by Kristy Amburgey
Your job search begins as soon as you select a degree program to pursue, a new career path or an expanded role within your current realm of expertise. Your job search should encompass a variety of activities, including research and preparation, self-evaluation, networking, etc. until you actually have a job in hand. Even then, you should continue to grow your professional knowledge and connections to further your career until you reach your ultimate goal.
Identify Career Paths and Options
Any job search begins with an understanding of what you hope to do professionally in your life. As you make decisions about your future, consider various career paths and options that match your personal and professional goals and personality. Opportunities can range from positions directly related to your courses of study or not related to your degree but that use the skills you learned in college. You can have one career path in mind, or you might be open to several different options.
Research Jobs and Companies of Interest
After you have determined the job type you want to pursue, you now want to find out the various job titles that encompass your career path, and you need to identify the companies that offer these roles. In addition, you want to learn about the companies’ expectations, what the job requires of candidates (at a minimum) and what the job would entail, matching it to your preferences. Be sure to get a realistic picture of who the company typically hires for your desired role and how both your background and your personality fit that job. Make informed career decisions based on accurate research you have conducted.
Create a Targeted Company List
Any job search should be focused (avoid the “I will take anything” approach). One way you can focus your search and help yourself down the road is to develop a targeted company list. The list can be as long or as short as you want, but it should be focused on the companies that offer the job or an iteration of the job you want. Your company list should evolve as you continue through school, find new companies and gain new interests; routinely monitor your list. Don’t be afraid to go outside of your targeted companies to find opportunities, but you should do your due diligence on the company before applying to jobs.
Prepare Job Search Documentation
Using your resume, cover letter and other documentation, your goal is to prove you can not only do the job but positively impact the company’s bottom line. Focus your resume and cover letter on one job type at a time, customizing the resume using the job description as you apply for positions. Ensure that each part of your resume is focused on showcasing your accomplishments by listing outcomes and results of your experiences (from work to academic to project). Quantify your accomplishments as often as possible using dollar amounts, numbers and percentages. Avoid using terminology (i.e. fluff) that gives employers no real useful information upon which to make a decision about you as a candidate. As always, proper grammar, accurate information, consistency, clean formatting and ease of reading are all important factors in your job search documents.
Consider Additional Skills, Trainings and/or Certifications
Going back to the career path research you completed, you should have an understanding of what a company expects from their candidates. If you are not sure, check out a variety of job descriptions or ask your professors or people in your network. If you are missing a requirement, take the time to complete it before graduating, if possible. If you must wait to obtain additional skills or trainings, have a timeline for when you hope to accomplish them.
Gain Relevant Experience and Skills
Relevant experience can come in a variety of forms, including co-op/internship positions, projects, research, job/summer jobs/part-time positions, on-campus clubs or organizations, volunteer work, conferences and professional organizations, to name a few. Through any experience, you should work to further develop your leadership, communication, initiative, analysis and other skills that apply to any job type (also called transferable skills).
Maintain a List of Achievements and Accomplishments
In order to accurately communicate your accomplishments, you need to keep track of them. Maintain a list of things you achieved in any academic, work, group or other experience.
In reality, networking is an action that you began early in your life. Now it is time to build your network into a more formal support system for your job search and professional growth. You can build relationships in any number of ways, but you want to place yourself in situations where you can make a positive impression on a future employer or future advocate. Brainstorm about ways you can connect with others; do not fall into the trap of assuming you know no one. Your network may fall outside of the job type you are pursuing, but keep an open mind about building relationships with people from all professional backgrounds.
Apply for Positions
Approximately six months to one year before graduation, begin to apply for positions, especially for entry-level candidates. Some career types are more likely to hire as needed, so you may need to wait closer until you are degree complete to pursue a job. As you apply for positions, you must gain insight into how the company selects candidates to interview, always following directions. Many companies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), where the system scans your resume for key words before being viewed by a hiring manager. In these cases, you must reverse engineer or integrate key words from the job description and your knowledge of the company into your resume and cover letter. Another important reminder is to keep track of the positions for which you applied.
Interviewing skills need to be developed and practiced. Prepare for an interview situation by researching the company, understanding the position, having stories to relay during the interview and giving evidence of how you can help solve the company’s problems. Practice your interview skills by reviewing and answering sample questions, either with a partner or by planning out your answers. Ensure you have questions to ask the employer and always put your most professional self forward, from your dress to how you present yourself.
After an interview, networking event or other activity where a person helps you, follow up. A thank you note or email is appropriate, and a phone call or other act of kindness can be nice as well. Avoid contacting a person too often as they will soon lose their desire to help you, or you may even lose out on the job after an interview if you are too persistent.
Understand the Salary Process
Once you are offered a job, you will also be extended a salary and benefits package. Typically, you want to avoid talking about salary until you have been offered the job; only if a company requests the information should you provide an expected salary, preferably as a range. Once you have been extended the job with salary, you can decide to accept, negotiate or decline the offer. Understand that factors such as your negotiation strategies, your worth, the cost of living, the company’s salary standards and more impact your offer. Ensure you understand what you bring to the negotiation table if you decide to ask for more money or benefits and always thoroughly research the typical salary ranges for your industry, for the company and for your job type.
And Network More
Networking should be an ongoing activity in any professional career. Never stop meeting new people and growing current relationships. Most employers prefer to hire someone who has been recommended to them, so make sure you continue to place yourself in a position to be the recommended candidate.
A job search is a personal journey, but there are some common steps that you should take to put yourself in the best situation for job search success.
Kristy Amburgey is the Associate Director of Career Services – Daytona Beach campus and currently manages marketing and employer relations for the department. She has been with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for approximately 10 years and with Career Services for nine years.