Job Search Guides

Conducting a Job Search

Step 1. Analyze Yourself and Your Career Goals

Inventory your values, skills and interests to figure out which types of careers may be right for you. The Career Library has many resources which can help you determine your values, skills and interests, including books and handouts.

Step 2. Explore Career Options

You are now ready to explore the requirements of various career fields and the degree to which they match your values, skills and interests. Resource materials on occupations and employers , and on the Professional Network Database, willing to discuss the requirements of their career fields through informational interviews will prove helpful in this exploration process.

As you compare the requirements of various career fields and your identified skills, interests and values, focus on career fields that will be satisfy some of your high priority needs.

Step 3. Organize and Target Your Job Search

After thoroughly exploring career possibilities, several attractive options should emerge. Ask for feedback from members of your network or a career counselor. If they concur with your assessment, these options should become the focus of your job search.

An effective job search requires a great deal of time and energy and it is, therefore, important to get organized early. Use good time management and set aside a certain amount of time weekly to work on your search. Be alert to recruiting activity deadlines at the Career Center and establish time lines, record activities, names, and dates associated with your job search. Give your search the serious effort and attention an issue of this importance deserves.

Those who are afraid that they will miss an opportunity unless they remain totally flexible (“I’m open to anything”) will soon find themselves to be uncompetitive when competing against others who have matched their skills, interests and abilities to the job. Job seekers who are sure of their goals and conduct a targeted job search will find the most success. Begin your job search by establishing your employment objective and then develop all your tactics to meet that objective. Experts agree that this approach has the highest rate of success in finding satisfying positions.

Step 4. Prepare Job Search Support Materials

Once your job goals have been targeted, resumes and application letters can be tailored to reflect your qualifications as they relate to the interests of prospective employers.

Step 5. Develop and Conduct Job Search Campaign

Your campaign or plan of action should be designed to produce the greatest number of interviews possible. The greater the number of contacts and interviews a job seeker has, the greater the number of offers. By using multiple strategies and developing multiple offers, you increase your power to choose the position which will most closely satisfy your high priority needs.

A. Pursue Advertised Vacancies

A frequently used, though not the most effective, job search technique, is to respond to advertised vacancies. Sources of vacancies include:

  • Campus interviews
  • Job Listings on CareerLink
  • Newsletters from professional associations and trade journals.
  • Newspaper classified ads
  • Employment agencies, both public and private
  • Personnel department postings and phone recordings
  • Job listings posted on Internet

Since nearly 80% of the job openings are never advertised, your primary efforts should be toward establishing networks and identifying the hidden job market.

B. Tips for Responding to Job Ads

  • Don’t waste time on long shots.
  • Use your cover letter to answer every stated job requirement.
  • Direct your response to specific individuals when possible, to specific position titles otherwise, (e.g., Dear “Marketing Manager”)
  • Try to contact or write to the manager who will make the final hiring decision as well as the personnel representative named in the ad.
  • Develop a Contact Network

Acquaint yourself with professionals in the career field or organization you have targeted. The following resources in the Career Library can help you identify professional organizations and individuals in your targeted career area.

  • Job Hunter’s Source Book
  • Professional Careers Source Book
  • Encyclopedia of Associations
  • Encyclopedia of Associations: Regional, State and Local Organizations

Other valuable resources are alumni/ae associated with the Professional Network Database, which was created in 1986. The program has expanded to a nationwide network of alumni/ae volunteers who have responded enthusiastically indicating their interest in discussing their jobs and work-related questions with individual students. Among the many career areas represented by the Professional Network Database, on file are:

  • Arts & Communications
  • Engineering
  • Business
  • Environmental /Forestry
  • Computer Science
  • Health & Human Services
  • Education
  • Public Administration, Law & Gov’t
  • Sciences

C. Contact Employers Directly

There are several methods and combinations of methods that can be utilized to contact employers.

