Is Stress Costing You Jobs?


Looking for a job can be exciting.  You never know which company might invite you in for an interview and the possibilities are endless.  However, when your job search is not going well, the whole process can be physically, emotionally and financially draining.  The problem is that once the stress starts to wear you down, it becomes much more difficult for you to stay positive, which makes it even less likely that you will be successful.  It is a vicious cycle but if you are aware of it you can put on the brakes.  Here are some tips that will help you manage the job search process without getting overwhelmed by the stress of it all:

Take care of yourself.  Your ability to handle stress is largely impacted by the way that you care for your body.  If you eat healthy food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep, you will feel better, have more energy and it will be easier for you weather the challenges that you experience while looking for a job.

Get organized.  The stark fact is that your dream job is probably not going to just fall into your lap; you need to have a plan and be organized in your job search efforts.  If you know what you are going to be doing each day, not only will you feel better about your job search, but your efforts will be a lot more focused and effective.

Spend time with positive people.  When you are feeling vulnerable, the people that you choose to spend time with can make a huge difference in your outlook.  At these times it is important for you to avoid people that stress you out and to surround yourself with people who make you feel good.  Sometimes a few encouraging words can be all that you need to get you out of a funk.

Be aware of your thought patterns.  Too often it is the thoughts that go through our own minds that sabotage us the most.  Pay attention to your thoughts and make a conscious effort to keep them positive.  Instead of focusing on the struggles, focus on the opportunities.  Most importantly, try to accept that you will not be offered every position that you apply for.  Rejection is a part of the process and will bring you closer to the position that is the best fit for you.

Keep your eye on the prize.  There is no doubt about it; the job search process is tedious, frustrating, time consuming and at times downright unpleasant.  However, if it does in fact lead you to your dream job, then it is well worth the effort.  Keep your career goal at the top of your mind and you will feel better about the hoops that you have to jump through to get there.

After all is said and done, the key is to keep everything in perspective.  Your career is important but it is still just one aspect of your life.  You don’t want to let it take over your whole life or impact the way that you view yourself as a person.  Also, try not to forget that this stage of your life is temporary.  While it may feel like it is taking forever for you to get a job, it will happen for you and the emotional roller coaster that you are on right now will soon become a distant memory.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of ioshpere at


Job Hunting on a Budget


Looking for a job is difficult for everyone, but trying to live without an income introduces a whole new level of stress.  Here are some tips that will help you meet this challenge without becoming bankrupt:

Access free services.  There is a multitude of non-profit employment centres that can assist you with your job search.  Tropicana Employment Centre provides assistance with labour market research, resumes and cover letters, interview skills, as well as placements and introductions to employers.

Go to the library.  The public library can be a rich source of information for your industry and company research.  If you take some time to look around, you may also be able to find databases and job search resources that are beneficial to your job search.  Since most libraries offer free Wifi, you may find that it is an excellent place for you to set up shop for the day.   

Put yourself on a budget.  When you don’t have an income, it is particularly important that you are careful about the money that you are spending.  If you aren’t already on a budget, now is the time to get started.  Determine how much money you have to sustain you and make a list of your expenses.  This will give you an idea of how quickly you have to get a job.  If it doesn’t seem realistic, then you need to either cut your expenses or find another source of income.

Network. The easiest way to get a job is through your network and the good news is that it doesn’t cost any more than a cup of coffee.  Getting out and meeting people is important both to your job search strategy and your peace of mind.  Try to identify the people in your network who may be able to link you to potential job opportunities.  The sooner you get job, the sooner you will start making money!

Get a part time job.
If the job search process is taking longer than you anticipated, you might want to consider getting a part time job.  Even if it’s not your dream job, the extra income may allow you to hold out until you find a position that truly aligns with your career goals.

Being unemployed is definitely not glamorous.  It’s stressful and you can’t afford to do or buy anything.  Take heart; this stage of your life won’t last forever and it won’t be long before you’ll be celebrating your new job over an expensive meal and a glass of champagne!

(Written by Karen Bivand,Image Courtesy of Patpitchaya at


Should You Accept a Job at Minimum Wage?

ID-100308362Currently in Ontario, minimum wage is $11.25/hour, but in October 2016, it will be going up to $11.40/hour.  Since it is difficult to make a living on minimum wage, some people wonder if it’s worth taking the job.  Here are three good reasons to accept a job at minimum wage:

You are earning an income.  Depending on your financial situation, you may require some kind of income, however small.  If that’s the case for you, a minimum wage position can allow you to take care of your basic necessities while you work on your career plan.

