Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) – For Students
Exploring Careers and Majors
Applying to Jobs and Internships
If I am interested in exploring a career outside of my major/course, should I meet with the assigned advisor for my current major or the advisor for the major I am newly interested in?
Typically students are encouraged to make appointments with the career advisor assigned to their current major. In this instance however a student should make an appointment with the career advisor designated for the new major of interest. When setting the appointment through Handshake, it is recommended that the student share the reason for the meeting within the appointment note.
What should I do when an employer is not abiding by MIT’s recruiting policies?
Sharing information with CAPD about employers not abiding by MIT’s recruiting policies is incredibly important to helping CAPD protect students and foster positive recruiting practices with employers. Students should set-up an appointment with a staff member to discuss their concerns. It is recommended that students also provide CAPD with all email correspondence or notes about the situation so that together the staff member and student can determine the best course of action. Please note that CAPD will not contact an employer directly about a specific situation without the consent of the student.
How should I handle a non-compete/disclosure agreement which is part of my job offer?
Note down all your concerns in the Agreement and then call the person that gave you the offer and share with them your concerns. Mention that you’re uncomfortable signing the Confidentiality Agreement because of things such as the length of time it applies to you after you’ve left the company. If they don’t change it for you, you will have to make a tough decision. When talking about the agreement, make it clear you are excited about going to the company and say that it is something you want to do – but you aren’t comfortable with the terms of the agreement as they stand. Ultimately you will need to make a decision to accept the position and the stipulations of the agreement or not. We advise you to talk to a career advisor and/or MIT’s Office of General Counsel about your concerns.
What is the proper way to address someone you have met for the first time?
The best way to address people is to address them in the way they prefer. If they have introduced themselves using their first names, then that’s what they want you to call them. When sending emails to people you’ve met briefly, it’s always helpful to include a reminder of where you were introduced. If you can’t recall how someone introduced themself, the thing to do is to err on the side of conservatism and use Mr./Ms./Mx./Dr. and the last name or a position title (Director, Vice President, etc.) and the last name if that individual is in a leadership position. Then, in the person’s return email, pay attention to how he or she closes the email. If the individual just writes the first name, that’s an indicator that the employer prefers to use the first name. If they use a first and last name, then stick with the more formal method.
I have medical problems that require me to leave MIT and postpone my job search. How should I discuss this with employers?
The best thing to do is to be up front with your contacts about your new situation. For those companies that you had to postpone or cancel interviews, send an email to the contact and tell them what happened in general terms.
- Assure them that you intend to make a strong recovery and not have this be an issue later on if that is the case. It would be good to mention something to that effect that remains honest relative to your situation.
- Be very matter of fact, while only including the information you’re comfortable with.
- Wrap up your conversation or email by saying that you are still interested in working at that organization and that you hope to reapply the following year. Let them know to get in touch with you if they have any other questions.
A sample email: Dear ______________, Thank you again for the opportunity to interview for the ___________ position. The health-related events that required me to postpone the interview have also made it necessary for me to take a leave from MIT for the remainder of this semester and next semester while I recuperate. I plan to resume my studies in the fall of 2013 and graduate in the spring of 2014.
I don’t meet all the requirements listed in a job description. Can I still apply?
Do not be discouraged about not fulfilling all the requirements they listed. Many times, companies write up job descriptions with this imaginary perfect person in mind. The qualities they might be seeking are not always held by just one person and even if a person like that does exist, there’s nothing to say that he or she is looking for work. Try to hit some of the requirements and make the point that you are a quick learner with the type of mind that picks up new skills quickly. If they ask you about those skills that you don’t have, just say you are excited to learn them and confident you can do it in short order. Providing examples of how you have been a quick learner in the past can also help the employer in feeling confident in your ability to transition to the position quickly.
I’ve received an offer for a full time position but haven’t heard back fom other companies yet. Should I take the first offer I receive?
Make the decision based on the content of the job, environment, and compensation. The fact that this is your first offer should count for very little. If you like the offer, accept. If you have concerns about the position you’ve been offered it is advised that you discuss the concerns with your contact, and if necessary hold off on accepting and try to look at other places.
