How to Best Help Students With Job Searches

Allyson Hoffman advises grad students and faculty members how to respond when students contact them now and throughout the summer with questions and requests.

June 4, 2019
 
 
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When I was a graduate student instructor, students wanted more from me than just knowledge of the course material. They came to my office hours asking about everything from budgeting to finding an internship to interviewing for their dream jobs. They trusted me as an authority, as many students trust their instructors. It’s unsurprising, then, that now that this season for job seeking has rolled around, students will once again look to instructors for advice -- as they will next year and in years to come.

Currently, as a career adviser at a liberal arts college, I of course encourage faculty members to recommend the career services office to their students. Even better, if class time permits, I suggest that they invite career services representatives to visit their classroom. This advice may come a bit too late for you for this year, but I suggest you keep it in mind for the future. I can cover a lot of ground walking students through the essential steps for an effective job search in just 15 minutes. (But I’ll always take more!) The best classroom visits are those where the instructor and I together connect the course material to career questions students have.

You can also include links to career services in your elearning platform. If you keep a running list of campus resources for students, don’t forget to include career services. You might even add a short pitch: career services can assist you with every stage of the career preparation process -- from career discernment to finding jobs to practicing for interviews. (Revise as necessary, or copy and paste directly from the campus career services website.)

If you’ve already been doing some or all of these things, thank you! In my experience, the top three reasons students come to visit us in career services are the recommendations of peers, parents and instructors.

If you’re wondering what more you could offer your students when they come knocking at your office door or emailing you throughout the summer with questions about job searching, I have some suggestions. I like to tell my students to treat their job searches the way they would a research project for class: go in with questions, make an action plan and put the time in to complete the work well. Here’s how you can help them get started.

Show them how to organize their search. Often, simply offering students a method of organization can radically change their approach. I’ve developed an original spreadsheet to guide students through three major steps: finding employers, finding job boards and Listservs, and networking. You can share this spreadsheet with your students; I’ve left explanations the purpose of each box they’re filling in. In brief, students should keep track of as much information about the positions they apply to as they can, and they should keep careful records of the employers they find particularly exciting.

Show them how to organize their applications. When it comes to the actual application process, we all can get overwhelmed by the number of documents required. Encourage your students to make digital folders for each job they apply for. They should label the folder with the deadline of the application first, then the position title and employer name (e.g., 2-14-18_Marketing Consultant_AwesomeEmployer). When the series of folders is sorted in numerical/alphabetical order, the applications due first will be listed at the top. When they’ve completed the application, they should add “Completed” to the front of the folder name or move the folder to a different location.

Recommend professional groups. In my experience, students are limiting themselves only to broad job boards, liked Indeed or Monster. But some of the best job boards are hosted by national or regional groups for a particular field, and students don’t always know what those groups are. If you have some favorite organizations, or know favorite organizations of your colleagues, share the names with your students. Some groups may not have a job board, or the job board may be behind a membership or paywall, but it’s worth the students’ time to check. Those websites often offer other career resources.

Suggest Listservs. You probably already subscribe to Listservs for your field to get updates on grant opportunities, publications and the like. While not every Listserv has jobs, many do. I’ve found that students often aren’t aware of what Listservs are, let alone know to subscribe to them. Your insider knowledge could help them find a job that isn’t posted widely or in the usual places.

Help them connect with professionals. If you have willing colleagues in the field, you can, of course, put students in touch with them for informational interviews. Students won’t be asking for a job, but they might get recommendations of where to look for positions or confirm that the field is right for them.

Connect with them on LinkedIn. If you have a LinkedIn profile (and are open to it), encourage your students to connect with you there. That connection will expand their network on the site, allowing them to: 1) identify employers they hadn’t considered before, 2) research careers of others in the field and 3) connect with others in the field. If students don’t have a LinkedIn account, encourage them to make one. It’s a powerful tool to search for jobs and examine the career paths of the people they hope to emulate.

Talk about your own job experiences, and be honest. This is especially helpful if you’ve held positions outside academe. Share your personal strategies for job searching, your successes and your failures. In my case, I share that I applied to upward of 60 positions, much to my students’ shock. It makes it clear to them why I always recommend they apply to more than five jobs.

The great news is that these steps are useful not only for job searches but also for internship, externship, fellowship and graduate school searches and applications. I use the spreadsheet for each of these and modify as necessary. By offering such tips to your students, you can help them to be prepared with more specific questions when they meet with a career adviser as well as launch them in many positive directions.

Bio

Allyson Hoffman is a career adviser at Eckerd College. She has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship and will serve at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology beginning fall 2019.

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