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Friday, September 24, 2010

Things I Have Learned Upon Graduating

It has been approximately four months since I have been out of university. Well, not exactly. It has been four months since I have finished my degree, but I stayed for three months during the summer for a research assistant position. So technically, it has been almost two months since I have left UTM. Do I miss it?

Let me start by saying by telling a story. The other day I was walking around the South Common Mall area and I happened to notice a swarm of students coming off the bus with backpacks; giggling, laughing, talking in their cell phones, the usual fare. I noticed how normal it was to all of them and how abnormal I felt about being there at that time. It dawned on me fully that I was no longer a part of that life. Now, I'm not saying that I will never be a part of that life again, but just that the student life of undergrad is done. Finished.

So back to the question. I miss it profoundly, but I am also ready to move on from it. Sort of. But first, let me tell you of my struggles since graduating.

1) Be prepared to write a lot of resumes and cover letters. I was joking with my aunt when she asked for the umpteenth time how my job search was going - "I picked the wrong time to graduate" I said. Which was actually true. The job market is crap right now. Everyone knows it; the media constantly report it, the government warns of it and schools hint at during job fairs. But yet, each semester, each university keeps churning out new grads who are all competing for the same jobs in this market. So my first piece of advice would be to not panic. It will take time to find a job right now. Please, do not view it as a failure and do not get frustrated which so many of my friends have done. This especially applies if you have just graduated with a BA with little to no job experience in a career type role. Just remember that you are smart, talented and capable. And you will find something in time.

2) Coming across a full time job in a field that you really want may be a lot more difficult right now. When doing my job searches, I realized that there were less employment opportunities right now for new grads and some companies have decided to forgo their new graduate programs for a year or two because of their financial situations. So if you can, apply for a volunteer position in a field that you really would like to get into for now. I realize that new grad = broke, so paid employment is needed, but if you can schedule it in and there is an opportunity do not let it slip by. Meaningful volunteer roles in places that you would eventually like to work in do count for a lot - both for yourself and for the company. Extra points if it involves helping someone.

3) Re-evaluate your resumes and cover letters and make sure that they are perfection (or as close to perfection as you believe they can be). There are several websites (just google it!) and the career centre that can help you with this. I will write a post about perfecting resumes shortly for help with this. And yes, spending time on a resume and cover letter to tailor it for the job positing you are applying for will truly make the difference between landing an interview or not.

4) Network. If you have family or friends who are employed in a company that you envision yourself working in, contact them and ask them for inside information. It may lead you somewhere or it may not. I did this and got forwarded a job posting that was only supposed to be internal to the company that I was applying it. I didn't get the job, but I did get access to a posting that only limited undergrads were competing for, making my chances that much stronger. I can understand the hesitation in people's head when I mention networking, because I feel the same way. As a devoted introvert, networking scares me to no end. But it helps to keep on friendly terms with people and there is no harm in asking family. In my experience, no one has ever turned me down when I politely asked them about seeking employment at their company.

5) Stay in touch with professors that you like and that you did well with and are on good terms with. You never know when you will need a letter or advice from them in the future. Do this genuinely with those that you truly like and care about and it wont feel like a chore at all.

6) Consider going to college for a certificate or a diploma in a professional program or to further your studies. Colleges like Sheridan or Humber offer a lot of great programs that I know graduates have gone into. The HR management certificate is the next option for almost 99% of people I know who graduated with a BA. But always do your research and find out employment perspectives and like any place that you are going to go to, research the school. Talk to alumni, talk to the professors and attend the open house.

7) And remember to just keep smiling and applying and put yourself out there. It's best to start volunteering and gaining experience while you are in school for a job / career that you would like when you graduate, but I also know that this is not always possible. Just keep an open mind and keep busy with the things you love to do.

These are all things I picked up over the past two months and some of which I wish that I had realized earlier. I am about to start a new job which I am incredibly nervous and scared about so I figured I would write this now, and come back to it and reflect upon it in a couple months. I think that staying positive has helped me to get to this point right now and I hope that it will get me even further.

If you have any questions of me about graduating, or the post-grad life, please leave a comment below or email me ( and I would be happy to answer it.