Monday, April 14, 2014

Are Young People Taken Seriously By Employers?

Have you ever felt that an employer wasn't taking you seriously simply because you were too young?  Some employers don't even consider hiring young people, while others rank them below more experienced candidates.  Here are some tips that will help you ensure that employers don't immediately discard your application because they feel that you are too immature for the job:

Dress Professionally.  If you want employers to see you as competent and responsible, you need to look the part.  Make sure that you dress appropriately for the industry and that you pay attention to the details.  For example, some employers believe that they can learn everything they need to know about a candidate by their shoes; make sure that yours are clean and polished!

Watch Your Written Communication.  Often employers will form their first impression of you from written communication, whether it be your resume, cover letter or an email.  Make sure that you come across well by carefully crafting every piece of correspondence that you send out.  Proofread everything and never use abbreviations when contacting an employer.   

Be Specific About Your Goals.  Some employers are under the impression that youth are unfocused.  Show them that you aren't by clearly articulating your goals and the steps that you will take to achieve them.  Make sure that you can tell them exactly how this position fits in with your career plan.   

Clean Up Your Social Media Profiles.  Most employers will do a social media scan before making the decision to hire you.  What do you think they will find?  Delete any embarrassing photos and comments. Use social media as a tool to showcase both your professionalism and your expertise.     

Show Enthusiasm for the Position.  Some young people are afraid to show the employer that they are excited about a position before it is offered to them.  As a result, the employer forms the mistaken impression that they are not interested in the job.  Don't make this mistake.  Employers are looking for candidates who will bring passion to the organization.  Sometimes it is your enthusiasm that makes you stand out above the other candidates. 

In this tight labour market, young people have to compete with more experienced applicants for entry-level positions.  Therefore, it is more important than ever to step up your game and prove to the employer that you are a serious candidate for the job. 
(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Imagery Majestic/

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Can You Change Your Job Title on Your Resume?

When your job title does not accurately represent what you do, it can be difficult to market your skills to potential employers.  While it may be tempting to edit your job title so that it provides a more accurate description of your experience, it is a bad idea.  Here's why:     

It makes you look dishonest.  Chances are that somebody is going to figure out that you got creative with your job title and when they do, they won't look at you in the same way.  Hiring managers are naturally suspicious of applicants, so don't give them any reason to distrust you.     

It gives the employer the right to terminate you later.  Lying on your resume is a cardinal sin.  It is considered to be so serious that even after you've been working with an employer for ten years, they still have the right to immediately terminate your employment if they discover your deception.  Although you may think that it's justified, altering your job title could be considered as lying.  Simply put, it's just not worth the risk.

If your job title does not accurately represent your skills and experience, here are some other ways that you can strengthen your resume: 

Outline all of your relevant skills in your career summary.  Customize your career summary to your target position.  This will immediately draw the employer's eyes to your related skills and show them that you are a good fit for the job.   

Summarize your true responsibilities in your cover letter.  Your cover letter gives you more room to expand on your experience.  Use this opportunity to clarify any potential misunderstandings about your job title.    

Include a descriptive job title in brackets after your official job title.  While most employers will understand that you are using the brackets to explain a vague or misleading job title, you need to be prepared to justify itYou may be asked to explain why you think that your descriptive job title is more accurate and persuade employers that you are not just attempting to make your experience look more impressive than it actually is.

Finding a new job is difficult, and it can be even more challenging when your job titles don't match your actual experience.  However, think carefully before you make the decision to alter your job title; it may not help you much and it could make your job search a lot more complicated. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by:  Ningmilo/

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

5 Statements You Should Never Make at a Job Interview

Employers carefully construct interview questions that will help them determine whether or not you would be a good fit for the job.  However, sometimes what you don't say can be just as important as what you do say.  Here are five statements that will immediately destroy your chances of getting the job.  If you find yourself about to say any of these things, shut your mouth!

"I can't work on Saturdays."  When you are trying to persuade an employer to hire you, it is important that you come across as flexible.  If you start making demands and setting limitations before you are even offered the job, the employer may determine that you're not worth the trouble. 

"This isn't my dream job, but it will give me some good experience."  If you are not totally excited about the role, then honesty may not be the best policy for you.  The employer does not want to hear that you are biding your time until a better offer comes along.  They want to hire someone who would bring passion to the position.  If you're not feeling enthusiastic about doing this interview, keep in mind that there are a lot of people who would love to take your place.

