Career development guide

  • Career Development
  • Job Search Strategies
  • Job search tools
  • Networking

In person at the Career Corner (UCU 216), or via the chat function.

Researching the conventional and hidden job markets requires time, patience, and proper planning. Getting your job search started with general job search Web sites such as JobsNow is great but make sure you also spend time n etworking with people who can potentially set you up for a job interview. By doing so, you will open more doors to your career.

  • If you are looking for a full-time job, know that the majority of recruitment campaigns for jobs in the public sector and in big companies take place from mid-September to mid-October and that the ensuing interviews are held in late-October and November. We therefore suggest that you concentrate on the fall recruitment campaigns, though smaller companies recruit all year round.
  • If you are looking for a part-time job, know that the Work-Study Program, managed by the Financial Aid and Awards Service of the University of Ottawa, as well as JobsNow are the main sources of information on employment opportunities on campus.
  • If you are looking for a summer job, know that the most profitable recruitment period is during winter (starting in early January). Also be aware that some employers start their summer job recruitment campaigns as early as November. This period is also right for applying to the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP), though they recruit students all year round.
  • Consult the What can I do with my studies? tool on our Web site. It is a great resource on a variety of fields of study, employment prospects, examples of job opportunities and potential employers.

Employability skills are the “skills you need to enter, stay in, and progress in the world of work – whether you work on your own or as part of a team.” (The Conference Board of Canada) Employers seek individuals who have developed employability skills through past experiences because these skills are considered “transferable”. To determine the skills you will need for a specific occupational field and the experiences that are relevant to the development of those skills, it is important to meet employers and people in the professional field of interest through career fairs, recruitment receptions and employer presentations, as well as visit the Employment and Social Development Canada's Web site to research profession-specific competencies.

  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Analytical abilities
  • Autonomy
  • Communication (verbal and written)
  • Computer savvy
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Decision making skills
  • Goal orientation
  • Honesty
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership and management
  • Listening skills
  • Managing and organizing information
  • Negotiation skills
  • Participation in projects and tasks
  • Positive attitude and behaviour
  • Problem solving abilities
  • Reliability
  • Sense of responsibility
  • Strong work ethic
  • Team work
  • Willingness to keep learning
  • Work safety

The public, private, and non-profit sectors can be difficult to differentiate. The following descriptions will help you understand the mandates and roles of each sector.

  • The public sector is spread across three levels of government: federal, provincial or territorial, and municipal or local. Each level exercises its power through ministries, agencies, and departments, as well as Crown Corporations in keeping with the collaboration of the different levels of governments and legislatures towards the common good.

For more information on the public sector, visit:

  • The Public Service Commission of Canada’s Web site

  • The Careers in the Federal Service’s Web site

  • The private sector regroups organizations that are not owned or controlled by the state or government and whose main function is the production of marketable goods and services. These businesses are owned by individuals or by groups of investors. Although not operated by government, private sector organizations may be regulated by municipal/local, provincial/territorial or federal law.

For more information on businesses in the private sector, visit:

  • The on line Yellow Pages

  • Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Company Directories by Industrial Sector Web site

  • The non-profit, non-governmental or volunteer sector, also referred to as the civil sector, belongs to the sphere of social activity undertaken by independent citizens or organizations that help focus attention on social, religious, charitable, educational, athletic, literary or political objectives. These local, national and international organizations vary in size, may or may not be incorporated, and be run by paid employees or volunteers.

For more information on the non-profit sector, visit:

  • The Canada Business’ Business Startup Assistant Web site

  • The online Directory of Ottawa Community Services E-Blue Book

A résumé is a marketing tool. Use it wisely to promote yourself and as a potential employee, to showcase your skills, aptitudes, work history and interests. There is no one way of organizing the sections of your résumé, however it is important to include the information that best highlights your skills. The main objective of the résumé is to secure an interview, therefore adapt your résumé to each position you are applying for and illustrate your potential with convincing examples.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind while writing your résumé:

  • Personal data
  • Career objectives
  • Summary of qualifications
  • List of awards, achievements or publications
  • Work experience
  • Professional skills
  • Community involvement and volunteer experience
  • Education
  • Personal interests
  • References

*Consult Faculty-specific résumé models.

