Faculty Recruiting Support CICS

Decide What Matters

Specific Criteria Helps Others Help You


Many students answer "what kind of job do you want?" with "anything". Or "software engineer".

It might seem counterintuitive, but this actually makes it harder for others to help you!

Imagine you are a waiter and a customer wants a recommendation for dinner. Without knowing if they have food allergies, or are on a diet, or love seafood, it's a bit daunting trying to give good advice.

The same is true in a job search situation. The more specific search criteria you share, the more likely someone will be able to match you to an idea, contact or opportunity (now or often in the near future). 

So what is search criteria?

Search criteria is what helps you better answer "what kind of job do you want". Examples include location preferences such as large cities in the Northeast, or skills such as data science

Our Decide What Matters survey walks you through six different search criteria categories. This step is so critical to job search success, we often end up focusing on it during our one-on-one career coaching appointments.  

What if you don't have a preference?

No problem! Here are some ways you can start to develop preferences over time.

  1. Do online research. Handshake has thousands of employers and jobs so you can easily read company profiles and job descriptions. Or our CS Employment Exploration Matrix helps you explore how our Top Employers work across a broad array of industries and hire many different roles.
  2. Think about what you don't like. This strategy is one of the top insights from the famous job search book What Color Is Your Parachute. Not sure where you want to live after graduation but you know you don't like snowy winters? Canada is probably not a good idea!
  3. Ask someone who knows. Maybe you aren't sure if you'd rather work at a large or small employer. Try networking with a friend or family member who has worked in both settings. Or join a student organization and chat with a classmate. All it takes is asking about their experience and then listening.
  4. Work on a project. Hackathons, class and personal projects all give you a great opportunity to figure out what you enjoy most, while also building your skills and experience. Who knows, it might even inspire you to become an entrepreneur

If you are feeling overwhelmed by all these "decisions", remember that your preferences can and will change over time. This design thinking approach, inspired by Designing Your Life, encourages you to iterate and learn.

Taking the time now to decide what matters will ultimately help you find a job that is a better fit. As an added bonus, you won't be tempted to answer your interviewer's question, "why do you want to work here" with "well I was looking for anything...".

Take a minute to fill out the Decide What Matters survey and then practice sharing your highest priority search criteria with friends, family, and CICS Careers so we can all help you look.