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  • Writer's pictureLori A. Jazvac, MRW

New Grads: Invest in Career Exploration & A Job Search Action Plan

Updated: Dec 10, 2019

You are a newly minted Master-level or PhD graduate about to receive your degree after long hours of studying and hard work in a few short months, and you may be asking yourself:

► Do I have a clear career focus?

► Do I know my next steps moving forward?

► How can I secure my dream job?

It is not uncommon to be unclear about your career direction for a few reasons. You might have limited work experience. You may need to develop your marketable skills and explore your strengths and offerings in the workforce. You may need to re-evaluate your values or the type of work environment or organizational culture that you will thrive in.

Perhaps by the time you graduate, your field or industry will have undergone some or even changes –– this could impact your choices. The world of work is continuously changing, and you need to be prepared to navigate these changes.

But that doesn’t mean that your opportunities are limited.

In fact, just the opposite. There are many great career prospects out there, depending on how you choose to leverage them and how you choose to make an impact.


It's not about what the company can do for you, but what you can do for the company.


I was asked this question during an interview several years ago that made me rethink my career goals and actually changed my career action plan.

Part of securing a great job starts with establishing a firm foundation. Conduct research about yourself, your career goals and interests, your field and industry(s) of interest, various companies, and your current and prospective networks. This will help you understand your offerings, increase choice, and shed light on how you can best position yourself in your chosen field / industry, or alternatively, another field or industry.


You need to think creatively and visualize the possibilities where you can maximize your impact...


Engage in Career Exploration & Research

What is your mission?

Your mission will be to serve as a Career Explorer and Researcher so you can better understand your unique value.

Through detailed research, self-reflection, active networking, and work experience, you will discover your niche. You will also gain an understanding of the greater impact that you can make in your field.

Enhance Your Marketable Skills

This is your time to build your portfolio of marketable skills. Throughout this discovery process, you may uncover strengths and offerings that you were not aware of. Perhaps you have developed change leadership skills from partaking in community projects, volunteerism, and committees. Maybe you've honed problem solving skills from working on business cases or longitudinal studies in teams that involved long hours of research, big data analysis, and practical application.

Employers are seeking candidates with solid knowledge and credentials. Equally, they are in need of candidates with a unique set of skills such as emotional intelligence, team building, ethics, and creativity to generate new ideas and then test these ideas in the real world. Strong interpersonal skills, complex problem solving, and relationship building skills are critical to thriving in today's competitive workforce. Of course, the ability to solve business or technical problems is a required competency in many fields.

So go ahead and refine your skills.

Take a course.


Engage in a hobby or interest and keep learning, but by all means, continue to tackle the job search with purpose and enthusiasm! Never give up.

Here are five main job search tips to remember:

1. Commit to doing a few simple, yet consistent and high-value job search activities each day. This eliminates time-wasting activities and will maximize your productivity.

2. Research and networking are two key activities that you need to integrate into a successful job search plan.

3. Leverage the hidden job market. Studies have shown that 80% of job opportunities are found via the hidden job market.

4. Keep track of your job search progress. This will help you see what is working and what you need to change.

5. Acknowledge each job search milestone. Whether your milestones are small or big, take pride in all job search activities achieved. Understand the value derived from these milestones.

Position Yourself to Get the Job

To stand out in a crowded job search, you need to develop your personal brand. Many graduates get lost in the crowd. They fail to articulate their value and stand out, continue to do what everyone else is doing, or lack a clear or organized job search strategy.

Determine the job search strategies that work for you and have worked in the past, then test them out.

Carve out a set schedule –– stick to it.

Treat the job search like a full-time job in order to extract results.

Your personal brand will need to reveal what makes you unique and authentic, and capable at solving the company’s problem or main concern.


You need to answer this key question for the employer:

“Why should I hire you?”


To develop your personal positioning, consider these five questions:

What is the company’s need?

What are your core abilities?

What are your core values?

What is your connection to the company’s need? How will you solve their problem or main concern?

How will your brand help make a tangible difference in that company or work culture?

Next steps include:

► Conduct a self-assessment or Job Search Criteria Checklist.

