Graduate programs in the U.S. usually take between one and two years to finish. If you don't intend to pursue a career in academia, it’s probably wise to keep your career plan in mind while studying and, more importantly, to develop your professional experience and networks before graduation.
When I started applying for internships in my second semester, I spent a lot of time researching online. Unlike a friend of mine who completed nearly 50 applications a week, I meticulously sifted through career information and researched the job positions that interested me. But I didn’t receive any responses. Frustrated but eager to find new ways to approach the situation, I looked to my peers for help and ideas. From attending workshops and talking with professionals, I learned that submitting online applications tends to be the least efficient way of landing a job or even an internship.
So I took to networking as I had been advised. This may be the most efficient way to job-hunt because once a person knows your interests and skill set, they can inform you of related job openings. Additionally, they may be able to give you information about a job opening or perhaps even refer you for an interview. However, before any of that happens, you must keep in mind that it takes time to make connections and build on them.
For starters, where do you find people that may have information or resources that could potentially help your career? It is very important to have connections within the talent pool of your desired industry. As a student, you already have some resources available, such as your professors, fellow students, and venues like career fairs and networking events arranged by universities.
Start Within Your Circle
Professors and fellow students are sources that are often overlooked. They're already familiar with you and your talents and interests. If you know they have a background or resources that overlap with your professional interests, then perhaps they can help you find a job as a favor. I'm currently in the process of waiting to hear back after an interview for a part-time position as a social media analyst; one of my classmates was kind enough to recommended me for the job. Sometimes just spreading the word in your circle that you‘re looking for a certain job can prove to be very useful.
Making Long-term Connections
Universities host career fairs because they benefit both students and companies. I have attended career fairs at Columbia University twice. I won’t go into detail about how to prepare for a career fair in this post, but having witnessed the competition, I think it's very important to make a good first impression and establish long-term connections with people or companies that interest you. Company representatives at career fairs can provide useful information, even if they don't hire you on the spot. It can be beneficial to network with other job-seekers at these events, too. I met a freelance writer named Candice at one career fair, and we still keep in touch; sometimes we go for a drink and talk casually about what's going on in each other’s lives. Listening to her experiences helps me to remain inspired and intrigued by the opportunities in the industry. My advice is to think big, have an open mind, and learn from people who can help you achieve your dreams.
Be Ready When the Chance Comes
They say that opportunities are always given to those who are ready. In most cases, you can't predict opportunities -- when, where or how they will show up -- but you can do your best to be prepared for when they occur.
First, prepare your elevator pitch. Knowing how to describe yourself to someone in a short period of time can be really tricky, but it's crucial for those instances when you accidentally bump into the right person -- someone who's interested in you or has access to the resources you need. When that happens, you should think of it as a make-or-break moment. Second, make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile are updated at all times. With more and more professionals joining LinkedIn, you can view anyone’s profile and your profile can be viewed by others any time. Do not underestimate the importance of your LinkedIn profile during a job hunt.
Career searching can be exhausting and frustrating, but you will find all your efforts worthwhile when you land your dream job. So be patient and have fun. Best of luck!
Yixin is a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University, majoring in communication and education. She previously studied communication at Beijing Jiaotong University. In pursuit of becoming a storyteller in the media industry, she is currently an intern at SinoVision English Channel.