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Find Work

Find work inside Canada

Find work inside Canada

Sign up for the Master Your Job Search workshop to learn more tips and strategies on how to enhance your career opportunities.


Finding “your” job rather than “a” job is important because work can significantly affect your satisfaction in life. As you begin to look for your next position, consider how it fits into your overall career plan. In what field do you wish to make a contribution and impact? Is it work that will give you the experience you need to begin or continue your progression toward your longer-term career goals? Is it work you will enjoy doing? Will you be connected to it personally and professionally? What problems do you want to solve?

It can be very difficult to direct your work search efforts if you do not know what kind of work you want and what you are best qualified for. Begin by completing a thorough self-assessment. The Self-assessment section in Decision-making is a great start; you can also book a Career Development appointment with a Career Advisor through the Centre for Career Development website. It is important to carefully evaluate your personal circumstances, goals, personality preferences, interests, values, and skills with an expert who can guide you through the process.

During interviews, you must convince employers how your skills and background will contribute to the solutions they are seeking for current problems and challenges. It is important to consider where you are heading in the future and research what problems you are interested in and skilled at solving. Now is the time to form the foundation for your career. With a clear focus, you will be able to prepare customized résumés and letters that reflect who you are and what you have achieved, and confidently present your strengths.

Before embarking on your work search, reflect on the following:

1. The Future of Work

Do you understand how the world of work is changing and why the changes are happening? What skills, abilities and knowledge could help you succeed in a future characterized by AI, robotics, the ‘gig’ economy and a need for lifelong learning? UWaterloo has developed the Future Ready Talent Framework, a tool to help you understand more about the future of work and how you can prepare for success.

2. Labour market needs and demands

Is there a demand for your ideas, skills, experience, and qualifications? What trends might impact the future of the type of work you are considering? Is the field likely to grow, decline, or shift? What and who is your competition? Does demand vary by geographic location?

3. Environment

What kind of workplace do you prefer: calm or busy? Collaborative or competitive? Do you want to work indoors or outdoors? Product driven or service driven? Predictable or changing?

4. Work preferences

Is it important for you to work on a project from beginning to end? Do you like to complete one project at a time or to work on several projects at the same time? How important is it to see the results of your work? How self-expressive do you want to be? Do you enjoy work where tasks and goals are clearly outlined for you? Do you like routine tasks or prefer variety? Do you recognize that you may not be able to satisfy some of your personal preferences in tomorrow’s workplace?

5. Competence, responsibility level and advancement potential

Do you like to be involved in work that requires a high level of education, skills, and knowledge? What factors affect your ability to advance in this field? What kind of responsibilities do you want as you advance? Do you want to take on a leadership role or a supporting role? What opportunities may arise from this position?

6. Learning opportunities

Are professional, educational, and training opportunities readily available to increase your skills and knowledge? Who is eligible, and what policies govern these opportunities? Is financial support available?

7. Challenge

What motivates you? Will you have the opportunity to make important decisions? Will you be called on to grow and to develop new skills and areas of knowledge? What unique skills could you develop to stand out?

8. Fulfillment

What kind of work best satisfies you? Is it crucial for you to believe that your work is meaningful and important? What kind of impact does your work need to make? What volunteer or work experiences will lead to the types of career roles you value?

9. Shared Values

How important are your family’s preferences in making your career decisions? Or do you intend to make your own decision about how best to use your talent?

10. Work relationships

What kind of people do you work with most effectively? Is it important to you to develop relationships? What percentage of the time would you like to work independently or as a team member? How often and how do you like to interact with others? Are you motivated to build and maintain connections in your chosen industry?

11. Salary/security

How important is salary? What remuneration do you need to maintain or improve your lifestyle? How much financial security do you need? How susceptible is this job to turn-over and lay-offs? To what degree is the job itself at risk of being eliminated by advances in technology?

12. Prestige/status

How important is a title or a position of influence/high regard? Have you considered how a desire for status might interfere with the best use of your talent?

13. Hours required

Do you prefer regular or flexible work hours? How many hours during the week are you able to commit? How important is having a balance between work and leisure? Is this negotiable?

14. Geographic location

Where do you want to work? What country? Do you prefer a city or a rural community? How long is the commute? Is public transit available?

15. Travel/relocation

Is travel required and, if so, where, how long, and how often? Will you need to relocate?

Many job seekers have an unrealistic picture of how much time the work search takes. It is never too early to begin looking for a job or a problem to solve. For internship, contract, or on-going positions, monitor the job market year-round so that your research is up-to-date. Securing a position may take several months to a year (and sometimes longer considering demand). Your search for work will be more effective if your goal is clear and you map out your strategy in advance. For co-op, refer to the Important Dates calendar.

Step One: Manage your time and track progress

Ideally, set daily and weekly objectives so that you can evaluate your progress. Alter your objectives as needed: just as it is important to be flexible in your career plan in order to accommodate change and chance opportunities, so too it is important to be able to adjust your approach to the work search, when needed.

Determine the amount of time you will allocate to identifying target organizations, researching, making contacts, and following up. If you are still in school, or working full time but want to change jobs, plan to spend at least eight hours each week. After graduation, or if you are unemployed, your search will become full time.

Schedule at least one activity away from home each day to keep you connected to your field and feeling energized. Organize your days of searching for work just as you would a regular work day; keep track of all of your appointments, activities, and results using a spreadsheet or contact management software or app. If you can, prepare each night your list of the next day’s activities. Then when you get up in the morning, you will be able to begin work right away. Keep records of people you are trying to, and did, reach, as well as the dates associated with each. When you are speaking with prospects, note their interests, their needs, and how you might be able to be of service to them. Add to your record each person’s name, location, phone number, email address, and any other relevant information. Have these records available to you via your smartphone or tablet so that you will always know the status of each contact and can follow up no matter where you are.

If you have been searching for several weeks or months, an employer will want to know how you have been spending your time. Be prepared to discuss work search activities. Be able to show how you are staying current in your field. If you are not staying current, then be mindful of the reasons why you may not be motivated, and perhaps connect with a Career Advisor to discuss and move forward.

Step Two: Select your approach

Strive to use a variety of work search tactics. In addition to the usual methods (such as using WaterlooWorks and popular job search engines), be prepared to spend a significant portion of your time and effort on methods designed to uncover job openings that have not yet been (and may never be) advertised. These jobs are part of what is referred to as “the hidden job market.” The hidden job market includes necessary work that no one has identified, work that has been identified but for which candidate recruitment has not yet begun, or work for which informal (word-of-mouth) recruitment has begun.

Approximately 75% to 80% of all jobs are never advertised. Accordingly, it is recommended to concentrate up to 80% of your work search efforts on effective methods (e.g., networking, direct marketing to hiring managers) that enable you to find out about unadvertised opportunities. Accessing the hidden job market is critical because:

  • Some employers value your initiative on the fact that you found out about their need, rather than waiting until they announced it
  • Employers often receive hundreds of applications for each advertised position, dramatically increasing your competition and decreasing your odds of success
  • It allows you to meet with a potential employer to create or uncover immediate or future opportunities that traditional methods will never present
  • Employers will be more likely to remember a personal contact and thus consider you for future job openings
  • It enables you to meet people in your field of interest, collect and share industry information, and gain a competitive edge

Step Three: Research

To tap into additional opportunities and find a position more quickly, you will need to be extra resourceful and get ready to do some work! Research is the key to effectively connect your skills, aspirations, knowledge, and experience to organization and industry needs. Research an organization thoroughly to:

  • Assess if you are interested in devoting your time and knowledge to the organization by determining if its mission, vision, and values align with yours
  • Find out if you are truly interested in the organization's services or products
  • Find out if you are interested in the kinds of problems they face. All employees become problem-solvers for their employers
  • Discover what types of positions or work you may be qualified for: job descriptions may have additional requirements that potential employees need to be prepared to meet, for example: security clearance

No matter your faculty, be an avid reader to become knowledgeable about your industry of interest. General information you will want to uncover should include but not be limited to:

  • Number of employees
  • Location(s)
  • Products and services
  • Funding, clientele
  • Major marketplace or social challenges
  • Inclusivity and accessibility of the workplace
  • Organizational structure, work atmosphere, workload
  • History and potential growth of employer and industry
  • Values (e.g., teamwork, community involvement, continuous learning)
  • Training and professional development programs
  • Career path and promotion policies
  • Management style, corporate culture
  • Restructuring, downsizing, re-engineering activities
  • Annual sales for past year(s) compared to industry trends
  • Major competitors
  • Ownership and impact on advancement potential
  • Employee participation in decision-making
  • Use of technology, amount and type of equipment

For example, if you were seeking a job as a social worker, you would want to learn about the organization's mandate, mission, philosophy; the organization's clients and funding sources; its role within the community, etc. Prepare for networking (or an interview) so you can demonstrate industry and company knowledge as well as enthusiasm for the field, position, and organization. Employers can always tell, and are very impressed, when job seekers have done detailed research and are able to ask informed questions about the position and the company. A few sources for research include Centre for Career Development; campus or public libraries (review employer and association directories, trade publications and reports, articles in newspapers, magazines, and Factiva); websites; Chambers of Commerce; company and advanced searches on LinkedIn; information on company or employee blogs; or the company itself. The single most efficient source of credible information is the established business media, such as the Globe and Mail. The University library site has very helpful tools and subscriptions to proprietary business databases.

LinkedIn also offers the Career Insights tool which operates like a virtual handshake with other alumni, students, staff and faculty of schools you attend, or have attended. The tool allows you to send introductory messages at no cost and it is an instant and effective way to contact people who are more likely to provide information, advice, and/or referrals. You can also search for this information on company websites, by reading online news articles, by contacting the organization directly, or by requesting information through your personal and professional network.

To find out more about potential employers, you can also use LinkedIn to identify movement in companies. Updates on your LinkedIn homepage (and sometimes on Facebook and Twitter) can tell you who is looking for job opportunities and might be vacating their current position, and who is in the process of hiring. A company search on LinkedIn will also tell you who has recently left the company or been promoted. If seeking assistance on using LinkedIn effectively, register for a workshop or book a Work Search appointment through the Centre for Career Development website. In addition, ensure that you are using the most relevant social media platform for your industry and geographic location and learn how to effectively apply it to your networking strategy.

“Low tech” research is also useful, so peruse classified ads, both current and past. A series of ads for a company or industry may reveal a growth trend you can tap into. Past ads (i.e., six months old or older) will help you identify organizations with jobs in your field. Contact these organizations to learn if there are any current opportunities for which you might be qualified. Promotion and retirement announcements are indicators of an internal realignment in a company and suggest a potential opening for an external candidate.

Don’t overlook small companies (i.e., those with fewer than 100 employees) in your job search. Collectively, these small companies account for approximately 50% of total employment in Canada. In Waterloo, self-employment and businesses with 1-4 employees make up over 77% of all businesses in the region. Aside from a general growth in new jobs in such companies, small companies are often more flexible, so they may be able to create a new position in response to a convincing presentation of your skills and your potential to help them meet current challenges and improve productivity. Managers are always looking for talent, even without an immediate job opening.

Google, or any similar search engine, is not a replacement for the above mentioned research approaches. Relying solely on such search engines both limits the information you will find and makes it likely you will know only what almost everyone else knows. Look for information on new innovations, advancements, financings, and expansions which suggest growth in an industry or organization, which, in turn, means that more workers will likely be needed. Don't wait for a job posting: by contacting the organization and applying to positions that are not yet advertised using a customized résumé and broadcast letter, you will gain an advantage. If your network also includes someone who works for or has knowledge of the organization, that person will be an excellent source of information that would not be available to the general public. If your network does not include someone with relevant knowledge, ensure that you implement the networking strategies described later in this module.

Step 4: Apply healthy coping strategies

Because looking for work is both time consuming and stressful, support is very important. “No” will likely reach your ears more often than “yes.” Surround yourself with people who are most likely to boost your confidence and seek support, on and off campus, as needed.

And celebrate your achievements! Examples of successes could include finalizing arrangements to meet a contact; completing two telephone call-backs by lunch-time; getting company information that was difficult to locate; or speaking with a hiring manager. Reward yourself with a pleasurable activity. Take some time out each week to participate in social or recreational activities, or hobbies. You need the break to renew your level of energy.

Why should I disclose my disability?

Disclosure is the action of sharing information about a disability. It is often a personal choice to share information with an interviewer, supervisor, or others. Career Advisors in the Centre for Career Development can help you consider your options. The Centre for Career Development offers a work search appointment where you can discuss your disclosure options.

Note: If there is no impact on the function/duties of the role you are applying to or currently working in, disclosure is not mandatory or necessary.

There are several reasons why you may want to disclose:

You require an accommodation

If you require an accommodation for an interview or for the workplace, it’s important to disclose this requirement ahead of time. This will enable your interviewer/supervisor to provide you with the support and accommodations you require to contribute to your fullest potential. Requesting accommodations does not typically entail sharing personal health information. It does, however, require that you work collaboratively with your supervisor, interviewer, or Human Resources representative to find solutions that will enable you to meet the requirements of the job. Learn more about the individuals you must disclose to in the section Whom should I disclose my disability to?

Co-op students registered with AccessAbility Services can arrange to meet with an Accommodations Consultant to discuss what might need to go into their accommodation plan. This way, a student can bring specialized insight and confidence to conversations they will have with a supervisor, interviewer, or Human Resources representative about creating effective accommodations.

Presenting your disability as an asset

People with disabilities provide a unique perspective and competitive advantage as job seekers. By describing your life and work experiences to an interviewer, it can allow you to provide a convincing, memorable introduction of your strengths. Consider including how your disabilities provide you with unique benefits and abilities. Storytelling and positive framing places the focus on your skills, not limitations that might affect job duties.

Your rights

People with disabilities are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, along with provincial and territorial human rights codes. The Canadian Human Rights Commission states that a supervisor is “required to ensure that all people affected by [their] organization are treated equally, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or any of the other grounds of discrimination listed in the Canadian Human Rights Act”. This means a supervisor or interviewer has a duty to fulfill a person’s request for accommodation to ensure the person can meaningfully participate in the workplace.

A supervisor or interviewer has a duty to accommodate an individual up to the point of undue hardship. If an accommodation is likely to cause significant health and safety risks, this could be considered undue hardship.

Co-op students registered with the University of Waterloo’s AccessAbility Services can arrange to meet with an Accommodations Consultant to discuss what might need to go into their accommodation plan. This way, a student can bring specialized insight and confidence to conversations they will have with a supervisor or interviewer about creating effective accommodations.

