two students by tree in hard hats and vests

Job Search Skills

  1. What are job search skills and why do I need them?
  2. Research
  3. Preparation
  4. Networking
  5. Resumes and Cover Letters
  6. The Interview
  7. The Future

What are job search skills and why do I need them?

Whether it's a summer job or your first full-time job upon graduation, your search and preparation skills are essentially the same. If you develop good search habits now, they will help you for the rest of your career. You may find a job and keep it your whole life, but more likely, you will change jobs and possibly even careers several times over your working life. This is why a good tool kit of search skills and techniques is so important.


So, you've chosen the field of forestry, but do you really know what you want to do when you graduate? Now is the time to get busy and research what's out there. One of the best ways to do this is through networking. Networking allows you to set semi-official meetings with members of the sector in order to learn more about what they do, how they got to where they are and glean important information about how to steer your own career pathway. These meetings and the resulting network will also prove to be invaluable when you start your career search in earnest.


Even if the job you are applying for is working in the family business, it is still important to apply basic job search skills to the process. You want to ensure that all you have to offer is recognized and part of the negotiation. A well crafted cover letter accompanied by a strategically written resume will get you the interview, but once you're in the room, interviewing skills are the key to winning your dream job.


Did you know that 80% of all jobs are never publicly advertised? Or that nearly 60% of job postings are filled through networking? This demonstrates the importance of the phrase "it's now what you know, but who you know". So, start building your network today. An easy place to start is with your instructors in your program. They are all well connected professionals, who would be happy to sit and discuss their career stories over a cup of coffee.

Another great way to build your network is through volunteering. Regardless of what you choose to do, volunteering always shines on a resume, because it boldly states that you are a community minded person who is willing to give of your own free time to a cause. When that cause has a forestry focus, you have perfect opportunities to expand your network. But don't just passively hope that people will notice you and remember who you are - you need to work hard at netoworking to make it pay - engage with people, make an appointment, bring a list of questions, write down their answers, and most important of all - follow up.

The most important thing to remember about networking is that you are asking for information—you are NOT asking for a job. You may end up with a job as a result of your networking, but don't cramp an interview by laying a request on the table that your contact may not be able to agree to. It puts a damper on the meeting and you loose out on a relaxed informative learning opportunity.

Resumes and Cover Letters

Do you need both a resume and a cover letter? The simple answer is YES.

"Once I have a resume, I can use the same one for all the jobs I apply for—right?" WRONG! Your resume and cover letter should be tailored and customized for every job you apply for. This will become more critical as you evolve and advance through your career. For now, it is still important to have a master resume on which you include every single one of your skills, this allows you to pull from this private document every time you build a resume for a new application.

Think of resumes as the verbs that describe what you can do, the action words. The cover letter becomes the adjectives that describe the noun (you are the noun!). Resumes can include fragment sentences, bulleted lists, and should always qualify and quantify everything you have done in a way that makes it clear exactly what your experience is, and better yet, what your successes or accomplishments were. Cover letters should be well written demonstrating your strong communication skills. Read job postings carefully, use them as a road map to guide you in expressing what you know how to do, in a way that answers the question asked by all employers, "what good will this person be to me?"

There are many websites that can guide you through the practical aspects of resume and cover letter writing, we won't go into detail here. What's important to remember is that your application is likely one of many. What will keep your resume from ending up in the recycle bin? Making sure that there are no spelling mistakes, that you don't accidently leave the wrong names in your documents from a previous 'copy and paste', and by avoiding any unorganized or poorly supported information. Getting into the 'interview' pile is challenging, but not impossible, if you remember to describe yourself and your skills in such a way that they read as transferable skills providing obvious value to the employer, and to write in a clear and direct manner. Your resume and cover letter are two of the most important documents you will ever write in your career, so treat them that way.

The Interview

Congratulations, you made it into the 'interview pile'. Are you home free? Not yet. You still have some work to do. Interviews are like oral exams, you will be asked some tough questions and so you need to do your research in order to provide well thought out answers. Interviews are also like a first date—you want to make a good first impression.

For each company, do your research. Learn about the company, find out what values or goals you have that align with the company vision. Think about the ways that you could bring value to the company, ask intelligent questions about what they do, or how they deal with particular issues. It is also very valuable to run through standard interview questions found in many websites and practice answering them. Not just in your head. Get a note book and write out your answers, read them over, and get comfortable with your thoughts. You can keep this working book and build on it throughout your career.

Making a good first impression is as much about presentation as it is content. Dress appropriately (jeans are almost never a good choice for an interview), bring a briefcase or bag for notes and extra copies of your resume and other credentials (you may choose to leave your school back-pack at home for this one), arrive early and behave professionally while waiting your turn (receptionists are often instructed to report waiting room behaviour), and finally, in the interview, remember to make eye contact, be outgoing, don't do all the talking, and NEVER EVER take a call or text a friend during an interview (and yes, it's been done!).

The Future

I have the job, so now the process is over—right? For the most part, yes. But, keep adding notes to that working, master resume. New skills you learn today will become second nature in a few years, and you may forget to add them to a resume. Always keep your resume up to date, adding in new credentials when you get them, new roles, titles, or other details. You may also want to keep notes on quantity and quality details such as "increased sales by 40%", "managed a team of 12", "responsible for a budge of X dollars". Finally, keep up the networking. You never know when that dream job may be just around the corner.