4 tips for young job seekers in Vancouver
I’m currently organizing an event for IABC/BC Student Services, “IABC & Your Degree“, and as a result young job seekers have been on my mind. The panelists at the event will be addressing the question “how do I get there?” Basically, how they made the transition between the academic world and the workplace. In hearing a little bit about their experiences, I started to think back to my own the summer before last – specifically, what worked for me. Here’s what I came up with:
1. Treat Your Job Hunt Like a Job
This isn’t new advice, but it takes a lot of discipline. It’s so easy to play video games, watch Netflix, clean the bathroom… do anything instead of writing that cover letter. Or maybe you already have a part time job, are finishing your classes, etc. Whatever the case may be, you need to set time aside to deliberately look at job postings, tweak your resume, write cover letters, update your LinkedIn profile, and any other job-hunting related activities.
Knowing I work best in the morning, I got up early on weekdays to do those activities. Putting in my time in the morning also allowed me to avoid feeling guilty when I went for dinner with friends or camping on the weekend. However, I did take advantage of my flexible schedule by putting in the occasional weekday afternoon at the beach!
2. Take Advantage of Organizations and Programs
I joined the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) as a student, and it was a great benefit to me during my job hunt. The industry literature available kept me informed, and they have a members-only job board that I took advantage of. I’ll share the biggest benefit that I experienced from IABC/BC in point number four.
The other thing I took advantage of as a student was SFU Communication’s Co-op program. This might be a bit of a cheat as you have to start prior to graduation. However, it wasn’t just the professional experience I benefited from. If you have a good relationship with your co-op coordinator, they might be willing to step outside the boundaries of their job description and do you a favour. I was lucky enough to have a great co-op coordinator, who not only forwarded me the “unofficial” job description (the job duties minus all the HR-required jumble), but sent the hiring manager (a former co-op student herself) an email informing her of my application and recommending me as a candidate.
3. Volunteer in a Relevant Role
If you don’t have anything else on your plate while you’re job hunting, volunteering is a great thing to keep you balanced. It can fill a gap on your resume and help you sharpen your skills, while making sure your days aren’t spent despairing over job boards. Unfortunately, I couldn’t volunteer with IABC/BC while I was job hunting (it was the summer break), but I found a non-profit looking for someone to help them develop their digital communication strategy. Through that volunteer role I was able to continue to meet new people, flex my strategic planning muscles, and assemble and lead a team for the first time in my career. I was used the work as an example in cover letters and interviews, and I also learned a couple of valuable life lessons.
4. Buy People Coffee
Yes, this is a thing. Buy interesting people coffee, and they will impart their wisdom upon you.
I took two approaches: 1) I asked friends to introduce me to anyone that would be willing to talk to me about their careers. 2) I contacted IABC/BC members on LinkedIn directly and ask if they’d be willing to talk if I bought them a coffee. The latter was intimidating, of course, but to my surprise a majority of people said yes. It’s true what you read in all these kinds of blogs – people like to talk about themselves.
While these coffee chats didn’t lead me directly to my next job, they did result in a lot of new knowledge, and one resulted in a brief job shadow. In fact, Vancouver being such a small city, when I name-dropped in my interview to explain the research I had done I unknowingly named the former employer and mentor of one of my interviewers. They were impressed.
Coffee is one of the best job hunt investments you can make, in my opinion. Half the time, the person you’re talking to will insist on paying for your coffee, anyway.
If you’re interested in hearing more advice and perspectives on making the transition from the academic world to the workplace, check out “IABC & Your Degree“. I’m looking forward to seeing you there!