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Creating a Roadmap to Interview Success

Interview RoadmapHave you ever had a really terrible interview? Afterwards, you may end up asking yourself, “what went wrong?” It can be especially disheartening when you feel like you knew the answers but were unable to get them out. The problem for many candidates is that they get lost while giving a good answer. The way to avoid this is to use a roadmap.

Have a Starting Point

Before any interview it is important to create a list of major themes that will likely be touched upon. By having a clear idea of what will be asked the Interviewee provides themselves with a starting point. In interviews there are a few questions that are highly likely to be asked.  In some shape or form the interviewer will ask why the interviewee wants to work for them, and how they think they can bring value to their organization.

Know the End Point

When answering an interview question it’s important to have a clear destination in mind.  In the beginning of the interview the Interviewee states their thesis (i.e., “I am able to provide value to your organization.”) The remainder of the interviewee’s answers consists of evidence to support this claim. Where a lot of interviews go wrong is the end point is forgotten. The evidence suddenly becomes the main focus. The problem with forgetting the end point is that the answer loses its focus a lot of great ideas can be expressed but if these ideas are not supporting the interviewee’s main argument then it’s not a successful answer.  A useful strategy is to conclude each answer with a summary of how the evidence presented proves the point the interviewee was trying to make (i.e., “It is for these reasons that I feel I will be able to bring value to the organization.”)

Use Landmarks

When giving someone directions, familiar landmarks are often helpful. The same is true of interviews. When answering a question, it is helpful to have phrases or words that serve to provide focus. These words and phrases also serve to help ensure that what the interviewee wants to present is understood (i.e., “My work experience and my education combined ensure that I will be able to provide value to this organization.”)  This statement makes it more likely that the interviewee will remember the concepts that they wanted to get across about the values that their education and work experiences allow them to bring to the organization.

A roadmap is essential for interview success. However, in order for the interview road map to work an idea of the terrain in needed. A job search counselor can be useful in brainstorming likely potential interview questions.

Visit the My ESC website for more tips on interviewing.

This article was written by career development practitioner Mike Bourke.

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6 Steps to Great References

So you’re looking for a new job, and you’re filling out application forms and going to interviews.  You’ve perfected your cover letter and resume, and have the right outfit picked out, but have you remembered the one last key ingredient to a successful job application?  That’s right, your reference list.

In your resume and cover letter, you’ve probably included some combination of your strengths, skills, experience, training and education.  But how can an employer be sure that what you’ve said in there is all true?   They look to those people who have worked with and know you, and who can comment on your abilities, experience and personality.   So, what does this mean then?  It means that your references can have a very big impact on whether you get the job…or not!

On that note, it’s time to think about how you go about choosing the right people to be your references.

1 – Who should be a reference?

In choosing appropriate references, you want to keep in mind what kind of relationship you have/had with them, whether or not they would say good things about you and whether they are qualified to speak about your skills, abilities, personality traits and so forth.  Remember, you want to choose those people who you believe will speak about you in a positive light.  One way of finding this out is by simply asking possible references what they would say about you and/or if they would give you a positive reference.

2 – Kinds of references

There are three main types of references: work, academic and personal/character references.

Work references should have worked with you as your supervisor or manager, and who have seen you in action.  In the case where you are looking for a new job while still currently working, it is not always a great idea to use a supervisor from your current job, unless they know and don’t mind that you are looking for different employment.  In the case where your current supervisor doesn’t know you are looking for other work, you can ask a trusted co-worker to be your reference.

Academic references should be from teachers, instructors or professors who have known you for some time and who can comment on your personality and the quality of your academic work.

Personal/Character references are usually only used if you are applying for your first job or if you have limited work experience.  They should be adults who are not related to you but who can vouch for your good character and can discuss your personality traits.  People to consider would be adults who you have worked with in a volunteer setting, a leader from your place of worship, neighbour, a long-time family friend or the parents of a close friend.

3 – Don’t forget to ask for permission!

So you’ve thought of some good people to act as your references, there’s just one more thing to do… ask for their permission.  You need to make sure that they are willing to act as a reference for you.   The best way to ask this is with a lot of “pleases” and “thank-yous,” letting them know just how thankful you are for their time and effort.  In the end, you want to have at least 3 or 4 references.

Once someone has agreed to vouch for you, you need to ask them for the contact details that they would like potential employers to use in getting a hold of them.  Keep in mind that they may not want you to give out their home phone number, personal cell phone number or personal email, so make sure that you have the appropriate details.

