Shaping Your Job Search

The Life-cycle of the job search process part II

In my last month article, we talked about how looking for work involves much more than just a good resume and some networking. We stressed the need for research (of the labour market) and of creating a list of what you have to offer, your values and priorities (self-inventory).

We also talked about how it is important to take time to compare both things (you and the labour market) and make choices about your future career in Canada.

Once you have collected all this information, compared and made a decision, your next steps in the job-search cycle are: emphasize strengths, reduce weaknesses; create right tools, target/tailor and apply using your LMI knowledge.

Emphasizing strengths:

OK, so you sat in front of your self-inventory list and your LMI binder. You discovered that you have great areas of expertise, job-specific or industry-specific (for example, you have 20+ years of experience in a niche market, such as the paint industry, and you are a chemical engineer, your R&D skills are above average and you have attended many international industry events). What do you do now with this?

Strengths will be your keys to potential employers, but only if you know how to use them well. Add them to the top of your resume, create business cards with your name and two or three of your strengths in a bullet-list, and add them to your portfolio, your Linkedin account and your email signature.

Polish them: learn how to talk about them, look for achievements and write them down, they will be very handy when preparing for networking events and interviews.

Strengths can also be used to gain Canadian experience and references through volunteering and internships. Use them on volunteering projects at your professional association, participate actively in online professional forums and groups, create a specialized blog or look for internships.

Reducing weaknesses:

Weaknesses may be many things: you may have skill or experience gaps, or you may need a Canadian designation or license in order to work on your occupation. In some cases, you need to update your skills to make sure you are up to Canadian standards. In certain professions, such as HR, civil engineering, accounting, law, education or health-related you may need to learn local regulations and practices and even work for a while under the supervision of a licensed professional.

The best way to reduce weaknesses is to make a plan: put in writing what steps you will need to go through, how much money and time you will have to invest, and where you can get these things (professional associations? Educational institutions? Volunteering?).

Creating the right tools:

Now that you have developed a realistic and achievable action pan to get the job you want, re-think what types of jobs you can apply for “right now” (without going back to school, challenging any designation or getting any volunteering experience). Those are the jobs you can apply now. If you have the time, energy and money to wait for all your action plan to be finished and then look for the right job, that’s even better.

No matter what is your starting point, the tools you need to have for a successful job search are:

  • A LMI (Labour Market Information) binder with job postings, requirements, trends and outlooks for the each one of your job targets.
  • A targeted resume for each one of the job positions you are targeting (i.e., one for bookkeeping jobs, one for office clerk, one for payroll assistant, etc.)
  • An updated Canadian resumes book (free from your local library)
  • An English dictionary and thesaurus
  • A book on Canadian grammar and business writing
  • Samples of cover letters, thank you letters  and feedback/rejection letters
  • A portfolio or ePortfolio (will talk more about this in future articles)
  • A set of 200+ business cards professionally developed with your name, job target, two or three strengths/skills and your contact information on them
  • Folders (to carry and hand your resumes and business cards during networking events and job fairs)
  • Professional clothing and accessories (for networking events, interviews and first weeks of work)
  • A professional email address, Linkedin profile and appropriate Facebook and Twiter settings
  • A phone (mobile or landline) with caller ID and proper voicemail message
  • A computer with word processor, access to Internet and a printer (you may also use a computer from the local library, employment centre or settlement agency)

Targeting and tailoring:

One huge mistake many job seekers do is to think that once they have “perfect” resume, this should work for any job they apply to.

The reality is that the only “perfect” resume is a resume that targeted the right position and was tailored to a specific company’s organizational culture and needs after a careful research has been done.

Targeting is achieved by being clear and realistic about your job objective.  “Dedicated individual seeks position with advancement opportunities” doesn’t really show your potential, what exactly you are offering or what is your professional background. So try to be clear and concise: “Hands-on Civil engineer with 10+ years of experience in commercial building looking for a position as site supervisor at your organization” or “Licensed Social Worker with extensive experience in needs assessment, community counseling and referral, seeking a position as settlement worker in your organization”

The “tailoring” is achieved by carefully reviewing the company’s website, brochures and presence in the news and using similar language and keywords in both your resume and cover letters. Organizations may be innovative, “green-oriented”, conservative, non-profit or profit-oriented. The same resume and cover letter won’t work for all of them as they value and care for different things.

Another strategy that helps to tailor your cover letters is to take some time to call the company and ask for the name and position of the person or team who will be reviewing your application. There is nothing more powerful than seeing your name in a letter or email, and most employers will appreciate your taking the time to research further. This talks about your independence and proactive approach.

Applying for jobs:

When asked about how they apply for jobs, most immigrants invariable answer: “online”. Although many organizations do post jobs online, this strategy yields an average of only 4% of successful results against 48% success when applications are done through networking, 23% for in person/by phone applications, 23% for responding to company-specific job postings (other than those appearing in employment databases such as Monster, Workopolis, Indeed or even Craiglist) and recruiters with a 2% of success.

What do these numbers tell us?

The obvious response is that job applicants have to use all the above approaches.

Stay tuned as we will be talking more about networking, the hidden job market and how to maximize online applications in future articles.

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