What should I do if I find an opportunity through an employer that did not use Handshake for recruiting?
Even if you find an opportunity outside of CAPD or Handshake our office will still advocate on your behalf and ask that the employer abide by MIT’s recruiting policies. If the employer is not abiding by the policies, inform him or her of the MIT recruiting policies the same way you would if they had recruited you through the MIT. After contacting the employer with this information if you were still unable to successfully negotiate a later offer deadline or other need, please contact a member of the CAPD Employer Relations team via email providing the staff member with consent to contact the employer directly to advocate on your behalf. In your request for assistance, please be sure to provide full contact information for the employer you would like us to contact and also include any email correspondence with the employer or notes you have surrounding the situation. CAPD will not contact an employer without your written consent.
What types of items am I likely to find in a job or internship offer?
In your job or internship offer, it should include all necessary factors to help you make your decision. These include, but are not exclusive to:
- Job Title
- How you will be paid (weekly, bi-monthly, monthly)
- Health Benefits (not necessarily applicable to internships)
- Vacation Days
- 401K Plan or Retirement Plan (not applicable to internships)
In some cases you may also be provided some of the following if applicable: the name of your supervisor or assigned, team/group, performance review process, specific % of yearly increase, signing bonus, relocation reimbursement, housing assistance, stock options, yearly bonus, profit sharing plans, memberships/perks
I have a full-time job offer. Should I negotiate?
Students are encouraged to review our step-by-step advice provided on the Negotiate page to determine if they need to negotiate and to learn the process of negotiating. It is important to know that 100% of employers find it acceptable to negotiate job offers, and 90% of employers want their applicant to accept and be satisfied/happy with the final offer. Ninety percent (90%) of employers offer less initially because they expect to negotiate, but only about 25% of job applicants actually negotiate!
I recently changed my citizenship status. How can I update my Handshake profile citizenship status so that I can be eligible for jobs requiring citizenship information?
Student information is gathered from the Registrar’s office and downloaded into Handshake at the start of each semester. If your citizenship status has changed please email the CAPD Employer Relations team at firstname.lastname@example.org and include your full name and MIT Student ID# so that we can verify the change through the Registrar’s office. Please allow up to two business days to see changes in your Handshake profile.
What should I do if I would like an extension on a job/internship offer deadline?
In a very professional and positive way, inform the recruiter or HR contact that you are extremely interested in the opportunity but that the given timeframe is not sufficient for you to make a decision. Be specific on why you need more time so that employer feels that you are genuinely interested in their position and are not merely deferring having to make a decision. In addition, if the deadline offered does not comply with MIT’s recruiting policies share with the employer the MIT Recruiting Policies and explain that MIT has many recruiting policies that Career Services ask employers to follow. The employer or HR person may simply not be aware of our policies or just needs to be reminded of MIT’s specific policies as they work with a number of different schools with different policies. After contacting the employer with this information if you were still unable to successfully negotiate a later offer deadline please contact a member of the CAPD Employer Relations team via email to discuss how to best proceed. Staff can assist you with the decision making process and if appropriate can advocate on your behalf with the employer. If it seems appropriate for staff to advocate on your behalf, please provide full contact information for the employer you would like us to contact and also include any email correspondence with the employer or notes you have surrounding the situation. CAPD will not contact an employer without your written consent.
When should I accept my job offer?
Don’t accept the job offer until you have your offer in writing, with all the terms indicated that were discussed verbally.
- Take your time, and do not feel pressured into saying yes right away. Many students receive a phone call to officially give you the offer.
- Tell the employer that you are excited about the opportunity, and that you need to take some time to review the offer. Ask them to send the offer to you in writing (an official email is fine), to allow you to review it item by item.
- Only agree and accept the job when you are positive you can commit to the employer. Accepting the offer and then reneging on a job offer (coming back later and saying no) has negative consequences, and is professionally unacceptable.
Interviewing What should I wear to an interview?
Students should ask the interviewer by e-mail or phone about the dress code of the interview. Additionally, it is important to learn about the culture of the company or industry for which you are interviewing. General guidelines:
- If business casual, men should wear dress pants/slacks and a button-down shirt with a collar and women should wear dress pants/ slacks or a skirt with a nice blouse or a dress.
