Strategize your Job Search
For many graduating seniors, COVID-19 brings uncertainty for their future in the job market. However, creating a job search strategy can help you stay organized and motivated in your search for your first position.
The goal of building a strategy is to help you keep track of your applications, build quality resumes and cover letters, and define your work expectations to refine your job search. The steps below are synthesized from various conversations I have had with mentors, advisors, and my university career center.
Here’s how to build your strategy:
1. Identify the aspects of your work life that are important to you.
Visualize your future entry-level position. What kind of environment is it? Is it corporate or relaxed? What are the work hours like? What matters most to you: benefits, salary, professional development programs, or a mix? All of these questions and more will help you define your job search and give you more of a sense of what you value not only when you arrive at the interview and negotiation stage.
2. Identify the roles that you want and the roles where you are a qualified candidate.
Sometimes in your job search, you are met with the dreaded “X number of years minimum qualification.” Still, there are times when you can make a case for the skills you possess even if you have not used them on the job. You should reach out to your school’s career advisement center for more information about these circumstances.
If you have a gap in your skills however, you may want to turn to LinkedIn Learning or Coursera to get a certification and learn those skills required.
This step might highlight that there is a gap in your experience and skills right now, but it will give you a sense of what you need to work on for point three in this list.
3. Review and learn skills that are relevant to your job title preferences.
Job descriptions are the perfect place to find out what skills recruiters and employers look for in candidates. You can also use this information to start building those skills you already have to potentially build a specialization that you are often seeing in your job search.
4. Polish and edit your job materials using skills and keywords most often found in your job title preferences.
Now that you have identified the skills and keywords that recruiters and employers are looking for, you can use them in all your job materials. This is an important step because recruiting software picks up on those keywords which can bring you that much closer to your desired job! If you don’t have those keywords “in action” on a job or internship, consider adding the certifications from LinkedIn Learning to your resume.
5. Create a spreadsheet to keep track of where, when, and how you apply.
This is an incredibly important aspect of your job search. I created a spreadsheet for my job search that includes the job title, company, job post site, application date, follow-up date, a link to the job description, a link to the cover letter I sent, recruiter contact name and info (if available) and a notes section. This will help you stay organized and help you prepare for the interview you receive a call to schedule one. Below is the job application tracker that I use. Feel free to use it too.
6. Prepare your interview space and practice your interview skills.
Have a game plan ready for your interview space. Figure out if you will need to move some furniture around to get a dull or non-distracting background. This is also a time where you can familiarize yourself with the changes occurring in the interviewing process for your industry. Some positions require technical evaluations, so it is helpful to conduct an informational interview with someone familiar with your desired industry. This person can help you learn more about what the interview process is like now and help you prepare.
Above all, remember to keep a positive attitude and to continue to reach out and build your network. Your network is your strongest asset, now more than ever.