CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Unlocking the secrets to effective job searching

By Jack Kazmierski
Special to The Toronto Sun

Take this job and shove it," sang Dolly Parton back in the hit '80s office place comedy film, Nine to Five. You may feel the same way if you hate your job and the company you work for. But how can you find the job and company that's right for you? Better yet, how can you avoid ending up in the wrong job in the first place?

"The first step has to be stepping back and taking stock of who you are," explains Mary Giamos, career management consultant, Career Centre, University of Toronto. "Until you have an idea of what you like doing, what you can do, and what you want to do, you really don't know where to start looking."

Unfortunately, most job hunters look for work by checking job listings on the Internet, in the papers, on job boards and elsewhere.

"But if you just open up a database and start looking at what positions are available, you're in a reactive mode," Giamos says. "You're reading a job description and saying, 'Oh yeah, I can do that.' And then you go for the interview, maybe you get an offer, maybe you don't.

"If you get the offer, you may find out after a couple of weeks that it's not working out. But had you stepped back initially, you may have realized that this company values people who come in at 7 a.m. and don't leave until 7 p.m. Had you known this, then perhaps you wouldn't have applied for a position that's so demanding."

The key to achieving workplace success and happiness, therefore, is doing your research. You may want to start by looking at specific industries. Both the federal and provincial governments have websites that track industry trends and contain occupational information. You can get the heads-up on how a specific industry is doing, and based on your findings, identify companies you want to pursue.

A good career resource library will have information about occupations and profiles so you can identify positions that exist within an industry, but maybe aren't being advertised at present.

If you limit yourself to what's being advertised, those might not be ideal positions for you. But if you find out what's out there, you can start doing what Giamos calls "an information interview." This is where you set up a meeting with someone who is doing work similar to what you would like to be doing.

"To get to this point you need to start researching individual companies," Giamos says, "checking their websites, finding out what they do and how they're structured." Trade and business magazines can also help you target a company.

When you find a company you'd like to pursue, get the word out to friends and acquaintances that you're interested in the company and ask them if they know anybody who works there.

"If you get the word out, chances are a name will come back to you and you'll be able to talk to that person over the phone, or maybe visit in person," Giamos explains. "Then ask that person what it's like working for that company. That's when you'll find out what the environment is really like."

"You have to develop your personal network to the point where you can meet someone who is already working there, but not the human resources people," warns Martine Lemonde, professional services director, Brisson Legris, a career-consulting firm based in Montreal. "It could even be the person who sweeps the floors, but you need to speak to someone."

You can also find employees of your target company at trade shows and industry functions.

"Ask the people there about the companies they work for," Lemonde suggests. "Are employees happy? Is there a feeling of well being?"

If it's a company that offers services, go in as a client to see how you're treated, how employees interact. If there's tension or unhappiness in the air, you will see it.

"And if you're going in for an interview go in a bit earlier to look around and observe employee interaction," Lemonde says.

Finding the right position within the right organization takes a bit of time and effort. But the alternative can drive you nuts and leave you humming along with Dolly, "I can't take it here no more."

(Jack Kazmierski ( is a Toronto-based freelance writer and editor.)

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