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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Job Hunters: How street smart are you?

By Sharon Aschaiek

When it comes to finding a job, Jemimah St. Hilaire is fearless. "All of the jobs I got, I got with little or no experience," she says.

It's true. The Toronto resident has a lifetime of experience working at jobs she landed through little more than sheer determination and a willingness to learn.

She's worked as a secretary, DJ, car salesperson, telecom analyst, model, actor, waitress, postal clerk, on a construction site, and even played in a band.

Each time she fancied a change, she would cold call and find out about positions (now called information interviewing) until she found a new adventure.

She now adds "author" to her long list of titles with the publication of her first book, Street Smarts For Job Seekers: A down-to-earth guide for people making life changes in turbulent times. The informative, easy-to-read self-published book is geared toward job hunters, those seeking a career change or the "working wounded", as St. Hilaire puts it, and includes useful strategies to help you land your "career soulmate".

But what makes this a better read than other job search books is the personal touch St. Hilaire injects into the content. She encourages readers to do away with their hang ups and believe in themselves. It's the kick in the rear that people need to move from thinking about making a change, to doing it.

But before you can begin, St. Hilaire writes, you have to figure out who you are, what your passion is, and what kind of work will truly make you happy.

Finding a career that is joyful will put life back into you. You will feel a sense of worth and accomplishment every day that you go to work.

We are all different individuals. A job that you find difficult may be someone else's perfect challenge. What you find rewarding and stimulating, someone else may find gruelling and unexciting. When someone makes you do something, it's a chore. When you create the same task in your own mind, it's a pleasure.

Your support network can be as critical to your success as anything else, St. Hilaire says.

I think the most encouraging support you can build for yourself comes from placing yourself around positive people. These are the people who will give you the strength and encouragement that is needed to change, or to go out there and look for a job. Immerse yourself in a positive environment -- I promise you it will do a lot, not only for your confidence, but also for how you see yourself ...

Seek out people instead who are successful, who can give you pointers, who are inspirational and positive. These people will help supply the adrenaline you'll need to boost yourself in the right direction.
Jemimah St. Hilaire is the author of Street Smarts for Job Seekers: A down-to-earth guide for people making life changes in turbulent times.

Once you've established what you want to do, conducting research on your chosen industry/profession, specific companies for which you want to work, and positions within those companies will give you an edge in your search.

Information interviews, she says, allow you to glean the real scoop on a job, i.e. the number of hours they work, what they like/dislike about their job, the corporate culture, and so on.

During this time, don't be afraid to tap into the community resources designed to help you achieve success, St. Hilaire writes. A career coach, for example, will help set you on the right path and provide encouragement.

A coach is there to help you decide, to help you see what is out there in the job market. A career coach will put all the cards on the table and help you to examine all your options, along with your aptitudes, interests, skill levels, qualifications, experience -- and hopefully guide you to that so-called perfect job.

Keep in mind that job hunting can be stressful -- whether you're not working and feeling the financial burden, or are trying to make time for your search while working. Keeping your stress levels in check will help you handle the job search better, and will also improve your quality of life.

Your happiness is very important. Stress can damage that. Know the difference and do something about it. Whether it's stress management classes or a vacation, or even a few brief days off, it's critical to address this issue. If you let stress ruin your life, you may just lose your life.

St. Hilaire also discusses all of the ways to market the best product you have: you. She includes cold calling, networking clubs, community courses and peer-level contacts, and includes actual resources people can turn to.

"Searching for a job is a skill," she says. "My book is a step-by-step guidebook showing what people need to do in proper sequence when looking for a job."

Street Smarts for Job Seekers can be purchased for $29.95 at

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