While the frigid weather may be the first thing on most students’ minds, after April exams there is a new challenge perhaps more daunting than slippery winter walkways. Some students will be looking for summer jobs and internships. Others will be looking for careers.
“Think strategy,” was Mary Giamos’ first suggestion to students looking for employment. A career management consultant at the Career Centre, Giamos believes job success begins with getting a head start. Earlier is always better when it comes to getting the best jobs.
“Most people aren’t starting their job search now,” she explained, “so, there are more opportunities to find potential employers.”
Giamos suggests that approaching employers before they’re advertising positions is a great tactic. Send employers an introductory email expressing interest in their field and asking for career advice in order to build a relationship with them before inquiring about potential opportunities.
“They won’t have to go through the hassle of [reviewing] hundreds of applications if they can find someone who has shown initiative,” said Giamos. “It’s a win-win for both the student and the potential employer.”
Similar to writing an essay, Giamos suggests that those students who focus on a small area will be the most successful. “Identify [a few] organizations, research them well, and build contacts,” advised Giamos. “You will have more of a success rate than if you fire off your resume to every job out there.”
Hacking down the mound of potential positions to a mere few, though, sounds daunting. The career centre emphasizes the importance of the student knowing their goals. “It really begins with the student giving some thought to what kind of experience they’re looking for,” said Giamos.
After assessing what their goals are and what they are trying to achieve, it is time for the student to assess their current skills and abilities. Giamos explained the tactical angle of responding to an employer’s advertisement: “Try to match your skills to their needs.”
The job search tool on the career centre website is a great tool to find a job suited to needs and ambitions. The eHarmony of careers, it will match positions according to your availability, interests, and skills. What is more, it is only open to U of T students. This not only means less competition, but also that the employers listed are explicitly looking to hire students from our university. The site also has a page dedicated to internship opportunities.
Other services offered through the Career Centre include career information sessions, a communications internship programme, and workshops covering everything from career personality suitability, to interview techniques, to workplace etiquette. Drop-in resume clinics are held Tuesdays to Fridays from 2–4 p.m. and run on a first-come, first-serve basis. “Make sure you’ve got a tailored resume,” stressed Giamos. “A perfect one.”
While the time is indeed ripe to start planning for the summer, there is no need to crumble under the pressure. The resources at U of T are readily available to point students in the direction of success. It is important to remember that any position will give the student an edge they didn’t have before.
“Any job is a good experience,” said Giamos. “Good career decisions are made on multiple experiences.”
QUICK CAREER TIPS
Get in touch with the alumni. Many colleges and campuses run active alumni associations. Find yours and see if they run any career-oriented events. Many will place students with a mentor that can set you up with industry contacts and tips.
Do an online sweep. Clean up your Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Even private information can be found by potential employers who snoop around. Removing embarrassing information and remaining active will present yourself as a responsible, consistent candidate.
Cold call. Showing initiative is a great way to get your foot in the door. Call up the person your cover letter’s addressed to. Calling 15 minutes before lunch Tuesday to Thursday is the best time to reach people. Think of a relatively useful question, like the breakdown of a typical day or the most desired quality. Introduce yourself and ask your question. Being quick, polite and interested will make you stand out of the pack.
Do your research. At least read up on the company’s website. Find out what’s new in the past two months. If you want to be really thorough, search the company on Factiva, a newspaper database available through your library account. You can dig up the trials and successes of the businesses you apply for, and know what to discuss in the interview.
Look presentable. Make sure you shower, brush your teeth and dress sharp. Clean your fingernails! Eat and sleep well the night before and rehearse potential questions beforehand. And avoid perfume or cologne as some people are allergic. It’s okay to be a tad nervous, but stay positive during the interview and you’ll project a confident image.
Follow up. Call your interviewer a few days afterwards. Let them know that you’re interested in the position and ask if they’d like any supplementary material. Make sure you’re not lost in the pile of applicants.