/ Career Development Center

Job Search

Four key steps are involved with finding meaningful work. Understanding these will provide a sense of clarity and confidence going forward.

1. Career focus

What type(s) of work are you seeking and in what kind of organizations (private sector, non-profit, government)? How do your interests, values and skills relate to your career goals?

2. Support materials

Prepare and review your resume to ensure that you are presenting yourself well. In your cover letter, tailor your goals and experience to specific opportunities that you are seeking.

3. Manage your job search

Develop a plan for finding work and follow through with it.

4. Interview preparation and practice

Most of us have not developed the experience to interview well. Preparing effectively and practicing is key to developing a genuine sense of confidence.

Identifying Types of Work

The more clearly you define the type of work that you are seeking, the easier it is to understand and use specific resources for your job search.


Is there a particular function you want to fill? Do you want to be doing particular tasks or using particular skills, regardless of industry (e.g., marketing, accounting)?


Is there a particular field that you want to join, no matter what you might be doing (e.g., education, corporate finance, museums)?

Type of organization

Do you want to work in a small or large organization? What about for a for-profit, nonprofit or government organization? 

Mission/issue area

Are you passionate about a particular issue? Do you want to work for an organization that addresses that mission?

Additional considerations

Issues such as compensation, geography, social connections, educational, cultural and recreational opportunities can also influence your priorities. 

  • GVSU Fall Career Fair – mid-October
  • Communication Meet and Greet – mid-October
  • Gap Year Fair – late October
  • STEM Career Fair – early November
  • Calvin Engineering Fair – mid-November
  • Business Recruiting Reception – late January
  • Internship Fair – early February
  • Job Pursuit – mid-February
  • GVSU Winter Career Fair and Health Day – late February
  • Out-of-state Teacher Fair – early March
  • Living and Working in West Michigan – early April
  • Living and Working in Chicago – mid-April
  • West Michigan Teacher Search – late April
View all Career Development events on our calendar

As you seek meaningful work, many helpful resources can help you plan and navigate your job search. Our staff can also discuss your job search and specific questions or concerns.


As you look for your first job, you’re probably not thinking about getting sick, retiring or looking for tax breaks. However, benefits are a very important part of your compensation package.

According to the most recent survey of new college graduates, the top benefits that new hires want include medical insurance and such “core” financial benefits as salary increases, tuition reimbursement and a 401(k) company match. Benefits that deliver more immediate satisfaction, such as family-friendly benefits, more than two weeks of vacation and flex time are increasingly important. A good benefits package can add as much as 30% to your overall compensation and may make a huge different in your work/life quality! Learn about these commonly offered benefits:

Health insurance

This is an important benefit for three financial reasons:

  1. Even if you have to pay for all or part of the coverage, it’s cheaper to get insurance through an employer at group rates than to purchase it on your own.
  2. Health insurance is comparable to nontaxable income. Providing health insurance could cost your employer upwards of $4,000 per year per employee, and you don’t pay tax on it. If you were to purchase health insurance, it might take more than $5,000 per year out of your pocket — after taxes.
  3. If you get sick or have a surfing (or horseback riding or bungee-jumping) accident, your medical treatment is paid for (in part or in full, depending on your policy).
Annual salary increases

More money? Of course that’s a good thing. In recent years, some employers have frozen salaries — not given any raises — or given minimal, 1.4% raises. According to Aon Hewitt’s annual U.S. Salary Increase Survey, average salary increases over the past couple of years ranged up to about 4%. If you earn $44,500, a 4% raise will increase your income by $1,777.

Tuition Reimbursement

One way to get ahead in your career is to continue learning — keep up with the latest trends in your profession. In this case, your employer may pay all or a portion of your tuition costs for classes related to the business of the company. In some cases, employers reimburse for non-business-related classes and for supplies such as books.

401(k) plan

A 401(k) is a retirement plan that allows you to put a percentage of your gross (pre-tax) income into a trust fund or other qualified investment fund. In many cases, employers will match your contribution up to a certain percentage — this is “free” money that can add to your overall compensation package.

