I graduated in the Spring of 2009 from McMaster University with a degree in materials engineering and management (a degree that combines engineering and business), concentrating in metallurgy. Unfortunately, that was a time when the recession was going full swing. To my dismay, no steel company was hiring at the time, and neither were any heat-treatment companies. Unfortunately, I hadn't even opted for McMaster's co-op program. Therefore, at this point, I do not have any metallurgical experience at all.
As soon as I had graduated, I began volunteering at a major telecom company as a market research analyst, which eventually led to a contract position, which ended in March, 2010. Thereafter, for a few months, I couldn't find any other work. At the suggestion of a friend, I decided to take up a position as a high school math teacher abroad. I taught for one academic year, and came back at the beginning of summer. For a few months now, I've been doing clerical and administrative work at a local warehouse, unable to find suitable work.
Somebody informed me that Alberta has a lot of metallurgy work related to oil pipelines, especially in Calgary. Specifically, oil companies are looking for employees with a background in materials selection, as well as in corrosion protection. Fortunately, I had taken courses related to both during my undergrad years. My questions are as follows:
1) Does it make sense to move to Calgary and look for work there, given that I have absolutely no experience as a working engineer, and it has been two years since I graduated?
2) If I am to change my career, what steps should I be taking to finding out what kind of work is available, and finding out what kind of study I should be pursuing to be able to start a new career?
The answer to both your questions is one simple word – research. It is key to any job or career search and a step many people miss or skip over, only to find themselves in a field there is no market for, or in a job they do not like. Make the effort and research.
Specifically to your first question – does it make sense to move to Calgary. Before you move anywhere, research where the opportunities lie. Where does work for you exist? What kind of companies hire people with your skills and experience, and where are they? Once you have determined your target market, the next step is to start talking to people.
Arrange as many information interviews as possible and then visit the city. Utilize your network in Ontario, find out who knows someone in Calgary and call that person and arrange to meet when you are there. In addition, determine what companies you would be interested in talking to and see if you can get a meeting with a recruiter or person directly working in the area you want to be in. Don’t go in with a hard sell that you are looking for a job – they know that. Go to build relationships by asking what challenges they see coming for this industry, what opportunities lie ahead, and how they got into the business they are in. Book a week of meetings, and you will come out with a wealth of knowledge and contacts to help you decide if relocating would be a good move.
Also, keep an eye on any job or recruitment fairs that the energy sector is doing, both in your current city and others. Employers are always going around the country looking for top talent to fill much-needed roles. Attend the career fair, with a résumé and business card in hand, and talk with recruiters and employees.
When you are talking with people, make sure you are clear on what kind of role you want, or at the very least, what skills you have and how those skills can be of use to them. Talk about your experiences, even if it is not directly in metallurgy, and link it to your skill offering.
After this research, if you feel that Calgary is the place for your skill set, you can look for work from where you are right now. Continue to grow the network you started and you will start getting tips on job leads and which companies are hiring. With the technology of Skype and other video feeds, employers do interview people in other areas of the country.
Or, you can jump right in and move, but before you do, make sure you have at least six months of living costs saved up as it can take time to land a great job, even in the best of markets.
If you do want to make a switch to a different career, again talk to people who have the kind of role you want, find out what experiences and training they have, and go after it.
Eileen Dooley is a certified coach and lead consultant for Cam McRae Consulting in Calgary.
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