Support Systems and your Job Search

Job Search? Network? Informational Interview? Does the thought of participating in these activities strike a nerve?

“Pass! I’m good. I have some websites I’m using to find a job, but thanks anyway.”

Believe it or not, it is a fact that most of us get jobs when we connect with someone, some person. Connect with a person versus connecting with an electronic application.

One of the key foundational steps in any job search is identifying, building, and using your support system. Your support system serves as your brain trust to learn about new industries and positions that you may not be familiar with. It also­ serves as your net when you feel like you’re falling.

How to Build Your Support System

  1. Begin by making a list of all the people you know. You can include professors, classmates, relatives, neighbors, fellow workers, former acquaintances, bankers, doctors, ministers/religious leaders, professional colleagues, career consultants, etc. These people do not have to know about job openings – but they may know people who know about job openings!
  2. Systematically ask these people if they can refer you to someone who works in an occupation of interest to you or if they can provide you with advice in conducting your job search.
    • Before you begin contacting people on your list, decide what information you want from the contact, such as: company information, the line of work, a referral to someone who may help you or job search advice.
  3. Call these contacts to arrange a brief meeting, or informational interview, by phone, Skype or in person. Tell them who referred you and ask for about 20 minutes of their time to gather information.

If the contact agrees to talk with you, try to arrange an appointment. If the answer is no, ask, “Could you recommend someone else that I could contact?” Then repeat the process. Begin by calling the people who you can talk to most easily. It does get easier with each call!

It’s important to complete the second part of Step 2: Decide what information you want from the contact. Working professionals have full calendars, and they want to help as much as possible. So you need to come to the meeting with fact-finding questions; don’t show up empty handed!

So, I don’t know…do you think I’d be happy in a career like yours?” is NOT a way to impress your contact. They aren’t fortune-tellers, nor do they know you well enough to provide that type of personal insight. Be purposeful with your interview questions. You want the contact to be impressed by your moxie and motivation, not put off by lack of self-awareness.


Questions to ask during your informational interview

  • How did you get started in this business?
  • What are the positive aspects of being in this business?
  • Where do you see the industry heading in the next few years?
  • What are the current career opportunities in the industry?
  • Who would you recommend I contact regarding job opportunities?
  • Is there anything else I should know about the industry?


After your informational interview

Stay in touch! Send a brief thank-you note. Mention that you’ll be in touch with a career update. Be persistent, but not annoying (be remembered for your moxie, not your frequent calls or emails). Ask your contact for recommendations of anyone else in the field you might contact. 

Did you know that the UT Dallas Career Center hosts events and programs to help you build and develop your support system? Check out the Spring 2016 Employer Connection programs in CometCareers and strengthen your support system!

  • Resume ER – Jan. 27 – Get a free resume review from professionals in the field!
  • Career Advice & a Slice – Mar. 4 – Connect with local area professionals over a slice of pizza. Ask them some questions and get the inside scoop on emerging industries.
  • Mock Interview Day – Mar. 9 – Sure, your mom thinks you’re the bee’s knees and can have any job in the world, but your mom isn’t on the interview panel. Get real advice and feedback from hiring managers on your interview skills.
  • Lunch with a Pro – Tuesdays in the Career Center you can connect with area employers in a casual environment while they share tips on career success.


Spring 2016 New Year’s Resolution Challenge

  1. Attend at least 3 Career Center events and actually speak with an industry representative!
  2. Conduct at least 2 informational interviews (one UT Dallas alumnus you found on LinkedIn and one professional who has visited campus).


About the Author

D. Reneé Patchin, MA, NCC, MCC (Sr. Associate Director, Career Center). Reneé has been with the UT Dallas Career Center since July 2014 and oversees our career consultant team. When you visit the Career Center, you can easily identify her office; just keep your eyes and ears open for the Muppets.

Support Systems and your Job Search

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