Career Development and Your Future

We’ve made it through midterms! Which means the often imposing graduation event is inching closer for students graduating this December. Many students experience excitement and elation as the big day finally approaches, but many are still nervous or even terrified of the next step after graduating college. Despite years of educational opportunities, many still do not feel entirely prepared for taking that next step into the World of Work. Why is this so often the case? Perhaps it is because our generation has been promised that if we go to college and work hard, we will be rewarded with nice jobs once we graduate. So, we go to school for an average of 4 more years to get additional education on topics we don’t need for our career and then spend the last two years of our time in college finally focusing on our major area of study. Then graduation approaches and we are told we must now suddenly understand how to navigate in an entirely different world.

Finding a job can be an exhausting and uncertain process. Tracking down job positions that match your interests, preparing a competitive résumé (and perhaps other documents), finding solid references, nailing the interview, sending transcripts, hoping and praying for a callback… Not to mention many college students cannot afford college, and so many of us leave the same way we arrived— broke! So how can we make this process easier and less scary for everyone? Preparation is key, my friends.

How to Kill that Job Hunt

What you’ll need to do and have:

  • Research yourself and opportunities
  • Professional documents (résumé, cover letter, references)
  • Interview practice

Reputable sites for you


In January 2018 Handshake became the leading early talent network, uniting 500 schools, over 9 million students and young alumni, and more than 250,000 employers on one career network. Stephen F. Austin State University also utilizes this job-posting platform, which means you have access to all career opportunities through Handshake free of charge forever! Even as alumni, you can access this amazing talent network thanks to SFA’s Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD). On this site, you can access not only job opportunities but also workshops, career fairs, training events, tons of reputable resources, document critique services, interview services, career coaching and anything else you can imagine you’ll need to prepare yourself for the career world! Access the site here using your mySFA credentials:



With O*Net, you may have to search around to find the site’s preferred keyword for certain occupations you’re looking for.  For example, if you were to type in “Nurse” in the keyword box at the top of the home page, you would get around ten results with “nurse” in the occupation title (e.g., “Registered Nurses”, “Nurse Midwives,” etc.).




Occupational Outlook Handbook

A great thing about the Occupational Outlook Handbook is that the information is updated on a yearly basis, including areas of job outlook, earnings and projected job growth over a ten year span.  There is also plenty of information on job descriptions.



  1. Go to 
  2. Search for an occupation by using the toolbar on the left, such as by looking at general professions (e.g., “Farming”, “Professional”, “Service”, etc.) or by using the search box.


Texas Reality Check

Texas Reality Check will show you how much your living expenses will cost, and the amount of money you will need to earn to pay for them. Utilize the Occupation Calculator! Choose an occupation and then review your expenses to see if its salary can support your lifestyle. 

Document Prep


Most places require, at the very least, a résumé. A résumé takes time to complete. It should be well-organized and thought out. The basic outline of a résumé includes a header with your contact info, an education section and an experience section wherein you will incorporate all your transferrable skills.

  • Don’t use a template!It’s easier to edit later if you don’t and many templates are not up to industry standards today. 
  • Have someone look at it before you take it to an employer.There are multiple sites you can use to accomplish this, but there are also free document critique services for SFA students and alumni through the CCPD. Trust me, you’ll want trained professionals to make your résumé the most competitive it can be.
  • Don’t include your references or a summary.Your references should go on their own document, separate from the résumé, and a summary can be re-formatted into a nice cover letter once you start applying.
  • Don’t get personal.You want to avoid discrimination at all costs, so don’t include sensitive information that can cause employers to re-evaluate your application. Things to keep off include your sex, date of birth, ethnicity, religious affiliation, familial information or anything that conveys your physical image.


Cover Letters

Many employers ask that a cover letter accompany the résumé. A cover letter is formal, customized correspondence officially stating your interest in a job. Here are some tips about writing that attention-grabbing cover letter:

  • Address your cover letter to a specific person, rather than "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam."
    • Make sure you spell names of people and the organization correctly
  • Use the same heading as on your résumé for consistency.
  • Write creatively and use your voice.This will help employers get a glimpse of your wonderful personality, which can really aid in making you a more competitive applicant.
  • The body of your cover letter should include:
    • An introduction of yourself
    • Why are you writing them? What interests you about their position?
    • How do your qualifications fit the job?
    • A confidently requested interview
    • Professional closing and thanks



Select your references carefully. These people should be able to attest to your positive work-related qualities. It is advisable that you ask past and present employers, faculty members, advisors and coaches to be your references. Remember to ask your references for permission before you include them in any of your documents. 


Be sure to include the following set of information for each reference:

  • Full Name (using a proper salutation, such as "Mr." or "Mrs.")
  • Title
  • Organization
  • Mailing Address
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address



Going into interviews are extremely intimidating to some and awkward for everyone, so here are a few tips to make the process easier. 

  • Be yourself. Demonstrate a sincere interest in the position. Project energy and enthusiasm. Avoid memorizing your responses to sound more natural in your answers. 
  • Listen carefully and respond accordingly. Give specific examples, brief and to the point, and avoid being overly general.
  • Treat the interview as if it were a conversation. Picture yourself speaking with someone you’ve known for years, not a total stranger you just met.
  • Keep answers focused on skills needed for the position. Avoid personal or irrelevant information.
  • Never criticize a previous employer. Keep all explanations professional in nature.
  • Be confident and comfortable talking about yourself. It may be hard at first, but talk about yourself the way your grandmother might talk about you. 
  • Avoid “fillers”(ex. Um, so, uh, like, you know, etc.) by practicing beforehand and taking a moment to collect your thoughts before responding. 
  • Use language that puts you on their team: “As a member of your team, I would…”
  • Answer questions with a completed structure. That is, an introductory statement, the body of the answer and a strong concluding statement that summarizes your response.
  • Place a positive spin on potentially negative questions.


Center for Career and Professional Development

These tips are all thanks to the Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) at SFA. Should you need further help or access to any of these resources, check their site: