When you hear about someone’s career, it’s easy to assume that they followed a straightforward path to get where they are today.
In reality, though, most of our careers will end up looking more like a squiggly pile of spaghetti than a straight line.
That is definitely the case for Ryan Low.
His original career plan was to become a pilot, but when that didn’t work out, it was time for Plan B: “I decided that I would go travelling for a year and went to Australia,” he explains.
Being “interesting” will make employers interested in you
In Australia, Ryan worked a number of odd jobs, including on a million-acre cattle station in western Australia and a pearling vessel on the Indian Ocean, in landscaping, assessing vegetation on oil and gas leases, and also cleaning hostels for free rent.
He admits that he drifted during that time, but he also worked hard to ensure he could continue travelling.
“All of those things showed that I was willing to work at jobs that are time consuming and that I could commit myself to achieving a goal,” he says. “More to the point, though, it made me interesting.”
Since returning from Australia, Ryan’s gotten an Environmental Assessment and Restoration diploma from Lethbridge College, three years of experience as an Environmental Technician, an Environmental Science degree from the University of Lethbridge, and multiple summers as a university student in Bayer CropScience’s Summer Associate Program.
It was those early “interesting” experiences that made Bayer CropScience pay attention to him when he applied both as a student and for his current role, Ryan believes. “If you submit an application that makes your best qualities look as boring as a biology textbook, nobody will remember who you are. But if it reads more like a Salman Rushdie novel, an employer will be intrigued and want to learn more about you.”
An interview is only a foot in the door, he acknowledges, but at least you’ll have an opportunity to convince them that you’re the best person for the job.
It worked for him: today Ryan is a Development and Licensing Representative in the company’s R&D group as well as a Master of Agriculture student at the University of Alberta specializing in weed science.
“From my experience with Bayer CropScience, I knew it was a company that could potentially offer the challenges and job satisfaction I was looking for,” he explains, “and if I started my career with them, then I would have many opportunities, both within Canada and abroad, and I would have many pathways that I could follow.”
Questions to ask yourself before you apply
Performing well during a job interview is only half the battle. According to Ryan, doing a little soul searching before you apply for any jobs is key to understanding what you want from your career and what you can bring to an organization as an employee.
“Before jumping into the work force, I think it is very important to sit down and think about what you are looking for in the immediate future and a long ways down the line,” he says, recommending that you ask yourself the following questions:
At the end of your career, what would you like to have accomplished?
Do you want to a manager? Researcher? Sales associate? CEO? As your goals change, so will the requirements to get to the next level of your career.
“Perhaps you will need to return to school for additional education, or perhaps you will need to work long hours and sacrifice time that could be used to some of your other personal goals,” Ryan elaborates. “If you don’t make a long term plan like this, you are at risk of drifting, and not achieving your career goals. This can be very frustrating, and it is often accompanied by feelings of failure.”
What do you think will change over the next five years?
Basically, is it possible you’ll get bored doing the same thing during that time, or will you be happy to stick to the responsibilities you’ve been given? “There is nothing wrong with either answer, but again, the answer to this question will influence what type of career path to take,” he says.
Where do you want to be in two years?
“Are you hoping to start a family or establish yourself in your career, or are you looking to do a lot of traveling that you didn’t have the opportunity to do while you were in school? These types of questions will largely influence you in what type of position you should be looking for,” he explains, such as short-term contract work versus a permanent opportunity.
Once you’ve figured out where you’re going, then you can start preparing for the job interview.
Ryan’s top interview tips
As a two-time graduate who’s worked in a dozen different related and unrelated positions over the course of his career, Ryan has the whole job interview thing down to a science.
He shared his top tips to help you be as cool as a cucumber for your next interview, whether it’s with Bayer CropScience or another employer:
- Be confident, not cocky. Co-operation and collaboration are much more important than being “the best”.
- Embrace your strengths, but be honest about and take responsibility for your failures and weaknesses.
- Make the interview a conversation, not an interrogation, by being a good listener, answering their questions completely and asking questions
- Don’t be nervous, be yourself. Regardless of what happens, you can still enjoy the experience and learn from it.