What you need to know before you start college or university

Nicole Tardif
1 May 2018

Above: Image © MicroStockHub, iStockPhoto.com

Finding a job after graduation can sometimes be a difficult and disappointing task. Companies are looking for job experience and skills that students may not have learned during their studies. But how can you get experience, if no one will hire you in the first place? What are additional skills that companies are looking for? Before you get started with your post-secondary education, there are a few things that you should do that will lead to companies fighting over hiring you after you complete your post-secondary studies.

Why, you ask? The reality is that in many industries, there is a growing need for new graduates to have a greater breadth of knowledge, working skills and competencies than are offered in their program of study. But most students are not aware of these needs and, as a result, are not preparing themselves for the real job market. College and University programs are focused on making sure students have the knowledge required to succeed within their field of study. What many students do not know is that it is their responsibility to carefully select additional “optional or elective courses” that will complement their education. Students should also be seeking other learning and networking opportunities that will prepare them for success in their job search and future career.

Below are some tips that will help ensure a student’s success after graduation. These tips will also make them extremely desirable by employers:

1) Find a summer job in your field of study or participate in a COOP program.

If you can’t find work in your field, find out what skills are important and get them, regardless of pay. Government summer jobs are often the most desirable and provide the best learning experience. Someone who already has skills or experience in their field has a better chance of being hired after graduation.

2) Network with professionals and make contacts in your field.

There are many organizations that organize events such as career fairs and welcome students to participate. During these events, students can meet people working in the profession that they are studying. This will provide them with knowledge that can only be learned by networking. Attending events like these, and making yourself seen and heard by professionals, will increase the possibly of getting firsthand knowledge about a job opening. It may even provide an opportunity to speak with the employer before being selected for an interview to show them that you are worth considering. In addition, if you are already known within the local circles, you will have the support of many people already working in the industry. The reality is that it is often about who you know, or who knows you.

3) Participate in relevant activities and workshops.

This will help you build knowledge in other areas of your industry. For example, a student studying geology should have some knowledge about the mining business, indigenous culture, health and safety and engineering. Find out what’s important to know outside of your field of study and learn about it. Look within your university or college for workshop or public lecture opportunities.

4) Improve your communication and writing skills.

Make sure that you find opportunities to practice presenting in front of a live audience. Understand why you are presenting and who your audience is. It’s important to transmit your message effectively to your audience and to achieve a specific goal. If you are weak in spelling, grammar and/or composition, take a few courses in this area to improve. Many job interviews have a written component and employers are looking for professionals who can impress them with their writing skills.

5) Volunteer and take on leadership roles.

Join the executive of clubs within your post-secondary institution. Attend conferences and competitions relevant to your field of study. This demonstrates that you are a leader, can work as a team, and are organized. There are many organizations and service clubs outside of your school that seek student volunteers. Find one and work alongside professionals to make contacts and gain professional experience while the expectations are low.

6) Find a mentor.

This can be someone in an upper year of your program, a teacher/professor, or even better a professional who is currently working in the career that you are seeking. Having someone to provide advice on your choices can help you make the right decisions and ease your concerns. Often, finding a mentor just means asking someone.

Summing up...

As difficult and intimidating as it may be to put yourself out there, it is very important to the successes that you wish to experience in the future. The earlier that you start, the easier it will get. If you follow the advice provided above, by the time that you get to your first full-time job interview, you will be comfortable, confident, and very likely successful! Good luck!

Nicole Tardif

I have been in the post-secondary industry for 20 years. I hold a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in geology from Laurentian University, and have been working at Laurentian for 14 years. I am a member of several educational mining boards and organizations, and am Chair of Modern Mining & Technology Sudbury, a non-profit organization that promotes careers in mining.







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