As you approach graduation, you will undoubtedly begin to wonder what you will do next. Perhaps you have an offer from your summer internship and are deciding whether or not it’s the best fit for you. Or maybe you are still unsure of where to begin your job search. Or perhaps you started your job search and are evaluating a few different options but aren’t sure how to improve your prospects.

Whatever stage of the job search you are in, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed or unsure of the future. When these feelings of uncertainty arise, the tendency for most people is to rely on online job search engines, sift through thousands of job postings, and submit hundreds of the same resume to any position that may be of interest. While this may seem like an effective approach, it’s actually the surest way to waste your time, energy, and effort. Job searching should be a dynamic process and should involve your network. In fact, employment outcome data from last year’s CMU-SV graduates showed that more than 90% of students found their job by networking and attending Silicon Valley events, both on and off campus. It is essential to have a plan for your search, start early, and spend your time doing things that will actually yield positive results.

Getting started

The Individual Action Plan (IAP) for Job Seekers is designed to help CMU-SV students get started and stay on track with their search. Whether you are just beginning or have been looking for some time, it’s important to have a solid starting point and plan. Since students will graduate at different times throughout the year—August, December, or May—the IAP recommends the steps that should be taken 6-12 months, 3-6 months, and 0-3 months before your graduation date. You may want to use this timeline to make your own plan for success. As you gear up for your search and develop a plan, it’s also important to take some time to reflect on what you are looking for, what value you bring to an employer, and how you will articulate this. Knowing your professional story—your knowledge, skills, interests, background, experiences — and how it connects to the employer’s needs is an important first step to take when beginning any job search.

Researching employers

Researching employers and making a targeted list of companies is an essential step in the Individual Action Plan. Google, Facebook, and Apple, while excellent companies aren’t the only companies out there and it’s important not to focus on just one company in your job search. Research companies to know which employers interest you most and why, where you’d like to spend the next couple of years or more, and what types of jobs they are recruiting for. We recommend keeping track of a list of around 50 companies to stay in touch with. It helps to track any contact you have with the employer, any personal connections you may have, networking, applications you’ve submitted, as well as any interviews.

Additionally, these resources may help with your research and identify potential companies to target:

  • Hoovers is a database of millions of potential employers nationwide (not job openings); great for a specific geographic or industry search. Access Hoovers via the university libraries site.
  • Carnegie Mellon Online Alumni Directory is a university-wide network of more than 30,000 CMU alumni
  • Vault Guides: Research employers, industries, and career subjects easily and efficiently. You will be redirected to Career Insider powered by Vault. After logging into WebISO, please DO NOT use your Carnegie Mellon Andrew ID or password when creating your Vault account.
  • Visa Square: Research the top H1B sponsors and full-time opportunities within those companies.

Finding opportunities

It is important to use CMU-specific resources periodically like Handshake, CMU-SV resume books, attend career fairs, and look at jobs sent via email by Career Services. Additionally, it is important to use external online resources that will also publicize job postings like a company’s career website, general and field-specific job or internship search engines, LinkedIn, and online forums.

While online resources can be helpful tools for collecting information, it’s essential to note that only approximately 5-10% of jobs are actually found through the online application process. Furthermore, job postings are often vague and general or don’t give you enough information to determine whether or not you may be qualified. For these reasons, job seekers should also work on building their professional network. Your network will help you learn more about companies, what these companies look for in candidates, discover unpublicized opportunities, and glean information about your field of interest. Reaching out to your professional network—fellow alumni, former co-workers and peers, supervisors, CMU-SV faculty or staff, and career consultants, all who may help you get your questions answered.

Get more information about how to build your professional network.

Landing a job offer

Once you learn about a job that you are interested in, whether it be from a personal connection or referral, online resource, networking event, or somewhere else entirely, it’s important that you are prepared to show the employer that you are a fit for the opportunity.

Your resume will often form the employer’s first impression of you, so it is important to feel confident that this document conveys your professional story. But remember, it is not the only thing that gets you a job. There are many other ways you will need to show that you are a fit for the position you are applying for — your online presence including websites, blogs, social media accounts, email exchanges, interviewing (both technical and behavioral), and your personal interactions with the employer will all be used to shape the employer’s impression of you.

Therefore, it’s essential to spend some time reflecting on your story so that you have an understanding of your unique strengths, natural abilities, knowledge, interests, skills, passions, success, growth areas, etc. Knowing your story will help you develop and articulate what value you will bring to the prospective opportunity.

Evaluating and negotiating offers

Once you’ve demonstrated your value and an employer is interested in having you join their company they will make a formal offer, either verbally or in writing. Before doing anything else, be sure to review CMU’s hiring and offer policy and take some time to evaluate the offer based on what is important to you. Consider the following questions: is the compensation what you were looking for? Are you pleased with the work you will be doing? Do you like where the company is located? Are the expectations clear? If the offer does not meet your expectations in any of these areas, or other things that are important to you, then you may want to consider negotiating.

For more guidance, refer to the guide to evaluating, negotiating, and accepting or declining offers.

Accepting a job offer

Accepting an offer of employment, whether verbally or in writing, says to the employer that you will follow through. It demonstrates your commitment and dedication to joining the company and you will be expected to honor that commitment. Once you accept an offer you must discontinue all further interviewing and search activities and withdraw from any upcoming interviews. Reneging on offers is unacceptable and tarnishes your relationship with the employer as well Carnegie Mellon University’s relationship with the employer and other industry partners. We expect all students to conduct their search in a professional and ethical manner.

Important information for international students

If you are an international student, then you should familiarize yourself with your visa status and have a complete and thorough understanding of the requirements. For F-1 students, you should be knowledgeable about Optional Practical Training and attend a required OPT workshop before graduation, to be sure you submit documents on time. Some employers may not be aware of the practices and policies for hiring international students, so it is your responsibility to provide guidance and information when needed. For more information about this, please visit the Office of International Education’s website.