Summer Spotlight: Prepare for Your Job Search

In August, many upperclassmen will return to campus with two main goals: graduating and finding a full-time job. If this sounds like you, gear up for your job search with these thoughts in mind:

Student Listens to Recruiter
Click image to enlarge

A student listens to a recruiter describe his business at the Georgia Tech Career Fair. 

1. Decide what you want.

Reflect on your recent work and academic experiences and ask yourself if you want to do similar tasks in a full-time job. Consider what you liked and disliked about past experiences. Then, turn your list of likes and dislikes into job specifications and focus your search on jobs that most closely fulfill those requirements. Career Counseling from Career Services and advice from U.S. News can help you decide what career is best for you.

2. Do your research.

Potential employers want to know what interests you about working with them, and you want to ensure the company will be a good fit for you. If you’re targeting specific companies, arrange informational interviews with employees in positions that interest you to find out exactly what they do on a regular basis and what their career paths look like. You can master the informational interview with advice from the New York Times and CBS News.

This will help you paint an accurate picture of the jobs you do and do not want to apply for and understand terms often found in industry-specific job descriptions. If you don’t know where to start, ask friends and family in similar positions how they got to where they are and what they looked for when applying for jobs. If they can’t answer your questions, they may be able to connect you to others who can.

3. Define your strategy.

Depending on your goals, your job search may look different from that of your peers. Consider these questions to help set up a strategy that works for you:

  • Are you going to cast a wide net and apply to several different companies, or only target a few niche positions?
  • Are you going to visit a career fair, or focus on information sessions and online applications?

Strategies that are consistent with your goals and effective in your specific industry will help you stay on track. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Five students told Bankrate about how they tried something different to find what they were looking for.

4. Start practicing.

“Practice, practice, practice” can apply to your job search as well as it does to thermodynamics or speaking a second language. During your job search, you’re going to have to do things that you probably haven’t done before.

Learn what your recruitment process is going to entail, such as the skills you will be expected to demonstrate and challenges you will likely face, and practice them until you can do what you have to do flawlessly. Attend mock interview sessions and practice case interviews with recruiters to see how you’re doing, or ask a few people you trust to be honest with you to evaluate your performance during simulated interview conditions. Faculty and staff can be an excellent source of feedback, especially if your applications have writing requirements. Career Services also has interviewing tips on their website to help you prepare.

5. Tell a compelling story.

When it’s time to start interfacing with potential employers, your unique story will be what sets you apart from other job candidates — if you tell it well. Recruiters value detail and efficiency, so it is essential that you have a personal positioning statement and resume that demonstrate your core competencies and make employers want to get to know you. SmartSelling offers tips on forming this kind of statement.

Another effective way to tell your story is through a tailored resume. You likely shouldn’t submit the same resume to two different companies unless their posted job descriptions are identical. Instead, use your resume to highlight what elements of your experience match up to the job description. As important as it is for you to find a job that fits your needs, recruiters are looking for candidates who fulfill their needs and fit their organizations as well. Your resume should tell them specifically how you will satisfy their wants and needs, not how you could potentially fulfill their requirements.

Stay tuned: In the last installment of our Summer Spotlight series, we’ll discuss landing a co-op or an internship.