This blog post is the first post of a series we are starting all about job searching! Jenna Figaro is currently a graduate assistant for the Career Development team at the Michelin Career Center. She is in her second year of her Master’s program at Clemson and will be graduating in May 2019. Through this series, Jenna will talk about how she is navigating the job searching process, in addition to tips and tricks she has found along the way.
If you are anything like me (and maybe close to graduating too), you may have mixed thoughts and feelings about the job search. One day I’m excited and the next day I’m terrified, and so far, I’ve learned that it is all part of the process!
I am both a Career Center insider AND a fellow student! While I have the theoretical knowledge to navigate the job search, now is my time to put it into action. So, if you’re thinking, “I have no idea what I’m doing!” – welcome to the club. Me too. The average job search takes 6-9 months. Let that sink in. Job searching takes time, so be mentally prepared to put in the work required to land your first job!
In this first post, I highlight some steps I’ve been taking to prepare for starting the job search. This is the “behind-the-scenes” work that happens prior to applying for jobs and includes tips I’ve been using to make sure I’m ready to go! Whether you are graduating in December, in May, or not for a year or two, I’m hopeful you’ll feel more at ease and prepared to click “Apply for Job” after considering these ideas.
Reflect on your work values.
What’s important to you? Location? Salary? Work environment? Think about what you have to have in a job as well as what would be a deal breaker for you.
For me, it is so important that I work with other people in a positive work space. I value being part of a team and having a variety of tasks. My current job allows me to juggle multiple different projects at once, and I love that! As I start job searching, I need to pay attention to the duties and responsibilities in a job. These will be some of the first indicators of whether or not I will be a good fit in that work space.
Also consider location. How far do you want to be from where you consider home? Is that important to you? Do you mind having a commute? Do you need to work in a fast-paced environment? Start thinking about your “must have’s” and your “I can do without’s”. For me, an “I can do without” is making a good profit. I really value finding purpose in my work regardless of what number is written on my paycheck. Work-life balance is a “must have” for me too, so I will definitely be asking questions in my interviews to decipher what work-life balance looks like in a given office. Think about what might be a deal-breaker or deal-maker for you! Here is a “work values” resource we have to help you start thinking about what you value when it comes to the world of work.
Continuously update your professional documents.
It’s easy to forget that you need more than just a resume to apply for a job! Have you thought about your resume, cover letter, or LinkedIn profile? In this section, I break down how I’ve prepared these documents, as well as some resources that have helped me along the way.
Have you abandoned your resume for a little too long? Now is the time to check in on that document regularly! I have been trying to update my resume weekly, and at the least, monthly. Yes, I review resumes for other students, but I also have other counselors in the center look at my resume. It never hurts to ask for feedback from a lot of people! Start with the Career Center, then check in with your professors and people in your industry. Every person I’ve met with has given me different feedback, but it has all been so valuable. At the end of the day, your resume is your document, so keep what works for you!
Does LinkedIn terrify you? That’s understandable, but it’s a good place to get started! Chances are that an employer is going to search for you online – wouldn’t you want their first find on you to be a professional one? Check out the LinkedIn resource here for more tips on how to set up your LinkedIn page. I just made my LinkedIn a few months ago, and I’m trying to be a more active user as I start searching! The more up-to-date my profile is, the more searches I will appear in. More searches = more potential jobs! (Hopefully?!)
Get ready for the cover letter. At best, the cover letter will get you the interview. At worst, the cover letter is never read. It is always ideal to put your best foot forward and submit an amazing cover letter with your job application! Learn the ins and outs of the cover letter so that it seems less intimidating when it comes time to write one for real!
I’ll be honest – I’d never written a cover letter until I started working here. Since working here though, I’ve learned how to navigate the cover letter and feel much more prepared to tackle it in my job search! Here is our cheat sheet for how to write a cover letter if you’d like some helpful tips too. I always refer to this resource! Remember to tailor your cover letter to the specific job you’re applying for as well! A generic letter will not help you stand out. Always feel free to stop by the Career Center (316 Hendrix) for a drop-in from 1:30-3:45pm Monday-Friday to receive feedback on your professional documents too!
Learn what tools will be relevant and useful to you for your job search. Create a CareerShift account using your Clemson ID. Start looking at jobs that interest you to see what skills you need to do the job. This is a great thing to start doing early on so that you have time to build those skills before applying! For me, a skill that I see come up from time-to-time involves outreach programming. This is an area that I have minimal experience, so I’ve been trying to gain that experience over the last few months to make myself competitive and ready for the job! Be aware of what will be asked of you generally for the jobs you are applying for.
Consider key words. Job searching can be like a puzzle. Sometimes searching the right words is what it takes to find what you want, not necessarily searching a position. Use industry specific language and responsibilities you may have in order to find more opportunities. For example, if you are searching for a job in Accounting or Finance, you could search for “money,” “budgeting,” “lending,” “loans,” “consulting,” or “auditing.” These are just examples! Pick and choose what is relevant to what you want to do.
Starting early also makes you more comfortable with the process and format of position descriptions. When you actually start applying, the process of searching is less intimidating!
These are some hints and tricks I’ve been finding useful as I start my job search process! Throughout this series, I’ll share about how I’m finding jobs, staying organized through my search, selling my skills, and providing useful tips for applying. Know that I am learning how to do this for the first time too. It’s all a learning process, but know the Career Center is always here to help you every step of the way!