All Posts Tagged With: "careers"
How to make the most out of internships and placements
I worked at least a dozen summer jobs and internships before landing a full-time job, so suffice it to say I’ve learned a few things about squeezing the most out of these fleeting experiences. I’ve also seen a whir of students come and go and noticed too many unwittingly break the unwritten office rules. Since these jobs are crucial for launching careers, I thought I’d share what I learned. Follow these seven rules to make the most out of your summer placement.
7. Cover up
Few bosses would point out inappropriate clothing, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t making mental notes about your choices. Men shouldn’t wear jeans or shorts on any day except casual Friday. For women, things are tougher, but the most common mistake is showing too much skin: open-toed shoes are out, mini-dresses are not approved and low-cut tops are frowned upon.
6. Don’t be late—ever
Sometimes traffic is bad, sometimes Starbucks has a long line and some days the boss herself saunters in at 9:45. It doesn’t matter; you need to be there at 9 a.m. sharp. Even after a true emergency (let’s say your apartment floods—this happened to a colleague) don’t just show up with soggy pants at 10:30. Call your boss so she can re-assign your work and not worry for your safety.
5. Keep that smart-phone hidden
Work time belongs to work, even if you’re an unpaid intern (I know right?). That means you shouldn’t be caught updating your status, Tweeting or having long text message conversations.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Bosses may assume you know how to do something unless you tell them otherwise. Although you should try to be resourceful and figure things out on your own, sometimes you just need to ask. It’s better to look dumb in front of your boss than to make her look dumb in front of clients.
3. Be sure to find a mentor
You may be passed around from project to project and boss to boss. While it’s great to meet plenty of new people, make sure at least one person gets to know you well. You will need that person to vouch for you when you’re asked for a reference. You also want them to think of you when a position opens up. I got my job because an editor with whom I worked closely recommended me.
2. Ask your boss for feedback
Go to your bosses before the summer is over and ask for constructive criticism. Tell them you want the truth, even if it hurts. You may be surprised by what you’re doing wrong. I certainly was.
1. Make sure to ask for what you want
I’ve seen interns come and go. The few who got hired full-time were those who made clear what they wanted to contribute. Consider Emma Teitel. While most interns would offer story ideas at our weekly meetings and then sit and wait, Teitel dared to propose opinion columns, something most interns feel too inexperienced to write. The bravery paid off. She was hired as a columnist.
It’s hard to turn a profit, but it’s fun
Frances Strathern, 24, started making jewelry at age 14, went on to major in Jewellery and Metals at the Alberta College of Art + Design and then started franny e fine jewelry in 2010. She got a $15,000 loan to open a “tiny” gallery space in Calgary and worked part-time elsewhere until recently to make ends meet. She still works seven days of the week, but now it’s entirely for herself. It hasn’t been easy. She’s just now “approaching” the point where she can support herself financially. Still, she loves it. Here’s her story.
Did ACAD prepare you for this business?
ACAD is very hands-on and studio based, but then you have your academic classes as well. It was a good balance of the conceptual art side of things with skills, but it just didn’t prep us very well for the business side of things.
Teacher’s college says we’re out of luck until 2015
I got a call from Montreal the other day. On the other line was a man who represented a teaching agency in London, England. He had seen my email and resumé and said that I could come over to teach after completing the required paperwork.
When I decided three years ago to follow my calling, moving across continents for a job was unfathomable. I predicted I would send out resumés after graduation, then a school board within a reasonable distance from my home would ask me to work for them full-time as a teacher, everything would be hunky dory and I would decorate my classroom with dry-erase markers of every colour (you can never have too many).
The above scenario was obviously a delusional fantasy.
I recently learned in an email from one of my instructors here at York University’s teacher’s college that, in keeping with regulations agreed to with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, school boards will essentially no longer be allowed to do external hiring until all current occasional teachers have had the opportunity to apply for available jobs. In other words, until the huge backlog of certified teachers—many of whom are fighting tooth and nail just to land a supply teaching gig—have had their shot at a full-time job, fresh teacher college younglings need not apply.
Skills mismatch may mean 1.5 million vacancies by 2016
On a recent February evening, Karl Eve received an emergency call from a restaurant owner in Canmore, Alta. The busy eatery had suddenly found itself with no hot water, even though the basement hot water tanks appeared to be working fine. A plumber with 10 years’ experience, Eve eventually traced the problem to a malfunctioning dishwasher and got the hot water flowing again—much to the owner’s relief.
