Archive for the ‘job search’ Category

Informational Interviews

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Now that I’m beginning to think about where I want to take my career next, I should be digging up that most powerful of job search tools, the INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEW. This was really the biggest thing that helped me get a job after I got laid off. I cannot stress to you enough how important this is in helping, nay, leading your job search.

So you’ve done the legwork and set up some “informational interviews,” so now what? Someone who you know knows a lot about what you want to know and is willing to sit down with you and talk one on one in a no-strings-attached sharing of ideas. This is a golden opportunity, young grasshopper. So what do you talk about?

Goals of the informational interview to keep in mind (all essential overall goals of all job searches)… I’ve made up three “L” words to sound catchy and help you remember:

  1. LEARN- Gather information to better prepare you for future interviews and more importantly for your future job
  2. LOVE- Make friends to set you apart to get hired and/or just have an ally/buddy who is in the same field who you can always turn to for advice
  3. LEADS- Expand your network and get to know someone who can help you and knows people that can help you

People love talking about themselves – just love it. And luckily, you have a lot to learn from them. Asking the right questions will illicit a lot of information, but also make you look thoughtful, sociable, and interesting. Here are some types of questions to ask that will make people feel special and want to keep talking, but also leads to information you need to know that will help you a lot:

  1. Start out generally: How did you get into this? What was your schooling? What was your first job? – This gets the ball rolling and lets you know what sort of path you should take to end up where they are.
  2. Tell me a bit about yourself: What is your official title? What are your main roles and responsibilities? Who do you work with? Who is your supervisor? Who do you supervise?
  3. Generally specific: What hours are expected at work? What is the average starting salary? What is the average salary of those in top positions? Is it difficult to move up? What is the vibe of the office like, strict or casual?
  4. Modelling yourself in their image: What qualities do you have that you feel are most important to this job? What strengths are essential for this position? What is your favourite thing about the job? – This allows you to reflect upon your own strengths and why you would be suited for this job. Later you can convince a hiring manager that you possess these strengths.
  5. Introduce controversy: What do you dislike about the job? What are some challenges you face? – More consideration, this time of your weaknesses and give you ideas on how you would handle common challenges.
  6. General field-related one-offs: How has/will the recession affect the industry? How has/will new technologies affect the industry? What are new challenges being faced by companies in this field? – This will give you a better sense of your search, but also give ideas on how you can fit yourself into where you are needed, thus making yourself more valuable.
  7. Straight up advice: Now that you know a little bit more about me, what sort of position do you think is suited for me in the industry? What path could you see yourself taking if you were me? What have I done right? What should I do in the future?
  8. Tapping the maple tree: Who would I talk to at your company about getting a job? What are some of your competitors who are also doing good work in your opinion? Do you know any good people you think I should talk to? – Doi! This will give you ideas of where to go next in your search. If not where they work, then somewhere else.

Does that not sound like just the most delightful conversation? I’m interested already. Keep in mind your three L-word goals I outlined above (I should be writing manuals look at me with my lingo!!!) when you ask your questions. Most importantly, be yourself. You are sincerely interested in what they have to say and what you have to learn from them so just have a nice chat and soak up as much knowledge as your healthy little spongey mind take! Bring your resume and business card to leave behind for their no-pressure perusal and go forth and interview!

Graduating with no experience? No problem!

Monday, May 12th, 2008

Look at the very excellent, charming and well-written article I just happened to come across for new grads on starting their career search. Yess… coincidentally…

You’ve just spent the last four years reading, partying, studying, partying, writing essays, going on dates, writing exams, and partying. Suddenly, it’s over, you’re done school and an uncertain future is staring you right in the face.

Click here for more at the ever helpful TalentEgg website, where they hatch graduate careers!

Keeping it under wraps

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

I haven’t updated you on the job search recently because things have really blown up and I don’t want to say anything until the dust settles. I’ve had an unbelievable amount of interviews lately. I won’t tell you how many because you will be shocked… and possibly appalled. I will tell you this though: perseverance, making good contacts, patience, and selectiveness pays off… I hope.

In the meantime, I’m excited about my mom’s wedding on the 24th of May, branching out with, the “exciting and innovative” research project I’m working on (exploring the business risks and best practices of online social networks!!), the Interaccess vlog, and the Bicycle Film Festival. There’s still lots to look forward to no matter what.

I’m off to another interview in an hour and I’m relaxed and positive about everything. At the front of my mind is this wonderful white chocolate mocha that I made for myself. My mom buys me cannisters of hot chocolate powder every year for Christmas thinking I am an avid hot chocolate drinker, though I’m not really and never had the heart to tell her… But now I’ve found an excellent use for all of it and lately I’m wasting through those accumulated cans like it is going out of style!

Lauren and TalentEgg are so awesome!

Monday, May 5th, 2008

NEW GRADS!! Go there now!

Lauren Friese, founder of, discussing student jobs and finding a career after university on Toronto’s Breakfast Television with Dina Pugliese- April 17th, 2008.