It is easier to get promoted from within.  You will find that managers are a lot more willing to give you a chance to try something new if they already know you.  For example, if you would LOVE to get into marketing, get a job answering phones and try to build relationships with the people in the marketing department.  When you are an internal applicant the managers will be more likely to consider you for an open position even if you don’t have a tonne of related experience.

You are gaining experience.  This may not be your dream job, but chances are you are gaining a lot of valuable experience.  You may be picking up more transferable skills than you realize.  Make a note of everything that you do and see if there is any way to relate it to your target job.

While there are certainly good reasons for accepting a job at minimum wage, there is still a risk of getting trapped in a dead end job.  Your need for a pay cheque should not be a life sentence of a job that you hate.  Here are some tips to help you stay on track in your career:

Have a plan.  What are your career goals?  If you don’t know where you want to go, it is going to be difficult for you to get there.  Do some research and try to identify your dream job.  Make a list of the requirements and make a plan for how you will gain all of the required skills.  It might take a few years, but if you are diligent with it you will achieve your goals.

Seek out opportunities.  Even within an entry level job, you can build an impressive skill set.  Pay special attention to volunteer committees or extra projects that take you out of your routine.  Many people build a career around doing the things that everyone else is too busy to do.

Make connections.  It is generally accepted that networking is the most effective job search strategy.  The easiest way to get a job is through somebody who you know.  While you are at work, you meet a lot of different people.  Make as many connections as you can; you never know who might introduce you to a potential job opportunity.

Employers know that employees who work hard are the ones who will perform well if they are promoted.  If you impress people where you are with what can do, other doors will open up for you.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Mister GC at

Start a Career in HR


If you are good with people, human resources is an excellent career option.  Every organization requires a human resources professional in at least some capacity.  However, since it is a competitive industry, it can be difficult to break into it.  Here are some tips that will help you start your career in HR:

Get a job internally.  When you are trying to get someone to take a chance on you, it is easier to persuade someone who already knows you.  Get into an organization in any capacity and then try to move to human resources from there.  Let the HR department know that you would love to help on any projects and make sure that your performance in your current job is excellent.  If you are professional and you work hard, somebody will eventually give you a chance to prove yourself.

Access your network. If you can’t get a job internally, leveraging your network is your next best option.  Talk to your contacts and let them know that you are looking for a position in HR.  Try to connect with someone who either works in human resources or who works at one of your target companies.  They should be able to advise you on what you need to do to make yourself a competitive candidate and they may even know about possible opportunities. 

Get the required education.  HR jobs usually require a university degree or college diploma in a field related to HR, business admin, industrial relations, commerce or psychology.  Becoming a certified human resources professional in Ontario requires a Bachelor’s degree, experience and relevant skills.  Many of these courses can be completed on a part-time basis and some employers will be willing to hire you even if your education is in progress.     

Learn about the industry.  It is a lot easier to present yourself as an ideal candidate if you take the time to learn about the industry.  This means keeping yourself up to date on industry trends and buzz words.  The best approach is to read industry publications, do free online webinars, and become involved in the professional association.

Identify your transferable skills.  Even if you don’t have any direct experience in human resources, you probably have a lot of transferable skills.  If you can demonstrate that you possess analytical skills, communication skills, emotional intelligence, problem solving skills and organizational skills, you will be a competitive candidate for a position in HR.

It’s not easy to make a career change and the reality is that human resources is competitive.  However, if you are persistent with it and you do your homework, there are a lot opportunities available in this industry.  Good luck!

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Sira Anamwong at

How to Use March Break to Get a Job


When you are a student, March Break is a beautiful time of year.  The snow is starting melt, Spring is just around the corner and you have a week to do whatever you want.  Why not put this free time to use.  Whether you are going to be looking for a summer job, or a full time career after graduation, March Break is the perfect opportunity to get a head start on your job search.

Do your research.  You won’t get very far with your job search unless you are clear about what you want.  This means spending a lot of time researching the labour market, learning about your industry and identifying target companies.  This research will help you determine how to focus your resume and impress employers at the interview stage.

Network.  When employers have a position to fill, their first step is usually to consult their network.  Make a list of all of the people in your network and use this time to meet them for a coffee.  Tell them what type of job you are looking for and ask them if they have any ideas.  Also, see if you can identify opportunities where you can meet new people and build your network.

Work on your social media presence.  When you are applying for a job, most employers will check out your profiles on social media.  What will they find?  Make sure that you eliminate anything that is embarrassing or that would be of concern to an employer.  Use the privacy settings to keep your private information private.  Take this opportunity to showcase your professionalism and enthusiasm for your career.