Accommodation examples

The following examples highlight some accommodations used in a workplace or interview. For more accommodation options, search AskJAN’s Searchable Online Accommodation Resource, a database of accommodation ideas. For advice on accommodations, please visit University of Waterloo’s AccessAbility Services.

  • Enhanced Accessibility
    • Accessible formats of all employment materials
    • Physically accessible spaces like lunchrooms, washrooms
  • Modifying or creating policies
    • Allowing or disallowing certain foods, items of clothing (e.g., wearing a hat if you suffer migraines brought on by fluorescent lights)
  • Modified/flexible scheduling
    • Allowed window of arrival to work time
    • Allowing part-time or reduced work schedule
    • Allowing periodic breaks
    • Changing a shift; exclusions from overtime
    • Allowing an extended work day
  • Job restructuring
    • Altering the way a job function is performed, or temporarily modifying a duty, that allows the job to be performed at a level that is still productive

Whom should I disclose my disability to?

Share only what’s needed to accommodate with the people who accommodate you

It is not essential to divulge all personal information about your disability. In the workplace, you should disclose your disability only to those who need to be involved in the accommodation process. This may include:

  • Human Resources (HR) representative
  • Your supervisor
  • Employee Assistance Program counselor (If you’re already working, have started experiencing problems, and need assistance determining how and to whom to disclose)

An HR representative or a specialist, such as an occupational health nurse, may require full disclosure. Full disclosure would include specific information about your disability. Someone like your supervisor may only need a partial disclosure, which may include information about your accommodation(s) or the existence of a disability, but not a full disclosure of the disability itself.

All individuals and organizations are different. In some situations, you might create an accommodation plan in collaboration with your supervisor and your HR representative. In other situations, you might create an accommodation plan with an HR representative who shares relevant information with your supervisor. You have the right to ask for either arrangement.

How should I disclose my disability?

Script and practise what you’ll say

Disclosure can be a challenging conversation. To help you build confidence and feel better prepared, practise what you might tell the interviewer/supervisor in advance with trusted family or friends. A disclosure script could include some of the following information:

  • A brief description of your disability: be concise and remember that you are not required to thoroughly discuss the clinical or technical aspects of your diagnosis.
  • An emphasis on your job-related skills and abilities: convey the message that you’re a qualified candidate with great skills who also happens to have a disability, rather than focusing just on your disability.
  • A description of the barriers that you may experience in the workplace that may interfere with your job performance.
  • Suggestions for accommodations and open willingness to collaborate with your potential/current supervisor.

Sample disclosure script

“I have the keys skills and abilities, and can perform the essential functions of this job. As an individual with (provide the preferred term for your disability), sometimes my (functional limitation) interferes with my ability to (describe the duties you may have difficulty performing), but I find it extremely helpful when (describe the specific accommodations you need).”

Protecting your privacy

Take notes during your conversations with your HR representative or supervisor regarding your accommodations and ensure that you both approve a written accommodation plan. This may be useful for future reference in case of discrepancies. You have the right to know what happens to your personal information if you choose to share it. You can always ask where your information is being stored and who has access to it. Medical information should be kept confidential if this is provided to others; accommodations and medical information should be kept separate from other employee/personnel files.

When should I disclose my disability?

There is no simple answer as there are many factors to consider. The following disclosure decision table will help support your decision. Remember: you are not required to disclose a disability unless you need an accommodation. You do not have to disclose to co-workers and colleagues, ever.

Need advice? Book a work search appointment with a Career Advisor to discuss your disclosure options.

Disclosure decision table

Notes and tips

On a job application

  • Helps interviewer decide how to plan for accommodation / reevaluation of the job
  • Your disability can be an asset to the job and this might be the time to promote that
  • This might disqualify you with no opportunity to present you, your skills and other qualifications
  • Disclosure on the cover letter is usually not recommended unless the interviewer is openly seeking candidates with disabilities to fill the position. In that case, this would be the appropriate time to disclose.

Response to interview invitation

  • Puts onus on interviewer to determine interview-related accommodations
  • Discrimination less likely as interviewer has already reviewed your application
  • Prepares the interviewer(s) with what to expect
  • Whether you need it or not, interviewer may equate an interview accommodation with the need for a workplace accommodation
  • This could create a negative first impression before the interview even occurs
  • Regardless of disability type, disclosure at this stage is best suited when interview accommodation is needed
  • If you have a physical disability, disclosing to HR or the hiring manager eliminates any guesswork on accessibility of interview space
  • Employers in Canada have a duty to accommodate for all aspects of recruitment

During an interview

  • Opportunity to focus positively, in-person, on your ability to do the job with a disability
  • Openness with interviewer at this stage can translate to positive workplace relationships
  • Puts responsibility on you to disclose when trust is not yet established with interviewer
  • Interviewer might focus more on disability than your ability
  • Most appropriate time to disclose and discuss accommodation strategies. Consider when in the interview you will discuss it. There is some evidence to suggest the beginning or middle of an interview seem to be the most suitable times to disclose.
  • Employers in Canada have a duty to accommodate you in the workplace
  • Be prepared to explain/reiterate your ability to perform the job

After you’ve been matched / received the job offer

  • Gives the supervisor time to put some accommodations in place
  • Shows initiative and problem solving skills as you are proactive about getting ready for the job
  • Interviewer might feel that you should have disclosed earlier
  • If company is outside of Canada, offer could be rescinded
  • If disability affects essential job skills, this is the most appropriate time to disclose
  • Employers in Canada have a duty to accommodate you in the workplace
  • Be prepared to explain/reiterate your ability to perform the job

After you start work
  • You have the opportunity to prove your abilities before you disclose
  • Openness about your disability: allows you to respond to disability questions with your supervisor at work
  • Unpredictable reactions from supervisor and/or co-workers
  • Disclosure might change workplace dynamic and relationships
  • Employer might feel that you should have disclosed earlier
  • Once you start work, there are more disclosure decisions. For example, you may choose to disclose to your supervisor but not your co-workers
  • This approach might be better suited for person with an invisible disability, especially if disability does not affect essential job skills
  • If you are performing your duties on the job, a supervisor cannot legally terminate you
  • Once you’re in the workplace, you will have a better sense of the work environment and the possible need for an accommodation.

After a disability-related issue on the job

  • You have the opportunity to prove your abilities before you disclose
  • Shows initiative and demonstrates that you want to perform effectively at the job
  • Unpredictable reactions from supervisor and/or co-workers
  • Supervisor may feel that you’ve been dishonest/falsified your job application. (Even if it’s not your fault)
  • Relationships with co-workers could be affected if there is perception that you’ve been untruthful
  • It may be difficult to regain the supervisor’s trust


  • You will not be questioned about your disability
  • Your privacy is maintained
  • If disability is discovered, there is the perceived risk of negative reactions, including accusations of dishonesty/falsifying job application
  • If you need help, and you're not disclosing, no one is able to support you
  • If you don't need to disclose, then don’t feel pressure to disclose
  • This might be a worthwhile strategy if you are able to perform job tasks to the satisfaction of the supervisor without accommodation or supports. Not sure if you need an accommodation or supports? Talk to an Accommodations Consultant at AccessAbility Services.

The information in the table above can be found in audio format below:

Personal pitch: Who are you, and what do you have to offer?

During your work search, you will encounter hiring managers, human resources staff, and others.

