Urban Fold

Looking for Employment: Tips from A Recent Graduate

Ann Forsyth's picture

Students nearing graduation are wondering about employment. Some already have jobs lined but many do not. While it is good to start looking, best advice is to graduate first as finishing up after you have a job almost always creates a lot of stress and bother. Previous blogs have covered Finding a First Job in Planning, Tips on Gainful Unemployment for New Planners, and Defining the Planning Skill Set based on surveys of employers and graduates. Anna Read, a recent graduate from Cornell's MRP program who found employment right away last year, has passed along these tips from her own experience:

"1) Don't overlook unpaid internships.  While paid internships are clearly preferable, unpaid internships can offer good experience and are a lot more likely to turn into an actual job that staying on campus for the summer is.  And there are funding opportunities available.

2) Keep a spreadsheet with the jobs you have applied for, when you heard back, when phone interviews/actual interviews are scheduled, and when you followed up.

3) Have someone else proofread your cover letters (and don't model your cover letters too closely on those provided by career services).

4) Remember that offering you a job is a much smaller event in the life of the person offering it to you than it is in your life.  While it is important to be persistent and follow-up, it is also important to be patient and realize they have other things going on.

5) Don't overly exaggerate experience (I had a friend who was applying for jobs and nearly doubling the amount of time she held her current job in her cover letter, though the dates were accurate on her resume, and this was causing her trouble in her job search), but do be specific about the experience you have (the USAJobs.gov site has good information on how to create a brief but detailed resume)." I would add being specific about your role and being quite clear about what work was done in a group. 

Overall being organized about the job search has many benefits. But finishing all the requirements for graduation should be a top priority.

This is my February post, a little late.

Ann Forsyth is professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University.


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