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Graduating in May? How to Find a Job by Then.

choose-the-right-direction-1536336_1920If you are graduating in May and want to find a job by then, you can follow the suggestion below:

Early January:

Forget everything anyone has ever said to you about the unemployability of humanities majors. It’s just wrong. From here on out, tune out all self-defeating noise and concentrate on the overwhelming positive: in a world buffeted by poor communication, limited analysis, and low information, you are REALLY good at reading carefully, tackling complicated ideas, and saying things effectively.

Before you get back to campus, make sure you have a few professional-looking outfits ready to go. Suits are nice and expand your interviewing options, but they’re not necessary if you’re focusing on fields like tech or arts. Office-ready slacks/skirt, sweater/blouse/collared shirt, with appropriate shoes and a jacket, are fine for many situations.

Create a resume (if you haven’t already) or revise the one you’ve already got. Your resume should be a fluid and constantly morphing entity. It’s a marketing piece–not an autobiography or a long-form business card. Try out some different formats and think about strategies for tailoring it to different kinds of jobs.

Start looking at job ads. Even if you’re a ways off from actually applying for a job, it’s a good idea to get familiar with what’s out there, the differences in how employers describe themselves, the words and concepts that come up a lot in fields that interest you.

Create or update your LinkedIn profile.

#WOCintech chat

Upon returning to campus

Make an appointment to talk to Kirstin Wilcox by emailing kwilcox@illinois.edu. Don’t worry about how uncertain or unprepared you feel–it will help. The sooner, the better.

Get to know the resources of The Career Center, particularly their events. Pencil in a day to use their drop-in hours for a review of your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Start showing drafts of your resume to lots of people. There are no rules for resumes–only strategies, and the only way to know if your strategies work is to get feedback on them. Be aware that the resume that works for one context may not work for another. Conflicting advice may not mean you’re doing it wrong–only that different versions of your resume will appeal to different audiences.

If you’re planning to apply for writing jobs, start assembling your writing samples.

Check out the Business Career Fair on Handshake. Pick a few employers that you want to talk to and read up on them and the jobs they’re offering.

FebruaryBusiness Career Fair - Daily Illini

Attend the Business Career Fair at the ARC. “Attend” means, “figure out which employers that you want to talk to will be there on which days and show up, in professional attire with resume in hand, to talk to them specifically.” Not sure you REALLY want to work for any of those employers? Feel like you need more time to figure out what kind of job you’re after? Go anyway. Just go. You probably won’t find your dream job there and it will be awkward and weird, but you DEFINITELY will get practice in not sounding like an idiot while you talk to potential employers–and it’s better to get that practice in a (for you) low-stakes setting like the BCF, rather than, say, in an actual interview situation.

While you’re at the Business Career Fair, take the opportunity to get a free professional headshot.

If you haven’t yet met with Kirstin Wilcox (kwilcox@illinois.edu), make an appointment.

Look for 10 people to connect with on LinkedIn.

Make it easy and helpful for potential employers to stalk you online. Use the same (professionally appropriate) profile photo on all your social media platforms, make some innocuous vacation/family/pet/hobby photos or posts publicly accessible, and otherwise apply vigorous privacy settings.

If you use Twitter, go back through your feed and delete questionable tweets, RTs and MTs.

Keep reading job ads and start thinking about ways to narrow down your search. It will be tempting, as graduation approaches, to fire off a resume to every opening in hopes that something will stick, but it will be far more effective to target your search to jobs that interest you in fields where you will be motivated to excel.


Line up some informational interviews in Chicago or your home town over break.

Set yourself a schedule for scanning job search websites, and start looking for jobs you can apply for.

Step up your networking: start reaching out to contacts you identify via LinkedIn or other research.

Research the employers who will be at the Illini Career and Internship Fair in April and decide on the ones you want to talk to.

Get familiar with Glassdoor.com: an excellent resource for researching companies and preparing for interviews.

If you see jobs that you’re interested in that require uploading your resume, read up on strategies for getting your resume past an Automated Tracking System (ATS).

Draft a couple of cover letters for jobs you want to apply to, and show them to people for advice and feedback.

If you haven’t yet been in to talk to Kirstin Wilcox, email kwilcox@Illinois.edu to set up an appointment.

Start responding to job ads, if you haven’t already.

Follow up on your networking endeavors: send thank-you notes to people who have given you advice or further contacts, email a brief update on your job search to those who have expressed interest in your fortunes, get in touch with additional contacts you’ve been given. If you don’t have much following-up to do at this stage, then step up your networking.


Attend the Illini Career and Internship Fair in April at the ARC. Same as for the Business Career Fair: know what employers you want to talk to, dress professionally, and bring copies of your resume. Even if none of the employers are offering your dream job, go anyway: it’s good practice for networking and job interviews, and you may become aware of career possibilities you hadn’t thought of.

Think about your answers to sample interview questions. Get familiar with the SOAR method for answering interview questions and practice telling professional versions of your best personal stories.

Sign up for a mock interview at the Career Center (yes, watching yourself on videotape can be excruciating, but it’s WAY better than flubbing an interview because you were underprepared).

Try to keep up the pace of your networking, job-ad searching, resume revising. Keep reaching out to people, keep following up, keep looking. You won’t be doing this forever (though it feels like it sometimes) but you can’t stop until you’ve accepted a firm job offer, but…

Take time out as you need to in order to finish up class projects, write those last papers, and get through finals.


a31Getting a job offer is not the end of the story! You may need advice on negotiating an offer, evaluating your options, and knowing when to walk away. Take note of who in your network is in a good position to advise you on these matters, and feel free to use the resources of the Career Center.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a job lined up by the time you march across the stage. You will. Your friends in engineering and business are on more narrowly defined career paths that have a rigid and early hiring cycle. Many of them are also headed to jobs that pay well because if they didn’t, no one would do them. You have a whole different range of options ahead of you. Relax, and know that you’ve made the choices that are right for you and that will take you where you want to go.

Stay in touch, and keep networking.