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Careers and Majors

A guide to resources on career planning and major selection for undecided students.

Define Your Search

Before you begin your job search, it is crucial that you think about your specific career goals and how you can get there. Just like a thesis statement focuses a paper topic, defining your career goals can help you focus your job search to only the jobs and companies that match them.

To help you determine your career interests, answer these three questions:

  • What type of job do I want?
  • What industries am I interested in working in?
  • Where, geographically, do you want to work?

What are some other ways to determine your career interests?

  • Conduct Informational Interviews
    • Think of these as "reverse" interviews, where you speak with someone in a position you are interested in (such as an accountant or teacher) and ask them questions about their job, what they do on a daily basis, what type of work, job & education requirements, etc.
  • Meet with a career services counselor
  • Use the resources in the Career Exploration page on this guide to research industries and professions.

Preparation

When preparing yourself for your job search, it is important to make sure you have everything ready to go right away:

  • Update your resume! A resume that's even a few months old may be missing skills and abilities that may help you get a job. And clean up your spelling and grammar!
  • Develop an "Elevator Speech." This should be no more than 30 seconds but should describe who you are, what interests you about a company and what you can bring to that company. You can use this almost anywhere (even an elevator!) but it's really handy when you are at a job fair or interview or you meet someone who works at a company you're interested in.
  • Develop a cover letter template. While your cover letters should be individual and specific to each position you apply for, it is still helpful to develop a template that you can use to save yourself some time.

It is important to remember the cover letter in the application process, as it is often the first part of your application an interviewer reads. It also serves as the bridge between your skills and experience on your resume and the responsibilities in the job description. You can use the cover letter to explain how your skills can help meet those responsibilities, especially if you are applying for a job that does not directly align with your previous experience.

Applying

Once you have completed the other steps, you can search for posted job openings. There are a number of ways that you can look for these open positions:

  • Use Your Network
    Reach out to your connections to see if there are any open positions that they are aware of. If they are, ask them for advice on the best way to apply or to serve as a reference. If not, ask them to keep an eye out for positions that are suitable for you.
     
  • General Job Search Sites
    While large job aggregators like Monster, Indeed, CareerBuilderIdealist, and Ziprecruiter can be overwhelming and often invite a lot of competition, they are still great resources for finding long lists of relevant job openings.
     
  • Industry-Specific Job Search Sites
    These sites are similar to the job aggregators but are much more focused and allow you to search for relevant jobs without weeding through hundreds of other posts. Check out the Major-specific Job Resources pages in this guide for some suggestions.
     
  • Professional Associations
    These job boards, sponsored by professional associations, are often the best job boards because they are created by professionals in that field.

Targeting & Researching Companies

Once you have determined your career interests, it's important to determine what companies offer the best opportunities for you.

One way is to use LexisNexis's company search. You can limit by geographic location and industry, by using SIC industry codes. You can then create a list of companies at which you might be interested in working.

Once you have your list, you can begin researching those companies to learn more about them. Research the company's website or conduct an informational interview to learn about what the company is doing. If you have enough free time, ask if you can volunteer at the company or shadow a person for a day. You may also want to ask about any internship opportunities.

When contacting companies directly, referred to as Cold Calling, it is important to have a strategy before calling. Know beforehand who you would like to speak with and what you would like to ask them. If possible, have a phone script handy to ensure you stay on track. If you are not able to get through, ask if you can still send in your resume for review for future positions.

Networking

Networking is one of the most important parts of the job search process. Having connections with people in companies and positions you are interested in often improves your chance of getting a job because of the help and advice they can provide. Here are some ways you can network:

  • Join a Professional Association
    Many industries and professions have associations that provide resources for its members, often including career help. In addition to job boards and career advice, professional associations may also contain members lists or networking events with other professionals in your area. They also often sponsor large conferences where you can go and meet with hundreds or sometimes thousands of other professionals in the field.

  • LinkedIn
    LinkedIn is a fantastic resource for connecting with others in a professional manner. LinkedIn allows you to see not only who you are connected to, but who your connections are connected to. If you find someone you are interested in speaking with, but are not directly connected with them, you can ask your shared connection (the person to whom both yourself and your target are connected with) to introduce the two of you. You can also keep track of who you have met with and remain in contact with them in case they know of an opening you might be a good match for. It is important to remember to remain soley professional on LinkedIn. Do not include pictures or posts of anything inappropriate or unprofessional.

  • Career Fairs
    While these are not always the best tools for finding a job, they are great for providing you the opportunity to meet with employers face to face and make contacts with employees within companies. It is always important to have a plan of the exact companies you would like to meet as well as a list of questions you would like to ask. Do not just walk around and randomly pick companies to speak with.

Tips

Some General Tips:

  • Use Different Strategies
    Don't just use your network or just apply for posted positions. By doing all of these things, you will increase your chance of success significantly.

  • Be creative, open-minded and flexible
    Be willing to make some compromises. It's doubtful that you will get your dream job right out of college. But if you get a job that meets most of your criteria, it can be a good job that can grow into a great one later.

  • Treat your job search like an extended research project
    Just like you can't research and write a 10-page paper in 1 day, you can't "cram" for a job search. Spend a half-hour every day or night looking for jobs, researching companies, editing your resume, sending out applications, etc.
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