by Marco Maccario, eLoft Careers Student Blogger, Graduate Political Science and Spanish Literature (University of Western Ontario) and International Development (Humber College)
Starting Your Career Isn’t Easy
In the world we currently live in, I feel like everyone is always trying to uncover the best formula to make finding an ideal job that much easier. Back in my parents’ day, it seemed like work and jobs were so easy to find when you graduated. Now, things seem so much more complicated when you are starting out in your career. It is all about the connections you make, the websites you apply on and the networking coffee meetings you go on. I agree that all these are necessary ingredients to a successful job search recipe and finding an ideal job, but, I think there are other ingredients that are missing to this recipe that could truly enhance your success today and go a long way to future career success. The next several ingredients really helped me in landing a true dream internship at the United Nations and I would love to give you some insight on why I believe they helped me.
The 1st Ingredient: Learn Languages
The first ingredient that has helped in many aspects of my life: learning another language. Whether I was travelling, meeting new people, in a work setting or interviewing for a job, knowing another language was truly a differentiator! I was lucky to be raised in an Italian family, so I was blessed to know Italian by birth. However, I did not stop there as I came to understand that languages are not only interesting but an essential ingredient to success. It is never too late to learn a language and even basic working knowledge of a language can be helpful in life and work. I took on Spanish at the high school level and as a minor in University. From there I worked abroad using my Spanish and now have clients from Spanish speaking countries. The United Nations were looking for people that could speak other languages so having been raised in English/Italian and learning Spanish starting in high school, I had a good edge over other candidates. Many companies operate outside the Canadian or North American borders, so languages can be a terrific asset.
One of the easiest ways to start learning a language is online through websites such as duoLingo (https://www.duolingo.com/) or Rosetta Stone (http://www.rosettastone.ca/). From there I would recommend joining classes, local cultural clubs and go out in the community and learn the language real-time by speaking it. Going out and interacting with people who speak the language you are trying to learn is a great strategy and perhaps you can exchange languages by teaching someone English while you are taught their language. Finally, if you are able, travel and immerse yourself in the language and culture you are trying to learn. Even if you have to start with hand gestures, being forced to speak another language works wonders to progress your skills.
The 2nd Ingredient: Go Global
This leads me to my second ingredient...international work experience whether that is volunteering or a paid job. Being able to show a future employer that you immersed yourself in a new country and culture, lived on your own while going to work and getting familiar with your new surroundings are important ingredients in the right direction for a perfect recipe. Employers will see that you are adaptable, resilient, open-minded, adventurous, and open to change and challenge. All of these are qualities many employers are looking for in a new employee. The United Nations were looking for someone with these qualities to be an international advocate, and my languages, combined with my experience of having done an exchange, supported my success both at United Nations and when I went to Mexico to work for a not for profit.
The 3rd Ingredient: Post Graduate Education
Finally, my last ingredient, post graduate education. If you are able, pursuing a post graduate degree in the field that interests whether a Master’s Degree or a one-year post-graduate program at a College or University can help bridge your success into a great career. Each field is different but, in my case, a one-year degree at Humber College worked perfectly following University. It gave me that extra education piece that the United Nations was looking for. Graduating from a University is great but sometimes you need to follow up those four years with an intensive postgraduate degree to tie it all together. There are plenty of Colleges and Universities out there that offer great programs. To be completely honest with you I was always steered away from Colleges, but I learned more in my one year at Humber College then my four years at Western University. I have always been a University person but College was just so much more hands-on. The classes were practical and useful, and it really helped me be able to practice things I would need to do in the field and the work place. Post-graduate degrees often consist of a co-op component that gives you work experience (international in my case), but may also lead to a future job opportunity with that co-op employer. On that note I truly believe any relevant experience, whether that is volunteer work or as an intern, is very useful in building a great resume. In the end, when an employer looks at your resume, they won’t care if you were paid or not for your experience. They will just appreciate that you have the experience. If you ever have days off from school or some weekends available definitely try to volunteer, work somewhere or take classes… don't let that time go to waste, when it could be for the benefit of your future.
In conclusion, looking for a job is a full-time job. Stay humble and accept anything you can related to your field to gain experience because you may not get your ideal job right off the bat, but related experience will only help you to progress in the future. Spending time trying to become the next Foodie on Instagram or trying to think of an app no one has discovered is great, but even more important is to think about where you want to go, the type of job you dream of and add the ingredients bit by bit that will move you in this direction. I believe this approach was the recipe that helped me arrive at the UN headquarters in New York and will help you arrive wherever you would dream of for the future!
