Whether you’re looking for a summer internship or trying to land a position post-graduation, searching for a job when you’re in college can be overwhelming. Between classes, tests, those resume-building extracurriculars, and trying to have a social life, it’s tough to find the time and energy to browse job boards and go on informational interviews.
But there’s a way to make it a little bit easier on yourself—by treating the job search just like a class. Using the studying, preparation, and time management skills you’ve honed since elementary school, you can ace your job hunt while you’re still trying to earn your diploma.
Clear Time in Your Schedule
Just like studying, looking for jobs feels much less overwhelming when you tackle it a little bit at a time, rather than trying to cram everything in right before finals. So, set aside specific days and times during the week that you can dedicate solely to your job search. If you don’t think you have enough hours in the week, assess the rest of your commitments—extracurriculars, volunteer work, or regular meetings—and dial down on an activity or two. And start saying no to any social events you’re iffy on.
You can also look for ways to integrate your search into your regularly scheduled life. Use the first half hour in the library before studying to write cover letters, spend spare minutes between classes browsing job sites instead of Facebook, or plan job-hunting coffee sessions with a friend.
Keep Track of Deadlines
If you use Google calendar or a written planner for your class schedule, update it with entries for your job search, including information sessions, application deadlines, and appointments. This way, your job search takes a place in your life alongside all the other events—instead of catching that information session “if you have time,” scheduling it in your calendar will make it a priority.
Take (Organized) Notes
Just as you wouldn’t dream of studying without taking notes, acing the job hunt requires good record-keeping. So grab a brand-new, dedicated notebook (or set up folders on your computer) to hold all your thoughts, notes, and leads on your search.
In your notes, keep lists of companies you’re interested in or want to check out, as well as positions you’re thinking about by function (e.g., writing or marketing) and by industry (e.g., non-profit or retail). Bring your notebook to take notes at presentations and career fairs, too—this is key for remembering industry-specific vocabulary or advice.
Also keep records of any interactions you’ve had with job-related contacts, including the contact’s name, background, contact information, and takeaways from the conversation. And, whether it’s in your notebook or a box at home, keep all the business cards and pamphlets you collect organized in one easy-to-find place.
Show Up to Class
Treat information sessions and career fairs just like lectures: Half the struggle is actually showing up! Yes, sometimes you’ll wish you’d spent the morning in bed, but you’ll also find some of the sessions are great—and you’ll never know unless you go! So even if you don’t feel like it, make the effort to go (bring a friend—it makes it way more fun). Once you’re there, make it worth your while: Commit to making at least one new contact who you can follow up with.
And, as any good student would, ask questions! If something about a particular industry, company, or job is confusing, don’t be afraid to ask. That’s why these events exist—plus, you’ll show you're interested in the opportunity.
Do the Reading
Build a job-related reading list to help you learn about different companies and the kinds of career paths that are out there. Your career center should have industry-specific information, which is a great jumping-off point, but also browse news sites, bookmark industry blogs, and ask any contacts you meet for suggested reading material.
Find out who the thought leaders in your field are, and follow them on Twitter—people often post articles they find interesting, turning your Twitter feed into a ready-made reading list. Vault and WetFeet are rich resources, too, and LinkedIn is helpful for understanding career paths and their progressions.
If there are specific companies you’re interested in—or have interviews at—make yourself a study guide. Do a Google news search and find the latest articles or press releases on the company and industry, and look up the company’s mission and core offerings. This will help you be prepared for when you meet someone from the company, whether it’s in an interview setting or not.
Finding a job may feel unlike anything you’ve ever done before, but remember that you’ve been preparing for this your whole academic life. Use the tools and skills you’ve gained as a student, and you’ll be far ahead of the job search curve.