leave and do something with our lives that isn’t mindlessly roaming the Academic Building and brooding out of the window of the 2F cafe avoiding stuff. Like, holy shit. Is there anything more daunting than the boundless amount of time we are going to have post-graduation? I’m hyperventilating just thinking about it. So yeah, I’ll grab a bag to breathe into and I’ll type out what Hao Guo and Hiba Dabis from the Career Development Center had to say. They know things. They help.

Here’s some (strictly hypothetical) scenarios:

OCA: I’ve procrastinated starting a cover letter for months and now I’m scared to start. Any advice?

HG: Starting to write a cover letter is not easy for any of us. But the first step is you have to get it started. Writing is thinking. You have to think. You have to have a little bit of a clear picture about what you want to do and some thoughts on that. Have a brainstorm session for yourself. You have to put several things on paper with the help of GAFs, the writing center, the career center. We can all help you to connect all the dots together. But, you have to be the one to generate the content. The first step is to just write something, anything.

OCA: I need to write a resume. What are your tips?

HD: Wow, there’s so much advice. Some top tips that are important to remember… Formatting and grammar and spelling are extremely important. That’s the number one tip that I have for students. Number two, be specific, rather than generic. So, be specific about what you actually did in an internship, or in a research opportunity, or in a volunteering opportunity. Actually say what you did. And the third tip I have for people always is make sure you include results and achievements. So say when you have achieved a target, say when you have had a great result or a great feedback on something. That’s really important.

OCA: I have a low GPA. Can the CDC help?

HG: I think that’s case-by-case. To be very honest the low GPA students have seperate reasons. We are happy to sit down with students to see where they are and what their career goal is like and how we can support them in terms of career direction, exploration, mindset, everything.

HD: We also help to teach how to do research, how to research careers. Because students with a low GPA often think oh I can’t apply to grad schools, I can’t apply to these jobs, because there is a GPA minimum. But, it’s actually only a very small percentage of what the real world looks like, in terms of finding a job. We teach how to identify and look for opportunities that are suitable for them.

OCA: I don’t know what to do in the future and have limited direction. Can you help?

HG: That’s really normal. No one is 100% sure of what they are going to do, especially in this changing world. It’s very normal to have this kind of feeling. So, don’t worry, just come to talk to us. Check with us. Talk to people. We can talk about how to utilise opportunities in Shanghai, in China, in Asia, how to network, how to build up your skills.

HD: But there is a process for figuring it out. It can feel like an overwhelming task. I have no idea what to do with my life. But there is a lot that you can do and that’s what we cover in our one-to-one coaching appointments, about what you could do to help figure it out. The advice I give to most students is that you can do a reactive job search, you go on a jobsite, you go on Careernet, you attend career events and you wait for the opportunities to come to you, or you can do a proactive job search and identify companies that interest you, talk to people in that field, learn about opportunities that are not advertised online. Nowadays it is really important for students to supplement their reactive job search with a proactive job search.

OCA: I know I want a career, but it’s late in the game. What do you do if you have no internships or relevant experience?

HD: It depends on what kind of experience you have. It’s not just internships that matter. There are many students that have great research experience, for example they have done a lot of research with professors or there are students who have done a lot of volunteering. As long as you can showcase skills that an employer is interested in, it is not the end of the world if you haven’t done internships. But, I will caveat that with it has to be relevant to your career goal. For example if you want to become an investment banker and you haven’t done any internships in banking or finance, then that’s a challenge.

OCA: My aspirations for the future are fairly unique and niche. Will the CDC still have resources?

HD: I think there is a misconception that the CDC will connect or place students with specific employers or careers. And we do invite employers on campus in order to help students network and learn about opportunities, but that is only half the purpose of our center. The other half is to teach students how to navigate their own career search process, how to do your own research, how to connect yourself with people who have resources that can help, how to make a career plan and make it happen. It is kind of like teaching a person how to fish, rather than giving them the fish. Those are skills that you guys will need for the rest of your career.

OCA: I want to apply to jobs outside the US and China. Can the CDC help?

HG: Yes, of course yes. But the limitation is that we have a great database back in New York, adn a great database here in China. But the reality is a lot of these opportunities that we have been providing are employers that are multinational companies. They have different offices in different locations over the world. Students can not only think this is a US employer, or this is a Chinese employer. But actually their territory is big and that can open the door for them. We have several good examples of companies that have London offices. Be open and talk to them. And also we give students tools, if they want to look for opportunities in Europe, or other countries, we can give you a strategy of where to start, how to find opportunities there, how to network there.

OCA: Yeah, I’ve procrastinated everything. What do I do?

HD: If someone in general is procrastinating everything or they are afraid to start. That is actually some of the topics that we cover as well with students. So if a student is scared to start or is procrastinating and they don’t know why, that’s actually why they should come and talk to a career coach. It’s ok to feel that way. Many people feel that way. We can work with you to help you identify what is holding you back from starting and think about some strategies that can help you to move forward. Because there are so many resources in this university that you can be directed to. If you don’t know how to use information, I can teach you how to use the library resources, if you need help with your writing, I can direct them accordingly as well. Whatever help it is that you need, you can just come in and say I just don’t know where to start or I’m afraid to start. That is perfectly ok.

OCA: I’ve changed my mind about my career and decided on a crazy switch. What advice would you give?

