How to Help Develop Job Search Strategies

Posted: 5 December 2017

Author: Shaba Qureshi, Community Learning Network

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This week, we are pleased to feature a guest blogger. The blog has been submitted by Lois Polege, Adult Learning Coordinator for Flagstaff Community Adult Learning and Community Learning Network Board of Director. 

One of the things I love about working in the CALP system is the opportunity to adapt our programming to fit the needs of our community, in coordination with the skills and experiences that we, as staff, bring to the table. In our local community, one of the gaps has been the loss of a program to support job searchers. With the financial support of our local municipalities, we have been able to add a job board and provide job search coaching to our learner support services. It is very rewarding to be able to build the skills and knowledge of learners and see them find the jobs they need.

Often, when we think about a job search, we focus on a resume, and that is definitely part of the coaching process. However, it is also very important to develop strategies for using that resume. Some of our clients may seem to be very passive, waiting for the perfect job to be advertised. The problem, especially in a rural community, is that many jobs are not advertised. Here is a common pattern for a small business owner:

  1. Hmm, someone has quit/we are getting busy/we have a new project, so we need to hire someone.
  2. Who do I know that is suitable and available? I’m going to give them a call.
  3. Let’s ask someone we trust (other staff/family/friends/bowling team) if they know anyone.
  4. Maybe someone has left a resume for consideration, or there might be someone who applied for another position that we kept on file.
  5. OK, nothing has worked out. I guess we’ll have to advertise. I wonder what I should say and where I should post it?
  6. Wow, so many interruptions and applications!
  7. Well, we said yes to one person and no to all the others. Too bad those other people are all possible customers or connected to my friends and family.

I guess it’s no wonder that hiring is not everyone’s favourite activity.

However, if we understand the situation, we can teach our learners how to connect with employers. Rather than waiting for an ad, they can look for every opportunity to get to know employers and people that employers trust. They can get on the short list before there’s a long list. Here are some key strategies:

  1. Develop an “elevator speech” – 5 or 6 sentences that explain who I am and what I can do. 
  2. The next time I meet someone in the local Co-op or post office, and they ask me how I’m doing, instead of saying “Fine” (which is really not too interesting), I’ll give them my spiel. “Well, I’m busy looking for a driving job. I love driving those big rigs, and I have a great safety record, so I’m hoping to find the right opening soon. I’m even willing to do long haul, so if you hear of any possibilities, let them know I’m ready to start!”
  3. Then I start doing it on purpose instead of by chance. So, I go to the hockey game, the coffee shop, or the curling bonspiel. Maybe I’ll join the Lions Club or the Ag Society. And I don’t come home until I’ve had that conversation with a couple of people. 
  4. I make a list of old friends, co-workers, former employers, etc. and give them a call.
  5. I make a list of all the local employers that I could work for, and start dropping off resumes. If possible, I have a conversation with a receptionist or a decision maker.
  6. I keep a record of who I talked to, when I should follow up, and which leads they suggested.

Newspapers, job search sites and so on are still important. But if these are the only strategies learners are using, they are looking for the fewest jobs with the most competition.

As learners gain the skills and confidence to reach out into their community, their chances of success go way up. And that’s a win for all of us!

Lois Polege
Flagstaff Community Adult Learning

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