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.
- 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 Services 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 Services 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.