HD: I recently had a student that was doing actually that. The advice I would give is that it is ok that you have changed your mind, but you can’t make it happen right away. The thing I would say to people that are changing their minds is that your career is a long term game and it’s to change and it’s also ok if it doesn’t happen as soon as you graduate because you can take steps to make it happen a year or two later.

HD: The other thing is that students need to think about their motivation. They need to be able to explain to employers why they are making that switch and to think about their transferable skills, from any internship, or any academic or extracurricular experience that they have done. What are the skills that will apply to this new career, this new goal, that they are thinking about.

OCA: I want to go into a creative field. How do I start?

HG: Profile. Work on your profile. Keep a good record of what you do and put things on it and make it presentable to people. Have the drive to showcase to people what you have been doing.

HD: Surround yourself with people that share your creative interests. That is really important. Just by going to partake in your interest and surrounding yourself with people who participate in your interest, you are going to learn about your industry and you are going to expose yourself to your industry just by showing up.

OCA: I’ve had setbacks. I’ve been rejected. Do you have any advice?

HD: That’s hard, that’s though.

HG: I always ask how many applications have you been submitting and most students say five or ten. To me, that’s very normal and if they are all competitive that’s life. Obviously, try more opportunities and always come back with a why. We can check what was wrong and what was the issue. Identify the issue and restructure the strategy and move forward.

HD: That’s exactly right. You have to understand why you are facing these setbacks.


Extra advice:

OCA: Can you continue to use CDC’s resources after one year?

HG: Yep. I have had a lot of alumni come back to me to seek support. We can make appointments with them on Careernet. You have free access of Careernet for one year after graduation.

OCA: What resources would you recommend outside of the CDC?

HD & HG: Library.

HD: The library has great research resources. To research industries, to research jobs, careers.

HG: The writing center.

HD: And everyone else at the university. Everyone has a vested interest in students when they graduate. Whether it is professors or the deans. Academic advisors. Everyone in this university is very willing to listen and if they can’t help, to redirect you. I won’t even get into all the resources in Shanghai.

OCA: Does everyone need a LinkedIn profile?

HD & HG: Yes.

Steph makes a sad face.

HG: For all kinds of reasons. It’s good for me to keep track of my experience. Before I generated my LinkedIn I had a resume and one day I lost everything off my computer and I forgot what I did in the past. It gives yourself a record of your experience.

OCA: What is the top skill employers are looking for?

HD: Students think that they have to know how to do a specific thing, like you know, a finance model or a scientific program, but actually the feedback that we always get back from employers is that their number one preferred skill that they look for in a candidate is communication skills. So, the ability to communicate verbally or in writing is really crucial and if students want to succeed in any job, that skills is what students need to focus on developing while they are at NYU.



OCA: What kinds of services do offer at the Career Development Center (CDC) to help out lost students?

Hiba Dabis: There are two types of services that we offer. There are employer related services, like our OCR sessions, our recruitment sessions, the career fairs, and all kinds of employer engagement. And then there’s the other side that we call the student development side, which is where we do one-to-one coaching and skills workshops that we do. Workshops on resumes, cover letters, interviewing skills, networking skills, whatever it might be.

OCA: What would you say is your most popular service at the CDC?

HD: This semester I have noticed that the coaching, the one-to-one appointments have been more popular.

HG: From the employer side, the career fair and the OCR sessions, and of course, the platform Careernet. Some students have found jobs or internships through Careernet and we want to develop more on WeChat.

OCA: What would you say is the most underused resource?

HG & HD: Our workshops.

HG: Yes, we have great workshops planned for students. We’d be happy to see more students engage with us at workshops and lectures.

OCA: Are there any services that are new this year?

HG: Some workshops are new.

HD: Because I’m new here I have brought some of my background and experience and we have put on a number of workshops that are not entirely new, but there is a new way of doing them and delivering them. Again, a lot of skills based workshops that are meant to follow the recruitment timeline in the fall. So, when it comes to graduate recruitment, the first thing students think about is making recruitment decisions, what you want to apply to. Then, they have to think about getting their resumes in order, their cover letters in order. Then, they submit those applications, and then it’s time for interviews. We did a workshop on interviewing skills to back that up. We did a workshop on networking skills just before some of the big events, to teach students some of the tools they can use when they go to the career fair, how to approach employers, how to establish professional connections. All the workshops we have designed are meant to compliment the recruitment season. I do feel that they have been under-utilised.

HG: The other thing is we have tried to expand the employer pool, more employer facing events, more talking to different industries. I know a lot of students see a lot of business and finance jobs based on the recruitment timeline. But, the CDC on purpose, schedules a lot of NGOs, education, global awards related events. We have tried to promote more from November for our NGO related industries to come to campus.

OCA: What kind of careers can the CDC help with?

HD: We can help with all careers. Any career interest.

HG: Or grad school exploration.

OCA: When would you recommend students visit the CDC?

HG: All classes. With different concerns actually. We want them to come to talk to us as early as possible to identify their interest. More exploration. We don’t advise them to rush into any careers at an early age, like freshmen or sophomores. But we will definitely have an action plan, individually, if they come to talk to us.

HD: I would also say at any point in time that a student is feeling stuck. Anytime you are stuck with anything that is related to your future, just come and see us. If you have any questions, or if you don’t know how to move forward with your career plans or with what you want to do, or just figuring out what it is that you want to do, just come and see us.

This article was written by Stephanie Bailey. Please send an email to to get in touch.

Photo Credit:  Career Development Center

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