Why is this important to you since retirement is still 30 or 40 years away? According to The Motley Fool, a multimedia financial-services company, someone saving $5,000 a year beginning at age 25 will have $787,176 at age 65 (assuming an 11 percent annual return on savings). Waiting until age 35 cuts your investment earnings in half, to a total of $364,615. Wait until age 45 to start your retirement fund and you’ll have only $168,887 — not much to live on in retirement.

Typically, you can direct your contributions and the matching funds into investments offered through your employer. And your 401(k) is portable — you can take it with you if you change jobs.

Flex spending account

Also known as flexible benefits and Section 125 plans, these plans let you put aside money (via a deduction from each paycheck) before taxes to cover various types of costs such as health and life insurance premiums, vision and dental care, or child- or dependent-care costs. By using pre-tax money, you’ll spend untaxed dollars on necessities, and you’ll show less earned income on your federal tax return — so you’ll pay a lower percentage of your income in taxes.

Family-friendly benefits

Do you have to have a family to collect these benefits? Absolutely not! Family-friendly benefits can mean a lot of things.

  • Flex time allows you to vary your workday start and stop times, within limits.
  • Paid time off (PTO) deposits your vacation, holiday, sick and personal days into one bank from which you withdraw days, which you allocate as you wish. This means you could wind up with more than two weeks of vacation.
  • Telecommuting allows you to work from home or at an alternative work site for part of the week, checking in with the main office via telephone and computer. Some employers provide office equipment for home use; in other cases, you cover the costs associated with telecommuting.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder.

PLAN B, or “What if I am Not Hired/Accepted Once Graduating?”

If you don’t receive an offer to work or get accepted into graduate school, you may need to move to Plan B. Consider this approach, which divides a six-month job search into three time stages, specifically designed for the graduating college senior:

  1. On campus (mid-March through mid-May
  2. Remote searching (mid-May through mid-July)
  3. On the ground (mid-July through mid-September)
On Campus
  1. While on campus during the senior spring term, take time to utilize the job and internship resources that won’t be as easy to access after you’ve left campus.
  2. Meet with Career Development Center staff to narrow in on what you will be searching for later, develop a concrete plan for the next two stages and determine a geographic region.
  3. Fine-tune your résumé, develop your cover letter and have it reviewed, begin networking with Hope alumni, schedule a mock interview, establish references and talk with anyone on campus who can inform your plan.
Remote Searching
  1. From home or another location away from campus, use those first few weeks after graduation to identify and pursue opportunities, making whatever contacts possible.
  2. Apply for jobs. You have two key options: Follow the traditional approach, and/or use this time to prepare for the next stage — initiating contacts in your targeted geographic region where you will be relocating.
New Location
  1. Begin visiting employers in person, making calls, sending messages and anything else you can do to make yourself as visible as possible to employers, including face-to-face meetings through networking and contacts with job leads. Ask for others you might contact, and/or whether they will introduce you to others.
  2. For morale and for income, take a part-time job, maybe in a restaurant or coffee shop near where professionals do the work in which you are interested.
  3. Establish goals for numbers of contacts, calls and messages you plan to make every day.
  4. Look for one or two contacts who know your market and geography well and can serve as a good resource.
  5. Continue to refine your interview skills.

Teaching fellowships are available in many states and most major cities. Many lasting for more than a year, and some include a graduate degree in education as a part of the contract. Training is provided to obtain teacher certification, and many programs partner with universities to provide a master’s degree in education. Compensation is typically, but not always, at the same level as a beginning teacher’s salary.

Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges and Solutions

Diversity not only involves how people perceive themselves, but how they perceive others. Read more at multiculturaladvantage.com.

Diversity Recruitment Efforts and Target Groups 

In 2014, the percentage of employers with a concerted diversity recruitment agenda reached its highest figure in seven years, according to results of NACE’s 2014 Recruiting Benchmarks Survey.

The Riley Guide 

The resources in the Riley Guide are specifically set up to meet the needs or address the interests of various groups, such as women, persons of varied nationalities or ethnic backgrounds. 

Job Choices 2013 Diversity Edition

The Job Choices 2013 Diversity Edition publication from The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) offers job search advice, resume, cover letter and interviewing tips, and a specific article on disclosing a disability in an interview.

Visit the Office of Multicultural Education for additional resources