Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Brief Look at 2011

Another year is almost over and we come to that time of year where everybody looks at what the accomplished (or failed to) in 2011 and what new goals or resolutions they want to make for 2012. For myself, 2011 was an incredibly busy year; work has shown again and again just how popular the Second Career program is within Niagara Region as was seen by the popularity of my advice post on the whole process (here).

In addition to dealing with Second Career applications and providing job search advice to clients, I have also been assisting people in utilizing different Social Media platforms for their job search as well as developing a workshop on the subject. I have also been working on my Sociology degree, which has left me with less time for blogging than I would have preferred but has still been a challenging and engaging experience so far.

Over the past year I’ve looked at a number of different topics related to job search and career development and in the New Year I hope to continue updating this blog with useful and relevant advice on a monthly basis.

Finally for those who are either still looking or that intend to start looking for work in the New Year allow me to point you in the direction of a posting from last year entitled Revitalizing Your Job Search for the New Year. The dates may have changed but the principles contained within are still the same and can be used throughout the year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Social Media and Job Search for Beginners

You’ve started your job search, your resume has been updated and you’re applying to jobs in person or through job boards. However everyone keeps telling you about this thing called social media and how it can help you in your job search; so you decide to give it a try but where do you start? The following points are from a workshop I created to introduce individuals to Social Media and how it can be utilized as a part of their job search strategy.

How does social media impact job search?

A recent survey by CareerEnlightenment.com stated that:
• 79% of hiring managers / recruiters review online information about applicants
• 70% said they rejected people based on the information they found
• 89% of companies will use Social Media Networks for recruiting in 2011
• This is an increase of 6% from 2010

What are your options?

There are a number of different social media sites that individuals can use, the three most popular which are connected to job search are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

• Has over 800 million active users
• It utilizes personal connections and the average user has 130 friends
• Businesses now use Facebook for advertising and to connect with customers
• Still seen by many as personal and unprofessional but these opinions are changing

Using Facebook to Job Search
• Make use of applications (apps) such as Branch Out or BeKnown that are sponsored by job boards to track vacancies, companies and your network
• Clean up your profile, remove any negative content such as embarrassing photos
• Check your privacy settings, can employers see you
• Follow or ‘Like’ company pages so you can see what they are doing

• Is business focused; seen as the professional version of Facebook
• #1 Social Media tool used by employers - 80% of employers use LinkedIn to find talent
• In essence it is an online resume that potential employers can view
• Incorporates company pages, a built-in job board and groups which consist of industry specialists or individuals with a common interest

Using LinkedIn to Job Search
• Make sure you have a complete profile so that employers can see what you have / can do
• Like any other part of your job search you want to target your audience
• Use groups to connect with your industry and the people within it
• Take the time to share relevant content and opinions

• 140 characters or less
• Twitter has real time relevance, the past stays there
• People are constantly talking about trends, companies, general advice

Using Twitter to Job Search
• Learn the language – ‘hash tag’ ‘retweet’ ‘DM’
• Start slowly and with purpose
• Active participation is essential and add value to the conversation
• While there is some value in retweeting, let people hear what you have to say
• General rule 80% professional 20% personal

Other Sites of Interest
• Google - #1 Search engine in the world
• You Tube - #2 Search engine (owned by Google)
• Quora – Questions, Answers and Advice from industry professionals
• Blogger / Wordpress – Personal websites for individuals that want to share more of their expertise with the world
• About.me – A customized profile / launch site

What Next???

So now that we’ve had a look at what options are available to you, now is the time to pick a site to get started with and set up your profile. We generally recommend the one site to start with, so that you can get comfortable with using the site, seeing how others use the site and so that you are not overwhelmed.

Here are 3 things to keep in mind when using Social Media for job search.

1 – Don’t hide behind the computer – Anonymity is an easy trap to fall into, because no one knows who you are, you can say whatever you want. The problem is, you have to come out from the computer at some point and how you act online will be how employers perceive you.
• Social media will never fully replace face to face meetings such as in person networking and Interviews
• Having a professional looking profile picture shows the employer you are a real person (Simple headshot recommended)
• Your online actions affect how employers perceive you

2 – Present yourself in good light – This involves taking a look at what is currently online about you and taking steps to correct any negatives; for example pictures from parties where you were drunk are not going to impress any employers. It also involves taking the time to check any posts that you make for spelling mistakes, clarity and most importantly the content, updates about your lunch are not going to interest people; however comments related to the work you are interested in will.
• Take steps to correct any negatives such as drunken pictures from parties
• Check updates for spelling mistakes
• Clarity and content are important – updates about your lunch are not going to interest people

3 – Reputations take time – Building an online reputation / brand is going to take time for most people, rushing it can lead to mistakes and a negative reputation, so start out slowly.
• Rushing can lead to mistakes and a negative reputation
• Start out slowly
• Seek advice from experts
• Be part of the conversation

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Networking is not…..

