Build Your Strategy

A chess player knocking over the opponents King in victory.

Part of conducting a successful job search is having a well thought-out strategy. This includes:


Knowing Yourself

You are your greatest asset. Plan to market yourself so that employers will see how you will benefit their organization. What is it that makes you the best candidate for the job? Be prepared to tell an employer how you are different from other candidates. For example:

  • Have you had the opportunity to work on a class project that relates in some way to the position you are seeking?
  • How can you demonstrate what you did to meet the needs of the employer?
  • How can you creatively link your past work experience together with the new skills you developed in your major to present a unique package of skills, abilities, and qualifications?
  • Have you had the opportunity to travel and/or work abroad? Do you speak a language other than English? Think about how you can turn these into an accomplishment statement that demonstrates your cultural awareness, flexibility, global perspective, cross cultural communication skills, etc.


Knowing where to look for work

Successful job seekers are creative job seekers. Sending out a resume and waiting for a response is not an effective approach. Use a combination of job-hunting strategies for best results.

Internet: Although the internet is a powerful job hunting tool, it shouldn't be your only job search resource. Thousands of job seekers reply to advertisements posted online. Use the internet actively and creatively.

Job Search Websites/Newspapers: These provide a good overview of the visible job market, its activity, and current trends.

Placement Agencies: These are a good strategy to use if you want to get your foot in the door at a specific organization or industry, or if you are interested in trying out a particular career position. Agencies also work as a strategy to get started in the world of work by gaining some professional experience while you continue a targeted job hunt and can be a viable option in a slow economy.

Direct Employer Contact: If you know the type of organization you are interested in, a direct approach may be effective. Persistence is the key when using this strategy. Ask questions such as, “How can I find out about future job openings with your company?” or “Where do you post your job listings?” This strategy involves being proactive, diligent and resourceful but not pushy or annoying. Using this technique requires a high level of professionalism.

Listserves/Email: Listservs, blogs, and emails are generated by many sources including academic departments providing career information and job listings.

Professional Associations: Join and get involved in professional associations to network with people in your field and gain access to positions not posted to the public.

Network: Establishing and using your personal network is the most successful job hunting strategy for tapping into the hidden job market. A networking contact is anyone who can provide you with relevant career information, has the power to hire you, or can introduce or refer you to another contact.

On-line Social Networking: There are a number of networking web sites where you can make great professional contacts.


Having a plan

A woman crossing out the word, "Plan A", and underlining the word, "Plan B".

Be able to articulate your goals and objectives to an employer and confidently explain, “Why you want this job.” It makes good sense to be strategic and have backup plans. Develop a clear Plan A, Plan B and even a Plan C. This way you approach your job search in an open-minded, realistic and prepared fashion. For backup plans, consider:

  • Are you willing to relocate for a position? Even if for a short period of time.
  • Are you willing to lower your salary expectations for a job and for experience?
  • Are you willing to take a different position than you had first imagined? If so, what other positions might you consider in order to get a job and gain experience?
  • Are you willing to forgo a full-time position for two or three part-time positions?
  • Are you willing to work in a non-profit, a government, an educational or a high tech environment when you imagined working someplace else?

Then, map out your job/internship search plan using our job search plan handout.