How Can I Land a Job While Working Full-Time and Going to College?

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Paula from DeVry University asks:

“I am graduating soon, and need to find a full-time job before leaving my current job. How can I balance my current job, looking for a new job and finishing school without any one situation suffering?”

Thanks for your question, Paul.  Well, you’ve got yourself a challenging situation to be sure.  However, any challenge can be successfully achieved with the right plan and lots of daily action to move the plan forward.

The first step is to break down the challenge in terms of the bottom line.  You’ll need to be able to answer the following question as a starting point.

How Many Jobs Do You Need?

You only need one job, right?  You don’t need two or ten or one hundred.  Just one full-time job… that is all you need.  During your job search, you’ll experience both the emotional ups and downs.  Learn to appreciate both and continue to stay focused on the goal of obtaining one job offer.  Fuel your search with consistent effort each day.  If you don’t give up on the goal, you’ll get there.

Build Your MAP (Meticulous Action Plan)

The goal you’ve detailed will take lots of work.  The good news is that your goal can be accomplished.  As you recognize, any worthwhile goal will take a solid plan and consistent daily action to achieve the desired outcome.

I suggest that you build your own MAP, or (M)eticulous (A)ction (P)lan.  This plan should build the foundation for developing the smaller daily goals in terms of what you need to accomplish.  In your MAP, include your job search methods, networking activities, and anything else that is necessary to achieve your goal.  And, make sure to put this plan in writing and keep it handy so you can refer to it as often as needed.  Is it work to put this MAP together?  Yes, it is, but this can keep you focused on your goal.

Lastly, make sure as you finish one day put together your action plan for the next day.  This will allow you to not waste any time as you can immediately start to take the necessary action each day.

Treat Your Job Search Like a Job

One common mistake recent graduates make in their search relates to the amount of time and effort they invest into their job search efforts.  Most invest very little time into the search and assume that the successful outcome will come easily, even in spite of the competitive nature of the job market.  Here is statistic that might catch your attention:  1.9 million bachelors degrees are expected to be awarded during the 2016-2017 academic year (with the same number or more this academic year).

These statistics aren’t meant to scare, rather to motivate you to fuel your search with a great deal of effort.  Treat the search like a full-time job.  Invest 40+ hours a week (or in your case, Paul, as many hours as you possibly can) into your campaign to land the right job.  Most of the recent college graduates I meet with recognize that they haven’t been working as hard as they need to be to land the job if they are being completely honest with themselves.  I’ve found that many get better results in the search simply by investing more time.

Your Job Search is a Sales and Marketing Campaign

Think of your job search as your own personal sales and marketing campaign.  You are the product so you need to know all of the features, values, and benefits you can offer to a prospective employer.  Personally, I don’t like the term, “job search”, as it sounds like you are lifting up rocks to “find” something.  Mentally re-position the search while thinking of it as a campaign.  You are connecting with people, especially prospective employers and decision makers to highlight your value proposition (what you can do for them), detailing how you can solve their problems.  Also, you will sell to the buyer – in this case, the hiring manager.  This is the person who has the power to hire you.  Focus your efforts primarily on the hiring manager.

Use Various Job Search Methods

Most job seekers mistakenly assume employers post all jobs online through various job boards and company sites.  Employers are competing for talent similar to the way you are competing for jobs with other candidates.  Current data shows that many employers find employee referrals as a great way to fill job openings.  Recruitment by referrals are utilized for over 25 percent of openings according to recent research.

Jobs won’t always be posted online.  So, I suggest that you reverse this thinking by targeting employers.  Don’t wait for employers to post available jobs.  Develop a list of 25-50 prospective employers in your area that may have opportunity in line with your skills, experience, education, and interests.  Do some additional research and determine a decision maker to whom you’ll address your letter and resume.  This is a great way to get your value proposition into the hands of the person with the power to start a dialogue and ultimately hire you.  Companies are always hiring.  The downside is that they may not always be hiring on your timeline.  Get to the employer before everyone else.

