Job Search Q&A with St. Kate’s Seniors

Melody Kosbab (Public Policy & Political Science Major) and Emma Seehafer (History & English) are St. Catherine University Students who have worked as Career Assistants in the Career Development Center since their freshman year. They are both graduating in Fall 2023 and collaboratively began the process of applying for post-undergrad full time jobs. Most college students have to go through this process and it can be daunting. In this blog, Melody and Emma talk about their experience with this process from their unique perspectives and tell us what worked, what didn’t, and what you might just have to find out for yourself.


1. How did you stay motivated during the job hunt?

Melody: It is so easy to get burned out while searching for jobs, people aren’t kidding when they say applying is like a full-time job. Setting aside hours that are specifically dedicated to finding and applying for jobs is the best way to keep yourself on track and avoid feeling overwhelmed 24/7. For me that looked like finding a friend (Emma) who shared my goals, picking a spot to meet (Panera in Highland) at the same time every week (Thursdays after class) and working for a good three hours without distraction. Since applying is so stressful it can be hard to stay motivated so going out to eat with a friend while also applying made things feel more fun. 

Emma: Having an accountability partner. Melody and I met up weekly on Thursdays at Panera after class and work and were able to get some dinner together, talk about how our job search was going and then apply to jobs together while still providing advice and support to one another. I think having a space you can go that is separate from where you work, have class, or do homework is super important in getting yourself in the mindset to be productive. Also, having someone who is relying on you for motivation and support in their own job search is incredibly helpful as well. It’s great to have someone working on the same thing with you who is in the same boat and understands where you are coming from. Also, needing to have an income source to pay back student loans when you graduate is a pretty big motivating factor. 

2. What online and on-campus resources did you use? 

Melody: Emma made an amazing job tracker in Google Sheets and honestly that was my saving grace. They are not difficult to make on your own but I know Emma is going to provide a link so be sure to check out her answer haha. Another option is the online extension/app Huntr which is great for keeping track of important information when applying. I often utilized the Career Development Center and Katie Career Virtual Center especially when it came to interview, resume/cover letter, career exploration, and employer correspondence help. I plan on continuing to utilize these resources even after I graduate.  

Emma: Some of the online resources I used were for my job search process: LinkedIn, HigherEd Jobs, Indeed. For tracking I created a spreadsheet to help track the positions I applied to and where I am at in the application process as well as any important notes I needed to consider. (If you would like to make a copy to use for your own job search you are more than welcome to.)

For general resources I used the U of M Career Site along with the Katie Career Virtual Center .Overall, one on-campus resource that was incredibly beneficial was meeting with a Career Counselor for advice on preparing for interviews and how to handle and start the job search process. 

3. How did you know where to start in the job search? 

Melody: I started my job search by creating a list of organizations and fields I would be interested in working in. I would then go to those organizations’ web pages and see if they had any listings. If so, I would then add links to those listings into a Google sheet. I started saving job postings from Handshake and Linked In that seemed interesting. I started with a wide variety of jobs that required a large swath of skill sets and were at different experience levels so that I wouldn’t be limited to one field if I ended up not liking my prospects. 

Emma: Creating a spreadsheet really helped me in the job search process. It was nice to be able to add columns with all of the elements I was considering like (Salary, job requirements, benefits, if it was remote or not). Also, I really liked being able to search for positions and spend a few hours doing that every couple of weeks and adding them all to my spreadsheet, so then I was able to just go through the list when I was ready to apply and I didn’t have to do the search and develop materials components in one sitting. Additionally, it was important for me to sit and think about what kind of job I wanted, what I liked working on, what skills I had, and what industry was right for me. (and if you are stuck on that, it never hurts to make an appointment with a Career Counselor, reach out to someone on LinkedIn who has a cool job you may want to learn more about or ask a faculty member you are close with for advice on next steps if you want to stay in that field.) 

4. How did you narrow down the jobs you want to apply for? 

Melody: As you apply for jobs and start to get a feel for those that were responding back to you they have a way of narrowing themselves down on their own. Additionally, as you get a better idea of how much you want/need to get paid and the types of benefits you are looking for, it becomes easier to cut out jobs that are not worth your energy. 

Emma: When making a list of jobs I wanted to apply to, alongside that when narrowing it down it is important to note when certain job postings close, if the deadline is sooner rather than later you will want to work on those application materials first. If the jobs all have later closing dates or no closing dates at all it is good to look at which ones are you most interested in, which has maybe a better salary, or benefits, or is a company you really want to work for. Honestly, there might be a position that when you read the position description you get really interested and excited for and that one should be one of the first you apply to. A good rule of thumb, however is that the earlier the job is posted the earlier you should apply. So if you find a position posted 2 weeks ago and a position posted 1 day ago, unless you are more interested in the 1 day ago job, you should apply to the 2 weeks ago as that one may close sooner. 

5. How many jobs did you apply for before you got your job? Did you accept the first job offer you got? How did you determine the right job to accept? 

Melody: I am graduating in 9 days and I am still looking for the right job for me. So far I have applied for around 10 – 15 jobs and of those I have only interviewed with two. For various reasons, I chose to decline these positions because after learning more in interviews I realized that the companies were not for me. This was not an easy decision to make as finances play a huge role in the reason I started applying for jobs early. I am going to decide on the right job for me based on if the ethic of the company truly aligns with me and if the job has fair benefits/salary. 

Emma: Fourteen jobs and I interviewed with 4 of them. I accepted the first formal offer I got, however, I moved on to the final rounds for several other positions and ended up declining one offer and moving further on in the process for a few other companies. Mine wasn’t a common practice though and you should always be careful to not necessarily take the first position without considering all of your options. I determined that mine was the right job to accept due to its really thorough 4 week training process with a mentor, a good salary, excellent benefits, and health insurance, and a lot of professional development and staff support due to the professional staff union. Additionally, the position was remote which I prioritized and they provided me with my equipment as well as paying for me to travel and annual conferences. 

6. How did you figure out the timing to start applying for jobs? – how much time did you spend applying?

Melody: Honestly, I don’t think I gave myself enough time to start applying for jobs. I started 2 months before I graduated because I was worried that I would get a job too early and have to decline because I am still in school, but honestly, I could have started 4 months before I wanted to start my first job. Applying and waiting to hear back always takes longer than you expect. 

Emma:  I started applying to jobs 2 months out from graduating. We probably could have started earlier in the process. I applied for a lot of positions in higher ed and that industry often has a longer more intensive hiring process for any positions. The amount of time I spent applying was around 2 months in advance of graduating with a weekly schedule of about 3 hours to apply to jobs. 

7. How did you follow up with jobs…how did you decline offerings/interviews? 

Melody: Following up with jobs whether it is to set up an interview, ask a follow up question, decline a position, or to ask if they even saw your application at all is nerve-wracking. Honestly, just remember that your potential employers are people too and as long as you are professional and respectful you don’t have to overthink that three-sentence email. I will say, using online resources such as the website Goblin Tools to make sure your message is the correct tone can be extremely helpful/reassuring. 

Emma: The best way to follow up with jobs that you are interested in is after applying is to reach out to the hiring contact listed and email them saying that you recently applied to X position and you are really interested and you are hoping to meet with them to talk about how you are well-suited for the role and then attach your resume and cover letter in that email as well. Unfortunately if there are no hiring contacts listed there is no good way to reach out and the best way is to be patient and see what happens with your application. If you hear back about job positions or interviews and they want you to proceed and you are no longer interested in the position it is important to respond in a professional and timely manner stating that unfortunately you are no longer able to continue in the process and you are thankful for them reaching out and wish them luck in looking for the right candidate. If you have an interview opportunity you are interested in, it is great to respond with your availability and interest as soon as possible and following the interview sending an email thanking the contact for the opportunity and that you are still interested and willing to answer any questions they may have. 

8. What are some interview tips? How did you prepare? 

Melody: Personally, I think that I have a pretty lax approach to interviewing. I don’t like to practice too much for specific positions so I don’t psych myself out or get too rote. What I do recommend doing is researching specific information regarding your prospective position with a company, this way you are knowledgeable on any questions about the job or company you may be asked. Additionally, it can be good to have general answers prepared for all sorts of regularly asked interview questions so you are ready to improve no matter what. I would recommend scheduling interview prep appointments with the Career Development Center so you can feel confident and comfortable in your next interview. Doing one in person and another virtually can also help you prepare for the many settings you may have to do your interview. 

Emma: One of the ways I prepared for my interviews was meeting with a Career Counselor at the Career Development Office for advice on how to prep. After that meeting I created a document to look over that included bullet points of any information I wanted to have prepped about myself-so bullet points that I would bring up when the question, “tell me about yourself” is inevitably asked. As someone who gets anxious and nervous during interviews, being really prepared has always helped me. Additionally, I wrote up a narrative of my career and educational experience that included a lot of behavioral examples (you can easily google them, there are a ton of common ones) but write up a story that you have where you: balanced conflicting obligations, handled conflict, worked in a team, had a significant effect on the outcome of a project, etc. It isn’t for you to read off of in the interview but rather reading it over a few times beforehand sort of reminds you of the fact that you are qualified and won’t have a brain fart part-way through the interview. And then the last thing I do is pull up the job description and my resume and I make sure that I know how to do most things on the description. It is important for you to feel and know that you are qualified when you are interviewed so that your confidence and abilities come across. 

9. What is the difference between applying for full-time jobs vs. internships or part-time work?

Melody: I have found that applying for full-time jobs can take longer than part-time or internship positions. I have personally found that these applications tend to have longer application processes. Even the online submission portion can have more steps and items to submit than internships would.

Emma: Full-time job applications require a lot more time and a lot more preparation than part-time jobs to prepare for. Developing your resume and cover letter as well as any other application materials for a full-time position can be pretty extensive. Additionally, full-time jobs are more likely to have additional components like other statements regarding DEI or leadership, and a reference document is common as well.

10. What are things that you have to consider in your job search now that you haven’t had to consider before?

Melody: When I was exclusively applying for part-time and internship positions, there was much less to consider. Before, as long as the position was reasonably interesting, near St. Kates/virtual, and paid I would take it. Now that I am applying for full-time jobs, I must more carefully consider the location, position type, and pay range. For the first time ever, I have to look at the benefits package each potential job offers to ensure I am setting myself up for health care, insurance, holidays, paid time off, and retirement. Additionally, I am considering going to grad school and it is a goal of mine to find a job that would pay for my education and/or would have loan repayment options. 

Emma: Things that I considered in my job search that I haven’t considered in a lot of my part time positions are: location (I specifically was looking for a remote position), good benefits and health insurance. (the offer I accepted, the position is part of a union which means that in addition to great benefits, I have representation.), salary is important in terms of figuring out and budgeting for your cost of living and figuring out how much you may have in student loans to pay back and how to budget that.) Money Management is a great resource for figuring out student loan repayment and budgeting following graduation! 

By Emma Seehafer
Emma Seehafer Career Assistant