Career Corner: May-June 2006

Writer: 
June 1, 2006

I'm a recent Duke grad who is actively seeking work. Over the past month, I've applied for more than fifty jobs through online job posting sites. To date, I haven't received any interviews, let alone job offers. What am I doing wrong?

Do a Google search on the word "jobs," and you'll find literally thousands of websites that list opportunities nationwide. Given the number of job postings, it's easy to get lulled into a false sense of job-search security. After all, you have a Duke degree and plenty of skills. Naturally, you assume you'll rise to the top of the hiring list. Trouble is, hundreds of other recent--and not so recent--grads have exactly the same idea. You've discovered, the hard way, that a plethora of applications doesn't automatically lead to success, however qualified you may be.

Online websites are typically not friendly toward the liberal-arts graduate, unless you want to go into a high-turnover area such as sales. They're custom designed for the candidate who has a specific background or skills, such as the ability to utilize SQL or Six Sigma. Companies do keyword searches on the criteria they've defined. If those words don't appear in your resume, your application will be unceremoniously dumped in the electronic garbage can.

So, should you avoid these websites? Actually, no, but you need to find a hook. Use the sites to find out who's hiring for what type of position. Then go to the organization's website and see whether you can send in a rÈsumÈ plus a cover letter explaining why you're a good match for the available position. Better yet, find a Duke alumnus or alumna within the company who can give you the inside scoop on how to increase your chances of getting hired. Good luck.