6 Questions from a Recent Graduate Answered

Four years of high school might have prepared me for university, but four years of university hadn’t prepared me for the big question mark that was life as a recent graduate. As a recent Marketing graduate with little work experience and lots of doubts about my career prospects, I decided to move back in with my parents while I figured out my next steps.

But the nightmare only began as I desperately hunt for jobs on LinkedIn, I started to realize that I didn’t have the skills required for the marketing jobs I desired. My resume was never good enough to get the interview, and then my interview skills were never good enough to land the job even if I did get the interview! I was frustrated, to say the least, and began to have a lot of questions about my future that I struggled to find the answers to. However, I am fortunate enough to have some of these questions answered by Natalie Groenig, the Managing Director of ReRouting Canada Inc.

With a strong and experienced background in human resources, Natalie created an organization with the goal of being able to help students connect with employers, and find jobs that will help students get closer to realizing their own potential career and life paths. She connects high school, college, and university students with internships, co-op placements, apprenticeships, articling, part-time work, full-time work, summer student jobs, volunteer opportunities, and international opportunities.

What would you say is the best first step to take when you are feeling lost and overwhelmed after graduation?

I would say first and foremost, take a deep breath and recognize that you are not alone.

I realize it is hard when you feel like everyone around you is progressing and moving forward, but there are just as many graduates who get stuck. The best suggestion I can provide is to ask for help! There are so many resources out there that want to assist young professionals either establish themselves in the workforce or help them find their way. In addition to the programs offered at colleges and universities for students and recent grads, there are also other organizations out there to help students find jobs post graduation. Reach out to friends and family, maybe even someone a few years ahead of where you are at right now and get some feedback from them as to how they were able to overcome the struggles that come with transition school to work. The best thing you can do is start the conversation with professionals and those around you to get help.

How do I show employers on paper that I am capable of doing the job despite my resume having very little experience on it?

I would say first and foremost, ensure you are applying to the right jobs – the jobs that you are reasonably qualified for. Don’t just glance at the job description, but really analyze it.

I always tell students to really target their resume to the job or industry that they are applying for. I always hear the response, “ it is!”. Then their resume is submitted to me for review, we discuss it, compare their resume to the positions they are applying for and they then have an “ah ha” moment. If you are limited in experience, your best option is to ensure you highlight the transferable skills that are applicable to the position you are applying for. Whether the skills are obtained through volunteer work or previous positions you have held.

When we think about transferable skills learned, we often focus in on skills such as “customer service” which is fantastic. However, we often forget about the transfer skills obtained by working in a specific industry. This might be your key to breaking into a career! Let’s say you spent your years as a student working part-time in retail and your area of study was in Marketing. Start your search for establishing a career within that industry and focus on your transferable industry knowledge. Apply for corporate jobs in marketing, but within the retail industry – like at H&M or Old Navy.

Use the key words from the job posting, and where applicable ensure they are highlighted in your resume. Research says that recruiters take about 6-10 seconds to review a resume to determine if they want to contact an applicant for next steps. Ensure your resume clearly identifies your capabilities and entice the recruiter by connecting their needs with your knowledge, skills, and abilities.   

How do you recommend building connections after university if you are completely new to networking? 

Networking has come a long way with the rise of social media. Use it to your advantage! Follow companies that you find interesting and engage with their posts or use their media to learn more about their operations. Follow industry thought leaders and influencers who may be able to provide inspiration or indirect advice that will help you with your job search. Don’t be afraid to connect with recruiters on LinkedIn and let them know about your interests. They may not have an immediate position for you but if you provide a lasting impression there is a good chance they will reach out when something comes up that they feel would be a good fit.

Networking groups and events through professional associations are another very powerful tool! Join them and put yourself out there. This can be very nerve racking for all the introverts out there! If that is the case, look within your friends and family. If you know your aunt, or friend’s father works in marketing, reach out to them! Let them know that you are a recent grad of a marketing program, ask them to share some knowledge on breaking into the industry and if they know anyone within their network looking to hire for entry-level positions.

What are some things I can improve on that will help me seem more confident and capable to employers during the interview?

I think you answered your own question, within your question. The key is confidence! When employers are looking to fill entry-level roles, for the most part, they aren’t expecting you to be an expert most of the time. What they are looking for is someone to be a good fit within the organization and the specific team.

Becoming a seasoned interviewee requires practice. Each time you go for an interview, you should be learning something about yourself and how you come across in an interview. Take note of it and learn from it.

One thing I have seen candidates do is research interview questions and answers that they have found on the internet. It can come across as very robotic and unnatural. Be natural and honest rather than giving the interviewer answers that you think they want to hear.

When employers are looking over resumes, what are the skills and abilities that show the most promise as a potential employee?

The skills and abilities that are required to do the job as outlined in their job description. Additionally, the ability for you to integrate with the company or team culture. You will often see hints about the company within a job posting, is the company extremely formal or is there a flare of personality? Try and tailor your resume and cover letter to the tone they have set forth in their job posting and always highlight your skills and abilities obtained that are identified in their posting.

Once I find a job, how do I negotiate salary and benefits with my future employer?

I will be honest, sometimes there is room for negotiations but sometimes there isn’t. Depending on the compensation structure as set out by the company, they may have a very formal system with the starting rates or with wide ranges established – it really depends on the size and structure of the organization. It never hurts to try though! Start by asking if the offer is negotiable, if they say yes then you know they are open to discussing it. Do your research and know what the going rate is for the job within the industry. If they are offering you something that is comparable then tread lightly but if you feel like there is a drastic difference then openly discuss it. I am going to say benefits are less negotiable than salary. Organizations that have benefits programs usually have well established policies around eligibility and they are pretty standard across the organization. For example temporary or contract employees may not be eligible, waiting periods may apply, and benefit programs themselves are predetermined contracts that are established with benefits carriers. So you cannot really negotiate “better benefits”.

About Natalie Groeing and ReRouting Canada Inc. 

Natalie has over 10 years of human resources generalist experience.  Her expertise includes recruiting, training, performance management, employee relations, benefits, compensation, payroll, safety, and HRIS implementation. Natalie is passionate about helping students discover and develop their career paths.

Natalie earned her BA in Psychology from the University of Western Ontario and her Certificate in Human Resources Management from Humber College. Natalie is a Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL) and a member of HRPA.

In 2018 she founded ReRouting Inc. which is a job board and career coaching and inspiration provider targeting Canadian students and recent graduates. ReRouting’s goal is to help students navigate through the world of work as they start searching for employment.

Erika Deutschmann, Digital Marketing Specialist, is currently completing a graduate degree at George Brown College in Digital Marketing Management. Before attending college, she completed a Bachelor of Commerce with a Specialization in Marketing at the University of Ottawa. In her spare time she enjoys staying active, trying new recipes, and teaching herself how to sew.

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