-by Martin Matyas, Education Liaison
On January 20, 2016, I attended a workshop at Mount Royal University (MRU) called “Boom, Bust & You.” The purpose of the presentation was to provide job-hunting skills in a soft economy and I picked up a few tidbits I thought I should share with you. Catherine Brownlee, headhunter at Catherine Brownlee Inc., led the workshop. She recommended the following tips for navigating tough economic times:
Carry Lots of Business Cards
Avoid the cheap-looking ones you make yourself at home on the printer and have your cards professionally made. Be sure any card you make indicates your job title and what kind of work you are looking for. And of course, don’t use the business card of the company you just left!
Update Your LinkedIn Profile and Résumé
Remember what we learned from the April 2015 STC Alberta presentation on portfolios: formatting conveys your ability to organize and group information into a layout that makes it easy for readers to find what they want. Making your readers feel informed helps them remember you in a positive way.
Build a Circle of Trust
Build a circle of trust around you. If you keep an optimistic attitude, people will be more open to supporting you. Start with those closest to you – your family and friends. Then widen the circle to include professional associates. Part of widening this circle of trust includes handing out those business cards to people working in those areas you yourself want to work in.
Network Within Your Circle of Trust
You should spend around 90% of your time building your network, while using the remaining 10% of your time to respond to job postings.
Arrange for information meetings with the people in your circle. After the meeting, send them a thank you card. Yes, you read that correctly. Send them an old-fashioned, paper thank you card with a handwritten message. Because it’s unexpected, the thank you card will be memorable. Fill it in, then drop it off in-person at the reception desk–if you can–where they work. Mailing it is another easy option. Naturally, it will stand out in the mail against the business-sized envelopes and probably make someone’s day because you took the time to recognize their efforts. An email is just too easy for the recipient to ignore or forget. You can even find professional-looking blank cards for a great price at the dollar store!
Build Your Employability
Take time to put extra tools in your toolbox of employability. If the oil and gas industry is no longer working for you, programs from MRU’s Continuing Education department may be your ticket into something new. University enrolment generally increases during hard economic times as people look to increase their skillset and employability.
After the presentation, we had the opportunity to attend various 20-minute information sessions on certificate programs for several subjects at MRU including technical writing, business analysis, project management, change management, and leadership. Many of these programs can be completed online or in a class. If you choose to take a class, remember it’s a golden opportunity to keep building your network.
In the Ross Glen Hall, booths were set up and representatives from various academic disciplines were on hand to answer questions about learning opportunities in languages, leadership and marketing, oil and gas, and a dozen more areas. The biggest question I had was whether I should take credit-free courses or reapply to get into an accredited program.
Credit Free Courses
In speaking to a representative, I learned that Continuing Education courses, also known as credit-free courses, have the advantage that you may have the choice of taking fast-track courses, which are courses with accelerated schedules that let you finish quicker. Many of them are available online.
Credit courses have the advantage that you receive credit that can be applied towards a degree or another certificate. Before registering, take the time to add up all the costs and evaluate the amount of time it takes to reach an academic goal. If you take this route, you become part of the rich campus life that includes Student Union activities. You also gain access to the gym and pool (at additional cost in your tuition) and to computer labs. Many students take advantage of the numerous scholarships and bursaries offered to full-time student, one being the STC Alberta Scholarship.
It’s your choice, so make a few phone calls and even visit the campus in person. I got hooked on technical writing when a friendly professor offered to take me on a tour of MRU’s Centre of Communication Studies.