I recently graduated from UBC as of May 2012 and I had the fortune of doing an internship in Davao City, Philippines during the summer of 2012. I volunteered for a community health development project where I was immersed in a low income ‘barangay’ (village) and organized a medical mission, family planning events, and feeding programs to address some of the most pertinent issues raised by the community. I had the opportunity to collaborate with 11 other international students through AIESEC, as well as local health workers, community leaders, city counselors and the mayor. My experience serving the global community was both eye-opening and life changing.
I just finished my interviews for medical school in 2013 and am awaiting acceptance! I am currently looking for a temporary job and enjoying time with my family and friends since coming back home.
I definitely recommend schools and career centres to encourage students to travel abroad, for internship or for volunteering. My global experience led me to become more mature and more understanding of people from diverse cultural backgrounds. After my volunteer placement in Davao, I went off to backpack through South East Asia and that experience in itself was mind-blowing and so fulfilling. Our world is vast and beautiful – I encourage all students to become travelers (not tourists!) to experience this for themselves.
My (biased) advice for employers: give special attention to students with travel experience during your recruitment. Students who have travelled have overcome many challenges and barriers in an unfamiliar environment that have enabled them to become quick thinkers, efficient problem solvers and effective communicators.
Again, travel abroad!
Here’s a quote from chef Anthony Bourdain: “If you’re 22, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.”
Bachelor of Science
University of British Columbia
“In order to successfully transition into life after university, it is essential to have a clear understanding of who you are, your skills and abilities, and your goals for the future.” -Ana Parfenova, Student, University of British Columbia
I’ve noticed that a lot of young people in university struggle with finding their right path in life. After all, there are so many doors that you can go through, so many careers and internships out there to try and pursue, and so many different paths that you can take on this exciting journey of young adulthood.
Certainly, if you are unsure about who you are and unclear about exactly what it is you want, it can be extremely confusing finding your footing in a world that is constantly changing and pushing you into different directions.
A year ago, due to a few unexpected major life changes, I found myself in a strange and vulnerable position – for the first time in my life, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do after graduation.
As a result, I was left terrified, confused and uncertain. My plans for law school fell through when I came to the realization that I would not be happy in a career that I found uncreative and boring. As systematic and future-oriented that I am, I was absolutely horrified by the thought that I no longer had a sense of direction in my life. After all, my entire undergraduate degree was planned for the purpose of attending law school.
I knew that it is impossible to navigate through life without a clear sense of direction because the tide will push you farther and farther off track from where you ultimately want to be. After I realized that the path I always wanted to go on no longer appealed to me, the thought of what I would do instead kept me up for hours every night. I became increasingly more confused and begun searching for validation and advice from my family and friends. Finally, after receiving some good advice but mostly conflicting opinions, I realized that the only way I could gain clarity was to rely solely on myself… and look within.
After I discovered what I truly wanted, and understood what I truly enjoyed doing, I decided to pursue a career in marketing and public relations. I made a chart of my goals and created a step-by-step outline of the things that I needed to accomplish in order to actualize my goal. I decided to join a club on campus and run for a Public Relations position in order to gain relevant experience in the public relations field while still in university. I am now a member of AIESEC where I have the chance to gain real world experience while finishing my last semester of university. AIESEC is one of the world’s largest student-run organizations that excels in bridging the gap between the classroom and the workplace. As a Public Relations coordinator in AIESEC, I have the opportunity to connect with media companies on a frequent basis, and have already developed a clear understanding and appreciation of the public relations field. I can proudly say that after several months of confusion and uncertainty, I am now gaining valuable experience that is in complete alignment with my goal.
In order to find the answers that I was searching for, I took the time to step back and re-evaluate what I truly enjoy doing and what I am drawn to. I thought about my interests, the things that I am drawn to, what kind of lifestyle I want in the future, as well as my strengths, skills, and talents. Looking at myself through a subjective lens allowed me to look within and discover what I truly wanted. Once I discovered who I really was as a person and what I truly enjoyed doing, I knew that I had to share that with the world. You see, what you give to the world it gladly returns back to you. But if you’re not getting much from the world, then you’re probably not giving much. So ask yourself: What gifts, talents, and abilities do I have that I can share with the world? The moment that you do, you officially unlock the door to your treasure. Within that gift also lies your happiness and your passion. When we conceal our gifts and fail to that remember they exist, or know they exist but don’t use them, we will continuously experience feelings of emptiness, sadness, anxiety, and endless frustration with life.
Everyone is blessed with a unique talent or skill that they are meant to utilize and receive financial compensation for. So if you are stuck at the crossroads, unsure of where to go, take the time to step back and analyze who you truly are. What do you excel at? It could be a particular technical skill, excellent communication skills, a creative mind, an artistic tendency to create beautiful things, or strong business savvy. What are you drawn to? What makes you happy and excited? Where does your mind wander? These are the difficult questions that, once they are assessed and answered honestly, will help you find your sense of direction in life during moments of profound confusion.
In order to successfully transition into life after university, it is essential to have a clear understanding of who you are, your skills and abilities, and your goals for the future. Experiencing moments of confusion and uncertainty in university are common, but don’t let them get you into a rut. I firmly believe that our toughest moments shape us into the person that we are meant to become. The path of self-discovery is challenging, uncertain, and often downright uncomfortable, but it’s also extremely enlightening and liberating.
Political Science and English
University of British Columbia
“My employer took a chance on me when I was only 19, and it paid off for both of us!” – Aisalyn Templin, Graduate, University of Toronto
After attending three different universities and switching programs three times, I finally landed in Political Science at the University of Toronto. It was an unlikely decision considering my path began with Public Relations in a Media Studies program at the University of Guelph Humber. I quickly decided this was definitely not the right fit for me, and pursued studies in an Arts and Business program at the University of Waterloo.
After one and a half years at the University of Waterloo I landed my first co-op job at the University of Toronto in a student centre. I loved coming to work every day, even if I missed having classmates at school. This co-op position turned into a full time job for three years. When I did go back to finish my degree I transferred to U of T, which was my new home. Going back to school full time was a huge challenge! I got used to living a student lifestyle, but with a salary and no homework. When I did go back to class I wasn’t sure where it would lead me. Like many of my friends, I decided to apply for a post-graduate program at a college in Toronto.
Well it turns out life had another plan in mind for me! Three weeks after classes ended I saw a posting for the job I have today. Knowing my path has been full of twists and turns I decided to go for it. My philosophy of having a plan but embracing change paid off, and I love what I’m doing now.
Looking back, I resent years of ‘Career Planning’ that began in Grade 10. What happened to being flexible? How about the fact that many of the careers most of us will pursue don’t even exist yet? My job wasn’t even created until seven months ago.
I am working jointly with Alumni Relations and Student Life at the University of Toronto.
My advice for employers is don’t be afraid to invest in young people. My employer took a chance on me when I was only 19, and it paid off for both of us!
Young people often bring a level of enthusiasm and a fresh perspective that can be a welcome addition to any workplace, especially an older, established institution.
My advice to students and recent grads is, embrace change! Planning out your whole life at the age of 19, 20 or older is overrated.
University of Toronto
“What is the point of all the book learning if we never get any of the experience we need to actually GET A JOB?” – Courtney Hardwick, Graduate, University of Windsor
I always knew a BA in English wasn’t going to make it easy to get a job, but I thought having a university degree would at least count for something. Turns out, not so much. I ended up going back to school and just recently finished a post-graduate publishing program at Ryerson.
Even though I have focused in on the industry I want to work in, it has still been next to impossible to find a job. I have done two internships at publishing companies and although they were both amazing experiences, they don’t seem to count for much either. I had one interview for an internship where they told me straight up that my time there would not lead to a job, so I shouldn’t have any kind of expectations regarding that.
Now, I understand they are only telling me this to be realistic, but it is still discouraging to hear that at an interview and it is depressing to think that all I will ever be able to find are an endless string of internships that pay next to nothing.
I am at a roadblock. Do I continue to do internships and hope eventually one will pay off? Or do I look for work elsewhere just so I can make some money and actually start paying back that student loan that’s lurking just past another six-month repayment assistance term?
I got a post-graduate certificate and it helped me get internships, but that’s still not enough. I have done some volunteering as well. To pay the rent, I work in retail, and I can’t wait until the day I can quit and never look back.
Maybe the whole university model just needs an overhaul. What is the point of all the book learning if we never get any of the experience we need to actually GET A JOB? Sure, I can write a comparative essay on The Great Gatsby and some obscure short story in one of my literature anthologies, but who cares?
I think every BA program should have a co-op or work study component, no matter what the focus is. If I could go back, I would probably go to college instead, because the practical experience is so much more valuable than the book smarts.
