While it is important to maintain an excellent GPA and keep a strong focus on coursework, college or university is the best time to diversify your experiences in order to be an attractive candidate post-graduation.
Many institutions support exchange and mobility programs that allow students to study at another institution for a set period of time. The benefits of this are twofold: students can use this opportunity to place themselves in not one, but two markets, which helps to expand horizons but also contact lists, and also many employers see a focus on international study as an indicator of a prospective employee who is flexible, adaptable and culturally literate. All attractive qualities as our world becomes more interconnected.
Internships and Co-op Credits
When researching post-secondary schools, one key area to explore is internships and co-op placements. This direct industry experience helps to build skills, deepen knowledge and provide a broadened network of contacts. Inquiries around these opportunities will shine light on what active industry connections exist within a post-secondary institution, how they will assist students in securing these placements, and how these placements may be maximized in order to provide an impressive resume well before graduation.
Those who take the time to socialize after class, start conversations in the hall, ask questions, listen and observe, actively participate in discussions and critiques, connect with faculty and staff and get to know them on a personal level, join clubs and organizations that matter to them (and if those clubs don’t exist, start them), get to know their city and the people who are doing exciting things around town, are generous with their time and knowledge, and who tend to go above and beyond, will reap the full benefits of a post-secondary education. Simple.
Seek Out Mentors
Whether it’s a faculty member or a professional who is excelling in your dream job, it always pays off to reach out to people who may be willing to provide their insight into a particular industry. After all, there was a point not long ago when they were likely in the same position.
An excellent approach to finding a mentor is to reach out through your network so that there is a personal connection. If you plan to cold call or introduce yourself to someone that you have no connection to, keep in mind that you want to be respectful of his or her time. Keep your email or call short, organized and direct. Ask for 20 minutes of his or her time, be clear about the information that you’re looking for, and avoid asking for a job straightaway.
If the thought of reaching out to an established professional seems daunting, it’s good to keep in mind that if you don’t ask, the answer will always be no.
If you are able to connect in person or over the phone, after your meeting follow up with a handwritten note thanking them for his or her time. You could include a few points on what you learned from the discussion, along with a genuine request to keep in touch.
Once you have some experience under your belt, it’s worth joining LinkedIn and building your page as you go. Take the time to fill out highlighted skills and interests, and keep the content fresh by updating with new projects, internships and summer job experience.
When reaching out to connect with people via LinkedIn, keep it to those that you have met personally, sending along a short note with a reminder of where you met and a request to connect, over the standard default message.
As with post-secondary recruiters and admissions staff, employers are generally looking for candidates who are well-rounded, who show initiative, are innovative problem-solvers, and who are flexible and positive while working collaboratively in a team environment. Grades are important, but soft skills speak volumes, as marketing yourself will be a key factor throughout your entire career.
To begin your search for work in Canada upon graduation, see these career development resources, including the Canada job search tool.
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