10 Tips for Essential Work Search

10 Tips for Essential Work Search

By: Francis Mercurio | Career Peer
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You deserve to have a successful work search. With these tips, it won’t take long for an employer to notice your amazing efforts.

1. Set up your Strategy

A great place to begin your work search is in research and reflection. Make a list of companies and roles you are excited about, what kinds of challenges you are interested in solving, current trends and what kinds of work is needed in the world right now. Use your natural interests, skills and values to guide you, and notice where these areas overlap.

2. Diversify

To get exposure to all the options out there, learn all you can by reading and talking to people. Use reliable sources like this page for employment and funding information. Study the market and who’s hiring. Sign up for newsletters, and track your favourite thought leaders and companies on social media. Volunteer, attend an info session, and expand your networks on LinkedIn. Maximize recruitment platforms with diversified keyword searches. Take a chance on having a virtual coffee (informational interview) – now is a great time for this. 

3. Get Specific 

Once you have a sense of the directions you are interested in (public health, social innovation, commerce, or with people in marginalized situations, for example), you can begin to get more specific. Ask good questions: about the work, expectations, rewards, protocols for inclusivity, or other specifics to your circumstance or the values that matter to you. Build relationships and you'll hear about opportunities. Discover areas that will be a great fit - or not. Finding out that something isn't what you thought, or won't work for you, is helpful information, too. 

4. Manage your Time

Searching for and applying for work is time consuming. You'll need to call on the awesome skills you've developed as a student and prioritize your deadlines. Focus on the jobs you have the best chance of getting an interview for or leads that seem the strongest. Allow enough time to research the company, write the application, and make the edits and revisions needed.

5. Analyze the Job Description

Identify what is most relevant to the role (what do they want) and the experiences and skills you have (what can you offer). Study the content in the job description and import keywords to your resume and cover letter to demonstrate your fit. Study the finer points of applicant tracking systems (ATS) to ensure you're not unnecessarily missing opportunities. 

6. Tailor your Application 

To stand out in a stack of resumes, you'll want to tailor your application for the job by adjusting the summary, skills, ordering, headings and key words, as needed. Having a master resume with accomplishment statements and a sample or skeleton cover letter prepared in advance, that you can customize, is helpful. 

7. Good Design

Your application has a better chance of being read when it looks good and is easy to read. Consider a consistent layout and design throughout your resume, cover letter, and references list. Find examples in the OLC Co-op Resume Gallery and sites like Creative Market for inspiration. Check that all information is accurate and error-free. It’s so obvious but can (and does) happen, even if you are using Grammarly! There is nothing worse than hitting send and realizing there is a spelling error in your opening line... 

8. Prepare for Next Steps

While you wait to hear back from potential offers (it can sometimes take weeks), get yourself organized. Save the job descriptions and application documents together in a file, ready to review when you get the call for the interview. Check out Interview Stream, or, book a virtual interview practice to prepare, and develop quality answers and a more confident presence.

9. Meet People and Get Involved

Internet based work search is only one way to find work. Get involved. Meet people. There are many programs, volunteer roles, workshops and training sessions that can help you gain specific work-related skills. Not only are you adding to your resume and building your confidence with new experiences, you are growing your community and potential referrals to paid work. Future employers will be impressed with your proactive mindset, too. 

10. Remain Positive and Ask for Help

From Francis: Getting rejected is a big fear for many people, and when a job application you spent hours working on is ignored or dismissed, it can be crushing. You may even feel like the employer rejected you personally, triggering “I’m not good enough” and “no one will ever hire me!” Keep making connections and continue to push out applications for roles you feel excited about. Don’t fail to plan, and get support from a student Career Peer if you are having trouble creating your cover letter, resume or LinkedIn.

From Deanne: Keep your head high! It is actually (unfortunately) common to have multiple applications rejected. There are so many reasons why it might not be your time to shine - at this particular job, on this particular day. Try not to get too discouraged. Opportunities will continue to show up and there will be a day when the door opens and the offer is made.

If you have sent out several job applications and heard nothing back, our Career Education Specialists can review your methods and help you learn new ones, so that you can stay hopeful through this stage of work search, and feel great about sending quality applications that will pay off for you. 

Learn to recognize opportunities and leverage your skills and strengths. We have free and confidential appointment for all students and new grads. Book at careers@sfu.ca.

Lead image: Photo by Clem Onojeghuo from Unsplash

Author Bio


Francis Mercurio is a Fourth-Year Psychology student and Business minor concentrating on Human Resources. He enjoys getting to know people, reading books on self-improvement, history and philosophy and volunteering as a Career Peer. You can see what he is up to in through his LinkedIn.

Deanne Esdale is a Career Education Specialist at Simon Fraser University Career & Volunteer Services and serves as editor for ENGAGE blog. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Posted on May 29, 2020