Utilizing this strategy allows you to be proactive, rather than passively waiting for jobs to be posted.  It can make all the difference in the world to landing an interview.  Remember, you only need one job.

Target marketing and employee incentive referral programs as described above can be very powerful.  Consider adding other job search methods including:

  • Networking – Engage your network to build your own marketing army filled with individuals who can potentially provide tips, leads, referrals, introductions, job placement, and more. Remember that people hire people, not computers.  We need the help of others to succeed both on the job and in life.  Networking (engaging with people) is, was, and will always produce the best results.  Embrace saying hello to others, while reconnecting with people you already know.  One of the first things you should do is let all of your friends, family members, and connections know exactly what you are looking for and that you’d be grateful for any assistance that they can offer to you.  While many may not be able to help with a job lead, these individuals can offer tips, leads, introductions, referrals, and more that can be a stepping stone to landing the job.  Make sure to grow your circle of influence and network by attending community events.  Join professional associations in your field to connect with others in your field.  Utilize LinkedIn to grow your virtual network, find posted jobs, connect with recruiters, further your value proposition through skills endorsements and recommendations, and join industry related groups.
  • Recruiters – While recruiters work for and are paid by their company (direct recruiter) or client (3rd party recruiter), these individuals need qualified candidates to fill direct jobs or put in front of client companies. Develop a rapport with recruiters, especially those who specialize in your industry
  • Job Leads Via Job Boards Using Double-Hit – After applying online, most go into hope and pray mode as they hope and pray an employer calls them in for an interview. Be proactive with employers by following up on all your applications.  Additionally, target market your value proposition to the hiring manager as well.  Research to determine who the decision maker is and craft a strong message to this individual highlighting how you can help them.  This is a great way to get your resume into the hands of the person who is making the hiring decision.  The first step is to apply through HR, then target the decision maker / hiring manager – the double-hit.  Utilizing this strategy allows you to be proactive, rather than passively waiting for a response.  It can make all the difference in the world to landing an interview.
  • Staffing Agencies – Staffing agencies may have opportunity that is not posted online so research to find an agency specializing in your field who work with local companies in your area.

Contact Your Career Center

Most colleges and universities offer career preparation services to recent graduates for at least a year after graduation at no cost.  Simply put, students should leverage their career center as it is a student resource.  College career centers are staffed with knowledgeable, skilled, and credentialed professionals who can provide assistance in a variety of areas including resume review, interview skills training, job search strategy, and more.  Furthermore, they likely have a job site exclusively for current students and recent alums featuring jobs posted with the institution.  Lastly, these professionals may be able to refer you to recruiters who work with their office too.  Contact your career center soon.

Putting It All Together

Your plan is a tough one, but it can be done.  Start by building your MAP – Meticulous Action Plan.  This plan will keep you focused as you also include the plan for each day as the smaller chunks towards the goal of landing one job offer.  Don’t just wait for jobs to be posted either.  Make sure to include lots of different job search methods to move you towards the offer.  Recognize that networking is the best job searching method as people can offer tips, leads, referrals, and more to move you forward.  Work hard and don’t give up!  I know you can do it, Paul.  Good luck and best wishes!

Here’s to your success,
Bob Nealon


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About the Author

Robert Nealon

For almost 10 years, Bob Nealon has been a South Florida-based career coach, focused on training and coaching college students and professional-level clients to achieve success in their employment search campaign and careers. He has trained over 5,000 clients with strategies on how to best compete in today’s ultra-competitive market to land the job and advance their career. Currently, he is a career coach at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from Indiana University, a master’s degree in Sports Administration from Indiana State University and is a multi-credentialed career coach holding industry certifications as a Certified Professional Career Coach, Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Employment Interview Professional, Certified Empowerment and Motivational Coach, Global Career Development Facilitator, and Florida Certified Workforce Professional. He is an active member of Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, Center for Credentialing and Education, Florida Association of Colleges and Employers, National Association of Colleges and Employers, and National Career Development Association. Connect with Bob via LinkedIn and Twitter.

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