"I had some issues with my previous manager."  Finally, you've met someone who seems interested in hearing about how much of a jerk your previous manager was!  Don't take the bait!  The interviewer is just trying to determine if you would be a problem employee.  No matter how bad your manager or coworkers were, you will never win by speaking badly about them.  Remember, they are not on trial here; you are. 

"I don't have any weaknesses." The weakness question is tricky, but you still have to say something.  When you admit to a weakness, you demonstrate that you possess humility, self awareness and the willingness to improve yourself.  If you claim to be perfect, the employer will come to the conclusion that you are arrogant and unwilling to accept criticism. 

"Can you tell me exactly what your company does?"  You may think that this question expresses an interest in the company, but in reality it shows that you didn't take the time to do any research.  By the interview stage, you should have a strong understanding of the company's mission, values, and future plans.  Demonstrating that you have done extensive research on the company is a relatively easy way to impress the employer.

Many job seekers make the same mistakes over and over again.  If you've attended several interviews without receiving an offer, you could be doing something wrong.  Ask the employers for feedback and do practice interviews.  Sometimes, just eliminating one or two sentences from your repertoire can make a huge difference in your results.  

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stock Images/

Friday, April 4, 2014

Great Books For Job Seekers

Do you feel as if you are spinning your wheels in your attempts to find a job?  Perhaps all you need is a little inspiration.  These five books will give you some great ideas and will hopefully help you breathe some life back into your job search:

How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes.  The ability to effectively relate to people can help you in all stages of your career.  It sets you apart from other candidates and it allows you to quickly move up in any organization.  Unfortunately, interpersonal skills don't come naturally to everyone.  If you are a person who has to work a little harder at it, this book will help.  Lowndes provides techniques for making a good first impression, developing connections with people, and navigating your way through a networking event.  After you read this book, you will be in a good position to network your way to your dream job. 
The 2 Hour Job Search: Using Technology to Get the Right Job Faster by Steve Dalton.  This book is a practical guide that teaches you how to get a job quickly.  Dalton outlines the steps that you can take to create an effective job search system using Excel, Google, and LinkedIn to target and contact employers. 

Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success by Douglas HaiderPersonal branding is an effective way to stand out from the crowd.  In this book, Haider provides tips and tricks to help you use social media to create your own personal brand.  This book is particularly useful for young people who are just starting their career.     

I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What it Was by Barbara Smith and Barbara Sher.  It is difficult to reach your potential when you are lacking direction.  Having a clear career goal provides motivation and helps you to focus your energy.  In this book, Smith and Sher guide you in identifying your dream job and laying out your plan to attain it. 

Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You'll Ever Need by Harvey MacKay.  Networking is an effective job search strategy, but few people do it well.  In this book, MacKay teaches you to be organized in your networking efforts and systematic in how you keep in touch with your contacts.  Additionally, MacKay provides techniques that will help you to approach networking in a way that is reciprocal and gets results. 

Sometimes all you need to get on the right track is a fresh idea. After reading one of these books, you may find that you've been going about your job search all wrong.  Find a title that speaks to you, pick up a chai latte, and get ready for some inspiration. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stock Images/

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Which Program is Right for You?

Choosing a post secondary program is stressful.  It is a significant investment of both your time and money, and the information provided to you is usually insufficient for such an important decision.  Here are some steps you can take to help you ensure that you make the right choice:

Interview previous students.  If you need to know the value of a particular program, the best person to advise you is someone who has already taken it.  You can usually find alumni through social media or the recruitment office.  Ask them if they would be willing to meet with you for fifteen minutes.  Make a list of all of your questions and see how they respond.  If possible, try to speak with a few students to give you a more balanced perspective. 

Set a goal.   How can you possibly determine which program is best if you don't know what you want to do with it?  Take the time to sit down and identify a career goal.  Once you have a goal in mind, you can clearly lay out the steps that you will take to achieve it.  If necessary, you can always change your goal at a later date, but just having one makes it easier to focus your energy. 

Do labour market research.  All of your planning should be based on extensive labour market research.  There is no purpose in selecting a particular job as your career goal if there is no demand for it.  Also, through your research you can determine the requirements for your target job and use them to guide your decision about post secondary education.   

