Planning Your Full-Time Job Search

The job search process can be exciting and stressful. This guide will help you plan your search, reduce stress and frame your expectations. We encourage you to make an appointment with a career adviser to get support with this regardless of where you are in the process, particularly if you are feeling confused or overwhelmed.

As you begin your search, please keep the following in mind: 

  • Your goal is to reach a decision that is consistent with: who you are; what you value; and your logistical and practical needs. It is likely that many roles could be great next steps to help you grow personally and professionally. 
  • Princeton seniors and alumni secure jobs in many different ways during various timeframes. 
  • Most successful searches require that you be actively involved throughout the process, looking for and applying to roles and seeking out and connecting with relevant people over time. 
  • You should expect to thoughtfully apply to many roles before securing the offer you accept.
  • The job search can be mentally draining, and may require multiple strategy shifts, but planning and seeking help early can alleviate stress.
  • Your first job after college may align well with some of the things you want in a longer-term role, but probably not all of them. You can use what you learn from this role to seek out future professional opportunities in a variety of directions when the time is right. 

Step 1: Identify search priorities

Take Time to Reflect

Before you start applying, reflect on what you are looking for. This will help you save time in the long run, ensure your next steps align with what you actually find interesting and are likely to secure, and will prepare you to stand out as a qualified candidate. Consider the following questions and write down your answers so you can revisit them as your search progresses.

Your strengths, skills, values and interests

  • Which career fields am I curious about?
  • What interests, values and causes motivate me?
  • What tasks or projects am I both good at doing and also enjoy? Consider independent work, academics, extracurriculars, jobs/internships, and other experiences.
  • What have I learned about myself through my successes and setbacks during my time at Princeton?
  • How might my academic, extracurricular and/or work experience connect to potential roles? Have I ever wanted to continue an academic project or further explore an academic passion? Has any extracurricular or work experience been so interesting or fun that I would want to do similar work as a full-time job?
  • How do I want to learn or grow over the next few years? Would gaining a particular type of experience or building a particular skill help me better explore or prepare for longer-term academic and/or career possibilities that I’m considering? 

Your logistical and practical considerations

  • Am I looking for a role that would begin immediately after graduation, or do I want to take some transitional time, relocate, fulfill a summer work commitment first, etc? How flexible is this timeline? 
  • What types of working environments do I see myself at over the next couple of years after graduation? Which attributes are most important to me in a working environment? 
  • Which geographic location(s) do I most prefer? How flexible are my geographic preferences? Are there geographic considerations to know about based on my international student status? 
  • Am I aware of salary ranges and typical working hours in the roles that interest me? Do they align with what I need and/or desire? 
  • Am I considering pursuing graduate study of some type in the next few years? If so, how might that relate to post-graduation job possibilities? If you are considering graduate school, consult the Graduate School Guide_2019-20 for more information.
  • What other personal or practical priorities come to mind when I consider applying for jobs?

Consider Roles Alumni Commonly Pursue after Graduation

A full-time job is one of several forms of post-graduation work that Princeton alumni pursue after graduation. Work-related possibilities include:

  • Full-time paid work: This can be roles in a variety of settings. Some employers also offer diversity recruitment programs, which aim to address gaps in the workforce. 
  • Programs for recent graduates or work-based fellowships: These are short-term, exploratory opportunities for recent graduates providing a different perspective and experience before you consider longer-range career possibilities. These may be part of rotational or leadership development programs, which give participants in-depth experience by rotating through multiple roles and functional areas within an organization as part of a structured program. They could also be paid or unpaid. See Programs for Recent Graduates for more details and examples. 
  • Post-grad internships: Some professional roles require related internships to build experience before securing a more permanent full-time role. In other cases, post-grad internships can be a way to gain relevant experience while you discover whether the organization and role are a good match for you. 
  • Freelancing, part-time or temporary work: This is a common way to build experience and earn money in creative or other fields that require building a portfolio and references. Some alumni put multiple projects together to secure income and others do small projects along with a different full-time role to build experience. 
  • Professional athletics: If you plan to play your sport post-grad, and then pursue a different direction or different work, there is support for you during your transition with our alumni career adviser.

These all provide an opportunity to learn more about your goals as you consider future career possibilities. Also, some students decide to take time off before pursuing any type of work for a variety of reasons. 

Step 2: Explore options 

Discover Career Fields and Roles that Align with Your Interests 

Consider these two questions:

  • Which career fields interest you? 
  • What entry-level roles within those fields interest you?

If you aren’t sure, start by reading about common alumni career fields in Career Compass and view roles that Princeton graduates have recently pursued to generate some ideas.

Research Fields and Roles 

Learn more about areas that most interest you using these strategies: 

  • Consult Vault guides and our recruitment timelines to learn more about what the recruitment process looks like, when it occurs and what it takes to transition to the field. Each career field recruits in different ways at different times. Some fields recruit many months in advance — in fact, some finance, technology, and business recruiters turn to summer interns to fill most of their full-time openings. Other fields recruit when a position opens up. 
  • Search Handshake and other posting sites relevant to the career field and roles that interest you to find examples of entry-level roles. See the "How do I find roles?" question in the FAQs below for more details. 
  • Find entry-level position titles that interest you and align with your experience. Identify and save keyword searches related to these titles or other relevant skills. 

Identify Roles that Interest You Most

Determine if these entry-level roles are mostly what you are seeking by: 

  • Reading entry-level job descriptions for roles that interest you and see whether you have and can demonstrate the required skills and experience.
  • Conducting online research to determine whether people who recently secured similar roles have experience and education aligned with the job descriptions or whether they are generally overqualified.
  • Confirming that you are interested in the work itself, the environment and the team culture based on the job description. If you are not very motivated to apply, it might be helpful to reflect further or re-orient instead of applying right away. 
  • Connecting with recent alumni in the fields that interest you to identify a better target. See our Five-Step Guide to Networking to get started. 

If this process doesn’t result in finding several entry-level roles, we encourage you to make an appointment with a career adviser to more comprehensively explore role possibilities. 

Step 3: Search for roles and prepare applications

Plan Your Search

Recruitment practices and timelines vary from organization to organization, so track timeframes and application deadlines. This Search Tracker Template includes the essentials you’ll need to get started, including noting search sites and keywords, your submitted applications and relevant networking conversations. 

Consider multiple options, even if you are also simultaneously pursuing one dream employer, opportunity or industry. Find possibilities by using a combination of these strategies: 

  • Research entry-level position titles which relate to similar themes or build similar expertise — these may be in multiple work settings and career fields 
  • Attend events and set up conversations with alumni and employers in the organizations and career fields that interest you
  • Search through postings that are available through programs, relevant job boards and (where applicable) post-graduate opportunities available to Princeton alumni 

For example, a student who is interested in sustainability and has done environmental research in an academic setting could search and apply for roles including the following:

  • Search for program assistant roles at environmental organizations or ​environmental educator roles in museum settings
  • Research assistant roles relating to environmental topics in governmental or higher education settings
  • Apply for the High Meadows Fellowship through Princeton
  • Identify and speak with alumni who work in settings that promote sustainability to learn about their experiences and their advice for the search

You can make an appointment with a career adviser to help allocate your time and reflect together about how to adjust your plan based on patterns that you are noticing on the search tracker.

Prepare Your Materials

Many seniors find it helpful to set aside large blocks of time to prepare for a job search using the steps outlined below. If hiring for your target roles has already begun, prioritize the first two steps below and revisit the others later.

Dedicate Regular Time to Your Search 

Although your time commitment will vary over the course of a search, many seniors find it helpful to dedicate regular time to the search process. Here are some of the things you might do during that time. 

Frequently Asked Questions About the Job Search Process