Employment Tips

The Enemy at Work

It would be impossible to be friends with everyone you meet and, of course, your workplace is no exception. In fact, you might even develop serious antipathy toward a co-worker or manager. Unlike childhood confrontations in the sandbox, the workplace is not the place to have outright fights. Spreading the word about how much you dislike someone is out too. If you have a conflict with someone at work, try to come up with a compromise somewhere private (go out for lunch, for example) and never make your personal problems a public affair.


Treat looking for work like working

Don't get discouraged -- it takes great effort to find work but it's totally possible. Work at it, just as if you were getting paid for it. Write out a schedule and adhere to your own deadlines and goals, for example, to send out X number of resumés by Friday or to write Y number of cover letters a week. Leave your house and work on looking for work at a local library without the distractions of TV and the fridge. Take weekends off just like everybody else to recharge, and go at it again on Monday. You'll find something in no time!


Objective no longer

Tell potential employers what you can do for them instead of what you want to get out of working for them. It's changed since the 90s and now you can replace the good ol' objective with "value proposition," which is an attention-grabbing statement that serves to communicate your career goals to readers by telling them how those goals will help them out. "My vast experience in teaching will complement the success model of your school" is much better than "Looking for a position that will benefit my goal of becoming a full-time teacher."


What do you do for fun?

When interviewers ask you about hobbies it's because they want to know that you've got a life outside of work and are a person not a robot. Think of a bunch of interesting things that make you you and don't worry if you're not into more traditional hobbying like knitting or fly-fishing (though those are awesome, too!). Most employers look for well-rounded employees and nothing kills enthusiasm faster than finding out that a candidate has the personality of a slug.


Rules about follow-ups

Interview done and still dying to impress? Email is easy and quick but sending a card thanking the interviewer for her/his time shows more effort and will make you stand out. This is why you should also pay attention to the names of people interviewing you (ask at the reception desk if you're not sure) so that you can thank the appropriate parties. Keep things simple -- thank people for their time and say you're hoping to hear from them. Don't be sneaky and try to include a short version of your resumé -- they've got that part already.


Impressing with the dressing

Dressing up for an interview is still in. If you're not sure what to wear, keep things traditional and professional to be on the safe side. At the same time, don't be afraid to be more daring -- if you're applying to a more urban hip place (like an online business). Remember, what works in the advertising agency, may not necessarily work in a bank so it's best to call ahead and ask the receptionist to suggest proper attire. Bottom line -- keep things clean (clothes) and polished (shoes), no matter where you apply.


Get best references

Before you type "references on request" at the end of your resumé, make sure that this is indeed the case. Make a list of all your possible references and contact them to ask if they're still willing and available to vouch for you. Also, don't be afraid to step outside of the traditional box -- a new way of dealing with references is to ask former colleagues and bosses for testimonials on LinkedIn and to include a link to your LinkedIn profile on your resumé.


Do you have weaknesses? Yes you do!

You might be a perfectionist but please don't tell the employer that when asked about a weakness – it's too phony and sounds like a cliché. Same with working too hard -- we all work too hard in these uncertain times. Instead, name a challenge that you've dealt with and tell a story about how you overcame it instead. You can try using the S.T.A.R. model -- Situation or Task, Action you took, Result -- to present something negative (a weakness) in a more positive light.


What to ask?

There is such a thing as stupid questions but what's worse is no questions at all. Don't let your shyness kill your chances when the interviewer suggests you ask him/her something about the position. Prepare for this before the interview and show your knowledge by asking about new developments, special projects, and anything that isn’t too common knowledge (so, yeah, research). Scratch the close-ended questions and avoid asking about salary.


Vacation Time

It would be nice to be able to just get up and get away from it all -- but don't count on getting the time off if you haven't booked ahead. Most workplaces will remind you to hand in your vacation requests early, but reminder or not: don't expect your boss to accommodate you just because you got a great deal on an all-inclusive. When booking vacations, keep your workplace's busy seasons in mind, and don't forget about departmental deadlines -- your thoughtfulness will probably be noticed and appreciated.



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Poss.ca is a free online magazine to help Toronto job seekers find work. An initiative of Findhelp Information Services, poss.ca is an Employment Ontario project funded in part by the Government of Canada.

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