At all times, you must be ready to clearly communicate your ideas, skills, experience, and qualifications

To promote yourself effectively, develop and practise a personal pitch that you can deliver anywhere, any time. For example, when you:

  • meet someone in a coffee shop;
  • walk into a business and want to explain your visit to an administrative assistant;
  • are heading to a job fair and walk up to the booth of one of you top listed employers;
  • are sitting on the Greyhound to Toronto next to a stranger;
  • accidentally fly your drone into your neighbour's yard and now have a chance to introduce yourself.

So, be ready: practise your pitch until you are confident that you can present it smoothly, without sounding rehearsed. Prepare several versions that you can adapt to different situations. This personal pitch should take 30-45 seconds, if you were to deliver it all in one block. Since it is more likely that you will deliver it in pieces, it's important that you know it well enough to be able to convey all of the relevant information spread throughout a conversation. This relevant Information can include:

  • your name
  • your program and institution attended
  • field/position of interest
  • knowledge, skills, unique experience, and ideas that would be of value in this field/position
  • your interest in this organization (if speaking to a representative from that organization)
  • a question to engage the person in a conversation. This question could be about a significant challenge or opportunity affecting the company or industry, although it will vary depending on the situation. This type of question helps distinguish you as a person of ideas, goals and interests, not just as a list of experiences or qualifications.

When highlighting your knowledge, skills and experiences to a potential employer, focus on the organization and the position you are applying for: employers are looking for the relevance and benefit to them of what you have to offer. Remember it is also important to express your interest in the company. All of this requires research.

Tip: to stand out from others, go beyond the company website in your research. Most job seekers depend on this easy-to-find information, so doing extra homework will give you a competitive advantage. Look for articles written about them via curated business media, including any information concerning new programs or projects they are involved in. This will help you provide relevant examples of your skills and experiences, and also impress the employer with your initiative and interest!

When conducting your research, think about how the following questions fit with your skills:

  • Why are you interested in this company/field specifically? How do your skills demonstrate this interest?
  • What is it about the company that impresses you? What can you bring to the company to complement this?
  • Why are they different from other companies?

Make sure to express to the employer what you can bring to the company based on your research!

NOTE: To see examples of personal pitches, complete the Personal Pitch activity and check out the Feedback.

Personal pitch and social media

You can also use the core of your introduction in social media:

LinkedIn/Blog: use key points from your personal pitch to create the "Summary" and "Specialties" sections of your LinkedIn profile, or for your blog profile

Facebook: you may wish to replace your non-professional profile information with your personal pitch, since employers often research candidates on Facebook. That way, instead of just removing or hiding non-professional information, you can use Facebook to highlight what you want employers to know about you. If you do opt to use Facebook this way

  • make sure you hide friends' comments on your Wall;
  • remove yourself from non-professional groups;
  • hide apps; and
  • hide any information that an employer cannot legally ask about, such as your year of birth, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs.

Social media is an excellent way to demonstrate your knowledge by entering into professional public dialogues about issues and problems affecting your industry of choice. By doing your research first in the curated media and using established and reputable business publications, you ensure your public comments are informed, and not naïve or inappropriate.

Interested in learning more about LinkedIn? Attend the Get a Job Using LinkedIn workshop to discover more tips.

What is networking?

Networking is about having planned as well as spontaneous conversations of value, making genuine connections, developing leads, and building mutually beneficial relationships with individuals and groups of interest. Networking occurs every day of our lives.

Networking for your work search is an intentional process of receiving and sharing information, knowledge, advice, and referrals. Take advantage of opportunities to network whenever they present themselves. Whether you are a student finding a club to join or looking for work within or outside an organization, networking can help you locate new opportunities in both the visible and hidden job markets.

Why network?

Experts agree that most job leads are found through networking. You can't begin effectively networking, however, until you have defined the type of work you want. Conversations to help you decide on potential occupations are called “information interviews” and should not be confused with “networking interviews.” Once you can articulate the type of work you're seeking, you are ready to network.

Networking is beneficial to all parties. Individuals who find employment through networking tend to be more satisfied with their work and earn higher incomes. Steering away from the advertised market has other advantages, as well. First, this market often over represents lowly paid/unskilled or highly paid/highly skilled positions. Most people find work somewhere between these two extremes. Second, the advertised market can be deceiving because many advertised jobs don't actually exist or are already filled when the jobs are advertised. Finally, the required qualifications listed can be significantly greater than the actual requirements of the job.

Being referred by others is advantageous. Managers trust people they know more than people they don't. From an employer's viewpoint, it makes sense to hire someone who has been recommended by a person who is known and trusted. Employers reduce their recruitment costs this way, so they encourage referrals from their employees. An employee who is a part of your network can help you and advise you on timing and the best way to approach the employer. Contacts inside an organization can also keep your name in people’s minds.

Keep in mind that networking is a long-term activity with a long-term pay-off. Many job seekers avoid initiating conversations because it seems intimidating, time consuming or unlikely to result in a job. However, research shows that most people find their job opportunities through other people, and those leads typically come from people whom we see infrequently, rather than close friends and family members. If you have been reluctant to introduce yourself and connect, remember that the energy you commit to it now will continue to benefit you long after you receive your next job, and that, when you approach networking with authenticity, people are often willing to help.

Who is in your network?

An important first step to networking is to determine who is in your network. So, take some time to sit down and compile a list of people you know. Consider all those you know personally and come into contact with regularly. The following list may help you to get started:

  • Friends
  • Relatives
  • Neighbours
  • Students
  • Acquaintances (sports, clubs, social activities, etc.)
  • Social media contacts (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
  • Alumni
  • Professors/teachers
  • Co-workers
  • Former employers
  • Professional networking contacts (from LinkedIn, Twitter , etc.)
  • Business contacts (insurance agent, financial planner, etc.)
  • Professionals (engineer, pharmacist, etc.)
  • Church associates (clergy, members, etc.)

It’s easiest to begin with individuals you know well (e.g., friends or family members). While you may wonder about the merit of networking with family, never assume that you know everyone in someone else’s network. Each of us knows between 200 and 700 people, and any of these individuals may be able to refer you to those in your chosen field. And you can ask those you know well to help you by critiquing your networking approach.

Once you feel comfortable speaking with your closest contacts, move on to your acquaintances (e.g., classmates, parents of friends). Alumni of the University of Waterloo can be valuable contacts who are often very receptive to helping current students. Speak with your professors to learn about potential contacts who have graduated in your discipline and now work in your field of interest.


Ensure everyone in your network knows what you can do and what you are looking for. Even if they have no immediate leads for you, they will be in a better position to act on your behalf when potential opportunities do arise.

Expanding your network

Don’t stop with people you know. Follow up on referrals that you receive from your existing network, and on names of people you uncover through research. Use online search tools, print directories in campus/local libraries or Chambers of Commerce to identify specific organizations to target as well as potential contacts with whom to set up networking meetings (this may require calling the organization directly to determine the appropriate person).

Associations related to your field may also be helpful in linking you with useful contacts working in a variety of organizations:

  • Joining associations will increase the likelihood of their assisting you;
  • As a member, you will receive valuable industry information and have the opportunity to network with other association members, some of whom may be in a position to hire;
  • Being active in an association (e.g., working on a committee) will give you the opportunity to demonstrate your skills and thus develop more meaningful networking contacts;
  • Don’t assume that these associations are only open to professionals in the field: many are open to the public, and most encourage students to join by offering reduced membership fees.

