Alumni Career Management Step-by-Step Guide

If you're looking for a similar job in another geographic location or company, or you're seeking to make a career change into another industry, this proven "step-by-step" Career Search Process is your personal guide to help you achieve your goals.

Step 1: Self Assessment and Refinement


The goal of Step 1 is to help you define your ideal next career position and understand why it is a good match for you. This level of focus is essential for your own personal success; it will help you position yourself properly when communicating to others.

Before beginning your career search, it's critical to define:

  • The skills you love to use
  • The environment in which you love to work
  • This effort will help ensure your next career step is not just into another position that you can do, but rather one that will bring you enjoyment and satisfaction.

Keep in mind that an effective career search requires your active participation. By actively completing the self-assessment tool, focusing your efforts on your chosen career interest, and effectively networking, you can take charge of the career search process to find success.

Seek vs. Shop

There's an important distinction between actively seeking a new career and merely shopping for available positions in the marketplace. If you're reviewing job postings and fielding search firm information, then you haven't focused your attention on a single path and your commitment is lacking. This approach is far less successful and not recommended. Hiring managers sense this lack of commitment, and the impression you make pales next to the candidate that's fully ready to make a move.


Career satisfaction comes from finding a job that provides the following:

  • Allows you to utilize your "skills profile" (e.g., the skills you most enjoy using)
  • Delivers rewards, as defined and prioritized by you in the outset of your search

Theory shows that while your skills profile is set early in your life/career, the rewards you value (e.g., prestige of the organization, financial remuneration, work/life balance, etc.), change over time. Too often, we see job seekers define their desired new position by those rewards, without enough time given to the skills profile.

To help you understand both, we suggest you use one or more of the following tools:

Sample Zone Time Spreadsheet

Provides you with valuable information when preparing your resume and your interview agenda. This Ross-only tool helps you identify those times when you were really at your best, feeling challenged and enjoyed the work you were doing.

Use the blank Zone Time Spreadsheet (XLS) to fill in your own profile

Career Leader

CareerLeader is a tool that provides you with your skills and rewards profile. It highlights promising careers based upon those findings, and it's the only self-assessment targeted specifically to those with degrees in business. (Please note: tests you have taken previously are no longer viewable.)

Please use this form to gain access to the Career Leader Self Assessment Tool

You will receive an email from Ross Career Development Office with instructions on how to complete the assessment.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

Taking the MBTI will help you to identify your unique gifts and it enhances understanding of your motivations, strengths, and potential areas for growth. It will also help you appreciate people who differ from you. After completion, you will have an appointment with a career consultant which will include an introduction to psychological type, verification of your MBTI type and preferences, and a discussion of using differences constructively when interacting with others. To access this assessment, please send your request to

The Clifton Strengths Finder

An assessment that helps individuals discover their natural talents and how to utilize those talents as strengths for career development and satisfaction. To access this assessment, please send your request to


Once you have conducted your self-assessment and are in the process of defining your ideal 'next' position, we suggest you do some research. It's important to refine your understanding of the position and more fully comprehend why your interest lies in this direction (see Take Action; Database Tools below). Further research can be done by discussing your findings with friends, professional colleagues, career counselors, etc.

The Next Step

Once you have clearly articulated your ideal next position as described in this section, proceed to Step 2 - Prepare Your Resume. Remember, complete the work in Step 1 so your resume can be as targeted and succinct as possible.

Learn More

Recommended Books to Review from Your Local Bookstore or Library:

  • Getting Unstuck: How Dead Ends Become New Paths By Timothy Butler
  • Second Acts: Creating the Life You Really Want, Building the Career You Truly Desire By Stephen Pollan and Mark Levine
  • Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career By Herminia Lbarra
  • What Color is Your Parachute? 2016; A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career Changers By Richard Nelson Bolles

Take Action

University of Michigan Alumni Association

The Alumni Association offers a wealth of career services and resources to their alumni. Being a member of the Alumni Association also allows you to take advantage of the powerful Michigan network and stay connected to your fellow alumni. To join the Association and access these resources, there is an annual fee. You can also view their self-assessment offerings.

Database Tools

Vault Campus

Step 2: Resume

As you advance in your career, it's more important than ever to create a targeted resume. Develop your resume once you have a solid sense of the new position you're targeting, and not before.