Polish your resume.  Now is the time to get  your resume ready to go.  Print out a few job advertisements for jobs that you would like to target.  Make sure that your resume highlights all of the requirements for those positions.  Update your resume with any new jobs, education, or certifications.  Pay special attention to the layout and formatting of your resume because the truth is that appearance counts.

Talk to employers.  Once you have laid the groundwork, you have to start getting out there.  Whether that means making cold calls, reaching out on social media, or actually applying for positions, you need to get on the employer’s radar.  Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there; even if you don’t get hired, you might get some valuable information that will lead you to your next opportunity.

Of course it is important to refresh and recharge your batteries over March Break but you can also make use of this time.  If you devote just a few hours a day to your job search, you will be ready to hit the ground running and that head start can make a HUGE difference in how quickly you find a job.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Surasakistock at

What’s Next for Your Career?


Is it time for a change?  Even if you are comfortable in your job, you might be ready for your next adventure.  Making a career change can be tricky; you don’t want to have any regrets.  Here are some tips that will help you find a career that inspires you:

Start small.  When making a career change, it is easier to take it one step at a time.  If there is an industry or occupation that intrigues you, start volunteering or working on a part time basis.  This will allow you to see if it’s a good fit for your skills and if it’s something that you enjoy.  Also, as you make connections and build relationships in your industry, job opportunities may become available to you.

Do research.  You have to do your research.  You need to make sure that the jobs that you are targeting are actually in demand.  Even if you are the perfect candidate, it will be difficult for you to find a position if there are not a lot of jobs available.  Do searches for your target job and see how many positions are open in your region.  Also, check out Ontario Job Futures to research the labour market outlook for any job or industry.

Know what’s important to you. When you are choosing a career, it is important that you consider the impact that it will have on your life.  If work-life balance is a priority for you, find a job that won’t require you to put in a lot of extra hours.  If you hate commuting, find a job that’s nearby.  Sometimes in the excitement of the job search process, job seekers make sacrifices that they later regret.   

Be open minded.   If you don’t know what you want to do, then this is actually a very exciting time for you.  While it’s true that finding a job is a lot more difficult when you’re not focused, if you approach it in a positive way, it can open you up to a lot of new opportunities.   Try to set aside your opinions about different occupations and to look at them with fresh eyes.  You may find that a job opportunity that that was right in front of you all along may actually be a perfect fit for your skills and values.

Talk to people. The people you know are always your best source of job opportunities.  This is particularly true when you don’t know what you want.  Talk to your friends and family about your career plan and ask them for their feedback.  They may be aware of a great option that you haven’t even considered.   

Making a career change is both an exciting and a scary time in your life.  The key to making a good decision lies in finding a balance between careful preparation and taking a leap of faith.  Good luck!


(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Master isolated images at

How to Read a Job Description

ID-100111821Looking for a job is a challenging and competitive process.  To stand out, you need to make use of every tool at your disposal.  When used effectively, the job description can be a valuable source of information.  Here are some tips to help you use the job description to present yourself as the best possible candidate:

Review the requirements.  To be competitive in this job market, you should have most, if not all, of the requirements for the positions that you are applying for.  You might be able to get away with missing one or two of the lower priority items or anything that is listed as an asset.  Make sure that you highlight all of the requirements that you do possess prominently in both your resume and your cover letter.

Look at the responsibilities.  There may be things listed in the responsibilities that you haven’t done or that you don’t even understand.  Don’t let that scare you.  Decide if the position looks like something that you could do (and would want to do).  If you have done any of these tasks in previous positions, be sure to highlight it on your resume.

Identify any requests. Employers are often quite specific about how they want to receive applications.  They may request that you download your resume through their online application system or they may ask you to include a reference number or salary expectations in your cover letter.  It is important that you follow these directions because it makes it more likely that the employer will see your resume and it also shows that you have read the job description.

Pay attention to the details.  Before submitting an application, review the details  of the job, such as the days and hours that you will be expected to work, working conditions, location, working hours, and salary.  Usually the employers mean what they say, so if there are any deal breakers here, don’t apply.

Everything else.  Most job descriptions will include a lot of information about the company and about the soft skills that are required for the job.  While some people view this stuff as ‘fluff’, there is valuable information here.  The company information can tell you about the organization’s values and where it is headed.  The soft skills that are listed can give you a clue about what it would be like to work in that organization.  For example, if they are looking for a ‘team player’ then it probably means that you would be required to work and compromise quite a bit with your coworkers.  If they are looking for someone who is ‘customer focused’, then it is likely a position where the customers will be placing a lot of demands on you.  The key is to learn to read between the lines.


(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Basketman at