For the Most Painless Job Search, Plan Ahead!

By Amber Hanson-Rumbaugh

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          Four to five years ago, you studied for the SATs, submitted college applications before deadlines and, after deciding on your college of choice, settled into the next stage of your life. Then, you planned out a course schedule, declared a major, and began reflecting on your future career. Now, the time has come to take all of that planning and hard work and apply it to your ultimate goal: getting a job. The time to start your job search has arrived! Unlike your academic career, these steps and stages can be much less clear and much more confusing. Here are a few tips on how to plan ahead and ensure that you have a smooth and stress-free job search so that you can happily settle into your new career.

          Get your story in order. What job seekers often forget is that you will have to explain every academic and professional decision you’ve ever made. You will probably be asked questions about yourself that you never even considered. Things like, “Why did you decide to major in x?” “What was it about your past internship that interested you?” and “What are some things you are looking for in your career?” Sit down and draft out your story from beginning to end. Think about why you chose your major and, if you changed it, why and to what. What clubs or organizations did you join and why? What did those things teach you? What summer jobs did you have and what did you learn from them? Knowing your story in and out, and being able to articulate it, will be the biggest favor you can do for yourself.

          Plan financially. Starting a job will solve some of your financial woes, but not necessarily right away. Some companies may pay monthly meaning depending on when you start it could take three weeks or more to receive your first paycheck, and it might not be a full one if you didn’t work the whole month. Plus, you may need to invest in professional work attire and put gas in your car for the work commute. Make sure you have a financial cushion to depend on and it will be one less thing to worry about as you move into your first job.

          Reach out to your references early. Notify your professors, managers and supervisors of your job search and receive their okay to use them as a reference. Be sure to get their best phone number and email address where they can easily be reached. This way, when the recruiter contacts you for references you can provide them immediately and keep the hiring process moving. Avoid making the recruiter wait days or even weeks while you track down references. This will only postpone the offer.

          Make sure your schedule is clear and you’re available to start working. “I already made a commitment that I’d help out at the family business.” “I want to be respectful and give my current job two weeks’ notice.” “I have a ten day vacation scheduled first thing after graduation.” These are all common obstacles to confirming a start date with a candidate and while it’s respectable that you have promises to keep, it still can throw a wrench in your hiring and onboarding process. Try to be available to start work at the earliest possible start date to avoid unnecessary conflicts at the start of your career.

          Know what you want. As tempting as it is to do so, avoid casting an overly wide net. A targeted job search will lead to better interviews and ultimately result in a job you want, not just a job you could get. Also, reflect on previous internships and compile a list of things you liked, didn’t like and things you would want different in your next position. This shows that you have a clear idea of where you fit in and, hopefully, your list matches what the recruiter’s position has to offer. Recruiters look for candidates who not only want a job, but want this job. And of course you, the job seeker, also want a job you want, right?

          By planning ahead, you’ll avoid adding additional stress and distractions to an already stressful process. Enter the job market with a clear idea of what you want and where you came from, clear your schedule to start your career, and make sure you have support both financially and from references who will be a player in getting you that job. Make sure your job search is well-planned and organized and not only will you enjoy it more, but you will be better mentally prepared to enter your career!

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