It’s best to initiate contact with your referrals and researched leads with a networking letter/email, followed by a phone call. Your goal is to obtain a face-to-face meeting to gather professional information, advice and referrals regarding your field of interest, career plans and job search.

You can expand your network in other ways too:

  • attend conferences;
  • join campus clubs;
  • volunteer to work with an organization in your field;
  • join online listservs/discussion groups; and
  • attend job/career fairs

Beyond having a planned approach to networking, don’t underestimate the value of speaking with people you meet everywhere (e.g., in the supermarket check-out line, during theatre intermission, at a sports event, on the beach or ski hill, on an airplane) to add to your contact list. When you are at an event, make a point of talking to at least two new people. Start with someone standing alone. Perhaps that person also wants to meet and mingle with people.

To keep track of people you meet, record their contact information and details using a spreadsheet, contact management software or app.

Connecting through virtual networks

Networks for job seekers with disabilities

If you identify as a person with a disability consider the following networking opportunities and platforms:

Disabilities Mentoring Day (DMD) is an annual Canadian one-day mentoring event where job-ready people with disabilities pair with companies in areas of interest that utilize the skills they have or are developing through training.

Lime Connect is a global non-profit organization with the mission to prepare and connect high-potential university students with disabilities to scholarships, internships, a fellowship program, and full-time careers offered by their corporate partners.

Next Billion is a free, online eight-week mentorship program that connects students with disabilities to personal mentors in the tech industry. Next Billion Social Inc. is a Canadian for-profit social enterprise. This mentorship program seeks to facilitate employment opportunities for students and tech companies.

Networking works best if you are face-to-face or, at least, connecting via Skype or telephone. However, don’t underestimate the power of networking via virtual networks. It’s an instant, and often free, opportunity to connect with the world, find opportunities, stay informed and build ideas.

Benefits of online networking:

  • it may be less intimidating than in-person networking by offering a comfortable way to begin introducing yourself and engaging in diverse conversations;
  • it’s flexible: you can chat with others at any time;
  • people who have joined an app, networking site, or group have done so voluntarily, so they’re more likely to be receptive; and
  • it’s a way to build your network of contacts when your schedule doesn’t permit much time for other networking activities.

Some virtual groups will organize face-to-face meet-ups or professional development opportunities. Take advantage of the opportunity to meet in person those contacts with whom you already have a strong virtual relationship - and to make new contacts.

While there are many benefits to virtual networking, there are also some potential negatives to consider before using this strategy.

Potential negatives of online networking:

  • it can be less personal than telephone or face-to-face communication: it’s impossible to read subtle, non-verbal aspects of electronic communications and these could thus be taken out of context;
  • it’s possible that a virtual communication could be read by people other than the intended recipient(s); and
  • the contact you are communicating with may not be honestly representing him or herself.

Choosing a virtual network:
Consider your industry and choose a platform that works best for your needs. Perhaps Facebook would be great to advertise your home-based math tutoring business, or Instagram would best show your outdoor adventures because you aim to be a nature guide. A blog could even work best to show the world your writing skills and interest in finance, as an example.

A popular professional networking site is LinkedIn. It has many networking features and encourages its members to seek out new contacts in and outside their industry. If you are considering creating a LinkedIn profile, or seeking to fine tune your profile, consider attending a LinkedIn workshop hosted through the Centre for Career Development or booking an appointment with a Career Advisor.

Another valuable fast-growing platform is Ten Thousand Coffees. Founded by one of UWaterloo’s Science alumni, this site allows you to build your network, discover new opportunities or share your ideas by connecting with people for a coffee chat, by phone or online. Register and join one or more hubs in order to locate students, recent grads and alumni who can provide helpful advice on your career direction and job search. (Note: the Faculties of Science and Engineering have free hubs available to their students and alumni).

Choose platforms used by individuals and groups you are most interested in connecting with. Anyone can do this, from the seasoned alumnus to the first year student with little to no experience.

Overcoming reluctance to network

It is common for people to find the idea of beginning and maintaining conversations with strangers to be daunting. However, you will find that people are quite receptive to someone who has a genuine passion for the field and is seeking information on it. Most people enjoy talking about their work as well as giving advice. If you are still feeling it is outside your comfort zone, remind yourself that conversations are about listening and not about self-promotion.

Think of networking as a strategy for conducting authentic conversations. Find what you have in common with someone and build upon that: the more people you meet, the more you will learn and grow. It can even become something you enjoy!

Your goal: To establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships where you help others achieve their goals as they help you achieve yours. Learn about their experiences, interests, and goals, so they will want to learn about yours. Be a good listener, ask questions, share your story, and reflect on the information you get. Avoid over-rehearsing what you will say: let your passion, curiosity, and genuine self guide your conversations.

Following up: Don’t let your contacts forget about you! The more you learn about a contact through your conversations, the more ideas you will have for effective ways to follow up. For example, if you see an article or hear about something that might interest a contact, you can pass it along, and in the process help remind them of you – in a positive way. Strive to find a way to communicate with them every few weeks. Your hope is that you will be remembered when something comes up in your line of work.

The result: By networking this way, you'll uncover common interests and build real connections and ongoing relationships. Although having to generate “small talk” with strangers may add to your discomfort, your enthusiasm will help you conquer nervousness.

Some ways to help develop your confidence:

  • Volunteer with people who share your passion in order to develop lasting relationships. It's a great way for others to get to know you and your talents, and ultimately to increase your existing network;
  • Make a note of exactly what aspects of networking you dislike and develop an action plan to network in ways that suit you;
  • Engage in networking activities when your energy level is at its highest;
  • Consider networking online to practise.

Each step you take will help to boost your confidence and your comfort with networking. Making contacts can be fun and very rewarding, both professionally and personally.

Networking (letter) email

To write a networking email, follow the general format outlined in the Cover letters section. Try to keep your letter to one page. Individuals often feel comfortable using a networking email because they are asking for advice rather than a job, and a résumé is never attached. It typically consists of three parts:

Introduction/first paragraph (build relationship with the recipient):

  1. Identify who you are by mentioning your field of interest, university, and/or faculty/program
  2. Explain how you obtained the recipient’s name, or who referred you, if applicable

Possible opening statement examples: “I was given your name by... ”, “I understand that your organization is a leader in...”, and “I am considering a career in...”, or “I heard that you have been working in the area of...”

Middle paragraph (request meeting):

  1. Acknowledge that the reader is busy but request an in-person meeting at a mutually convenient time
  2. Request 20-30 minutes of meeting time
  3. Explain clearly what you would like to discuss during the meeting: information on the industry/field, career related/job search questions, the appropriateness of your résumé, etc.

Final paragraph (closing and follow up):

  1. State that you will be calling to arrange a meeting date/appointment on a specific day and time (and ensure that you do!)
  2. Include your contact information (phone/email)
  3. Thank the reader for reading your letter and add that you look forward to meeting him or her

Consider creating a general letter template that you can use when introducing yourself to a potential contact. Keep it professional and to the point, perhaps including relevant academic/work history and/or skills, your shared interests (e.g., both in same occupation, etc.), and a request for advice and/or information (e.g., “What recruiting firms did you use in Calgary?”).


Dear (name with proper salutation):

I am in the midst of changing careers. I have a degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo and have worked in the field of Waste Water Treatment for three years. Even though my experiences in this field were very rewarding, I am now pursuing my goal of working with people, in a human resources role. I am currently finishing a human resources diploma program and am excited about starting a career in this field. The Canadian Council of Human Resources provided me with your contact information.

Since you have been in the field of human resource management for over five years, your advice on how one enters the field upon graduation would be most valuable. I realize that you are very busy, but I am hoping to meet with you for 30 minutes to introduce myself formally. Your expert opinion would be greatly appreciated.

I will contact you next Tuesday afternoon to arrange a mutually convenient time to meet. Should you wish to contact me, I can be reached at (519) 111-1111, or by email at Thank you so much. I look forward to speaking with you.



Telephone strategies

After sending your networking email, follow up with a phone call within the time period indicated in the letter. Some job seekers may choose to initiate contact by telephone instead of sending an email first. However, sending an email first allows the contact to think about how he or she might help you before you speak in person.

When calling networking contacts, you will sometimes have difficulty reaching the person you wish to speak with. Information on how to deal with voicemail and gatekeepers, and sample scripts of what to say are also included in the “Contacting hiring managers” section.

Tips for effective phone communication:

  • Practise your planned script out loud. This includes practising what you will say if you get through to an answering machine instead of a person. If you do leave a message, make sure you leave your telephone number, and also state when you will try to contact the individual again;
  • Clearly identify yourself and reason for calling; refer to the letter you recently sent;
  • Reiterate your desire to obtain assistance with your job search, and ask for 20 to 30 minutes of your contact’s time to meet with you;
  • Be prepared with your networking interview questions in the event that the contact invites you to ask your questions over the phone rather than in person;
  • If a contact states that they don’t have time to answer any questions, ask if there might be another time to speak and/or if there are any other people you might contact;
  • Regardless of the outcome, be sure to say thank you for their time and information.

So much of the meaning of your message is communicated by the way you speak over the phone, rather than by the actual words you use. Preparation is key!

  • Ensure that you are clear, succinct, confident, and enthusiastic; vary the tone and pitch of your voice;
  • Avoid habits that might distract the listener, such as verbal fillers (e.g., ummm, ahhh, like, you know);
  • Dress up for and smile during a phone call: doing both is likely to help you project a more positive and professional attitude.

Meeting with your contact

When you are successful in arranging a meeting, treat the meeting as you would a formal interview: in addition to obtaining valuable information for your job search, you also want to make a favourable impression since this person may, at some point, be in a position to refer you for a job opening.

When you arrive, introduce yourself and establish rapport. Explain the purpose and agenda honestly (i.e., looking for job search information, advice, and referrals). It’s also a good idea to refresh the contact’s memory regarding your background and experience, and then to share information and ask questions based on your research. Here are some sample questions:

  • What is your advice about looking for work in this field?
  • What main job search techniques would you use to find work in the field right now?
  • What challenges face those who work in this field, or who work with typical employers? How can one stand out in the face of these challenges?
  • What do you think of my résumé? Do you have any suggestions for improving it?
  • What could I do to better promote my skills and experience?
  • Do you know of any organizations that might be interested in someone with my qualifications?
  • What other people might I speak to as I gather information? May I have permission to use your name? (Note: it is very important to obtain permission before mentioning a contact's name to a new referral)
  • What groups/associations would you recommend that I join or volunteer for?
  • Would it be alright to contact you again in the future? What is the best way to reach you?

Try to get referrals; you might get two or three from a contact who has no hesitation in referring you. Listen carefully while your contacts speak. If they talk about a company or organization that seems promising, ask if they can suggest whom you could speak with there.

At the close of the meeting, thank your contact and mention how helpful the meeting has been.

Follow up

Within 48 hours of the meeting, send a thank-you note, either via regular mail or email. You may handwrite the note if you feel that you now know the person fairly well. It should be brief and sincere, expressing appreciation for the meeting.

Also include what you have done or plan to do as a result of the meeting. This will reassure the contact that their time with you was well spent. If you have received a contact name, industry information, and/or good tips on changing your résumé, be sure to explain how this information is/will be of benefit. You may wish to indicate in your note that you will forward your revised résumé soon. Try to incorporate at least one of the contact’s suggestions. Send your résumé as a follow up rather than with the letter so that it doesn’t detract from the sincerity of the thank you. And, another mailing will serve to remind them of you!

Tip: Remember to follow up with anyone you network with. When you are given a referral, be sure you follow up promptly, or you will disappoint two people: the person who gave the name and the person who is waiting for your call. Take the opportunity to thank everyone who helped you.

Upon accepting a job, contact those in your network who assisted you and/or are referring you to others. They need to know to stop searching on your behalf.

You can pursue leads uncovered through your research and networking in a number of ways. Your goal is to meet hiring managers. Up to 85% of jobs are secured through face-to-face meetings with individuals who have the authority to hire. If you are uncomfortable speaking to managers, it is a good idea to begin with organizations lower on your priority list so that you will be experienced and confident when you get to the organizations most important to you. You may also want to try phoning early in the morning, over the lunch hour, or later in the day, when the manager may answer his or her own phone. Be sure to track your progress using a spreadsheet, contact management software, or apps.

Broadcast letter/résumé

A broadcast letter’s content is similar to that of a cover letter (used when applying to an advertised position), but a broadcast letter is used to broadcast your availability for work and is accompanied by your résumé. You are initiating the contact.

To write a broadcast letter, follow the general format outlined in the “Letter writing” Section. Be sure to tailor your letter and résumé to the employer’s needs: relate your achievements, abilities, skills, education and experience to a specific area within the organization. The focus is on what you can contribute, based on what you have researched and value about their service or product. Show the hiring manager that you will fill a need in the organization and that you will add value to the organization. Offer a perceptive observation about the employer or industry based on your careful research. End your letter by indicating that you will call and the timeframe for the call. It is advisable to email your letter and résumé (followed up by mail) so a printed copy is delivered to a manager; email is easily deleted or forwarded to human resources.

Address your broadcast letter to a person by name, preferably the head of the department you want to work in, and use a title like “Program Manager.” If you are unable to obtain the person’s name from your network or your research, phone the company's main number for the name and to verify the accuracy of your information. You may encounter a gatekeeper (e.g., a receptionist) who is reluctant to provide you with the information you want. Introduce yourself and make your request. Rather than opening with a statement that you are job searching (as you may then be directed to a website or human resources), indicate that you are sending some professional correspondence (which you are) and want to ensure that the contact information is correct (e.g., spelling of the person's name).

Initiating contact through the use of a broadcast letter rather than a phone call is recommended because most managers are very busy and may not appreciate an unexpected phone call. In addition, your advance letter will provide detailed information about your qualifications, which the manager can consider before speaking with you. Your broadcast letter allows you to focus the conversation more on making a strong connection and getting a meeting, and less on marketing your skills.

Allow adequate time for the hiring manager to receive and read your correspondence. Then make a follow-up phone call; this is what makes a broadcast letter successful.

You will often get voicemail, so be prepared to leave a brief yet professional message to indicate who you are (your self-introduction may be helpful here), when you will call back, and your contact information. If you call back and obtain voicemail again, leave a message indicating that you appreciate that the person is very busy and that you will call back in a couple of weeks to see if there are any openings. Reiterate your enthusiasm for the company and in setting up a face-to-face meeting.

