By Sharon Aschaeik
New Year's resolutions -- they feel good to make, and sound good when you tell others, but often become a distant memory by the time the holiday leftovers are finished and the wrapping paper's thrown out.
Often the problem is too much, too soon: too many goals are set, and too many of them are of the "completely change your life" variety.
When it comes to career building, it's fine to set objectives and give yourself deadlines, so long as its remembered that a career is a work in progress. It requires ongoing maintenance and the ability to adapt, and it's likely that the initial goals you set will need to be tweaked, revised or completely revamped as the new year progresses and your career path takes different turns.
Perhaps a more effective approach to take is to arm yourself with the most basic and pertinent information integral to job searching in today's competitive employment climate. Once you have this information, you can then apply it to your career strategies and reach your goals.
Below is your opportunity to get expert advice directly from the people who have made careers out of, well, career management.
Each weighs in on what you should keep in mind when job hunting.
Researching your job search
Mary Giamos, career management consultant, Career Centre, University of Toronto:
"The first step has to be stepping back and taking stock of who you are. 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.
"You need to start researching individual companies, checking their websites, finding out what they do and how they're structured.
"If you get the word out (to friends and family), 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. Then ask that person what it's like working for that company to find out what the environment is really like."
Résumés and Cover Letters
Audrey Field, president of Résumé Resources (www.resumeresources.ca
), certified professional résumé writer, Canadian officer of the Professional résumé Writing and Research Association, and author of the soon-to-be-released Need a Canadian résuméh? Take the advice from Canada's Award-Winning and International Certified Professional résumé Writer:
"The résumé is crucial -- that is what's going to open the doors to interviews.
Familiarize yourself with industry key words and make sure they're included in your (résumé)," says Audrey Field, president of Résumé Resources.
"The cover letter has become industry standard, and should go out with every job application. It should be targeted to each position and make sure it is addressed to the right person.
"Familiarize yourself with industry key words -- the nouns that communicate a job function responsibility or accomplishment -- and make sure they're included in your documents. Otherwise you could be missed by OCR (optical character recognition) software that employers use to find applicants with the desired qualifications.
"They should be perfectly formatted with no spelling mistakes ... I encourage clients to have résumés in a rich text file, pdf format and as an online portfolio. It's a good way to showcase the best of what you have.
"I also encourage people to use a multi-pronged strategy when sending out their documents. Of course, do what the job ad says. If it says fax, fax. But when doing cold calling, and they don't say how to submit, send an e-mail and then follow up with hard copy printed on nice paper, and courier it to the decision maker."
Donna Messer, president of Connectus Communications Canada (www.connectuscanada.com
), world-renowned networker and public speaker, and author of the bestseller Effective Networking Strategies and the upcoming Mobilizing Mentoring:
"Most of the jobs that people are getting today are being tapped into not through just the usual sources -- it's through who they know.
"We've all have the same degrees and good experience, but the person who gets hired uses networking. They find an organization that's connected to their profession. They go to events and don't just say they're looking for work, they connect with people and find out what they have in common. People like people who are like themselves, buy and sell from them, and refer them to other people.
"Go onto the websites of the companies you want to work for and learn as much as you can. Check annual reports, principles, philosophy -- whatever their key area is, make sure you can put yourself there."
"Have an elevator speech to show those people you are like them. Each time you meet someone, take the speech and personalize it. Tell them about the research you've been doing about their company, and mention a specific point you might have in common, now that you know this person better.
"Think about what you have to offer, and it's not just the job -- it's your personal skills, unique experiences, your network of relationships and more."
Using Employment centres
Randy Hastings, director of employment training, St. Stephen's Employment Centre (www.ststephenshouse.com/etc.shtml
"We have six different employment programs, and self-directed services and a resource centre that include a fax machine and Internet resources. We also have employment counsellors to help people to figure out what they want to do and how to get there.
"We offer job placement services -- we link people up with employers, and offer training incentives to hire people on.
"We have off-site training in computers, programs for newcomers, workshops in customer service, keyboarding and improving English.
"Using an employment agency can make a huge difference. We have a very high success rate: 80% of our visitors get a job as part of a training program or return to school.
"We see a lot of youth new to Canada. A lot of them don't have references, and have difficulty proving their qualifications. That's where a lot of the job placement services come in to help them.
"We take them through the whole process -- everyting from getting a SIN number to getting references.
"An employment counsellor will review your methodology and find out where your job search is breaking down. They can help you focus on what part of your job search you need to work on.
"There's the support aspect, too. People get to share their experiences with others in the same boat. It also builds your network, and that could lead to more leads and jobs."
Using staffing firms:
John Tapp, director of business development and account manager/recruiter with Applied Technology Solutions (www.atsglobal.com
"Job hunters should use staffing firms as one component of their job search process. Firms like us have spent years developing relationships with clients, and job hunters can leverage that relationship in that we do the work.
"There should be no fee for a candidate looking for a position from a recruiting firm. The firm's fees are paid for by the client.
"They should ask intelligent questions about what the firm's client base is, what industries it focuses on, to deem whether their skill sets fit what the firm's clients are looking for.
"Include all of your relevant experience on your résumé, put down the titles you've held and duties you performed. Include only your most recent assignments and projects.
"When meeting with a job hunter, we want to get a feel for individual, where they would fit in, and determine the types of clients they could present that candidate to.
"Good firms will give advice and not waste the candidate's time if they think they could do it better on their own or if don't have ties to a the candidate's preferred company."program.
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