Anything you can do to get practical experience while you don’t have to worry about rent/paying back student loans/bills, do it!
Also networking, because unfortunately it really is true that it seems to be WHO you know rather than WHAT.
Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature
University of Windsor
“I find several listings that are advertised as being “new graduate” positions. However, they often list qualifications that no new graduate could possibly possess.” – Timothy Boodram, Graduate, University of Toronto
I am a recent graduate who is finding the transition to work difficult. I have been applying for work for almost a year now and have had little luck. I’ve been interviewed twice, but haven’t been able to land the job. For one job, I had made it through 3 rounds of interviews over the span of a month and a half, but they said they were looking for someone with more direct experience in a certain role. I think my age was a big factor.
In the meantime, I’ve been trying to keep busy by coding websites, but nothing paid. I need a paying job to keep myself alive, and that keeps me motivated to find a job.
I’m keeping busy doing some personal work to strengthen my portfolio. Waking up every morning and scouring the internet for possible job openings.
Considering new career options since I have been an unemployed graduate for almost a year. I’ve also applied to grad school in September as a backup.
Employers in the area of web design/programming really need to focus on making more accurate job listings. I find several listings that are advertised as being “new graduate” positions. However, they often list qualifications that no new graduate could possibly possess.
Often I see posts requiring knowledge of 10+ programming languages and 5+ years of experience. From speaking with employers, they often say they do this to receive confident applicants only. From speaking with students and graduates, it’s very intimidating and discouraging for us because we ALL feel very unqualified.
New graduate positions need to cater to new graduates. Offer us a position where we can help, and provide a way for us to learn on the job.
The majority of employed graduates from my graduating year got their job through someone they know. It’s all about who you know, and less about what you know (although this is still important to KEEP that job). Network, network, network.
University of Toronto
“I don’t know what drove me but I applied, and it was the best decision that I have made in my life because the internship opened my eyes to a whole other career possibility.” —Samiha Fariha, student, University of Toronto Scarborough
When I was applying to the Legislative Internship position at the Queen’s Park Office of MPP Rob Milligan, which was non-paid and was advertised on the UTSC Career Center website, I thought, what’s the point of applying to this position? It’s obviously going to be very competitive, there is very little chance that I might even get an interview, and to top all that, there was only one position.
I guess luck was on my side because I got a call to come in for an interview. After that, three weeks later, I got the call that I was hired.
So I guess what made me a competitive applicant for the Legislative Internship position was the diverse skills and experiences I had on my resume, as well as how well I was able to describe those skills and experiences on my cover letter and relate it to the position that I was applying for.
An internship at Queen’s Park in Ontario offers a look at how government works. As a Legislative Intern to the Queen’s Park Office of MPP Rob Milligan, I had the unique opportunity to work alongside politicians and had the great advantage of supplement my academic training with valuable practical experience. The internship entailed a broad range of duties such as responding to inquiries from constituents and community groups, preparing correspondences with constituents, business and stakeholders, and researching and contributing to documents, reports and private members bills. It opened my eyes and gave me greater insight and knowledge about provincial politics.
I am currently in my second year at UTSC and focusing on school.
My recommendation for career centres is to provide students with more information and sights about how to standout in a competitive labour market. Probably give students access to more resources or hold useful workshops that will help students to learn more about themselves and to explore career options that will help students in the future.
I am doing a double major in Mental Health Studies and Political Science, and I neither have an interest to pursue a career in psychology nor political science, or that’s what I thought. I like my psychology and political science courses, but I don’t know if I could pursue higher education in either subject, until one day when I was going through the internships that were posted on the UTSC career centre website that a certain position caught my eyes, and it was the Legislative Internship position at Queen’s Park.
The position sounded very interesting, but I had doubts about applying to the position – probably because I had not the slightest interest in Political Science, I don’t know what drove me but I applied, and it was the best decision that I have made in my life because the internship opened my eyes to a whole other career possibility. I suddenly became interested in provincial politics and I started enjoying my political science courses, and started asking more questions in tutorial about the government.
So basically what I really recommend to my fellow students is to explore different opportunities through volunteer activities and internships. It’s very hard to decide what career we want for ourselves in the near future, but if students start to explore their options through internships and other activities then their choices will broaden and their interests will expand to other career opportunities they never thought of before.
