Work search tips
- Treat your work search like a job—stay organized, set realistic goals and stay on task. This may mean that you need to avoid distractions from friends, family and other areas of your life during "work search time".
- Expand your network.
- Remind yourself of your goals. What are you hoping to accomplish with this work search? Are there any smaller steps you could take towards that? If you're missing certain qualifications or experience, you could volunteer to fill the gaps.
- Call on your support network (friends, family, etc) if you need to, and make yourself accountable to them.
- Evaluate the time you're investing in your search. You may need to reframe your search—widen your net or look for unexpected opportunities.
- Need help with your work search? Talk to a career educator!
- Get proactive—seek out and make contact with some work search leads! Read on below.
Contacting work search leads
Job posting sites and search engines are just the tip of the iceberg. If you're having trouble finding an appealing position online, try pursuing some work search leads!
A "raw” lead is a person (or tip) that points you to a job opportunity or important contact. Raw leads can lead to amazing opportunities. You might contact a lead to find work opportunities or get advice about possible opportunities in a particular organization or field of work.
(You can also contact leads to learn more about an industry or job—see informational interviews if you're exploring careers, not looking for work.)
Look for raw leads through:
- Your career research (contacts you've made while exploring options or applying for jobs)
- Employer directories for your sector or industry
- Websites for organizations you're interested in working for
- Professional association websites
- Job posting sites
- Suggestions from family, friends, professors, former supervisors, colleagues, etc. (see networking)
Make a list of raw leads
Identify 10 to 20 people and/or organizations you'd like to contact. Put together a list that includes the person’s name, position and contact information. For smaller organizations, it might be best to connect with the owner/operator or executive director. For larger organizations, try contacting Human Resources or the leader of a specific department.
Gather this information about the organization:
- Address, general contact information
- Type of organization (private, public, not-for-profit)
- Organizational vision, mission, values
- Products or services
- Size (number of employees, scope of work)
- Types of positions
- Growth pattern
WORKSHEET: Use the Find work search leads worksheet to identify 10–20 people you'd like to contact.
Haven’t found your perfect job? You could try developing your own position by approaching employers and promoting your skills. These steps can get you started.
- Network as much as possible.
- Create a 30-second "career pitch" that highlights your strengths, work and volunteer experience, academic background and interests (draw from your résumé). Be clear about what you can offer and how you can help the organization.
- Make a list of five to 10 employers you'd like to work for. Identify what you like about them and how you could contribute to each organization.
- Contact potential employers and make your pitch! Refer to the other information on this page about contacting work search leads. You can also try informational interviews.
Once you've identified a list of work search leads, your goal is to change a “raw lead” into a “developed lead” by contacting your lead by email or phone. You could dive in and make a cold call, or you could send an introductory email and then follow it up with a phone call.
- Email lets your lead think about your request and is less intimidating for you, but it’s also less personal and could be deleted.
- Phone is quicker and more personal, but is more intimidating for you and comes out of the blue for your lead.
Always be polite and remember these guidelines:
- Practice your pitch beforehand (what you want to say about yourself and your skills)
- Listen carefully, respond appropriately and acknowledge your contact’s needs and concerns
- If you set up a meeting, arrange a specific time on a specific day
- Tell your contact that even if there are no current opportunities, you'd value a meeting to talk about future opportunities
- If you're not able to set up a meeting, offer to email your résumé, ask for a referral, or ask if you can contact them again in the future
When contacting a lead by email, remember to:
- Be polite and to-the-point
- Include a phone number and email address
- Be clear about what you hope to learn
- Consider following up with a phone call
My name is __________. I just completed my BA in __________ at UVic and I’m in the process of connecting with various organizations to introduce myself and find out about current or future work opportunities in the area of ____________. I was hoping you might be able to refer me to someone in the _____________ area of your company.
I am really keen to find employment as a _______ with a small company, so that I can have the opportunity to work on all sorts of tasks, rather than specialize in just one area at this stage. I'd like to stay in BC but I would happily relocate to Vancouver or the lower mainland if need be. If you hear of any opportunities through your work or through your contacts, would you consider passing on my résumé, or alternatively, giving me the person’s name so that I may make direct contact?
Thanks so much for your time. Please let me know if you have any questions about this request. I will follow up with a phone call in a few days.
- Introduce yourself to whoever picks up the phone—a receptionist or your lead. Introduce yourself and state the purpose of your call. Ask if it is a good time to talk; if not, ask when it might be convenient to call back.
- If you reach the receptionist, state your reason for calling and ask to speak to someone in your department of interest. Receptionists are sometimes required to screen calls before providing information, so be prepared to explain your process. Be upfront and honest.
- If you're told that the organization isn’t hiring right now, ask if you might be able to speak with someone about future opportunities.
- If you’re directed to Human Resources, take down the name of the person you speak with, and ask if you can also get the name of someone in your department of interest.
- If you're directed to an online application system, say that you'll definitely follow through on that suggestion, and then ask if you can also get the name of someone in your department of interest.
- If the receptionist is unable to refer you to someone else, be gracious and thank him or her.
- Be prepared to be transferred directly to a contact person.
Phone conversation sample
- YOU: Good morning, Ms. ABC. My name is ________. I have a background in chemistry and some experience in promotions. I’m in the process of connecting with various employers to introduce myself and learn about upcoming work possibilities in the marketing area. I’m not expecting that you have any openings right now, but I wonder if you would be open to meeting with me for 15 or 20 minutes to talk about what’s happening at AdvanceTech and your perspective on current trends and opportunities in the field?
- Ms. ABC: I can tell you right away that we’re not hiring now and I don’t anticipate that will change at any time soon. So, I don’t think a meeting at this point would be particularly helpful. I'm sorry but I also just don’t have the time.
- YOU: Of course, I understand. I was just reading on your website about your recent merger with BioTech and I appreciate how busy you must be. Would it be better for me to check in with you in a month?
- Ms. ABC: Honestly, I can’t see things being any different in a month’s time.
- YOU: I understand. I wonder if you can suggest anyone else in the field that I should be speaking to?
- Ms. ABC: Well, you may want to contact Jamal Greely over at EnviroTech.
- YOU: Jamal Greely at EnviroTech. Thank you. I’ll get in touch with him. May I mention that you referred me?
- Ms. ABC: Yes, that’s fine.
- YOU: Great. I really appreciate your help. I’ll keep my eye on your website, and if I see any significant changes in the next three months or so, would it be all right to touch base with you again?
- Ms. ABC: You can do that. I don’t foresee any changes but I guess I can’t totally predict that.
- YOU: I understand. Thanks so much for your help, Ms ABC. Goodbye.
Are you on Twitter? Many organizations tweet out job postings that are newly posted or about to expire. Here are some good Twitter handles to start following if you're looking for work:
It's also a good idea to follow specific companies you're interested in working for—many large organizations even have a separate HR Twitter account that tweets out job opportunities. To find these Twitter accounts, search "@[company name] HR" or "[company name] HR Twitter".
You can also use Twitter to tweet companies directly and ask about job opportunities—it's a fast, informal way to get more information.