One of the things that there is an abundance of online is articles about networking. There are articles talking about what networking is; how to build a network and why you should have one; in fact I’ve added to this pile with my last two blog postings. So to buck the trend a little what I would like to do for this posting is to share four things that networking is most definitely not.

Networking is not…..

Begging for a job:

Seriously, it’s not; people and especially employers are more inclined to tune you out or try and avoid you if you keep pestering them for a job. Yes at one time they might have admired your perseverance but now they have scores of people doing the same thing so enough is enough.

A quick fix:

Many people think that the moment they start networking, job offers will start appearing. The reality is for the majority of people it takes time to build up a network to a point where you can receive referrals and use it to generate employment opportunities. How long will vary from person to person but the average is counted in months not days.

Only conducted online:

While sites such as LinkedIn have made it a lot easier to research and make connections with individuals / employers it will never take the place of a face to face meeting. It’s at those meetings where we can use tone / body language to express ourselves much more vividly than we could through an email. Also some of those potential connections may not be using the same sites that you use or even have the time to use them at all. So while online networking may be easier don’t sacrifice meeting people offline.

Your only option:

This follows on from the last point as there are a few different job search strategies that job seekers can use depending on the type of work they are looking for. Too many times people will advocate networking as the “be all and end all” of someone’s job search. The reality is though that even within networking there are several different types and there are other job search strategies that someone can use. Something that I recommend to clients is to try one job search strategy and if it doesn’t work try something else. Otherwise you’ll end up beating your head against a wall wasting time you could spend doing something productive.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Developing A Network

After a very busy summer I am back to blogging, at work we have over 20 clients preparing to start school in September thanks to the Second Career program and at home I am about to enter into my second year of university studies (online) as I continue to work towards gaining a degree in Sociology.

In my last posting I talked about the two types of networks that people have Organic and Rational, here’s the link if you want to refresh your memory http://bit.ly/j0L45Q, its ok I’ll wait for you.

In this posting what I want to talk about is how to grow and develop your network. Yes you can go through life with a small network that you are comfortable with; the problem with that though is at some point the effectiveness of your network will reach a limit and you can only go beyond that limit by introducing new people. Let’s face it the reason why we have people in our network is because they each bring unique knowledge and experience to help you achieve your goals, whatever they may be, this is also why you are part of their network.

What are your networking goals?

Before we look at building the network, you first need to ask yourself why you are networking; is it to connect with hiring managers that may hire you or is it to gain a support base? The reason you need to ask yourself this question is because the answer will redefine how you go about networking with individuals. If you wish to build a network to find employment then you need to be aware that it is going to take effort on your part and depending on the size of your starting network may also take time to develop and become effective.

If on the other hand you are wishing to develop a support base, you cannot expect jobs leads to start appearing as you will more than likely be connected to individuals that have no connection or interest in providing you with these leads. For example for several years I ran a peer support group for mature job seekers, we had fun, shared information about how to job search, and how to deal with certain issues such as age discrimination. The one thing that rarely happened though was sharing job leads; those that were shared were ones that the individual did not want to apply for as they understandably did not want others in the group applying to the same jobs in order to reduce the competition.

Who are you connecting with?

Now I’m aware that the majority of individuals who are starting to network wish to find work, and that’s admirable. A large number of jobseekers though end up networking with the wrong people, many go to events similar to the one I mentioned above, in the hope that they will hear about lots of job opportunities. As I have already stated though these events are mainly focused on supporting individuals and not with providing job leads.

So if your networking goal is to find a job, then your networking activities should be focused on reaching those individuals within a company that make the hiring decisions and for a number of positions this is not Human Resources. In order to find out who those individuals are you may also need to connect with individuals that work for the company you are interested and ideally work in the same department or are doing the same type of job that you wish to have.

You should also develop a target list of companies that you wish to work for; this will help you to become more selective in your networking, which is necessary in developing a rational based network and will help you to focus on meeting with the people that either make the decisions or are connected to them.

