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Work search tips

Searching for work can take a lot of energy. These tips will help you keep on track:

  • Treat your work search like a job. Stay organized, set realistic goals and stay on task
  • 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
  • Evaluate the time you're investing in your search. You may need to reframe your search—widen your net or look for unexpected opportunities
  • Expand your network. Reach out to past co-workers, friends and family members for support and to learn about work leads

Need help with your work search? Talk to a career educator or sign up for a work search program.

You can use social media to find work search leads and connect with potential employers. Sign up for the LinkedIn Essentials workshop to learn more.

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 contact.

Why contact a lead?

There are three main reasons why you might contact a lead:

  • to learn more about a particular industry or job
  • to get advice or suggestions about possible work opportunities
  • to find work opportunities

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
  • job posting sites
  • LinkedIn
  • suggestions from family, friends, professors, former supervisors, colleagues, etc. 

You could try developing your own position by approaching employers and promoting your skills. These steps can help get you started.

  1. Network as much as possible.
  2. 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.
  3. Make a list of 5 to 10 employers you'd like to work for. Identify what you like about them and how you could contribute to each organization.
  4. 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, contact 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 may be less intimidating for you, but it’s also less personal and could be deleted
  • phone is quicker and more personal, but can be more intimidating for you and unexpected for your lead

Remember these guidelines:

  1. Practice your pitch beforehand (what you want to say about yourself and your skills).
  2. Listen carefully, respond appropriately and acknowledge your contact’s needs and concerns
  3. If you set up a meeting, arrange a specific time on a specific day.
  4. Tell your contact that even if there are no current opportunities, you'd value a meeting to talk about future opportunities.
  5. 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.

Activity:

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
  • website
  • 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

You can also contact leads to learn more about an industry or job—see our resource on How to conduct an informational interview if you're exploring careers and not looking for work.

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

Your email could look like this:

Dear ____________,

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 can 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.

  1. 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.
  2. If you reach a 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. If you're directed to an online application system, say that you'll follow through on that suggestion, and then ask if you can also get the name of someone in your department of interest.
  6. If the receptionist is unable to refer you to someone else, be gracious and thank them.
  7. Be prepared to be transferred directly to a contact person.

Your phone call could sound like this:

  • 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 would you 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.

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.

Networking

The word "networking" can sound scary, but it really means creating relationships with others. This can come in handy on a job hunt and can lead to work opportunities. The more you network, the larger your network will grow and the more opportunities you’ll discover.

There are two main goals of networking:

  • work search: to introduce yourself with the intention of being considered for current or future work opportunities
  • career research: to find out more about a career path

Networking can help you:

  • hear about "hidden" opportunities (up to 80% of jobs are unadvertised)
  • meet a potential employer before there's an opportunity
  • find out what a particular job, organization or type of career is like
  • clarify your career direction
  • identify barriers and opportunities
  • practice interacting with professionals

Remember the three P’s of networking: 

  • professionalism
  • preparation
  • practice

The first step of networking is to identify your goal. Are you currently looking for work, or do you want to learn more about a certain career path? You don’t need to choose one or the other, but know what your goal is. 

Next, identify who you want to talk to.

Prepare your introduction

You'll need:

  • your name
  • some background information related to your goals and experience
  • your reason for contacting your network contact
  • your request

While it's unlikely that an initial contact will lead instantly to work, you may be able to set up a follow-up meeting. The real measure of a successful networking encounter is when you're able to clearly communicate your reason for connecting and uncover possibilities for further conversation.

The network you already have

Networking doesn't just happen at formal events—you're already networking in your daily interactions. Networking can mean chatting with a classmate about a career fair or meeting with a professor to find out what it’s like to work as an academic. Your existing network may include:

  • family and friends
  • classmates and colleagues
  • social network friends
  • professors and schoolteachers 
  • social groups (clubs, sports teams, etc.)
  • current and former employers
  • professional contacts (doctor, dentist, vet, accountant, hairdresser, real estate agent, etc.)

If you're looking for work, start by reaching out to the network you already have. Tell them your specific goals. For example, don’t just say, “I’m looking for work, so let me know if you hear of anything.” Try something like “I want to work in a small company where I can get a wide range of experience,” or “Would you be able to suggest someone at ABC company I could talk to?”

Other networking opportunities

When you’re researching careers or actively looking for work, it’s a good idea to talk to people who can provide you with current information about the area you’re interested in. This is often known as:

  • an informational meeting
  • a networking meeting
  • an informational interview

Learn more about how to conduct informational meetings.

Social media allows you to reach out to thousands of prospective employers at once. Employers expect you to have a professional online presence.

Here are some ideas of what job seekers, employees and employers need to know about social media (credit: University of Dayton Law).

A great way to expand your professional network is to attend a career fair or networking event. You can:

  • learn about specific careers
  • practice networking with professionals
  • find out why company staff chose their line of work and what they like or dislike about their jobs.

We offer lots of career events on campus to help you meet employers.

At career fairs and employer info sessions, organizations are usually looking to recruit employees and they're keen to promote their organization. They often send human resources staff who work in recruitment. 

Learn how to prepare to network at a career fair.

It can be scary to know what to say when you begin networking, but thinking about these opportunities as conversations can make it a bit easier. Here are a few scripts to get you started.

Searching for work

"Hello, my name is ________, and I’m a second-year student studying _________ at UVic (pause for a handshake if it's appropriate). Good to meet you. I’ve read a bit about your company. You’ve just begun a big research project related to business development in the Victoria area, I believe. I’d be interested in hearing more about it and learning if there are any opportunities coming up at your organization."

Career research

"Good morning, my name is ______. I’m just about to finish the _____ program here at UVic (pause for a handshake if it's appropriate). I’m curious about the research your company is doing on transportation policy. Could you tell me a bit more about it?"

Getting a referral

"Hello, my name is _______. I’m in the final year of my BSc in psychology at UVic and I’m doing some research around careers in health education to find out if this might be a viable career for me. I’m not looking for work at this point. I’m hoping that you could direct me to someone I could speak to inside your organization who might be able to provide me with first-hand information about career paths in health education."

Contacting a referral

"Good morning, my name is ______. I was given your name by (person who referred you). I’m just about to finish the _____ program at UVic and I’m hoping to move into a role in the transportation sector. (Person who referred you) thought you would be an excellent person to connect with, as I understand you’ve been working in this field for several years. Would you by any chance have the time to meet with me (or chat on the phone at a convenient time) for 15 to 20 minutes? I’d love to hear your input on what roles I might consider at this point in my career and any other insights on the sector you might have."

A business card is the most basic work search tool—and one of the most underused. It’s a simple summary of your name, contact info and credentials to hand out to potential employers.

Using a business card makes you look organized and professional. Employers appreciate receiving business cards, as they’re small and easy to file.

When to use a business card

  1. When you want to provide someone with your contact information at events when it’s not appropriate or convenient to provide your résumé.
  2. When you’re providing hard copies of other career documents, like résumés or thank you notes (paperclip your business card to the document or card).
  3. When you’re in an informational meeting with someone.
  4. If you have a job, don’t use your business card from your current organization if you’re looking for another position.

What to put on your business card

  1. Your name—bold your name and/or use a larger font than the rest of the information.
  2. Your basic credentials—your degree and any professional designations you have. You may also want to include your area of professional specialization or key skills, but don't crowd the card too much.
  3. Your personal contact information—your phone number and email (use a professional-looking email address!). Don’t include your home address.