The cover letter is an opportunity to add a personal touch to your résumé. Since many candidates apply to the same position, the cover letter is designed to make you stand out from the lot.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind while writing your cover letter:

  • In your first paragraph, state the title of the position you are applying for, how you heard about it and why you think you are the right person for the job.
  • In the second paragraph, explain why you are interested in this organization and illustrate how your skills, knowledge and personal qualities match the company’s values and needs.
  • In the third paragraph, provide brief yet complete information on your education, work experience, skills, achievements, personal characteristics, and career aspirations. Demonstrate through clear examples how you would be an asset to the company.
  • In the fourth paragraph, ask that they contact you at their earliest possible opportunity or indicate that you will contact them at a specific time. Make sure that your contact information is accurate and easy to find. Request an interview, thank the reader for his or her time, and be sure to follow up as promised.
  • In the closing paragraph, conclude with on a positive note and use a complimentary close such as “Sincerely,” or “Sincerely yours,” under which appears your signature then typed name.

*Consult our cover letter models.

The portfolio is a selection of documents that provide proof of your educational and professional history. It can prove particularly useful when you need to:

  • provide tangible evidence of your knowledge, skills and abilities during an interview
  • track, record and assess your learning and work experiences to later draw up your life-long learning and career development plan
  • further strengthen a performance appraisal, showcase your talents or demonstrate your readiness for career progression.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind while assembling your portfolio:

  • Table of contents
  • Résumé
  • Certified copies of academic records, degrees and diplomas, certificates of professional development and continuing education or training
  • Reference letters from employers, professors, coaches, community associations, project managers, volunteer agencies
  • Awards, scholarships, special recognitions, thank you letters and performance appraisals
  • A sampling of projects and presentations you carried out
  • Publications you authored for newspapers, newsletters, magazine or scientific journals
  • Evidence of extra-curricular activities including athletics, student associations, community service projects and volunteer work
  • Results of psychometric tests

*Consult our portfolio assembling tips.

An estimated 80% of jobs are not advertised but are made known through informal channels. The way into this hidden job market is through networking and maintaining contacts.

Interact with former employers, colleagues and professors. Let them know that you will be graduating soon and ask them about employment possibilities.

Research the organizations and companies that you would like to work for; look up phone numbers of hiring managers and organize information meetings with employees, supervisors or staff in their human resources department.

Attend conferences, symposiums, or any other event that bring together experts who share knowledge and best practices in your field.

Do some canvassing in person or by phone.

  • Start by introducing yourself.
  • If you are speaking with the receptionist, briefly explain the reason for your call and specify the sectors that are of interest to you. Ask for the name and contact information of the hiring manager or of other key staff that can be of help.
  • If asked if you are looking for a job, be honest and confirm that you are exploring employment options and opportunities related to your field within the organization.
  • If you are put in contact with an employee who is knowledgeable about the organization and the sectors you are interested in, introduce yourself and explain that you are hoping to collect more information about the organization that has caught your interest. Ask whether an information meeting is possible over the phone or in person.

*Consult our Tips on Cold Calls to better prepare yourself.

Career Development Centre organizes career fairs, recruitment receptions and employer presentations throughout the academic year. For the current list of events, visit the career fair section of our Web site. Employers participate in these events to promote their organization to the general student population, generate awareness of career opportunities within their business, and encourage applications from soon-to-be graduates. Such events are excellent opportunities to network, i.e., to establish new contacts and meet professionals in your field of interest.

  • Career fairs are great opportunities to meet with employers from all industry sectors and to obtain first-hand information on their organization, employment opportunities and process of recruitment. To help you take full advantage of a career fair, we recommend the following techniques:
    • Get the list of participating companies and find out about their mission, product lines and services.
    • List the companies you’re interested in and write down questions you will want to ask.
    • Prepare a sales pitch to promote yourself, your skills and your talents.
    • Update and adapt your résumé to meet the needs of the employers on your list.
    • Exchange contact information.
    • Take notes on your conversations with employers.
    • Follow up with these new contacts.
  • Recruitment receptions, as opposed to career fairs, are usually evening events where employers hope to have more involved conversations with students. (Even so, you should use the same techniques as you would at a career fair.) These receptions are meant to help you determine the work environment that will please you the most. The fields involved usually have very specialized and restricted employment pools; take advantage of this fact.

    *These receptions are currently held for programs of the Faculty of health sciences, such as nursing and rehabilitation sciences. They will be available in other fields in the years to come.
  • Employer presentations are aimed at generating awareness, providing first-hand information on the organization, and advising on the way to get a position with their organization. Pay attention to what you can learn about the corporate culture of the organizations, their instructions and tips on their hiring process. If interested, take the opportunity to have a chat with the industry representative after the presentation and to make a good impression.

