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GSAS Alumni Spotlight: Jeff Mankoff, Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies

In this new series, GSAS alums describe their path to a fulfilling non-faculty career and how their Yale PhD has contributed to their success. Meet Jeff Mankoff, PhD 2006 (History) who is currently a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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Understanding the Job Search Process

Looking for a job can be both exciting and stressful.  Before you jump in, take the time to develop a solid understanding of the technical and transferable skills you have gained while at Yale, in addition to your interests and values.  Also identify any factors which might constrain your search, such as geographic preferences, an organization's culture, or work-life balance. Doing this inventory will be instrumental in focusing your search so that you can direct your efforts in the most productive way.  To assist with this process, take advantage of our self-assessment resources, or meet with an advisor.  

The Office of Career Strategy offers a wealth of resources to assist you as you explore careers and identify opportunities outside of the academy.  As you get ready to embark on your job search, take a moment to review our job search overview and timeline to familiarize yourself with basic strategies. By taking initiative, thinking carefully and creatively about your professional narrative, and preparing your career toolkit ahead of time, you can maximize your chances of success in identifying opportunities that fit your criteria.  Most importantly, make sure you spend a significant fraction of your time on building professional connections.  The majority of positions will never be posted, and even those that are may be filled through referrals.  


Explore Options and Set Goals

The first step in your job search is to establish clear goals and criteria. Start by considering the following questions:

  • Industries and sectors of interest: Are there specific industries or sectors you’re most interested in? What roles/types of positions within those industries most appeal to you?
  • Skills: Are there specific skills you’d like to employ or want to develop? Is there something you enjoy doing that you want to incorporate into your work?
  • Geography:  Where do you want to live? In the U.S. or abroad? What regions of the country or the world? Are there specific cities?
  • Company size: Would you like to target large corporations, small start-ups, or something in between?
  • Mission and impact: Are there issues or causes you’d like to work on?
  • Challenge and growth opportunities: Would you prefer working a set 9-5 schedule or are you open to an irregular schedule? Travel or no travel? Are you looking for opportunities that have a leadership development component?

If you’re not sure what industries or fields you’re interested in pursuing, or how your skills and interests fit with career options, perform a self-assessment or schedule an appointment with an OCS Career Adviser.  As you embark on your career exploration process, take advantage of these offerings from OCS:

Research and Prepare


Once you’ve established your search criteria, the next step is to learn as much as you can about the employers within your field of interest, trends in the industry, and the latest industry news. Immerse yourself in the publications, websites and resources that professionals in the field follow. This will help you to develop your list of target employers, and prepare you to speak about the industry and your interest when networking and interviewing for positions.  The tools and resources in the Resource Library and Common Good & Creative Careers sections of this website will get you started in this process, as will talking with an OCS Career Adviser who can explain how to make the most of these tools.


It’s essential to begin preparing yourself and your materials early in the job search process, before you even have specific jobs in mind. Follow these steps to get started, and visit the Career Toolkit section of this website for more detail and samples.

  • Update your résumé: Don’t wait until you find a job you want to apply for, or until a networking contact asks you for a résumé to get this important document up to date. Have an updated version of your résumé ready to go so you can act quickly when opportunities arise.
  • Review information on cover letter writing: Though you will need to tailor your cover letters for each position to which you’re applying, you can review information on how to construct an effective cover letter, and brainstorm what skills, attributes and experiences you may want to highlight in your cover letters.
  • Schedule a practice Interview: Employers don’t always give you much notice before scheduling an interview, it may be just a few days. Don’t wait until you’re offered an interview to begin preparing. Practice interviews can help you prepare for common questions, and give you practice explaining how your background has given you the relevant skills and experience for the position.
  • Connect with your references: During the application or interview process, employers may ask for references. As you begin your search, it’s important to talk with people you would like to use as a reference to ask if they are willing to serve as a reference, and to let them know to which positions you’re applying.
  • Prepare your writing samples or portfolio: If applying to positions that will require writing samples, published clips, or samples of your creative work, you’ll want to gather these materials in advance and have them ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Uncover and Apply for Opportunities

The primary job search method people tend to employ is to apply for opportunities posted on websites. This should be a component of your search, but should NOT be the only or the primary job search method you employ; limit this strategy to 20% of your search. The remaining 80% of your time should be focused on actively seeking out opportunities by building relationships with professionals employed at companies and organizations of interest. This is commonly referred to as networking.  It’s a myth that all jobs get posted; in fact the majority of positions will never make it to any website, and even those that do may be filled through referrals.

