Tomorrow Common Good Solutions Inc. participates as an exhibitor in the annual Halifax Career Fair, where students visit booths of local businesses, non-profits and government organizations in search of job opportunities. In light of this, I want to share some job-searching wisdom I gained while applying for jobs throughout my university career. Luckily, I secured an amazing position with Common Good Solutions a week before I officially graduated from my undergrad! I consider myself incredibly fortunate, especially given what the statistics are regarding labour market growth (or decline) in Nova Scotia. Based on revised demographic projections by Nova Scotia’s Department of Finance and Treasury Board, slower growth in the population is translating into slower labour force growth. The working age population is expected to increase slightly by 2,300 (+0.3 percent) in 2018 over 2013. Consequently, the labour force is projected to show a minimal growth rate of 0.3 percent between 2013 and 2018 (http://careers.novascotia.ca/labour-market-outlook). Those stats ain't promising, to say the least.
However, I can't say my circumstances are entirely due to good fortune. Over years of unsuccessful and successful job applications, I gained a few tools for my job-hunting tool-belt and I'd like to share those with you!
#1. Know Yourself:
What matters to you? What do you want to do or be in 2, 5 or 10 years' time? You should have an idea of who you are and where you want to go before you start going there. You know the saying: if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. When you know what you want and where you're headed, it's easy to be excited and passionate about the work you're doing - and employers love that self-motivation!
With this in mind, make sure you target employers at the trade fair whose values align with your own. You won't have time to get to them all, so get to the ones that matter to you.
#2. Be Yourself:
This one's easy, although maybe not so much when you're feeling under pressure. Being yourself - not focusing on changing your personality to fit into a company's culture - is the best way to ensure that the right employer chooses you and that you choose the right employer. Trust me - two years into a job, you'll be thankful that, despite hard work and tough times, you still love your company and the people in it.
At the trade fair, just be genuine: don't have an "elevator pitch" that you recite for 30 seconds - all it tells an employer is that you're good at memorizing things. Know your skills and tie them into the conversation: "Oh, your staff work mostly with Excel? I just finished a computer course where I learned about advanced Excel functions. I really liked it."
#3. Sell Yourself:
No one knows how good you are until you tell them or show them. The art is in doing it without seeming like a jerk. If you're passionate about what you do, talking about it will probably seem less like bragging and more like a genuine love - and people will dig it! At a trade show, it's useful to find commonality with an employer, on either a work topic or hobby you both enjoy. Employers are more likely to remember someone with whom they've had a personal connection.
Resumes and cover letters do matter. Make sure your resume is flawless and easy to read, and that your cover letter is always customized to each employer. Companies have protocols regarding hiring and selecting candidates, an those protocols include judging applicants based on their resumes and cover letters.
Don't bother bringing your resume to the trade fair. You're looking for the best employers, just as they're looking for the best employee. Collect business cards and, after the event, email a customized resume and cover letter to the employers with whom you connected best.
#4. Don't Give Up:
If there's a will, there's a way. Keep finding ways to learn more, do more and be more. Employers call that "continuous improvement" or "lifelong learning" - it's a highly sought-after skill in these days of quickly-changing and growing environments.
Good luck! I look forward to seeing you at the fair - make sure to come and say hi!
Stephanie Pronk, Business Manager, Common Good Solutions Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org