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Set up your Strategy

A great place to begin a meaningful work search is in research and reflection. Make a list of companies and roles you are excited about, what kinds of challenges you are interested in solving, current trends and what kinds of work are needed in the world right now. Use your natural interests, skills and values to guide you, and notice where these areas overlap.

Diversify your Search

To get exposure to all the options out there, use online resources, talk to people, and get involved. Use reliable sources like this page for SFU students for employment and funding information, and maximize recruitment platforms and networks by diversifying your keyword searches. Study the market and who’s hiring nowSign up for newsletters, and track companies on social media. Sign up to volunteer, attend an info session, and build relationships on LinkedIn. Learn about virtual coffees (informational interviews), and take a chance on doing some – now is a great time for this. 

Get Specific 

Getting a sense of what kinds of work you are interested in (social innovation, award-winning theatre, or with people in marginalized situations, for example), will help you enter those communities to discover more about them. You'll start to hear about opportunities available, as you build relationships. Find out about accessibility, such as flexible hours, protocols for inclusivity, needing access to a vehicle, or other specifics to your particular circumstance. The information helps build filters and to find a great fit.  

Manage your Time

Searching for and applying for work is time-consuming and you'll need to call on the awesome skills you've developed as a student and prioritize your deadlines. Decide which roles you think you have the best chance of getting an interview to focus on. Allow enough time to research the company, write the application, and make the edits and revisions needed.

Deconstruct the Job Description

When it comes time to apply for a job, you'll want to stand out in a stack of resumes. The most effective way to do this is to deconstruct the job description. Identify what is most relevant to the role (what do they want) and the experiences and skills you have that match what’s being asked for (what can you offer). Bring those highlights forward, using the content in the job description to guide you.

Tailor your Application 

Having a master resume with accomplishment statements and a sample/skeleton cover letter prepared in advance can help - this way, you don’t have to come up with all the content on the spot and you can adjust the ordering, headings and keywords as needed. You’ll feel great about sending off a quality, a tailored application that will pay off for you if done well!

Good Design

Your application has a better chance of standing out when it’s not an obvious template. With a pop of custom colour and a few design elements, you can present yourself well, packaged to impress. Consider a consistent layout and design throughout your resume, cover letter, and list of references – ready for when you are called for the interview. 

Check that all information is accurate and error-free – it’s so obvious but can (and does) happen, even if you are using Grammarly! There is nothing worse than hitting send and realizing there is a spelling error in your opening line...

simpson groans while being zoomed in on his face

Find examples in the OLC Co-op Resume Gallery and sites like Creative Market for inspiration.

Prepare for Next Steps

While you wait to hear back from potential offers, be sure to save the job descriptions and application documents together in a file. This way, you’ll be able to review your notes on how you pitched yourself for the job, and deliver in the interview! You can also check out Interview Stream, and, book a virtual interview practice on how to prepare for and develop quality answers and cultivate a more confident presence.

Balance your Search with Learning

While you are applying for jobs (or if you need a break), it's a great idea to keep learning, giving back, and getting involved. There are many programs, volunteer roles, workshops and training sessions that can expand your knowledge, help you gain specific work-related skills, and give you a sense of purpose and contribution. Not only are you adding to your resume, growing your community and potential references, and building your confidence with new experiences, you can impress future employers with your proactive mindset, too.

Remain Positive and Ask for Help

From Francis: Getting rejected is a big fear for many people, and when a job application you spent hours working on is ignored or dismissed, it can be crushing. You may even feel like the employer rejected you personally, triggering “I’m not good enough” and “no one will ever hire me!” Keep making connections and continue to push out applications for roles you feel excited about. Don’t fail to plan, and get support from a student Career Peer if you are having trouble creating your cover letter, resume or LinkedIn.

From Deanne: Keep your head high! It is actually (unfortunately) very normal to have multiple applications rejected. There are so many reasons why it might not be your time to shine - at this particular job, on this particular day. Try not to get too discouraged. If you have sent out several job applications and heard nothing back, our Career Education Specialists can review your methods and help you learn new ones, so that you can stay hopeful through this stage of work search, and land that interview.

It is wise to build some support systems for yourself.  Opportunities will continue to show up - not always the ones you thought they might be - and there will be a day when the door opens and the offer is made. Wishing you well and to know that you are not alone!

Learn to recognize opportunities and leverage your skills and strengths. We have free and confidential appointments for all students and new grads. Book at

* This article was written by Francis Mercurio and edited by Deanne Esdale

Beyond the Blog

Participants and Contributors
SFU Student
Francis is a fourth-Year Psychology student and Business minor concentrating on Human Resources. He enjoys getting to know people, reading books on self-improvement, history and philosophy and volunteering as a Career Peer. Connect with Francis on LinkedIn.
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May 29, 2020

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