Spring semester is here, and whether you are looking for a full-time job after graduation or a summer internship, the time to do something about it has arrived.

A job or internship search takes time—something you will find pretty scarce this semester. The process will be less daunting if you spread out your preparation.

Here’s what you need to focus on to have a successful search:

Know Your Starting Point

Desperate “I’ll take anything!” searches are as ineffective in the job market as the dating pool. You don’t have to have everything figured out, but take the time to assess your interests and skills and connect those to available positions. If you don’t know what you want, how will you know when you’ve found it? If you haven’t given any thought to this before, start here before you do anything else.

Learn Where and How to Look

If you think Monster.com and CareerBuilder are the only job-search engines out there, you may make a false start. One of the biggest tasks of any search is discovering appropriate positions and the key is using varied strategies. Attend Career Fairs, search on relevant job boards, network at every opportunity, and identify target employers, but most importantly, don’t rely on any one strategy. It’s all about diversification.

Market Your skills and Experience

Yeah, yeah, you know you’re supposed to have a resume. The difference when you’re gearing up for a search is now you have to tailor it towards specific positions. As you find opportunities to apply for, that “general” resume you had to create for a class will no longer suffice. If you’re looking for similar kinds of positions your targeted resume will likely only need minor tweaks from one application to another, but you need to spend the time making sure that you are clearly demonstrating on paper how you fit the requirements for the role. Crafting a cover letter that hooks employers and showcases your writing skills and personality comes next; each one should be as individual as a fingerprint.

Prepare to Tell Your Story in Person

You may have been able to wing the interview you had to scoop ice cream at the local mall, but if you don’t do some significant preparation for a professional interview you will be searching for a very long time. You’ll need to be able to tell stories about your experiences that highlight the skills and qualities required for the job and answer not just what you did in a specific situation, but how and why. These kinds of answers don’t roll off the tongue in an instant and you don’t want to draw a blank when an employer starts a question with “Tell me about a time when…” – but you can prepare in advance and develop an arsenal of stories about your best experiences that could apply in multiple situations.

Expect a Marathon, not a Sprint

Be prepared that any job or internship will take time and will likely involve more rejection than acceptance. You will learn and improve with each attempt, but it’s important that you maintain an optimistic outlook throughout. There are many things you can do to keep you going when the challenge seems insurmountable, but none are more effective than having a clear idea of what to expect from the beginning.

Over the next few months we will be discussing each one of these areas in more detail in this blog, but CES career advisors are always available to help you devise a strategy for a successful job or internship search. Call or come in to the CES office in Howarth 101 and schedule an appointment to get started now!

© 2011 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound
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