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Job Search 101, Part 1

by Bill Sherman


Job Search 101 is a two-part series by Director of Career and Advising Services Bill Sherman. The series touches on the advice and information Bill frequently shares with Econ majors as they begin their job searches. 
In this first installment, Bill discusses how to begin your job search, and both the reactive and proactive approach to finding your first job out of college. 

Part 1: Initiating Your Job Search

Getting Your Head in the Game

Finding a job, as you’ve come to realize by now, is not only hard, but it’s often very time-consuming, stressful, frustrating, and discouraging. It’s easy to throw up your hands and lose heart.  Don’t.  Take a walk around the block, have a bit to eat, find a comfortable spot to spread out with your tablet/laptop and determine to put in as much as four hours each day into the job search process. Treat it the same way you’d treat your future job and give it your full attention.


The reality is you will apply for many jobs and never hear back. It’s part of the game. The positive side is that by continually applying (and reapplying) with companies, (1) you’re getting your name out there; (2) your application material will soon become more refined; and (3) you’ll find that just the discipline of doing this will make you a sharper, more focused candidate who can better communicate your value with employers.

Career Planning Toolkit

An excellent booklet series is available that I helped shape and editing during my time at Lundquist Career Services, just a few years prior to moving into my present role in Economics Career & Advising Services. They cover everything from networking and job search techniques to resume/cover letter best practices and interview preparation. I strongly recommend you invest 30-60 minutes to read them all, and refer back to them when you need to.

Initiating The Job Search

In my experience, the graduates who get the best jobs in the shortest amount time are those who are both reactive and proactive in doing whatever it takes to get hired.

Reactive Strategy

Q. What does it mean to be “reactive” in my job search?

Being reactive implies that you are ready to respond at a moment’s notice to apply for a job when a new opportunity arises—whether it’s a classified ad in the newspaper, an online advertisement, a lead from your career advisor, or a casual mention from a family member or friend  who tells you, “XYZ Corp. is hiring.  You should check it out.”

Q.  How many jobs should I apply for a day?

When you discover a job prospect, the worst thing you can do is wait.  You need to react and do so within a 24-hour period.  It’s not unrealistic to expect that you’ll need to apply to as many as 3-5 jobs a DAY.  The key is to strike while the iron’s hot.

Q. So I just send the company my resume, right?

Not exactly. You should definitely have your resume ready to go, but truly competitive candidates know that they need to tailor their resume so that it speaks explicitly to the demands of the particular job they’re pursuing.  For example, you may need to revise your Objective, incorporate key words from the job description, add new bullets or remove others.  (BTW, If you haven’t had me review your resume, we need to talk.)

Q. Should I include a cover letter with every job I apply for?

When you apply, if you have a chance to write a short message to the employer, either in a cover letter or email, take it.  It’s important to make the job search personal, whenever you can.

Q. Ok, I’m ready to implement my “reactive strategy—what now?

A good reactive strategy requires you to be tuned in to the platforms where employers post positions, namely:

  • UO Student Connect. Formerly UO JobLink.
  • A meta-search engine that captures all publicly posted jobs and internships, though it doesn’t “discover” search results for password protected sites, like UO Student Connect.
  • Simply Another meta-search engine, but this one has a gadget that links job postings to contacts in your LinkedIn network. So if one of your contacts works [or once worked] for the company, you could reach out to them for advice before and/or after applying for the job.
  • Professional Organizations.  Chamber of Commerce, Society for Human Resources Management, UO Economics Club, and other groups periodically share opportunities on their websites, emails, LinkedIn groups, and meetings.
  • Career Fairs . We have them quarterly, but there are periodically job fairs sponsored by other organizations in cities like Eugene, Portland, and so on.

The Proactive Strategy

This means that you don’t wait for employers to come to you; rather, you target employers and pursue them.

Q. What’s the first thing I need to do if I want to adopt a proactive strategy?

Activate your network—this means letting your parents, siblings, extended family, and friends know that you are looking for a job or internship and giving them some basic details about the kind of opportunity you’re pursuing (e.g. something involving data analysis, finance, marketing, etc. in the Eugene or Portland or Seattle area).  You can get the word out using Facebook and personal conversations.  You’ll be surprised at the lengths people who really care about you will go to in order to introduce you to the people and opportunities.

It is important to follow up promptly and fully with any leads that your network gives you.  If someone says, “There’s this guy named Jim at YES Corp. Drop him a resume,” then be sure to make that happen within a 24-hour window.

Q. How do I go about finding prospective employers in my area?

Set aside time to research organizations in the desired geographic region (e.g. where you will be realistically available to work) and begin making a “prospect list.” This list can be an Excel document. You can usually find a fairly business directory on any local Chamber of Commerce website, and this is an excellent starting point.  Also, look for those “Best Companies To Work For” lists. The goal is to expand your level of awareness about companies in your area (thinking beyond just name brands).

Q.  Ok, I’ve got my prospect list.  Now what?

Once you’ve made your list, start looking at each company individually.  You’re looking for several things:

  • Current job/internship announcements. You may not find anything, but I want you to get an idea of what the organization does and what they value in their hires.
  • Mission, vision, values. Are they compatible with your own values and goals?
  • Industry niche and business functions. As you research what the company does and how it operates, imagine what you could do to contribute to their success.

Now, narrow your “Prospect List” down to a “Target List” and begin tracking your activity related to each organization (both proactive and reactive), as well as points of contact you’ve discovered through your research (e.g. company directory, business articles, and LinkedIn).

Q.  If the companies on my target list don’t have available jobs, what should I do?

Begin your outreach.  Remember, this is the proactive strategy—you’re not waiting for employers to come to you, you’re going to them.  Your outreach can take several forms:

  • Informational Interviewing.  This involved contacting someone in one of the companies you are interested in and asking them for 5-10 minutes of time (e.g. a coffee break) to ask them questions about their company, their career path, how they got their start, and advice for students seeking to “break into” finance, analysis, research, actuarial work, etc.
  • Networking.  Groups like the Chamber of Commerce, local business periodicals, and non-profits often host breakfast meetings, lunches, fundraising events, after-business socials.  You need to register for those events, show up, shake hands, get business cards, and follow-up with “Nice to meet you emails.”
  • Project Proposal.  This can be a very effective way of creating an internship where none previously existed.  The proposal is a short email and/or cover letter that briefly (1-2 paragraphs) tells a hiring manager (a) who you are, (b) what you want, and (c) what you have to offer, then (d) asks for follow-up of some kind (e.g. 5 minutes to meet over the phone or in person to discuss the possibilities).

Q.  How do I find a contact?

The best way is through LinkedIn, which is a tremendous research tool.  Once you have a profile, you can search companies and see which employees work there and what their particular roles are.  From there, you can either initiate an invitation to connect or (better yet) request an introduction through one of your other contacts who may be connected to them.  Often time, with a little online sleuthing, you can find the contact’s official company email address.   Follow the pointers above for structuring your message.

Q.  What help is available to me over the summer at the UO?

Please feel free to contact me with any questions about the information I’ve just shared.  Remember, there are no shortcuts.  If you contact me, I’m going to ask you to detail your reactive and proactive strategies.  I’m going to want to see your prospect/target lists. I’m going to want details of what jobs you’ve applied for. I’m going to want to see your resume.  It’s your responsibility to get these things together. I can help you to take all of this to another level and troubleshoot issues you’re running into. In addition, the UO Career Center is open over the summer to help.