Making It Happen

Jobs 101

A key to launching a successful job search, especially your first one, is striking a balance between knowing what you want and finding opportunities that suit your interests. Before you get started, think about the questions below. You’re not locked into the answers and you can always change your mind. The bottom line is to keep your options open.

  • What kind of job do I want?
  • What skills do I want to use most?
  • What, if anything, do I want to avoid?
  • Do I want to work at a large or small organization?
  • Do I want to work for a start-up?
  • Do I want to work in a city, the suburbs, a more rural area, or abroad?
  • Where is salary on my priority list?
  • How important is the opportunity for career growth?
  • Am I willing to travel? How much?
  • How much of a daily commute will be OK?
  • What area of the country, or the world, do I want to be in?
  • In general, how flexible am I willing to be in looking at job opportunities?

Once you have a fairly good idea of what you’re looking for, investigate organizations in locations of interest. Create a list of the ones that appeal to you. Research them online, familiarize yourself with their sites, and check their HR pages regularly for job openings.

Make sure to visit Handshake regularly for opportunities and job leads. In addition, keep an eye on our calendar for organizations recruiting on campus and check out their job descriptions. Even if you’re not sure yet what you’re looking for, attend our career events and speak with employers. You never know what you might discover.

Timing Your Job Search: Now or Later?

We recommend that you can begin your search for a full-time job at least the semester before you graduate. Keep in mind that you can participate in campus recruiting as early as your first year—in fact, we encourage it! If you’re interested in a position, the chance to speak with a recruiter at an information session, career expo, or other campus recruiting event can really help your chances. Most organizations that visit campus in the fall are aware that the majority of seniors won’t finish their studies for months, and plan accordingly. Take our word for it, they’re eager to talk to you.

It’s also fine to submit an application as soon as jobs are posted on company websites, even in the fall, particularly those aimed specifically at college students (in a college relations section of the website, for example).

Word to the Wise:

It’s never too late to start looking for a job, but remember that finding the right one can take several months. Commit time each week to actively search for the right fit. If you want to be working soon after graduation, plan accordingly. When job hunting, be focused, know yourself, and keep your options open.

Resumes, Cover Letters, References + Portfolios:
Preparing Your Materials

Resumes: Prior to any job search, you’ll need to prepare a resume and then tailor it for each particular job you apply to.

Cover Letters: You’ll need a cover letter for each job you apply to. You can create a basic shell based on what’s relevant for the career field you want to enter, then customize as needed for each position.

References: You’ll need to line up your references. Make sure you ask several people; three to five is customary. Also, you may want different references for different types of jobs. Think about prior supervisors, professors, or anyone else who can provide a strong reference, attest to your reliability, initiative, work habits, knowledge, experience in the field, and other relevant qualifications.

Portfolios: Some employers might request a portfolio of your work. Chances are you’ll know if this is the norm in your industry. If you’re in the arts or journalism, for example, you’ll probably need to prepare a portfolio that showcases your work or writing samples. Think about this ahead of time, speak with your professors for guidance on what to include, and gather materials just in case they’re requested.

Caution: Fraudulent Postings

The CCD carefully screens every employer and internship/job posting in Handshake to ensure legitimacy. Occasionally employment scams occur. Students should be vigilant and are urged to help identify scams. If you receive a suspicious email from an employer (even if they say it is from your University Career Services office), please do not respond to the email and contact our office immediately at

Here are some good indicators that the job is more than likely a scam:

  • You are asked to give your credit card or bank account numbers or copies of personal documents, but you get nothing in writing.
  • You are asked to send a payment by wire service or courier.
  • You are offered a large payment or reward in exchange for the use of your bank account, often for depositing checks or transferring money.

You receive an unexpectedly large check. This is the biggest and most costly scam. If you receive a check in the postal mail from an employer, DO NOT cash it or pursue the offer. Please turn everything into the BU Police Department. The check may look real but it is not. You will be responsible for the entire amount of the check, plus any fees incurred by the bank when they process it and discover that the check is fraudulent.

If you have any questions or doubts regarding an internship, please do not hesitate to contact