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Graduating and Starting Your Career Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Workopolis.com Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit www.CareerActivist.com.

While everyone agrees that looking for work isn't easy, there's lots you can do to increase your odds of landing something suitable. But before you start blindly sending your resume out to every company or organization within a 50 kilometer radius of your home, keep in mind that a targeted, strategic approach to searching often produces the best results. Here are seven steps you can follow to help you improve your odds.

Develop a Career Plan
Have you thought about where you'd like to be two years from now? How about in five? By looking ahead and imagining what you'll be doing down the road, it then becomes a matter of building a series of paths that will lead you toward your destination.

Take an Inventory of Your Skills and Experience
It all starts with knowing what you have to offer in the marketplace. Your strengths, accomplishments, work experience, volunteer activities, memberships in groups and clubs, grades, awards received etc. are the basis for marketing yourself effectively.

Research Your Industry and Profession
The more you know about what is happening in your field and who the players are, the greater your chances will be of discovering opportunities and of being able to impress potential employers with your knowledge. Check out the website of associations that represent the kind of work you're interested in. Also read publications dedicated to that particular field.

Create Dynamite Marketing Material
Since a job search is really a marketing campaign in which you are the actual product, and potential employers are the customers, you'll require a brochure (resume), a flyer (cover letter), and a leave-behind (business card). Make sure whatever you produce is customized to the needs of employers in your field. And for goodness sake: get others to proofread your final product before you start advertising with it.

Prepare for your Interviews
Now's the time to wow your audience. Practice answering common interview questions beforehand. Be able to tell your achievement stories concisely. Know enough about the employer so that you can ask smart questions about them. And follow up with a polite thank you note within a few business days.

Network to Create Opportunities
Tap into the hidden job market by letting your friends, family, professors and others know you're looking for work. Ask them if they can refer you to other people who you can meet with to talk about your goals and get advice from. By broadening your network of contacts this way, you start to encounter the folks who hire people like you.

Maintain a Positive Attitude
If your job search drags out it's not uncommon to become discouraged. Remember, however, that most of your friends will be in the same boat: snagging a good job takes lots of effort and probably more time than you think. So keep on going and revise your campaign strategy as needed.

It's a competitive world out there and job hunting is part of the process. By treating your search as an organized campaign, with specific steps to follow and tasks to perform, you boost your chances of coming out ahead and of turning what could be a frenzy of random tasks into a focused, forward moving procedure.

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