No two job or internship searches will look exactly alike. In creating your search strategy, you’ll want to build in time for research, planning, polishing your professional image, and relationship-building, in addition to applying, interviewing, and following up.
Use these tips to develop a search strategy that suits your strengths and needs. At any point in this process, feel free to meet with a career counselor for clarification on your next steps.
Develop a Plan of Action and Start Researching
- Reflect on your interests, strengths, values, and skills. Consider using the Explore reflection activities in Design Your Next Steps, our career guide, for inspiration.
- Use Firsthand, O*NET, our industry pages, and LionSHARE to research and identify job titles and career fields.
- Talk to professors, former supervisors, family, and classmates to learn more about fields that interest you or uncover fields you might not have considered.
- Fill out your career interests on LionSHARE to ensure that you receive tailored information about opportunities via LionSHARE and through industry newsletters from our office.
- Research the recruitment timelines of your industries of interest.
- Make a target list of the top 20 organizations you might like to work for using resources like LionSHARE, Glassdoor, GoinGlobal, UniWorld, Indeed, and professional association websites. Brainstorm connections in your network.
- Develop a timeline. The search can take anywhere from 3–9 months, depending on the industry. Make sure to research the industry recruitment timelines and time your search accordingly.
- Carve out time regularly in your calendar (you can start with 10 minutes a day) to stay active in this process, while balancing your additional responsibilities.
- Create a Google or Excel spreadsheet, or another tracking document, to record contacts, positions, and target organizations.
Note: If you’re an international student and plan to work in the US, learn about the requirements of your visa by visiting the International Students and Scholars Office.
Refine Your Application Material and Online Presence
- Create a polished and tailored resume and cover letter for each job or internship.
- Ensure that your LionSHARE proﬁle is complete and accurate.
- Google your name to ensure that images, information, and social media profiles are professional and appropriate.
- Join LinkedIn or update your profile to connect with alumni and other contacts. Check out Columbia’s alumni page.
- If you are not receiving any responses, meet with a career counselor to assess and refine your approach.
Get Involved and Build Relationships
- Develop and practice your 30-second introduction.
- Connect with alumni or other contacts in your current network to learn about careers and organizations that interest you. Prepare for and set up informational interviews.
- Meet employers and alumni at our career fairs, industry showcases, information sessions, networking events, and workshops.
- Check communications from campus student groups and academic departments for professional networking opportunities and job leads.
- Stay in touch with contacts you’ve made through events and networking to uncover “hidden” job opportunities that are not posted but rather will be filled through referrals.
- Join a professional association or student club to stay current with industry trends, access specialized job boards, and attend conferences or membership meetings (many have student rates).
Apply to Jobs
- Create saved searches in LionSHARE to save time looking for positions matching your criteria.
- Regularly check the careers webpage of your top target companies, follow them on social media, and sign up for their newsletters to learn about openings and company news.
- Apply to jobs on industry-specific job boards like Mediabistro.com and USAJobs.gov and general aggregate job boards such as Indeed.com and Simplyhired.com.
- Reach out to people in your target companies through the Columbia alumni network, classmates, LinkedIn, or connections in your personal network.
- If you don’t hear back, follow up a week or two after applying to reiterate your interest.
- Monitor applications and responses. Note when to follow up in a spreadsheet, calendar, or other tool to stay organized, track contacts and remember which jobs you have applied to.
Interview and Follow Up
- Sharpen your interview skills using Big Interview. Watch training videos, record yourself answering behavioral questions, and review your responses with the self-guided rating scale.
- Research the organization and reflect on how your experiences relate to the position before each interview.
- Schedule a practice interview with a career counselor for help articulating why you are a strong candidate for the position.
- Research typical attire for your specific organization and dress accordingly. Current students may reserve and borrow a suit for free from our Clothing Closet.
- On the day of your interview, remember to leave sufficient travel time to arrive 10–15 minutes early and greet everyone with a smile and strong handshake.
- Consider the employer’s perspective as you explain your qualifications. Express your genuine interest, identify related skills, or spell out how past experiences prepared you for the role.
- Ask your interviewers for business cards and send a personalized thank you note to each person with whom you interviewed within 24 hours after your interview.
- Clarify next steps in the process to know when you can expect to hear back. Follow up if you are not contacted within the expected timeframe.
Evaluate and Respond to Offers
- If you receive an offer, let the employer know you are grateful, and ask when a decision is needed. Be sure that you have all the details: job description, salary, benefits, start date, etc.
- Work with a career counselor to evaluate fit, negotiate, or respond to offers. You can also use the evaluation matrix tipsheet on our website.
- Inform and thank the people who have helped you in your search or research process.
- Continue to build and maintain professional relationships in your new position.
- Prepare yourself to start the new job! View our “survival guide” webinar on transitioning into the workplace.