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Online Job Hunting: A Pragmatic Primer 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 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

Job Hunting Online: A Quick, PragmaticPrimer

There is a whole new dimension to finding work these days. On the other hand, some things haven't changed much at all. You still have to position yourself to employers in a way that directly meets their needs. And the resume hasn't been replaced (as of yet) by some previously unknown cyber-document. It's just that, more and more, you have to be aware of the 'online thing'.

By online I'm talking mainly about the Internet, and how it can help you with your work search. Take web sites as an example. Have you noticed that employers are putting their URL's (Internet addresses) on just about everything nowadays? The message is clear: visit the company's web site before you apply for employment, or you could be at a competitive disadvantage.

Using the Net for research is just one of the ways to propel your hunt for work. This article gives you a brief overview of what you should, and should not, expect from the Net with regard to your job hunt.

How the Net Can Help

It's likely that you're already using the Net to further your career objectives. Were you aware, however, of the broader realm of possibilities? Here are just some of the things that you can be doing electronically:
  • Exploring occupational choices and future market trends
  • Conducting a self-assessment that evaluates your skills, values and accomplishments
  • Preparing a powerful resume and targeted cover letters
  • Adapting your resume for 'scanning and tracking'
  • Networking into the hidden work market via newsgroups and forums
  • Searching for job postings in your specific field
  • Investigating the self-employment option
  • Upgrading your knowledge and credentials through distance learning

  • Assessing Your Self

    Let's look at a few of these in more detail, to show you how practical this stuff really is. Conducting a self-assessment is a good one to start with. On the surface, you might wonder why you need to know yourself well. A common question I get asked is 'Why should I bother to do a full blown self-evaluation?'

    The answer becomes apparent when you look at the many pieces of your work search. Preparing your resume and conducting job interviews are prime examples. Here's where it's critical to talk about yourself in clear, defined terms that an employer can relate to. They want to hear about your accomplishments, the skills that you've demonstrated and the knowledge that you possess. Fortunately, those are the precise insights that you develop during the process of self-discovery!

    Turning to the Net, there are many sites that can be of assistance in this regard. One of the key sites is the University of Waterloo's Career Development Manual. Another is CareerStorm. On each of these sites you can complete a variety of exercises to learn about your skills, values, strengths and goals.

    Tapping Into the Hidden Work Market

    Need another concrete example of how the Net can help you career-wise? How about when you're trying to penetrate the non-advertised work market. This is where up to 80% of all employment opportunities are found. And the best ways to tap in are through targeting, researching and networking.

    Here's an approach that you could try. Start by targeting a dozen companies in the industry where you want to work. Then go into research mode and check out the Web site of each of these companies. See what types of products and services they're offering. Look at how they're positioned and note the claims they are making about themselves. You can use the CanLinks business directory to find a large list of Canadian companies, sorted by industry. Or try CorporateJobSites for a list of Canadian companies who are hiring.

    Next, find press releases about each of your selected companies. These are free at the Canada Newswire site and Canadian Corporate News. While you're at it, visit the relevant industry association to gather even more information. A useful list can be found at the Job Futures site, under 'Listings of Associations By Occupation'.

    Now it's time to expand your contact network. You can do so by taking part in Usenet Newsgroup discussions and web-based forums. Or you can subscribe to a mailing list (called a Listserv). The objective is to meet people online who can help you in your work search. This is a great way to enhance your traditional face-to-face networking.
    It's easier than ever to locate appropriate resources, thanks to specialized search engines. For instance, Google Groups (formerly Deja News) is the source for Internet Newsgroups. Remember to present yourself professionally and practice 'netiquette' (Net etiquette) when networking this way.

    What NOT To Expect from the Internet

    While the Net continues to expand in its usefulness, keep in mind that it's just another tool to help give you a leg up. Here are some things that you should not rely on the Internet for:
    • Finding you a job automatically. You still have to work hard and be proactive, even if you're a techy sifting through the multitude of advertised computer positions online.
    • Replacing the human touch. Ultimately, it's you who shows up for the interview, not some mechanical clone.
    • Making decisions for you. Only you can be responsible for the choices you make. The Net can provide information and direction, not answers.
    • Being organized or super-quick. The Net isn't a meticulously organized data bank. There's tons of info out there, but you need to learn some basic search techniques to dig through it all.

    Some Parting Words

    Going online can definitely boost your work search efforts -- if you go about it the right way. In my view, this involves a balanced approach. What do I mean by that? Quite simply, that all of this great new technology works best in combination with traditional techniques. Talk to a career consultant or coach before you follow advice that you find online. Continue to send out hard copies of your resume even while you master e-mail and web-forms. And meet with people in person in addition to networking through discussion groups.

    This well-rounded strategy will move you far ahead in finding and securing the work you truly want. It can also demonstrate to employers that you have the basic computing skills that they're looking for. All in all, the Net can be your ally. Use it wisely and it will enhance your work search efforts!

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