It is also very helpful for your references if you send them your most up-to-date resume.  This way they can have a better idea of what you have done in your past, including work, volunteer and hobbies.   It also helps to jog their memory when they receive calls about you.

4 – Get your list ready

Now that you’ve finalized your references, it’s time to prepare a neat list of their contact details.  Do not include your references on your resume, but instead put “references available upon request”, or write nothing, most employers will assume your references will be available when they ask.  The reason for this is that:

a) you have yet to go in for an interview.  You still need to see if the job is for you and whether or not you want to give them access to find our more about you.

b) If you are applying for a large number of jobs, you don’t want your references to be exhausted from having to speak on your behalf 30 times or more!  There is a limit to what your references will be willing to do for you.

Also remember you are only using those numbers, addresses and emails that your references have given you permission to use!  For each contact, you should include their name, relationship to you (i.e. manager, professor, etc), job title, contact phone number(s) and email (if applicable).

You will present this list after a job interview or when asked by an employer.  If asked in a job application to include references, you can include their name and relationship to you; however you should not include their contact details.  You can simply put “further details available upon request”.   This ensures that you have control over which employers call your references and when.  No employer should call your references without your permission and giving them a list of your references is in effect, doing just that.

5 – Stay in Touch and Say Thank You

Keep your references in the loop about how your job search is going and don’t forget to thank them after they have given you a reference, as they are lending a helping hand in your job search and will be more willing to act as a reference in the future.

6 – What kinds of questions will employers ask your references?

Here are some examples of questions employers might ask your references:

How long did he/she work for you?
What were his/her responsibilities?
Did he/she need close supervision?
How did he/she get along with others?
How well did he/she work as part of a team?
Why did he/she leave your employment?
Is there anything you can tell me that might disqualify him/her from this position?
Can you think of anything that I should know about him/her that I haven’t asked about?

There you have it…

Now the responsibity of having “references available upon request” just got a bit easier.  Please share with us if you have any questions about references.

This post was written by Verity Buskard, a career development practitioner.  It was originally written for the BCWIN Youth Site and is reposted here with permission.  

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Change: Is it Really Something to Fear?

Change – it’s happening, all around us. Sometimes the changes we see in the world feel overwhelming and chaotic. We, as a culture in Western Society continuously strive for the goals that we feel will give us our “happily ever after”, where we will no longer have to worry about the constant flux around us. The notion that “If I just get that job that pays $18 per hour everything will be all right!” Or, the idea that “If I meet the right partner my life will come together” are unrealistic.  The reality is that change will be the constant in our lives; no matter how “successful” we become. We all see how technology is evolving the world around us, and we know that we can expect to make a number of career changes throughout our lives, so it makes sense to become experts at dealing with change. One of the ways to do this is to become familiar with the process of change and learn how to apply it to ourselves.

The process of change tends to happen in five steps. Once an individual identifies which stage of change they are at they can test their motivation and move forward from there.

During the first step, a person likely will not recognize the need for change. It might look something like this, “I don’t need to exercise; my doctor doesn’t know what he is talking about!” Or, “I don’t need to finish my grade 12; I can make $80,000 a year with grade 9 because my Dad and Grandpa did it!” This stage is called “Pre-Contemplation” It is where a person does not see for themselves that there is a need to do something different. Some important signs for yourself that this may be you are if your friends, family or other professionals in your life consistently give you information about the need for change. This information may be pamphlets, videos, subtle suggestions here and there, and maybe you are feeling a bit uncomfortable or irritated with the idea that you need to do something different.

The second stage of change is referred to as the “Contemplation” stage and it is where the individual starts to see the value in making a change. They may not be completely sold on the idea and may flip-flop back and forth regarding any sort of commitment. They might, however, find themselves gathering information, asking questions and seeking people knowledgeable in the subject matter but not committing to any time frames. To use the examples above, the individual who originally did not see the value in exercise might start reading about how exercise can affect his or her life. For the individual not wanting to complete their high school, they may begin looking at what jobs they are currently qualified for, researching schools that provide the training or checking out costs and time frames. Does this sound like you, if so read on!!

Stage three is the “Preparation” stage. The key point here is that the individual not only sees that they need to make the change but intends to make it within 60 days. Our non-exercising friend will have set an appointment with a Personal Trainer or has committed to a specific date to begin their exercise routine. Our friend intending to graduate Grade 12 will have signed up for some courses and have a specific start date set.  They will both have detailed knowledge about what they will be doing and planning an action plan outlining specific steps needed to accomplish their goals. Stage 3 feeds directly into the “Action” Stage and this is where the fun begins!