It’s the sort of detective work Eve says he loves about his job. He also likes that his plumbing business, which he runs with his wife in nearby Exshaw, provides his family with a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. But it was a career he very nearly missed. Never a fan of textbooks, Eve ended up toiling in a southern Ontario gypsum mine after high school. It was only after moving to Alberta years later that he considered a career in the trades. A chance meeting at a church potluck led to a ride-along with a local plumber and, ultimately, an apprenticeship. “I discovered there was a lot to learn, especially when it came to math,” Eve says of his four years of training, which included eight weeks a year in a classroom. “The amount of education was very surprising to me, but in a positive way. I grasped it with both hands, so to speak.”
Eve’s story is more rare than it should be in Canada. Many consider the trades to be low-paying, go-nowhere jobs, if they consider them at all. But it’s a perception not grounded in reality, as Eve’s healthy hourly rate of $90 to $135 suggests. Nor is it one Canada can afford to maintain. Numerous studies warn Canada is facing a massive shortage of skilled workers over the next few decades as millions of baby boomers hit retirement age and exit the workforce.
Prof. Pettigrew says it isn’t a lack of skills training
Earlier this month, student Mercedes Mueller caught my eye with this provocative open letter to Canadian university presidents, accusing them of having failed students by not paying enough attention to their “career ambitions.”
Here’s the key bit:
Universities pride themselves on teaching students critical thinking and reasoning skills. Yet upon entering the workforce, many grads have little to offer employers in terms of “skills.” Skills, primarily associated with the hands-on learning done at colleges, are a severely lacking component of university curricula. When one considers that the majority of BA graduates would like to enter the workforce without having to obtain further degrees, learning a skill or two in undergrad isn’t asking a lot.
Students come to university to get a job, she explains, and thus deserve to have “degrees worth more than the paper they are printed on.”
Colleges create programs in response to industry demand
Amy Gordon was in the middle of completing her second university degree when she decided to go to college instead. Gordon already had a degree in biology from the University of Alberta, and was studying chemical engineering at the University of Calgary. “I was getting really tired of learning lecture-style theory. I had an itch to get more hands-on and learn more,” says the 29-year-old.
So she left U of C, and is now nearing the end of a two-year diploma program in instrumentation engineering at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton. Gordon has been getting the hands-on training she wanted in labs supported by—and named after—Spartan Controls Ltd. The company has poured about $8-million worth of equipment into the program since 2007, essentially creating labs that replicate what it’s like to work in a refinery, giving students access to training on new technology.
Ryerson supports startups with Digital Media Zone
Phil Jacobson thought getting a business degree would help open doors on Bay Street.
He didn’t expect it would also help him become a big wig on Main Street.
“I figured, out of all the undergrad possibilities that were out there, a business degree would position me as the most well-rounded coming out of school,” said the 22-year-old president and co-founder of mobile app PumpUp.
“So I could either start something or get a great job and just have those good skills.”
After graduating last summer from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., Jacobson decided that his dream wasn’t to get poached by a big financial firm. Instead, he wanted to continue working for himself.
And he’s not alone.
Networking, resume and interview tips from a pro
This week’s Maclean’s includes a special report on the future of jobs that shows how university graduates have an especially difficult time launching their careers in today’s shaky economy. But you have to start somewhere, and there are plenty of things you can do to boost your chances of getting hired. Just ask Stéfan Danis, a man with 25 years of recruiting experience who is now Chief Talent Officer & CEO of the firm Mandrake. In this interview, he offers advice for recent graduates.
I hear stories of graduates who have applied to hundreds of jobs online, and with little success. How can graduates get interviews?
Networking. What you should do is get a board of advisers who are a little bit more senior than you. You set up a little network around yourself so that they can open doors for you. Simply sending your resume in response to job postings is not going to get great outcomes just because of the sheer [volume of] competition. It’s very difficult to stand out from the crowd.
Tell me more about this ‘board of advisers’ idea.
Let’s assume you want to be a marketer for a consumer products company. Do a bit of research through your alumni network or personal contacts or using LinkedIn. Target 10 individuals who are maybe two or three years into their careers—so you’re not a threat. If you reach out to them, hat in hand, inviting them to give some counsel, offering to buy them a coffee so you can pick their brains and build relationships with them, when there’s a need for a junior person in the marketing role at their company or elsewhere, they’ll provide you with an extraordinary amount of information.
