A Guide to Job Searching While In College

Perlita Flores In June, I will be graduating from Portland State University with a degree in Marketing and Advertising. This seems a lot closer now that I’m on the other side of Spring Break, so I have mapped out steps to look for a job while I finish up my last term of college.

For college seniors that would like a job right out of college, now is the time to start preparing. The job search takes an average of five months. Even though we’re busy with school, work, extracurricular, and social activities, and adding more to a seemingly never ending to-do list is not ideal, investing time into a job search now will pay off in the long run.

I’ve learned a great deal about searching for a job after spending the last nine months at Boly:Welch working as a marketing and operations intern. Starting a job search early allows you to explore options and find what best suits your career goals. Ideally, you won’t feel pressured to accept the first job that comes your way, unless it feels right to you.

Schedule Your Search

Many people describe the process of looking for a job as a job in itself. You can see how it’s important to dedicate time to your job search. Building in set amount of hours per week will keep you on track. Block off time in your planner or Google calendar to keep yourself accountable. Make sure to include application deadlines, networking events, and informational interviews in your calendar.

When it comes to staying on task during a job search, consistency is also key. Boly:Welch’s new Recruiting Coordinator Lauren Radmer, a recent University of Oregon grad, recalls spending 3-4 hours each morning applying for jobs. She gave herself many options, applying to lots of roles on LinkedIn and Indeed. Lauren’s efforts paid off; in December, she started her position at Boly:Welch. Looking back on the experience, she advises dedicating time up front: “It’ll benefit your job search so much more if you invest the time and determine your own future.”

Revamp Your Resume

Keep your resume updated. That way, when a new contact asks for it or your dream position comes up, you won’t have to spend the whole night frantically editing.

The benefit of perfecting your resume in advance is that you have time to get it looked over another set of eyes. Use your network and ask for someone with experience you trust to look over your resume. Your university’s Career Advising Center, your academic advisor, and your savvy friends are all great resources. Your professors who specialize in the industries you are pursuing are especially helpful with resume feedback.

I am especially lucky since I have an office full of people who have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of resumes. Generally, when submitting your resume to positions, make sure to tailor your resume to each job, aligning keywords with the position description. Boly:Welch provides more (and very detailed) advice.

Update (or Create) Your LinkedIn Profile

When it comes to searching for a job, LinkedIn is a powerful tool. It has almost 600 million members and was used by 75% of recent job seekers. It also has a function that tells recruiters you are looking for a job (and 95% of recruiters use LinkedIn).

When you apply for a job, the first place the hiring manager will likely go is your LinkedIn profile. So, before you begin searching for a job, be sure to have your profile complete and have relevant education, employment history, work samples, and portfolios linked.

LinkedIn also offers job boards. Ensure that your “Career Interest” selection is activated. You can mark which stage you are at in your search and which job titles, locations, types of work, industries, and sizes of company you are targeting. For some positions, you may even be able to apply with your profile. Jobs that match your criteria will appear within your LinkedIn job board.

LinkedIn is also a resource for making connections with people who are in your industry, which is really helpful when you’re reaching out for informational interviews.

Conduct Informational Interviews

Informational interviews are a tool for gaining information about individuals, professions and companies. Informational interviews also allow you to explore career fields and create connections with professionals in a specific industry.

Reach out to the person you would like to meet with via email or LinkedIn. When reaching out for informational interviews, make it easy for the person to say yes. Don’t ask for an excessive amount of time, make sure it is close to their place of work, and offer to buy them a cup of coffee.

Once the date is set for the informational interview, do your research about the company and the individual. Come prepared with a curated list of questions. To make the most of your time, leave out questions that you can research on your own. Be prepared to talk about your interests and be able to tell your story. Creating meaningful connections with people requires offering the holistic view of who you are, not only your education and work experience.

When wrapping up your informational interview, ask who else you should speak to. This will help you grow your network, learn about industries and local companies.

Even though informational interviews can lead to a job, be careful to not ask for a job. Be realistic and go in with the mindset that you are there to learn from the person, anything additional they offer is icing on the cake. Be sure to follow up with an email or note thanking the person for their time.

Practice Your Interview Skills

Interviews can be intimidating, but, like anything, become easier with practice. Mock interviews are a great way to prepare for the real thing. For example, I bombed a mock interview with my career counselor. This was actually really helpful, because I received great feedback on how to improve. The practice paid off and I was much more confident during my interview with Boly:Welch – and I definitely got the job.

If you have an important interview approaching, set up an appointment with your career counselor or academic advisor to conduct a mock interview. If you have a specific job you are interviewing for, be sure to send them a copy of the job description in advance so they can prepare questions the interviewers may ask.

For behavioral questions, the STAR method is helpful for crafting thoughtful responses. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Results. First, you describe the situation that took place, the task that needed to be done, the action that was taken, and the end result. People remember stories, and the STAR method allows for the interviewers to remember concrete examples of your skills and qualifications.

Attend Career Fairs

Many college campuses host career fairs. This is an opportunity to check out who is hiring. If you get business cards from recruiters, follow up as soon as possible by shooting them an email. They will appreciate knowing that their time was well spent, and that you’re interested in their company.

Last year, I wanted an internship with a flexible and fun work culture. I asked the recruiters about the cultures at their respective companies. Some of their answers helped me rule out which companies were not right for me. Having a conversation and being able to ask recruiters questions really helped narrow down my search.

Consider Summer Internships

Apply to internships! Some summer internships start the application process in the Fall and others start late Winter or early Spring. Internships are a great way to get those “entry-level” jobs that require 2+ years of experience.

Some companies use internships as a trial period to hire for their permanent roles. It is a good idea to ask the recruiter for the internship how many past interns converted to full-time employees. This could give you an idea of how common it is to get a job out of the internship.

Even if you do not get a job out of the internship, you now have relevant experience you can leverage in your search for full-time work! Even as you are applying to internships, keep your options open by applying for full-time positions.

Meet With a Recruiter

As you get closer to graduation, you should consider meeting with a recruiting agency. Unlike in-house recruiters, agency recruiters are working on filling positions at an array of companies. Read more here about working with a recruiter.

Businesses use recruiting agencies when they are looking for a candidate with specific qualifications and experiences. As a recent grad, you will be looking for entry-level positions, which can be difficult to come by at a recruiting agency. However, you never know when your timing, skills, and qualifications will work out.

At the very least, meeting with a recruiter will give you practice for conveying your story, and what you are looking for as you start your career. You’ll also probably hear some valuable advice about the job market and get feedback on your resume.

Don’t Get Discouraged

It can be discouraging to pour all this effort into a job search only to receive rejection letters or worse – not hear back at all. When I asked Lauren how she stayed positive during her search, she told me she set goals to keep her spirits up. She submitted applications, and lined up interviews to keep progressing towards her employment goal.

I recently received my first rejection letter, and my Boly:Welch co-workers recommended that I print it out and hang it on the wall to help remind me that rejection is inevitable, but so is success if I remain persistent.

Overall, the odds for finding a job are in our favor, considering Portland is adding jobs at double the national average. Graduates should be confident that they’ll secure a job. The job search can feel hopeless at times, but keep your spirits up and remember that it takes time. Use your resources, grow your network, and most importantly: stay confident.