by Madison Ross, eLoft Careers Student Blogger and Recent Graduate, B.Sc. Honours Food Science Degree (Co-op), University of Guelph
I am a recent graduate from the University of Guelph with a B.Sc. Honours Food Science (Co-op) degree. Shortly after University, I began chasing something many people want but few ever get: a job they love. Therefore, I am writing this blog in hopes to share the various tips/strategies/skills that I have learned during my journey over the past nine years that have allowed me to become successful in job interviews. I have had my fair share of failed interviews, the majority of which occurred while trying to land my first co-op job in second year university. It took me four months (or two days before my first final exam) to get an offer of employment for a co-op position. There are a million things I would rather do than prepare for a job interview. I would rather go into the ring with Mike Tyson or face a slap shot from Alex Ovechkin! This is mainly due to the fact that I have a Non-Verbal Learning Disability, meaning that I come across as very quirky and awkward in social gatherings, and that I have difficulty picking up on facial expressions, tone of voice, and maintaining eye contact.
I have working since the age of fifteen. My first job was working as a dishwasher at a restaurant in Toronto at Yonge and Lawrence and my first experience with interviewing for a job occurred when I was about seventeen years old. I was asked to come in for an interview for a position as a Prep Cook. To be honest, I vaguely remember the actual interview and the questions that were asked, however I do remember the preparation that took place which is a key component of success when getting out into the job market. Below I've included some interview tips that will make your experience a little less stressful.
Tip #1: The Hand Shake
One of the first interview skills I learned was how to properly shake the interviewers’ hand. A person should always make eye contact when doing this and shake the person’s hand with a moderate grip that expresses confidence and dignity. You do not want to show the person how strong you are by bruising and breaking every bone in their hand, but you also do not want to be the person who has a very airy hand shake. The later example is one that I have come across numerous times (particularly from women) while interviewing for co-op jobs.
Tip #2: Smile
A smile goes a long way. It shows the interviewer that you are excited to be considered for the position.
Tip #3: Breathe
You are going to have a lot of emotions spinning around in your mind. It is extremely common to get stressed and anxious about job interviews. But with the proper preparations and thorough research you should be feeling confident and relaxed. Therefore, breathe, relax, and go into the interview knowing that you have done everything possible to prepare for that moment.
Tip #4: Do your Research
My most recent job interview started off with the question “So what do you know about our company?” Whether you are applying for a job at McDonald’s or a job in a corporate office you should go into the interview knowing the history of the company, what they do, how it has grown/expanded, when it was established, why it was established, recent news articles, etc. Treat a job interview like a class assignment and when the assignment is due, show the teacher that you have done your homework.
Tip #5: Social Media
We live in the age of technology. There are numerous social media websites/apps that can seriously affect your job search success depending on how careful you are about what you post. Try typing your name into Google or whatever search engine you use and see what comes up, and ask yourself “if my potential boss saw this what would he think?” My parents taught me that when it comes to Facebook or any public post one should refrain from posting anything that you would not want your Grandmother to see. Be smart, be careful, and think before you post.
Tip #6: Ask Questions
It took me a while to figure how important this part of the interview process was. By asking job related questions at the end of the interview it shows the interviewer that you have gone above and beyond expectations of the interview, you have come in prepared, done your research, and you have actively taken an interest in the company. Some examples of great questions to ask are: What is the history of this position? What is the most challenging part of your job? What is your favorite part of your job? How did you get to your role?; How is the feedback process structured?; What would you want me to accomplish in the first six months?
Tip #7: Ask for a Business Card
At the end of the interview ALWAYS ask for a business card. This provides you with the contact details of the interviewer and the company, so you can follow up with them after the interview or if you have any further questions related to the position or questions you forgot to ask during the interview.
Tip #8: Write a “Thank You” email
This is perhaps the most helpful piece of advice I can share with you. If there is one thing that you should take away from this blog post I hope it is this. A “thank you” email lets your interviewer know that you appreciate them taking time out of their day to sit down and talk with you. Furthermore, it should include a blurb about how much you are looking forward to starting at [fill in company here] as a [fill in position here]. You should also discuss one or two points from the interview conversation, and what you are interested to learn in your new position. Very few people remember to do this and it is perhaps the one thing that sets a person apart from the other candidates.
Tip #9: Preparation
If you are feeling nervous about your interview, sit down with someone, either a friend, sibling, parent, or in front of your laptop or smartphone, and perform a mock interview. This way you can get feedback on your answers, or if you choose to record yourself, you can see how you are coming across to the interviewer. This has really helped me in the past when preparing for previous job interviews.
Tip #10: Dress for Success
You should present yourself to the interviewer in a respectful attire, preferably “smart casual” or “business informal” is preferred. You should be clean shaven or trim your beard, no nail polish (clear is fine), minimal to no deodorant/perfume, brushed teeth, showered, light make-up, and matching shoes and belt (for men).