The "Hidden" Job Market 

The reality is that most jobs are never formally advertised and will not recruit through a formal process. In fact, in some situations employers prefer to not advertise positions because they want to work through a referral system. It’s essential to actively engage in your job search by building relationships with professionals in your field of interest; this process is commonly referred to as networking.

Tip:  Many people find the concept of networking intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. Networking is a major source of information about job openings, and in many fields it is the principal way of getting into the industry. Networking may also help you stand out from others that are solely applying to posted positions.

You already have a network of contacts you can tap into, whether you recognize it or not. Start by considering your academic, professional and personal networks. Contacts in these networks include professors, Deans, Masters, internship supervisors, family and friends. Beyond those networks, you also have access to a robust network of current Yale students and Yale alumni. There are strong communities of alumni in all industries and throughout the world that can serve as resources and contacts for you as you engage in an active job search.

OCS offers a wealth of networking tips and resources, such as the Yale Career Network, to help you tap into the alumni network and assist you with practicing your approach and building relationships with networking contacts. 

Posted Opportunities

There are many resources for identifying posted opportunities. Again, we recommend that you devote no more than 20% of your job search efforts to applying to posted opportunities 

  • On-Campus Recruiting: For employers who use a formal recruiting process, OCS provides opportunities for students to interview with organizational representatives. On-campus recruiting takes place at the OCS office in the early fall and spring. 
  • Yale Career Link job and internship database: OCS maintains a robust database of jobs and internships that only Yale students and alumni can access. These opportunities are posted by employers who are specifically seeking Yale students and graduates, many of whom are Yale alumni.
  • Employer websites: Many employers maintain a list of available jobs and internships with their company on their website. Look for a “Careers” or “Employment” section, or in the absence of that you may want to explore “About Us” or “Contact Us” sections for mention of opportunities.
  • Industry-specific job boards: Professional Associations and industry-specific publications often maintain job boards. Review the Resource Library and Common Good & Creative Careers sections of this website for job boards geared towards specific fields.
  • Gene​ral Job Boards: There are many general online job boards you can utilize in your search., USAJOBS, and are a few that students have found most helpful.

Follow Through

Stay Organized

Staying organized throughout this process is essential. As a student or postdoc, you are already very skilled at coordinating demanding academic and extracurricular commitments. Employ these organizational skills to managing your applications, networking contacts, and industry research. Don’t just rely on your sent email file to keep track of who you’ve contact and when you sent materials. Set up an Excel spreadsheet or use tools such as Google Docs to establish a system to manage your search.

Maintain Your Network

Hopefully during your initial conversation or meeting with a networking contact you took a few notes. What advice or recommendations did your contact give you? Did they recommend you explore a particular resource or check out a website they find useful? Did they pass on the name of another contact or recommend employers to look at? This is information you can use to follow-up.

Periodically check in with them and let them know you listened to their advice and are taking action. This will let your contact know you’re serious and that their time was not wasted. In addition, if you see an article on a topic you discussed, or find a resource that you think could be useful to them based on your conversation, send it. Networking should be a mutually beneficial exchange. Reciprocate and contribute to the relationship, and most importantly let them know you appreciate their continued guidance.

Tip: Remember that no two networking relationships will develop in the same way. Some contacts will be open to more regular contact, while others may prefer just one conversation. You need to let the relationship evolve organically, but always keep in mind the goal of networking is to develop long-term mentoring relationships; a job may come of this relationship, but should not be the expectation or primary goal of networking.


A common question students ask is when to begin their job search. Unfortunately there isn’t one answer to this question because timelines vary widely even within the same industry. Regardless, it’s important to plan ahead and to designate sufficient time to your job search to assure you don’t miss opportunities.  Read our  "Overview and Timeline" page to learn more.