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Now that you have “looked in” and “looked out,” you are prepared to apply to real jobs. This means that you understand what the job market has to offer you and you know what employers require from you. However, there’s another side to making yourself desirable as an applicant and that is continued learning and training.

Challenging yourself to learn something new shows that you are highly motivated, and that is something employers find invaluable. There are many programs and opportunities available for you to learn more, and lots of them are free.  These trainings also provide relevant networking opportunities.

Every time you speak to anyone, connect with anyone on-line or go out to a course or event you are networking. Many posted positions already have a “star” candidate that is pre-selected for the job. Sometimes posting the position is simply a formality and it is therefore crucial that you are known by the hiring manager in advance so that you can be that “star” candidate.

Working hard at all of these steps will ensure that you succeed and grow, in the direction you desire. It is important to remember that you have to be patient and confident that you will achieve the goal that you’ve set yourself.

Understand the job market

The job market is very competitive and most job postings receive a large number of applicats. For many, this is the hardest hurdle to overcome. There are a few techniques and principles that can help reduce the mental strain of tedious applications.

A long-term mindset is one of the most critical things you need to avoid burnout. The process of tailoring applications takes time and it’s true that many applications won’t get a reply. Applying to 2-3 jobs a day is a realistic goal. Try to think of it as watering and caring for a plant each day, or going to the gym to work out. The small but steady actions will eventually add up to the achievement of a great long-term goal.

Positions are often posted as a formality rather than a truly competitive intake process. Sometimes, this is  because a “star” candidate has already been identified, or because internal applicants in an organization must be considered first. Here are two reasons why this happens.

A hiring manager at a small to medium firm needs an extra person for a project and already has someone in mind. Company policy, however, requires a formal job competition process. The job must get posted and many people apply, but the only person who gets any real consideration is the “star” candidate. Everyone else is just there to satisfy a numbers requirement.

In many unionized environments, an applicant’s time spent working with an organization will be a large benefit. If a hiring manager is faced with two applications, one from an existing union employee (or “internal”) and one from an outsider (or “external”) who have equal qualifications, the internal applicant will almost always win out.

Keep plugging away at tailored applications and eventually you will get to the top of the pile either because of good timing or the strategic use of your network to become the “star” the manger has in mind.

Network to connect

Networking is about building relationships and forming connections. You want to be remembered tomorrow, next week and next month. Networking is not about getting a job offer. In fact, similar to dating, coming on too strong can be off-putting.  Never start a conversation by asking someone where they work, what jobs are available and if they can set you up with an interview. That will be the beginning of the end of that relationship. Networking, like any relationship isn’t just about you. Don’t ask what someone can do for you, listen to their story and find out if there’s something you can do for or learn from them. Think of it as a reciprocal dynamic.

Professional networking relieves the social tension of starting a conversation with strangers. Everyone is there to meet and chat with new people, so there isn’t any need to worry about “intruding” on people you don’t know. Gauge the room and look for opportunities to start or join a conversation.

Finally, don’t discount anyone as not being worth your time. You never know how connected your co-networker may be. They may have friends or family looking for someone just like you. Have as many conversations as you can and don’t rely on the same networking circles. Attend a variety of events attracting different crowds to expand the reach of your networking efforts.

Here a few suggestions from Tim Ragan & Paul Gibbons’ book “(Re)Boot Your Career:

  • Practice your tagline/sound bite/elevator pitch at every event.
  • Be genuinely curious and ask lots of appropriate/relevant questions.
  • Build and strengthen your new networking connections.
  • Continue to reach out and meet new people. This allows you to practice your networking skills and boost your confidence.
  • Approach others who are alone. If you spot someone standing alone, chances are that they are just as or more uncomfortable than you are and they will welcome the conversation.
  • The objective is to connect and develop relationships, not to land a job. Be honest about hoping to find your “desired opportunity”, but do not imply any expectation that they will assist you with finding it.
  • Ask about their favorite subject – them!
  • Always follow up!

Apply for jobs or training

You should now be content with your knowledge of the labour market and its demands, confident in the quality of both your cover letter and your resumé and engaged in the networking scene.  It’s now time to start applying.

Applying for a posted full-time opportunity: Ensure you have established parameters for your job search (salary, hours, commute, environment, etc.).  Knowing your flexibility surrounding your parameters is essential if you are to make the most of your time. You do not want to waste your time applying to something that you know you would decline anyway. Your time could be better spent applying to or searching for another opportunity. Remember to temper your expectations, if the job has been posted publicly, there will be multiple applicants.

  • Attempt to gain an advantage over your competition by reaching out to your connections. Do you know someone inside the organization that may be able to put in a good word with the hiring manager? If so, ask permission to mention this contact in your cover letter.
  • Research the company on LinkedIn. If you can find the hiring manager, request to connect with them. Consider including a text version of your soundbite and express interest in joining their team.

Applying for a training opportunity: If you have identified that there is a definite gap between your desired career and your education, it may be time to apply to some training programs that will be able to bridge that gap. Before you apply, ensure you can identify what you hope to learn from the training and how it will better position you to reach your goal.

Manage your offers

Before beginning to negotiate an offer, make sure you have a clear and realistic idea of what you want and research the employer so you understand their needs.

If the employer sought you out, you are an expert in your field or you have a skill set that very few people possess this can provide you with some negotiating power.  On the other hand, if this is a highly sought after opportunity, you are finding your first real career opportunity, or you are just leaving a period of unemployment, the employer may hold more of the bargaining power.