> Determine the kind of work you want to do.

> Chart out a 3-column list of must-haves, nice-to-have’s, and not-have job or workplace criteria. Brainstorm. Think creatively. Be honest.

> This will help weed out the roles and work cultures that are not aligned with your career goals, needs, and values. In both the short-term and long-term, creating this list in advance will promote greater career satisfaction.


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► Research your profession to identify your positioning.

> What skills, attributes, and experience are particularly important within your career area?

► Still having trouble deciding on your personal positioning?

> Create a career collage or vision board. Draw inspiration from magazines, newspapers, and materials you find online into a visual display.

Here are 8 job search action steps to take:

1. Have your brand marketing collateral polished and on hand.

> Concise, focused, accomplishment-oriented résumés get interviews.

> A compelling résumé that highlights your unique value and brand, your academic and professional accomplishments, as well as community leadership initiatives will set you apart.

> Brand marketing collateral goes beyond the résumé. You may need a complete portfolio to showcase depending upon the audience. This can include the UVP statement, the networking resume, cover letters, reference page biography, business cases, thank you letter, work samples etc.

2. Build and maintain your networks.

> Connect with colleagues or peers or recent graduates. Brainstorm about professional interests and goals.

> Form a job search group for support and creative career-related ideas. Gain 360-degree feedback.

> Leverage career networking groups via

> Attend local job fairs and get out there and talk to people.

3. Utilize LinkedIn as a valuable social media networking tool.

> Conduct research about your field/industry.

> Prospect opportunities on LinkedIn through direct leads, your networks, and labour market trends. If you hear of a recent expansion or upcoming hiring -- and the job has not been posted yet -- reach out to those key professionals or decision-makers in that company.

> ​Connect with your peers and colleagues, and locate prospects for informational interviews. You are gathering information that will help you understand your value, build networks, and enable you to make clear decisions –– not necessarily asking for a job.

> Utilize various social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to find out the latest news, career trends, and events.

4. Leverage your alumni association or university career action centre.

> Get involved with your alumni association.

> Contact your local career centre as they may connect you with job search leads or valuable contacts or networks.

5. Consider internship opportunities.

> An internship will help build your marketable skills while addressing any potential employment or skill gaps.

> You will gain experience along with solid contacts.

> There could be even a full-time position at the end of the internship -- provided you do an outstanding job.

6. Volunteer at a company where you really want to work.

> Volunteerism or community leadership enhances your networks that could fuel rewarding opportunities. If you want to work for an engineering company, for example, call the employer to set up a meeting, and consider volunteering or even shadowing a professional in that company with permission, of course.

> Check out Visit Charity Village for a wealth of opportunities in the non-profit sector.

> Volunteering will help you to stay updated what the events occurring in your field or industry.

> You will maximize your employability and stay active in the community while building your self-confidence.

> Your volunteer efforts could just lead to a job!

7. Spend 25%-30% of your time applying online and a good chunk of your time networking.

> Spend only some time applying online and couple that with a lot of networking. If you apply online, connect with a professional in that company on LinkedIn.

> Follow up on your application status and reiterate your interest and expertise.

> There are numerous jobseekers locally and abroad seeking career opportunities -- many are not even active jobseekers. Remember to follow through with your application.

8. Locate a recruiter who specializes in your field.

> Recruiters need ambitious candidates who have a clear focus and are willing and ready to work. Highlight your interest and immediate availability to work.

> Research the recruiter or recruitment agency that could best meet your career goals and needs.

> Be flexible and open to the possibilities that await you. A temporary or contract role or even project just might lead to full time.

> Demonstrate your unique value to the recruiter by conveying your expertise and accomplishments. Create your UVP (unique value proposition) Statement.

> Visit the Career Interests section on LinkedIn and signal to recruiters to connect with you. Specify the job criteria that you are seeking.

To carve out your next job search action plan, contact Creative Horizons Communications at 905.730.2374. Email us!

Ask about the JOB SEARCH ACTION KIT using my award-winning ABCD Method designed to maximize your career success, and receive one coaching session via phone.

Affirm, Brainstorm, Create, and Discover a New Career Horizon!

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