The fourth step, the Action Stage is where the individual will consistently work towards making the change. Now it might sound that this is where the process ends in success but for anyone who has decided to incorporate physical activity into their lifestyle or decided to continue with their education, they will tell you that the struggle with the benefits of the change still exists. The debate regarding the pro’s and con’s of whatever action they are taking may rear its ugly head regularly and they might find themselves reassessing their motivation to continue working towards their objective on a continual basis. If you are in stage 4 it is important to recognize the good things you have accomplished, be kind to yourself and reward yourself for all of your successes, regardless of how small they seem to be!

The final stage of change is the “Maintenance” stage. This is where the individual has been consistently committed to the change made for six months or more. Maybe the behavior changes have become a new habit. They might find themselves building on the changes they have made. Our friend who has been working on their Grade 12 might start doing some extra reading or studying in a subject of interest. Maybe they are taking some continuing education courses at a community college. Our physically fit friend might incorporate healthier eating habits; perhaps joining a team sport.

Occasionally, even after six months of commitment we might find ourselves “recycling” right back to one of the previous stages. Our exercising friend may slip back into couch potato habits and spend some time beating themselves up for “failing” in their efforts. Our friend trying to finish their high school might find they spend a few weeks socializing with friends and loose focus on their studies. Maybe they talk themselves right out of the benefits of their schooling, sending themselves right back to the “Pre-contemplation Stage”.  Rest assured, this type of behavior is common for everyone making changes and it is imperative that we remember that we can learn from our “slip-ups”.  We can gain some incredible insights into ourselves and our motivations during these times.

Sometimes it is important to recognize when we need to seek the help of a professional. If you are engaging in a career or job change you can enlist the help of a qualified Employment or Career Counsellor through a local employment center. If you are trying to make changes in relationships, self esteem or mental wellness, the help of a Health and Wellness Counsellor may be necessary. Olympic athletes, who appear to be the epitome of success even acquire the support of psychologists, coaches and counselors to assist them in adapting and preparing for change. They do this to the point that they thrive and enjoy the fear developed by change! Understanding the process involved in making a change is one of the first steps to understanding yourself and your motivations supporting you.  You will even get to the point where you will enjoy change and look forward to these opportunities contributing to your personal and professional development.

* Written by Patricia Leiser is a Career Counselor at Pacific Community Resources Society.  This was orignially posted on the BCWIN Youth Site and is reposted here with permission.

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Appropriate Contact Info

What is appropriate?

Is “pot_smoking_couch_potato@hotmail.com seeking a position with your company” impressing any hiring managers?

The first impression you give a potential employer is always the most important one. This includes e-mail, phone, fax and other electronic communications, as well as your resume and cover letter. A wacky email address could get your resume tossed into the garbage instantly. If you have a bizarre voicemail message, like a 5-minute rap song, the employer calling might just hang up.

Some of the email addresses used by people who come to me for help finding jobs are slightly less than professional.  Email addresses like  “flaming_red_eye420 ”, “big_chick_magnet”, and “sexy_long_legs69” do not give me the sense that you will be a reliable, hardworking member of my staff. In fact they let me know you will most likely be focussing on things other than work. I would rather hire someone called reliable_worker@hotmail.com.  The same holds true for voicemail messages. People calling to arrange an interview do not have 5 minutes to listen to an entire song before leaving a message for you.

So, before you seek employment make sure you have the appropriate tools for a professional and business-like job search. There are a variety of free Web-based email accounts like Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail that you can use. Setting up a new email account for job searching is especially important if you have an unsuitable screen name or address.

This article was originally written by Melanie Archer for the BC Workinfonet Youth Site and is reposted here with permission.

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Don’t Just Get a JOB – Get In The Worx!

ITW postcardThere are in excess of four hundred and fifty publicly-accessible internet job boards where employers can advertise job postings and over four hundred recruiting agencies serving British Columbia each with their own listings for available employment positions. Not accounting for the numerous “internal job boards” that large corporations and organizations have, in addition to hundreds of governmental job boards, there are literally more than a thousand places on the internet that a job seeker can look for a job in this province. Is it any wonder, then, that embarking on a job search is an overwhelming exercise in frustration?

This over-abundance of job boards in its current state of disarray creates a needle-in-a-haystack situation for both job seekers and employers. With over a quarter million unemployed British Columbians and an untold number of people who are working but actively seeking alternative employment, employers are faced with the daunting task of guessing which job board(s) to advertise on to attract the kind of candidates they are looking for, with the hopes that their ideal candidate will inadvertently find their job posting.

