How to Start Your Job Search

It never ceases to amaze me that people wait until they don’t have a job to start their search. If the golden rule of sales is “Always Be Closing” then the corresponding rule for careers is always be searching. You don’t have to be in the market for a job to be open to possibilities. You don’t have to be ready to make the move to start gathering info. What you do need is to be actively engaged in your career so you can take advantage of an opportunity at a moment’s notice. Whether you still have years left on your degree or you are graduating next month, here are five activities to get you started on your search.

1.    Have your resume ready.

If you only have a curriculum vitae, then you’ll need to begin the process of creating a resume. Starting from scratch? Begin by identifying your transferable skills. The first unit of the Non-Academic Work Search course has helpful information and exercises to guide you through this stage of the process. When your document is ready, make sure to get some second opinions. Your campus career services can be a fantastic resource for helping you to get the resume just right.

2.    Speak with alumni.

Want to know the best way to transition from student to professional? Ask those who have already done it. Your alumni association will have a number of events, programs and initiatives to help you connect with alumni who are willing to share their knowledge and experience. It’s never too early to take advantage of those opportunities.

3.    Get LinkedIn.

It’s not your online resume. It’s better. Yes, your LinkedIn profile will allow you to show the world what you have accomplished and what you have to offer, but it also allows you to engage in stimulating discussions with other professionals on relevant issues through groups, share your insights with blog posts, and search for mentors and employers using multiple criteria. You don’t need to pay for a subscription to take advantage of the benefits of this online platform, you just need to invest some time.

4.    Get informed.

For the best information and tips, go straight to the source: professionals working in your area of interest. Informational interviews can help you gain insider information on an industry, organization or profession, give you access to the hidden job market, and help you make sure that you are on track to land the type of position you are seeking. The Non-Academic Work Search unit four can help you get started with this strategy, and Quintessential Careers has a complete informational interview tutorial to help you get started.

5.    Plan your search.

Logically, this should be the first thing you do to make sure that you are maximizing your time and effort but most people hate the idea of putting off their search to engage in planning, and prefer to dive right into the tasks. After trying a few of the strategies I’ve suggested, you’ll get a sense of how much time you can wind up spending on your job search, and planning will suddenly look much more appealing. Whether you use your Google calendar, an Excel spreadsheet, or a workflow tool like Trello (free and my favourite), having a plan will increase your accountability, minimize the chances of being overwhelmed, and help you to better incorporate job searching into part of your daily routine.

Happy searching!

Catherine Maybrey
Catherine Maybrey
Catherine Maybrey is the Graduate Career Strategist in the School of Graduate Studies at McMaster University and the owner of CM Coaching Services. She specializes in development and coaching for PhDs and mid-level career professionals, and she also works with institutions to design and facilitate career development programs. Catherine has contributed to Academica’s Rethinking Higher Ed Forum, Beyond the Professoriate, and she blogs on career issues at A self-described LinkedIn evangelist, you can find Catherine at
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