My 10 Best Practices for Job or Internship Hunting
Graduating in a pandemic? Been there, done that. Trust me when I say that I understand how downright soul-crushing the application process can be during this point in time. Luckily for you, I’ve already experienced navigating the difficult market and found 10 tips that were effective during my job hunt.
Please note that these are tips that worked for me earlier into the pandemic and that I can’t guarantee results; every industry and profession differs, so take whatever advice applies to yours. That being said, let’s get into it:
1. Start researching places BEFORE applying
You wouldn’t believe how many applications I submitted out of pure desperation, and ended up with either a rejection email or no response. Save your time and energy applying to places you wouldn’t even want to work for by doing some light research beforehand. Look into things that are important to you. For me, that’s values, the various departments and entry-level employees’ responsibilities. The company website, LinkedIn glassdoor.com have all of the information you need.
2. Get your materials in check
You should know this part already: edit your resume, have others review it, and, if applicable, begin drafting your portfolio/website. Something I like to do is check Jobscan to see if my resume is compatible with search algorithms and is more likely to populate in a pool of applicants. To improve your chances, I like to use phrases and keywords found on the company’s website and job listing.
If your resume has funky formatting because of InDesign or Canva, I recommend copying and pasting the entire resume into a new document, ensuring it is correctly formatted in Times New Roman, and pasting it back into the resume in size 3 font the same color as the background. I don’t know how many others do this, but it worked for me once I implemented it.
Some applications require a recommendation letter, so ask potential references a few weeks in advance to give them ample time to complete it.
As a side note: use the semester leading up to graduation as a time to think about and carve out your personal brand and voice as a young professional.
3. Get vocal on LinkedIn
Visibility is more important than you think! Develop a method that works for you to begin posting at least once a week. Try sharing articles, creating your own content, posing questions and using polls, etc. After that, make sure you engage with connections on a regular basis, whether that’s for 10 minutes each morning or periodically throughout the day. Build those relationships!
4. Reach out to HR via LinkedIn and ask for informational interviews (or to learn more about the company/program)
Many programs may be full due to 2020 cancellations, but there is no harm in trying. Who knows, maybe a new position will become available that would be a good fit for you, and they reach out because you were proactive. Make sure to ask thoughtful questions, say thank you and stay in touch every few months. It is also a good idea to note if there are any differences to applying to an internship versus an entry-level position. For example, one company I wanted to apply to required you to become an apprentice before an assistant account executive, which I never knew until I spoke with HR, who then offered insight and a timeline for when apprentice applications open.
5. Connect with everyone you can think of
This works even better if they’re higher ups or recruiters at companies you’d like to work for. If you can, have a reason to contact them. I used the graduation videos the UF PR Advisory Board made for us as a way to thank them and send a connection, which most accepted (and a few even words of encouragement and some help), but there are so many people you can send connection requests and notes to expand your network. You never know who can guide you closer to getting a job!
6. Leverage connections
This is similar advice to the previous tip, but ask former professors, old PRSSA speakers and other connections that you already have an established relationship with if they know of any companies hiring or if they can connect you with any professionals in fields you are interested in joining. In addition, make sure your mentors and connections know your goals and interests so they will hopefully think of you immediately if an opportunity arises.
I live by the expression, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” – not in a “the who complains the loudest attracts attention and service,” type of way, but rather a “the one who makes themselves available and accepting of help will be the one most likely to receive it,” way.
7. Attend events
Online events are more accessible for most people compared to in-person events that may have obstacles such as travel or cost (in addition to COVID.) PRSA-NY, PRSA and various chapters of PRSSA, normally have free or low cost events you can attend to meet others. I took advantage of some virtual PRSA-NY events throughout the summer and had the privilege of connecting with a fabulous group of professionals. Don’t be shy to speak up, introduce yourself and ask questions!
8. Track your applications
Use whatever platform or method works for you, but I’d personally recommend Google Sheets or Excel. (I used Excel, but if I had to do it all again I would use Google Sheets.) Add headings for the company, the job title and department with a link to the job listing, requested materials, job location, the date you applied, if you received an interview or if you made a new contact and notes about correspondence or other information think is necessary.
I also color coded each row for quick reference: every other line was gray to give my eyes a break, red represented a rejection, yellow indicated a hot lead and green signified an interview or position was offered.
9. Develop a system for applying that works for you
After class? 2 hours a day? Do whatever works for you and your schedule, just be consistent with it. Scan LinkedIn and the websites of companies you’d like to work for frequently and apply to the newest jobs first. Keep in mind that many businesses looking to fulfill a role never end up posting a job listing because they wind up recruiting or reaching out to recommendations, which is why I say visibility is so important! I am living proof of the power of a good connection.
10. Don’t get discouraged
Once I took a step back and started applying to jobs more strategically is when I started receiving interviews and offers. Obsessing over making yourself sick with anxiety and feelings of inadequacy won’t serve you any purpose. If you wind up getting rejected (or ignored or ghosted), be gracious and always thank the company contact for their time and consideration, then move on. Don’t compare yourself to others and trust the process. Your time will come, believe me, so you need to be ready for it.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Feel free to reach out!