By: Tanya Kett, career counsellor
When I was an undergrad student, I took a part-time job in a shoe store. I expected to work long retail hours, and I knew I wanted more than stacking boxes of shoes, but what I didn’t expect was that this job would open up the door to my first professional employment opportunity. I started to screen resumes, participate in hiring interviews, train new employees and create weekly work schedules. And one of the people I helped at the store ended up leading me to my next employer.
The experience really made me realize that you don’t always know where your next opportunity may be. As you get started on your job search, it’s important to be open to opportunities and to think of the big picture. To help, I’ve put together some job search tips that might prove useful as you prepare for the labour market.
Is making money your primary goal? Do you want to build experience in your field? Or are you searching for something related to your degree? It’s helpful to prioritize your goals because it’s normal to not achieve everything at once.
Cast your job search net as wide as you can to maximize your opportunities. You never know who will lead you to your next opportunity. Search for ways to gain skills, experience, references, professional contacts and exposure to work environments in your field.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t end up with the exact type of job you had in mind. Many experiences can help build your career, so consider the bigger picture.
- If you work in retail, fast food or any areas involving a lot of people, try to make the most of every conversation. You may be providing service to your future manager or someone who can refer you to your future employer.
- Try searching for general office or data entry positions to gain experience in the industry or at the company you want to work with. Applying strategically can position you to be an internal candidate for future postings, build your professional contacts and help you gain exposure to the work environment you want to be in.
- Don’t avoid all contract or entry-level positions. We all start somewhere. Often, employers prefer to hire someone they know through referrals and internal candidates, including part-time employees, full-time employees, volunteers, etc. Position yourself to be that person they know.
- Don’t let postings that require years of experience deter you. Apply anyway, especially if it asks for two years or less experience. Remember, if you don’t apply, the answer will always be no.
Volunteer opportunities, informational interviews and job shadow experiences can help you meet your goals in different — and sometimes more flexible — ways. Always consider alternate options.
Your resume and cover letter should reflect your intended audience and industry using associated keywords. If you don’t have access to a job posting to pull these words, ask yourself, “what skills do I need to do this job?” Try searching the National Occupational Classification code or Career Cruising for typical duties of the occupation you’re interested in.
Most students job search online because it’s easy, convenient and comfortable. Guess what? So many other job seekers feel the same way, which means you might have a lot of competition for jobs. Plus, it’s harder to tap in to the hidden job market, where 85% of the jobs are. They key to accessing these jobs is networking through messaging your contacts, conducting informational interviews and checking out volunteer opportunities that may be in your field of interest.
Did you know that it can take up to 50 applications to get a single interview? Think of job searching like a job — you have to put in the effort to enjoy the benefits!
Set yourself up for success by checking in with yourself at the end of each week to acknowledge your progress — even if it’s one hour that you can check off as complete. Ensure your job search schedule is sustainable and achievable. Make adjustments as needed to stay on track.
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If you enjoyed this article, you can read more on the Student Success Centre’s Career and Employment LinkedIn group.
Get more support with these SSC programs and services
Job fairs are a great way to meet employers and learn about positions in different industries. We host several job fairs and events to support your job search and connect you with interesting organizations and opportunities.
- Fall Career Fair: This campus career fair takes place every year in September.
- Community Engagement and Volunteer Fair: Learn how to get involved in the community and gain experience at this fair, which happens every September.
- Volunteer and Part-Time Job Fair: We host this fair twice a year, usually in May and November.
- Connect to Careers Job Fair: This community job fair takes place every year in March.
Attend a company recruitment session to meet hiring employers, learn about companies in your industry of interest, explore positions and get all the information you need to set your application apart from other candidates. Browse upcoming sessions on OSCARplus > Student Success Centre > Events.
If you’re in your third year or higher, check out the Final-Year Recruitment Hub on Microsoft Teams for access to job posting alerts and all upcoming company sessions.
If you identify as a member of an equity-deserving group or have barriers to employment, Career Access Professional Services (CAPS) can help. The CAPS team provides compassionate, personalized support. Services include job searching, career counselling, further education support, information on disability disclosure and navigating the workplace and more.