If you do reach the manager, anticipate a response of “We are not hiring right now” or a referral to human resources or to postings on the organization's website. Getting the name of an HR person may seem like a victory, but it is not! You want to meet with the person who makes the hiring decision, and that person is typically not in HR.

In either case, take the conversation one step further by requesting a meeting (networking) to get advice on finding work in the field, in or outside of the organization. Since you sent your letter to a specific manager, at a particular organization, it is important to keep your focus on that organization. Start and end the conversation by expressing your interest in working for this organization: keep the door open to a possible future association. If the manager still is not willing to meet with you, ask when you may check back about new openings and take the opportunity to ask about other leads that he or she may know of.

Benefit from written advice in “Telephone strategies” (Appendix A).

If the hiring manager agrees to meet with you to provide information and advice on your job search rather than to discuss employment opportunities within the organization, prepare for and conduct the meeting as you would a networking meeting. See the Networking strategies section for additional advice. If, on the other hand, the manager agrees to meet regarding potential employment, treat that meeting as a job interview. Do further research on the company, field, and position, and prepare questions that you would ask in a job interview to demonstrate your knowledge of the company and field as well as to help you determine if this company may be a good fit for you.

Contacting hiring managers by phone:

  • Audio Example One
  • Audio Example Two

When you meet with the manager, create a good first impression through strong interpersonal and communication skills, and sincere enthusiasm. Be prepared to define in depth what contributions you can make, focusing on the organization's needs. If it would be helpful for you, practise this interaction in advance.

Creative approach

Depending on the sector and type of work you are seeking, you may benefit from a more creative approach to contacting a hiring manager. For example, if you are interested in securing employment in the marketing field, a unique website or ePortfolio may help to demonstrate your personal creativity, an essential requirement for marketing. On the other hand, if you are applying to more conservative types of positions or organizations, such an approach may not be appropriate.

One-page job proposal

Depending on the sector and type of work you are seeking, you may benefit from a more creative approach to contacting a hiring manager. For example, if you are interested in securing employment in the marketing field, a unique application package may help to demonstrate your personal creativity, an essential requirement for marketing. On the other hand, if you are applying to more conservative types of positions or organizations, such an approach may not be appropriate.

Proposing work

Can you identify a problem you are qualified to solve? In your communications with various employers, have you identified a need that you can fill? If so, you may wish to do further research to prepare and submit a one page proposal to an employer. An interested employer might request the full proposal and meet with you to discuss it. Many companies would be glad to create a position for someone who could save them time and/or money. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur or independent contractor. If interested in entrepreneurism, also ensure to read the section titled Create your work.


Offering to within your field of interest can be a very effective way to demonstrate your skills because employers obtain a first-hand view of what you can do. Many organizations will appreciate your offer and will be convinced of your dedication and confidence in your qualifications. Benefits will come as you work and interact with people because they may be able to give you information and advice about your work search activities. In addition, you will receive valuable knowledge about your field, increase your network, improve your skills, and add relevant experience to your résumé.

Dropping in

Although visiting an employer without an appointment can be an effective job search method, it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet with people who hire because of their heavier workloads and the large number of job seekers who would like to meet with them. In addition, security measures may make it difficult to reach hiring managers. However, getting face-to-face time with a hiring manager is still possible and desirable. Do your research, prepare your résumé and letter, and deliver them in person. Ask if the head of the department you would like to work in could speak with you. It is more difficult to dismiss a person than a résumé. Human resources staff may learn of openings only when managers have exhausted their own leads. If you are unable to speak with the manager, someone else may be available to provide additional background information to help you in your application.

A job fair is a great opportunity to identify immediate or future job openings and to network. A fair may be geared toward one industry, or employers may come from a variety of industries. You can obtain details about job fairs through newspaper advertisements, professional associations, trade magazines, your network, and university career service departments.

Whether you are a student or a graduate, a job fair offers many benefits. It is an opportunity to gain first-hand information about careers, industry trends, and organizations. You can meet many company representatives in one day and at one location, saving you time and money. A job fair allows employers to promote their companies and recruit from hundreds of potential employees. Some employers may conduct formal or impromptu interviews at the job fair.

The University of Waterloo distinguishes between our Career Fair and Job Fair. At our Career Fair (held in September), organizations may or may not be hiring but want to increase awareness about their organizations. At the Job Fair (held in February), companies must have job openings available immediately or within six months from the date of the fair. For information on the Career and Job Fairs co-sponsored by the University of Waterloo, the University of Guelph, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Conestoga College, please visit the Centre for Career Development website. Only students and alumni with valid ID cards from the four co-sponsoring institutions can attend these fairs.

How to prepare for a fair

To get the most from a fair, you will need to be well prepared. Although you want to focus primarily on organizations in your field, do not limit yourself. Remember that non-technical companies hire technical people, and vice versa. However, given the amount of preparation necessary, be realistic about the number of companies you plan to target. Consider the following steps:

  1. Do a self-assessment to determine your goals and the skills you want to market
  2. Find out which companies and organizations will be represented, and research them to determine if they are of interest to you
  3. Think about how your skills, knowledge, and experience fit the organizations’ needs
  4. Prepare copies of your résumé, or résumés if you have several versions, tailored to a variety of career choices
  5. Create a calling/networking card that includes your contact information and achievements (refer to Custom contact cards section)
  6. Consider taking supporting documents such as reference letters, your professional portfolio (including examples of your work and accomplishments), copies of your transcript, and completed job applications
  7. Compose intelligent, well-informed questions that you want to ask employers
  8. Practise your handshake and your 30-45 second self-introduction
  9. Plan what you will wear; dress professionally, as you would for a job interview

When attending a job or career fair, consider the following:

  • Pick up a floor map, and plan which companies you want to visit. You may want to speak to representatives from companies you are really interested in after you have practised and warmed up with some other companies first
  • You should take copies of your résumé to leave with employers at their request, but, ideally, you want to send (the next day) a letter or résumé that reflects the information you gained from your discussion with the employer. If you do leave a résumé on the day of the fair, follow up the next day with a letter
  • It is best not to arrive during the last half hour of the event because employers may be tired after a long day or need to leave early
  • Avoid taking an employer’s promotional materials without first talking to the company representative and then being invited to do so
  • Visit booths by yourself. You will appear to be more confident and be better able to focus and market yourself if you are on your own
  • It is best not to directly ask for a job. Present your self introduction and ask questions of the company representative
  • Be mindful of the time you take with each employer. Do not spend more than ten minutes with an employer unless the representative invites you to continue the conversation. Other students will want to speak with the employer, so be careful not to monopolize an employer’s time
  • Collect the names of appropriate people to follow up with after the fair
  • Be organized: take a folder to collect handouts, a calendar in case an employer wants to schedule an interview, and a pen and paper or electronic organizer to record notes and required follow-up

When you interact with employers, try to communicate effectively. Incorporate positive nonverbal communication such as eye contact, facial expressions (smile), and body language (posture). Listen attentively: a fair is very large, noisy, and crowded, so you want to let an employer know that he or she has your full attention.

Avoid generic questions and requests such as, “So, tell me about your company” because recruiters do not want to do all of the work. Posing such questions shows little initiative or interest on your part. If asked what type of position you are seeking, responding with “I am willing to do anything at your company” will suggest a lack of focus. Do not discuss salary expectations at this stage.

