Image: Alicia Scott
John Bazemore  /  AP
Spelman College student Alicia Scott, 23, of Riverdale, Ga., fills out a job application at an Atlanta McDonald's restaurant.
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updated 9/7/2011 8:11:36 AM ET 2011-09-07T12:11:36

The biggest challenge for college students is a class that isn't formally recognized. It could be called Juggling Life, and it involves the fine skill of balancing demands and opportunities that scream for your attention while still getting in a few hours of sleep. Job hunting while you're in school will mean calling that skill into play. Here's how to job hunt without losing your mind.

First, realize that job hunting takes time. It takes a good amount of time whether you're looking for any old part-time job to give you a little extra cash, a specific type of job to increase your skills or, for full-time employment to jump into post-graduation. Once you realize job hunting requires time, you can schedule it in.

The steps of the job hunting process
There are several steps in the job hunting process, and you can break these down and accomplish them one at a time. When you do that, you can use a spare hour or even a few minutes here and there rather than trying to find a whole day to get the job hunting done.

The steps include:
• Preparing your resume
• Looking for job opportunities
• Filling out applications/sending in resumes
• Following up
• Interviewing

Finding time for each step
Preparing your resume is the first necessary step. Take advantage of the many free resources available to college students and march yourself over to the career services center of your post-secondary institution. You'll want to have an hour or two to get help with creating a professional resume and cover letter.

After your initial time at the career services center, you may find that you need to go track down information (high school activities, previous employer's contact information, etc.). Schedule an hour or two to get that information, and then put another hour into finalizing and polishing your resume and cover letter.

Total estimated time: Four to six hours in two to three segments.

Looking for job opportunities can start with a simple Internet search. Before you start Googling "flexible job with great pay, walking distance from campus." make a list of your criteria for a job. For example, what hours do you have available outside of classes for studying? What's left tells you how many hours you can work per week.

If you're looking for post-graduate employment, make a list of your preferred locations. You may not get a job in one of your top-five picks, but you can at least start looking there. Making a list of your criteria should take 30 minutes to an hour.

Once you've done that, you can look for job opportunities in these different ways:

• Send an email out to friends, colleagues, parents of friends and so on. Put a brief description of your skills and the type of job you're looking for, and ask them to refer you if they know of a match. Often your network will know of opportunities you won't be able to find any other way. Estimated time: 20 minutes.

• Use an online service or Internet search to find job opportunities that match your criteria. Estimated time: One hour (budget in one hour at a time).

• Call or visit career services and ask about any local or on-campus job opportunities they know about. Estimated time: 20 minutes to one hour.

• Make a list of places you would like to work, then find the contact information for the manager. You can send the manager an email, make a phone call or make a visit to ask about possible employment. Estimated time: One hour per potential place.

Total estimated time: Five hours to get started in five different segments, and one hour segments as needed after that.

The last three steps will depend on what you find in your job hunting. For some job opportunities, it will be a matter of going to the location and filling out an application. Plan on one hour for each of these visits. You'll often find it takes less time. Take your cover letter and resume with you so you have all your education and employment information to easily copy what you need onto the application.

Sending in resumes can be a very quick process. Many open jobs set up an online system or give you an email contact, so all you have to do is input your cover letter and send your resume file. Plan on 15 minutes for each submission.

Following up on your applications and submissions can be done by email, phone or in person. Wait at least three days (one week is better) before following up, then send a brief email, make a quick phone call or drop by the location.

Be polite and succinct because time is valuable. All you need to say is: "I was just following up on the application/resume I submitted last week. Have you had a chance to look it over?" Plan on five minutes per email, 10 minutes per phone call and 20 minutes plus transportation time per visit. For interviews, you'll want to accommodate the potential employer. Plan on at least an hour for the interview itself and give yourself plenty of time to get ready.

Total estimated time: Three to 10 hours broken up into small segments, plus interview time.

The bottom line
You may get lucky and land the first job you apply for. If you don't, you can successfully hunt and find a job while juggling the demands of school. Tackle one step at a time, and keep plugging away in between classes and studying. Don't forget to socialize.

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