The Job Search Process

Ten Steps to Getting a Job


Grad Student? Read this general article, then read about the job search process for advanced degrees.

Schedule your job search time

1. Schedule your job search time.

 Treat your job search like a job itself.  If you are still taking classes, your job search is a part-time job, 3 or 4 hours per week.  If you've graduated, your job search is a full-time, 8 hour a day job. Setting a weekly job search schedule helps you stay focused and helps ward off discouragement.

Watch how to get started (video) and understand how jobs are created (video)
2. Clarify Your Goals

Know what kind of work you want to do and where you'd like to do it

 Know what you want to do and where you'd like to do it. 

First, choose your career path. It's very difficult to search for a job if your goals ill-defined ("I want to work for the government").

What do you actually want to do all day, exactly, in your work?  What is going to be important to you about your work?  What kind of environment do you want to be in?  If you need help with this, call 757-221-3231 to schedule an appointment with a Career Advisor!

3. Research Your Skills

Learn what qualities and skills are required for jobs in your field

Know what skill sets and experiences are expected for entry-level jobs in your career field.  Have a good understanding of how you'll fit into your chosen career field.

  • Talk to alumni in your chosen career field using the Alumni Mentor database, Tribe Connections.
  • Come to our Career Exploration Panels and talk to professionals about their field.
  • Research career fields, employers, jobs with Career Insider.
  • Glassdoor  Use your unlimited Glassdoor access to research salaries, find out what employees' are saying about their employers, what kinds of questions employers ask, etc.
  • View the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for any occupation on
4. Research Employers  and Find Jobs

Identify the top employers you'd like to work for

>> Main Resources 

Who employs people with your skills and values? Who are the employers in your career field? Which do you want to target, and why?  

Keep in mind that the same job can be found in multiple industries and sectors. For instance, just about every employer needs a public relations specialist, whether it is a government agency, a corporation, or a non-profit. In smaller organizations, you are more likely to be given a wider variety of responsibilities.  Typically, your first job is where you acquire the substantive skills that will take you into your next, more specialized job.

5. Networking

Build connections in your field

>> Main Article

Build connections with people in your chosen career field and toward your targeted employers.  The sooner you start building these connections, the easier your job search will be.

  • Maintain these connections, even after you get a job; these people are part of your professional network.
  • 60%-80% of jobs are acquired through networking; therefore, 60%-80% of your job search time and energy should be devoted to connecting with people, not surfing job databases!

6. Resume, Professional Profile, and Interviewing

The most common job search mistake is failure to tailor your job search communications to the targeted career field, if not to the specific job.  Your resume and cover letter must be targeted to the specific job.  Your LinkedIn profile should show your interest in your chosen career field.  You have to be able to convey why you are a qualified candidate for this job and a good fit for this organization during your interview.
>>Resume Main Article        >>Interviewing Main Article      >> Online Profile



7.  Line up your references


  • Identify 3-5 former supervisors who are willing to act as strong references about your sterling qualities as an employee.  Each time you list these people as references for an application, contact them and let them know the job you are applying for and why you are qualified for it.  It may be helpful to send them a copy of the job description.
  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile has at least 3 strong references from people who've either supervised you or worked with you on projects.
  • If necessary, get letters of recommendation.  Most employers, though, will want the names and phone numbers of your references, not letters of recommendation.
8. Get a Temporary Job

Register with 4 or 5 temporary staffing agencies; pick up temporary income while you job search, add experience to your resume, increase the number of people who know the quality of your work, expand your network. 

  • It is not uncommon for employers to use temporary staffing agencies to 'test drive' potential employees for full-time jobs.
  • There are many temporary staffing agencies, some are generalists, some specialize in career fields or industries.  Find a sample list of temporary staffing agencies on our Job Listings page.
  • Contact the your target employers and ask them which temporary staffing agencies they use, then register with those agencies.
 9.  Have a Plan B

Always have a plan B, even a plan C


You may not get a job with your top choice employers

  • Identify organizations where you can pick up the skills, experience and connections that will make you a competitive candidate at your top choice employers in a couple of years.
  • Avoid panicking and taking a job that adds nothing to your skill sets, provides no opportunities to make connections, and prevents you from devoting time to a 'real' job search.
  • If you must take a tide-over job, try to find one that entails mostly nights and weekends so that you have time to reach out and make connections in your career field during the day.
10. If you've been made an offer