Mental Health Studies and Political Science
University of Toronto Scarborough
I wish I could say I had a school-to-work transition, but that would be implying I transitioned. I am still in the same part-time retail job I had in school that I had as a way to supplement my student loan. My loan remains in repayment because I don’t make enough on a steady basis to make any form of substantial payments.
Although I am working in the industry I hope to have my career in, I have made no progress either within my company or with others. Every job interview I have been to either for an entry-level position or even an unpaid internship has had the same reply: you don’t have enough experience. I don’t know at what point employers decided that experience was needed for free positions or that they were not going to invest in new graduates, but when they did, they doomed us all to positions where we are overqualified, underpaid and unhappy.
After years of working with a company in my industry of choice, I have watched people from other companies get positions they already have. Companies have adopted a disgusting trend of horizontal employment; they hire people from other companies doing the same job they are looking for to save on training costs.
Frankly, I’m tired of being passed over while companies play red rover. I’m not frustrated – I’m furious. Don’t tell me to be patient. I went to school for six years and continue to do so. I’m tired of waiting. I’m ready now.
Nothing. Part-time retail. Part-time continuing education classes when I can afford it.
It takes more than a career board to get your students jobs. Stop letting companies pretend they are supportive of your students when they only employ the top 2% of classes. If they are not giving your students REAL opportunities, (and I don’t mean pitching tents at career day promoting entry-level retail sales associate positions!) then they shouldn’t be allowed to pretend they do anything for your students. And stop pushing the same industries and same jobs for your students. Job opportunities should be as diverse as your program possibilities are!
I wish I had advice. I could use some.
Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing Management
The school-to-work transition was very difficult. Most bachelor’s degree programs do not have internship or co-op components integrated into the curriculum. As such, I did not have the opportunity to develop the skills needed for a good job.
Furthermore, many employers are not willing to give new graduates a chance to gain experience. I found very few job postings that did not require any experience, even for “entry level” jobs. Most “entry level” job postings I found still required at least three years of experience.
Possessing a degree did not help me at all in finding a job, and I struggled immensely for over a year. In that time, I was only offered a few interviews, with no success from any of them. I became incredibly cynical, unmotivated, and depressed because of how useless my university education was.
I am now back in school for a post-graduate college program in Human Resources Management. College appealed to me because there is a co-op component integrated into the curriculum. However, there is no guarantee of landing a co-op position. The college simply assists you in finding a co-op position – they do not place you. As such, there is still some slight anxiety about finding employment.
Employers should be more willing to give new graduates a chance to gain experience. Many of my peers struggled to find meaningful work after graduation because they lacked experience. When no one gives you the opportunity to gain any experience, then it forces you into underemployment (if you’re lucky). This degrades morale and motivation, which can hurt that person’s job performance.
In addition, employers need to understand what the term “entry level” means. If the position requires experience, then it is not entry level. This is probably the most frustrating thing for new graduates who are looking for jobs.
Human Resources Management
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
“We get a little knowledge in us and we suddenly think we don’t think we have to start at the bottom.” —Susan Ranni, Graduate, Nova Scotia Community College
My rant/beef/whatever you want to call it – about you…we…us: the post-secondary, post-student, career-looking individual- is we think too damn highly of ourselves.
Not enough words to get published? Well, let me elaborate.
Remember getting home after the college ACTUALLY accepted your application and those fees you paid up front (those were the days before you heard about free money for learning – them student loan thingums)…I know you know what I’m talking about – that moment you considered not getting sent to the principal’s office or escorted off the premises was your biggest achievement. Yeah. Then.
What happened to you in the less-than-a-year to three years since then that makes you believe you are fit for the CEO role? Seriously. We all do it – just last week I applied to be President. The answer has not come back yet…
At any rate, we get a little knowledge in us and we suddenly think we don’t think we have to start at the bottom.
How about a little experiment? Let’s apply for the gigs we know we CAN do and let the ones we want come to us when the time is right. Believe me – if the organization that finds you is awesome enough, they will make room for someone who knows the value of service over the person with a bunch of letters after their name.
Give every person who takes the time to apply to your organization in person a chance to speak to one person. That is all. A quick five-minute chat between a potential applicant and an employee of your company to find out if they are a good fit – human nature will let each individual know within those five minutes if a resume should be handed in and an application process initiated.
I write and volunteer in my spare time.
I have plenty of experience and attitudes for many different situations and work experience to share with you.
In general, my advice is to keep your head high in whatever you are doing before your career slaps you in the face.