Your resume now becomes one of your "marketing tools" that highlights past experiences where you've used these skills in an environment that lends itself to this new career. This is the image to present to the recruiter.

Learn More

Executive Resume Toolkit By Wendy S. Enelow and Louise M. Kursmark

Resume-Writing Guide 

50-page guidebook (with optional exercises) to help you strategize, write, and design your own winning, executive-level resume.

Resume Sample Galleries:

A selection of best-in-class resumes, divided into six groups, each presented in its own file.

Resource Guide
Short guidebook with "live" links to online resources designed specifically for executive candidates.

All of the worksheets discussed and used in the book are also provided in a separate Word document so that you can easily use them on your PC to pull together your essential information and construct your resume.

Executive Tip Sheets
Two tip pages to keep close at hand while writing your resume – one detailing the top Executive Resume Strategies and the other detailing the top tips for writing Powerful Experience Sections.

375 Verbs for Writing Resumes, Cover Letters & Other Career Communications

Career Summary
Creating an effective Career Summary for your resume (and LinkedIn profile) is important to conveying your brand and target role.

Career Services Sample Resume Templates

You may use one or both of these templates for your resume though there are several ways to present your information. Many alumni have found it helpful to have a template as a starting point.

Arial Narrow Template

Garamond Template

Remember: Your resume is not a listing of everything you have ever done. It's a showcase of those specific accomplishments that demonstrate your abilities in your chosen area. Start each resume bullet with a strong action verb and quantify your accomplishments to demonstrate the results of your action.

Do not simply list your responsibilities. Examples from your Zone Time Spreadsheet (XLS) become bullets on your resume. They highlight accomplishments where you used the skills you love in a given environment.

Similar to when you were a student, there is a resume module available for you as an alumnus, allowing you to create a multi-paged resume. This format is only recommended for young alumni.

  • Within your Personal Profile in iMpact, you can create/update your profile, which becomes the content for your resume.
  • Within your My Resume in iMpact, you can edit/view your resume, with the formatting automatically done for you.

Career Services Sample Cover Letter templates

Approach With Contact

Retained Recruiter

Tabular Format

Stacked Bullets

Function Specific:




Take Action

Keep in mind, as an alumnus, there are several ways to present your experience in a resume. If you would like some coaching, please contact us:

Some alumni choose to outsource their resume work and pay a service provider. A couple alumni have used the following businesses and have liked the results:

Michigan Ross Alumni Jobs

The Resume Group

Quintessential Careers

Resumes Transformed (SE Michigan based)

After completing your resume, you may want to post it in our Ross Alumni Resume Database.

Step 3: Research & Networking

In order to begin Step 3, you should have already completed the following:

  • Self-assessment
  • Refined your understanding of your future career direction
  • Identified the job you’re after
  • Created a resume that targets that specific career

In this step, you’ll do the following:

  • Utilize resources to identify that the location of your desired position exists
  • Develop strategic relationships enabling you to be considered for the ideal job when it arises

Utilize Resources

Once you have identified the job you want (through your self-assessment), and potentially your geography, here is the exercise to get you started:

  • Identify 10-20 companies in your preferred geography that you would expect to have your desired job. Use various resources and databases, such as the Business Insights: Essentials or CareerBeam to identify companies in your chosen area.
  • Seek contacts at these companies by identifying alumni who work at these target companies utilizing LinkedIn. Search for: University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business,, go to the Alumni link on the left side of the page to find thousands of alumni profiles that can then be sorted according to where they work, live and what they do.


As opportunities arise at your target organizations, it's critically important for you to be top-of-mind in terms of consideration. The way to accomplish this is through networking. Once you’ve identified contacts at your target organizations, it’s time to establish ongoing, advisory relationships through what we call the “protégé approach and update mechanism.”

Relationship building cannot be over-emphasized. Different from when you were a student, companies typically do not hire ten months prior to when they need you — instead, opportunities open up and close down on their own timeline. In order to account for this fluctuation, you need to develop relationships and extend them across time. As a result, when an opportunity arises, you’ll be top-of-mind. Also, if you learn of a posting at one of your target companies, you will have set the stage to have your network help introduce you, as contrasted with filling out an application from a cold posting.