LeadSift is evidence of hot Atlantic tech sector
The student founders of LeadSift, a company whose software combs through Twitter and Facebook data to generate sales leads, set out last fall in search of $500,000 of investor cash.
It was an easier than expected hunt.
The Halifax startup pulled in $1.13 million, including $500,000 from OMERS Ventures (the venture capital arm of OMERS, one of Canada’s largest pension funds), as well as a contribution from Dan Martell—Canada’s 2012 angel investor of the year, according to KPMG and Techvibes.
The LeadSift foursome, international students from Dalhousie University and Acadia University, could have raised more money, but decided to cap their fundraising round and ultimately turned away some interested investors.
What students are talking about today (March 11th)
1. Groups of students from more than two dozen universities in Canada are participating in 5 Days for the Homeless, a fundraiser for which students started five nights of outdoor sleeping on Sunday. The initiative has raised nearly $1 million since starting in 2008 at the University of Alberta, according to its website. Different student groups are supporting different charities. Queen’s University students are raising money for the Kingston Youth Shelter, which provides food, shelter and other aid for those aged 16 to 24.
2. Here’s another indication of how gloomy the job market is for new teachers. A task force set up to explore ways to restructure the Bachelor of Education program at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education has recommended eliminating undergraduate teacher training altogether. The one-year program will need to change regardless as all teacher training in Ontario must be two-years long by 2014. The Varsity stresses this is only one of several proposals.
3. Students at Dalhousie University who want advice picking a career have to wait up to two months for appointments. There aren’t enough counsellors to meet the demand and it’s unlikely any will be hired. The Dalhousie Career Counselling Centre, “asks for more money every year, as does every university department that’s ever existed, and they never get it,” reports the Dalhousie Gazette. Access to career counselling is a problem that certainly isn’t limited to Dal.
4. There was a “high-risk takedown” at the University of Waterloo on Saturday, reports The Record, “and although a semi-automatic rifle, a box of ammunition and a Frankenstein mask were all found in the suspect’s car, officers said a 25-year-old Waterloo man facing several charges didn’t intend any harm.” The man was pulled over in his truck at the university two hours after reports of shots in a rural area. He told police it was target practice and the mask was a coincidence. Police apparently believed him, since he was released after being charged, reports The Record.
5. The Gazette at Western University has investigated the use of the ADD/ADHD drug Adderall by students looking for an edge while studying. This story is nothing new. Vivien Chang investigated this in February. Still, reporter Julian Uzielli does a good job summarizing the issues and points out that, surprisingly, it’s not considered cheating to illegally use concentration-boosting pills.
Meanwhile, Shire Canada, the pharmaceutical company that makes Adderall, is being lauded for a new scholarship for students with Adult ADD/ADHD. Scholarship recipients will get $1,500 for tuition and a year’s worth of ADHD coaching. Call me cynical, but this is a transparent marketing ploy. Included in their press release is the claim that approximately 1.5 million adult Canadians are living with ADHD. Imagine that: 1.5 million potential customers!
A Ryerson graduate shares some advice
I’ll never forget my first week of journalism school.
Fresh out of Queen’s University’s English program, I entered Ryerson University’s Master of Journalism program in the fall of 2010 with a stint as co-editor of the Queen’s Journal and two solid internships—at the Kingston Whig-Standard and Maclean’s—under my belt.
Ryerson’s serious-looking website promised a hands-on, “rigorous and intensive” program. I was only 21, and I figured I’d be competing for lucrative paid internships alongside people with diverse but equal, if not better, experience. It was called a ‘master’s degree’ after all.
It wasn’t meant to be. During my first reporting class, the instructor mentioned in passing the “lede,” basic newsroom shorthand for the first sentence of an article because it (surprise!) leads the story. One of my classmates raised her hand. “Um, what’s a lede?”
Winnipeg accountant traded insurance for entrepreneurship
Nicole Barry, now 34, had an unusually long-term plan for a 20-year-old woman. She and her then-boyfriend (now ex-husband) would both get jobs in their 20s and then “reconvene” in their 30s to open a brewery in their hometown, Winnipeg. To hold up her end of the bargain, Barry became a Certified General Accountant, earned Bachelor of Business Administration from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and got a job as a controller for an insurance company. Then a severance package allowed the pair to fast-track their dream and at age 27 Barry became co-owner of Half Pints Brewing. Seven years later she has 14 employees. Her path is the perfect addition to Your Job Makes me Jealous. Here’s how it went.
