Admissions Blog

What will my SIPA degree get me? 3 Tips to Best Leverage SIPA’s Career Resources

By Clara Li '23
Posted Apr 12 2023

After investing two years of your life, adjusting to a new city, and paying a hefty price tag for an ivy league degree - it’s reasonable to wonder how far the degree will actually get you and how many more doors will be opened for you post-graduation. I will start off by saying that the brand name does go far and you will go even further by leveraging the career resources at SIPA. Below are my 3 best tips for not only exploring and narrowing down your career interests but to also find opportunities for internships and full-time positions.

1. Sign-Up for Relevant Newsletters and READ Them

Are you struggling to decide what area in your field you want to pursue? Closely follow the resources and events hosted by student organizations, SIPA’s affiliated research centers, and Columbia at large. This may be self-explanatory, but a key part in exploring your interest areas is hearing from experts in the field around the type of impact they have made and the skills and experiences needed to help get them there. The best way to stay up-to-date on the happenings around campus is to sign-up for the relevant listservs.

Unlike in undergraduate institutions, where emails are spam the majority of the time, I religiously check mine (maybe too frequently). Newsletters (and specific sections) I would prioritize include:

  • Career Advancement Center (CAC): Sent on a bi-weekly basis. Look out for Cullen’s Corner section; Cullen Newton is the Director of Employer Outreach at CAC and provides specific leads and connections to alumni for open positions in this section.
  • Research Centers: I love the Center for Global Energy Policy’s Women in Energy newsletter because of opportunities to sign-up for office hours with senior industry leaders. This is great for 1:1 facetime with professionals who can give you personalized advice and/or connect you with people who can help in your career journey.
  • Concentration: Your concentration (and specialization) program will send out regular emails and, oftentimes, there is an extensive list of jobs and internships at the bottom. Don’t know where to start your search? This is a great place.
  • Student Organizations: Professional and social student organizations host a variety of events that will get you in touch with alumni and other experts. These include career treks, smaller industry specific networking events, and resume workshops.

The influx of emails can be overwhelming, but what is important is prioritizing which newsletters are the most helpful for you and to be consistent in reading (or skimming) them.

2. Tailor the CAC’s Resources to YOUR Needs

At a school of 1000+ students, it is vital to personalize career resources to your needs. The Career Advancement Center (CAC) provides a variety of resources ranging from resume and cover letter review to advising around job search strategy. The following CAC resources are the ones I’ve found the most useful:

  • Sign-Up for SIPA Connect Notifications: Similar to Handshake, SIPA Connect is our platform that we access to, primarily, look through job and internship opportunities. Sign-up for updates whenever new positions are posted and skim through to see if there are any of interest. I found this to be a great way to learn about additional employers in the industry.
  • Meet with the Career Coaches: The SIPA Career Coaching (SIPACC) Program hires mid-career alumni to individually connect with students to provide personalized advice on how to enter certain fields, knowledge around career opportunities related to your concentration/specialization, etc.
  • Sign-Up for Career Advising for Specific Needs: The CAC also has general career advisors that you can schedule appointments with. Rather than using these to learn about the industry or receive high-level career advice, I would go with specific needs in mind. For instance, if you need to conduct a mock interview or strategies for navigating the salary negotiation process. 

3. Network with Specific GOALS in Mind

There are often negative connotations associated with networking, for good reason, but it is important not to let that deter you from doing it. For me, it’s more helpful to break networking down into a few categories and with specific goals in mind so that it seems less daunting of a task. For instance, I think in terms of:

  • My Immediate Network: These are the people that you know well and feel comfortable readily going to when you need support.This includes your SIPA circle, former co-workers, mentors, family members.
    • Goals: I usually tap into this network to learn about new industries that I’m interested in that I know these individuals have work or volunteer experience in. They usually provide honest feedback on the types of skills needed for positions of interest and where to turn my search to next.
  • My Extended Network: These are the people that you can get connected through from your immediate network or people that you know but on a more surface level.This includes SIPA/Columbia professors, researchers, alumni, other current students.
    • Goals: When I want a third-party perspective around strategies for reaching my career goals or asking questions around qualifications for specific industries and positions, I go to this network. These individuals can connect you with relevant and more senior professionals in your areas of interest.
  • My Future Network: These are people that you do not have a direct connection with, but that you can develop a relationship with through, for instance, cold-messaging on LinkedIn, expert panel events, networking events.
    • Goals: If you do not have a connection in an area you’re interested in, then it’s time to cast a wider net. When you first connect with someone virtually or in-person, be specific about your background and what you’re interested in learning from them.

Your network structure and goals will look different than mine, as it should! This is a starting point for you to consider the different types of people you will connect with and in what ways they can support you. But first, you need to know what you want out of the interaction and that will vary based on your relationship to them.

The job and internship search and application process is stressful, but know that there is a strong SIPA support system available - in both official and unofficial capacities. Whatever you are looking for, it is likely that there is someone within this community who has done it or can point you in the right direction. Passion and curiosity also go a long way and people are, more often than not, willing to help people who are genuinely interested in learning about new areas.