Career Services’ tips for landing a job

Broke? Bored? Blaming it on a bad economy? If you’re a current student or a recent grad looking for a job, the University of Calgary’s Career Services can help.

I visited the Career Services centre and went over my resume with Communication and Culture career advisor David Cataford. From formatting to font, skills to sections, Cataford spent close to 30 minutes examining and discussing my resume and I left with a polished version that shortly-thereafter landed me a job.

Cataford and his four fellow career advisors do more than just look over resumes. The advisors practice interview skills with students, give advice about negotiating salary and help students find jobs to apply for.

“Anything and everything career related I will help [students] with as best I can,” said Cataford, joking that he draws the line at attending interviews.

“We’re really here to create connections and relationships between students, industry and the university community,” said Martina Payette, director of Career Services.

“A key thing in our mission is to link passion with purpose and the students with employers.”

Students may have already used Career Services without even knowing it. The centre hosts career fairs, company information sessions, networking workshops and even career education programs.

Before my session with Cataford, I was instructed to watch an online workshop about resumes and cover letters and to bring a current resume and any job posting I was interested in to the session. The online workshop, despite being lengthy, was incredibly helpful and ensured my resume was ready to be torn apart.

Cataford views resumes as a marketing tool to help you get an interview, while he sees cover letters as a way to show your passion for a desired job.

“You can’t really show a lot of passion and why do you want that job in a resume. You can in a cover letter.”

Cataford had a lot of good information and tips to offer me about my resume, beyond the typical “don’t have spelling mistakes.”

He also emphasized the need to target resumes and cover letters for every single job applied for.

“There are three reasons why you are going to get a job. One is your education, two is your experience but what’s more important than those two is, ‘Who are you? What are you like away from the office?’ ” said Cataford.

According to Cataford, having unique interests on a resume can be a good ice breaker and helps to give employers a glimpse at who you are.

“Have some funky stuff that you maybe snowboard or mountain climb or maybe you do yoga or maybe you cook or maybe you make cards or maybe, I don’t know, maybe you take care of feral cats or something,” said Cataford.

If you’re applying for jobs but not getting them, Cataford offered the unorthodox advice to find out who got the job you wanted and take them out for coffee, a practice that once landed him a job.

“Get some mentors . . . when they leave, they might recommend you,” he said.

Cataford also encourages students to get in contact with companies they want to work for and ask questions.

“Don’t call Human Resources unless you want to work in HR. Call the communications department if that’s what you want to do. Say, ‘I’m exploring my career options and I’m interested in learning more about your company. Could I ask you some questions?’ ”

Students shouldn’t be afraid of applying for jobs they may be under qualified for, he added.

“We live in Canada right, so what’s the worst that can happen? The worst that can happen is they will chuck your resume in the garbage.”

In his three years as a career advisor, Cataford’s seen just about everything. From a graduating student “who had never had a job in his entire life, not even baby-sitting” to students who simply don’t know what they want to do, Cataford is willing to help.

“Jobs aren’t going to come to you. You have to ask yourself, ‘Where do you want to work? What do you want to do? What would be fun to try next?’ “

Cataford said students who can’t find a job should stay positive and keep their resume up to date with volunteer work or even “survivor jobs.”

“If you sit around doing nothing for two years it’s going to be a lot harder for you to overcome that barrier and land a job . . . It’s okay to have the survivor job in the meantime if you have to pay your bills. Don’t be ashamed of that.”

Cataford encourages all students to come visit their faculty career advisor, especially those frustrated by a difficult economy.

“I’ll motivate them. I’ll get them pumped up. That’s why I’m here,” he said.

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