“Student groups and clubs are the best way for students to experience great levels of leadership and management skills. In these situations, they have the opportunity to achieve a certain level of autonomy that might otherwise take years to hold in the workplace.”
—Shree Govindarajan, Commerce, University of Alberta
I graduated a couple of months ago, in April 2011. However, the decisions I made about my next steps started much sooner than that.
As soon as my last year at the University of Alberta began, I felt the pressure of having to figure out my next move. As a Marketing major, my path was not as easily determined as my friends in Accounting, Engineering, or Law. It seemed that all of my friends, no matter their faculty or major, had a job (or at least a few leads) lined up.
Upon their advice, I began searching online for my dream job, which was elusive at best.
After a few months of searching, I realized that part of the reason I was having no luck in finding that “perfect” job was that I didn’t really want to find it.
I knew that if I found a job at a company and began working full-time after graduation, I would never leave. I would be a loyal employee, I’d work hard and I’d hopefully be promoted after a few months or years, beginning my stagnancy in life at the age of 21.
I knew I wanted to travel more and see the world, but a simple two-month trip to Europe before settling down didn’t feel like enough to me. I wanted to actually experience life in another culture.
This is where AIESEC Edmonton came in.
I joined AIESEC, a global internship program entirely run by students, in my first year of university.
Being offered both leadership and exchange opportunities with the organization, I opted for the leadership side for three and a half years of my university education as I truly enjoy helping others succeed.
As AIESEC Edmonton’s president in my last year of university, I realized my passion for providing others with the opportunity to go abroad and experience professional opportunities.
My desires to travel, experience another culture, and gain work experience at the same time made my decision for the next year an easy one: AIESEC.
While I am not going on an internship with the organization (yet), my leadership roles and understanding of the AIESEC brand helped me land a job internally – I will be working in Sao Paulo until July 2012 as the National Vice President of Communications for AIESEC Brazil.
I am excited for this next step in my life as this role will help me gain experience that is directly related to my desired future in Marketing and I’ll be living in an ever-growing BRIC country for a year.
My anticipation is great and I know that this experience will give me more opportunities in the future than I could have hoped for right out of university.
I have consistently heard, from job-seekers and job-providers alike, that experience outside the classroom is what sets apart a potential candidate from a full-time employee.
This experience can be work-related, but for the most part students have a hard time getting credible work experience while they are still in school.
Student groups and clubs are the best way for students to experience great levels of leadership and management skills. In these situations, they have the opportunity to achieve a certain level of autonomy that might otherwise take years to hold in the workplace.
It is the students that get involved in their post-secondary institutions that typically have tested their skills and qualities in relevant situations, and are the best candidates for employers.
My advice for employers is to tap into this pool of talent. For career centres, I suggest finding ways to partner with student groups and bridge the gap between those looking to hire and those looking to be hired.
As for schools, the more support (financially or otherwise) that is provided for student groups, the more they are able to achieve significant impact and make their experiences that much more worthwhile.
My advice is to not pigeonhole yourself into anything – a major, a degree, a lifestyle – based on what you think you are supposed to do.
Take the time to check out the many opportunities that are available to you, see what feels right and what doesn’t, and you never know what breaks might come your way.
Like me, you may find that you can combine your passions with the responsibility you owe to yourself and your future.
Commerce – Marketing and Human Resource Management
University of Alberta