Job search strategies

Know yourself

You have unique interests, skills, strengths, and experiences.

  • Complete a career assessment to clarify your interests and meet with a career counselor.
  • Identify and compile all your academic and non-academic experiences such as college education, related coursework, certifications, specialized training, work, student, and community experiences (paid and unpaid).
  • Identify and list the transferable skills you have developed and demonstrated in the past.
  • Consider your strengths. List your top 10 strengths and personal qualities.
  • Consider what is most important to you. List your top 5 work values.
  • Meet with a career counselor if you need assistance clarifying your values, identifying your skills or determining your strengths.

Set career goals and identify job targets

Having an unclear job target can lengthen your job search. Employers prefer candidates with clear goals and career plans.

  • Investigate careers for your major.
  • Determine where you want to live and define a geographic location. If you have specific location in mind, identify companies and organizations in those areas.
  • Learn about job sectors and industries.
  • Research market trends in your field to identify job demand and salary.
  • Identify specific goals to give your job search plan a focus and direction. Then establish sequenced action steps and activities which support your goals.
  • Identify potential employers that interest you and are best suited to your talents and values by conducting informational interviews and networking with people in the professions you are considering. Join professional associations to get a list of members and where they are employed.
  • Learn more about potential employers
    • Use directories to research employers.
    • Research each employer’s web site to learn about its culture, values, and hiring process.
    • Consider the size of the organization, organizational culture, management style, professional development and other issues of importance to you.
  • Prioritize your list of potential employers.

Create your cover letter, resume, and prepare for interviews

Your cover letter and resume reflect you: your accomplishments, experiences, and style.

Prepare your resume and cover letter

  • Develop a draft of your resume and cover letter.
  • Tailor your resume and cover letter to each position to which you apply
  • Meet with a career counselor to review your resume and cover letter.
  • Determine who you will use for references; ask permission to add them to your reference list.

Learn how to present yourself professionally to employers

  • Update email addresses and voicemail messages to portray a professional image.
  • Acquire appropriate attire for job fairs and interviews.
  • Make a good first impression. Learn about professional etiquette.


Begin your search

Success doesn’t come to you, you go to it.

Research employers, industries and occupations

The University Library system has numerous resources that can help you in the job search process.

Identify the job search strategies most appropriate for your field.

Examples include:

Develop a network

  • Brainstorm a list of people who work (or know someone) in the career areas you are targeting.
  • Create your sales pitch: a 20-30 second message to let the employer know your interest in a position and how you can contribute to their organization.
  • Schedule informational interviews with people who may be able to assist you.

Begin contacting potential employers.

  • Send resumes and cover letters to people in your network.
  • Respond to job postings.

Follow up, follow up, follow up

Be proactive!

  • Follow up all your contacts with employers, either by phone or by mail
  • Send thank you letters or emails within 24 hours after an interview.
  • Provide requested information (transcripts, references, etc.) in a reasonable timeframe.
  • Keep a log. Include the name of the organization, contact person, method of application, date and status.
  • Note any hiring timelines and employment cycles for your preferred employers.

Stay focused and monitor your progress

Having a plan will keep you on track to success.

  • Demonstrate flexibility in your job search and adapt your plan to new job leads.
  • Remain focused on your career goals and action stops. Don’t give up!
  • Update your log and continue to document all job search activities and information.
  • Learn from your mistakes and maintain momentum until you have accepted a job offer.
  • Once you have accepted an offer, remove yourself from other consideration.

Evaluate and negotiate offers

Make sure the job is a good fit.

  • Refer back to your work values to consider the factors most important to you in a position when making decisions.
  • Learn about successful salary negotiations and speak with a career counselor if you have questions. The key to successful salary negotiation is knowledge. Do your homework by learning the salary ranges for that particular company, salary ranges in the industry, and typical benefit packages.
  • Determine when, what and how to negotiate (keep benefit packages in mind).
  • Draft and rehearse a script to assist you in the negotiation process.


The typical job search takes 6-9 months. Start yours now!

Additional resources

Graduate and professional students' guide to career planning

Teacher job search