How do you structure/strategize a job search?
January 17, 2010 3:13 PM   Subscribe

How do you structure/strategize a job search?

I am a recent graduate, overwhelmed with a collection of job search resources which I collected in the form of bookmarks on delicious. Now I have all these resources but am not sure how to prioritize them. Also my friends suggest talking to recruiters and networking. Some have also suggested posting (snail mail) resumes to companies I am interested in.

My question is how do I decide which method should get the most of my time? Is there a "right way" to conduct a job search? Your responses are highly appreciated.
posted by VickyR to Work & Money (11 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
The only way I know how to conduct a job search is to network with people. Not sure if this is the kind of information you're looking for.
posted by dfriedman at 3:18 PM on January 17, 2010

I think it really depends what industry you're looking in.

For instance, if you wanted to be a software engineer/programmer, I'd say post your resume on and sit back and wait for a million recruiters to contact you. There may well be something specific like that for you, if you tell us what you're looking for.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:43 PM on January 17, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for both your responses so far. I am looking for an opportunity in the accounting industry as I am a recent accounting graduate.
posted by VickyR at 5:11 PM on January 17, 2010

Best answer: Networking would be your best option. Find the local offices of PWC or KPMG and see if one of your professors has a contact there.

Look at companies with more than 20 employees and see who is doing their payroll and HR stuff. Phone of up the CEO, COO or CFO.

That sort of stuff.

Try to meet in person or over the phone 15 people a week, and remember to followup.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:34 PM on January 17, 2010

Best answer: Good question. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make when they are looking for work is not prioritizing their time and efforts, so good for you for thinking about it early on.

Many people have the most success looking for work if they have some sort of time management structure in place. Looking for work is a full time job and you need to prioritize and manage your time just like if you were working or were a student. I used a weekly calendar and broke my time into two hour blocks....I'd spend these two hour blocks doing things like researching potential employers, looking for work in all the typical online venues, attending networking events, preparing application materials, stuff like that. Just having a schedule made me feel accountable to getting certain things accomplished every day (and not watching the Price is Right all morning)

A few things to get in place right away:
1. A resume that you are REALLY HAPPY with. You'll potentially have a few versions of your resume and you should have lots of people look it over and give you feedback. If you can dig up some human resources professionals and professionals in your field to look at it, that would be best. If you don't have a resume you are happy with yet, I like this book, it should give you some inspiration.

2. Cover letters and references. Make sure you have good references that know you and are applicable to the field you are going into. You should also have cover letter drafts looked over by the same people looking at your resume.

From there, start by applying to job postings. You should always check through your friends and family to see if they know anyone at the companies you are applying to. Check to see if they have any inside tips or if they can put in a good word for you. Once you run out of decent job postings to apply for, start researching companies you would most like to work for. Learn lots about them, what their mission is, how many people they employ, any accounting practices that make them really cool, whatever. Then start calling or emailing the main person in accounting. Talk to them and see if they expect any vacancies. Let them know that you have a lot to offer them (and when you discuss why, use examples that show you have done a lot of research on the company). Offer to send your resume, if the conversation is going well, ask to meet in person. Lots of people think it is very important to do this "cold calling" over the phone, but I have had success over email as well. Just make sure the email is very specific to their company and how you could be an asset to them.

Also, stay on top of the news in your industry and in your city's business news...If the news is discussing a company that is getting some big government contract, watch that company for a few weeks to see if they end up hiring. If some big accounting practice changes or is being covered in the news, make sure you understand it...this is good small talk for interviews and shows that you are aware of what is going on in your field.
posted by mjcon at 6:09 PM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I recommend reading at It's different, intuitive but not obvious.
posted by bleeb at 10:54 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your responses.

@mjcon Your tip about setting up a schedule and then following it will be a big help in keep track of how much of what I am focusing on. Your detailed answer also summarizes the main steps for me to take.

@KokuRyu Everyone I have spoken to in person say Networking is the key. Staying in a small town limits my options but I can aim for events once in 2 weeks in the interest of economy.

Thanks again!
posted by VickyR at 10:32 AM on January 18, 2010

Best answer: If your school has a employment office for students and recent alumni, I highly recommend booking an appointment there. They will have local knowledge of your industry and possibly even know about a few unadvertized leads. They can also provide good, neutral feedback on your resume and covering letters. Some school employment offices even offer and practise interview service where you can practise being interviewed in advance of your real job interview.

As for structuring/organizing, I've had good luck with keeping a database of every contact I made, with spaces for follow-up. Networking contacts were kept seperate from actually job applications, and entering all the dates reminded me to follow up at appropriate times. (Such as sending a thank-you letter 2 days after an interview.) It also organized all my cover letters so I could look back to earlier ones for inspiration. The other advantage to keeping a database record of your search is if you need to apply for employment insurance or any other public benefit to help you out before you can find a job: if a bureaucrat questions the sincerity of your search, you have a record of all your work at job hunting to provide them.

Finally, the other thing that helped me when I was in your position was setting a schedule with a full day devoted to job-hunting. This doesn't have to be 9 - 5, but it should cover that many hours in a day. Use to-do list of applying to applications, following up on networking leads, contacting professional associations, etc. to fill these hours.

As a single data point, I did none of the above after completing my undergraduate degree and was unemployed for several months before going back to school. I did all of it after finishing my masters and was only *completely* unemployed for one month before getting first a temporary, one month position and then a full time one one month after that.

Also, don't shy away from part-time or less than ideal jobs, especially if they are temporary. You can take less than perfect jobs (especially part time or temporary ones) and still look for work in your field. I've found that employers tend to look more favourably on people who do this because it shows a positive work ethic and a lack of inflated entitlement.
posted by Kurichina at 11:06 AM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @Kurichina Thank you for your response, It gives me hope. I have secured admission to the Master's program too beginning in May.

I was wondering what database can be used to keep track of cover letters?

posted by VickyR at 10:35 AM on January 23, 2010

Hi Vicky,

Personally, I just used a spreadsheet and outlook calendar to keep track of my postings - you can use whatever software or paper-based system is easiest for you. The main thing it to keep track of your activity and remind yourself to follow up upon it at the appropriate time.
posted by Kurichina at 11:34 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @Kurichina Thank u so much. I found a job tracking excel worksheet on Microsoft's website. Your advice has been very helpful. Thanks again.
Here is the link to the worksheet.
posted by VickyR at 6:54 PM on January 26, 2010

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