Sunday, 7 April 2013

Lost and Found's Guide to Post-Grad Employment

So apparently I am good at job hunting.

In early January I posted an article entitled ‘Happy New Fear’ that was supposed to reflect my anxiety on formulating some kind of post-graduate career plan amidst a plethora of under-employed former students. As it turns out, it was the same gut-wrenching apprehension of joblessness that motivated me to ruthlessly search for a position that suited me and my interests. Oh, and it paid off – with a full time position as Personal Support Worker with March of Dimes Canada.

But not without a steep learning curve and plenty of job hunting mistakes made in previous attempts, which begs the question: how could I not write a post about post-grad employment? Below: the five biggest lessons I’ve learned on my journey not being broke and homeless and sad after six years of post-secondary madness.

1)   Let Other People do the Work for You

It sounds silly, doesn’t it? I mean, if you could outsource your own job hunt, wouldn't you want to? Welcome to the real world, Watson….It exists.
It's elementary.....Ahem, job sourcing, dear Watson.
During my search for a life-after-university plan, I had two different employment agencies who knew my name, interests and field – one was a private head-hunting company and the other a temporary agency run through York University. Although I didn’t have to use them in the end, I was confident in their ability to find me a ‘fall back’ plan because I had personally introduced myself and had made sure they knew I was a dependable person.

But it doesn’t stop there – especially for recent graduates. Universities all have career centers with job boards, resume and cover letter workshops and sometimes even job counselling. Government agencies are also interested in getting young educated people into the workforce, that’s why they have placement agencies in many locations. Share the load and connect with these services – you may be surprised at the outcome.

2)   Shake some Hands

In the world of online everything, it can be so incredibly easy to hide behind your digital resume. Online application systems are now the primary input source for prospective employees, and while filing off dozens of resumes online may be an easier alternative, nothing beats doing it in person. Please, please believe me on this. My personal mantra during my last job hunt was to bypass as many online applications as possible and meet someone from the company – a secretary, HR rep, whoever – before showing them my resume. I am certain this is the main reason why I was offered my new position.

Doing this puts a face to the name and shows the employer just how serious you are about working for them. The effort of travelling to a place of business pays off quickly – as a networking tool and motivational technique that is sure to give you a strong leg up on your competition. 

3)   Meet People and Network the Hell Outta Them

We all hear about how important networking is and how it leads to so many jobs. While this is especially true today, I still don’t think graduates understand this. Networking should be a process started far before you enter the ‘real world’, and universities are teeming hotspots of opportunity because they naturally attract professionals from all different kinds of fields. If you don’t take advantage of this, you’re missing out on some great potential job openings.

But I’m not just advocating signing up for conferences or events. The fabric of the professional world has changed over the years, and the lead-in to jobs is getting more and more informal. My best piece of advice is this: view every new encounter as a possible networking opportunity, regardless of where you are or what you are doing. Friends, family, relatives, co-workers, peers – they’re all untapped opportunities to wiggle into a job of your dreams. It sounds ruthless, I know – but it works. The better you are at forming new connections, the greater your chances of working in your field.

4)   Learn from Rejection

This is a tough one, especially for us young adults – failure can be detrimental, but it is a necessary part of improving a skill like job hunting. If anything, know this: when it comes to the Canadian job search, you will always experience more failures than successes. I know it sucks to hear that a majority of your applications as a new grad will end up in a trash can with barely a skim, but it’s the rotten truth and the best thing we can do is learn from it. There are plenty of ways to do this, too.

If you’ve found yourself on the wrong end of an application group, ask why you weren’t selected for an interview or given the position. At this point, there’s really nothing to lose and many HR departments are happy to provide a little feedback. It shows that you are interested and helps you improve your next attempt. If there’s one hard lesson I’ve learned, it’s that no one can ever have the perfect resume/interview/cover letter. Bettering oneself in the job market is an infinite process – the more you learn about yourself, the easier it becomes. 

5)   Be Stubborn and Stick With It!

Stubbornness gets a bad rap these days. It shouldn’t when it comes to job searches, because the more we get our name on peoples desks, the more we increase our opportunities for employment. Job hunting can be incredibly de-motivating, but don’t let a few turned heads drag you down. Remember – this is your future and you shouldn’t stop until you’re truly happy with it. It pays to be resilient, so build your tolerance to the negative parts and you’ll surely succeed. It takes time and effort to land employment in the 21st century and patience is a virtue.

Good luck grads of ’13!

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