Heritage College gets it. They recognize their students need more than good grades to land a job in today’s competitive job market. They require skills and abilities to secure work in their chosen fields. Fresh out of school their first job will be to find a job and unless they are properly prepared to enter the marketplace of human capital they will soon find themselves frustrated and their education and talents underutilized or inappropriately applied. 

The students graduating from Heritage College’s new media program will be better informed than we were at the same age. They are currently studying career development; everything from the creation of a value proposition, to resume writing, personal branding to the use of social media for job search. Couple this with the resources to write a targeted resume, cover letter and an online profile that articulates potential value to an employer and they are in much better shape than many professionals with years more experience.

This got me thinking about how valuable a skill it is for students to know how to conduct an effective job search. While school is an essential path to pursue for our kids, so too is understanding and applying career development as part of that education especially at the post secondary level. A better-informed and properly equipped new-entrant into today’s labour market, who possesses the knowledge to navigate within it, will maximize their efforts and likely capitalize on time spent to earn a quicker return on investment (ROI) from their education.

What do you need to know about career development?

1.  You need to know how to research the local labour market.

A question I pose often to student is this: “What do you want to do, and who (locally) is hiring candidates for that type of job?”

Many have difficulty answering because they have not yet taken the time to conduct preliminary research. Students are not the only ones who miss this step; many seasoned professionals overlook this critical first piece.

Having realistic expectations of prospective employers in your geographical area will help you target your job search and focus on real possibilities.

Not sure where to start? Here are a few resources to get you going in the right direction: Newspapers, business journals, library, internet, Chamber of Commerce, (in Ottawa, we have the Ottawa Business Journal’s Book of List

Canadian National Occupation Classification (NOC) | Industry Canada Information by Industrial Sector | Ministry of Ontario Training, colleges and universities | BC Workfutures | Service Canada | Working in Canada | Strategis (Industry Canada) | The Canadian Business Directory

2.  Confidence Sells. 

As a candidate, you are going to have to answer this very tough question:

“Why should I hire you instead of all the similarly-qualified candidates, currently flooding the market, willing to do it for less?”

Your answer has to be more meaningful than “…because I know I can do it, if you’d just give me a chance…” Knowing your strengths and being able to articulate them in a meaningful way will help employers feel more confident in their decision to hire you. Can you imagine investing $40 – $60K in someone who thinks they can do the job? By arming yourself with a clearly articulated value proposition supported by concrete and measurable examples of work, volunteer, personal or sports successes, you can stand out from the crowd and be noticed.

3.  Humility is a nice trait – for the other guy.

Many cultures despise boasters. We are often encouraged to be modest about our accomplishments and not be too “showy.” When it comes to job search, our humility is a boat anchor we have to cut free of when asked to be comfortable selling our value to employers. It is going to take practice to walk the thin line between properly and confidently educating potential employers about our strengths and maintaining our humility. My advice…get the job; then be humble about your success.

4.  If you’re Googling them, they’re Googling you.

Tech savvy students are using online tools to their advantage by leveraging their social networks to expand their connections in the corporate world. Online transparency and openness to new ways of connecting, in ways previous generations are hesitant in doing, facilitates meetings and linkages in newer and more interesting ways.

While those of us with more years behind us realize the follies of the “over share,” it is vital to keep in mind that social savvy recruiters and employers are using these same vehicles to research potential candidates. It is important to ensure the information they find is valuable, meaningful and adds to our brand.

Much like any investment we make, the earlier we learn to implement these proven and successful career development strategies, the better the reward and the fulfilment we feel. This in turn, directly contributes to our employer’s satisfaction, specifically their bottom-line.

To the students of Heritage College, thanks for letting me be part of your journey last week. I wish you continued success in your academic careers as well as your future careers.