Before graduating in December 2012, Sean Colligan dedicated a lot of his time to his job search—researching options, applying for jobs, and interviewing—and his efforts paid off when he landed an opportunity with a Career Fair employer.
Now working for Internet Identity as a Security Analyst, Sean talks about his process and shares advice with current students embarking on their own job search:
CES: What strategies did you use in your job search?
Sean: I spent a great deal of time on LoggerJobs and InternshipLink. Those were by and large the most useful resources I encountered—though I supplemented that with standard keyword searches on Google and the DC communications job portal. I also found a few things in USA jobs.
I’m also a big fan of bringing a notepad wherever I go, so if I’m hearing a presentation or chatting with someone and they mention a company, I can write it down and check it out later. If a company/position looked interesting, whether found from conversation or LoggerJobs or whatever, then I searched for employees in LinkedIn and the ASK Network and sent them a message about a potential informational interview.
On that note, the ASK Network is a keeper. It’s very, very easy to make contacts there, because people tend to be stoked that you’ve reached out to talk to them.
All of that though, will only get you so far. Because—honestly, more often than not—no matter how well you prepare, no matter how awesome your resume and cover letters are, it comes down to a numbers game.
It really is just like dating…
Maybe the person reading your resume is having a bad day, maybe they’re tired, or maybe they just didn’t like your font. Whatever it is, the most important thing is sending out as many applications as possible, doing as many informational interviews as possible, and not getting down when you get rejected. Because you will. A lot.
I was rejected from nine places before landing my internship in DC, and it’s lousy, but that’s what it takes. So keeping that in mind was especially useful.
Also, business cards. **Always** ask for them and **always** thank people for speaking with you. Send a written thank you if possible. Otherwise, email. But you might as well flip off your contacts if you don’t take two seconds to thank them afterwards.
Finally, an especially useful point to keep in mind (cliche or no) is that you never know what that person in the coffee shop does for a living…
I’ve chatted with congressmen on the street before realizing what they did, met the vice chair for the national board of directors for the ACLU at a wedding, and exchanged information with a guy in DC who happened to know a state representative in Washington.
Just say hi, then go from there. And get a business card.
CES: What would you have done differently?
Sean: I would have applied to many more places to get as many options as possible, and not lost all my fricken’ business cards.
I also wish I had gone to every single one of the on campus/networking events, or even those around town. They want to meet cool people there, so know that you are and everything else follows.
Also, make a point to get recommendations/letters from everyone you worked for, because those are one of the things that you don’t care until you need them, and then you really need them.
CES: Tell us about your Career Fair experience.
Sean: Career Fair experience, huh? Well cover your ears, because I was scared sh*#less. Seriously, I have never been more terrified in my life, and I’m been in some pretty terrifying situations.
Ignoring the fact that I was almost in tears and shaking so bad that I couldn’t hold a piece of paper steady, the Career Fair itself was very useful. Lots of people are there with a wide variety of positions, and all of them are interested in hiring Puget Sound students.
Prepare ahead of time. Practice as much as possible, plan your lines out in advance, practice the smile and the handshake. Networking is stagecraft in a lot of ways.
But most of all, practice. A lot.
Photo: Courtesy of Sean Colligan
© 2013 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound