Career Series #6: Eight Ways to Kick Start Your Job or Internship Search

Published on October 5, 2015

I am also a procrastinator.  Which is why this post, which I should have emailed you out about last week is now in your inboxes today.  Monday.  Sometimes I can outsmart myself, but sometimes I can not.  This is an example of a failed attempt at not being my own worst enemy.  Jeanette’s advice below is really well taken.


Ellen DeGeneres once said, “Procrastinate now, don’t put it off.”

This is my mantra for getting things done. Why? Because I’m what some might call pressure-prompted and because Ellen is my spirit animal.

I’m simply terrible at motivating myself until the exact moment that I have no other choice. Laundry will pile up until I forced to wear my 10th grade gym uniform to the laundromat. I’ll order take-out from the same place three nights in a row to avoid buying groceries and I had to pay extra money for my car registration because I didn’t bother renew it in time.

My ineptness stems from my fear of complexity. Most of the time, I can’t start because I just don’t know where to start.

It made looking for my first job absolutely terrifying. There were so many options: Thousands of job search websites (all of which have the same 1000 job postings on them); Dozens of relevant job titles and sometimes incomprehensible job descriptions (Dynamic opportunity for a growth-oriented self-starter ninja, anyone?) Eventually, I realized that I had to break my search down in to bite-sized pieces. I found that doing these 8 things made my search much easier.

  1. Take a level approach. Find accessible ways to get experience. If it’s your first entry-level job or internship, applying for the most competitive opportunities, or going to the most competitive markets may not be the best move. Take your search by tiers, such as looking on campus, locally, with smaller companies, or with nonprofits to get started with your experience.
  2. Apply for a mix of experience levels. If your strength is achievement, and you have lots of experience by way of leadership, internships and other experience, look at a mix of entry-level (0-3 years) or mid-level (3-5 years). Aim for jobs that are in your wheelhouse and some that are a stretch.
  3. Build a list of common entry-level job titles. Do some research on your career interests and fields, and use these titles for your job search. Web sites such as, and industry publications can help with this.
  4. Look at skills and qualification sections on each job posting. Tailor your resume to answer the qualifications and duties in each job posting as much as possible, especially all of those indicated as required.
  5. Go social. Check out LinkedIn (especially groups pages) as well as Twitter. Note connections on LinkedIn and followers on Twitter and search for organization contacts.
  6. Use your network. Did you know that about 70 % – 80 % percent of jobs are found through networking? In other words, you have about a 20% – 30 % chance of success by just searching online. Talk to friends, co-workers, professors and family members about your interests. They might have leads on opportunities or suggestions regarding to connections.
  7. Tell your story. Do you know what your preferences, strengths and values are? If yes, use those to guide you in job searching, resume writing as well as interviewing.
  8. Sit down and be honest with yourself about what you want from your job. Make a list of what you value, what you’re good at and compare that to the environment you want to work in. Salary isn’t everything, trust me on this.
  9. Follow up. If you apply for a job, reach out to the employer to find out about the status of their search process. If you’ve met a new connection, schedule an informational interview to learn more about their job or industry. Make sure that after an informational or job interview, that you send a thank you note.

Above all, keep track of who you contact and what jobs you apply for. Contacting the same person more than once or applying to a job twice (sorry, Capital One) is really embarrassing. I find that a Google spreadsheet works perfectly for this.

Visit for more tips and advice about finding your passion, searching for a job or internship, nailing your interview, crafting a Pulitzer-worthy cover letter, and many other career topics.

To schedule a one-on-one meeting with a VCU Career Adviser, call 804-828-1645.