Upon my graduation from SFU in 2011 I was struck with an immense sense of fear and uncertainty. The moment which I had worked so hard for had finally arrived, but I didn’t have the slightest clue how to move forward. Here I was at 23 with a Psychology degree and without the safety net of being a student, and I felt myself fearing the real working world.
How Did I Get to This Point?
Well to start, during undergrad my life was solely focused on three areas: finishing my degree with an above average GPA, working at my part time job, and spending time with friends. I didn’t see the need to concentrate on my career because I felt that would take care of itself after I graduated. For most my life I had been told that baby boomers would be retiring around the time I would be entering the workforce; meaning there would be many job vacancies for new grads such as myself. However, after graduation, I was hit with a cold reality - not only were boomers not retiring, but there was also a recession. The one plan I had set up for myself (a poorly devised plan might I add) was not panning out and I was in panic mode.
If given the opportunity to go back in time, based on what I have discovered interning at SFU Career Services, I would offer my younger self three pieces of advice. Hopefully you can also learn from my experiences and have a smoother transition.
1. Network, Network…Did I Mention Network?
I had always heard about the importance of networking and making connections but avoided it because I did not know where to start. I understood what it meant and why it was important, I just did not know how to take the first step.
An excellent first step for post-secondary students is reaching out to professors. Not only are they great references, they also provide unique perspectives. Professors know all the ins and outs of field and can enlighten you on careers that you may not have known about. Who better to reach out to than an expert in your field of interest?
I understand that forming a networking relationship with professors is a challenge when you are sitting in a large lecture hall with over 40 students; even if you ask questions in class it’s difficult for the professor to remember you from the crowd. I avoided networking with my professors for that very reason. However, after graduating I realized I missed a golden opportunity.
One way around this is to visit your professors during office hours. Not only does this allow you to chat with your professor, it also provides you with an opportunity to have that meaningful one-on-one conversation.
Even if your semester has ended, try emailing your professor to set up a meeting. It is never too late to start making connections…you just need to take that first step.
2. Get Involved… Volunteer or Join a Club
During my time as an undergrad this was an area I neglected because I thought it would be too much for me to juggle with my course load and part-time job. However, after learning about the importance of volunteering from SFU Career Services, I realized that it does not have to be a big time commitment… it is doable. Not only does it look good on your resume, it is also an excellent opportunity to gain a greater sense of purpose in life. It allows you to learn about yourself and can open many possibilities to persue in the future.
Another way to get involved is by joining clubs at SFU. Not only do you get a break from the routine of studying, you are also given a golden opportunity to have meaningful interactions.
3. Take Action NOW - Your Career Does Not Begin After Graduation
Waiting for your career to begin after graduation is not the best strategy (believe me I am living proof). Your career does not begin after graduation, but rather, it is already in progress at University, so start making those connections, start volunteering and getting involved within your communities. Landing a career is not just about job search, it is also rooted in establishing meaningful connections and opening oneself to a variety of possibilities.
Even if you have no clue on what you want to do with your life, you still have options to take action. SFU Career Services is an excellent way to get started. Why not take advantage of this service? After interning here for three weeks, I have noticed that it is not your typical career services centre. Here they use emergent career theories. You are not just given assessments which blindly decide your career; rather you are given the opportunity to make meaningful connections in your personal story, and base your future decisions on those insights.
After reading these words of advice to my younger self, one would think I feel a sense of regret by pointing out what I could have done differently. However this is not the case; yes I feel that I could have had a smoother transition after university, but I have also realized that I can still use this advice and progress in my career journey… it’s never too late. Hopefully, after reading this you are able to take ACTION sooner and get your career started.