How are you connected to them?

In developing your target list, it is also a good idea to determine how you are connected to an individual. Ideally you would have a personal referral from someone who is connected to an individual within your target company, however for those that are just starting to develop their network this will take time to gain. Another connection you can use is that you and the individual are part of the same professional association or belong to an industry specific group such as those on LinkedIn. I should also mention that LinkedIn is a great way to find people in companies on your target list. The final type of connection that you may have with an individual is that you simply share the same industry. Now if you have recently moved to a new area, this may be the situation you are in, in which case one of your primary goals in meeting with this individual would be to find out who else in the area you should be trying to connect with.

How to approach them?

Now that you know what your networking goals are, who you wish to network with and how you are connected to them; the next step is to reach out to them and arrange a meeting. Career counsellors and advisors such as myself that promote targeted / rational networking approaches recommend sending out an introductory email to the individual followed by a phone call a few days later.

Your initial email should be brief, complimentary and state your connection to them as discussed above. It should also outline what you are looking for career wise and what you expect from them such as a face to face meeting for some advice and assistance; you should not be asking them for a job.

Several days after you have sent your email, which gives them the opportunity to respond, then you would follow up with a phone call. During this call you would essentially restate what was included within your email, making sure to specifically request a call back and to leave a call back number. If after this they still do not respond, then leave them alone for now as you do not want to be perceived as a pest like so many other job seekers.


Two final thoughts to wrap up with, first you need to be aware that like many things in life, building and managing a network requires time and effort. I have seen people give up on this type of networking after only a few days, this type of networking takes commitment.

Secondly once you have cultivated a network connection, do not let it go to waste. Stay in touch with the individual, either through meeting for coffee or via social media tools. The first thing that people stop doing as soon as they find work is managing their network which means that should they lose their job, they have to start this process of developing a network all over again.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Even though I am a casual blogger, an increase in my volunteer and school schedule at this time of year means I need to take a break from this site for the next couple of months. On my return I will continue my series on networking and writing about the job I love which includes helping people plan out their journey in life.

I hope everyone reading this has an enjoyable summer and even though I am not writing, I am available for questions / help requests and consultations.

Andrew Bassingthwaighte

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Organic and Rational Networking

Networking is a word that is becoming more and more popular in today’s society thanks to social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. The problem with networks and networking isn’t about what it is but how to do it effectively. Over the next couple of postings I want to break down this subject and look at the types of networks people have, how to grow a network and finally look at how to maintain that network once your job search has ended.

Types of Network

Everybody on this planet has a network and with enough digging we are able to connect ourselves to other people, it’s how the six degrees of Kevin Bacon (or separation as it is technically called) was developed. These networks can be broken down into two categories: Organic and Rational.

Organic networks are ones that grows naturally and normally over long periods of time. They start out with family and friends and then develop as you make more personal connections through school or work. The issue with organic networks in relation to job searching is that they are limited in scope. If I were to look at my own organic network (ignoring my friends at work), then there is no-one in that circle that could provide me with advice or potential job leads to further my career. This is a problem that is faced by a number of job seekers, especially if they have moved to a new area in order to find employment.

In contrast rational networks are developed based on a targeted or rational decision to connect with someone based on a perceived connection you have with them. For example Joe Blogs works as an employment counsellor at a local college, because we work in the same field it makes sense to try and connect with him. Having said this, rational networks have their own issues which are mostly connected to the person at the heart of the network; you. For a lot of individuals making a connection or even just talking with another individual outside of their organic network can be very difficult. There is also the issue of the type of industry that you are looking at, in some cases the potential number of connections can be limited based on their number or even their location.

When it comes to job searching the type of network that you can depend on with vary based on the industry you are in and how established your current networks are. Some individuals may have a large organic network but due to a lack of experience or having to make a career change may have a limited rational network. For other individuals they are only able to rely on the rational network as they left their organic one behind when they moved locations.

For those interested in seeing what these types of network look like, we can turn to social media for some great examples.

Facebook started out as an example of an organic network. Connections were initially made based on the school you attended. After time they expanded this to include regions (such as St Catharines-Niagara) to its present state which enables you to connect with anyone at a push of a button.

