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maggieBy Maggie Smith, NCA assistant director of student career advising, serving students in Weinberg.

During any internship or job search, strategy becomes an important question. Where will you search? How do you find what you’re looking for? Where else should you be looking?

For many students, the most common response tends to be online internship/job search sites or databases. Most students begin their search by identifying relevant postings online.

Many employers post positions on a variety of search sites in an effort to increase visibility and collect a larger number of applications. Some internship/job search sites and online databases are specific in what they offer and/or who is able to access their postings (i.e. Idealist or USAJOBS). Other online databases are more general; they post internships and full-time positions across a variety of industries and are open to anyone (i.e. LinkedIn or Indeed).

CareerCat is Northwestern’s internship and job database. Employers across a variety of industries post positions in CareerCat to encourage Northwestern students and alumni to apply.

Postings are a logical place for students to begin their searches for several reasons:

  • The employer is looking for interns or full-time hires; if the employer posted a position, they’re likely ready to review applications and make a hiring decision.
  • You can find what you’re looking for; online databases typically allow you to indicate your specific criteria (industry, location, position type, etc.) so you can apply for what interest you most.
  • The position description is often provided; you can review job responsibilities, qualifications, and necessary skills before choosing to apply.
  • There are clear application instructions; employers will typically specify within their postings how and when they want candidates to apply.

Identifying opportunities online through internship/job boards and databases is a great place to begin your search, but it shouldn’t be the only strategy you implement.  Why not just apply to online postings?

  • Although you can find postings relevant to most industries, some industries rely more heavily on search sites and databases than others. Further, some industries might not use this method at all. You might not always find what you’re looking for if this is your only method of searching for opportunities.
  • Some employers prefer not to receive a large number of applicants or share their opportunities too widely, so they may avoid search sites and databases in favor of a more tailored approach.
  • Positions posted on search sites sometimes get a large number of applicants; you might not always hear back following an application or receive an automatic reply.
  • Students often begin their search with postings and spend the most time applying online, but it is not the method used most often by employers to identify potential talent.

So, what else can you do? You might be wondering what options you have beyond reviewing internship/job boards and databases and applying to positions online. NCA encourages students to incorporate the following, additional strategies into their internship or job search:

  1. Source Employers

Employer sourcing involves researching potential companies in your industry of interest in order to target and pursue specific opportunities. Many employers only post opportunities on their own websites in an effort to identify the right candidates; these employers might not utilize search sites or online databases.

This is a proactive, tailored approach to your internship or job search and might involve the following steps:

  • Develop a comprehensive list of employers that you already know of and those that surface in your research.
  • Visit the website of each employer on your list to learn about current opportunities.
  • Apply to specific openings on the company’s website.
  • Think longer-term; there might not be positions posted the first time you look, so consider establishing connections within the organization in anticipation of future opportunities.
  1. Network
    Networking is the most effective search strategy and the one used most by employers. From an employer perspective, networking allows a recruiter to more easily identify high-potential candidates. As a student, networking provides you with an opportunity to develop contacts, learn about specific employers, and share information regarding interests and opportunities. Networking can allow both employers and students to more easily identify the right fit.

Employers often begin their search for potential candidates with networking and it is frequently where they spend most of their time. Students should consider making networking a significant part of their internship/job search to better align with employers’ strategies.

Networking is valuable across any industry or with any employer. Some employers, however, rely completely on networking to fill positions. If they have a position available, they utilize their networks to share opportunities and identify potential talent; they might never post a position at all, even on their own site. This is especially true within creative industries like media, communications, advertising, and entertainment.

A successful internship or job search involves a combination of identifying opportunities online, sourcing employers, and networking. You can’t rely completely on any one strategy. Think broadly about your approach and consider building upon your existing strategy to better position yourself for success. Your NCA career adviser can assist you in developing a strategy to best fit your industry of interest; set up an appointment to get started!