Category Archives: Careers / Work

Work Term Learning Objectives

Calling all Arts Co-op students currently on work terms: Have you submitted your Work Term Learning Objectives yet? They are due in Symplicity today.

For new co-op students who’ve no idea what I’m talking about, these Learning Objectives are the first out of five assignments that co-op students complete while on a work term. This particular assignment is designed to make you take a good look at your job requirements and responsibilities, and to think about what you are hoping to get out of your work term.

You’re also expected to share a copy of your objectives with your supervisor. Not only does it make sure you understand each other’s expectations of your role and responsibilities, it also gives your employer a chance to refer you when projects in line with your goals crop up, e.g. I told my supervisor I want to learn to use SPSS (doable) and Photoshop (not as sure it’s doable within my responsibilities, but if a project does come up, they’ll know who wants it!).

Coming up with learning objectives is made easier by the fact that there’s a form full of questions for you to just answer. I also find it helpful to think about your overarching goal for the term. For example, my first term was also my first full-time position in this country and my first experience in an office environment. Back then, all I wanted was to find out if I could make it in Canada because, you know, Canada has a reputation for being cut-throat and ruthless. This term, it’s all about pushing myself out of my comfort zone more often than I’d like — because boy, do I need to embrace change!

one of the better ones

It’s almost three weeks to the day that I started my new job at the Arts Co-op Office. On the one hand, I can’t believe that time has flown by so quickly and I’m almost a quarter done with this co-op term. On the other, it feels like I’ve been here for far longer.

Or maybe that’s just because I spent my entire day entering data into Excel.

The Program held its second pre-employment undergraduate conference on Saturday and I was engrossed in entering data from well over 100 forms to report upon during our next staff meeting. The really fun part was learning the COUNTIF function to help me tally several responses. For an English lit student who doesn’t need to touch Excel for anything other than tracking personal expenses, it was a very ‘woah’ moment followed by a very excited inner ‘I can do this!’ feeling. Oh, how I grow.

Welcome to my new job as the Arts Co-op Student Advisor. This is my third and final work term before I graduate, and normally, I don’t talk a whole lot about my work or academics, but I’m probably going to natter on and on about this one. It brings together many of the aspects I’ve enjoyed most over the last few years: student advising in a university setting, editing, and written communications, to name a few. No wonder I already find myself wishing I could stay for more than four months.

Instead, I’ll just blather away to my heart’s content about it while I can. Seeing the end is nigh has really triggered my urge to just dump every resource and piece of useful information I’ve ever learned about UBC onto the internet before May rolls around, because I’m sure not going to talk about being an undergraduate after I’m done! And Co-op has definitely been one of my better decisions during my degree that I’d like to acknowledge and pass on something of the experience to anyone who might be curious.

Plus, I just really wanted an excuse to talk about my supervisor’s dog:

Golden retriever

Meet Parker. She flops down behind my chair about once a week. If you ever drop by when she's visiting, I'll be the one who's petting her madly.

This is definitely going to be one of my better terms.

Upcoming Employer Info Sessions

UBC Career Services is one of the most comprehensive, useful services I’ve yet found at this institution. Not only do they give career guidance in the form of resume and cover letter advice, workshops, and one-to-one advising, they also host a dozen employer information sessions at the beginning of each new year.

See, for example, who’s coming in January:

  • January 12: UofT Masters of Management & Accounting Program
  • January 12: Devon Canada
  • January 17: IBM
  • January 18: Chartered Accountants of BC
  • January 23: Ministry of Transportation
  • January 25: SINT Eustasius
  • January 26: Rexall Pharmacy
  • January 26: Electronic Arts (EA)
  • January 30: NVIDIA
  • January 31: Microsoft Intern

…with only another half dozen due to come in February. These info sessions are designed for small groups interested in hearing about current work trends and what employers are looking for. For more information and to register, take a look at the Career Services page on employer info sessions.

All this on top of Arts Internship Program info sessions, New Teacher and Kinesiology Career Fairs, and workshops on resumes and conducting telephone interviews. It’s pretty impressive. You can find a full list of events on the Career Services calendar, and click around for a full list of services offered to students.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Being sick multiple times over a few weeks teaches you a lot about patience. It provides an excellent opportunity for introspection and increased self-awareness. It helps you reassess your priorities and renew your appreciation for the things you might otherwise take for granted, like (usually) having good health.

My milder mood has also made it easier to review my resolutions for 2011 which, frankly, bombed. As in, not only did I fail to achieve them, they dropped quite sharply downwards.

Oh, well — sometimes, you just have years like that despite your best efforts. 2011 was one of my most challenging years, just as it is most likely going to be one of the most life-changing ones in the long run. Instead of focusing on the difficulties and wishing, as I have every December since 2007, that next year might be better, I’d like to look past the fog of discontent and pay attention to the aspects I might otherwise forget until it’s too late.

because when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing

(source unknown)

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Building Your Resume

This is a post I’m writing with international students particularly in mind, though much of what I say is applicable to domestic students, too.

One of the biggest challenges I faced when I first arrived in Canada and applied for jobs was my lack of local experience and local contacts who were willing to be my references. Now, everyone says that all experience is good experience, but in reality, local applicants are usually preferred over those who have just arrived. For one thing, it’s not that easy to get in touch with references who live sixteen time zones away; not every employer is willing to dial internationally, either, when there are a whole host of equally qualified, local applicants. And unless the job is looking for international applicants or you’re absolutely stellar in some jaw-dropping way — which most eighteen-year-olds are not — you’re going to be passed over.

What can you do to get over this obstacle? A few actions that have helped me over the last few years:

1. Start simple

Apply for entry-level jobs. Build up your basic interpersonal, office or administrative skills if you haven’t already got those. Choosiness isn’t something you can afford in buckets when you’re just starting out — think of these initial jobs as stepping-stones to landing the positions that you’d most like. Another great advantage to many of these entry-level jobs is that they don’t ask for (m)any references — always a plus for international students — and it’s the perfect way to start that list of local experience and contacts.

2. Volunteer

Unlike where I grew up, volunteer experience is definitely something you can put on your resume here in Canada. What matters is not whether the position is paid or unpaid, but what skills you gain from the experience. Volunteering provides many excellent opportunities to build those basic skills you need to get a job, and demonstrates a certain initiative and commitment on your part (as long as you keep it up). This is also another excellent way of gaining local references.

That said, do make the effort to volunteer for something you believe in. Volunteering just for the sake of putting it on your resume when your heart isn’t in it only detracts from the whole experience and does a disservice to those you are meant to be helping. AMS Volunteer Connect is a great service that can help you find volunteer opportunities you’re interested in.

3. Start soon

It takes time to build up solid references and to gain the experiences that really will be useful to you resume-wise. Get involved in the activities that interest you. Don’t put it off for later; time flies and you don’t want to graduate with an empty resume, particularly when the people around you are filling theirs.

4. Learn how to write a resume

When I first arrived, I certainly had no idea what a resume looks like, let alone a good resume. UBC Career Services offers dozens of free workshops, resume clinics and advising to UBC students. Take advantage of these while you can and learn what is expected in the local job market.

Fun (and little-known) fact: UBC graduates can continue to access Career Services for free up to a year after graduation. So if you’re struggling in the ‘cesspool of unemployment’, as one of my recently graduated friends put it, don’t be afraid to ask for a little help!