University—while requiring hard work—can be a comfortably predictable place, with goals, timelines and deliverables set by external forces, such as your professors or the university’s Office of the Registrar. (Note: 2017 UFV grad applications are due April 3!) After you complete a program of study, however, life becomes rather daunting, as those goals, timelines and deliverables become ones that you must set yourself. You want a job, for example, but no one is standing over you, demanding that you have your new job in place by next Friday at 3 pm. So what can you do? Here are a few tips that may help guide you in this post-university time.
Start collecting job postings for positions that interest you, even if you think you are not quite qualified. And don’t collect just links; many employers remove job postings once the position is filled, and you run the risk of losing that data. Right-click an on-line job posting, and you should have the option of saving it. If you can’t seem to save it, then take screenshots in a Word document.
Analyze Your Data
Once you have a collection of job postings, start analyzing their contents, looking for trends and themes. You may quickly notice that administrative positions require high-level proficiency in the MS Office Suite. (ABT grads, you have that!) You might also notice trends in salary ranges: often, public-sector positions pay more than private-sector ones. Start collating that data, as it will help you set salary expectations and prepare you for answering that dreaded interview question: how much do you expect to earn? Also analyze the data for your gaps; for example, if numerous job postings call for familiarity with Google Docs, Dropbox, Hootsuite, WordPress, or a myriad of other platforms, research those platforms and learn to use them. Most online platforms have a free or trial version that will allow you access.
Set Short-, Medium-, and Long-term Goals
Use your data analysis to inform your employment goals. If public-sector job postings require 2–3 years related work experience, and you have none, then set public-sector employment as a medium-term goal and look for an entry-level private-sector position to start. If you would like to eventually have an upper-level administrative position, then set that as a long-term goal, and use your data analysis to start building toward it; for example, you may need further education or a particular skill-set, such as strong supervisory or leadership skills.
Strategic volunteering involves volunteering with a goal in mind (e.g., building relevant employment experience) and can be particularly useful for those changing industries or careers. Target an organization and position that both interests you and helps build your work experience on your resume. The Red Cross is a good example; it relies heavily on volunteers and has a well-structured and formalized volunteering process. For as few as three hours a week, you could volunteer in an administrative position. And studies have shown that altruism can improve your life too!
Most people are reluctant to network, as the fear of rejection and the awkwardness of talking to strangers can be overwhelming; however, as most jobs are acquired through the hidden job market, it is important to tap into and expand your network. The first step is to ensure the people you already know are aware that you are looking for work. (Develop a short statement, often called an elevator pitch.) The next step is to find opportunities to meet new people and gather information about employers. Join a local Chamber of Commerce (UFV grads can join Mission’s Chamber of Commerce free for one year) and start attending functions. Look for local job fairs and networking events such as the 10th Annual Fraser Valley Chambers of Commerce Business Showcase. (It’s free for attendees.) Consider joining a networking or professional-development group such as Toastmasters.
Although re-entering the work world can seem daunting, maintain your focus by using the points above, researching the companies that you are interested in, tailoring your cover letter and resume to each application (here’s a job deconstruction tool), and staying positive.
There is a job out there waiting for you!
Three graduates: From Karen Wilson, June 2015; used with permission.
Crossing the stage: From UFV’s Flickr stream, https://flic.kr/p/HYJDaL; June 2016, some rights reserved.