by Stacy Dunn
Holland College recently hosted Job Search Jumpstart at its Prince of Wales Campus. It was an opportunity for students to find out about strategies and resources for finding a part-time job, employment assistance services in the community, and more.
Employment and Career Advisors Susan Shaw and Haley Doherty gave a presentation on job searching strategies. Susan advises students at the Tourism and Culinary Centre while Haley advises students attending programs in other Holland College campuses and centres across the Island.
“This is a common time for students to be seeking part-time jobs and there are a lot of supports, resources, and strategies to help you make the most of your search,” Haley says.
Representatives from WorkPEI, PEI Connectors, Study and Stay PEI, PEI Employment Standards, and Atlantic Student Development Alliance were available to talk with students at the event. Afterwards, three second-year Holland College students spoke about their recent experiences finding work on PEI.
Luca Takata is studying Tourism and Travel Management. She is from Japan, where she studied performing arts and worked as a stage actor and backstage as a costume designer. Luca also taught traditional kimono dressing and worked in tourism and office administration.
“Before coming here as a student, I had visited PEI four times as a tourist,” she says. “In my last visit, I decided to apply to Holland College so I could show the excellence of the Island to tourists like me.”
During her first year of studies, Luca worked part-time in a clothing store and as a server in a restaurant. One of her job placements during the school year was as a Room Attendant at a hotel in Banff, Alberta. Her second job is as a Front Desk Agent at a local hotel.
“In my job search, I looked at job posting websites, researched the companies I wanted to apply to, updated my résumé, and wrote a cover letter to each company. Before my job interviews, I practiced with someone else, answering questions I may be asked. This helped with my confidence.”
Luca says job posting sites are not the only place to find a job. A classmate told her a clothing store was holding a job fair and interviews would be conducted onsite. She was pleased this in-person event led to her working at the store.
“My classmates, instructors, and support services at the college helped my job search in many ways. I go to my instructors for advice all the time. Being proactive and good communication are key in a job search.”
Luca was unsure at first if her English language skills were good enough to get a job, but three other skills decreased her worries. “I found preparation, observation, and my own work experience helped me get a job.”
She says she also looked at volunteer opportunities as soon as she moved to PEI, which became a great strategy for expanding her network, gaining experience, and making new friends.
Danielle McPhee, a Business Administration student, says volunteering at her children’s school has been one of the ways to network with others.
“My mission during my first year of studies was to make college my full-time job because I had no time for a part-time job while raising a seven- and nine-year-old,” she says. “I maximized my time outside school whenever possible. Volunteering at my daughters’ school led to conversations with parents, and they became my references because they saw my work ethic at school events.”
Before coming to PEI to study at Holland College, Danielle lived in the Bahamas, where she was a Workforce Management Supervisor with an internet and telecommunications company. Her promotion to that position came after only two years of working as a Call Centre Agent.
At school, she regularly met with Haley Doherty and her instructors for advice. She attended many job search workshops, especially those focused on international students navigating the Canadian workplace. She also took free online short courses on eForcePEI.ca. Danielle’s goal is to work in the Human Resources field, so she engaged in an informational interview with the college’s Human Resources Director to gain further insight into the field.
Through networking, Danielle got a summer job at a commercial potato farm that also provides animal feed across the Maritimes.
“I was supposed to be a summer student working on small administrative projects. My previous transferable skills and taking the time to sharpen my skills during my first year at Holland College prepared me to assume the role of Purchase Coordinator at the farm, and further expanded my role to include accounts receivable preparation and productivity reporting.”
She encourages students to make connections, invest their time researching the current job market, sharpen their skills, and update their résumés. “I turned my summer position into a part-time position, with the option to secure full-time employment after graduation should I wish to continue with the company,” Danielle says. “If you commit the time, you can achieve the same outcome.”
Business Administration student Vitor Albuquerque agrees. As a newcomer to Canada from Brazil, he was interested in gaining experience and establishing new references. Vitor had free time in the evening and on weekends to work, so he approached grocery stores for a job.
“When I applied online, I knew there were a lot of people ahead of me who applied, so I went to the store in person to speak to the hiring manager,” Vitor says. “She liked that I went there in person to talk to her, and I was offered a job.”
Vitor worked as a lawyer in Brazil, and through networking, he got a summer job at a local law firm, thanks to his networking efforts.
“My advice to you is to network with everyone. Don’t be afraid to talk with the college’s employment and career advisors, your instructors, and people at job fairs. Don’t be afraid to show up or follow up when you send your résumés.”
Vitor likes information meetings, also known as informational interviews.
“If you want to work in a particular industry, go to those companies and say that you are a college student and want to know what their industry looks like.”
Haley and Susan advise job seekers to regularly check a company’s website or social media for job opportunities. They stressed the importance of keeping track of your job applications in a journal, making note of the companies and positions you’ve applied to and the names of key contacts.
“Don’t get caught in a job interview where the company asks what you know about them, and you don’t know about their products, programs, or services,” Susan says. “Sometimes a company doesn’t take down a posting of a job that is filled. That’s your opportunity to research the company, find out who the hiring manager is, and ask about the possibility of an informational interview.”
Haley says signing up for job alerts is a great way to stay up to date on newly posted job opportunities. Setting up job alerts with the keywords “student”, “part-time”, or “casual”, or by location is a good way to manage part-time job postings.
“Your results will depend on the keywords you have chosen. To manage these job alert emails, consider setting up a rule so that job alerts flow directly into a subfolder and not your main inbox. This will help you keep tabs on jobs and increase your awareness of companies and players in the industry.”
Susan advises job seekers to take the time to research the values and vibes of a company. In the hospitality industry, this could mean visiting a hotel lobby or restaurant. “If you have an interview with that hotel or restaurant, you will know how to present yourself to the employer.”