Thursday, December 3, 2015

Job Searching: Where Do I Begin?

So where to begin?
First, make a plan! To be effective at a job search, develop a strategy. The strategy should include some basics, such as:

1)      Identify the city or region in which you’d like to live.  

2)      Study job descriptions of positions which interest you to understand what employers need or want.  Gone are the days when help wanted ads were the main job search tool. Now, the Internet provides any number of links to online job banks and search engines, social media platforms, and company job sites – literally at one’s fingertips! You’ve been on many of these sites:,, and are some of the popular sites. There are also the job banks for jobs across the nation or state by state. Among the pros of using these tools are the vast number of jobs posted nationwide, and even globally. Among the cons – the vast number of job searchers competing for the same position. It can seem overwhelming.

3)      Know what you would like to do and find organizations that have those types of positions.

4)      Attend campus recruiting and networking events. Attend career and job fairs, trade shows and conferences – learn about employers who are hiring. (Are you a student in the Iowa College Recruiting Network? Spring Interview Day is right around the corner. Contact your Career Services staff for more details and to get signed up!)

5)      Design a personal business card to share at job fairs and networking events. Being memorable works better when people you meet can find you again!

6)      Update and customize your resume and cover letter with your latest accomplishments, education, and experience. Applying to a specific job? Be sure to use as many key words as possible (key words are those found in the job description).

7)      Use social media wisely. Make sure your privacies on accounts such as Facebook are appropriate as employers may look online for information about job applicants. Better yet, create a professional account on LinkedIn, complete your profile, and join groups within your career path to expand your network and connect with people in your chosen field.

8)      When you find a job posted online, check the organization’s website and see if the job is posted with them under Careers, Employment, Jobs, Work for Us….if possible, apply for the job from the company’s own website rather than from a job bank. For example, if you find a job on a Workforce Development website and you can find the company and the job posted on the company’s website, apply through the company’s system. Workforce Development postings have filters and you must match nearly all of the requirements just to post to the position. If you go through the company website, however, your application stands a better chance of getting through to a hiring manager.

9)      You’ve heard it before, but we’ll repeat it again and again – connect with employees inside your companies of interest! Do you know people who work where you’d like to work? Talk to them, let them know you are applying, ask them to put in a good word about you – and be sure you deserve the good word! Employers would rather hire a ‘known’ candidate than someone unknown.

10)  And once more – Network! Let family, friends, faculty, staff, other students, and your references know you are hunting for a job. Some estimates about hidden jobs – those which may never be posted – account for up to 80% of hires. Whether that statistic is accurate or not, employers don’t post all jobs, and appreciate saving money on posting job openings. Oh, and share your resume with your network. A recent success story came about when a new grad shared her resume with a family member, who shared it with a friend, who shared it with an employer, who called the job seeker requesting an interview and, ultimately offered the young woman a job.

11)  Searching for jobs at a distance? Try browsing the Chamber of Commerce websites for towns and cities in the area you’d like to live. Chambers usually have lists of companies and organizations on their site, and they are most often linked to the organization’s own website. Go from there to find the Employment tab for that company or organization. Very large metropolitan areas may have a number of cities represented in ‘area’ or ‘partnership’ chambers, giving even more access to numerous employers as you search. And if you have questions, pick up a phone! Chamber personnel are excellent in providing more information and contacts which may be of great help in a job search in their area.

Your job search strategy is basic and once you have your plan, the second step is to Work the Plan. You may make lists of employers to contact, or jobs to which to apply, but if you don’t stay organized, your job search will be frustrating and you may lose track of where you’ve applied or what resume you used to apply. (Yes, your resumes should be tailored to each job, not generic for every job!)

An easy way to stay organized is to create a simple chart with the job, company, application materials, and date of application noted. Once you have applied, if you haven’t heard back in a timely manner, do a courteous follow-up via telephone or email, mentioning the time frame of your application, asking if they received the application or if they need any other information, reiterating your interest in the position, and ask the time frame for further decision making. If the application instructions ask you not to contact them, follow those wishes. And do remember, organizations may get a few or hundreds of applications for a position. It may take several weeks for them to actually identify the candidates they wish to interview and, after the interview, make a final selection. So be patient and apply for other jobs while you wait!

Note: Job searching wouldn’t be complete without mentioning how to use Social Media to find jobs, but that is an entire other blog (stay tuned for that Career Hot Spot blog in February)!

Written by: Debbie E. Stevens, William Penn University
Career Services Coordinator

Edited by:  Bobbi Meyer, Simpson College
Director of Career Development & Civic Engagement