Job Search Guide

There are many aspects of a job search. A job search can include deciding what type of position you are seeking, preparing your professional documents, and finally, applying to what could be exciting opportunities. This guide will walk you through the job search process so you can be informed and prepared. 

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Decide on your professional goals 

Before you are able to search for jobs, you will first need to decide the types of positions you are willing to apply for. To do this, you will need a grasp of your interests, strengths, personal characteristics, and values, as well as an understanding of what you are qualified for based on past academic, professional, and personal experience. Once you have brainstormed the specifics of what you need in a job, you will be able to evaluate potential opportunities based on whether or not positions match your job requirements. 

Consider outlining:

  • Ideal function: tasks you would like to do at work every day
  • Desired geographical region: perhaps you are willing to move, or maybe you would like to stay in a specific region or city
  • Salary: consult the References section at the end of this guide for websites that can help you research appropriate salary expectations for your desired position
  • Effects on your family, partner, and/or children: make sure everyone understands your job search and its effect on the important people in your life

If you are having trouble identifying the type of position you want to pursue, consider making an appointment with the Career Center to discuss your situation. You can also learn more about different fields and industries by consulting the following resources:

Understand your timeline 

Working backward from the time you would like to begin a new position, plot out a possible timeline for your job search. The time between the submission of your application and your first day of work at a new position can take as long as 3 months, or even longer. With this in mind, it is helpful to begin your search several months before you aim to start a new position.

For a May graduate, it would not be unheard of to begin job searching in November or December of the preceding year. Beginning early can also alleviate some stress, as you have more time before your target start date. However, be sure to research the hiring cycle for your fields of interest as they can vary greatly depending on your industry and target employers. 

Prepare your professional documents 

Before you can begin applying for positions, you will need to prepare the necessary documents. Creating high-quality professional documents can take a significant amount of time, yet another reason it is advantageous to begin your job search early. The Career Center is available to help you craft your documents to represent yourself as a strong candidate.

Typical documents requested for a job application include a resume, cover letters unique to each position, and a reference list. More information about creating these documents can be found in the Resumes, Cover Letters, and References Guide. Some employers may also request writing samples or portfolios of past work. Compile examples that show your highest quality, professional work so that employers see what you offer as a candidate.

For those applying to academic, research, or medical fields, a Curriculum Vitae (CV) may be appropriate in lieu of a resume. For more information on CVs, please consult the CV Guide.

Build your career wardrobe 

For those entering the world of full-time work, it will become necessary to have a career-appropriate wardrobe. Depending on your field, this could mean more formal clothes, such as suits and collared shirts, or business-casual clothing which allows more freedom in accessories and style. 

When you are first shopping for your career wardrobe, look for items that can be easily mixed and matched so that you can build more outfits with fewer items.    Consider neutral colors (such as grey, navy, and black) for garments such as pants, blazers, skirts, and shoes. You can add your own style with colorful shirts, blouses, or accessories including scarves and ties. For interviewing, it is best to err on the conservative side and dress more formally than you might for a normal day of work.  

There are many clothing retailers and department stores that offer career-appropriate clothing, and they often hold sales and even student discounts. Consider browsing online to decide where you might like to shop and see if there are any discounts you can take advantage of. Secondhand stores are great places to consider if you are looking to stretch your budget. 

Search Strategies

This section outlines job search strategies that will help you reach your career goals. By using multiple search strategies, you will increase your chances of finding positions that meet your requirements.

Reactive Strategies 

A reactive job search involves finding and reacting to information that already exists. Reactive strategies are relatively easy and can be done from the comfort of your home. 

Reactive job search strategies include:

  • Searching job sites regularly. Please consult the References section at the end of this guide for suggested websites.
  • Checking the "Careers" or "Employment" pages on the websites of organizations of Interest
  • Reading articles about jobs in your field

Proactive Strategies 

A proactive job search involves creating your own opportunities to gather information that is not readily available to other job seekers. While anyone can type in the same keywords in an online search, you can create your own opportunities to help set yourself apart. The following strategies can be used in tandem with reactive strategies to make a well-rounded approach to your search.  

