Job Search Preparation
This guide provides a brief overview of what's involved in preparing for and conducting a good job search. You may wish to supplement this information with the rest of the Job Search series, as well as the materials located on the Job Search resources shelf in the CDO. Then, discuss your job search concerns, strategies, and presentation (written materials and interview) with one of our career counselors.
DOING YOUR HOMEWORK....
Your ultimate goal in any job search is to convince an employer that you have what it takes to do the job you're interested in, so that an offer will be made. To do this, you have to know something about yourself, something about the types of positions/career fields/organizations you're applying to, and something about what you and they have in common. Your job search, therefore, begins long before you write a resume and apply for your first position.
- Assess what you have to offer to an employer.
Consider your interests, the skills you have that you want to use in your work, the experiences you've had, your accomplishments, characteristics of work that are important to you (your work values), and lifestyle preferences. You can talk with a counselor and use MyPlan and/or other assessment tools. These activities can help you identify types of positions, career fields or organizations that you will investigate.
- Learn about occupations, organizations and work environments.
Just as a good student wouldn't consider taking a test without doing some studying, a good job searcher wouldn't consider applying for a position without knowing anything about its requirements, the career field, and the employer's expectations. The more you know, the easier it will be to persuade an employer that you can do the work. Begin by reading about position titles, work tasks, hiring organizations, preferred academic background, desired skills and personal qualities, and typical work environments. When you've identified some areas you're interested in and learned something about them, talk to people who can give you first-hand information about these fields. You can do this at career fairs or make individual contacts yourself. This is called "interviewing for information," and it is a very effective way to get the kind of information that isn't found in writing. It can help you test your career expectations and assumptions against market realities and provide valuable leads about how to "break in" to that particular field. Refer to the Informational Interviewing handout, for how to make contacts and a list of questions to ask.
- Identify your objectives and develop action plans.
Based on what you've learned, fill in any gaps in your qualifications. Join related student or professional organizations. Get experience (if you haven't already) by applying for and engaging in internships, part-time or summer employment, or by volunteering. Enroll in elective courses, and read professional journals. Clarify your objectives and develop a Plan A and a Plan B (maybe even a Plan C), with job search strategies for each. Then implement them one step at a time.
- Write a resume.
Writing an effective resume takes some time and thought. For ideas about getting started and how the CDO can help, refer to the Resume Writing handouts. Spend some time looking at the binder of sample resumes in our resource area to get ideas of different ways to format it. Type up a draft of your document, and schedule a Resume Review appointment with a career counselor.
- Gather your references.
You will most likely need references, people who can speak positively about your ability to do the type of work you are considering. One convenient way to handle your references is to keep letters of recommendation from them in a Credentials File (refer to the Credentials File section of the CDO website for information on how to establish a file). Keep in mind that letters of reference differ from a “reference list” which is a document with names and contact information for those who are willing to speak with your prospective employers. These two ways of handling references will be used differently as job search tools. Employers are more likely to call your references (from a reference list) once they have met you, like you, and want to verify their findings. Letters of reference, on the other hand, can be submitted at strategic points in the job search process; reading a stellar letter of reference may pique the interest of the employer to look more closely at your resume or invite you to interview.
- Develop job leads.
There are a number of ways to identify potential employers. Use as many resources as possible to fit your situation. Studies tell us that only approximately 20% of all jobs are ever advertised; that means that the unadvertised 80% are filled through personal contacts and applying directly to organizations. Using ONLY advertised openings, even if you are utilizing many sources on a daily basis, is often thought of as conducting a “passive job search.” An “active job search” means that developing leads is a critical part of the process.
- Research the organizations in which you are most interested.
A corporate recruiter once observed, "One of the qualities we most value in candidates is enthusiasm. One way you can demonstrate enthusiasm is by displaying a general understanding of our industry and…our organization. The level of research you have conducted is often a measure of your commitment to your chosen field and the degree of interest in our company." Researching an organization is so much more than perusing their website. Do a web search to find what has been reported in various news sources, use databases (vault.com, or an industry specific source), check social media sites and news feeds, network with people who have knowledge of the organization, find out about finances, working environment, and much more. Read articles online about researching employers to learn about this important step in your job search, prior to applying and in even more depth before interviewing.
- Learn about interviewing and practice, practice, practice!
Many candidates make the mistake of thinking they're close to an offer when they're invited for an interview. Generally, all candidates invited for an interview have the basic qualifications to do the job. The interview is critical, therefore, in determining who will be selected. To learn more about this important topic, read our Career Guides about interviewing and utilize the materials (books, DVD’s) located on our Interviewing resources shelf. Then, use InterviewStream to learn more and record a video interview, and/or make an appointment for a Practice Interview with a CDO career counselor.
- Write, call, or visit.
Based on your research and what you know to be your best skills, decide how you will reach out to each organization. Contact the individual who is the decision-maker for the type of position you are seeking. If you are calling, practice your telephone skills and have several opening statements to use. Be polite and professional at all times. Have contingency plans in case of roadblocks; for example, how are you going to convince the receptionist (whose job is to screen calls and visitors) to let you talk to the decision-maker without being pushy or offensive? Develop your letter writing skills by referring to the Cover Letter writing handout, CDO Library Resources and having draft correspondence critiqued by a career counselor.
- Follow-up with your contacts.
This means calling when your letter says you will, providing additional information promptly when it is requested, writing thank you notes after interviews, and staying in touch with your personal contact network. If you leave a message requesting a return call, wait a few days before calling again. Keeping accurate records about your contacts with each organization/individual will help you make timely and appropriate follow-up contacts.
A final thought....
If this sounds like it's going to take a great deal of time, it is. The average length of time it takes to find a job (from your first contact) is 3-6 months, sometimes longer in a very competitive market. That's why it is important to start early, take one step at a time, and be persistent. When you need assistance getting started, have questions along the way, or just want to try out some ideas, make an appointment to talk with a CDO counselor. We’re here to help!