How To Stay Positive In A Competitive Job Market


As students and new graduates endure the transition from academia to meaningful employment, new stresses and pressures often overcome us.

Many of us are under the assumption that the degrees we earned in university or college will make us marketable when it comes to getting a job. Soon enough, however, we come to realize that our undergraduate degrees, relevant volunteer work and extra-curricular experience don’t necessarily guarantee us jobs with our dream companies or organizations.

After years spent in lecture halls, we look forward to actually starting our lives in the professions of our choice, only to become discouraged when the competitiveness of the job market leaves us unemployed and questioning our past academic decisions.

However, there are ways in which you can keep your chin up during the job search.

Remaining positive, taking care of yourself and sticking to the passion that has driven you thus far are keys to success. Here are some tips:

Utilize all sources and leads

TalentEgg is a great place to start when pursuing a job in your field. Job listings are conveniently categorized based on the field or industry you are interested in.

Beyond Internet job listings, you can also use “leads” that peers give you. Speak with people you know about your goals and interests. They may have a contact who can help you in your job search.

Furthermore, it is important to keep in contact with former co-workers or bosses for exactly this purpose. If you keep frequent contact with those who have helped you get to this point, they are more likely to keep you in mind when they hear of upcoming job opportunities in your field.

Surround yourself with positivity

Surround yourself with positive, encouraging people who believe in your abilities. The job search isn’t easy, but with a solid support system you are more likely to maintain optimism and momentum.


Not only is volunteering a great way to meet new people and forge new connections, it is also important for improving skills and gaining new experiences. Additionally, acting altruistically is a mood-booster and stress reliever.

While you may not have your dream job right now, volunteering helps you to boost your resume, establish new contacts and references, and develop skills.

Personally, what I have gained from my volunteer experience with the Canadian Red Cross is unrivalled. Through my experience, I met my current mentor (a United Nations ambassador), improved my communication skills, and increased my knowledge of humanitarian law and international organizations. Although not a “real job,” my volunteer experience made me more confident that the path I am taking is the right one for me.

Don’t underestimate the value of the “less-than-ideal” job

While it is difficult to come out of university and directly get a degree-relevant job, any job helps to build skills that employers look for.

Working at a restaurant, for example, can help improve both communication skills as well as your ability to work in a fast-paced, stressful environment. These skills are transferable to other jobs you may apply for in the future. Jobs that have little to do with your preferred career path are not meaningless, but instead are just further opportunities to increase your abilities.

Furthermore, while working for these temporary jobs, you can still continue the search for a job more relevant to your degree. Two summers ago, I worked as a house cleaner and gardener. Although the job had little to do with my chosen career path, I still learned valuable lessons. I often worked in the homes of seniors which gave my job a more humanitarian element. Not only did I clean homes, but I cared about the people living within them. I was instructed to inform my boss about any declining health conditions of our elderly clients and I also simply chatted with the often lonely and widowed seniors.

Currently, at my volunteer job at the Mobile Food Banks at the Red Cross, I utilize similar skills when delivering food to physically and mentally challenged Toronto residents. Although, at the time, I didn’t see how being a housecleaner would relate to my interest in NGOs and charity work, I was able to gain some important transferable skills that have been important assets to me today.

Practice makes perfect

Make sure you keep up-to-date with the latest news in your field. Subscribe to magazines and periodicals specializing in the subject of your choice. Just because you are no longer in school, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep up – intellectually – with the latest revelations in your area of study. Not only will this ensure you are fully informed but it will maintain your interest and desire to keep pressing on to gain that dream job.

Learning and developing your knowledge is a lifelong process and shouldn’t end as soon as you graduate. For me, I find that subscribing to email newsletters is a great strategy for keeping updated. I get concise, weekly notifications from organizations I’m interested in, including UNICEF and OXFAM, so that I’m aware of news, special events as well as potential job opportunities.

Attend events

Keep informed about upcoming job fairs (you can find them listed on TalentEgg!), print off some resumes and meet with the professionals in your chosen field. Even if you don’t initially get a job, meeting with recruiters and other representatives helps put a face to your name. Next time you apply to a job opening, there is a greater chance that the hiring staff will remember you.

Take advantage of any opportunity to meet with those active in your field. If your passion is writing, for example, go to book signings and take a minute to ask the authors for tips and advice. You never know just how far your advice and connections could go.

Although I’m currently on the hunt for a job, I am feeling hopeful, rather than discouraged. I have tried to utilize the many resources I have access to and, as a result, have applied to jobs that I wouldn’t otherwise had known about. I have attended job fairs and frequently read up on the organizations that interest me. Most importantly, I try to add new skills to my resume by continuing to volunteer on a weekly basis.

Although I am not guaranteed the perfect job this summer, I know that the steps I am taking are valuable and will benefit me in the long run. Each skill and experience culminates in making you the person and professional you will eventually become. Working to develop these skills, keeping optimistic, and making the most of the resources and experiences you have will cause you to become more effective at both finding job opportunities as well as getting hired.

Photo credit: Stay Positive by Christian on Flickr
About the author

Kelsey Goforth is a Recruiter at Public Outreach and recent political science graduate from the University of Toronto. Her interests lie mainly in human rights and international development. She enjoys volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross and hopes to one day go on an international mission. Currently based in Toronto, she is enjoying all the experiences the city has to offer. Follow @kelseygoforth on Twitter.