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Sophie Bifield: After 18 months of fruitless searching, the Queen's University graduate paved her own way to full-time work. (FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
Sophie Bifield: After 18 months of fruitless searching, the Queen's University graduate paved her own way to full-time work. (FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Careers

Keeping a generation from getting lost Add to ...

Once the program is complete, graduates are offered jobs at Loblaw's head office in Brampton, Ont., or in supermarkets across Canada, says Kathy Martin, senior vice-president of human resources.

Snagging a position in the Grad@Loblaw program isn't easy: There were more than 3,500 applications for the latest 100 positions.

"In many cases, this is a graduate's first full-time job," Ms. Martin says. "They come in wet behind the ears and are not necessarily used to big, formal organizations like we are. We spend 18 months getting them acclimatized to what a big organization operates like and, whether they stay with us or not, that will be with them for the rest of their career."

Kraft Canada Inc.

Summer internship program

Launched: 2005

What it does: Designed for students still in university, it offers work in the summer months and often links them with full-time jobs after graduation, at the same time as helping the company find new talent.

How it works: The program employs 30 students in marketing, finance, sales, consumer relations and supply chain management, mostly in Toronto. Projects assigned to students include creating in-store promotions, executing the launch of new products and working on financial analysis. "Students are not doing fluff work. They are given real work assignments," recruitment manager Lori Pitre says.

Each student has a mentor who sets objectives and provides feedback and support. At the end of the summer, students must put together a report on their work and help organize a community event for interns.

"We see them in action and they try us on for size," Ms. Pitre says.

Including this year, about 190 students will have been through the program. About 2,000 students applied for the 2010 program, 700 more than last summer, a reflection of the tough economy and the increased number of schools Kraft's recruiters visited, Ms. Pitre says.

"Part of our recruiting strategy is to build a talent pipeline," Ms. Pitre says. "Through the program, we are linked to students with fresh ideas and from diverse schools and backgrounds, and those that work out have the advantage of being offered positions next summer, and full-time permanent jobs when they graduate."

INCREASE THE ODDS

A handful of time-tested rules apply when hunting for a job - from putting together a polished résumé to researching potential employers to dressing sharply for interviews. Here are additional tips from the experts to increase your odds:

Pay your dues: Don't rule out any position. Let prospective employers know you will take a job a notch lower than the one you wanted. Demonstrate your work ethic and commitment. You may have been top of the class at university but accept your new, humbleR role in the workplace as a team player.

Lower your expectations: It's an employer's market, which means starting salaries and positions are less than in the good old days. Be prepared to ask for less and agree to less.

Create your own spot: Fashion your own internship or job. Research companies, look for gaps that you could fill and pitch how you might be of use.

Use your tech know-how: Use social media sites to connect with contacts, advise of your availability and ferret out prospects. And make sure you make yourself look like an enticing candidate in all of your on-line endeavours, from your own website to a blog to twittering to online applications.

Widen your net: Use your university contacts, join professional associations, and think about prospects broadly - a permanent job in your field of study may be your goal, but don't rule out internships, part-time positions, and co-ops. Think about the skills and other qualifications you can acquire that can be transferred to the career you hope for.

Master your field: Most successful people are perceived to be experts in a field. Find something you are good at or for which you have an aptitude and develop it further.

Toot your own horn: If you're an expert in an area or have significant experience, such as a past internship, let potential employers know. A U.S. survey says three-quarters of employers polled consider internships a sign of a well-rounded, motivated candidate.

Turn nothing into something: Interviewers often ask you to tell them something about yourself. Be prepared with a story that will engage their attention and show how your past experience will benefit the organization.

Follow up: As soon as possible after an interview, send a follow-up e-mail or handwritten note including relevant work samples that will make you stand out from numerous other applicants.

Randy Ray

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