Career changes don’t happen overnight. And sometimes your dream job doesn’t materialize right away — especially during an economic downturn. But you can take steps while you’re in graduate school to position yourself for your ideal job later.

We asked Richard Allen, MBA ’01, for his suggestions, because he’s been there. Allen graduated during an economic downturn and didn’t find his dream job in human resources management right away, but he now holds a leadership position in HR as the human resources specialist at the Texas Facilities Commission.

Here are his suggestions, based on his own job-search experience and his expertise in recruiting, interviewing and onboarding:

1. Stay focused.

When you go back to school, have the end game in mind. You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do, but having a goal keeps you focused. Meeting with a St. Edward’s career counselor or a professor can help you refine your objective.

2. Explore your field.

Get involved in the field you want to enter, even before you have the credentials. I joined professional groups for human resource managers and started networking. I also volunteered to help people write their resumes.

3. Think ahead.

Research the companies you might want to work for and the jobs you might want to have. While you’re in school, tailor your experience to develop the skills and expertise they’re looking for.

4. Use your resources.

The staff in the St. Edward’s career center and at Workforce Solutions have really good training that can help you with your resume, practice interviews, and understanding the current hiring landscape.

5. Have an elevator pitch.

If someone asks you why you’re going back to school and what you want to do with the degree, be able to tell them in 20 to 30 seconds. You need to have thought about it enough that you can succinctly and confidently explain what your goals are.

6. Network, network, network.

Start when you’re in grad school. Connect with your classmates and your professors on LinkedIn, and reach out to St. Edward’s graduates who work at the companies that interest you. Try to meet people in person when you can; take them to coffee. Online connections are good, but in-person connections are more powerful.