Job Search Basics
This guide provides a brief overview of what's involved in conducting a good job search. You may wish to supplement this information with the rest of the Career Guides about the job search, the written and videotaped materials located on the Job Search Information shelf, as well as a discussion of your job search concerns, strategies, and presentation (written materials and during interviews) 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. In order 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 so far, your accomplishments, characteristics of work that are important to you (your work values), and lifestyle preferences. You can talk with a counselor, use DISCOVER, and/or ask for the SkillScan exercise. 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 is a most 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 Career Guide C5, Information Interviewing, for how to make contacts and Career Guide C6, Information Interview Questions, for 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 internships, part-time or summer employment, or volunteering. Enroll in supplemental 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 Career Guide R1, Writing a Great Resume.
- Gather your references.
Think of 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 written statements from them in a credentials file. Ask for information about how to establish one in the CDO. Other ways to handle your references are discussed in Career Guide R3, Resumes: What to Include.
- Develop job leads.
There are a number of ways to identify potential employers. Use as many as possible to fit your situation. Studies tell us that only 15-20% of all jobs are ever advertised. That means that the other unadvertised 80-85% are filled through personal contacts and applying directly to organizations. Using ONLY advertised openings is often thought of as conducting a "passive job search." An "active job search" means that developing leads is a critical part of your search. Refer to Career Guides J3, J4, and J5 for more detailed information about how to develop your personal contact network, resources to use to develop leads for direct application, as well as how to locate advertised vacancies.
- Research the organizations in which you are most interested.
Ken Perluss, Corporate Recruiter for Pyramid Technology Corporation in San Jose, CA observes, "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 technology and, more specifically, 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." For sources of information about organizations, refer to Career Guide J6, Researching an Organization.
- 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. That assumption will almost certainly lose the job. 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. Watch the videos and/or read the books about interviewing located on the Interviewing shelf in the CDO. Then make an appointment for a videotaped practice interview.
- Write, call, or visit.
Based on your research and what you know to be your best skills, decide how you will contact 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 you are going to convince the secretary (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 Career Guides L1, Writing Job Search Letters, L2, Cover Letter Pointers, and L3, Cover Letter Outline.
- Follow-up 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 some 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's important to start early, take one step at a time, and be persistent. When you need help, have questions, or just want to try out some ideas, make a "getting started" appointment with a CDO counselor.