Since it’s never too early to plan for the future, and with the Summer Job and Career Fair coming up on February 5, we thought we’d share some tips from the good folks at Dalhousie’s Student Career & Leadership Development Centre (CLDC) to help you prepare for the job hunt. Whether it’s a temporary summer job or a foot in the door to that ideal career, this strategy will help set you up for success.
1. Set a goal
Define what it is you're looking for, and be specific (i.e., define the type of work, area, etc.). Define realistic timelines for when you want to achieve your goal, and treat your job search like a full-time job. “It’s really self-introspection,” says Joana Augusto, senior peer advisor at the CLDC. “Trying to figure out what you want to do with your life, and what’s most important to you.”
2. Identify your skills
After you know what you want, it’s time to figure out your skills. Look back at all your experience, paid and unpaid, and take note of what skills you have. These skills include technical skills and transferable skills such as communication and leadership. Prepare examples of when you have demonstrated relevant skills. Chris Glover, manager of the CLDC, says the worst thing for a student to do is to say “leadership” and stop there. You need to answer questions about when you were a leader: what did you do, what kind of results did you produce, and how is that important to the employer? “So even though teamwork is all about the ‘we,’ they still want to hear more about the ‘I,’ ” he says.
Research job markets, employment outlook and job potential, required skills and education, salaries, working conditions, and the like. Search the Internet and job sites, magazines, job fairs, and other outlets such as your own personal network. The CLDC suggests identifying up to 10 potential targets.
4. Prepare and plan
Joana suggests having an action plan to determine what it is you want to do. This means scheduling weekly or daily. “Say to yourself, ‘Today I’m going to spend two hours building up my resume. And I’m going to do one hour of job search tomorrow,’ ” she says. Simple things like having contact cards when you attend a job fair, or having a professional email address, can substantially boost your chances of finding that ideal job.
5. Connect and succeed
Once you figure out what you want to do and how you’re going to do it, it’s time for action. Joana says it’s not just starting to apply for jobs. “It’s looking beyond that. It’s things like trying to figure out people you already know who might have a contact in the area and asking to meet with them for half an hour.”
Don’t forget: just as you need to come up with specific examples of your skills in action, succeeding in the job search requires you to write specific resumes and cover letters for each job you’re applying for.
Sound daunting? Joana and Chris stress there are resources to support you at every stage. The fourth floor of the SUB is an excellent spot: Career counselling will help you figure out where your interests lie and how to direct these into a career, while the Frank G. Lawson Career Information Centre can supply information on job markets and employment within each industry, as well as information on graduate programs and studying abroad. Or drop by the CLDC during business hours for a 15-minute resume or cover letter review by a career advisor.
If you show up with a resume at the Summer Job and Career Fair, you can sit down with an advisor at the CLDC resume review booth before you hand it out to anyone. To help you get the most out of the Fair, the CLDC is hosting 15-minute presentations on how to prepare for it at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on February 3 and 4, followed by resume and cover letter reviews.
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