Conducting a search, whether for an internship or job, can be frustrating and stressful. Instead of applying to anything and everything in a rush, develop a individualized strategy to find positions that are a good match for your qualifications and spend additional time on each application. This shift in focus makes a difference. You will be a stronger candidate, and any offers are more likely to meet your needs.
Prepare To Search
Before you start actively searching, start with 2 foundational elements: your search criteria and your personal brand.
Search Criteria: Know Yourself, Your Goals, Your Priorities
To ensure your search is as successful and efficient, that you are not wasting any time or effort, start with having clear search criteria. In addition to any specific industries, career paths, or skills, your criteria can include preferred locations, salary and benefits, modality (remote, in person, hybrid), and other priorities. If you’re not sure how to decide, here are a few questions to consider:
- What kind of role do you want?
- What skills do you want to use most?
- What, if anything, do you want to avoid?
- Do you want to work at a large or small organization?
- Do you want to work for a start-up?
- Do you want to work in a city, the suburbs, a more rural area, or abroad? Do you want to work in a specific location or region?
- Where is salary on your priority list? What about other benefits?
- How important is the opportunity for career growth?
- Are you willing to travel? How much?
- How much of a daily commute can you deal with?
- How important is working remotely?
- Do you have personal timeline to consider? Is there a date you need to start by? Do you need time to move to the area?
If you haven’t already, also take the time to go through the self-discovery process to understand your skills, values, interests, and personality. If you have gone through self-discovery before, reflect on what you learned and/or revisit some of the suggested steps.
This self-knowledge will help you to develop search criteria you feel confident in and to select positions that are the best fit. For example, knowing that your skills and interests align well with a particular industry or career path can help you explore options that you may be a strong candidate for.
Personal Brand: Polish Your Materials
Your personal brand is, put simply, how you present yourself to others, whether in person, online, or through documents and materials, including:
- Resume, CV, cover letter
- Social media accounts and activity
- Networking profiles and activity: LinkedIn, BU Connects, Handshake
- Blog, website, portfolios, github
This doesn’t mean you can’t have different interests that you are simultaneously pursuing or that your resume and cover letter should look exactly the same for every position you apply to.
The goal is for everything to be up to date and to tell the same general story about you and your interests, qualifications, and experience.
Develop a Search Plan
With a solid foundation for your search, the next step is to plan how, where, and when you’ll conduct your search. It may seem obvious (just apply to jobs!), but there is more to a search than you might realize. You want to balance being focused on what you want and open to opportunity. Plus, making strategic choices about where you dedicate time and effort might mean that you secure an offer more quickly.
Types of Search Methods
There are 2 main methods of searching: traditional and proactive. We recommend that you use both methods and customize based on your goals and interests. For example, if you know that you want to find a full-time job where you interned last summer, focus on expanding your network at that organization with more limited attention to the industry overall.
Traditional Search Method
This method refers to applying to open positions that you are able to find because the organization is actively and publicly recruiting to fill that role. The positions are typically posted on Handshake or another job board, but you might also learn about it at an employer event or career fair.
Proactive Search Method
With this method, you actively seek opportunities to apply to that may or may not yet be posted publicly. There are a number of different (but sometimes overlapping) ways to search, and we recommend using more than one.
- Networking: Check in with your networking contacts and develop new ones as you may hear about positions before they are posted (read our guide to networking)
- Targeting Employers: Focus on building connections and finding leads for specific organizations
- Professional Associations: Industry groups often have job boards and are a great source for networking contacts related to your career goal
- Social Media: Follow employers or industry accounts to get leads for possible networking contacts
- BU Connects, LinkedIn: Connect with alumni working in the field, join relevant industry groups to get leads for additional networking contacts
- BU Alumni Network Affinity Groups: Connect with alumni in your area
- Volunteering: If applicable, directly connect with an organization’s activities or an affiliated nonprofit and build networking contacts
How and Where To Search
How and where you search will depend on what makes the most sense for you and your goals.
Use the traditional and proactive search methods outlined above. Sources or leads for available postions include:
- General job boards such as Idealist, Indeed, SimplyHired, LinkedIn Jobs
- Specialty job boards focused on location, identity, or industry, such as GoinGlobal, Diversity Jobs, MusicJobs.com
- Professional associations’ forums and job boards
- Recruiting events and other opportunities to speak with employers
- Organization websites
- Sourcing from your network, including with BU Connects, LinkedIn, BU affinity groups
- Social media
For each application, take the time to tailor your resume/CV and cover letter to the position’s details. This will ensure you are presenting yourself as the strongest and most relevant candidate you can be.
Beware of Scams
Employment scams are a real issue, and students are targted every year. Read our guide on avoiding scams.
We also strongly recommend using Career Shift or another tool (or create your own, like this sample from The Muse) to track the positions you apply to so that you can easily see when to follow up after applying or interviewing.
While you might not always get a response, following up on applications is not a step to skip.
If you have network contacts at an organization where you applied to a position, follow up by email to let them know that you have applied. This is particularly important if you spoke with the person prior to applying about that position or others. Even if they are not involved in filling that position, they might be able to recommend that you be considered and/or interviewed.
If you don’t know anyone at the organization, follow up by email with HR or the hiring manager about 2 weeks after applying. In this case, your message is focused on checking the status of your application and reiterating your interest.
See samples of follow-up emails below.
When To Search
The timeline for searching can vary widely by industry. In some cases, employers recruit for positions up to 9 months before they want the new hire to start; apply in the fall to start in June for example. In others, that window is much shorter, only 1-2 months, with applications due in April or May for an early summer start. In general, 4-6 months is the most common.
You can look in Handshake to see when applications are due, even if you’re not yet ready to apply, to get a sense for the industry, organizations of interest, and positions of interest.
For each position you apply to, there is a general timeline that the process will follow:
- Apply to position
- Wait for response
- Follow up with contact, hiring manager, or HR
- Wait for response
- If invited, interview for position
- Follow up with hiring manager and other interviewers
- Wait for response and any next steps
Follow Up: Application
I recently applied for ___________ position at __________. I am excited about the opportunity to interview for this role. I am following up regarding the status of my application. I can be reached at 123-456-7899 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
Follow Up: Networking, Informational Interviews
It was a pleasure speaking with you recently regarding _____________________. Thank you for your time and interest in sharing your experience and advice [or: industry information, opportunities, recommendations, other contacts] with me. I specifically enjoyed hearing about ____________[mention something specific about your conversation or interaction].
I look forward to staying in touch and will keep you in the loop about my progress.
- Explore CCD Funded Internship opportunities, including the Yawkey Nonprofit Internship Program
- Attend a job search or internship search presentation to get started. Check the calendar for upcoming sessions
- Read more tips and advice on the blog
- Make sure your resume and cover letter are ready to go. Use VMock for instant resume feedback. Get feedback from the CCD at review drop-in hours or an appointment
- Stuck or need help with your search strategy? Make an appointment at the CCD