6 Reasons To Start Your Job Search Long Before You Submit Your First Application
Don't procrastinate this important part of your professional path.
Every college student has fallen prey to procrastination at some point. But some things – like your job search – shouldn’t be put off. Even if you don’t feel ready to start applying to jobs, you shouldn’t wait until you start to feel the pressure of approaching graduation to begin your search.
In fact, there are significant benefits to beginning your job search before you commit to sending in your first application. While the “Easy Apply” button on sites like LinkedIn or Indeed make it easy to blindly submit applications for any role that fits your broad criteria, taking a more targeted approach can maximize your chances of finding a job you love. Here are the top reasons why planning your job search in advance allows you to figure out what you actually want to do, and make a clear plan to get there.
1. You can reflect on your previous experiences and make a plan for what you want to do next
If you’ve already figured out what field you want to pursue, then you’re already ahead of the game. But if you’ve held different jobs or still want to choose from a few different paths, start by narrowing down what you want to do for the start of your career (and remember, careers are fluid and you can change your mind later!). Think critically about your life and work experiences up to this point, and ask yourself questions like:
- What interests you in your coursework, extra-curricular activities, volunteering, or current job?
- What are you good at, and what jobs allow you to make use of those skills?
- What can you see yourself doing every day?
- Where do you want to live?
- What did you like or dislike about previous internships or jobs?
- Where do you see yourself growing professionally? For example, think about if you want to pursue a graduate degree or other professional development opportunities in the future.
If you’re still not sure where to start when figuring out the first step in your career, taking a skills inventory or a career assessment could give you some pointers.
2. You can thoroughly research companies in your field of interest
After you’ve chosen a job function or industry, it’s time to start looking for potential employers. When researching companies, a few places to look include their website, their RippleMatch Company Branded Page, and social media sites like LinkedIn. Websites like Glassdoor and PayScale will also offer crowdsourced salary information as well as reviews from current employees. During your discovery process, consider factors like company culture and work environment, whether you want to work for a nonprofit or for-profit organization, and what company size would be ideal for you. You should also think about if the company has a track record of offering professional development opportunities for entry-level employees. This is something you should research before even applying to a company – if it’s clear the company doesn’t offer what you value in a job, you may not want to spend the time going through the interview process.
3. You can make connections at companies you want to work for
If you’ve ever sent an application into the void of an applicant tracking system and never heard anything back, you’re not alone. Luckily, having a personal connection to the company can often put your resume at the top of the pile. That’s part of the reason why networking is one of the most common ways to get a job and one of the best methods to get the inside scoop about companies you want to work for. By planning your job search in advance, you have time to connect with recruiters, alumni who work for your target company, and other professionals in the industry. You can start developing these connections by attending networking events at your university or in your area, or by reaching out to professionals on LinkedIn.
4. You can revise your resume
When you have a company, position, or industry in mind, you can tailor your resume to make it appealing to recruiters. For each experience on your resume, craft actionable and metrics-oriented descriptions that show you are well-suited for the job you want. Remember that you do not need to include every job or college activity that you’ve ever done. Instead, highlight only the most relevant experiences and keep the document to only one page. Giving yourself enough time in your job search means you won’t be scrambling to revise your resume when an application is due.
5. You have time to acquire other skills or credentials you need for your chosen career path
Based on your research about industries and companies, you will have a better idea of your qualifications for your target job. Take an honest inventory of your existing skills and see if there are any gaps you need to fill. For example, if you want to work in marketing, would you benefit from a Google Analytics certificate? Or if you want to work in sales or consulting, would a public speaking course be helpful? You can take elective courses at your university or enroll in an online program to develop new skills that will put you ahead of your competition. This will also show that you took initiative in your own professional development.
6. You can further develop your personal brand and online reputation
In the same way that a company’s brand solidifies its reputation in the minds of consumers, a “personal brand” is the way that potential employers perceive you and your reputation, both in-person and online. Since 35% of employers won’t even interview a candidate who doesn’t have an online presence, maintaining a strong personal brand, especially online, is essential for today’s job seekers. A few ways to polish your personal brand and take control of your online reputation include optimizing your LinkedIn profile for job searches, setting up a personal website that shares your bio and any relevant portfolio work, and cleansing your social media of anything you wouldn’t want an employer to see. If you have a strong personal brand, your ideal employer might even come to you!
Ultimately, the goal of starting your job search before turning in applications is 1) so you don't have to scramble to optimize your resume, online persona, skills, etc., and 2) so you won’t waste time and energy submitting applications to companies or opportunities you don’t really want anyway. By giving yourself permission to explore different options and take stock of what you really want for your career, you will be in a much better position to land a gig you’ll want to stick with.