The university experience is comprised of various different aspects of social and scholastic life.
Looking back on my time at the University of Toronto, I realized that, for many of those years, I didn’t take full advantage of everything higher education had to offer.
As I entered my fourth year, however, I decided that things would change. I made a pledge to myself to step out of my comfort zone, try new things and hopefully become a more well-rounded person.
University or college is not only about reading textbooks or writing essays, but also provides you with vital skills and experiences which can be used later on, mainly in a career environment.
For most of my time at school, I only focused on academia and maintaining friendships with the people I had known from my hometown. Yet, I decided for my fourth and final year, I would make an attempt to meet new people with similar interests and get more involved in the topics that interest me.
I have found that the initiative taken in my final year has given me not only the opportunity to have new experiences, but also a fresh perspective on the career path I am pursuing.
1. Join a club
Joining a club at school is not only a great way to meet new people, but also an easy way of developing leadership and communication skills. These skills make you a more confident person, but even more importantly, they make you more hireable.
The club that I joined at U of T was the United Nations Development Program. I applied on a whim and landed an executive position as a Project Manager of the women’s empowerment initiative. I assisted in the planning of an International Women’s Day event, delivered speeches and presentations, and met with potential new members.
As a result of my involvement with this club, I improved my ability to communicate with others, especially in front of large audiences. Furthermore, I now have experience in project management and taking on leadership roles, both of which look great on a resume.
2. Get a job on campus
As a student, you often find yourself very broke but also very busy. While people often need part-time jobs during their time at university, finding such positions can be inconvenient. A solution to this is working on campus.
Working on campus is a great opportunity to become more familiar with your school, faculty and programs. One suggestion is working as a Research Assistant for a professor. In this job, you not only get experience in the field of your choice, but additionally you gain a great academic reference. Having hands-on experience early on will help you to confirm whether or not you are on the right path career-wise.
For instance, early on in university, I had planned on eventually going to law school. However, as I got acquainted with professors and professionals who work in fields such as international development, I came to realize that it was a more appropriate path for me. This was useful in that I began to feel comfortable enough to abandon my earlier plan and fully embrace a new one.
3. Find unique opportunities in your community
Oftentimes when students begin post-secondary school, they move to cities they are not very familiar with. Although this can be a scary experience, it is an extremely beneficial one that encourages personal development. New cities offer the opportunity to meet new people, explore innovative industries and research corporations and businesses you otherwise wouldn’t have known about.
For me, although I volunteered with the Canadian Red Cross in my hometown of Stratford, I was able to pursue new experiences at the Toronto office due to the multiplicity of programs that such a larger branch offered.
As a result, I was able to acquire different skills (such as dealing with vulnerable people) and knowledge (like the inner workings of a food bank). These opportunities were not offered in my hometown, yet by taking advantage of what a new city offered, I was able to acquire diverse skills which were subsequently added to my resume.
Making the most of your time at university or college will ensure that you not only gain knowledge through your studies but also have the opportunity to apply that knowledge in a variety of ways.
Joining a campus club will give you experience in your field, acquaint you with new people and colleagues as well as develop transferable skills such as communication and leadership.
Furthermore, working alongside a professor or researcher in your area of study gives you direct experience in the field you are pursuing; this will either strengthen your desire to continue on that path or give you the confidence to abandon it for something that is a better fit.
New opportunities translate to the development of new skills. Taking advantage of a new city or program can be intimidating, yet such anxiety will ultimately wear off when you see the important skills and knowledge you are acquiring.
Taking the initiative to go beyond the books and delve deeper into all that university life has to offer not only makes you a more interesting person, but also a more hireable one.
Photo credit: Francis B