Nova Scotia Community College
“When students approach their final years of education, universities and colleges should remind them that there are plenty of resources available.” —Kelsey Goforth, Graduate, University of Toronto
While pursuing my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, I studied Political Science with an emphasis on Human Rights and International Development. This past summer, I was finishing up my final credit while searching for the perfect summer job that would hopefully lead me into a career directly related to these interests.
I was aware that a company called Public Outreach fundraised for developmental and human rights organizations and had always been intrigued by the fundraisers that I had seen in Dundas Square, or even at my school’s campus, but didn’t picture myself taking on such a role. However, on the advice of a friend, I applied. The role definitely surprised me. I had no idea how much I would be learning about various not-for-profit charities and how many amazing conversations I would have with donors. One highlight is when I met a woman from Zimbabwe who actually received aid from one of the charities I was fundraising for.
The position turned into far more than a summer job when roles in the recruitment department opened up. I applied and eventually, in August, took on the role of U.S. Recruiter, where I am responsible for recruitment in Boston, Chicago, New York City and Minneapolis. I was able to transition quite quickly to my new role, going from fundraiser to recruiter in three short months. Being able to learn about the inner-workings of a whole new department has given me the opportunity to better understand and appreciate all that the company does.
I am currently in my 4th month as a Public Outreach Recruiter. In addition to my U.S. recruitment duties, I also contribute blog posts to our staff website. Outside of work, I like to pursue other interests that not only appeal to me, but also give me an additional skill set to include on resumes and applications. I write articles for TalentEgg and, additionally, I am beginning French courses in January in order to receive a Certificate in French Proficiency. Although I currently have a job, I do not want to prevent myself from continuing to learn more and develop my skills.
When it comes to campus career centres and their related programs, it is important to be well-advertised and easily accessible. Students are busy with classes and extra-curriculars so having flexible hours is imperative. Secondly, many programs at schools aren’t given the exposure they should. Often students are bombarded with information in their first year. However, by the time fourth year rolls around and the job search becomes more intense, these programs are often long forgotten about. When students approach their final years of education, universities and colleges should remind them that there are plenty of resources available.
As a student, it is important to think beyond essays and exams, and also take the time to get involved in your community. I personally found extra-curricular activities and volunteering to be extremely beneficial – both when it came to developing new skills and in seeking employment.
I applied for an executive member position of the United Nations Development Program’s University of Toronto chapter where I acted as a Project Manager for an International Women’s Day event. This opportunity not only helped me in developing my communication and leadership skills, but also taught me about event planning and the importance of teamwork.
Furthermore, I volunteered with the Canadian Red Cross, lending my time to various programs including the Mobile Food Bank, a Humanitarian Issues Program and Disaster Management. The Red Cross is one of the charities that Public Outreach has worked with in the past and having pre-existing knowledge about the charity was definitely an asset when coming into my position as a fundraiser and a recruiter.
The importance of networking
The job market is competitive. Learning to write an impressive resume is a great skill, however a piece of paper can only go so far. For me, networking has been the most effective means of both connecting with people with similar interests and landing new jobs. At the fundraising office, we often had Public Outreach employees from other offices come to our morning briefings to better bridge the gap between different departments. On one of these mornings, Marisa from the Recruitment department attended. Having recognized her from a TalentEgg article featuring her work with recruitment, I came up to her and introduced myself. When I sent my resume into the recruitment department about a month later, Marisa was able to put a face to the name. I knew that I wanted to advance with the company and introducing myself to Marisa that day was the first step.
Don’t underestimate your skills
Take a chance when it comes to your job applications. Often students and recent graduates feel either under- or over-qualified for certain positions. Don’t underestimate the experiences you have. Although you may be a recent graduate, your education, community involvement and past jobs all culminate to make you an excellent applicant. When applying for jobs you feel under-qualified for, keep in mind that the worst that can happen is being rejected. Even if that’s the case, there is the possibility that the hiring manager might suggest other opportunities at the company or at the very least, will recognize your name when you apply in the future. I was rejected from the first recruitment position I applied for but was immediately encouraged to apply for the U.S. Recruiter job which turned out to be a much better fit for me.
Don’t overlook great opportunities
If I had the mentality that being one of “those people on the street with the binders” was somehow beneath me, I would have never been given the opportunity to work within the recruitment department. To grow with a company, it is important to start small and work your way up. It is only logical: you must learn the very basics if you want to eventually build on that and take on a more advanced role.
Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science
University of Toronto