Four Steps to the Job Search Process

Step 1: Explore Options and Set Goals

  • Short term or long term: Are you looking for a one-to-two year position before pursuing a graduate degree? Would you prefer a position that will help you get started along a specific career path or gain a foothold in a particular industry?
  • Areas of interest: Are there specific industries you’re most interested in? What types of positions within those most appeal to you?
  • Skills: Are there skills you’d like to employ or want to develop? Is there something you enjoy that you hope to incorporate into your work?
  • Geography: Where do you want to live? What regions of the country or the world? Any specific cities?
  • Organization size: Would you like to target large organizations, small start-ups, or something in between?
  • Mission and impact: Are there causes you’d like to work on?
  • Growth opportunities: Would you prefer a set schedule or are you open to an irregular schedule? Travel or no travel? Are you looking for opportunities that have a leadership development component?

Step 2: Research and Prepare

  • Once you’ve established your search goals, next is to learn about the employers within that field and the latest industry news. Immerse yourself in publications and resources from the field to develop a list of target employers.
  • Update your résumé: Don’t wait until you find a job you want to apply for, or until a networking contact asks you for a résumé to get this important document up to date. Have an updated version of your résumé ready to go so you can act quickly when opportunities arise.
  • Prepare cover letters and other correspondence: The best cover letters are tailored for each position, but start by reviewing this general information on how to construct an effective cover letter, and brainstorm what skills, attributes and experiences you may want to highlight in your cover letters.
  • Start practice interviewing: Employers don’t always give you much notice before scheduling an interview, so don’t wait until you’re offered an interview to begin preparing. Practice interviews can help you prepare for common questions and practice explaining how your background is relevant for the position.
  • Connect with your references: During the application or interview process, employers may ask for references. As you begin your search, it’s important to talk with people you would like to use as a reference to ask if they are willing to serve as a reference and to let them know to which positions you’re applying.
  • Prepare your writing samples or portfolio: If applying to positions that will require writing samples, published clips, or samples of your creative work, you’ll want to gather these materials in advance and have them ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Step 3: Uncover and Apply for ​Opportunities

  • Your search will include applying for opportunities posted on websites, but this should not be the primary job search method you employ.
  • Limit this strategy to 20% of your search, and focus the remaining 80% on actively building relationships with professionals employed at companies and organizations of interest. This is commonly referred to as networking.
  • It’s a myth that all jobs get posted; in fact, the majority of positions will never make it to any website, and even those that do are often filled through referrals.

Step 4: Stay Organized and Follow Up

  • Set up an Excel spreadsheet or use Google Docs to manage your search.
  • Reflect on the conversation. What advice did the contact provide? Did they recommend you explore any resources? Did they pass on the name of another contact? This is information you can use to follow-up.
  • Periodically check in with them and let them know you listened to their advice and are taking action. This lets the contact know you’re serious and that their time was not wasted.
  • If you see an article on a topic you discussed, send it. Networking is a mutually beneficial exchange. Contribute to the relationship, and most importantly let them know you appreciate their guidance.
  • No two relationships are the same way. Some will be open to regular contact, while others may prefer just one conversation. Allow the relationship to evolve organically, but keep in mind the hope is to develop a long-term contact; a job may come from it, but that is not the primary goal.
By Yale Office of Career Strategy
Yale Office of Career Strategy Yale Office of Career Strategy