Linkedin on the other hand is an example of a rational based network. In order to connect with people you need to be able to demonstrate exactly how you are connected to these individuals, either through work, school or as part of a LinkedIn’s group. These groups by the way can be a great way of finding people in your industry and introducing yourself to them at the same time prior to making the actual connection.
In my next post I will share some ideas on how to grow and develop networks both in-person and online.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Job Seekers Swiss Army Knife

No matter where you are in the job search process, from new grads looking for their first position outside of academia to individuals who have been out of the workforce for several months or years. Every one of us has a tool that can be used in a multitude of different ways. However because it is so commonplace a tool, we don’t give it the respect that it deserves and it becomes neglected. The tool in question is the resume, a document that every job seeker has but do they use it effectively.

Historically resumes formed the largest part of the application process; everything was based around that piece of paper. Today things have changed; networking and branding are strategies that have increased in importance across many, if not all fields of work and the versatility of social media seems to have pushed the humble resume into the background.

Despite this a resume can still make or break your chances of finding employment. Not only is your resume a record of the work that you have completed, it can be the foundation of an online portfolio; it can demonstrate how your brand has impacted your career and your clients. It’s what you use to sell your skills to the networking contacts that you have made and if you are like me, it’s a simple way of refreshing information prior to going into a job interview. Today’s resume is a tool that can be used in many ways, not just the ones I’ve listed, so it is important to ensure that your resume is as effective as it can be to assist you in your job search.

In a recent survey I conducted on LinkedIn, over 50% of the 21 individuals that responded stated that their resume generated only 1 – 5 resumes within the past 6 months. One commenter even mentioned that his resume is the thing that is letting him down in his job search. This isn’t the first time that I’ve heard that statement either, many of the clients that I have dealt with inform me that they have a resume but it’s not getting them anywhere.

One of the common mistakes that job seekers make with regards to their resume is that they think along the lines of ‘one size fits all’. Basically they can take the resume they have and then use it to apply for every job under the sun; the problem is that doesn’t work. In their survey of Canadian Resume and Interview Trends, Wright Career Solutions (www.thewrightcareer.com ) showed that the majority of respondents to their survey indicated that one of their pet peeves were resumes not tailored to suit the requirements of the job.

With so many people competing for jobs now employers can receive literally hundreds of resumes, by tailoring your resume to the actual job not only will you make it easier for keyword scanners to pick out your resume from the crowd; employers will also see that you went the extra mile to address the solution to their problem. In doing this not only do you demonstrate to employers what you have done but more specifically it demonstrates what you can do for them as part of their company.

While there are a number of different tips that can be given about the design and creation of resumes that can vary from industry to industry. There are five particular things that will remain true no matter which industry you are looking for work in.

• Include a relevant skills / competence profile in the first third or half of page one. Make sure to highlight things like achievements to grab the employer’s attention

• Read the job description and tailor the resume to it. Yes it means extra work but if you are truly interested in getting into that career or finding that dream job a little effort shouldn’t be an issue

• No matter what level of career you are looking for, make sure your resume is clean and professional looking. Only include graphics, colour or extra information if it’s appropriate to your industry and will add weight to the application

• Proofread your resume, the second major pet peeve of employers in the Wright Career Solutions survey was poor spelling and grammar. A little thing, such as a typo, can be big enough to cause you not to get the interview

• Keep your resume updated with skills, experiences and achievements. This is particularly important when you are actively employed as you never know when you may need that document

Thursday, March 10, 2011

~ Retraining ~

Going back to school can for many be a scary, yet worthwhile experience. Earning that "piece of paper" can make a significant difference in their professional or personal life i.e. the achievement of a lifelong dream - but the idea of returning to school after a long absence can present quite a challenge.

In my own experience it was the fear of failure that caused me to question my decision to go back to college. For others who have spent the last few years within the workforce and not in a classroom, they may be concerned about either not fitting in or with being stuck with people that they are unable to relate to.

If you have decided that retraining is the best option for you, than the following guidelines will get you started on the path to completing your education.

Take an inventory

·         Are you going to college for the first time or re-entering after an absence?
·         Are you currently working or are unemployed?
·         Would there be funding available for this program?
·         Are you able to take the course on a FT / PT basis or through distance learning?
·         Do you have any potential prior college credits you can apply to the course?
·         What impact will returning to school have on your family life?

Keep these questions in mind as they will help to guide you and maintain a healthy dose of reality when looking at the different options available.   

Define your educational goals

Why do you want to go back to school? Is it your goal to change careers, grow professionally, or finish a degree program started years ago? By focusing on your motivation, you can best define your educational goals. Personality and Interest assessments such as Career Cruising and the Jackson Vocational Interest Survey are available to help pinpoint interests and help you identify occupations best suited to talents and temperament.

