You did it! You graduated and after some blood, sweat and tears, you received a certificate, diploma or degree. You may have thought that your education alone would get you the job, yet now that you are ready to join the workforce in your chosen profession, you have encountered a bump in the road…..all the jobs posted require one or more years of experience, and to add to your worry, no one has contacted you for an interview.
Before, I share some ideas of how to overcome this obstacle, I would like to share with you a valuable piece of advice I once received, that once I heard it, it made perfect sense on a great way to look at and handle challenges. The advice the wise woman shared was simple: “take a deep breath and breath!” You can’t eat the elephant whole in one bite. You can only eat it, one bite at a time.” To this day, I still remember her words to keep perspective and avoid situations where I may be acting more like a dog chasing its own tail!
In order to prevent yourself from what may feel like is the equivalent to chasing your own tail, it is important to start with knowing what key skills employers are expecting from post-secondary graduates. Understanding this is the key to your self-assessment, direction and job search strategy. Post-secondary graduates are expected to have abilities in complex problem solving, critical thinking, people management, creativity, judgment and decision-making. Think about your life experiences, what you learned in school or during your practicum, and think about how you have demonstrated those skills. Here is a tip: Volunteer experience counts too!
To get started you should gain about as much knowledge of the places you want to apply to as possible. There are companies out there that do an AMAZING job of communicating their work culture, values and mission. I once stumbled upon an architectural company’s website, and after reading the information they posted, I became excited, and wanted to apply for an architectural intern position posted in their careers section. There was just one problem – I do not have a degree in architecture! What I am trying to say, is that taking the time to learn about a company, can be engaging and inspiring, you may be able to get a “feel” of their work culture, and also helps you to answer the question of “why should we hire you,” for example. Your efforts will show initiative, critical thinking and a genuine interest in working for the company. Doing the research will help you make a plan, know what to write in your cover letter, and as noted above, prepare for an interview.
I would like to address what seems to be a bit of a misconception that having entry-level work experience (retail, hospitality, general labourer, etc.) on your resume will hurt your chances of getting a job in your chosen profession. The good news is that it absolutely will not. Do not overlook or underestimate the importance of entry-level jobs, even in an entry-level position, how well employees perform in those roles can have an effect on the success of the company. Employers recognize the skill and character development gained from successfully performing tasks and handling responsibilities. What you learn on the job develops different skills, then what you learn in school. On the job work experience is not irrelevant and can demonstrate your ability to show up on time, work diligently throughout your shift, ability and desire to work as a team, communications, customer service, time management, even problem solving to name a few. Did you just note that I listed some skills that you can add to your resume? Skills, including interpersonal skills and ability to perform job tasks will get you the job – does your resume reflect that? How well did you read the job ad and research the company to make sure you are demonstrating what is relevant to the potential employer, in your resume? Think of your resume as proof that you possess required skills.
Qualifications are not measured solely in number of years, so don’t panic. Rather than playing the waiting game to be hired, try a different way to gain rich experience and demonstrate your knowledge and work ethic. Some ideas can include making an impact on your resume by showing you are results oriented and take initiative. How? Sharing goals you set for yourself and the steps you took to get there, such as taking additional training to minimize skill gaps; learning code, mastering social media marketing. If, for example, you want to pursue a career as a fashion designer, building relationships with designers, retailers and PR executives is very important. Perhaps you can put your social media skills to good use and start a blog. There has been an increase in people starting their own clothing lines and promoting them on social media, building their own websites to sell their products online. Another example you could use is talking about a time you volunteered to manage a project no one else wanted to work on, or about stepping up to help complete someone else’s work to meet a deadline or just to get the job done, etc. This demonstrates to the employer, determination and foreseeing what it takes to achieve results, to name a few.
Volunteering can help to get a better inside view. If you have not already done so, think about your career objective; now think about places where you can volunteer to get experience. Even seasoned professionals had to start somewhere, and I highly doubt they started at the top. Volunteering, and let’s not forget internships, both present a perfect opportunity to get your whole body in the door and make meaningful connections, while gaining experience, and demonstrating your abilities and willingness to learn. Why go through the effort of breaking down the door, when you can just walk through it? I cannot stress enough how important it is to really take the time to reflect on these areas. Taking the time to do this will help you develop and implement a plan that allows you to continue to grow and help narrow the “lack of experience” gap. This could be a crucial step to ensuring you are able to achieve your ultimate goal. I have had conversations with individuals who got their degree, but ended up going in a different direction because they lacked “experience” and since bills do not go away and a roof over ones head is always nice, they took jobs that did not relate to their degree and soon after, life happened and they stopped pursuing their profession. This is not the end of the world, but if before you know it, five or so years have gone by, you may have compounded the problem. Speaking of bills, if you need to take a different kind of job, do not feel bad, but try to find an entry-level position within your field of study that may provide opportunities for making connections aka, networking, or at least something that will offer you transferrable skills to add to your resume. Remember that volunteering allows for some flexibility so that you can still work, while keeping your eye on the prize.
Another way to try to make meaningful connections is by attending networking events for professionals in your field. Currently we are in the middle of a pandemic, but all is not lost, do some research, look-up- companies and associations, for example, and see what professionals are doing to stay connected; are there any online webinars or networking events you can attend? How about an online Job Fair? This could be a great way to reach out and connect with other professionals.
The short answer is yes, it is. If the word “network” suddenly made you feel like there is giant elephant sitting on your chest, don’t worry, we have two workshops designed to teach you how to network like a pro: Branding Yourself and Informational Interviews. Here is another quick tip: when you are conducting informational interviews, you are networking, and you are humbly in the driver’s seat, asking the right questions to get advice on how you can achieve your career goal. The good news is that it does not have to be anything complicated or overly involved. If you are not feeling as confident as you usually feel, and are at a low point in your job search, our Self-Care for Job Search workshop, can help a great deal in overcoming the job search blues and give you a renewed hope and self-confidence.
If you need ideas of different resources you can use for research, help with networking and interviewing call us at (204) 989-6503. Our workshops will help to ensure you can articulate your goal, sound professional and prepare for interviews. We would love to share some helpful tips to help you on your journey.
"This place really helped me in my time of need. I was struggling with my previous job mentally, emotionally and physically. The counsellors are compassionate, supportive, and just a lot of fun. They take their time with you, as much as you need, and as often as you can, to help you move on to a new form of employment. I have and will recommend this place for anyone who is needing a change in their employment. They have excellent knowledge of using the right information and key words to make your resume and cover letters stand out in an application. I couldn't be more thankful to them."
Happy New Year Mr Robinson
I would like to express my experience that I had when dealing with your professional team at your center which indeed have changed a lot in my job search.
My experience in your center was very rich by the fact that I benefited from guidance services, CV, cover letter, how to pass an interview and Branding statement...etc.
Because of these workshops, I had the pleasure to work with Laurie, Betty, Kristina, John, Judy and Lisa, they were all amazing and very professional.
It is difficult for me to find the exact words to express my gratitude and to thank each member of this great team that you have but, above all, I would like to especially thank Betty for her good work, I was able to get my first job. in Winnipeg plus I got a lot of encouraging feedback from other employers. I also would like to thank Laurie, because of her I was able to understand and have love in what I do and also how to search for future jobs with love.
In short, you guys are simply a magnificent and professional team I have ever worked with.
Thanks again and Happy New Year