Five-Step Process to the Job Search

The job search can be an exciting time, but it can also be a time of uncertainty. If you’re feeling unsure about what your next steps should be, we encourage you to focus on what you are able to control. We’re here to help you create a plan that helps you stay as connected as possible to your career goal. With that in mind, here are five steps to creating a focused and flexible job search plan:

1. Look

Understand what’s happening in the industry you would like to pursue. For example, are there more or less jobs available? What trends are emerging? What skills are in high demand?

One place to get this information include sites that are sharing frequent updates and trends, including the Emsi Job Posting Dashboard. You may also find specific updates through professional associations in your industry; a quick way to find these is to google “professional association [industry].” For example, if you’re interested in the music industry, you would type “professional association music” into google to see what associations appear.

We recommend saving any postings that appeal to you, even if they aren’t a “perfect” fit. The goal is to learn what skills employers are looking for, salary ranges for your industry, and other information that will help you understand industry and job market trends.

If you’re not sure which industry you want to pursue, you may want to review the information on our industry pages, or use the tools within Steppingblocks. To get a customized newsletter with advice, events, and helpful information, click here for instructions on how to set up your profile.

2. Reflect

This is a critical time to have a strong story to share about the skills you have and how you use those skills. Some employers get a high volume of applications. The most successful candidates are the ones who can tell their story by sharing specific examples of their skills in action.

One way to start is to think about the skills you have, and to write down examples of how you have developed those skills. Not sure what kinds of skills to choose? Start here:

Review the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) career readiness competencies, which have been identified by employers as being the top skills that show a college graduate is ready for the workforce. Think about your experiences, and write down situations in which you’ve demonstrated those skills. The more specific the better. And always emphasize the positive results of your actions.

If you already have a resume, you’ll want to ensure that it exemplifies your skills and is ready to pass initial screening stages. Uploading your resume to Quinncia only takes a few minutes, and you’ll get fast feedback on what to improve. (As a bonus, you can also practice interview questions on Quinncia!)

3. Strategize

Your job search plan will likely need to be expanded beyond searching for positions that are directly tied to your ideal career goal. Think about the different ways that you can add possibilities that are still connected to your ideal goal. This could include other positions within the same industry, positions in related industries, or positions connected to your skillset.

You may need to pursue options that might not seem like a direct connection to your career goal. Remember that expanding your options is also expanding opportunities to broaden and strengthen your skillset. These experiences can be a fantastic stepping stone to your ideal career and will make you even more prepared for your next steps.

Consider pursuing other experiential opportunities or jobs and internships that can help you boost your skills. LinkedIn Learning is available for free to you, using your netID and password, and has a wide range of courses that will help you get career ready.

4. Connect

Building a community of support should always be a part of your career journey. Staying connected with peers, finding potential mentors, and meeting others within your industry will help you gain clarity along your path and can even lead to opportunities you might not have heard of otherwise. 

Rutgers-Newark Handshake can be a place to search for peers who have similar interests, as you can message others directly through the platform. If you’d like to find alumni, you can use Rutgers Student Alumni Career Connect or the alumni tool in LinkedIn (here’s a link to the Rutgers-Newark alumni in LinkedIn).

Remember that as you reach out to people, the idea is to get information and advice that will make you a stronger candidate, NOT to ask for jobs. If you’re wondering about how to ask for help in the job search, here’s a recent post that offers some suggestions.

5. Act

The last step of this process is to work on applications. It may feel like you’re productive if you’re applying to a lot of positions, but it’s better to take more time customizing your materials for each position to look aligned as a candidate. Remember that when there are more applicants per opening, it’s easier for recruiters to eliminate more applications—so you want to do as much as possible to keep your application under consideration. Stay organized throughout the process and track your applications and progress as you go.

Rutgers-Newark Handshake is a good place to start looking for job postings, as employers post there to seek entry-level talent, as well as candidates with a few years of experience. It’s also important to stay alert for potential fraudulent job postings.

It’s never too early to ensure that you have strong, customized application materials. You can review our tips on resumes and cover letters. Make sure that the skills you mention in your application documents align with the skills in job postings, always tailor your resume for each position, and always get your resume reviewed before submitting.


Good luck in your search!