Define Your Goal
Goal setting is an important process for identifying what you want to accomplish and what it will take to get you there.
When determining your goal for employment, you’ll need to define what you’re looking for in an experience. Your goal should be rooted in your professional interests and consider these key factors:
- Company Culture & Team Dynamics
- Opportunity for Growth
- Pay and Benefits
- Stability/Job Security
- Level of Responsibility
- Work/Life Balance
- Geographic Location
Goal setters are likely to achieve more productivity in their job search, which means more access to job openings and a greater chance of getting hired. Once your goal has been defined, it's time to build an action plan for executing your search.
Optimize Application Materials
When a prospective employer looks through your application materials, they should instantly understand what type of position you’re looking for and how your experience aligns to their needs.
Refine Your Resume
Your resume communicates your goal while highlighting relevant education, experience, and skills. Review resume optimization strategies below.
- Be aware of your audience: When writing a resume, you will need to customize the content to appeal to the reader. You should have multiple versions of your resume, tailored to the intended audience.
- Highlight your key skills and experience based on the purpose of each resume: Your customized resume is a tool you can use to market your skills, especially as they relate to an individual job.
- Consider multiple sources of experience: When deciding on the types of experiences to include on your resume, think about your entire background including co-curricular activities, internships, jobs, academic projects, etc.
- Request feedback: Ask others for assistance in reviewing your resume. Industry experts, faculty, and employers can provide feedback regarding mechanics and content, especially as it relates to your field of choice.
- Create a theme throughout your application materials: Connect your resume content to other pieces used in the application process, such as your cover letter.
Prepare Your Cover Letter
A cover letter is a one-page business letter often submitted as part of an internship or job application. In a cover letter, you introduce yourself to an employer, express your interest in the organization and/or specific opening, and explain your strongest qualification(s) for the position.
In combination with your resume, a well-written cover letter may incite an employer to invite you to interview for the opening in order to learn more about you and your potential fit with the organization. Review strategies for preparing a strong cover letter for employment applications below.
- Customize your letter: Adjust and update your cover letter for every application you submit.
- Personalize your letter: Adjust and update your cover letter for every application you submit.
- Proofread: Request that several people review and comment on your letter, including a career advisor in Career Planning & Development.
- Focus on the reader: When writing cover letters, writers often overuse the word “I” and focus on what they want from a company or job. Instead, focus on the reader of the letter.
Boost Your LinkedIn Profile
It takes seven essential elements to have a completed (All-Star Level) profile. To qualify, your page must contain the following:
- Industry and location
- An up-to-date current position (with a description)
- Two past positions
- Skills (minimum of three)
- Profile photo
- At least 50 connections
Filling in these fields is only the first step, but it’s a good one because only 51% of members have a completed profile. Once you cut out half the competition, your next move is to separate yourself from within the All-Star pack. View the steps below to build a strong and unified message about your professional identity and elevate your LinkedIn profile to All-Start status.
Step 1: Profile Introduction
Your name, industry, geographic location, profile headline, photo, and education are several pieces of information that will be highlighted in your LinkedIn profile introduction. Some of the listed information is optional to include in the profile introduction (education, current job title, etc.).
Step 2: Customized Public Profile URL
Your LinkedIn profile is created with an automatically generated website address (URL) that you can use to share your profile with others. Edit your contact information to select a custom public profile URL (e.g., http://www.linkedin.com/in/yourname) that is more streamlined and makes your profile easily identifiable.
Step 3: Profile & Banner Photo
Profile Photo: Select a photo for your LinkedIn profile that is a clear, single head shot in which you're professionally dressed and presenting a natural, friendly smile. Avoid blurry photos, photos in which others are cropped out, or any image that does not support you being perceived as mature and professional.
Banner Photo: Select a banner photo as a backdrop to the content that appears at the top of your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn has several options that you can select from, or you may upload your own photo. View examples of banner photos for inclusion in your LinkedIn profile here.
Step 4: Headline
Write a headline statement that contains a benefit to the reader. Use keywords others might search when needing your services, but omit overused lingo such as "superior," "proactive," "top-performing," "dedicated," "hard-working," etc.
