Job Search 101
SFAI Connect is the most readily available resource for the SFAI community, in addition to other online job boards and search tools. Be sure to check each of these sources at least once or twice a week so you can apply promptly when a new job posting appears.
Finding and applying to an interesting job lead might be the easiest way to get a job, but unfortunately it’s not the most effective. Only about 10 to15 percent of jobs are advertised publicly, and it’s likely that you'll need to search in other ways to find the right job for you.
Researching organizations via their websites, articles, and reviews to identify places where you would enjoy working is an important first step to taking a more direct approach. Once you’ve identified organizations and jobs that align with your skills and strengths, you can inquire directly—write letters outlining your abilities, send them to people in a position to hire you, follow-up with calls to ensure they were received, and reiterate your interest in the positions—making your search more effective.
Applying for Jobs
Once you’ve found job leads of interest, apply by following the employer's instructions. Some employers require an application form in addition to a cover letter and resume. Others will ask for a statement of purpose, or other documents such as letters of reference. If you have questions about the application process, it’s a good idea to call the organization to clarify rather than risk mistakes.
Here are a few key reminders:
While it’s important to meet the application deadline, it’s worth a call to the organization to ask if they will still accept your application if you find the perfect opening a few days late. It is critical to send your materials immediately once you receive permission, so be sure to have an up-to-date resume and a good basic cover letter ready at all times.
Keeping records of your submitted applications, follow-up calls, interviews, and any approaching deadlines requires good organizational skills. Your calendar will become your best friend during a job search as you track appointments, apply for jobs, and write thank you letters. There are many different ways to keep track of this information; devise a system that works for you to stay top of your commitments.
Allotting Enough Time
You should be putting as much time as possible into your job search. Try to save purely social contacts for after you have completed your job search work for the day. If you must take a part-time or full-time job to support yourself while you search for your ideal job, try to find one that allows you several hours daily during normal working hours to meet with your networking contacts and attend job interviews.
Keeping a Positive Outlook
There are several tactics for keeping a positive outlook during a job search. One important strategy to keep from feeling stalled is to always have one or two activities going on—it’s when you have no active leads, applications, or calls outstanding that you are tempted to feel defeated. Keep applying for jobs, calling for networking appointments, and attending professional meetings to add to your growing list of job search activities. Staying active and energetic will help to keep your spirits up and increase your chances of finding the perfect job quickly.
It’s said that approximately 80 to 85 percent of jobs nationwide are filled through networking before being advertised. Simply put, one of the most powerful ways to find a job is through networking, and if you’re referred by a contact to a potential employer you’ll likely have a greater chance of being hired.
Although many people are uneasy about networking, it’s the only way to allow more people to know who you are and what you have to offer, and to keep their ears open for opportunities. Having contacts that can let you know when they hear of a promising opening, pass your resume along to a friend or colleague, or put in a good word for you is never a bad thing.
Networking activities include:
The first step is to make a list of everyone you know that is in any way related to the work you hope to do, and the organizations where you hope to do it. Include faculty and alumni contacts from SFAI, as well as from any previous colleges you attended, in addition to acquaintances, friends, family—including your parents' friends and the parents of your friends—who might have connections to those organizations. In short, your list should include the names of anyone who might be able to help.
Reaching out to your contacts is often difficult the first time you do it, so start with the lowest-risk and most approachable people on your list. This will give you a chance to practice your networking skills before tackling the more difficult contacts on your list.
The purpose of reaching out is to set up a meeting with each contact who is willing and available—at their office if it’s a business contact or at a more social location if it’s a friend or acquaintance. Keep your call or message fairly simple, and be sure to mention:
Lastly, ask to set up a meeting time at a place that is convenient for your contact. For those who are busy, ask to follow-up in a week or two. Most people are happy to help if you’re sensitive to their schedules and make it easy for them.
At the meeting, your agenda is to tell them what you’re seeking, ask for advice on how to go about looking for such a job, and determine if they have additional contacts you might pursue. Your goal is to turn each contact into at least one other contact. As your network grows, the chance that you’ll hear of an interesting opportunity increases exponentially.
A good cover letter introduces you to a potential employer, briefly highlights your best qualities, conveys your enthusiasm, and builds interest in your resume. It also acts as a sample of your writing style, and should be free of grammar and spelling errors.
This is a brief business letter, with only a few paragraphs to present the most important points, and should be formatted as such. Include the date, and address the letter to a specific person in the organization. If you don’t know that person’s name and title, a quick call to the receptionist will supply the correct name, title, and spelling. “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” is only acceptable when answering a blind ad about which you cannot obtain any more information.
In the first paragraph, mention the position you are applying for, where you heard about the opening, and why you want the job. Think about why the position is attractive to you, and highlight that in one or two concise sentences. It is not enough that you need a job or an internship—there must be a connection between your career aspirations and this particular position. A little research about the organization will help you understand what they do and how you would fit in. If you have any personal connections or were referred by people known to the employer, mention those in the first sentence.
In the second paragraph, describe the contributions you can make to the organization, highlighting your relevant skills, experience, and education. Convey your interest and enthusiasm for the position with 3–4 sentences that demonstrate why you are qualified, including any examples from your background that illustrate your assertions.
The closing paragraph should provide information about how to reach you to set up an interview, or how you plan to follow up. In general, it’s good practice to take initiative to see if they will grant you an interview. If you must be out of town for a period of time, this would be the place to let them know how they can reach you or how you will keep in touch. The last sentence should sum up your interest in the position and reaffirm your qualifications.
If you are submitting your application via mail, the paper, font, and format used in your cover letter, resume, and envelope should all match. The finished look of your application package conveys to an employer that you have given thought and consideration to your presentation.
If you’re applying via email, you have the option to either type your cover letter directly into the email message or to attach it as a PDF. If you attach both your cover letter and resume as PDFs, the format and font should match.