Career Tips: A Successful Job Search

By: Jennifer Morrison

If you are like most of our students, you are earning an education to help you begin a new career or advance further in an established one. This means you will be undertaking a job search. It can be rough out there for job applicants. We’ve never experienced an employee pool like this before; many workers in their 40’s and 50’s were laid off during the recession that began in 2008 and are now competing for jobs against the typical 20-something crowd. It can be overwhelming and discouraging to go months without so much as an interview. We have some tips that if implemented will help you cut through the numerous job listings and crowds of candidate and stand out to potential employers.

Perfect Your Resume

Your cover letter and resume will make the very first impression on an employer. Your resume should be neat, streamlined, and informative. Your contact information should be found at the top of the cover letter and resume and include your phone number and an email address (avoid using outdated accounts like Hotmail and AOL). The information listed in your experience section should relate directly to the position to which you are applying. Keeping this in mind there is no such thing as a boiler plate resume, you need to custom tailor your resume for each application. Instead of listing your responsibilities in your experience section, list your accomplishments and how you reached them. Your cover letter should also be direct. In it explain what position you are applying for, why specifically you’d be an asset to the company, and what skills you have to help you do just that.

Stay Organized

Searching for a job is a full time job itself. On top of your other responsibilities, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Nothing will make you seem undesirable as a candidate if you’re applying to the same position multiple times because you can’t remember where you’ve already applied. Creating a spreadsheet that includes the job listing and date you applied will help you from applying multiple times, allow you to know when to follow up, and mark it off completely if the employer has said you are not a match. 

Similarly, it’s important to organize your job search so you’re not wasting your time on positions that don’t match your qualifications. Use job aggregators like to set up email alerts for new positions that match your specific keywords.

Be Open and Flexible to Other Opportunities

The idea of the “perfect” job is a fantasy for most people. Very rarely will a position meet all of your needs and wants right off the bat. It’s important to know what you can and can’t compromise on and work from there to help find a position. A new trend in hiring practices is to hire a person as a temporary employee for a set amount of time.  If the employee and employer are both happy with the work that is being done, the arrangement can be made permanent. This isn’t ideal for many job searchers because it normally doesn’t provide benefits that permanent employees receive however it is a great way to get your foot in the door with an employer and build experience in your career history.

You may also want to consider other positions that are just outside your main skill set. If you’ve recently earned a certification in cyber security but are unable to find that specific position, branching out into general IT or network administration may be an option to help land a paid position. Once in the door, your employer may have a need for your actual skill set and you can demonstrate your skills and create or move into the position you truly desire.


Once you’ve caught the attention of a hiring employer you’ll most likely talk with them two or three times to discuss your experience, skills, and education in more detail. It’s reasonable to be nervous about interviews but you don’t want your anxiety to hamper your ability to demonstrate why you’re the best candidate for the job. Have a friend or a mentor practice interviews with you, both on the phone and in person. Encourage them to give you feedback as well so you can improve before you’re faced with a real interview.

A successful job search isn’t a one size fits all model.  The hiring climate is always changing and it’s important to stay in tune with current trends but if you build upon these good practices you’ll better your chances for success.