All Posts Tagged With: "Liz Cook"
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.”
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.