Sit in on a class.  Some programs are very different from what you expect them to be.  Therefore, it's smart to get as much information as you can before making a decision.  Ask the recruitment office if it would be possible for you to sit in on a class.  This will give you a clearer picture of what it's like to be a student in this program, giving you a better idea of whether or not it would be a good match for your interests and learning style.

Look at student feedback.  There is a wide variety of rankings available which will give you the students' perspective of post secondary programs.  However just because one person had a negative experience with a particular program doesn't mean that you will too.  The key is to read all of the feedback and if several students are saying the same thing, it may be a good idea for you to pay attention. 

When you are deciding which post secondary program to pursue, you don't want to pick the wrong one.  However, from the outside there is only so much information that you can access.  If, after you've started school, you realize that you're in the wrong place, it is not too late to make a change.  Most schools will allow you to switch classes in the first few weeks of the semester and to change programs at any time (although you may not be able to transfer all of your credits over).  The key is to speak up, act quickly, and don't let someone else influence your decision. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stuart Miles/

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Get a Job as Soon as You Graduate

Are you nervous about getting a job after graduation?  Nobody wants to graduate and then be unemployed for six months.  So what can you do to improve your chances?  Here are some steps you can take that will put you in a strong position to get hired as soon as you take off your cap and gown:

Sign up with an Employment Agency.  Most people wait until after they need a job to visit an employment agency.  However, most agencies have resources that you can make use of even before you graduate.  At an employment agency, you can attend workshops, get help with your resume, do research, and find out about available positions.  If you do this work ahead of time, you will be able to hit the ground running once you finish school.

Conduct Information Interviews.  When you talk to people that work in your industry, you are able to get a real picture of what it's like.  At an information interview, you can find out which skills are in demand, which companies might be hiring, what type of job you should be targeting, and what it would be like to work in the industry.  Use your network or even social media to identify people to interview and ask them if they would be able to give you fifteen minutes of their time.  You may be surprised by how many people are willing to talk to students.    

Volunteer.  When you have limited work experience, volunteer work is an excellent way to get real skills on your resume.  If possible, try to find a volunteer position that would give you experience working in your field.  Extracurricular activities can also help you demonstrate soft skills such as leadership skills, organizational skills and the ability to work well on a team.
Do Labour Market Research.  By the time that you graduate, you should have a clear idea of where you fit into the labour market.  What types of jobs are available that would be a good match for your skills?  Review industry publications and job advertisements to get a sense of which skills are in demand and what is happening in your field.        

Develop Your Social Media Profiles.  In today's job market, employers will almost definitely check you out on social media before making the decision to hire you.  Make sure that your social media presence demonstrates both your professionalism and your expertise.  You can also use social media to make connections, develop your network and possibly even get a job.  If you work on it a little bit each day, you may find that before long the jobs will start to come to you!

After spending all of that time and money getting through school, you are no doubt eager to find a job, but realistically it will take a few months.  However, if you start working on it before you graduate, it will a much easier (and quicker) process and before you know it you'll be receiving your first paycheck. 
(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: David Castillo Dominici/

Monday, March 24, 2014

How to Make Your Dreams Come True

We all have dreams but for many of us our dreams get worn down by the demands of the day- the need to pay bills, the busyness of taking care of a family, or even the fear of not being good enough.  If you're not quite ready to let go of your dreams, then here are some steps you can take that will help you turn your dreams into reality:

Make a plan.  What is your goal and what steps will you take to achieve it?  Make your goals SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound).  You should be doing something every day that will get you closer to attaining your dream.   

Take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way.  Sometimes the most valuable opportunities come disguised as a tedious task.  Don't be afraid to try something new; you never know where it will take you.    

Embrace setbacks.  It is painful to experience setbacks, but when you do, it is important that you find the lesson in them.  Failure is a harsh teacher but if you pay attention, it will help you find the right path.  

Get support from the people around you.  Nobody expects you to do it on your own.  Connect with people and enlist their support in your goals.  You will find that most people are more than happy to help and with the support of your network, doors will start to open up for you.

On those difficult days, it can be difficult to keep the spark of your dreams alive.  Make an effort to keep your eyes on the horizon.  Read biographies of successful people, motivational quotes, or anything else that gets your blood moving.  It is also a good idea to surround yourself with people who build you up and make you feel like you can accomplish anything.  You must passionately defend your dreams in the beginning, but as you start to accomplish your goals, it will be easier to see the purpose of your hard work.   

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: winnond/