Despite the recent challenges in Alberta and the fear of ongoing job loss, there are still plenty of job opportunities out there. At Mount Royal University’s Career and Recruitment Fair on March 9, 83 exhibitors were collectively offering more than 1200 job vacancies in multiple industries. That being said, there is also more competition and it is true that there are fewer opportunities in some industries. In order to gain a competitive edge in this challenging job market, be proactive and have a plan. Creating an effective job search plan is your first step towards a successful job search. Even if you are currently employed, knowing what an effective job search plan entails can set you up for future success.
Big picture, there are two main things to consider before taking any steps:
- Know what you are looking for: Before even starting your job search, you need to understand your skills and interests and know what type and level of work you are looking for. One of the keys to a successful job search is knowing what makes you a unique candidate, knowing what qualifies you for the position you want and communicating this effectively to the ‘right’ prospective employer.
- Be proactive and have a plan: In some industries you will not see many ‘job postings’. You need to know how and when different industries “hire” their top talent. Researching employers, figuring out how to make contact with them and preparing yourself can seem daunting, but if you break it out into small steps it’s much more doable and you can measure your successes as you go.
Steps for job searching in a competitive economy:
1) Network, Network, Network
Take inventory of the people you know, connections you’ve made, and future connections you would like to make. Consider doing a mind map that lists all of your contacts including those met through volunteering, social clubs, associations, special projects, job fairs, school events and employment. Begin to network at every opportunity that arises; this will help connect you to prospective employers and future employment opportunities. Talk to our team about the Calgary Connector Program for recent graduates that helps under or unemployed alumni connect with employers in their field of study. Visit the Career Services events page for weekly updates on upcoming networking fairs and events. Also, think about joining an Alumni Group and attending alumni events to meet other alumni from your program or industry.
- Spring clean your social networks: Maintaining a professional presence on ALL social media is vitally important. It doesn’t matter if your profile is set to private, you need to assume the image you are portraying on any social media is open for public display and potential scrutiny of future employers. Remove any images that could cause embarrassment or cost you a job offer if viewed by future employers. Use social media to build a better professional network, trace down contacts and job leads. Our ONLINE PRESENCE TIP SHEET is a valuable resource with step by step instructions on how to use your online presence to enhance your professional job search plan.
- Create personalized business cards: Personal business cards are a great way to pass on information about yourself when you first meet someone. Include your basic contact information, a few of the primary qualifications you can offer, and links to any sites you have created for yourself, such as a digital portfolio.
- Access the hidden job market: While you should apply to posted jobs with tailored resumes and cover letters, experts agree that many jobs are not posted. You need to access this hidden job market! Learn how to network and build relationships with professionals in your field. Connect with people that have similar roles to yours but that work in other fields or industries.
2) Customize your Job Search
Be clear and intentional when applying for positions. You should clearly know and be able to articulate both verbally and in writing why you are well qualified for the position at hand.
- Customize your resumes and cover letters: Customizing your marketing materials will go a long way in helping you stand out. Do not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to developing your marketing materials. Tailor each resume and cover letter to the particular opportunity you want. Clearly specify how your experience and education connect to the position. Try to obtain the name of the hiring manager to personalize your cover letter. Ensure your materials provide specific proof points of why you are a good candidate for the job you are applying for.
- Put your experience to work: Don’t short change yourself. Find the value gained from all your experiences. Look at your volunteering, internships, work, committees and memberships, education and academic projects. Take stock of the transferable job related skills you acquired from these experiences and include them in your resume and share specific results achieved during interviews.
- Fill in the gaps: If you are aiming for positions that have experience or education you do not currently have identify HOW you can acquire those skill sets. Assess what jobs you are currently well qualified for, and what it would take to get you to that next level. Don’t apply for positions that far exceed your current experience, but rather work towards those opportunities by having a clear and strategic plan over time.
3) Make a Plan
Looking for a new job is a full-time job! Take some time to identify where you are today, and where you want to be in one month, six months, and one year.
- Set goals: Goal setting includes writing out a plan of action, including what you want to achieve by when. Your plan should be specific, measurable and realistic. If you are not where you hoped to be at your check-in point, don’t get discouraged. Remember, the best plans are always in transition. Share your action plan with someone you trust, a mentor or coach perhaps, someone who will hold you accountable.
- Keep an open mind: Attitude can make or break an opportunity. Be prepared to look outside the box, and assess how this current opportunity could impact your future. Some companies may offer all sorts of great incentives, unique learning experience, or opportunities to advance. Know what is important to you before you attend the interview, as this will give you the upper-hand when it comes time to negotiate your value.
- Prepare for formal and informal interviews: Make a great first impression! For formal interviews, do your research on the company, dress for success, practice your handshake. Make certain you can support the claims made in your resume and show proof of your competencies. Interviews can be stressful. Preparation is the key, therefore, practice, practice, and more practice. Informal interviews happen all the time. You never know when a chance encounter may lead to a real opportunity. Be prepared to share who you are, what you have to offer in a professional context and what you see yourself doing. These one to two minute elevator speeches are key.
- Get started: Read more about each topic covered above in our career and employment tip sheets. You can also begin by visiting your Career Services Centre or using free Alberta Government services to get professional assistance in leveraging your career. Services may include professional critiques of your marketing materials, interview preparation, access to job banks, job search assistance, labor market research and more. Get started by creating your own custom job search plan today
Article written by: Patsy Valenzuela, Career Services supervisor, Mount Royal University. BLOG content adopted by David Babaganov, marketing and communications assistant.
Mount Royal Career Services offers services to graduates of Mount Royal University credit certificates, diplomas, bachelor degrees and applied degrees.