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The Active Job Seeker in the 21st Century: Strategies for Success

Editor's Note: The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians has promoted the full economic participation of people with disabilities (PWD), including those who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted, for many years, by calling for anti-poverty strategies (like increasing the amount of disability pensions), shifts in employer attitudes towards hiring people with disabilities, and increased employment opportunities, such as through the promotion of higher education and skills training for PWDS. Anu Pala is a career facilitator with the Neil Squire Society. She also operates her own consulting business, A-Nu Vision, offering disability awareness training to organizations and computer training to blind people.

Looking for a job is a “full-time” job. It takes planning, dedication, creativity and, most of all, a positive attitude.

The way we seek employment has changed significantly over the years. When I was a teenager, I recall getting my first job at Expo 86 at Belgium Waffles. I learned about this opportunity through the local newspaper. My more mature and experienced co-workers often reflect on the days when they used to simply walk into a store or establishment and ask if they were hiring or read a “help wanted” sign in the window.

It is interesting to reflect on how technology has played a significant role in how we access information and communicate now. In the 21st century, we live in a digital world where we have access to virtually everything at our fingertips. This includes landing that perfect job.

While job postings and other career-related information can be accessed online, there are other practices that can broaden your horizons and support you in your job search. The following five tips each have their own importance and value, and will help prepare you to stay active and motivated.

Know how to market yourself.
Do you have the tools in your belt to demonstrate what you bring to the table? I compare applying for a job to marketing a product. In this case, “you” are the product. Think about how we get lured into purchasing something that we saw an ad for on TV. It’s all in the marketing strategy. The key elements in creating your personal brand include a confident self-introduction; strong job-specific resume and cover letter; and the ability to speak to your skills and abilities. The question to ask yourself is, “What separates me from the rest?” This is no time to be shy, but rather to shine.

Know how to tap into the Hidden Job Market.
Because most people are drawn to an online job search, they often miss out on other lucrative opportunities to connect with employers, recruiters and/or people who can connect them to key players. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be a scary thing, but at the same time the most rewarding.

85% of jobs are not advertised. It is a known fact that employers are more receptive to recruit through personal connections and recommendations. So, what do you need to do to get in the inner loop?

Be open to meeting prospective employers, human-resource (HR) managers and/or people who work in a company or line of work that is of interest to you. The purpose of this meeting is simply to gather information. Why? This is an opportunity to communicate your interest, as well as demonstrate what you bring to the table.

Know how to write and deliver success stories.
Have you ever been asked in an interview something like, “Tell me a time when you were challenged with completing a task within a tight deadline.” Or “Tell me about a situation when you had to influence someone to achieve a desired result. What was the outcome?” This interview style is called behavioral-based interviewing. Preparing for these types of questions requires work. Stories that outline past situations that have resulted in a positive outcome allow the interviewer to pull out specific skills that you utilized or possess. The key is to keep them short and impactful. In order to do this successfully, you need to practice, practice, practice.

Maintain a Healthy Attitude.
Finding a job is hard work and can be depleting. I know that trying to stay positive can be challenging when you have been rejected over and over. Through my own personal experience, what has worked for me is to keep a gratitude journal. Taking three to five minutes at night to write down a few things that you are grateful for can change your outlook significantly. Also make a conscious effort to surround yourself with positive people. When you feel positive, you send out positive vibes, and those vibes attract other positive energy that results in positive experiences.

Self Care.
Health and wellness are usually ignored or a last priority when in job-search mode. Because we are so focused and determined, we forget that nutrition, exercise, healthy sleep and allowing time for fun help maintain balance. Remember to take time to nurture yourself and acknowledge your hard work.

Having the support of friends and family is extremely valuable and necessary. Along with this, a career coach can also help you through the job-search process. Having someone to help you with research, preparation and debriefing can truly lighten the emotional load.

Although seeking employment at times can be daunting, it can also be an opportunity for learning, stretching yourself, and self-reflection. Dare to dream. Step out of your comfort zone and take time to nurture yourself. Here’s to a positive and productive job search experience!

Note: The Neil Squire Society is a national not-for-profit organization that has empowered Canadians with physical disabilities for over 25 years. Its Virtual Employ-Ability program is a self-paced employment program that can be accessed anywhere, anytime, through a computer and an internet connection. For further information, call 1-877-673-4636 or visit