Information meetings are great opportunities to meet with company representatives who can provide you with inside information on career paths and occupations, on the corporate culture and on upcoming vacancies. Even if these are not actual interviews, it they remain your first contact with a member from the organization, which is why it is so important to be prepared. Plan a list of skills and qualities, have concrete examples illustrating your past experiences and answer all questions honestly.

The Academic GPS partners with faculties and coordinates networking activities with professors, employers and alumni.

*Consult our list of useful questions to ask during an information meeting.

You have an interview? It is now time to prepare for the screening and hiring process. Interviews can be conducted on a one-on-one basis, by panel or committee, by telephone or by video conference. Here are a few suggestions that apply to all of these types of interviews.

  • Analyze the job description carefully. Compare your skills, experiences and abilities to the job requirements.
  • Research the company. Understand its mission, objectives and culture.
  • Find out the type, the location and the length of your interview; see if there will be written tests.
  • Ask for the name and title of the people chairing the interview committee.
  • Predict possible interview questions and prepare your answers. There are three kinds of questions: general questions, behavioural questions, and situational questions.
    • General questions are used as ice-breakers. They are an opportunity for you to showcase your qualifications, aptitudes, work experience and educational background as they relate to the position you are applying for. Sell yourself and show that you are the right person for the job.
    • Behavioural questions are based on the assumption that past behaviour is a good predictor of future behaviour. Such questions require that you describe a situation in which you demonstrated a specific quality or skill that is required for the position.
    • Situational questions are designed to check how you would react in the work environment. These questions generally pertain to difficult situations for which you are expected to find satisfactory solutions.
  • Candidates are usually invited to ask questions at the end of the interview; this is why you should prepare questions for the interviewer. These questions will enable you to clarify certain aspects of the position and organization and will also showcase the interest you have in the position.

According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, there are various categories of questions that can no longer be asked by an employer. These questions relate to ancestry, ethnic origin, and place of origin; sex and sexual orientation; marital status and family status; age; race and colour; religion and creed; citizenship; education; record of offences; disabilities; references and membership in organizations. For more information on these inappropriate, even illegal questions, visit the Ontario Human Rights Commission's Web site, where you will find information about the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Every employer must respect these federal and provincial rules and regulations. If, however, the interviewer is asking political or controversial questions, stay as neutral as possible. In case such a situation would arise, it is a good idea to plan ahead:

  • Ask for clarification on how the information required relates to the position.
  • Refuse to answer the question, even if it means running the risk of appearing uncooperative or confrontational and possibly harming your chances of getting the position.
  • Answer the question by addressing what you believe to be the underlying concerns, as it might apply to the position.
  • First impressions are very important. Remember that your body language is as important as what you say.
    • Be on time. Arrive 10-15 minutes early.
    • Dress professionally.
    • Wear little or no cologne, perfume or jewelry.
    • Never chew gum or eat candy.
    • Greet your interviewers with good eye contact, a friendly smile and a firm handshake.
    • Bring your résumé or portfolio for quick reference.
    • Be positive and enthusiastic. Often a good attitude can take precedence on skills and experience.
  • Stay focused: answer questions with precision and look the interviewers in the eye.
  • Always support your answers with concrete examples that illustrate you skills, aptitudes, and work experience.
  • Let the employer control the interview. Only ask questions when the time is right.
  • Before leaving, ask about the next steps in the recruitment process and ask if you can follow-up by phone or e-mail.
  • Thank the interviewers and close the interview with a firm handshake.

Do not hesitate to ask for feedback after the interview. The employer can make useful comments on your strengths and weaknesses during the interview. This feedback will be useful for future interviews.

Immediately after the interview, make notes about the job, the employer and how you responded to the questions. This will be useful for your thank you letter and a potential second interview.

  • Within 24 hours, send a thank you letter.
  • Thank the interviewers for their time, and don’t forget to mention the date and time of your interview, as well as the position for which you were interviewed.
  • Add pertinent information you might have forgotten to say during the interview.
  • Reiterate your interest in the position.
  • Highlight the match between your skills and the job requirements.
  • Express your confidence in being able to do the job.
  • Conclude with enthusiasm and confidence.

*Consult our thank you letter model

If you haven’t received a response within one or two weeks, follow-up either by phone or by e-mail.

You have completed your search and found a job that interests you? Then go to the guide’s next section: Thriving in your Career. (Remember that you can come back to this section at any time to pursue your job search further.)