Job Search Strategy Toolkit

Senior year is both a time of culmination and transition. While you are completing advanced work, leading teams and organizations, and celebrating your accomplishments, you are also tasked with looking forward. You are tasked with determining not only what you want to do, but how you will make your goals a reality. It can be overwhelming to dive into the job search process and — with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting employment across industries — it is more important than ever to be strategic and proactive. We are impressed by your resiliency, creativity, and determination during this unprecedented time and know these qualities will contribute to your success beyond Amherst. 

The Loeb Center has created this job search toolkit specifically for seniors. It identifies the most important pieces of the job search, highlights Loeb Center resources, and will help you plot out your next or first steps. Advisors are here to help you navigate Telling Your Story, Understanding the Landscape, and Making Connections. Request an appointment with us any time through Handshake. We look forward to continuing to work with you! 

Every aspect of your job search process is connected to you: your experiences, strengths, interests, and goals. This is your “story,” and how you share it with others significantly impacts whether you are able to achieve your career goals. Authentically and effectively telling your story through your application materials, social media profiles, networking conversations, and interviews provides ample opportunities for a potential employer to learn more about you and how you might contribute to their organization.

Your skills and strengths are qualities, mindsets, tools, and knowledge that you have to share, and you should understand them well in order to engage fully and effectively in the job search process. Knowing what you have to offer will allow you to identify jobs that are a good match for you, determine whether or not you would enjoy a particular opportunity, and aid you in writing your application materials. 

Your skills and strengths can usually be organized into two categories: the first category is the qualities that make you who you are (sometimes named ‘soft skills’), such as being a strategic thinker, being flexible, having an intense attention to detail, or possessing a buoyant optimism. The second category are the tools and knowledge you have gained from experiences (sometimes named ‘hard skills’), such as excellence in public speaking, specimen processing, or an understanding of a coding language. 

Next steps: Get support in identifying your skills and strengths. Talk with your family, friends and mentors about what they appreciate about you or meet with a Loeb Center advisor to reflect on experiences where you felt like your best self.

Introducing yourself in a professional context can be different than social or academic situations. Professional introductions could be a part of an informational interview, at a networking event, in a job interview or in an introductory email to someone you admire. An effective introduction, whether spoken or written, should consist of information about you and your goals and invite further questions. It is mindful of context and includes information about your past, present and future in a few short sentences. For more information, read’s article on how to create your “elevator pitch,” including samples.  

Next steps: Watch the Big Interview “Tell Me About Yourself” video (in the Fast Track curriculum under Acing Common Questions) to learn how to respond to this common interview question. Then, practice answering the question in a Big Interview practice interview.

Your resume is an opportunity to succinctly showcase your relevant experiences and skills in one page. Do your position descriptions include outcomes and impact of your work? Is it up to date and reflective of the strengths and skills you’ve developed over time?

Next steps: Review our Resume How-to Guide and resume samples to update your resume with best practices in mind and then get your revised resume reviewed by a Loeb Center advisor or Peer Career Advisor (PCA).

Your cover letter is an opportunity to make a case for yourself as a candidate – to connect the dots between your experiences and what is required for the position. Within this one page document, you describe specific examples from your past experiences to illustrate how you are qualified for the position. It’s also a chance to share your interest in the organization and underscore your enthusiasm for the position.

Next steps: Review our Cover Letter How-to Guide and cover letter samples. When you are ready to apply for a position, get your cover letter draft reviewed by a Loeb Center advisor or Peer Career Advisor (PCA).

Part of telling a great story is knowing your audience. What you decide to highlight in your resume, cover letter, and any other application materials will change depending on what you notice in a position description and what you learn about an employer while conducting research, etc. This means that all your applications will look different while still being authentic and honest to you and your experiences.

Part of telling a great story is knowing your audience. What you decide to highlight in your resume, cover letter, and any other application materials will change depending on what you notice in a position description and what you learn about an employer while conducting research, etc. This means that all your applications will look different while still being authentic and honest to you and your experiences.