Tailor your questions to the person you are speaking with. If you encounter a human resources representative, you could ask questions about corporate information, orientation, and working conditions. Topics appropriate for line managers include how their work solves the organization's challenges. Then ask how work is assigned and evaluated, the day-to-day working conditions, and what specific training is needed. If alumni from your home institution are representing a company, ask them questions about their experiences with the organization, factors that contributed to their hire, and typical career paths within the organization.

Prepare and practise a 30-45 second self-introduction, highlighting your knowledge, training, skills, and experience and what you can bring to the company. A self-introduction is sometimes called an elevator speech: it is just long enough to say to someone in an elevator before the ride ends. Close your presentation with a focused question that will engage the employer in conversation, such as, “I read in the media that your organization is trying to enter the Chinese market, could you tell me more about it?”

Relate what you learn from the employer to what you have to offer the company. After the employer has provided you with some information, you could respond with a more tailored statement such as, “Thanks for sharing that information. I believe I would be a good fit for your program because…” If you are genuinely interested in a company, say so. You could say, “I’m seriously interested in what your company does, and I believe I have the talent to help you solve some of its challenges.”

Be prepared for resistance from some types of employers because they may be attending the fair with the express intent of hiring students with a certain academic background. If, based on your research, you feel that your skills, education, and experience fit the organization in some way, be prepared to sell your fit to the employer.

After you have given an employer your résumé, ask what the next step is in the hiring process and ask the employer for a business card. Keep track of conversations by recording, after you have left the booth, pertinent information or a detailed note on the back of the business card.

Fair follow-up

Twenty-four to forty-eight hours after attending a fair, you should send a thank-you letter to the person with whom you spoke. Be sure to reiterate your relevant skills, your interest in the company, and any other important information you may have forgotten to mention. Also, send a tailored résumé to the person most likely responsible for hiring. This may or may not be the person you spoke with at the fair. If the résumé is going to a hiring manager to whom you were referred, be sure to indicate in your cover letter how you got the manager’s name (i.e., at the fair, and from whom).

Online fairs

In addition to regular fairs where employers meet candidates in person, virtual fairs are becoming popular with employers as a means to recruit employees. However, a virtual fair is simply a set of links to employer sites and profiles, or a listing of job opportunities. Some virtual fairs allow you to chat with an employer online during a designated time period. A fair can be organized by a company on its own behalf, or by a company for several organizations.


Some companies hire recruiters, or headhunters, to successfully locate and screen qualified candidates for particular job openings. Headhunters often gather a small number of applicants to thoroughly interview, and they may even conduct skill, personality, and other professional assessments. Recruiters most often specialize in senior positions within particular fields such as information technology or business management and tend to offer long-term opportunities, both permanent and contract. It is a good idea to get acquainted and develop working relationships with a few reputable recruiters, but you should rely on more effective strategies for the majority of your work search.

When considering recruiters, research their reputations thoroughly and discuss their procedures so there will be no overlap between where you and they send résumés. It is important to remember that a recruiter’s primary client is the organization with an opening to be filled. Recruiters receive fees from clients in the range of 15-30% of the candidate’s first-year salary. Your résumé will be considered only if your qualifications match those required for positions on file. Do not assume that the recruiter will market your résumé to other employers, remain in regular contact, or arrange interviews for positions that you are not a perfect match for. To fill a job and thus receive their fee, some recruiters may try to sell you on a position that may not necessarily be a good fit for you. Ensure you are genuinely interested in any position you are referred to by researching the job and the hiring company. If you do accept a job, remember that the hiring company is the client and pays the recruiter’s fee. Finally, keep in mind that the salary offered may not be as high as it would have been if you had not been hired through a recruiter. While in the work search process, follow up with the recruiter every three months so that he or she will remember your skills and experience and consider you for future opportunities.

Employment agencies/temp services

Agencies often specialize in non-managerial positions within office administration, manufacturing, trades, or hospitality and offer short- or long-term opportunities. A short-term position may fit your needs (e.g., summer, co-op) and may lead to a long-term association. Employment agencies may charge you a fee (usually a fixed rate upon successful placement or a percentage of the hourly rate offered); investigate thoroughly agencies that charge fees to ensure you will be getting value for your money. If asked to sign a contract, read it carefully.

Outplacement firms

If you are employed by an organization that is facing major restructuring or downsizing, you may have access to the services of a recruitment firm, hired and paid by the employer. This service, however, is typically offered only to individuals in senior management positions.

You should remember that relatively few people find jobs through the advertised market. However, if you are going to apply to advertised openings, keep the following in mind:

When reviewing advertised openings, be aware that the employer is advertising for the ideal candidate. Apply if you feel that you can do the job even if you do not think that you meet all of the listed requirements. You may be the most qualified applicant. However, be realistic; if you do not measure up on a critical qualification, you will waste the employer’s time and yours. Do not disregard a job because of the job title. Analyze the job description. The text will also be a strong indicator as to the nature of the position. Words such as “self-starter” and “challenging” will denote requirements for a different kind of person than words such as “reliable” and “conscientious.” Check the Career section of the newspaper (or online) in addition to the Classified section. Also watch for companies with several advertisements. You may have found a company in hiring mode, with additional jobs not yet advertised. Larger newspapers also provide web pages that include the postings advertised in the print versions of their newspapers.

Reading advertisements on a regular basis (even after you have found a job) is helpful even if you do not intend to focus your job search on this venue. This practice allows you to remain up-to-date on what qualifications are most often mentioned, where most jobs are, and the industry language (i.e., key words) that you should include in your résumé and cover letter.

Many companies ask that you send your résumé by email or complete an online application form. If you apply by email, be sure to check what format of attachment the company accepts. If you are unsure, send a plain-text version of your résumé in the body of your email because some companies automatically delete email with unfamiliar attachments. Many companies also advertise job openings on their web sites to decrease advertising costs. If you are targeting a particular organization, check its web site regularly for vacancies.

You may find it helpful to review large, multi-purpose sites and to bookmark your favourites. They offer any combination of job listings, résumé databases, discussion groups, career planning information, industry updates, and links to other sites of interest. There have been reports of harassment, data mining, and even identity theft, so be cautious. Choose your level of confidentiality; you may wish to provide your consent to have your résumé viewed only by particular employers. With so many résumé databases, you will need to do some careful screening to get the level of service you want. Evaluate each site’s policies against the following criteria:

  1. How large is the database, and what fields or disciplines are represented in the greatest numbers?
  2. How many jobs does the site typically receive that match your qualifications?
  3. Does the site charge job applicants?
  4. How often can job seekers update their files?
  5. What information is given to an employer: your résumé (paper or electronic copy), a skills summary, etc.?
  6. How do you know if your résumé has been forwarded to an employer?
  7. How long is an applicant’s résumé kept in the database?
  8. What precautions are taken to avoid misuse of your data?

After applying to a position, make it a priority to follow up with a phone call to the hiring manager. State your interest in and inquire about the hiring process, timelines, etc. If there is no contact information, call the company’s main number and try to get the appropriate phone number so you can follow up. When the advertisement states “no phone calls,” try to honour the request. However, if you applied for a sales position, the company may expect you to follow up as you would if you worked in this field. And try to think of other ways to support your application beyond calling the organization. Your network may include someone who works in the organization and may be able to speak to the hiring manager on your behalf.

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