Examples of Descriptive Headlines:
- Creative Communicator: Writing & Editing | Graphics & Video | Social Media & Blogs
- Partnerships Manager & Creative Strategist
- Certified Professional Facilitator | Helping teams to get from chaos to clarity
- Helping Businesses Enhance their Online Marketing Image Through Social Media
- Increasing your sales by combining integrated media solutions with high precision targeting
- Bilingual Compliance Manager | Hedge Funds | ABC Company Inc.
- Transforming Healthcare Tech at HealthWise
- Consumer Marketing Expert with a Focus on Strategy, Promotions, and Campaign Management
Step 5: Summary
Write a brief summary (3-5 short paragraphs) in first person language that provides the reader with an overall picture of who you are and what they should expect to see in the rest of your profile. Write about what makes you unique: your strengths, values, experiences, and the things that motivate you. Incorporate industry keywords into your statements so that your profile is more likely to show up in search results.
Step 6: Honed List of Skills
Include a skills section to outline your specialized qualifications. Be strategic about including the skills that best highlight your unique skills profile as related to your industry. Your skills will be organized in the areas of industry knowledge, tools and technologies, interpersonal skills and "other".
LinkedIn has introduced skill quizzes to assess the strength of your knowledge in several technical skill areas. It's not required to take a skill quiz, but those who pass a skill quiz will receive a badge for inclusion on their profile.
You may add up to 50 skills altogether in the skills and endorsements section of your LinkedIn profile. Select up to three (3) skills as top skills, which will be featured at the beginning of the skills and endorsements section.
Step 7: Add Examples of Your Work
Enhance your profile by uploading media into the experience section, and/or the education section. When appropriate and relevant, incorporating media such as documents, slides, and videos can provide evidence of your skills and make your profile more interesting and dynamic.
Step 8: Profile Activity
You can view your posts or another LinkedIn member’s posts, articles, and profile activity from the Activity section of the profile page. However, if you don’t see any activity in the Activity section of a member’s profile, the member may have set their settings to private, or they may not have any recent activity. If you haven’t had any activity on LinkedIn for 90 days, your Activity section will be hidden from your profile.
Selecting Job References
During a job, internship, and graduate school application process, providing a list of references will often be asked of the candidate. Potential employers may request a prepared list of references on a stand-alone document, or you may be asked to include this information as part of the application process.
5 Considerations for Selecting References:
- How well does this person know you and how well can they speak to your strengths?
- Have your experiences with this individual been generally positive?
- What was the professional nature of your past interactions?
- How much weight might this reference’s opinion hold to a potential employer?
- What kinds of interactions have you had that can let the reference speak to your ability to perform the responsibilities of the position?
Review strategies for selecting professional references for internship and job search applications below.
- Identify a Pool of Potential References: It's important to think about the instances in which a list of references may be requested. For employment positions, you may identify former colleagues and supervisors who can account for the skills you've honed through your work activities. For academic areas, faculty who you have worked closely with and who can attest to the technical skills developed through your studies, should be considered for your list.
- Provide 3-5 Quality References per Application: You will want to include 3-5 quality references, or enough to provide a selection to choose from, but not so many that the employer is inundated with names.
- Request Permission: Before finalizing a list of references for a specific opportunity, connect with each potential reference, communicating your employment or academic goal and if they're willing to be included on a reference list during your search.
- Communicate Your Goal to Current Colleagues: If you're planning to ask current colleagues or a supervisor to be a reference, make sure they're aware of your intentions to seek opportunities elsewhere.
- Communicate the Outcome of your Search: Close the loop of your search by informing your references that you have accepted an opportunity or have closed your search. Express appreciation to those who served as a reference and the outcome of your search.
Job Search Resources
Handshake is Webster University’s online career management and recruiting platform for students and alumni. The Jobs section of Handshake contains on-campus student employment, internship, full-time, and part-time openings. When building your profile, complete the career interests inventory. Your complete profile and career interests inventory will assist with the platform recommending employment opportunities tailored to you.
Interested in working in a new city or outside of your home country? Utilize GoinGlobal, a web resource that contains country-specific career information, city-specific career guides, internship and job postings, and an employer directory. The site also contains information on companies that apply for H-1B visas to hire international talent. Access GoinGlobal through the Handshake Resources page.
