A Self-paced Tutorial for Your Professional Job Search 

Going through a professional job search can be daunting whether it is a first job or a transition later in life. The average person in a professional job search needs to meet with 20-30 hiring managers to secure a job. This equates to about six months of meeting with only one hiring manager per week. To be most successful in the process, treat the job search like a job and approach the process orderly. This means setting aside the same time each week and start at the beginning being careful to clarify objectives and strategy, set action oriented goals and measuring success at each step. It is also important to stay focused on the goal, positive about the outcome, consistent in activity level and always follow up.

How To Use This Manual

The Career GPS is designed to be a step-by-step guide to a professional job search. In this guide, the job search is broken down into four phases. Each phase is broken down into multiple steps. Each step has questions to ponder, and a checklist of things to do. The website version also has additional resources. All phases require interactions with others or Informationals. It is recommended that you take notes and track contacts in excel. When you move into the active job search in Phase IV, these notes will be handy. For students enrolled in GSM5108, there is a required deliverable at the end of each step which should be turned in on WISE. All students and alumni who are using this self-paced manual are encouraged to check-in with their Career Coach at the end of each phase.

If you’ve used this manual before: If you have gone through a professional job search using this method previously, it is still important to revisit each step. With each new job search, your self evaluation, target market and positioning will change. This will require additional Informationals, updates to your portfolio and of course, practice.

Phase A: Self Evaluation

This section is focused on looking internally at your own strengths and interests. If you're currently working, it's important to think about why you're considering leaving your current position as well. Employee engagement is all about finding the right job, the right culture and the right boss. According to Gallup’s latest engagement survey, only 33% of the workers in America are ‘engaged’ at work. Taking the time to think about what you want in the next role is the first step in finding a job that will keep you engaged. By the end of Phase I, you’ll be clear about what you need.


A-1 Complete a self evaluation. Review personality inventories, values, strengths, accomplishments and vision.
A-2 Gather feedback from others. Strengths and areas for improvement
A-3 Update the accomplishments in your resume. Consider making this an annual event.

Phase B: Market Exploration

At the end of Phase I, you have developed criteria of what you need and want in your next job. Phase II is taking a logical approach to researching where the opportunities are that match your criteria. Start with online research and then start doing Informationals with professionals in the field in which you want to work. These informationals will help you determine culture and fit. At the end of Phase II, you’ll know exactly which opportunities fit and where and how to pursue them.


B-1 Update or start a LinkedIn Account. 80% of recruiters are using LinkedIn to source candidates.
B-2 Survey the MBA marketplace. What jobs are of interest? Where are the opportunities?
B-3 Research Industries of Interest. Look online for information about several industries and learn what the trends are, what companies are expanding and in which industries. Think about where and how you can add value to an organization.
B-4 Develop a Matrix of Opportunities. Start with all possible alternatives on the table, then narrow to a few job titles and industries of interest.
B-5 Develop your Professional Network. Talk to professionals who are working in the job, company or industry you desire. Find out where the needs are, what cultures are a good fit and where opportunities might be for you. We call these “Informationals”. Develop relationships with people who are working in your areas of interest – this will become your future professional network. 

Phase C: Positioning and Branding

At the end of Phase II, you will know what opportunities you are pursuing and where to find them. The next step is to develop your messaging and collateral and test it by talking with others. At the end of Phase III, your online persona, your written and oral communications will all clearly articulate why you’re a perfect fit for your desired job.


C-1 Customize your resume and Linkedin Profile. Take 3-5 jobs of interest and look for common key words and qualifications – make sure your resume and Linkedin Profile reflects these.
C-2 Draft a cover letter template. With a specific job in mind, draft a cover letter and get feedback from others. Since these need to be customized for each job, get comfortable writing them.
C-3 Develop your story. How are you going to pull your past work history and your goals together into a coherent story that will resonate with others and encourage them to help you in your search? What is your career trajectory? Answer the question, “What do you do?."
C-4 Practice your interviewing skills. Write down behavioral answers to key questions you might be asked, practice with our Career Management Staff.

Phase D: Move into Action

Once you’ve tested your story and refined it and received a few referrals, it is time to move into high gear. Phase IV is the active job search.


D-1 Define your target market and develop a strategy. Define the industry, geographic location, type of culture and job function. Develop a list of 50 companies that might fit your objectives and identify who you need to connect with that may not be in your current network.
D-2 Write down your career action plan. Develop your objectives, goals, tactics and metrics. Outline your timeline to securing that next job.
D-3 Talk with hiring managers. The average person secures a job after talking with 20-30 hiring managers (individuals who would be your boss). Gain these referrals through your friends and acquaintances. Think one hiring manager per week for six months or two hiring managers per week for three months.
D-4 Practice your salary negotiation skills. Most job offers contain some room for negotiation, research your field and be prepared to answer “how much are you looking for?”
D-5 Plan your Transition. Once you’ve secured your new position, we encourage you to develop a transition plan for your first three months in order to hit the ground running. Some people have had success sharing this transition plan in their final interview.


  1. Hiring managers are those individuals who have the potential to be your boss.
  2. Informationals are one-on-one meetings with professionals who work for the company, industry or field you desire.
  3. Recruiters are individuals who source candidates for the hiring manager. Typically, a recruiter will work in human resources although some companies outsource their recruitment function to agencies. In small companies, the hiring manager might take on the role of the recruiter and source their own candidates.

Looking for more ways to ensure that you're interview ready? Check out the Second Year Checklist!

Willamette University

MBA Career Management

Salem Campus

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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