  • Create a LinkedIn profile. With over 43 million professionals in over 150 industries, LinkedIn is an essential tool for finding connections to people in your extended network and communication your career-related value to those people via your online profile. Use our LinkedIn Profile Review Checklist to create a professional LinkedIn Profile.
  • Networking begins by accepting (or creating) a mentor relationship. Contact alumni and seek advice; do not ask for a job. If you view the relationship as a simple exchange to see if there are available jobs, you will find that the relationship is very short in duration.
  • Establish one to two protégé relationships per week; add these names to your contact log.
  • Update each of your contacts via e-mail every three to five weeks (more often if your search is more time sensitive) on how you may have acted on their advice, updates on new steps you have taken, etc.

Through this approach, your network will grow and enable you to be the person they think of when a new opportunity arises. In addition, if you become aware of a posting at one of your target companies, you will have set the stage to have your network help introduce you.

Preparing to Network

Determining your value and company focus is important to engaging in fruitful networking sessions or informational interviews. Use the job search marketing framework to think through your skills and abilities so that you can better articulate those talents during informational interviews and quick professional interactions. Remember, these are sessions which you are initiating and want to make a positive impression.

Use the targeted search summary template to share your search targets so others can better help you with your goals.  As you reach out to contacts to confirm your meeting time, you may also send this in lieu of a resume so they are aware of your career focus.

It is important to phrase email outreach communications appropriately to increase the likelihood of eliciting a helpful response from others as you develop your network. Here are sample email introductions to guide correspondence for different purposes and relationships.

Email Intros
Email Approaches 

Learn More

Questions For Networking Conversations
Common Questions For Networking

Recommended books to review from your local bookstore or library:

  • Rites of Passage: Guide to Executive Job Changing at $100,000 to $1 Million+ By John Lucht
  • Never Eat Alone By Keith Ferazzi
  • Achieving Success Through Social Capital By Wayne Baker (Ross School's Management Series Books published by Jossey-Bass)

Take Action

Company Research


External Resources

These resources are external to Ross and are not officially promoted by Ross Career Services.

  • Join the U of M networking community in alumnifire which is a free website created by an alum to connect alumni for networking, job shadowing, employment opportunities, internships, etc. 

Step 4: Job Postings

Job postings can be an important part of your overall career search effort. But it’s equally important to remember this type of search can only be done effectively if you’ve focused your search and have some networking in place, prior to reviewing job postings.

Debunking the Myths

Many people feel that perusing job sites and board postings is conducting an “active” job search. Unfortunately, this type of activity does not constitute an “active” job search at all. The reality is that the percentage of jobs actually filled through these venues is remarkably low. In short, this passive approach doesn’t work.

The other pitfall — don’t peruse jobs simply because they’re available. This type of justification is a trap. It’s only a short-term fix.

The bottom line — there’s no escaping doing the work required to find the right job. We urge you to take charge of the process through the previous career search steps to identify the job that is right for you. Use postings as only one part of your overall strategy.

In Steps 1-3, you have:

  • Conducted a self-assessment, refined your understanding of your future career direction and identified the position you are after;
  • Developed a resume targeted for that specific position;
  • Conducted research on companies and organizations who should have your desired position; and
  • Begun developing strategic relationships and contacts to help you grow your network and set the stage for when an opportunity arises.

In conjunction with Step 3 (Research and Networking), it is good for you to also be monitoring job postings at your targeted companies and through other job boards for your ideal position. Then utilize your network to support your application to the position you discovered.

It is entirely appropriate to let your contact know that you are planning to apply to the position you’ve found, and let them know you would like to make reference to them in your cover letter. Be sure you include your resume in that e-mail, as it is likely they will pass it on directly to the hiring manager on your behalf.

Learn More


In addition to job postings and websites, some experienced alumni opt to utilize a search firm or headhunter. This can be a useful resource, particularly if you are not looking to do a career switch into a new field and function, as recruiters look to place experienced employees with their clients.

It’s important to understand the nuances of working with headhunters or search firms before beginning a relationship with one.

  • Do you know the difference between a contingent firm and a retainer firm?  
  • What type of search firm should you be working with based on your experience and who are the big firms in the industry?
  • What type of information do you need to learn from a headhunter before progressing?

