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UCLA Career Center

Develop a strategy to tackle your job search. Learn to create resumes and cover letters that effectively convey your talents and experiences to employers.

The average time to secure a job is typically 6-12 months. Depending on where you are in your program, and your career goals - how much time should you dedicate to your job search and how should you spend that time? The closer you are to completing your degree/training, the more time you should dedicate to the job search.

Job Search Strategies

Before you seriously start your job search, spend some time figuring out what you want to do and where you want to work. If you are not clear about your career path, check out our career exploration tab to learn how to investigate possible careers. Websites like ImaginePhD and MyIDP are particularly helpful.

Next, consider how much time you will dedicate to your job search on a weekly basis. Be specific, keeping in mind how soon you are hoping to find a position. We strongly encourage you to schedule dedicated time on a calendar to ensure that you prioritize your job search.

Consider different job search strategies:

  • Networking: Try to spend at least 50% of your dedicated time to networking. Research contacts, set up informational interviews, attend networking events, and schedule time to communicate with contacts to continue to build relationships with them.
  • Research Job Titles: If you know what industry you want to work in and/or what career path you want to follow, read job postings to learn more about specific positions and organizations where you might find a job. Click here to access a list of job search resources for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.
  • Attend Job Fairs: UCLA hosts 1 - 2 job fairs per quarter, including HIRE UCLA and the Engineering & Tech Fair, which are open to undergraduates, masters’ and PhD students, and postdoctoral scholars. These are big events so log into Handshake before the fair and develop a plan to effectively navigate the fair. You may also find job fairs off-campus, some of which are industry-specific.
  • Apply to Jobs Using Job Search Platforms like Indeed: Find jobs to apply for using job search software. This isn’t the most efficient way to find a job as studies suggest that 80% of these jobs are filled by people who did NOT apply through these platforms. If you are applying for jobs using these platforms, apply for many jobs and try to tailor your resume and cover letter for each job posting.
  • Leverage Your Existing Connections: Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for a job and explain what kinds of jobs you’re interested in finding. While friends and family may not be working in the field you want to work in, they may well know people they can introduce you to.

Make a plan to manage your job search alongside your other commitments. How will you best schedule your job search time commitments. Consider using a daily planner, Outlook or other online calendars, a phone app, or to-do lists to effectively organize your day and prioritize job search activities.

Use our Job Search Action Plan to create an actionable strategy to jumpstart your job search.

Resumes

A resume is necessary whenever you are applying for a non-academic job or internship. Unlike a CV, a resume is a one-page snapshot of the relevant skills needed for a specific job. As a result, a resume can and should be tailored for each job you apply to. For more information on the differences between resumes and CVs, review our CV vs Resume fact sheet.

Sample Resumes

Click on the examples below to learn how to format a resume:

Additional Tips for Building Resumes

  • Tailor your resume to the job posting. Use this [Job Description & Tailored Resume Example] to see how a resume can be tailored by a close reading of the job description.
  • Write strong descriptions of your accomplishments. Resume bullet points should demonstrate your achievements in a particular role, highlighting your success and skills as they relate to the job application. They should be organized by most impactful accomplishments first and tailored to the specific job you are applying to. Don’t list duties or the daily tasks of your position. Instead, demonstrate your value by highlighting the depth and breadth of your work and skills. When writing the accomplishment statement ask these questions:
    1. What skills do I need to demonstrate for the job I am applying to?
    (refer back to specific job description)
    2. What did I accomplish in this role that demonstrates those skills?

Example: Breaking Down Your Experience
Think about the duties and responsibilities performed in your position. From there, determine what you have accomplished related to those specific tasks/projects. The demonstrated accomplishment is your final “product”.
Duties:
Graded homework, taught labs, met with students during office hours
NOTE: Duties don’t demonstrate your capabilities or skill level
Accomplishments:
Taught weekly lab meetings for 25 undergraduate biology majors
Advised 5 students on final paper and in class presentation
NOTE: Quantify your work - consider frequency, and total impact.
Demonstrated Accomplishment:
Taught and assessed biology concept applications for 25 undergraduate students through interactive instruction in weekly labs, written assignments and in-person advising

  • Start each bullet point with a strong active verb. Use our Active Verb List to help identify appropriate verbs.

Cover Letters

A Cover Letter is a tailored one-page document that provides context and in depth examples of your skills, knowledge, experience and fit for the position. The cover letter should focus more on 2 - 3 needs outlined by the job description and how your skill set and experience aligns with those needs. A good cover letter is targeted and does not simply restate the resume. This is also an opportunity to express enthusiasm for the position and organization by demonstrating how well you understand their mission, vision, and accomplishments.

A Cover letter is almost always required of candidates in all professional industries. Though called a cover letter, they are typically read by employers after the resume is reviewed, so they need to provide more tailored and targeted information. When submitting application documents, always save as a PDF. If submitting via email, put the cover letter in the body of the email and attach it as a PDF.

Download a sample cover letter template here.

Tips to Craft a Strong Cover Letter

Header: Use the same heading as your resume to create a “letterhead” for your documents.

First Paragraph: (Purpose)

  • State why you are writing and the position at the company you are applying for. Indicate how you learned of this position.
  • If referred, be sure to include the name of the referral in this paragraph.
  • Demonstrate briefly your knowledge of the company, and create a thesis statement that outlines your unique qualifications for the job.

Second Paragraph: (Background and Qualifications)

  • If you have related experience or specialized training, elaborate on the details that would be of special interest to the employer.
  • Be specific about your qualifications and skills. h Provide examples on how you obtained/honed these skills. Your goal here is to match your skills to the employer’s needs.
  • Explain how you would fit into the position and the organization. If it gets lengthy, break this paragraph into two, to make it more readable.

Third Paragraph: (Request for Action)

  • Close your letter with confidence by briefly restating how your qualifications match the position.
  • Express your interest in further discussing your background and the position with the employer.
  • Finally, include a statement expressing your appreciation for the employer’s consideration.