Participating in Professional Development 

There may be conferences, webinars, speakers, or other professional development opportunities that could enrich your knowledge of your target occupational fields and help you meet new professional contacts. Seek out these opportunities and try to attend events that you feel could be relevant and beneficial. Find these events by searching online (including events listed on Handshake), looking at posters around campus, joining professional associations, and speaking with professors or fellow students about any events they may be attending.


Networking is a tactic you can use to make interpersonal connections with those in your target occupational fields, target companies, or target positions. It is an extremely important part of the job search, as some positions are not posted to the public and many are filled through word of mouth. However, you can be an agent of your own success by networking. You can reach out to professionals using LinkedIn or email to begin your correspondence, or brush up on your interpersonal skills to enter into conversations with people of interest at professional development events or conferences. You can network anytime and anywhere—with fellow students, colleagues, professors, or even people you meet during chance encounters.

To help prepare for networking situations, consider developing a brief statement of who you are, what you are doing now, what you have done in the past, and what you are looking for in the future.

Your statement might sound like this:

“Hello, I’m FIRST NAME LAST NAME. I’m a junior studying political science and economics, and I’m interested in understanding how political changes influence economic conditions. My background involves performing academic  research alongside professors as well as working with local politicians on their campaign strategies. Right now, I’m looking for summer internships in federal politics, or with NGOs or community organizations that focus on community development through economic empowerment.”

To learn more about Networking, consult the Networking Guide.

Informational Interviews 

An informational interview is a conversation in which the job seeker requests a conversation with someone whose professional role they are interested in learning about—perhaps someone who works at a company or in a position of interest. As the job seeker is initiating contact with the professional, it is important to be prepared with thoughtful questions. A 30-minute conversation is an appropriate length of time to request for an informational interview, which you might initiate via email or LinkedIn message or phone.  

A request for an informational interview might sound like this: 

Dear Dr. Last Name,

I am writing in the hopes of speaking with you to learn more about your career in psychiatry. As a sophomore Biomedical Sciences major at Marquette University, I am in the process of researching potential career paths I may pursue after graduation. I see from your LinkedIn profile that you also studied biomedical sciences during your undergraduate career at Marquette, and I am interested to hear how you made the decision to pursue medical school and eventually the field of psychiatry. Please let me know if you would be available for a 30-minute conversation. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to speaking with you soon. If you have any questions about me or my request, do let me know.


First Name Last Name 

You should come prepared with thoughtful questions so that your informational interview will be meaningful for both you and the person you are interviewing. If you do some research before your informational interview, the conversation will be more productive for both parties. Try to personalize the questions you ask based on the person you are interviewing so that they feel you have taken the opportunity seriously. Remember, you are trying to make a positive first impression with someone who might be helpful to you in your future career.

Some possible informational interview questions might be:

  • What has your career path looked like up to this point?
  • What does a typical day look like for you? 
  • What do you enjoy about working at your company?
  • What are the most interesting parts of your job?
  • What parts of your job do you find boring or challenging?
  • What is the work-life balance like in your position?
  • What are entry-level job titles/internship titles that I should look for in my current search?
  • Do you know of anyone else you think I should speak with?
  • What do you see as the biggest issue in your field right now? 
  • What do you think new professionals entering this field should know?
  • What type of professional experience do you think is beneficial for entry-level professionals in this field?
  • What advice would you give me as someone interested in entering this field?
  • Do you have any websites, journals, or professional organizations that you use to stay current in the field? Which ones? 
  • What advice do you wish someone had given you when you were beginning your career? 
  • What is the culture like at your current organization?

