Finding a new job, whether you have recently graduated, are looking to leave your current position, or are returning from a break, can be difficult and frustrating. I’ve heard someone describe the process as “submitting resumes into the void,” which begins to feel accurate after your tenth application has no response. Job descriptions can be unclear, required qualifications sky-high, and employers can take a while to respond or not respond at all. This can be especially true in the water industry, often due to the highly-specialized and technical roles in the space.
One way of increasing your success rate is by expanding your search avenues; a job hunt does not have to be restricted to responding to job posts on boards and websites. I have outlined some alternatives that I have found to be effective, and I hope they provide you with some inspiration and insight when tackling your next job search.
- Lean into Your Contacts
One of the most effective ways of finding employment in almost any industry (water included) is through the people you know. Previous colleagues or classmates often have a good understanding of your technical skills and can help you with a recommendation based on your abilities and interests in the field. If you worked at a consultancy, previous clients might be able to present you with opportunities to work in-house. It is important to keep your eyes and ears open when you are looking for a job— there might be a surprisingly well-connected family friend in the water industry that you didn’t know about!
- Spontaneous Applications
If there is a firm that you are very interested in but currently has no openings, you have the option of submitting a spontaneous application. A spontaneous application is not in response to a specific job post but indicates your interest in the organization and what you can offer. It’s important to detail your skillset and the type of position that you are seeking; given the highly technical and specialized nature of many jobs in the water industry, this can help speed up dialogue. Some firms lack the time or resources to continually maintain postings on their website or job boards despite needing people— spontaneous applications can meet this need and seemingly create a job for you out of thin air!
- Cold Calls, Emails, LinkedIn, and Informational Interviews
Contacting someone you don’t know out of the blue can be nerve-wracking, but cold calls, emails, and LinkedIn messages are great ways to meet with people established in the industry. Crafting a compelling opening email or message takes time and effort. Still, there are several online resources that can point you in the right direction to starting and fostering relationships in this way. As always, being respectful, professional, and concise when stating your reason for reaching out is key.
If there is someone whose work particularly interests you, or who is in the position that you are seeking, it’s often useful to arrange a quick chat (ie. informational interview); I particularly like speaking with people to see what the work is actually like and receive advice on how I might find a similar position.
There are other avenues of search that are not mentioned above, such as using a recruiter or attending conferences and industry-specific events like those hosted by the IWA. However, I hope to have presented some inspiration and ideas on how to take a more active role in your job search. Best of luck!
Written by Kyup Lee/ U of T Civil Engineering/ IWA Blog Editor