Job Search Preparation

Take advantage of: career fairs, workshops, Nittany Lion Career Network, on-campus interviewing, and career counseling.

Clarify Your Career Goals

  • Identify your interests, values, and abilities through individual career counseling
  • Reflect on your education, experiences, and personal attributes
  • Determine what you can offer employers
  • Consider your personal preferences (geographic location, employer size, work environment)

Identify Your Job Target

Plan and Organize Your Job Search

  • Identify the steps you need to take and the resources you will need
  • Create a timeline for your job search plan
  • Utilize resources from Career Services and your academic college
  • Track your progress and your interactions with employers
  • Remember adversity is part of job search, so maintain a positive frame of mind and be persistent

Create Effective Job Search Tools

Your resume and cover letter are often the first impression you make as a professional or potential graduate student.

Use Multiple Job Search Strategies

A job search involves more than one strategy to communicate with prospective employers. Some industries favor the use of some strategies over others. Review all of the strategies to determine which works best for your field. No matter your interest, networking remains one of the top strategies. As you engage in the various job search strategies, consider working with an individual career counselor as your job search coach.


Networking Guidelines

  • Decide what type of information you want
  • Compile a list of questions to ask
  • Research the industry and specific employers
  • Conduct Informational Interviews with professionals in the field
  • Send thank-you notes in appreciation of their time and information
  • Develop a contacts file to keep track of the information shared and for follow-up


LionLink is a networking program designed to help Penn State students make professional connections and gain useful information to assist with career decisions and job searches. Nittany Lion Career Network (NLCN) is the primary online resource for connecting students with employers.

Career Fairs

Career Fairs give you the opportunity to meet with recruiters in person to explore opportunities and to build networking contacts. 

Targeted Searches

A targeted search involves identifying key criteria you seek in your future position and using resources to compile a list of specific employers who meet those criteria. To develop a targeted list, consider your answers to these questions:

  • What type of employer, job function, or industry are you interested in?
  • In what geographic area you would like to work?

There are various resources to assist you with developing a targeted list of employers, including:

  • Hoover's is one of the most respected sites for researching companies, people, and industries. Access Hoover's through the University Libraries database.
  • CareerSearch is an online database with more than 10 million contacts and 4 million employers from every major section of the business, academic and non-profit industries. Searches can be conducted using a variety of factors including industry, geographic region, city, etc. To access this resource, stop by Career Services and speak to the Career Services Coordinator.


The internet is useful in obtaining information related to your job search: job postings, employer data, salary statistics, employment and workforce trends, and much more. Knowing which sites are most useful and how to identify high quality information, can help you use your time wisely. Even though the internet may be helpful in identifying opportunities, it is not recommended that you rely on this strategy alone.

Professional Associations

Most fields have one or more professional associations that represent their career area. These sites are geared toward the practicing professional, but many also have an area for students interested in that discipline. Professional association sites are useful in learning about the profession and identifying employment opportunities in the field. To learn about the associations related to your career field, search online.

State and Local Employment Agencies

Each state has a government-sponsored employment agency to assist residents in finding employment.  In addition, there are private agencies that offer short- and long-term employment opportunities. Be sure to research each agency to understand potential fees and policies for involvement with the agency.

Evaluate Job Offers

When receiving written employment offers, read the offer and make sure that you understand the details. Various aspects of the offer may be negotiated depending on industry.  Work with an individual career counselor to determine if negotiating is appropriate.

Prioritize What is Most Important to You

  • Interest in the type of position, employer, and industry
  • Values (helping others, work/life balance, salary, etc.)
  • Geographic location
  • Other factors

Understand the Offer

  • What position is being offered?
  • How does the offer reflect the work you want to do and the type of organization you want to work with?
  • What is the rate and schedule of pay?
  • How does the rate of pay and your expected budget compare with the cost of living?
  • How does the offer compare with research you have conducted to learn about typical salaries for people with your education and experience?
  • What is the employment start-date?
  • What type of benefits and insurances (health, pension, educational, other) are available and at what cost?
  • What is the amount of vacation and holiday time?
  • When does the employer expect you to make a decision?

If you have questions about any aspect of the offer, ask your contact within the organization. Employers are bound by ethical standards and should:

  • Provide accurate information about their organization, positions, career advancement opportunities, and benefits
  • Provide candidates with a reasonable amount of time to make a decision about the offer
  • Offer fair and equitable assistance if, because of changing circumstances an employer must revoke a job offer

Determine your Worth - Research Salary Information

Assess the Offer

  • Salary
  • Compensation and benefits (healthcare, signing bonus, relocation, 401K and retirement)

Negotiate Offers

  • Determine what you are willing to accept based on your values, skills, and experiences; industry market; geographic areas; and other factors
  • Develop your approach
  • Be firm yet tactful
  • Examine the risks
  • Seek advice from Career Counseling

Accept or Decline the Offer

  • Get your final offer in writing
  • Accept or decline your offer in writing

Ethical Considerations

One of the most difficult aspects of evaluating offers is that all offers may not be received at the same time.  As you prepare to interview, make sure that you develop questions about the position and organization which will help you to evaluate whether you want to accept this position if an offer is extended to you. As you receive an offer, you may have interviews scheduled with other organizations. It is appropriate to ask for additional time to consider an offer while interviewing with additional organizations. 

Ethical Standards After Accepting an Offer

  • Withdraw from the recruiting process and let employers know you are no longer available
  • Cancel all pending interviews
  • Notify Career Services, if registered for On-Campus Interviewing

If there are extenuating circumstances that require you to withdraw an offer, talk to a career counselor about the ramifications and way to handle this kind of situation.

Job Posting/Company Verification Disclaimer

Read the full disclaimer which describes the shared responsibility among Penn State Career Services (including University Park and Commonwealth Campus career offices) and internship/job seekers in researching and identifying potential concerns about the legitimacy of employers and their respective postings.