As a first step, identify your search parameters, such as industry, job function, or geography, and find a balance between being too broad and too specific. When you focus too broadly, you may feel overwhelmed, with everything as a potential opportunity. Focus too narrowly and it may feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. Instead, reflect on what you want in your future job or internship and which locations are realistic for you. Once you define these, there are multiple strategies to find opportunities.
Identify Opportunities OnlineMany employers post available positions on a variety of job search sites in an effort to increase visibility and collect a large number of applications. While this allows you to see open positions and take action immediately, you may find your application receives no response, and automatic replies can be frustrating. Nevertheless, this search strategy can be effective using some of these resources:
- Handshake lists opportunities that employers have shared specifically with the Northwestern community.
- Niche job boards are maintained by professional associations, chambers of commerce, regional entities, and others. They are typically industry focused, such as Idealist.org (nonprofits), Wellfound (startups), and AdAge.com (advertising). Use the industry pages on the NCA website to find resources recommended for your field.
- Websites such as Indeed, Internships.com, and LinkedIn compile a wide variety of opportunities. Familiarize yourself with each site’s search functions and use keyword, company, location, job function, industry, date posted, and experience level filters to narrow your searches.
Mobilize your Network
How your network can support you
- When you find an opportunity of interest, reach out to your network contacts. Ask if they are aware of the opportunity and what advice or support they can provide if you pursue it.
- If you come across a position at an employer where you don’t have a contact, reach out to well-established network contacts, such as extended family, close friends, or mentors. They likely have networks that extend across many positions, industries, and even locations. Be mindful not to ask contacts about the position if you are in the process of pursuing an opportunity at their own organizations.
- Keep your network informed of your search and seek their support. Provide quick updates and notes of appreciation to maintain and strengthen your connections.
Employer sourcing involves researching potential companies in your desired industry in order to target and pursue opportunities. Many employers only post opportunities on their own websites to avoid recruiting too many candidates. To overcome this obstacle and expand the amount of listings you see, you should actively seek out employers of interest.
- Develop a comprehensive list of employers. This should include employers that you already know of and those that surface in your research. When you find employers of interest, also consider their competitors (or use “similar to” features on sites like LinkedIn or Handshake). Online resources to help develop your target list include Hoover’s, Career Search, LinkedIn, Vault, and various business directories (such as local chambers of commerce).
- Visit the website of each employer on your list to learn about current openings. Many sites allow you to save your search; this is a great time-saver, as you will need to visit these sites regularly during your search.
- Apply for specific openings on the company’s website. If you find an opportunity, adjust your application materials accordingly and submit your application.
- Think longer-term. If there are no current opportunities-ties, network to establish a connection in anticipation of future openings.