How did you get from university to starting your own brewery?
My parents were entrepreneurs so that was something bred into me—the whole DIY lifestyle. I didn’t start off wanting to become an accountant or a CGA but I realized that if I was going to be successful being my own boss, at some point I needed a strong business education. I’m fairly smart and I’ve seen people succeed and fail and so having a good backup career was a good plan. My then-boyfriend and I decided he’d go to brewing school and I’d do the business side of things.
How did you spot the craft beer trend back then?
I have this mixed bag personality where I can be the accountant girl, but I was also going to punk rock shows at age 15. The Winnipeg music scene was really big in the 90s with Propaghandi, and the Weakerthans developed from that scene. The music scene lent itself to the ‘support local’ movement. So when I became of drinking age I was like, ‘I’m not going to support mass beer, I’m going to support the little guy.’ But there wasn’t really much [craft beer] going on in Winnipeg.
Today entrepreneurial grads like him find plenty of help
Jordan Smith was desperate. It was July 2009 and he was unemployed and struggling. A recent graduate, his business degree from Memorial University was proving to be poor bait for potential employers. To top it off, it was mid-recession.
“I couldn’t find a job,” he recalled. “Nobody was hiring. If anything they were laying people off.”
So the 23-year-old devised a plan. He printed off a stack of resumes and constructed a large sign from a piece of a refrigerator box. It read: “NEW GRAD. NEED JOB.”
Universities aren’t doing much to help students plan careers
From the 2013 Student Issue on sale now.
Mike St. Jean is in his seventh year of political science at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont. “I still don’t even know what I can do with my degree,” he says. “I can get a job in government or elections, but other than that, the transition seems hard to lay out. I read books and analyze them. What does that mean to the real world?”
It’s not as if it hit him suddenly. The question “What’s next?” is one of the reasons he dropped down to part-time studies in year four of his degree. Another reason was that he needed time for his part-time job and his work with the Argus student newspaper, where he’s now an editor.
Lakehead’s counsellors haven’t helped. He only visited them once, years ago, and was told to consider a master’s in English or an education degree. “I don’t know how many jobs there are for teachers,” he says. What he does know is that a friend who took education moved to England because she couldn’t find work here. A master’s didn’t strike him as a good plan, either; he’s seen multiple master’s graduates and one Ph.D. apply for low-wage jobs at the Subway where he works. Professors are encouraging, but they don’t offer career advice. His parents want to help, but “they think university is about curing cancer and rocket science,” he says. “They have no idea what I’m in.”
See the 20 occupations with projected worker shortages
Much has been written about the plight of the recent university graduate. She is over-educated, underemployed, and staring down an uncertain job market; the promise of a stable position was the last generation’s reality, not hers.
A newly-released report from the American non-profit Center for College Affordability and Productivity suggests almost half of all graduates work in jobs for which they are overqualified.
In Canada, the situation doesn’t seem quite as dire, but during the last year for which there are numbers, 2006, about one in four university-educated workers was in a position that didn’t require a degree. As Chris Sorensen and Charlie Gillis pointed out in “The New Underclass”, this proportion is believed to be even higher now.
But there must be jobs somewhere, right? In 2011, The Canadian Occupational Projection System (administered by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada) developed a detailed, 10-year labour market projections report that focuses on the estimated trends in labour supply and demand between 2011 and 2020.
Broken into occupational groups, the report determines which jobs are projected to have an excess of positions and which will have an excess of workers. The chart below details 20 of the occupations expected to see the greatest worker shortages between now and 2020. Note: They are not the positions where there are the most jobs, but the areas in which the chances of getting a job (due to the number of job openings exceeding the number of job seekers) are greater. Interestingly, only three require university-level education.
While the projections provide hope for some, they also reveal occupations for which the number of job seekers far outweigh the number of positions. To those seeking employment in the following fields (just to name a few): consider becoming a tailor.
- Management in communication.
- Managers in art, culture, recreation and sport.
- Physical science professionals.
- Athletes, coaches, etc.
- Machine operators and related works in pulp and paper production, wood processing, and workers in fabric, fur and leather.
- Machining, metalworking, woodworking and related machine operators.
How online dating taught me to wary of my web presence
One man who messaged me on Craigslist was in his third year of engineering at the University of Toronto and he seemed like a decent guy. We arranged to meet a few days later and, naturally, I decided to put his name into Google.