Wouldn’t it be convenient if ALL of the jobs, ALL of the employers and ALL of the candidates were able to intersect in ONE PLACE? www.InTheWorx.ca intends to revolutionize the chaotic online employment industry with its unique, job seeker-centred approach. As job boards are discovered, they are categorized by industry and added to the roster under “specialty job boards”  (http://intheworx.ca/speciality-bc-job-boards/ ) which helps to effectively focus a job seeker’s search for employment. There are directories for both recruiting and employment agencies that service British Columbia. Resource sections have been created and tailored to particular demographics: Newcomers to BC, Students & Graduates, Disabled/ Barriered, for example, with expansion and development being a constant process of the website.  Job seekers have the option to register as InTheWorx.ca candidates and construct profiles of their skill sets that employers will be able to search – gone are the days of uploading a resume into cyber-space and risk having it fall into unscrupulous hands. Using personally constructed skill sets are more accurate, thorough and effective than uploading resumes into a databank that relies on exploder technology.

Despite the size and scope of InTheWorx.ca and the plans to continue expanding, we are real human beings who actually answer emails and we encourage requests for information and welcome suggestions / comments. On occasion we will receive an email via the “Contact Us” form from a job seeker who has hit a dead-end in their search and with a little research from the employment team, we have been successful with locating specific resources and leads for these people (for free, I might add). InTheWorx.ca has been added to the repertoire of resources utilized by employment agencies in the public sector (federal, provincial and municipal), university student employment centres, as well as independent job seekers looking for available opportunities. In the first month after launching the website, InTheWorx.ca saw almost 1000 “hits” in a four week period (February 2013) which undoubtedly substantiated the need for this service.

No matter how InTheWorx.ca evolves to meet the needs of the employment industry, it will never be to the exclusion of the job seekers – we will always be an independent, Canadian enterprise working for the employment success of other Canadians.

This blog post was submitted by http://intheworx.ca.

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Confidence Wins The Job

As children we are praised for the smallest achievement. Every new sound, movement, or trip to the potty, we are met with a round of applause and affection. We are taught that it is important to achieve our goals, to succeed, and progress. Yet as we grow into a young adult, there is a huge shift in attitudes. As teenagers we fight to do what we want, disregarding our parents and their praise, having this encouraged confidence to believe that we know what is right. As we grow into young adults this confidence decays as we make mistakes, take a tumble and realize that maybe we don’t have all the right answers. Then as we try to become responsible adults, progressing into the world of employment, the concept of confidence and over achieving becomes daunting.

We live in a culture where we are taught not to brag, where having a big ego is just flat out un-attractive. But what most people forget is that when it comes to applying for jobs — confidence is key. Selling yourself to an employer is a vital part of securing a job. Salesmen are usually met with disdained attitudes, as they try to sell us something we don’t want or need. Yet, their tactics and confidence should be admired and utilized. For an employer to believe that you are capable of doing the job, you have to show them that you have what it takes. You have to believe in yourself and your ability to sell yourself to the employer.

Most of us are aware that before we even get to the interview stage where we meet an employer, first we have to go through several filters. The predominant amount of job applications go through the internet. Finding the position and applying using your resume and cover letter. Never under any circumstances, under estimate the power of a cover letter. Your resume lists your skills, experience and what you can do, but your cover letter should be used as a device to sell yourself. Enhance the experience listed on your resume whilst incorporating the key phrases used on the job description. It’s important to use emotive language like “extensive” and “excellent” to embellish your qualifications. Don’t be scared to put yourself out there and remember that honesty is the best policy. If you confidently present your strengths it can put you apart from the competition. And even if you aren’t successful in securing the job, at least you know that you have given it your all. It’s important to remember that the employer needs you, and use that knowledge to boost your esteem.  Go back to the early days of your childhood, grasp at that feeling of confidence in achievement and you will reach your employment goal. As Christopher Columbus once said “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to loose sight of the shore”. So grab that boat of confidence and sail.

Ashley Bentley is an employment advisor for Open Door group in Vancouver, British Columbia. Whilst supporting clients reach their employment goals, Ashley is also an active part of the community.  She has volunteered for several women’s organization and taken part in fundraising activities for the Scotia Bank Aids walk. Ashley enjoys swimming, attending theatre and music performances and has an avid love for cheese.

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Help, I’m Moving To B.C.!

Moving to a new city can be daunting, let alone a moving to a new country. There are so many things to consider and it can become overwhelming and exhausting.  Home is where the heart is after all, so it’s important to make plans so that you feel happy in your new surroundings. I moved to Vancouver, BC from England two years ago and it was definitely a big adjustment. The only thing the two places had in common was the rain, which to be honest I could live without.

The initial things that come to mind when moving somewhere new is securing a place to live and a job to pay your bills and your Friday night bar tab. These things are definitely a priority but you may need a few tools before this to achieve your goals. Ideally you should secure a place to live before you move to BC, but if this isn’t possible then you should look at couchsurfing.org.

Get Connected

Once in BC you’ll need access to the internet and a phone in order to find a job and a place to live. Local libraries can provide free computer access and printers as well as your local WorkBC office. For a phone it is pretty simple to go into a store and buy a cell phone for $40 and pay as you go. Here is a list of a few providers;

  1. Fido
  2. Koodo
  3. Rogers
  4. Telus
  5. Bell

Find A Place To Live

Now that you have a line of communication, you can start your search for your dream home. BC is not a cheap province to live in.  It’s a good idea to explore property rental prices in different areas to see what suits your price range. When looking for a place to live there are several websites that come in handy;

  1. Craigslist– There was recently a comical theatre production about Craigslist, as essentially you can find ANYTHING on this site. From the local doctor’s old pair of socks to the best toothbrush you have ever had, Craigslist has it all. Due to the variety of things this website has to offer some users get discouraged when they come to the property rental section. However most people I know since moving to this city have used this site to find a place to live. Of course be skeptical of some of the less informative ads, but this site can definitely help find you your dream home.
  2. Padmapper This website is great. It gives you the option to select your budget, how many bedrooms/bathrooms you need and if it’s pet friendly. There are also several other filters that you can select and it will give you a list as well as a map with the location of the properties.
  3. Rent BC This website has listings for properties all over the province and similar to Padmapper it has filters that you can initiate to find something within your price range. It has a section for student housing as well as properties to buy.
  4. BCforsalebyowner.com If you are looking to buy a property and don’t want to go through a real estate agent, but through the homeowner itself, then this website is great. It has lots of great properties across the province and is user friendly.

Some properties will be fully furnished and ready to rock and roll, but for others you will need to find your own bits and bobs. Craigslist is again a great resource for this, as well as scouting out the local thrift stores. Ikea and Costco also sell reasonably price products to fit out your new home.

Find A Job

Once you are settled into your new digs the next step should be to find employment. There is the old school method of handing out resumes door to door, but this will only be successful if you are looking for a customer service or hospitality job. Even with customer service jobs companies now expect you to do an online application, so here are some websites to help you along the way:

  1. CraigslistI know I have mentioned this site a lot, but my last 3 jobs in BC I have found through this website. It has different sections for different industries and its easy to scroll through and find something that you are looking for. It’s quite easy to spot the difference between a legitimate ad and a sketchy one, but definitely a great resource.
  2. WorkBC The government website is a great source of information and has a variety of jobs advertised. It is user friendly and is updated daily.
  3. Indeed Jobs This site uses a search engine model and is great if you are looking for something specific.
  4. Alliance for Arts If you are looking for a job in theatre, film, music or art this is the site for you. It shows a lot of employment opportunities that other websites miss and is very specific for those in the creative field.
  5. Charity Village This website site caters to those looking for work in the non-profit industry. It has jobs in healthcare, charities as well as outreach programs. Even if you are looking for an administration job but don’t want to work downtown in a high rise, it’s a great resource.

If you’re looking for something temporary whilst searching for something more permanent you can always look at temp agencies. There is a ton in BC and they can be very helpful for a short-term employment solution. Just do a Google search and you will come up with a huge list. If you are having problems with finding employment, or you feel like you need to brush up on a few skills, visit you local WorkBC employment center. They can take a look at you resume and book you in for workshops to improve your interview skills and help you reach your employment goal.

Once you are ready to go, enjoy your time in BC, It’s a beautiful place to live and there is so much to do and see. If you settle in Vancouver like me go see the Canucks battle it out at Rogers Arena, take a stroll in Stanley Park, visit the aquarium or enjoy the variety of cultural experiences the province has to offer. Embrace the adventure and enjoy your new home, you will never want to leave, I know I didn’t.

Ashley Bentley is an employment advisor for Open Door group in Vancouver, British Columbia. Whilst supporting clients reach their employment goals, Ashley is also an active part of the community.  She has volunteered for several women’s organization and taken part in fundraising activities for the Scotia Bank Aids walk. Ashley enjoys swimming, attending theatre and music performances and has an avid love for cheese.

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