5 Qualities Forest Products Employers Look For In Students And Grads

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As a student or recent grad, it can be tough to know exactly how to sell yourself to employers. Should you focus on your education? Work experience? Career aspirations? Potential to succeed?

All of the above, probably, but every other student and recent grad will have similar education, experience, aspirations and potential.

To find out exactly what you should bring to the table in your cover letters, resumes and job interviews, we interviewed a number of employers from the forest products industry to get the lowdown on what they’ll be looking for in the students and recent graduates they’ll be hiring through The Greenest Workforce‘s Green Dream Internship contest, as well as other student and entry level jobs available at their companies.

1. Technical expertise

Gone are the days of forest jobs that are all brawn and no brains. The forest products industry has become one of the most technologically-advanced natural resource industries in Canada, and many of the mills or labs you might work in are controlled by highly sophisticated computer systems and automated machines. You may also be involved in making extremely new and complex bio-products from trees, which will require a meticulous attention to detail and a strong scientific background.

Basically, no matter what type of job you apply for – engineering, skilled trades, forestry, scientific, marketing – you need technical skills as the foundation for your candidacy.

Don’t worry, though – forest products employers are willing to teach on the job, too! “One of the big benefits for students is that our mills operate with the latest lumber manufacturing technologies, so they’ll be able to valuable gain skills and experience,” says Elaine Jenson, Vice President of Human Resources at Vancouver-based West Fraser Timber.

2. Innovation

“If you like status quo, the forest products industry is a lousy place to work.”
Jim Lopez, CEO, Tembec

“If you like status quo, the forest products industry is a lousy place to work,” says Jim Lopez, who is the CEO of forest products manufacturer Tembec as well as the Forest Products Association of Canada’s Chairman of the Board. He’s been in the industry for 24 years now.

“When I look at the type of individuals who do the best in our industry and enjoy their careers the most, they’re the ones who embrace innovation and change.”

Over the last decade, the forest products industry has seen some serious change across the board – everything from implementing new technology to become more efficient to reducing the industry’s impact on the environment to developing brand new, never-before-seen bio-products. Employers are looking for new talent that will help them continue on that path of innovation and change.

“It’s about demonstrating the ability to get results rapidly, adapt to change, embrace new technologies and new methods to doing things,” Jim adds. “If you can do those things, the sky’s the limit for the next generation.”

3. Confidence

Confidence in what you have to offer a potential employer: “What we’re looking for is a display of confidence and that they feel comfortable talking to us about their achievements,” says Linda Coates, Vice President of Communications and Human Resources at Tembec. “Show us what you can bring to the table.”

And confidence in the fact that you actually want to work in the forest products industry: “You really have to invest time in knowing yourself, knowing what you want and what you don’t want,” she adds. “It’s really important to be happy.”

Linda recommends doing some soul-searching and asking yourself the following questions: Am I ready to relocate? Am I ready for the lifestyle that I’ll find in these smaller communities? What satisfaction will I find in the industry? What are the people who I’ll be working with like?

4. Willingness to relocate

There’s no getting around it: the vast majority of the jobs in the forest products jobs are located in or near forests and away from Canada’s largest cities.

“Someone who is mobile and ready to move will have more growth opportunities and a more successful career in our industry.” —Mélissa Picard, HR Initiatives Advisor, Resolute Forest Products

If you want to take advantage of all this industry has to offer, you might have to move to a smaller, more remote community.

“Someone who is mobile and ready to move will have more growth opportunities and a more successful career in our industry because, obviously, the mills aren’t located in the cities,” says Mélissa Picard, HR Initiatives Advisor at Resolute Forest Products. “They should mention it during the interview process and throughout their career that they’re mobile and ready to try different positions in new locations.”

Plus, as Canada’s forest products industry further expands its reach around the world, specifically to fast-growing economies such as China and India, there may even be opportunities to travel or relocate to work abroad.

5. Commitment to safety and sustainability

When it comes to keeping employees healthy and safe, and ensuring the industry has as little impact on the environment as possible, forest products companies are in it together.

“Forestry is one of the truly renewable sustainable industries,” Elaine says. “Our products grow back and they are sustainably managed for future generations.”

FPAC’s 21 member companies even signed the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement with nine leading environmental organizations to commit to protecting and more sustainably managing more than 76 million hectares of forest that spans the country from British Columbia to Newfoundland.

“The forest products industry brings together a certain kind of people who are close to and who appreciate nature,” Linda says. “The environment and health and safety are values that are very, very important.”

Forest Products Career Guide, student jobs and entry level jobs, Resolute Forest Products

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About the author

Cassandra Jowett is TalentEgg's Content Manager. She joined the team as a student intern in the summer of 2008, and since then her heart has never really left the Egg Carton. Cassandra is a recent graduate of the Ryerson University School of Journalism, where she earned a Bachelor of Journalism with a focus in writing and editing for newspapers. She has also written and edited for The Globe and Mail, The National Post, t.o.night newspaper and other publications.