- If formal, men and women should wear a full suit.
If the interviewer does not specify what to wear, assume formal clothing (full suit) or consult our office about the specific company’s interviewing style. In the US, companies can tend to seem a little more casual – especially from the perspective of someone looking for work in an engineering/tech field. Companies in these fields, particularly younger companies and software companies have informal work dress codes. Dress codes are sometimes nonexistent, work hours can be very flexible, and organizations are designed to appear to be very flat (as opposed to hierarchical). For more information on interview dress code please, refer to the our Career Development Handbook.
Is there a quiet place to do phone / skype interviews on campus?
CAPD’s On-Campus Recruiting (OCR) interview rooms in building E17, 2nd floor are a great resource for students in need of a quiet location for a phone or video interview. Please contact Career Advising & Professional Development’s Employer Relations team at email@example.com or 617-715-5327 at least one full business day in advance to inquire about available space.
Do I need to send a thank you note after an interview?
In general, it is a good idea to send a thank you note via email or through postal services. With that said, it is very important to do your research on the company you interviewed with to identify what is their preference or even opinion of thank you notes. Try to network with friends, family or alumni who have worked at the company to learn more about the company’s recruiting practices and culture. The MIT alumni directory and LinkedIn are great resources for networking.
I’d like to have a CAPD staff member present or attend an event. What’s the process for this?
Information is provided on CAPD’s Workshop Request Form. It is highly recommended that requests be submitted 15 days in advance of the requested date event.
Why can’t I make an appointment through Handshake?
Handshake does not show future availability for appointments for which you already have scheduled (Ex. If you have a mock interview scheduled for today and would like to make another for next week it will not appear as though there are any available). In these instances simply call 617-253-4733 and the front desk staff member will assist you by overriding the system to allow you to make a specific type of appointment in the future.
General I’m a graduate student who is having issues with my advisor. Who can I talk to about my situation?
A useful place to go is GradSupport in the Office of Graduate Education. Relevant contacts are listed below:
- Suraiya Baluch, Associate Dean, Graduate Student Support & Advising. To schedule an appointment with Dean Baluch, please contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617) 258-0304.
- Cathleen Collins, Assistant Dean, Graduate Student Support & Advising. To schedule an appointment with Dean Collins, please contact her directly at email@example.com or (617) 258-6965.
- Guarav Jashnani, Assistant Dead, Graduate Student Support & Advising. To schedule an appointment with Dean Jashnani, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- OGE’s GradSupport site provides a range of information for this and related situations.https://oge.mit.edu/development/gradsupport/.
How can I explore my career options and build skills over IAP?
- Consider a micro-internship – these short term IAP projects are posted in Handshake
- Networking: Students can generate opportunities themselves by gathering a list of target companies, including small firms, nonprofits and so forth, and reaching out to them (for example, call the company and say “Hello, I’m an MIT sophomore and am interested in speaking to the person who hires interns.” Then, ask that person if they have opportunities for January project work or shadowing, explaining the type of role/opportunity looking for). Students could reach out to alumni or family contacts at those companies, as well.
- PKG Center’s IAP Program -offers opportunities for students to immerse themselves in the field of public healthcare
- MISTI’s Global Teaching Labs gives MIT students the opportunity to learn through teaching
- MIT Student Financial Services: IAP opportunities are posted on their website.
- Browse IAP non-credit activity listings to get a sense of the many opportunities for you to learn something new over IAP
What is Handshake?
Handshake is a database and career management system that centralizes many of CAPD’s services. Once you’re logged into Handshake, you can:
- Schedule appointments with Career Services, Prehealth Advising, and other CAPD staff.
- Conduct research on employers who have recruited at MIT.
- Search a listing of jobs and internships posted specifically for MIT students and alumni.
- Apply for job interviews happening on campus.
- Register for Career Advising & Professional Development Events including workshops and career fairs.
- Get access to career resources.
In addition, Handshake can be used to store resumes, cover letters, unofficial transcripts and writing samples. All MIT students are given a Handshake account at the beginning of their first semester. To get started, visit the Handshake site, click “Forgot your password?” and use your @MIT email address to get your temporary password!