The worst best criticism

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

I have an MA degree in Communication and Culture. This is undoubtedly something that I am quite proud of. However, I am applying to entry to mid-level positions in the media and an MA is never a requirement. Throughout my job search I have grappled a bit with the question of how prominently to showcase the masters degree on my applications.

I started out putting my education first on my resume before I realized that my work experience was more impressive to the types of jobs I was applying. I downgraded my education on the second page, but then friends who I got feedback on my resume kept telling me that my masters was most impressive and that I should put it first. I felt however, that hiring managers taking their first glance would see that and might get turned off. I really want to convey, more than the fact that I’m well-educated, that I have a lot of experience, I am a very hard and reliable worker and I am willing to do things that aren’t as “sexy” or high-level, but necessary to gain experience and carve out a place for myself. On the other hand, an MA degree proves that I am capable of a lot of commitment, hard work, independence, and all sorts of other good qualities that I also can convey. A compromise I came to was mentioning my degree first and only briefly in my “relevant skills” section, but keeping my education on the second page. I have been happy with this arrangement up until now.

Very recently, a few things have happened that have opened up this question again. My friend, an account supervisor at one of the better ad agencies suggested I move my “solid education” to the front of the resume, bring up again this question of emphasizing the academic qualifications. But also lately, I have gotten a few responses on my resume saying that I am over-qualified. They think I would be “too smart” for or “bored” in the position. And this is only from those that have bothered to give me feedback. This is the kiss of death that I have been dreading all along.

So after giving it more thought, I have decided the only thing I can do is anticipate people worrying that I’m over-qualified by emphasizing my willingness to slog it out and perform necessary lower level tasks, with the expectation of moving up in the future in my cover letter. I’ve decided to keep the short mention of the MA at the beginning and the details on the second page after my work experience. Hopefully this will pique the interest of hiring managers with openings that have potential for growth and they will want to meet me so they will see that I’m down to earth and eager to work hard and prove myself.

Lists = Life

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

The older I get and the more I learn, the more I am convinced of the incredible value of spreadsheets in every facet of life. I admit that bureaucracy can sometimes be a bore and turning soft and squishy things into admin can occasionally be life-draining, but I will never say anything bad about spreadsheets. I’m sorry. We owe them too much.

I’ve taken my spreadsheet dependence to its logical next step: my job search. I would really suggest this for everyone who is also pounding the pavement. My spreadsheet has a list of places I want to work divided up by industry, I identify my contacts from each company, and then I have a box for status (initial contact, met with them, follow up, etc.) and the date for when we last spoke so I can know and follow up with them if it’s been too long. This is also helpful because it is easy to see which companies I still need to make contact with or cold call. It’s invigorating to organize it out and check things off the list. When I’m feeling down and rejected and my leads seem to be going nowhere, I can look at my list and see that there are still things I haven’t done or tried and my motivation is renewed.

Remember obviously, that your contacts are people and your friends so don’t treat them just as “a number,” but it’s valuable to keep them organized so they don’t fall off your radar and they don’t forget you.

** I also have a separate spreadsheet for research which includes job boards, company-specific job boards, industry publications, business sections, and other applicable blogs and forums. You should make one of these too to keep on top of your game.

Thank you notes and etiquette

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

Here is some helpful information and samples of thank you notes for a “variety of employment-related situations” I found online:

Sample Thank You Letters

A friend of mine gave me a good tip about writing thank you notes and it really is a sweet and appropriate sentiment and I wish I had started earlier.

I’m writing cards by hand and I write out what I want to say first on a scrap of paper before committing it to stationary.

Business Cards

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

I’ve been getting compliments on them. Even though I received a box of 250 with about 20% cut with passable straight lines. Most are completely crooked and different. I call it my box of snowflakes.



Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008


TalentEgg is a unique community that connects high-potential new-grads with high-quality job opportunities. We’re committed to working exclusively with employers that offer new-grads the thing that’s most important to them: Opportunity.

I read about this in the Metro this morning on the way to my internship. It looks very cool and relevant for recent grads looking to build their careers. I do believe everything about this site is amazing, including the young founder, the design, the mission, and involvement with CATA/WIT.

A Career Coming of Age

Friday, March 28th, 2008

I think one of the biggest milestones a young professional encounters is when they are looking for a job, they are offered an opportunity, and they decline because it is not the right fit. I remember years ago when I was first trying to get my foot in the door, I was looking for ANYTHING IN THE MEDIA to just gain experience and prove myself. I would have felt lucky to be employed really anywhere.

I feel empowered to tell you the truth, because I was offered a position that I decided to decline. When I first applied, the posting sounded right for me, but once I went forward in the recruitment process, I realized that although the position is roughly related to what I would like to do and would pay a good salary, it ultimately is not a good fit for me and I wouldn’t want to be doing those types of duties everyday. Although I feel very fortunate for the opportunity, I respectfully withdrew my application.

This comes with a sense of “arrival” that I am sure more seasoned careerists have experienced often. I hope I’m not sounding too corny, but if I was giving advice to my younger, greener self I would say, “Have faith in yourself, know and focus on what you want to do, and you’ll get there soon. Don’t worry, little buddy.”