Learn the answers to all of these questions and more at The Riley Guide.

Search Firms

Executive Recruiters that are Ross Alumni

Directory of Executive Recruiters – This reference guide may be available at your local library and is online at

List of Retained Executive Search Firms that are accredited, can be found on the Association of Executive Search Consultants website.

Partnership with BlueSteps – The Ross School of Business and BlueSteps, the senior executive career management service of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), have partnered to provide students and alumni with exposure to over 6,000 retained executive search professionals, as well as a direct link to resources, tools and industry information to facilitate the successful management of your executive career path.

Alumni of the Ross School of Business are entitled to a 30% discount on BlueSteps membership by entering Partner Code ‘Ross’ during registration.

Learn what a retained executive search consultant is and tips on how to work with them at BlueSteps.

Take Action

Michigan Ross Job Postings

Michigan Ross Alumni Jobs 

External Job Posting Sites

Ross Alumni Resume Database

Career Builder


Parity Partners

ExecThread  Is the largest aggregator of unpublished senior-level job opportunities that enables its members to access the hidden job market.

Independent Consulting Opportunities

ProFinder (thru LinkedIn)  

TalMix  freelance and independent consultants (Rent an MBA is the reference)

Catalant (formerly HourlyNerd)

ProNexus Finance, Accounting Consultants

Business Talent Group (BTG) leading provider of on-demand business talent for project-based work, place independent contractors in corporations in Management Consulting, Special Projects, Consulting Teams, Growth & Innovation, Operational & Performance Improvements, Project & Change Management, Transformation and Business 

TalNow a talent marketplace that matches independent consultants with small to medium sized companies for project work

GLG, HQ in NY, 22 global offices, matching consultants with business 

Third Bridge, HQ in London, 8 offices on 3 continents, matching consultants with business    

Sites Targeting Women/Remote/Flexible Work

Job board:  We Work Remotely

The Second Shift  marketplace connecting a vetted network of professional women with businesses who hire them for flexible work opportunities. Our members are women with expertise in marketing, finance, HR, strategy and creative who are looking for part-time project based and flexible work. 

Forte Foundation Job Postings and Online Resume Book

reacHIRE Powering business; Empowering women Helping moms find flexible work  

Function/ Industry Focus

CPG Joblist - CPGjoblist is a “Candidate Referral Service” that places qualified people in Sales, Marketing, Marketing Research and related disciplines in the Consumer Packaged Goods Industry

Education (non-teaching roles)


LLC — For LLC info, check your state government website


eFinancial careers — The financial job marketplace

Banking or Bust — Tools for landing an investment banking job

One-Wire — Creates matches between individuals and opportunities in Finance

Discover Accounting - Accounting jobs/accounting careers resources


Bridgestar — Learn about the nonprofit sector and network with jobseeking peers

CEO Update — Subscribe to job listings (fee) for CEO/Director level Nonprofit and Associated Opportunities

Society of Human Resource Management

Geographic Focus

US Resources

Bay Jobs

Colorado Jobs — Crain Communications is primarily a publishing company providing vital news and information to industry leaders and consumers with 30 titles. With publications in many major cities (Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, New York, etc.), a subscription could be a useful way to learn about the local market and identify job opportunities.

International Resources

International Job Pilot

Latin America’s Professional Network

MBA Exchange

  • Part of the Financial Times group, is a professional online service linking MBA students and alumni from the world’s leading business schools to global executive recruiters.  
  • To register you will see a button ‘Subscribe for Free’ in the middle of the homepage. If you click through here you will be asked for an email address and confirmation of that email address – this is the beginning of the registration process.
  • Once through here you will come to a page that asks for a little more information about yourself (name, address etc) and it is here that you enter the school name – from a drop-down list under University of Michigan: Ross – and the code ABS-0049. From this point you can search jobs, save searches, apply direct for positions and complete a short name-confidential profile, which, once complete, you can choose to make available to clients conducting executive searches.

