The 5-Step Job Search

By Megan Reilly

I have been thinking about the job search a lot lately. Which puts me in the same boat as just about every other class of 2015 SA grad in the country. I've been reading blogs and articles with advice of what to do and what not to do and how to get an interview and how to present yourself and when to send a thank you note - and quite frankly, it's overwhelming.​ Here's my oversimplified take on the whole process.

Step 1: Decide what kind of job you want to have. I hate the idea of the "dream job," but this is about the time that the cliché "dream job" probably doesn't actually exist, but there are certain components that you want your first post-grad-school job to have. Even some things you'll insist must be there for you to accept a position (e.g. location, salary, opportunity to supervise, public vs. private, etc). For me, this is actually the toughest part because there are so many variables to chose from and you don't want to narrow your scope too much because, you know, you'd like to start collecting a paycheck sometime this year.

Step 2: Writing the piece of paper that determines your future. Okay I'm being dramatic by calling it that, but the resume is really important. And if you have multiple types of jobs you are interested in, you might have two or three "standard" resumes. But the resume gets the most attention, so it should get the most of YOUR attention when job searching. By the end of your job search, you'll have 40 different resumes in your computer folders because you have to tweak each one just enough to be perfect for that particular job. Because even though it's only going to get about five seconds of attention, those keywords are the difference between an interview and the standard "thank you for applying, but unfortunately..." email.

Step 3: The dreaded cover letter. Apparently, hiring managers don't really even read the darn thing. You're lucky if they glance at it. I've started thinking about them as things you would say in the phone interview or a few highlights that really illustrate who you are, with more complexity than a bullet point. It’s your spot to show off your passion, not just your accomplishments. On the off chance that your letter gets more than the coveted five-second skim, there better be something good in there to skim.

Step 4: Start applying. You've narrowed your search by whatever factors are most important to you. You've prepared your resume and cover letter more times than you think is even reasonable. Your references know that you're actively job searching and what your goals are. After a few days/weeks of this step, your browser probably defaults to Higher Ed Jobs or the HR page at the institution you have your eye on. So this is it. It feels exciting. But it also feels scary and vulnerable and intimidating and (after a few weeks of silence) mildly humiliating.

Step 5: Keep building the resume after you submit it. This isn't an advice column. It's more of a rant about how unexcited I am about facing this daunting task. And my advice probably isn't worth all much considering I've never been through a full-fledged job search. But this is something I think people tend to forget about, especially when they are job searching. You have to do something in the meantime. You can't be a full-time job searcher, even if that's really all you are doing. You have to live somewhere (even if it's your parents’ house for a short time of transition, no shame), and odds are there are opportunities around you. If not, there’s that cool invention called the internet. Create a pseudo-internship for yourself by reaching out to the local university. Ask if you can shadow a staff member or help out at events. Find a non-profit organization and offer to help with a project. Write proposals for conferences where you can meet people and talk about your work. Reach out to a student organization you were involved in and ask if they need an advisor (even if it's not nearby; remote advising is a thing). Just don't sit around and wait for emails requesting interviews. You might just go crazy.

Follow Megan on Twitter at @MReilly90.

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