My most recent question on Klout’s Cinch came from a college senior:  I’m a senior at UC Davis and it seems like everyone is stressing out about full-time employment. Is this really the right time to start looking?

If you want to be working immediately after graduation, then, yes, this is the time to start your job search – or at least putting all the pieces together for an effective job search. Keep in mind that it usually takes a couple of months to find something, and in this market, it can take longer.

When you start looking does depend on what you want to do. If you want to work for a bank or major corporation, many of them are recruiting on-campus throughout the winter. Check with your college or university career development office to find out what the schedule is and if you can get an interview time. That office can also either help you or point you to resources to help you put together a resume.

If you don’t want to work for one of the companies that is recruiting at your campus, you can probably wait a little longer to start submitting applications because employers usually post a position wanting to fill it right away (meaning within a couple of months at the latest). So you’ll start looking in March or April for something that starts in May or June. In that case, you have the time to put together the “marketing materials” you need to land a position that suits your interests, skills, and experience.

To apply to any job, you need a resume that showcases your accomplishments. Because you’re going to be graduating, your resume will start with Education, then go to Experience. Experience will consist of volunteer work, internships, student activities, and of course any paid employment. Most recent graduate resumes can fit on one page; it depends on the extent of your activities and accomplishments.

If you want work in a specific field, start doing your research on companies and organizations in the field. Put together a list of places you’d want to work and see if they have any jobs.

The next “marketing material” you’ll need is a great cover letter.  Your cover letter needs to emphasize 3 things:

  1. you’re familiar with the company and what it does;
  2. your skills and abilities are exactly what the job description calls for; and,
  3. you really want to work for the employer and why.

My last bit of advice for finding a job that suits you and helps launch your career is to use your network to ferret out opportunities.  That includes parents, their colleagues, professors, friends, friends’ parents, former employers – anyone who might know someone in a company that needs someone like you. It’s a lot like following a trail, without necessarily knowing the specific end point. If you know your skills and how you want to use them, it will make it easier for people to help you eventually land the “right fit” job.

When I left graduate school in 1981 (during the last really major recession), I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.  I temped for a while until I got sick of it and finally was willing to accept the help my father offered. He introduced me to a few people he knew and then it was up to me. Three connections on, I met with a woman who was consulting for an organization that needed a fundraiser. I’d never done that but I liked to write, to organize systems, and develop persuasive arguments. And I was passionate about social justice and this was an organization helping to green the South Bronx (back when it was like a war zone). I got the job and it began my career. Did I plan on getting that job? No. And it all turned out perfectly.

I have many posts on how to construct a resume, create an answer to the question “what are you looking for?” and writing a great cover letter.   Search on the site, and good luck!