Being smart about employment

Regardless of what you have done in the past, thinking proactively and planning ahead for your post-grad employment is a good idea.

Finding full-time employment that matches your field of study after university is not easy, especially in a struggling economy. So how can you make your life easier, both now and later? The Cord looks into career planning strategies to help make your task more manageable.

What type of employment should I be looking for?

This is a complicated question. The easiest way to answer this would be to say you should be seeking out employment that will somehow help you reach your long-term career goals.

But what does that really mean? And what about those of us who haven’t solidified our career goals?

For those of us who aren’t sure how to get from where we are to where we want to be and for those of us who really aren’t sure where we want to be, there are some helpful things to keep in mind.

Building your skills

Career consulting co-ordinator Tara Orchard from Laurier’s Career Development Center stresses the importance of transferable skills.

What skills do you have?
What skills do you want or need to gain?
What skills do you want to use?
What skills are specific industries looking for?

Answering these questions will help you make informed choices about your summer employment. Making informed choices about your employment now will increase your odds of landing a job after graduation that leaves you feeling both challenged and satisfied.

What about volunteering and non-paid internships?

Co-op students certainly have an advantage built in to the very structure of their degree, but a student who is pro-active about their employment and volunteering choices can graduate with the same experience as any co-op student.

Volunteering and non-paid internships are great ways to develop your skills and give back to the community. It is important to remember that volunteering for the sake of putting it on your resume is not going to get you far.

It is important to find ways to gain skills from your time volunteering that will make you a more attractive candidate for future employment opportunities. Volunteering should be beneficial for all parties involved.

Finding the job

Finding and obtaining a job that suits your skill level, is within your field and meets your financial expectations can be difficult, but not impossible.

Orchard informed the Cord that in a good economy, a post-graduate career search takes six to nine months on average, in a bad economy, nine to 12 months.

That is why planning ahead and thinking proactively about your future is not only important, but seriously worthwhile. Modern job searching has come a long way from simply checking the classifieds and handing out resumes. Taking advantage of all available resources in a job search is necessary to ensure speedy and successful results.

Ideally, you should be:

1) Taking advantage of internet resources to find the job and present yourself professionally
2) Joining professional organizations
3) Consulting career experts early
4) Networking

Tips on professional networking

Professional networking is the creation and development of business friendships and connections.

Networking can play a big role in the choices that you make and the career path you end up following. It requires a long-term commitment to building and maintaining professional relationships with a diverse range of people in different industries. Keep in mind that this does not happen overnight and works best when started long before a job search.

Remember, networking is not about meeting new people and then asking for a job. It is about getting your name out there and making yourself known to people in various fields. Orchard stresses the importance of online social networks and the role that they should be playing in your job hunt.

The world of business is changing and if you aren’t keeping up with it there is a good chance that potential employers are wondering why not.

“Last year, having an online image could hurt you, this year, not having one is worse,” Orchard added.

If you aren’t a part of online social networks, potential employers might wonder “why not?” I bet you didn’t think that Twitter could make or break your job hunt, but these days your online image can be the deciding factor in whether or not you get the job, or even an interview.

Of course, it really isn’t as simple as having a Facebook or Twitter account. The important part is how you use these social networking tools to create and then cultivate your professional image in ways that will help, rather than hinder your job search.

One of the more recent developments in the online social networking craze is the popularity of the personal blog.

Orchard speaks highly of blogs, emphasizing that keeping a blog – especially one related to your field – demonstrates that you are an expert, self motivated and dedicated. A blog can serve as physical proof of the qualities that you claim to have on your resume.

Professional networking resources
A popular networking community designed specifically to connect people in professional circles.

Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK)
Accessible through the Career Development Center’s website, ASK was designed to connect Laurier students with alumni in their field. This is not a place to go looking for a job, but rather a place to learn about a field that interests you from people willing to share their experience and knowledge.

Landing the job

So you’ve done your research, you’ve identified the skills that you need to work on, and narrowed down the type of employment that will facilitate the development of those skills… but you don’t look all that great on paper.

Perhaps you have a string of labour jobs filling your resume, or maybe you have spent a lot of time working in the fast food industry.

There’s no hope… right?


If you think carefully about the work you have done in the past, you might surprise yourself with the set of skills you have developed.

Remember, it’s not just what you do, but how you do it.

For instance, for those of you who have worked in retail, the transferable skills you had the potential to develop include those that fall under the categories of adaptability, flexibility and change management.

“You will only get out what you put in, from any job,” Orchard insists. “Figure out what skills you need to develop, and then find a way to work on those skills, regardless of where you work.”

Focusing on your transferable skills rather than your job title can be an effective way to highlight the pros of your previous work experience.

Job hunting secrets

1) Think long term
Keeping your future in mind will help motivate you to seek out beneficial jobs and get the most out of each employment experience now. Graduation might seem like a lifetime away, but it will be here before you know it. So get out there and get ready for it.

2) Focus on transferable skills, not just your job title
Thinking past, present and future is important when considering your transferable skills. What skills have I developed at past jobs? What skills do I currently have and use? What type of skills do I need to develop?

Employers are far more interested in your skills than your position. So drop the ego and allow every job to be a learning and growing experience.

3) Use every resource available to you when searching for employment
That means consulting career experts like those here at Laurer, talking to friends, paying attention to the newspaper, checking online classifieds, attending job fairs, keeping in touch with past employers and not giving up.

4) Network, network, network
Networking can be the key to a successful job search. It can also provide insight into industries and ultimately help you make informed choices about your career. Start building your professional network today.

5) Get online
Take advantage of the resources available to you on the Internet, and be smart about your online image. Have you typed your name into recently?

Finding and landing the perfect job is not an easy task, but you can make your life much easier by taking the time now to consider your options and to make informed, productive decisions about your future.