Friday, May 4, 2012

How to Quickly Launch Your Job Search

by Nell Weatherwax, Career Counselor

You’re at the dinner table, your mouth is full, and your Uncle Buddy tosses out oh-so-casually, “So, graduation is days away – what are your plans?”

Read this blog post if you think these are your only choices for an answer:

  1. Fake choking until an ambulance comes to take you away.

  1. Say you have some interviews “in the works” but don’t want to jinx them by talking about it.

  1. Admit you are clueless, then quickly mention you got an A in French.

If you are like many Letters and Science seniors, you have been working hard on your classes, doing good things in your student organizations and volunteer jobs, and possibly working a part-time job. Now, maybe your business-major roommate has a job offer and you’re thinking, “Oh <<bleep>>, I not only don’t have a job offer, I don’t have a clue what I want to do!”

Good news!  The UW Letters and Science Career Services office is available to help you now, all summer, and for at least a year after you graduate!

More good news:
You can start where you are. And that is not just a wise Zen saying.

Career development and job searching requires learning and practicing a set of skills – skills you will use your whole life long. You know you can learn new skills or you wouldn’t have made it this far!

Here are the bare-bones basic steps to quickly starting a successful job search:

Step One: Know Yourself
When you know your top skills, interests, values and experiences, you are more likely to target jobs for which you are qualifed. Start this process by doing some self assessment exercises in books like What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles or Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. Check out resources online at  or . And of course – talk over self assessment with a career counselor at your friendly L&S career services office where you may choose to take some additional career self-assessments.

Step Two: Research Fields and Occupations
Start to find out what kind of jobs fit your interests, skills, experience, etc.
Great resources are available on the Letters and Science Career Services page:  Also, use the search tools on to learn more about many common occupations that use the skills you want to use.

Step Three: Network and Gain Experience
Use your personal, family and UW alumni network to connect with people who are doing some of those occupations that interest you. (LinkedIn has UW Badger Alumni groups all over the country. Create an “elevator speech” to effectively communicate your skills, interests and work focus to your network. Meet with professionals and do “informational interviewing” to learn more about careers and potential openings. Use to create a profile and make yourself easy to find by your new professional contacts and potential employers. Learn more about informational interviewing at

Also, continue building your resume and experience by doing the work you want to do – in any way you can think of - volunteer, freelance, part-time, internship, etc. Want to do communications? Volunteer to write press releases and help with communications at a non-profit. Love Art History? Volunteer at an art museum or gallery. Want to be a computer programmer? Create a program and publish it on a blog. Keep your hand in your work and your name in the minds of your network.

Step Four: Market Yourself
Combine networking with creating a strong resume tailored to market you well for specific job listings. Find listings through variety of sources. Start with BuckyNet our web-based event & recruiting software that offers students and employers a way to connect. Other job listing sites include:,, See this page for a few more:
Search specific company websites for the “careers” link such as this site for Trek Bicycles:  Find your favorite field’s association career sites such as Public Relations Society of America: Notice the link to “Employment” on their home page. ( I found this organization easily by Googling “Public Relations Madison WI” ). Create a list of job listing sites to follow, join listservs and LinkedIn groups for the fields in which you want to work. 

Remember: Job listings alone are believed to account for about 5% of job offers. Targeted networking is believed to account for 80% of job offers. So don't put all your eggs in the job listing basket, or you might be working at that barista job for a long, long time.

How Career Services can help:
Letters and Science career counselors can help you launch and follow-through on your job search. We can offer you support, resume advice, guidance and accountability. Our office offers career fairs and workshops, interviewing practice, on-campus recruiting and much, much more.

The biggest mistake job seekers make is not job seeking.
Important to a successful job search is consistent daily actions using methods known to work. Plan to make the job search your job. When you are not doing things related to your job search or working your "pay-the-rent-but-not-a-career-job", be sure to do fun things that rejuvenate you so you come back to the job search fresh, rested and positive. Staying positive and consistently applying yourself are the keys to a successful job search.

So you don’t have to fake choking when you are asked about your post graduation plans. Now you can say, “I’m glad you asked, Uncle Buddy! I have a four part plan in place. Know anyone in the fill-in-the-blank industry that I could meet with for an informational interview?”


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