In conclusion, (being prepared for a job interview there are nine important skills to learn for a successful job interview. These are the hand shake, smile, breathe, do your research, social media, ask questions, ask for a business card, write a “thank you” email, preparation, and dress for success. If you can remember all of these tips than job interviews will become less of a burden for you. For more advise on how to succeed in job interview, please refer to the links below. Good luck!
In addition to the above resources, check out the Interview to Land course by eLoft Careers for more great tips and tricks to ensure you are prepared for your next interview: https://www.eloftcareers.com/student-grad-job-search-courses.html
About the Author (Madison Ross)
I recently graduated from the University of Guelph with a B.Sc. Honours Food Science (Co-op) degree. I was labelled by my elementary school as "at risk" of not graduating high school. With the full support of my parents, family, and friends, and countless hours of hard-work and studying I was able to rebut the people who labelled me as "at risk." I have recently started a full-time career at Select Food Products Ltd. in North York, ON as an Associate R&D Scientist. My future goals and aspirations are to work towards gaining the knowledge and experience to work towards a more senior level R&D position. In addition, I am considering taking some classes at George Brown part-time on the weekends sometime down the road to help me enhance my education and experience in the food and agriculture trade. Outside the office I enjoy living a quiet, introverted lifestyle hanging out at the driving range, boxing/working out at my local boxing gym, doing jigsaw puzzles, spending time with my family and my dog Guinness, and watching Netflix.
by Sam Harding, eLoft Careers Student Blogger and 3rd Year Film and Media Student
Did you know that 70% of jobs are found through networking?
Networking, like any other skill, is one that can be taught and finessed through studying and practice. Having grown-up with a father who worked at two of the big four accounting firms, and a mother who gives career advice for a living, I’ve been surrounded by networking horror stories and glowing accounts for the best part of two decades. As a student entering my third year of an arts degree in Film and Media, I have never been more attuned to the importance of growing my network before I graduate than I am in this very moment.
First Step – Dive In!
When I first dove into the water, I felt as if I might panic and find myself unable to swim. But that wasn’t the case. Although I was anxious going into my first networking meeting, I came out the other side realizing something very important. To my surprise, the person sitting across from me that morning was constantly clasping their coffee cup, smiling too much, and occasionally in need of a moment to gather their thoughts before responding. Much like myself, they were nervous. In this instance, I believe they might have been more on edge than myself which ironically allowed me to feel more at ease and relax as the conversation progressed. After taking a deep breath and coming to the realization that I can do this, I found myself asking more questions, giving more insightful answers and just all around becoming more comfortable engaging with a complete stranger. Based on this experience, each time I now meet someone new, whether it be over the phone or in person, I notice the interactions flow easier. After a dozen or so introductions I had a good sense of how these things play out on a ‘normal’ day.
Tips for Your Networking Meeting Success
The most relevant and practical experience I have gained in the film industry, has come from meeting with strangers for coffee, asking lots of questions, and offering them something in return such as paying for their coffee or offering to connect them with others etc. If you don’t drink coffee (you’re missing out), tea, water or literally anything else will suffice. Here’s a list of networking questions you could use during these conversations:
You get the picture, it’s not exactly Aristotle but these are just a few of the questions that worked for me. Initially I was apprehensive to talk too much and decided listening was a much safer approach. However, after a few meetings I discovered that networking is relationship building and it takes two people sharing ideas to have a conversation. Without any sense of direction indicated, the other person has no framework within which to maneuver.
Confidence Will Come with Practice
For those of us who lean towards the more introverted side of the spectrum, fear not, confidence in networking can be built through practice. Try to be as self-aware as possible when determining which aspects of networking you need to polish up on. Whether it’s a subtle bouncing knee of nerves, or a simple matter of correcting one’s posture, every little improvement helps to present yourself in a more positive light.
If you’re looking to get a job out of an introduction meeting, you will most likely be disappointed. What I’ve found is that if you focus on building a connection and relationship with the other person, they’ll let you know when an opportunity arises. Always start a networking conversation by soaking up every detail of their story and finish it by offering to do them a service such as providing information, introducing them to others in your network etc. Present yourself smartly (overdressing is fine but never under), talk politely, and be on time. As someone who’s late to most of my life, I made a huge effort to be punctual to all meetings.
In my industry, often the first gig turns into a “favour” with little to no money on the table. But, it’s these favours that enable you to meet other people in their network who might have a more lucrative offer for you down the line. One of the first gigs I landed in my industry was providing script coverage for a film company. This was a volunteer type job that then developed into a paid one later.
My future plan is to keep growing the network, each time I interact with a new connection, I’ll try to come away with another name or two to explore. All it takes is one fluke connection through a family member, a friend, or the pizza guy to get things rolling and hopefully all this effort now will pay off once I graduate from my program.
Are you a student or graduate with some great job search advice to share? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the possibility of becoming one of our student or graduate bloggers!