There is no better way to prepare for an interview and to release some of the pre-interview jitters than doing a practice interview. The stakes are low, and the feedback you receive can make a huge difference in how you feel and do in a real interview. Practice interviews give you multiple opportunities to tell your story and can help you identify your interviewing strengths and areas for improvement. 

Next steps: Review the New Graduate Interview Playbooks in Big Interview for a primer on interviewing and then use the platform to conduct as many general or industry-specific practice interviews as you want. You can record your responses for your own review or share your interview with a mentor or Loeb Center advisor for their feedback.

While there are some universal aspects of the job search process, understanding the expectations particular to your areas of interest is an essential way to be competitive. Timely insights, Amherst connections, and a knowledge of industry trends will enable you to craft stronger application materials and to make more strategic career choices.

Employers post opportunities in Handshake to connect with students and recent grads. The Loeb Center actively screens employers and postings to ensure you’re getting access to substantive experiences with reputable employers. By searching for positions in your areas of interest, you can get a sense of who’s hiring at any given time and what types of qualifications they require. 

Next steps: Review these Steps for Using Handshake Effectively which, among other things, will teach you how to set up email alerts so you don’t miss out on relevant opportunities.

Our career community advisors are specialists who can help you gain a sophisticated understanding of the current issues impacting your fields of interest. 

Next steps: Use Handshake to request an appointment with an advisor from career communities: Arts & Communication, Business & Finance, Education Professions, Government & Nonprofit, Law, Health Professions, and Science & Technology.

There is a lot that you can do on your own to better understand the ins and outs of a wide range of careers, industries, and opportunities.

  • Check out industry-specific events hosted by the Loeb Center. Read your weekly Career Columns emails for up-coming events, or follow us on Instagram (@AmherstLoeb).
  • The Alumni-in-Residence program features programs and office hours with Amherst alumni from our six career communities.
  • Dig into Vault for in-depth industry guides with overviews, advice, and information about a day in the life of a professional in that industry.
  • LinkedIn allows you to explore career fields and occupations while also building your professional network. The more connections you have on LinkedIn, the more profiles you can access, giving you information about career trajectories and skills and academic studies required for certain types of work.

Next steps: Attend one Loeb Center event or use one of the above resources to learn more about an industry or career that interests you. Take notes in a job search/career notebook or Excel spreadsheet and look for any themes or information that emerge that are important to your job search.

No industry is the same as the next. They all have different expectations for skills, qualifications, and experiences and distinct timelines for hiring. Some industries (e.g. finance) tend to have specific programs designed to recruit recent graduates at the same time every year and others (e.g. nonprofit) hire for entry level positions whenever they need someone. This means you might be juggling different hiring timelines and preparing very different application materials for your search. This recruiting timeline chart provides a general sense of what to expect.

Next steps: Use Handshake to request an appointment with an advisor from our career communities: Arts & Communication, Business & Finance, Education Professions, Government & Nonprofit, Law, Health Professions, and Science & Technology. They can give you more nuanced information about special qualifications required, details of the application processes, and recruitment timelines and help you map out a calendar that makes sense for your individual search.

Where general job search platforms like IndeedLinkedIn, and Google Jobs provide a breadth of what’s out there, industry-specific job boards offer depth. Here are a few examples:

Next steps: Use filters and keywords to make your searches more effective. Set email alerts with various job search platforms to deliver postings straight to your inbox on a daily or weekly basis.

Stay up-to-date on current and emerging industry trends through a wide range of publications that suit your reading interests–from Wired to The Atlantic to the Wall Street Journal. You can also Find and Join Groups on LinkedIn and check out niche publications that offer up-close and in-depth industry coverage. Here are a few examples:

Next steps: Integrate industry news into your social media feed by following companies you’d like to work with, alumni working in your areas of interest, or industry leaders who appear in articles.