Are we missing a helpful resource? Let us know via email:

Step 5: Interviewing & Negotiating

In Steps 1-4, you have:

  • Conducted a self-assessment, refined your understanding of your future career direction and identified the position you are after;
  • Developed a resume targeted for that specific position;
  • Conducted research on companies and organizations who should have your desired position;
  • Begun developing strategic relationships to help you grow your network and help set the stage when an opportunity arises; and
  • Utilized job postings to support your search.


Your hard work has paid off and you now have landed the interview. Here are some tips to help you prepare and ace the interview:

  • Back to Basics

Remember, you secured the interview via the resume and networking that came from a focused self-assessment. Now it is time to highlight and drive home two facts:

  • You’re the ideal match for this position
  • You’d be a great addition to the team
  • Your Zone Time Spreadsheet

This comes back into play:

  • The first pass helped you identify your target job
  • The second pass helped you build out your resume
  • The third pass will help you create your interview agenda

Use examples from your ZTS to highlight your use of the skills they need in an effective and compelling fashion over the course of the interview

  • Convey as many behavioral examples as possible of your use of the skills needed in the job you are pursuing
  • For more seasoned alumni, you may want to develop and deliver a 1-2 minute Personal Commercial in answer to the question, "Tell Me About Yourself."
  • This is your chance to communicate your career path, typically from your undergraduate degree through to your current position, and build the case for yourself in this new role
  • Highlight what you have learned about yourself and your interests from your prior experiences that have led you to be pursuing this new position
  • Your pursuit of this position should come across as the most logical next step
  • Be careful not to dive too deep into specific examples here — you are just hitting the peaks of the mountain tops to communicate your story
  • CAR Format

Use this format (context-action-result) to formulate your responses to interview questions

Interview Dos and Don’ts

  • Be specific and be sure to be the star of the story — you need to identify your role, and make sure it is a good successful story
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Be animated — use hand gestures appropriately
  • Articulate thoughtful and relaxed responses — avoid “um” and “like”
  • Dress the part
  • Treat the receptionist as you would an interviewer
  • Don’t smoke before the interview
  • Don’t wear perfume or cologne
  • Identify nervous habits and avoid them
  • Be aware of your posture

Negotiate The Offer

Ideally, even before you begin your career search, you will have considered the compensation factor. Here are some factors to consider when determining whether to negotiate the offer:

  • Identify factors to negotiate and determine which ones are of the highest priority to you — beyond salary, examples include: location, assignment, start date, travel, title, staff support, budget, signing bonus, profit sharing and/or other retirement plans, vacation and other time off, medical and related benefits, expense accounts, etc.
  • Assess and benchmark your own value — this can be accomplished primarily through your networking channels and by conducting internet research. Account for industry, geography, function, and economic market conditions in your assessment.
  • Determine your negotiation range — once you’ve benchmarked your own value, determine your low point; the point at which you’d walk away from the negotiation table. It’s also helpful to determine your most realistic high-end mark, for the purpose of “splitting the difference” and reaching a compromise figure.
  • When to negotiate — most people are hesitant to negotiate the offer even if they feel it’s well below their market value. While it’s not advisable to negotiate just for the sake of negotiation, rarely is there any risk if you decide to do so, and often you will receive some movement with your package. However, do not negotiate an offer for a position that you are ultimately not interested in taking.
  • Remember that negotiating a job offer is not like buying a car — at the end of the day you won’t be driving off the lot; instead, you will be working with this person. So negotiate with this in mind and don’t make this a game about winning and losing.

Learn More

Sample Interview Questions

10 Most Common Interview Questions

Analyzing a Job Offer — Find jobs and see company salaries, reviews, and interviews — all posted anonymously by employees.

Join TransparentCareer.  It's the best MBA comp benchmarking tool out there.

Recommended books to review from your local bookstore or library:

  • Get Paid What You’re Worth: The Expert Negotiator’s Guide to Salary and Compensation By Robin L. Pinkley and Gregory B. Northcraft
  • Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and Gender Divide By Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever

Take Action

Kresge Career Links

Employment Data

Never miss an alumni update, networking opportunity, or event.
Stay Connected
Stay Connected

Update Your Profile

Keeping your profile updated allows us to inform you of events in your area and enables other Ross alums to connect with you.

By submitting your information, you give permission to Michigan Ross to send alumni-related emails. Your information will be kept confidential and you can unsubscribe at any time.