I am fortunate to have completed my three co-op terms at SFU Career and Volunteer Services as an On-Campus Recruitment Assistant, where I have gained many skills, reflected on my career choice and learned a lot of things. I have been working on many career and employment related projects during my work terms such as All-In-One Fair and Fairs Week, summer work-search workshops, various employer information sessions, and Road to Employment Docuseries Screening. At the same time, I have been involved with Students Offering Support (SFU Chapter) as a Chapter President. Being inspired by what I learned from work, colleagues, and my own volunteer experience, I feel the need to share with you my personal advice and tips if you have ever wondered why you are in university and what you can do to maximize your investment on university time and money to benefit you in finding your dream job.
Get Involved as Early as You Can
Start as soon as your first year. Although you may need time to adjust to new university life, you should set aside some time to get involved, whether on-campus or off-campus.
When you decide to volunteer, remember to find a cause that is meaningful to you and you feel most passionate about. Volunteering is a great way to meet like-minded people who share the same passion and values as you. You will be able to learn from others and expand your network. Volunteer is flexible. You can choose to volunteer within your capacity and you will gain lots of experience. What you will get from volunteering will amaze you!
Choose your volunteer position wisely considering your time and workload. Do not apply for just any volunteer position or apply for many positions at the same time. This is only a waste of your time and of the people/ organization you volunteer with. Again, go for what you really care about and what gives you the skills you need. Additionally, do not get a position because of its title if you do not have the time and commitment. You do not want to let your team down when you are not able to deliver the best outcome to the team. Even though volunteers are not paid, put a hundred percent of effort into your position.
Apply for Co-op/Internship and Actively Search for Jobs
Have you ever felt the ultimate frustration when seeing job postings for new grads that require 1-3 year of experience? I felt the same thing. So how can you graduate with experience? Do co-op! From the application process to the placement, you will learn a lot and become much more confident and prepared for your job search in the future.
When you apply for co-op, especially your first co-op term, treat it seriously. Be prepared that the amount of time it takes you to land a job equals to one course. If you are not able to land your co-op job in the first seeking term, it’s okay! It took me two semesters to get hired. The application process gives you the opportunity for improve your resume, cover letter, and interview skills. If you do not know where to start, see your co-op advisor. Be patient and persistent. Focus on one good application rather than 20 mediocre ones.
Don’t take rejection personally. Instead of feeling like a failure, reflect on them. Have you done your applications perfectly? Have you tailored your application to the job description? Have you done research on the company? Additionally, sometimes you are not accepted because you are not the right fit; it does not mean that you are incompetent. In fact, even if you are accepted, you may not feel happy with the job.
Utilize On-Campus Resources and Events
Attend on-campus events such as Clubs Days, workshops, Fairs, information sessions and so on, for volunteer, career, graduate, and personal development. Most of them are free to attend but what you gain from these events will exceed the value of time and effort you make to attend. For example, Career and Volunteer Services host fairs annually such as All-In-One, Teaching Opportunities Fair, Fairs Week (www.sfu.ca/fairs) for you to meet and connect with non-profit organizations, future employers, or professional/graduate schools. Those are the recruitment events that you don’t want to miss! If you have your resume on hand, that is great! Fair exhibitors are always eager to collect your resume on the spot. If you are not ready yet to apply for jobs, that’s okay! Come to the fairs to explore the endless possibilities in the real world right at your university. You will be surprised by how many opportunities are available.
In addition to open fairs, check your faculty website or Career and Volunteer Services website for employer-on-campus information sessions. Come and learn more about the companies, what positions they offer and get under the recruiters’ radar. If you are ready, bring your resume. Don’t forget to ask to contact and follow up after the event. Keep an open mind for a wide range of options.
When you attend any recruitment events, be professional! Avoid sweatpants, flip flops, and hoodies. Try to create your professional image right on campus.
Keep an eye on skill development workshops which will help you transition from school to workplace smoothly. Visit your department/ faculty career centre or SFU Career and Volunteer Services! They will help you with career exploration, resume, cover letter, interview development and much more. The resources are available for you at no cost. Get the most out of your university investment here.
Getting involved on-campus will definitely make you feel more comfortable and give you the confidence to go outside SFU and expand your network, which I will discuss in Part 2 – Reach out to people outside SFU. In this second and last part, I will give you tips and advice on how to get into the “smaller fish bowl”, conquer your fears, and fuel your journey to your dream job!