Another good resource is the Canadina National Occupational Classification Codes which is available for access online at (http://www23.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/). The NOC includes an overview of a wide range of professions as well as the education and training required for those chosen careers. 

Search the Web

The majority of school boards, colleges, universities and training organizations have their own personal website. Accessing these sites can help you to research online courses or traditional programs, find out how to get credit for life experience and information on whether you qualify for financial aid. You can also brush up on forgotten study skills and read motivational articles about others who are successfully returning to school. Finally there are also a host of recommendations online for best-selling books and guides for those looking into retraining.
A lot of schools and colleges also have Facebook, MySpace and Twitter accounts so you are able to get the answers to some of your questions quicker as well as being able to see what current and past students are saying about them.

Take a Tour

Many colleges and training organizations offer student orientations or campus tours before the start of a semester. Sometimes there is an orientation especially for non-traditional students. These orientations often include information about campus resources, re-entry services, study skills and stress management tips. They also help familiarize you with the campus and provide assistance with other important issues you may need to address while continuing your education.

Finally - What will be the best outcome for you?

Only you can truly know the answer to this question, everybody has a different capacity for learning and how they prefer to learn. It’s only by comparing multiple schools that you will be able to figure out which one has the best environment for you. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

~ How to Make a Career Change ~

In my last post I looked at some of the advantages and disadvantages of making a career change. For those that were not put off by the disadvantages and feel that a career change is the route to follow I want to look at some of the steps you will need to take to make a successful transition.

Start With a Plan

As with everything in life the first thing to do is to carefully map out an effective career-change strategy. This includes a detailed action plan that takes into consideration finances, research, education, and training. Keep in mind that a successful career change can take several months (or longer) to accomplish, so patience is key. Don’t forget though that this part of the process isn't just about a picking a new job -- it's also about you.

People often pursue a career based on their likes, but a truly good career fit also takes into account what you enjoy doing, what you're good at, and what sort of lifestyle you desire. For instance, you may really love cooking, but if working nights and weekends conflicts with your vision of a great family, you might want to reconsider applying to culinary school.

One method of determining what career can fit in to all these categories is by using Personality Assessments and Interest Surveys. These tools can help to identify your key strengths and interests and match them to potential careers; they can also help in your research by providing links to further information. Assessments such as the Jackson Vocational Interest Survey (http://www.jvis.com/ ) and Career Cruising (www.careercruising.com) can be accessed online, while others such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Personality Dimensions are often delivered through Employment Resource Centres.


In your research be sure to examine all avenues. This includes talking to people in your network, meeting with an employment or guidance counsellor and learning about the industry. Reading industry journals and talking to people in the profession about what they do. Learn whether your target industry has growth potential and get the real story on what it’s like to work in it.

A good way to do this is to set up "informational interviews" with individuals who are already doing whatever it is you're considering moving into. You can ask them what they love and hate about their jobs and what it takes to be successful in their field. Your research can also involve volunteering within fields of interest. Not only will this help you to “test the waters” in your desired new career but it will help you to build your network connections within the field as well.

It is important though to begin nurturing professional friendships early and tend to them regularly. Professional organizations and industry trade associations are a good place to start as many of them hold networking events. It is also at this stage where social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter are invaluable as not only can you find out information about careers and companies, you can also start to ask questions and even make contributions to ongoing discussions. This social capital will pay off in the long run when it comes to connecting with employers in the industry.


Based on your research do you have the necessary experience and education to put yourself out there as a qualified job candidate in your desired new career field? If not, you will need to find a way to bridge the credentials gap, this might mean making your goal more long-term while you go back to school or receive additional training. Again you need to consider the time and cost impact for you career change, so it is worth comparing the different community colleges, private career colleges and school boards to see which one best fits your plan. It is also advisable to get advice from those in the industry as to which schools carry the most respect within that field.

Targeting Companies

So you’ve completed your research, you’ve connected with people in the industry and have brushed up on your qualifications and experience. Now is the time to start identifying specific organizations you want to work for. This is where the connections that you have developed through networking and social media come into play. Who do you know that works for or has connections with that company? Would they be willing to introduce you?