Imagine my surprise when his name and phone number brought up multiple crude profiles on gay male escort websites complete with headshots.
Of course I was worried that he might be a male escort. But another part of me was worried for this stranger. What if he was set up by someone out to hurt his professional reputation? Given all the horror stories I’d read about identity theft on the Internet, that conclusion didn’t seem like a huge stretch.
I didn’t grow up engulfed in the social media machine. I got my first cellphone in my first year of university. I got Facebook at 16, and I’m still not sure about the fascination with Instagram. But I’m painfully aware that every single thing we put online is a tool, whether it’s a photo or something we write. Anyone can take these tools to construct an image of us, and these images may not be flattering. In fact, some of them can be damaging, hurtful, or malicious.
Why a generation of well-educated Canadians has no future
Melanie Cullins is no pipe dreamer. She chose a vocation that, by unanimous opinion, represented a path to steady employment—teaching English as a second language to the thousands of immigrants pouring into B.C., a good many of whom, the experts predicted, would be making their way to Victoria, where she grew up and wished to make a home. That was back in the early 2000s, when opportunities for the young and industrious appeared unlimited. A rewarding career seemed within reach for all.
Cullins’s degree in applied linguistics was the gold standard of ESL qualifications. But she graduated in the thick of the 2008 financial meltdown, and the entry-level position she imagined would launch her career never materialized. Governments cut back on language transition programs. Resumés piled up in recruitment offices. Her calls to program directors went unanswered. “For me, that was a huge blow,” she says. “I had almost perfect performance reviews from my practicums, but I couldn’t even get an interview. You start to wonder: what’s wrong with me?”
Prof. Pettigrew: Children are a choice after all.
As a progressive man, I see the value in diversity in the academic workforce. I also understand that reasonable employers should take reasonable steps to accommodate the particular needs of those employees. And sometimes that means taking a person’s family situation into account. But more and more, women in academia have lost sight of what’s reasonable when it comes to those kinds of allowances.
A recent article in University Affairs, for instance, reports on a study by Shelley Adamo who argues that women are underrepresented as biologists because they tend to be seeking jobs when they “are in their late 20s and early 30s and more likely to have a partner and young children. ‘That sort of handicaps them,’” according to Dr. Adamo.
Travel and fine dining required (but it’s not all glamourous)
Michele Simpson is a manager of media relations for Tourism Toronto. Her job is to encourage foreign travel writers to visit the city and, while they’re in town, she shows them where to go and what to do. Simpson’s goal is to show off the best of what Toronto has on offer so that they’ll share it with their readers, encouraging more visitors.
She found public relations serendipitously. While studying psychology and humanities at York University, her sister opened a book of post-graduate programs at Seneca College, started reading about corporate communications and noted how much it sounded like Michele. On top of the B.A. and the Seneca certificate, Simpson holds a writing certificate from George Brown College.
Here she talks about the ups, the downs, the pay and the perks of her public relations career.
Is P.R. as glamourous as it looks on TV?
One of the reasons I got into P.R. was because it did look somewhat glamourous. But it is not. There are different facets of P.R. where it can be glamourous, but for the most part it’s a lot of hard work. A lot of hours are put in before you even get to that party or premiere or special event. Even when you’re at these events you’re still working. I know in the past a lot of TV shows or movies have glamourized P.R., but people are surprised when they find out how much goes into the work.
Expert tips from a York University career workshop
“How do you write a general cover letter?” asked a student during the brainstorming session of a cover letter workshop I attended last Friday at York University in Toronto.
“We generally don’t recommend that,” Liz Cook, the workshop’s leader, diplomatically replied. “A general cover letter won’t sell your skills.”
Next question: “Okay then, how do I modify the general cover letter?” Cook’s patient answer: “Don’t use a template. Writing a new cover letter for each job is time consuming, but worth it.”
The basic fact that cover letters are the only chances we get to sell our biggest accomplishments, unique personalities and divine fits for particular jobs seemed lost on many of these students at the beginning of the workshop. But after 90 minutes with Cook, they sounded much more capable of writing targeted cover letters that will get picked out of the stacks. Students should make every effort to attend a workshop like this one before graduation. For those who can’t, here are seven cover letter tips I learned on Friday:
1. Write a new one for each employer.
Employers have told York’s Career Centre that many students submit applications that show no knowledge of their companies. The cover letter should draw connections between the applicants skills/experiences and what each employer specifically needs. If there’s a job posting, read it.