If this is a gateway job, take the mindset that this job will be a “stepping stone” where you will build your credentials and find mentors to learn from. While you should not go in expecting to receive or accept a low ball offer, you do need to know what the lowest offer you could possibly accept is so that you can continue to live with your current living arrangements (rent, food, utilities etc.).

When it comes time to managing offers, here are some tried and true techniques:

  • Get an idea of how much the role pays in the current labour market for your area. Review the Occupation Outlooks compiled by the Ottawa Employment Hub / Labour Market Ottawa. Having an understanding of the salaries associated with similar opportunities will provide you with the foundation on which to develop your salary expectations and negotiations.
  • Do not bring up the salary in the first interview unless they do. Wait for an offer of a second interview or an offer of employment to start negotiating.
  • If you are asked what your expectations are and the salary range was on the job posting, point to that and tell them where you think you fall on the scale they are offering given your skills and experience.
  • If you are asked what your salary expectations are and there was no mention of salary on the job posting, point to current labour market trends for this role based on your research, then ask if that is within their offering range. This will provide a good starting place for discussions.

Close the deal

If you’ve made it this far into the process you are doing great. This is the last step in the job application process. Let’s assume that you had two successful interviews and have competitive offers from two employers that you can see yourself working with.

There is no one correct method for choosing which employer to go with. That is a decision that only you can make. However, we can help give you some guidance on how to go about professionally responding to an offer.

This is without a doubt, a very exciting time. All that work in reflecting on your strengths, finding out where in the world of work you fit, crafting your Resumé, networking and preparing for your interviews is finally paying off. It can be very tempting to respond right away to the first offer that comes through with no questions asked, but that might lead you to some regret if you haven’t thought things completely through. On the other hand, taking too long may frustrate your future employer and get things off to a bad start. So what should you do?

  • If the offer comes in digitally, take the time to walk away from your computer and put away your emails for at least 30 minutes. Then, if you decide you need more time, respond with your enthusiasm and request that you be granted 24 hours to reply to their offer. They will respect you for taking your time to reach a big decision.
  • If the offer comes in by telephone, you can also ask for 24 hours. It is advisable not to reply when you are excited as you likely need to weigh out the opportunity before committing. Again, asking for 24 hours to call them back is not uncommon.  In fact most of the time, they will offer it to you.

During this time you should reflect on how you thought your interview went with the employer, what the workplace felt like, and which aspects of the workplace you liked or disliked. Compare these aspects between the two employers. After some reflection, you may come to find that you are naturally drawn to one employer or opportunity over the other. Never discount your intuition either.  It can help you make the best choices.

Now that you have reflected on the offer, it’s time to send two responses. First we’ll go through some guidelines on accepting an offer, then discuss why it is important to tactfully send a message declining an offer that doesn’t suit you.

To accept a position, be clear and indicate that you are thankful for the opportunity. Confirm your start date and location. Additionally this is a good time to ask any administrative questions associated with the start of your employment. That way when you come in for your first day you will have a better idea of where you need to go and if there is anyone in particular that you need to talk to.

Declining an offer may feel a little awkward. It may feel as though you are disappointing a potential employer, but chances are while you might be their preferred candidate, they probably have a second candidate in mind and there is no shame in declining an offer of employment. This is a big decision and it’s a decision that you must make with full consideration of what is right for you. When done tactfully, declining an offer in favor of another shows maturity and forethought. A good employer will not hold this decision against you, however, it is important that you don’t leave them hanging. They may have another candidate in mind and would like to move on to offer them the position if you decline.  All you need to do is communicate via the employers preferred method (e-mail or phone call) to politely thank them for the offer but that you cannot accept the offer because it does not fit with your current career goals. IN this way, you will not shut the door with that employer because you never know when they may re-appear in your future.  Advise them that you would like to keep in touch and promptly connect with them on Linked In.

Once these messages are sent, take a break and relax! You’ve achieved something great. Go reward yourself and get ready to succeed and grow.

Succeed and grow

Now that you have landed a job it’s time to succeed in your current job. Growing from your current position means you need to “take root” with your current job and build your skills. During this time it will be highly valuable to reflect and remember what your day-to-day tasks are as well as how you contribute to bigger projects.

Inevitably, one day you will want, or need, to move on. The time will come when you start thinking about getting a new job. This will start the “looking in” and “looking out” cycle back up again.

Staying aware of opportunities in your field is important. There is value in searching the job market while you are employed. There is a saying that goes “the easiest time to find a job is while you have a job.” Here are a couple of reasons why this is true.

  • If you are currently employed, there is no gap in your resumé. Time gaps in your resumé can often be perceived negatively as assumptions might be made that you were let go by your previous employer. While this assumption is somewhat presumptuous, it does happen. Many people have gaps due to contract based work, illness, injury, pregnancy, travel, etc.
  • An employer’s perception of how genuinely you want to be a part of their culture can be distorted or enhanced by your current employment status. If you are employed and apply to another organization, that organization will likely take this to mean that you really want to work specifically for them. In the event that you’re unemployed, organizations may assume that you are simply looking for a job anywhere. Their perception of h

Building the career you want is a process and sometimes what you want changes.  Career Gear has shown you the cycle that you will repeat many times over.  Take this model with you to continue to succeed and grow!