5 tips for landing your first (or next) job

February 26, 2018 | Campus Life

Improve your odds with a little advice from our experts


Each year, Career Development and Experiential Learning helps connect students and recent alumni with jobs, by hosting sessions with employers, holding the annual Get to Work Career Fair, and providing advice on everything from job searching to interview prep.

Whether you’re planning on hitting the career fair, sifting through online job boards, or have already scored an interview, here are five tips to help you land your first (or next) job.

1. Do your homework

Research skills aren’t just for the classroom. They also come in handy when you’re making your case to a potential employer, at an interview or a career fair booth.

Sara Millar, a Recruitment Coordinator for a nation-wide organization, recommends researching the company you’re applying to. “When I ask someone what they know about the company and they answer with ‘not much,’ it doesn’t give the best first impression,” she says. “I have also personally never been in a job interview where they haven’t asked me what I can tell them about their company.”

If you think you might be interested in working for a company, take a few minutes to look at their website. You may already be familiar with their service offerings, but knowing a bit about their history and values can give you a leg up when convincing them you’re a good fit.

If you’ve landed an interview, you probably know it’s time to dress to impress. But Dorothy Ritz, manager, Career Development and Experiential Learning (CDEL), warns that that doesn’t mean the same thing to every organization. “Pay attention to the work culture and dress accordingly,” she says.

2. Details, details

Your resumé can make or break your opportunity with an employer. June Abahuje, is the human resources coordinator of AdaptAbilities, an organization that provides respite care for children and adults with disabilities. When she assesses a resumé, it’s often the small details that are most telling. “Make sure grammar and formatting are correct,” she says. “If someone is applying for an administrative position and they have several different fonts in their resumé, that shows me poor attention to detail.”

She also recommends studying the job post in detail to make sure your resumé responds appropriately. “Align your resumé to the job posting,” she says. “The information you provide should tie back to the qualifications that are listed. Maybe highlight a few courses you took that apply directly to the position. Be very intentional with the information you provide.”

3. Look in unexpected places

Job boards have their place, but they’re not the only place to find a great opportunity.

Bachelor of Commerce student Jacqueline Taylor learned this firsthand. She recently landed a position using social media. “The job was posted on LinkedIn,” she says. “When I clicked the apply button, it just submitted my LinkedIn profile. I didn’t even need to send in a resumé.”

According to Dorothy, first-time job hunters sometimes miss opportunities because they make assumptions about where their skills are needed. “A public relations student or graduate might only look at PR firms,” she says. “But PR professionals work in oil companies, government organizations, health care and so many other places. Don’t think you shouldn’t pay attention to Alberta Health Services listings because you aren’t a nurse.”

4. Don’t underestimate yourself

When Jacqueline applied for her job through LinkedIn, she could see that nearly 100 other people had already hit the apply button too. And given that she was still a student, she knew she would be up against more experienced candidates. “But I thought I might as well just give it a shot, and it worked out,” she says. “You should never be afraid to apply. By putting yourself out there you have a better chance than if you hadn’t applied at all. You have nothing to lose.”

June adds that there’s more to being a good candidate than having every last skill in the job listing. “I look at how a person can add value to the organization,” she says. “They might not have all the experience we want, but if they’re able to explain why they’re a good fit, or they prove they’ll do whatever it takes to learn those skills, that shows they have initiative.”

It all comes down to how you sell yourself and your skillset. Don’t have a lot of work experience under your belt? Remember that volunteer experience, practicum placements and class projects can equip you with valuable skills, and are worth noting on your resumé.

5. Plan for the future

When applying for a job, consider how it might fit into your long-term goals. Though you likely won’t find your dream job right away, it’s best to find something that can help you work toward it.

“The more focused you are in your job search, the more likely you’ll get closer to what you want,” says Dorothy. If you’re a communications grad and you want a communications position, you should be looking at communications positions. If you start in a completely different area, it may be difficult to transition later on.”

If you’re ready to begin your search, you have a few places to start. Attend the Get to Work Career Fair; browse the vetted posts on the MacEwanWorks job board; or book a session with CDEL staff to review your resumé, go through a mock interview or simply ask questions.

Get MacEwan University news delivered to your inbox. Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.

Read more about our students at work:

Get MacEwan University news delivered to your inbox.
Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter