Are You Taking Enough Responsibility for Your Job Search?


It can be easy to blame not having a job on outside factors. Your college didn’t prepare you. The economy is struggling. Employers don’t have reasonable expectations for recent graduates.

All of these things may be true, but they might not be the only factors holding you back. It may be time to turn that finger around. Are you doing everything you can to gain employment?

I recently read an Ask A Manager post that made me cringe: “Angry Rejected Candidates: ‘I never had a class in college teaching me the etiquette of prostituting myself on paper.’

This post was about a recent graduate who sent her résumé to an employer and the defensive and hostile reaction she had when the employer gave her some constructive criticism.

The résumé spanned over three pages and she had written small essays describing each of her experiences. The employer responded with some advice on shortening it. She explained that it was “way too long and detailed for most employers to want to look at.” This is true since recruiters only spend 7 seconds looking at your résumé (some say it’s 6). The employer was trying to help this recent graduate understand the way job seeking works, but the young woman did not take it well.

She sent an email back saying, “I never had a class in college teaching me the etiquette of prostituting myself on paper. I do not understand a job market that desires watered down individuals.” She ends the email with “Thank you it will be Graduate School for me.

I agree with Alison Green, the manager of Ask a Manager, when she points out how wrong it is to have the attitude of “Why should I have to learn about how job searching works? If school didn’t teach me something, I shouldn’t be expected to look into learning it.” There are rules to job seeking. Whether you agree with them or not, they’re there. If you choose not to follow them then you can’t put blame on anyone else when employers aren’t interested. It was your choice.

Yes, in my opinion schools should be held partially responsible for teaching students job search etiquette (I even talk about it in my post “Do We Have to Commit Murder to Get a Job After College?”) but that doesn’t mean I think students are exempt from any responsibility.

Pete Gibson, a graduate of the University of Redlands, says that he’s not sure how much a university can really do to help in the job search. “Where they can help is connecting you with alumni. Those connections are crucial to a young grad who is going out into the world and still grappling with what they want to do.”

But it is up to the student to make use of those connections. Reach out to those alumni. As Pete says, “Even if alumni in your city aren’t active in your area of interest, they may know people who are.”

Harry Urschel writes in his post for The Wise Job Search, “Whose Responsibility Is It?” that “as long as they believe something externally has to change first, people typically just go through the motions without any real drive or effort. They don’t exert themselves because they believe it’s only futile anyway.” This attitude will leave you exactly where you started. Without a job. As shown in the UndergradSuccess post “Can Hope Become a Replacement for Action?,” in order to see results you have to go out and DO.

Harry Urschel also points out that there is a lot of advice available out there for free. So don’t think you have to pay to find job search support. Whether you’re reading blogs or taking the initiative to reach out to your career service center and alumni, there are ways to learn more about how the job search works and how to be prepared for it.

This is your job search. It can be difficult and it can be scary, but it is yours. It is NOT your parents’ and although college and employers do play a role in preparing you, they cannot be expected to do the work for you.

What can you do to improve your job search?

Spend some time using Explore on AfterCollege.

Practice interviewing.

Research the companies you’re interested in.

Write down why you would benefit the company.

Write down questions you have about the company.

Create your personal brand and personal brand mantra.

Perfect your elevator pitch.


Learn a new skill.

Take a cheap career development class.

Conduct informational interviews.

AND you can visit our blog for:

  • Résumé Teardowns: Résumés and Cover Letters that have been reviewed by recruiters and employers in different fields.

  • Job Search Survival Kit for Seniors: Our guide to the perfect job search during your senior year. It not just for seniors. The information we provide is helpful for students throughout college.

  • A look into different companies’ cultures: We interview people from a variety of different positions and businesses.

  • Recruiter Perspective: We have interviews with recruiters telling us what they want from an applicant, how a résumé should look, and how they’ve hired in the past.

  • Tips & Tricks: From how to dress like a professional  to using yoga to find career happiness, we have advice on every aspect of how to go from student to employee.

Starting the job search can definitely be scary. It can be easy to be intimidated and want to throw in the towel. Yes, there are outside factors that you have no say on, but the factor you are in control of is you. It is your responsibility to make that part as perfect as possible.

Homework time! Take a moment to put yourself into a vacuum. No, not literally. I just mean separate yourself from any outside factors that may play into your job search. Then stop and REALLY think about it. Are you doing everything you can to be successful in the job search? Have you done everything on the list above? If not, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?? If you have, great! Keep it up—and let us know how it goes!

P.S. Know some other great ways students can be proactive in the job search? We want to know and we bet our readers do, too. Tell us your job-seeking tips in the comments section below.


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