Taking time to be reflective, engaged, and generous with others is an investment in your career. Making connections or “networking” plays an integral role in shaping your understanding of career pathways, honing your professional goals, connecting with opportunities, and bolstering your transition into a new community–either geographically, in the working world, or both. Research shows that up to 70% of jobs aren’t posted or advertised publicly, so finding them is all about networking. If you haven’t yet, now is the time to put intent and energy into the process. See the Loeb Center’s Networking How-to Guide for everything you need to know about building professional relationships.

Throughout your entire life, you have been building your professional network, though it may have been unwittingly. You already know many people who know other people who know other people and so on. There might already be someone in your existing network who could be a good resource for you: professors, former teachers, supervisors, mentors, Loeb Center or other on-campus advisors, friends, friends of family, family of friends, neighbors, alumni from your high school, Amherst College alumni you met at an event, etc…

Next steps: Brainstorm people in your existing network who might be helpful to your current career goals or questions or who can introduce you to professionals working in your areas of interest.

In addition to your existing connections, start to search for professionals who have academic or career experiences that interest you or whose professional presence inspires you. You might find an Amherst alum through the alumni directory or a friend of a friend through LinkedIn. 

Next steps: Read the How-to Use the Alumni Directory Guide and then use the alumni directory to search for alumni who share your interests. Use LinkedIn’s guide for student users and their tips for a strong profile to set up an account and create a profile so that you can browse professional profiles and find professionals outside your existing networks.

As you start to make connections, they may look or ask for additional information about you. Make sure that you have a professional presence online that they can find or you can share with them. It should represent your current interests, values, best attributes, and learning goals. 

Next steps: Update your LinkedIn profile so that it matches your current experiences and interests. Curate where, what, and how you engage on other social platforms. Check out our guide to Managing Your Online Image. Consider a digital portfolio. Whether it’s a slideshow, a website, a GitHub, or a Vimeo page, a digital portfolio allows you to illustrate your practical skills which is especially important for liberal arts students.

Networking in a job search can sometimes feel like a series of lopsided conversations since you may be asking people for support while you aren’t offering any in return. Many professionals are invested in supporting young talent because they are paying-forward essential mentorship and advice they received. Others want to generate the kind of support they wish they had received on their career journey. Moreover, you do have something to offer in networking relationships:

  • Your curiosity and thoughtful questions offer seasoned professionals a fresh perspective. Young talent keeps industries relevant, innovative, and evolving.
  • Your enthusiasm about their work or career makes it feel fresh and exciting! It’s rare for professionals to have the chance to share about their work in-depth with others who really care and are eager to learn.
  • For Amherst alumni, you offer a link to their alma mater and a new perspective on the Amherst experience.
  • In the coming years, students will look to you for insights on paving a path into the working world.
  • You may even become a connection for a peer now – you might know someone who can help them! Your current peers may become important connections for you throughout the rest of your career. 

Next steps: Move forward with that confidence that accepting support is something that everyone needs in the job search and seeking it reflects the kind of growth mindset that appeals to employers and prospective mentors.

Don’t wait to connect with people until you need a job! Start now while you can lead more with curiosity and less with desperation. If you’re nervous, that’s completely normal. Use the Loeb Center’s How-to Guide for Networking to learn how to reach out and what you can say. Before you speak with someone, review our How-to Guide for Informational Interviews to help prepare a list of questions. 

Next steps: Identify five existing or new connections to contact, and email them! Wait until you’ve spoken with a few before reaching out to more. Take notes on your conversations; you’ll want time to reflect on what you learned and what you hope to get out of your next conversations.

Networking requires a long-term view. It could be an hour, a week, a year, or a decade before a professional contact has a direct impact on your employment opportunities. Some may never make that kind of impact. For your new and existing connections to be able to help you when the time is right, keep them in the loop by sharing professional opportunities, updates on your current work and projects, or an article that ties into their work. 

Next steps: Follow-up with a few of your connections to reconnect and update them on a few relevant academic or professional experiences. When you start the job search, send them another message that outlines what kind of work you’re looking for (specific types of roles and organizations), where you’re looking (geographic locations), and how they might help (referrals, resources, recommendations). Attach your up-to-date resume.