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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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 rÃ©sumÃ© 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
“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).”
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.
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.
On a job application
Response to interview invitation
During an interview
After you’ve been matched / received the job offer
After a disability-related issue on the job
The information in the table above can be found in audio format below:
Transcript: On a job application (PDF)
Transcript: Response to an interview invitation (PDF)
Transcript: During an interview (PDF)
Transcript: After you have received the job offer (PDF)
Transcript: After you start work (PDF)
Transcript: After a disability related issue (PDF)
Transcript: Never (PDF)
We know this is a lot of information to consider. There are many factors to consider and there is no right way to approach disclosure. Need advice? Consider booking a work search appointment with Career Advisor at the Centre for Career Development.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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 â€“ 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:
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.
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):
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):
Final paragraph (closing and follow up):
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much. I look forward to speaking with you.
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:
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
When attending a job or career fair, consider the following:
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.
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).
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.
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.
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:
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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