It is also important have prepared a well crafted resume and cover letter should an employer or contact request one or if you need it to apply to a specific positing. While advice on what a resumes and cover letters should look like is abundant on the Internet, I suggest seeking advice from Employment Resource Centres on issues such as content and formatting as well as people in the industry. After all these are the people that will be viewing the resumes and can tell you what they prefer to see in them.

Remember as you start to actively pursue vacancies, only focus about 20 – 30% of your efforts on advertised positions; those posted on want ads or on job boards. Make sure to spend the rest of your time exploring the opportunities you find through research and your network.

When Do You Make The Change

Ideally the best time to begin considering a new career is when you are already working. It goes without saying that a steady pay check can relieve a lot of the stress and financial realities that come with the territory. Remember only you can decide whether you are in a position financially to make a change or if you need to return to your previous career to fund the next. However, you can also think of it as an investment that will pay off with less stress, more joy, and greater success down the road.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

~ Why Make A Career Change ~

Over the next few posts I'm going to be looking at the subject of career change, starting with a simple list of the advantages and disadvantages to making such a big life choice. Now this isn't an all inclusive list but it will give you the general idea of the main factors to consider.

The one important thing to keep in mind though and one which is not on the list is the issue of Family. This issue is going to affect everyone differently because everyone's family is different (some like mine are very different). If you are considering a career changes make sure to talk to your family, particularly your life partner, because what changes you make will affect them.  


Lack of Stress
– One of the main reasons people change career is so that they can move into a less stressful working environment. A successful career change will help you to limit the amount of stress in your life and give you the opportunity to enjoy life more beyond work

– A comment often made by individuals who have made a successful change in career is that for the first time in their life they have been able take control of their future. For once, they are in charge of the direction they wish to head in.

Skills Upgrading
– A key element to any career change is the opportunity to learn new skills and complete new qualifications which you may never have had the chance to in your previous career

No Boss
– A career change does not necessarily mean you have to work for someone else. Many people in their 40’s and 50’s are taking the time to open their own small businesses and become their own boss.


Financial Insecurity
        The main drawback to making a career change is that in most cases you are starting from the bottom again. At times you will have to initially settle for a reduction in pay as well as any additional costs that could be incurred through retraining and skills upgrading.

        The average length of time to make a successful career change can take from six months to one year. Training courses can last anywhere from a semester to three years depending on the level of education you need to reach in order to make a successful transition.

        No matter how much time, planning and research you put into your career change, with today’s Labour Market and the number of job seekers presently competing for jobs there will always be an amount of uncertainty of whether or not you will secure the career of your dreams in the time you have allotted yourself.

Friday, February 11, 2011

~ Second Career Tips and Advice ~

Over the past 6 months I have assisted a number of people put together their applications for Second Career funding. Now while there is no magic formula for getting an automatic approval from the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities, there are however, a number of things individuals can do to increase their chances of success. The following tips aren’t complicated or magical by any stretch of the imagination but they are important. Not following them could result in your application being returned, delayed or even declined.

For those that are interested in finding out more about the Second Career program I would recommend visiting the Ministry’s website at www.tcu.gov.on.ca/eng/secondcareer. This site will also allow you to find details of your local Employment Ontario assessment centre, which can help you determine if you meet the Eligibility and Suitability criteria for Second Career. They can also provide assistance in identifying occupations with good employment prospects and developing a Return To Work Action Plan.

·     Research – No matter what you are doing, whether it be looking to go back to school or finding a job, it is important to do research. During the Second Career application process there are several types of research you should be conducting:

Occupational Demand – See point below

School Research – Within the guidelines it states that you are required to research three schools. The reason for this is so you have explored all the options and are able to make an informed decision about where to go. Things to ask in your research include:
The percentage of people who graduate / go on to find work in that field
The type of teaching methods used
What Job search support they offer upon completion of the course
Complaints / Refund Policies

Financial Viability – Second Career is not going to cover all of your expenses and depending on your circumstances, you may be required to contribute towards the cost of your training. Simply put, are you going to be able to afford to go back to school?

Occupational Demand – Demonstrating occupational demand serves two purposes. The first is to show the Ministry that this is a viable industry and that there are employers out there willing to hire qualified candidates. The second purpose though is to demonstrate to you, how easy or difficult it’s going to be to find work within that field. Depending on the career you are interested in there may be a number of factors that can affect your prospects, things such as the experience needed, do you need to commute/relocate and if employers will even recognise the education you are getting or are there other courses you should take (or need to take in addition to the main course).

