You’re in the home stretch. It’s senior year of college and you’re moments away from entering the real world. While it seems like senioritis and unforgettable parties are the only to-dos on the horizon, it’s never too early to think about landing your first big job.
Entering the job market for the first time can feel like swimming in the deep end sans life jacket. But learning how to prepare for interviews, write a resume and cover letters, and how to network with relevant players will all help you feel confident about setting out in uncharted waters. And you can start all of this now.
By taking these simple steps, the job search process will seem much more manageable and set you on the course for having a gig lined up after you hang up your cap and gown.
STEP 1: Bookmark a folder of job search tools.
- Websites like Glassdoor can help you narrow your job search within the criteria you value most.
- Browse the companies you are interested and scan for openings.
- While you’re not yet an alumni, take advantage of your school’s jobs database and alumni network.
- Employ Facebook to reach out to personal connections in the field you’re interested in–whether it’s professors, classmates, or family members–even if you know them tangentially, and ask if there are any new openings in the company or organization they’re employed by.
STEP 2: Prepare your application materials.
- Hone in on the list of companies you’re interested in applying for, and an application schedule. The schedule should include both when their deadlines are, and when you personally would like to have your application materials ready to send in by.
- Make your resume a standout by having people you trust revise and critique it, and by employing resume writing tips.
- Take time writing your cover letter – never settle for less than a few drafts and revisions. All the better if you can have someone else read over your cover letter for critique and tips. If writing a cover letter is new for you, familiarize yourself with the structure of a good cover letter by searching for examples online. And be careful not to fall victim to common cover letter blunders (Hint: no blabbing.)
STEP 3: Become an ‘interview master’.
- Get an idea for what the interview will be like by talking to people you know who have interviewed for similar jobs and companies, and by checking out Glassdoor’s interview question and answer database.
- Write out and rehearse responses to the questions you anticipate, and practicing speaking eloquently about how your skills and past experience match the job description.
- Remember to follow up with your interviewer. Even if it’s a rejection, learn from why they might have rejected you, and express your interest in keeping in touch in the future, should another position arise.
STEP 4: Be decisive.
- Be clear with the employers you have offers from about what date you need to let them know by. If you’re someone who needs time to mull over decisions, don’t hesitate to ask them if you can extend the decision deadline.
- To evaluate the offer, consider base pay, benefits, company culture, location, transportation and makeup of the team.
- If necessary, respectfully decline the offer and express your interest in maintaining a relationship.
STEP 5: Know your worth.
- Don’t worry about coming across as brash or greedy – negotiating your salary shows you have clear priorities and know how to advocate for yourself.
- Thanks to the research you did earlier on the company, you have a sense of what employees are paid in the particular field. Compare your offer with other salary reviews.
- Acknowledge the learning curve and note opportunities for advancement in the company to plan your next steps after 12-24 months of working on the job.
By spreading out your preparation over your final year of school, you will ensure that you’ve given your future a long, hard look and teed yourself up for success.
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