Find internship and job postings directly on company websites. Some companies have an entire website section dedicated to postings along with information and tips for those interested in the company. Frequently, information can be found in a “careers” or “employment” section of a company’s website.
Job Search Engines/Job Boards
You can utilize general job search engines such as Indeed and Simply Hired or use specialized job search engines for a more targeted approach. Categories of specialized job search engines include:
- Industry-specific (i.e., Science Careers)
- Professional Association (i.e., American Counseling Association Career Central)
- Regional (i.e., STL Today Jobs)
- Federal, state, county, or local government (i.e., USAJOBS)
Be prepared to manage responses if you post your resume to a job board. If you would like to keep your job search more targeted, consider submitting your resume for specific applications but not posting it to all prospective employers.
The majority of job seekers get hired through a referral. Use LinkedIn to boost your chances of getting hired through people you know. With its own job board on the free social networking site for professionals, LinkedIn Jobs is an excellent way to leverage your contact network and identify opportunities that are tailored to you.
Avoiding Fraudulent Job Postings
While there are plenty of legitimate opportunities, be aware that fraudulent companies and scams do exist. Trust your instincts. If something seems too good to be true or does not feel right, don’t make a commitment. It is better to be cautious than to fall victim to a scam.
Inform and Engage Your Network
Networking is an effective and proactive job search strategy and should be used in concert with other strategies.
Many job vacancies are never advertised or listed on websites or online job search engines, therefore, potential candidates are often identified and positions are often filled through referrals and word of mouth.
Individuals who connect with others are more likely to find “hidden” opportunities.
Who Should You Network With?
You most likely already have a substantial contact network in place and you may not be aware of all the potential opportunities it holds. Many people you already know may be able to provide insight regarding professional opportunities.
Individuals such as friends, family, alumni, professors, neighbors, members of your religious community, classmates, co-workers, and others may all serve as networking resources. Inform each person what your qualifications are and what type of experience you are seeking.
Implement Your Plan
Apply to Openings
Applying to job openings can be a bit of a numbers game—the more often you put yourself out there, the more likely you are to get an interview. Creating a regular application schedule for yourself will help you stay consistent.
Recruiters receive dozens of applications every single day, so having the right skill set for a particular job may not be enough to get you noticed. Getting on their radar will greatly increase your chances of scoring an interview. Finding a great opportunity, customizing your resume and cover letter, and submitting your application are obviously essential pieces of the process. But don’t stop there.
Some employers’ hiring decisions are influenced by a candidate’s ability to follow-up. Send a thank you to everyone who interviews you for a position. Also follow up after networking events or important contact with an employer in order to maintain communication.
Track Applications and Document Outcomes
You will want to develop an organization system to track your internship and job search efforts. Create a copy of the Internship and Job Application Tracking Form (below) to track your employment applications and document each outcome.
Accepting & Declining Job Offers
Responding to job offers is a necessary step in the job seeking experience, regardless of whether you are accepting or declining an offer. While each situation is unique, consider these general guidelines:
- There are multiple communication methods that you can use to communicate your offer including email, mail, phone call, or in-person. Determine and use the method that is most suitable for the situation.
- Responding in a professional manner and expressing gratitude are essential aspects of any response.
- It is important to either adhere to the employer's preferred decision date or to request (and be granted) additional time to make your decision.
When receiving an offer of employment, you are not required to give an immediate answer to the hiring official. Just as you prepared before the hiring process by reviewing current salary trends in your field, you need time to unpack the salary package offered.
The information below will assist with analyzing an offer, including questions to ask when determining if the offer in its entirety meets your expectations.
Clarity of offer: It's acceptable to ask questions about the offer before moving forward. Before seeking clarity from the employer about their offer, review information shared about healthcare benefits and employee perks through the interviewing process, or found on the company's website.
Timeline: Has the hiring official requested a timeframe for making a decision? If so, analyze the offer carefully, considering the information collected when preparing for your job search, before accepting or opening negotiations.
Bonuses & Commission: A component of a salary package may include a bonus. This may be a sign on bonus when accepting an offer or a quarterly/annual bonus that is determined by the employer. If a portion or all of your compensation will be commission based, identify what the expectations are for obtaining the monthly or annual salary you desire.