Paul, 26, graduated with a food science and biotechnology master’s degree from his native Belgium in 2018. He moved to Toronto shortly after graduating because he’d always liked the city and has family here. He was able to find a position as a production assistant for a small beverage company in Toronto a few months later, in February, 2019, but was laid off in April, 2020 because of COVID-19.
“I really enjoyed the environment and the people, but I was overqualified for the job,” Paul admits. He didn’t enjoy the repetitive tasks involved in that job, like taking cans off the canner or checking cans for defects. But he really enjoyed the R&D aspects of the role. “I did research, conducted trials and helped my manager improve and develop products,” says Paul. “My ideal position would be in research and development in the food or pharmaceutical industry. I enjoy working in the lab, doing research and conducting experiments.” He’s also considering roles in quality control or as a lab technician.
Paul’s job search has been extensive. He has applied to over 200 jobs and, at the end of June, extended his search area up to 100 kilometres around Toronto. Since then, he’s been contacted by a few recruiters and has reached the interview stage at a handful of companies, but they’re mostly for low-paying positions as a production technician.
While his goal is to work in R&D, Paul wonders whether he needs more Canadian education or experience to get him there. We asked career coach Alison Hemmings and Danone Canada’s vice-president of R&D, Pierre Morin, to review Paul’s resume and offer him some advice on his next steps.
WHAT THE CAREER COACH SAYS
Paul is playing the numbers game in the job market, but Ms. Hemmings reminds Paul that online job boards aren’t the only places to find employment. “Most jobs are not posted,” she explains. Ms. Hemmings recommends reaching out to industry professionals to request informational interviews. “Speak to people who are in the industry and ask them how they were able to navigate a successful career. Afterwards, send them a thank-you note and ask them if they can introduce you to someone in their network.”
Building up a network is especially important for Paul, who has limited experience and education in Toronto. Thankfully, Paul’s industry hasn’t been hard-hit by COVID-19, so he shouldn’t have too much trouble finding employment if he spends more time networking. Paul might also consider taking on an internship to add to his Canadian experience.
For Paul’s resume, Ms. Hemmings has a few tips to polish it further. First, she suggests adding a short summary paragraph to the beginning. “A paragraph description of your experience and skill set will help to give a sense of who you are, your expertise and background,” Ms. Hemmings explains. Paul’s experience section can also be improved. “He should identify to prospective employers the impact he had.” Paul can do that by adding ways that he helped his employers save money, implement change, change a process or improve a system. “Anything that goes on the resume needs to add value to the organization and should always be from the mind, what is in it for the company.”
Ms. Hemmings says that resumes should be two pages at most. Paul’s is just one page, which is good. But he can work on making it more eye-catching by incorporating design features, like colour, to stand out even more.
WHAT THE INDUSTRY EXPERT SAYS
Paul is off to a great start with his resume, according to Danone Canada’s Pierre Morin. “It’s simple, clear and easy to read through,” he says. Since Paul is a recent graduate, Mr. Morin says it’s normal to see just a few work experiences listed, and most of them are relevant to an R&D position at a food company.
While Paul did an excellent job describing a major accomplishment he achieved during his first internship (developing a sparkling wine beverage), this sense of achievement is missing from his other work experiences, as Ms. Hemmings has also noted. “Adding an accomplishment for each of his work experiences would help demonstrate what he is capable of,” Mr. Morin says. He commends Paul’s openness to positions as a lab technician and says that lab tech roles in R&D or quality control could help him learn the basics of food product development. But Mr. Morin suggests that Paul consider positions in manufacturing, too. “Once you understand the intricacies of a manufacturing line or plant, you become a much more efficient food product developer,” he explains. As for further education, Mr. Morin doesn’t believe it’ll necessarily be beneficial for Paul. “Paul already has a Lean Six Sigma training [a process improvement method popular in health care and manufacturing], some great computer skills and he is proficient or fluent in four languages, which is certainly an added value when you work for a global company,” says Mr. Morin.
Finally, Mr. Morin reminds Paul that, while employers are looking for technical skills (which are learned in school and on the job), soft skills like the ability to collaborate with multiple teams are equally important to demonstrate on a resume. “Our scientific vocabulary is sometimes not easy to understand for non-technical people, so you need to be able to communicate your work in a language that other departments can understand and work with,” Mr Morin says.
THE NEW RESUME
With the help of Mr. Morin and Ms. Hemmings, Paul has polished up his resume and kept it to one page. He added a short summary at the top to show a bit more of his personality as well. In his work experience section, Paul included more accomplishments to detail how his achievements were beneficial to the companies he worked at. Finally, he’s added some colour into his resume, as suggested by Ms. Hemmings, to garner more attention.
INTERESTED IN HAVING YOUR RÉSUMÉ REVIEWED?
E-mail us with your resume at email@example.com and we’ll ask a career coach and an expert in your field to provide their feedback. Names and some details are changed to protect the privacy of the persons profiled. We’re especially interested in hearing from those who have had their employment impacted by COVID-19. On the flip side, if you’re a hiring manager interested in reaching out to the person profiled, we encourage you to contact us as well.
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