The job search is more than finding a job posting for which you fulfil the requirements. This planning phase allows you to gather the information and language that you need to make yourself a strong applicant.
As you begin the process of finding and applying for employment in your chosen field, it is important to take stock of your education, technical skills, and the experiences and characteristics that make you an ideal employee and co-worker. This self-assessment is the foundation for building strong job materials. Beyond evaluating your skillset, this is also an opportunity to take stock of the types of environments you will thrive in:
Do you work better independently or in groups? Have you always imagined working for a large company, with the structure and perks that offers? Or do you see yourself working on a smaller team, perhaps taking risks for a project you believe in personally?
Do you like developing new ideas and planning? Do you like seeing through a complex project to the finish? Use this information as you search for potential jobs and internships and evaluate employers. Seeking out a work environment and job that suits your strengths and preferences will give you an advantage in the job search and in your career.
Know Your Field
Use the resources available to you (career services, job websites, networking events) to find positions. Make connections. Even before you are truly “on the market”, networking events are great ways to build your confidence and become comfortable in professional environments. Keep yourself informed and up-to-date on the projects and initiatives happening within your chosen field and especially of those employers that most interest you.
This is not something you only do the night before a career fair or an interview – expose yourself to these ideas and discussions over a long period of time. These types of resources are a great place to get started:
• Organizations and conferences: Connecting with and simply being aware of the national organizations will expose you to current ideas and developments in the field. Most host conferences on a regular basis and even just reading the Call for Presentations or the titles and abstracts from a recent conference will introduce you to new terms and concepts, laying the groundwork for future learning or research.
• Company blogs or white papers: Most companies “talk to” the public or the industry in some way to manage public perception, promote accomplishments, and (often) recruit employees. These might be highly technical or more casual or promotional in tone, depending on the company culture, industry, and goals – any of these provide valuable insights.
• Social media: Following both companies and individual professionals will introduce you to their work, concerns, and developments in the industry. It also might make it easy for you to get exposed to these ideas as part of your regular online habits.
• Local networking or meetup groups: Professionals often hold events at a local level to meet each other and learn about what other companies in the area are doing. These might be purely social or they might include learning opportunities in the form of talks and presentations.
Build a vocabulary: Part of what you are doing as you prepare yourself for your career is learning a language – you are developing vocabulary and learning the language of your profession in addition to developing the required
In the process of completing the self-assessment, you probably discovered that you have lots of skills and strengths seemingly unrelated to your field. It’s important to remember that even unrelated experiences have taught you “transferable skills” – skills that may not be technically related but are considered important to any field.
These “soft skills” are consistently ranked high on employer lists of desired attributes and include organizational skills, leadership abilities, teamwork experience, communication skills, problem-solving, meeting deadlines, and so on. In the job search process, it is important to be able to describe your previous experiences in a language that employers recognize as valuable.