Hit Enter: Online Strategies in the Job Search

Career & Internship

Hit Enter: Online Strategies in the Job Search

As members of Generation Y, it seems like we're expected to know every internet trick in the book, but as many of us enter and leave college, we become part of the evolving job and internship search process. The challenge now isn't just to apply for a job, but navigate the online world. Below you'll find some of my favorite tips, all a good mixture of best practices and innovative approaches to finding the best internship and job for you!

  • You're probably not using Google to its full potential. There are amazing ways to use Google that can even help you find jobs that have yet to be listed on all the job boards you're searching (because they're on company websites you might have yet to find). Find out more at LifeHacker (with pictures) here.
  • Get social. Here's a confession: I refused to get a LinkedIn until I was a senior in college, and yet I never seemed to have a shortage of internship, externship, and even job offers thanks to Facebook groups, Twitter connections, and the many wonderful Googlegroup e-mails I received from friends and members of my extended networks. Are you on Tumblr? So is Indeed.org, as well as several organizations that will use the tag 'job board.' Twitter? In 140 characters or less, companies you're interested in (including Facebook and Google) will sometimes hyperlink their job posts. Let hash tags become a fun part of your job search, and don't be afraid to let people know you're looking. And going old school will also have its perks. Googlegroups, newsletters, online groups, forums, all will provide opportunities to grow your network. All are based on reciprocity. Maybe one job isn't for you, but if you pass it along, someone is likely to return the favor.
  • Search like a specialist, not a generalist. Not all job-searching sites are created equal. You probably know about job-searching websites like Monster.com, Indeed.com, and even less conventional sites, like Craigslist, but to be even more effective, you can move away from websites known for their position as being generalists--full of all types of jobs--and start thinking like a specialist by searching for job boards with a niche. Much like a day care professional might go directly to care.com and workers with security clearances might head over to clearedconnections.com, technology professionals might add websites like Github.com and Dice.com to their jobs search list. Not all these websites are free. For example, many international development professionals are willing to spend for a subscription to DevEx. How much you choose to invest in the job search--whether time or money-- is up to you, but learning to search like a specialist now will help focus your job search. It will also expose you to more listings than if you just depended on the same websites every other graduate is using.
  • Geography is pretty important. While helping a friend search for some jobs online, I recommended Craigslist. She seemed surprised: "But I've heard it's just a lot of scams." Not all cities use the same job searching sites at the same rate. Washington, D.C. has a high-number of great IT, technology, non-profit, and government listings on Craigslist, whereas New York tends to have more listings for free-lance writers. For my friend from Connecticut, the idea of using Craigslist seemed questionable, and in Connecticut, she might have had a point, but in DC, bypassing Craigslist might mean leaving a solid job-searching tool untouched. Ask locals with jobs for some hot tips. Where did they search and see the largest number of listings? Those are the websites you want to use!
  • Research and safety can go hand in hand. Don't compromise your safety! If you think something sounds too good to be true, a quick Google search can help keep you out of trouble.Scams have only grown more elaborate as the internet and free online resources make it easier to get untraceable online phones, fax-lines, and websites. Watch out for companies that ask you to pay to apply or pay to participate in any part of the application process. Did your e-mail or application get answered too fast? Did the job listing have too many typos or misspellings? Don't just depend on the website to tell you what you need to know about the job. Look for reviews and look carefully for any signs of a scam.
  • You're already digital. Take calculated risks. While resumes and cover letters are still the norm in the application process, few members of Generation Y have grown up without attaching or uploading their resume and cover letter to an e-mail or private company platform. So what does going digital look like for college students? The jury is still out on infographic CVs and resumes and what some career specialists dub 'individual gimmicks,' yet in some cases they work.

Knowing I'd be competing with several qualified community organizers for a position with MoveOn.org - one of the largest online petition platforms in the United States - I decided to stand out by building a website as part of my application package to show my tech skills (and my enthusiasm). It was a risk. But it worked as a great portfolio and I got the position (out of over 100 applicants). While it wasn't a move I might have used with a think-tank, it worked for the position. So, what does going digital mean? If an employer asked to see your resume and cover letter as anything other than an attachment, how would you send it? These are critical questions becoming more normal as employers keep going digital and grow more concerned with viruses in mysterious attachments. Learning to ask them on your own will keep you ahead of the game!

  • Overwhelmed? Ask for help. It's okay to feel overwhelmed. The job and internship application process can be stressful. Are you applying to so many places you can barely keep track? Maybe you need a career management website like JibberJobber or a community like Mashable. Just don't isolate yourself in the search. Even if you're using the internet, you don't have to do it alone: grab some friends and make it a Googling party!

Keep a look out for some more posts in the future, with much more detail on using social media for the job search, and taking yourself to the next level of digital.