  • Send a letter of application and your resume to the personnel department or specific managers. This direct contact method is most successful for candidates in high-demand fields (e.g., engineering and computer science). The success of this method is greatly increased when letters are followed up by phone calls. A phone call may result in an invitation to visit the company.
  • Contact managers in organizations by phone or letter to request an appointment to discuss the information you have obtained by reading annual reports, trade literature, etc. For example: “I understand XYZ is planning to expand its foreign market. I am completing an international business degree and am very interested in this expansion. It seems a very progressive move. May I have 20 minutes of your time to discuss it?” Indicate your desire to meet with them even if they have no positions currently available in their department. Some job seekers find it useful to state that they will be looking for jobs in the near future, but are now just gathering information about organizations.
  • During your appointments with department managers, emphasize your knowledge and interest in their organizations.
  • Always follow up all interviews with thank-you letters, phone calls and when appropriate, resumes that have been revised based on information and suggestions provided by managers.
  • Even if managers have no positions available, once they have had a personal interaction with you they may think of you the next time they have, or hear of, an appropriate opening.
  • Many job seekers have used the contact method to create new positions by identifying organizational needs (through the interview, research, etc.) and proposing these needs be filled with their own skills. (For further information on this methods, consult resources in the Career Library.)

D. Follow-up and Record Keeping

Maintaining careful records of all interviews, correspondence, referrals made and follow-up action is essential for success. Failure to know your present status as an applicant with prospective employers can lead to loss of valuable contacts and credibility.

E. Be Persistent

Job hunting can be very discouraging because it generally requires many contacts with employers to generate a single interview opportunity. Do not take a rejection personally or blame yourself because there is no way for you to know all of the forces impacting the decision. Internal promotions, hiring freezes, company layoffs or any number of other reasons may play a role in decision making. Develop specific goals for the number of applications you wish to generate within a given time frame and stick to your goals. Should it become apparent that your search is not producing results, make an appointment and talk to a career counselor.

Job Search Tips

  • Sign up for as many campus interviews as appropriate.
  • Meet early and often with a career counselor to plan and review the progress of your job search campaign.
  • Use workshops and services to get help with your resume and cover letters.
  • Check out information about employers and job listings in the Career Lab
  • Set up a credentials file to make it easier to send transcripts and references to employers.
  • Take advantage of the mock interview service to prepare for an actual job interview.
  • Use the Professional Network Database, opportunities and network with professionals
  • Develop your skills through the Job Search and Effective Interviewing workshops.

Tips for a Continuing Job Search

In many fields and in some parts of the country, jobs are harder to get than they were in years past. This adds another dimension to the already complex process of obtaining a first job or a new position. Here are some things you may do to increase your long-term career prospects.

Use a Temporary Job Service

More and more employers are turning to temporary employees to recruit staff for peak periods or to avoid the commitment that goes with normal hires. Temporary jobs pay you money, will help you learn more about the world of work and may even help you meet a prospective employer.

Talk With Counselors

Review your situation periodically with career counselors, including some that you may not have previously used.

Think About Moving To A New Area

Economic conditions are not the same all over the country. Read financial and other publications to help identify cities or states where jobs may be more plentiful. You might learn a lot by subscribing to one or two out-of-state newspapers and checking the classified ads.

Volunteer Your Services

Ask to work without pay, particularly if you like an organization or its field. Volunteers who do well may receive consideration when hiring does occur or you may make yourself indispensable by the level of your work.

Obtain An Internship

Internships allow you to try out your field of interest while gaining related work experience, and many are open to seniors, graduate students and adult career changers as well as to undergraduate students. Since employers have the opportunity to learn first hand about your abilities during an internship, it can be a stepping stone to full time employment. There are thousands of internships available, each with its own set of benefits and requirements. Directories and other resources listing internships are available online.

Interview For Information

Arrange appointments with employers and others in fields which interest you. Ask about the status of the field, employment trends, and suggestions for additional contacts. This will help make you a more informed/better candidate and you may learn of potential employers.

Go On For Additional Education

If jobs are tight in your field, you may want to explore the advantages of additional training or an advanced degree to strengthen your qualifications.

Review Your Resume And Letters

Often 200 people apply for a single opening so make sure your letters and resume are as strong as you can produce. Check out our Guide to Resume Writing and ask experts to critique your documents. Attend workshops on job search skills. And while you are at it, take practice interviews.

Research Employers

Today’s competitive job market suggests you should research potential employers carefully to relate your application to employer needs and to help you demonstrate your strong interest in the employer.