Applying for Positions 


Evaluating position descriptions

Position descriptions can take many different forms, but should always include a clear description of job duties as well as desired and preferred qualifications. The tone of each posting will differ depending on the organization: a young startup might have a playful and casual description, while a law firm posting might be more traditional. Use your critical reading skills to study the position in detail, as this will serve you well when writing a cover letter and in the interview process.

  • When you see a list of “Required Qualifications,” pay attention to these. If the position requires a graduate degree and you have only completed an undergraduate degree, it would be a waste of time to apply when you do not meet the expectations of a successful candidate.
  • When you see a list of “Desired/Preferred Qualifications,” treat these as if the employer is writing a wish list. If you satisfy some or most of these requirements, it may still be worth applying. The employer may be willing to provide training if they find a candidate who is otherwise a good fit.

When all is said and done, read the job description and decide if this is a position you would actually accept if it were offered to you. If it is not a position you would accept, then it will not serve you to spend your time and energy applying.

Applying online 

Because job searches have become almost entirely digital, you will likely be completing multiple online applications. This can be tedious, as most applicant tracking systems require you to enter the same information in multiple forms. Though you have all of your contact information and past positions listed on your resume, for example, some systems will still ask you to enter these details by hand. Some systems are advanced enough to auto-complete the application using an uploaded resume, but the programs are often faulty. It is good practice to be diligent in filling out your contact and employment information, as well as provide any requested documents, so that your application is complete and submitted in the format desired by the organization. When submitting documents such as resumes, cover letters, and reference lists, it is best to put these documents in PDF form so that your format and content are preserved. 

Following up after an application 

After submitting your application, the waiting begins. If two weeks have passed since the application deadline, you may consider reaching out to the organization to check the status of your application. You may do this via phone or email. However, be sure to read the fine print in the position description, as some employers request that applicants not inquire about the status of their application. 

Next Steps 


Interviewing is a part of every job search, no matter what type of position you are seeking. It is a good idea to begin preparing for interviews early in the job search process so your skills can be polished by the time you have a professional interview scheduled. For more information on interviewing skills, please consult our Interviewing Guide.

Receiving an offer 

If you are selected as a viable candidate, you may receive a job offer. You may receive a phone call, offer letter, or email detailing your salary and benefits.

Consider the offer according to the criteria you set earlier in the search.

  • Is the job function in your desired skill base? 
  • Is the salary enough for your needs?  
  • Does the location of the company suit your geographic requirements?  
  • Are there opportunities for your partner and children to integrate into a new community?

You may be given time to negotiate and decide whether or not to accept the position—likely a period of around one week. For more information on the negotiation process, please consult the Salary, Negotiation, and Financial Matters Handout.

Maintaining Wellness During Your Search 

Whether you are still completing coursework or have already concluded your degree, it is easy to become overwhelmed during a job search. Your job search is yet another task that can make it hard to spend adequate time taking care of yourself and loved ones. As best as possible, take time to make sure you are living a balanced life with enough time for sleep, movement, eating well, resting, and socializing. If you feel whole and healthy, you will put your best foot forward with potential employers.

Some resources that might help you maintain wellness are: 

  • Counseling Center (Holthusen Hall, 2nd floor)
  • Medical Clinic (Schroeder Complex, Lower Level)
  • Recreational facilities (Helfaer Rec Center, 16th Street south of Wisconsin Avenue; Rec Plex, basement of Straz Tower)
  • Gyms or exercise studios
  • Religious and spiritual communities
  • Venues hosting concerts, shows, and movies
  • Social groups centered around shared hobbies or interests
  • Hiking trails and state parks
  • Volunteer organizations within the city of Milwaukee

Marquette University Career Center 

You can have your individual questions, concerns, and goals addressed in a 1-on-1 appointment with a Career Counselor or Advisor at the Career Center, located on the first floor of Holthusen Hall.

Make an appointment by calling the Career Center at (414) 288-7423 or logging into Handshake ( using your eMarq credentials to access your account.