Over the last 10 years, university enrolment in Canada has been increasing at a rapid rate. While this is great for the country’s education standards, it has serious implications for new graduates and the job market.
Even when the economy is not in recession, getting an entry-level job can be a daunting task for many new grads and it has become increasingly important to get a head start on your career while you’re still a student.
In this article and the upcoming articles in this series, I will discuss some of my own personal experiences as a student trying to gain experience, what makes successful students and professionals, and the steps someone in university should take to overcome competition and start their careers off the right way!
I still remember my first university lecture. I was both nervous and excited, and I didn’t have a clue as to how or where I would end up four years later.
The professor congratulated us for making it that far, but told us to look to our left and to our right because one of those people wouldn’t make it graduation. Although cliché, that line still resonates with me to this day because it introduced me to the concept of competition in university. If you are going to survive post-graduation, you need to start your career while still a student!
As I buckled down for exams toward the end of my first semester, I overheard a conversation between two of my peers during an accounting lecture. They were talking about how, during the summer, they would be working for KPMG.
“Wait a minute,” I thought to myself. “They’re only 18, and they’re about to start work terms with one of the biggest accounting firms in the world?” This was an eye opener for me because I realized I also had to keep up with my fellow students in terms of work experience.
What I did
Frightened at the thought of falling behind, I turned my attention to finding out what options I had and where I could start applying for professional internships to build my career.
What added to my motivation was the fact that most of my peers were in co-op programs, giving me a disadvantage as a student trying to gain experience.
Here are a few things I did that helped me, and can help you too:
Talk to students who have already secured summer internships and co-ops
Befriending people and building a network with your university peers is one of the best things you can do as a student because, not only will it enhance your social life, but it also increases your resources and thus enriches your whole university experience.
Reach out to campus recruiters
I sent over 50 e-mails and made about 20 cold calls in the hope of getting to know a recruiter or even landing an interview. The good news is my relentless contacting helped me land some hard-to-get interviews, which helped me refine my skills and gave me a taste of the corporate world.
Make use of organizations that help students get internships
I joined one of these organizations and, within a month, I was trained in everything from building a resumé to meeting management for large companies. I was confident, had the etiquette, and now had some value-added training to add to my resumé. With all this, I was able to land my first job with a large multinational – the wheels of my career were finally in motion!
Upon graduation, I had very strong marketing experience on my resumé as well as the intangibles which many employers covet in new grads. This experience helped me land more than just an entry-level position with a large organization.
I urge first- and second-year university students to think about their careers early to remain competitive. By doing so, you will not only open yourself up to new opportunities, but you will also develop intangible skills, such as the ability to network as well as industry and HR knowledge, which are essential to your success.