Remember the point of this funding is to get you into long term, sustainable employment; therefore you need to know ahead of the training that this is a realistic possibility.

Job Search – Something else that people are not aware of when going into Second Career is that you need to show evidence of your job search. Now this evidence can take the form of job search logs, (where you list the date, employer and position you applied to), copies of emails sent out, copies of job posting and cover letters sent, to even job search diaries. The main reason I tell clients why the assessment centre and the Ministry want to see this information is to demonstrate that, with your existing skills and abilities, you are having great difficulty finding secure employment. 

So if Second Career is something you are thinking about, start tracking your job search now. Not only will it come in handy for your application, but it also helps you to keep your job search organized.

Timing – This is an issue that a lot of people are unaware of. It takes time to meet with a counsellor. It takes time to conduct all the school / occupational research and put together an application. It also takes time for the application to be sent to the Ministry for them to approve it and then to get you to sign the actual contract. All these things must take place before you actually start the course and depending on the time of year and the number of applications being dealt with, it could take up to several months to complete the whole application/approval process.

It is important to note, and I cannot stress this enough, you should not start a course unless you have written approval of support from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in connection with Second Career. To do so can make you ineligible for funding.

Understanding and Communication – One thing to bear in mind during the process is that the person you are working with, to put your application together, is not the person who is going to approve it. It is our job to assist you with identifying career / training goals and to help you understand what needs to be included within the application. What we cannot do is tell you what you are going to be approved for, exactly how much you are going to be getting or even how long it’s going to take to get it approved.

Also make sure you stay in communication with your counsellor. Let them know when you are having issues with the application or getting in touch with schools. Even more important is to stay in touch with them once you’ve started your course, not only do we need to collect progress reports on your performance while you attend your training, it’s also wonderful to hear that things are going well and that you are enjoying your course.


While there is a lot of work involved in getting approval for Second Career, for a number of people it is a wonderful opportunity to access Skills Training. Even if you are not sure if you qualify, look into it anyway, that way you know that you have explored all the options.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Job Fair Season

Well it’s a New Year and I’m happy to say a new start for a number of my clients who are in Second Career. A bunch of them have already started their courses this month and I have another 6 – 7 who will be starting in the next few weeks. Having spoken to them I know how excited they are and how much they are looking forward to getting their qualifications. I have been asked by a few people what makes a successful applicant for Second Career and while there are guidelines that have to be complied with, there are a few extra things that individuals can do to help their case. So one of the things I am working on at the moment is a blog posting focused on Second Career.

For right now though I want to share some tips regarding Job/Career fairs. We are rapidly approaching that time where it seems that everyone is having a Job Fair. My agency is hosting one in March and Niagara College has theirs in February to name just a couple that are rapidly approaching.

One of the problems though with job fairs is that a large busy job fair resembles a chaotic human bazaar. Because there are so many people present, when you do meet with an employer you have only a short amount of time to make a positive first impression and try to ensure that it is not lost amongst the others.

Like most things in the world of job search, the keys to success at a job fair depend on the time you take to prepare, execute and follow-up. The following are some simple tips that everyone can use no matter the size of the job fair they attend.

How to prepare

-          If you are exploring new occupations that fit with your career interests, look over the list of participating companies to determine which ones are a good match.
-          Do you home work and research the companies in advance. The more you know about a company the better you will be in marketing yourself to that organization.
-          Prepare your resume. Is it up to date with recent qualifications/experience. Be sure to include contact details like a daytime phone number and your email address.
-          Anticipate questions they might ask, for example: why do you want to work for us?
-          Practice how you want to present yourself. You should look and act professionally when meeting recruiters. If possible, dress in business attire. At the very least, good grooming is essential. When you shake hands make it a firm, friendly handshake and be sure to make eye contact to establish rapport.
During the Job Fair

-          Offer the recruiter your resume.
-          Sell yourself. Be ready with a short summary of the skills and talents that can set you apart from others who are competing for the same job.
-          Ask about the application process.
-          Listen to what they're saying.
-          Convey interest, enthusiasm, and confidence.
-          Be aware of the time. At a job fair there maybe others waiting behind you.
-          Ask for a business card from the person you are talking to.
After the Job Fair

-          Wait a few days to allow the employer time to process the resumes that they received then call to follow up and express your interest in working with them.
-          If an on-the-spot interview was conducted, follow up with a thank you note or e-mail.
-          Continue to check the employer’s websites (usually included on business cards) for additional job openings.