Category Archives: Careers / Work

Five Rules for UBC

As I pack my bags to leave campus this week, I think about the past five years at UBC and what I’ve learned.

Inspired by Five Rules for Life, a website that collects different people’s five “rules” or guidelines on how to live a life, I decided to try and sum up my own guidelines for making the most out of your time at UBC.

Everyone’s journey is different and this is not meant to be any kind of exhaustive list or dictum, but these are the principles that I wish I’d known to follow when I first got here. Some of these are principles that worked for me; others are what I wish I’d done. I’d be happy to hear what you think of these guidelines below, and any suggestions for what you think would make for a satisfying, memorable time at UBC.

1) Whenever possible, study a subject that you love.
This is one of the most amazing experiences and privileges that a university education has to offer, so take advantage. Even if you aren’t able to pursue your preferred subject as your major, do your best to at least take an elective that you like — when you enjoy your studies, you are more likely to do better in class, struggle less with the material, and feel more confident about your abilities.

  • Not sure what your options are? Take a look at your faculty’s page on the UBC Calendar and find a full list of degrees conferred.
  • Don’t know what you can do with a specific degree after graduation? Speak to Career Services and check out suggestions for what you can do with your major.

2) Get involved. Find your niche.
UBC is a big campus and it’s easy to feel lost and alone amidst a sea of thousands. Combat the temptation to stick solely to your books (especially for commuter students) and find out about engagement opportunities. Try these out until you find a community of like-minded people you are comfortable around. If you don’t find your niche on the first ten tries, keep trying until you get there.

3) Try one or two new things every year.
Whether it’s taking a class in an unknown subject, a new volunteer opportunity or an original project, make a point of trying to push yourself beyond your comfort zone at least once or twice a year. University is a rare time when you’re at liberty to try different things with little risk of consequence, so make the most of it. Give yourself the chance to have mind-expanding, ‘woah’ moments.

  • A program for your radar in second year and above: Student Directed Seminars (not mentioned in the CSI list).
  • If you can afford it, seriously consider going abroad for a part of your degree, whether for an academic exchange, research, or international service learning. Visit Go Global for travel and funding options.

4) Work, study and play in moderation.
Get work experience before you graduate — this is what counts most when you’re looking for a job. At the same time, don’t burn yourself out: after working almost non-stop for the last five years while a full-time student, I wish I’d given myself more breaks. If I could do it again, I’d either work full-time during the summer and study full-time during school with no part-time work, or worked part-time while at school full-time and taken the entire summer off.

  • The UBC Learning Commons gives good guidance on questions like time management, effective study methods and presentation skills.
  • Find out about co-op opportunities in Arts, Commerce, Engineering, Forestry, Kinesiology and Science at the UBC Co-op website.

5) Be good to yourself.
Your time at UBC will not be all rainbows and sunshine. Hard times happen. When they do, don’t be afraid to reach out and get the support you need, and don’t beat yourself up for it. Fellow Blog Squad member Miriam once wrote a letter to first-years that I think sums up everything I want to say.

  • Do you have concerns about your physical or mental health? A list of resources you can access is available here.
  • AMS Speakeasy is a confidential peer support service where trained student volunteers will listen to your concerns about anything and will point you to both on- and off-campus resources as needed.

To all new and returning students, I really hope you enjoy your time here. I’ve had the great good fortune of being part of the UBC Blog Squad since its inception in 2007 until now. As the Blog Squad moves in new directions and as I move on to the next chapter of my life post-graduation, I hope these last comments function as a useful closure to this blog. It’s been grand.

For those of you wondering what’s next for me: I’m moving off campus this weekend and am wrapping up my contract with the UBC Arts Co-op Program, which ends the first week of September. After that, I’m going to travel Western Europe for a few weeks and may visit Asia again before I come back to Vancouver to hunt for a more long-term job.

And with that — goodbye, good luck and have fun!

I realised I don’t want to leave my job

After a month of revisiting childhood cities — Hong Kong, Beijing, Macau — I am back in Vancouver and the Arts Co-op office to finish up my job as Student Advisor.

It’s been just over two weeks at work and already I can tell that the summer term is going to be very different to the winter one.

From January to April, the number of students coming in for advising sessions and application reviews is pretty steady and most of my time was eaten up by immediate tasks: a student who needs help with a mock interview, the pile of applications to review before sending them on to employers, a barrage of emails to reply to.

Enter summer. Hardly anyone is on campus. The torrent of student enquiries has reduced to a trickle. All the projects I had on the backburner are now getting checked off, one at a time. I plug my headphones into the computer and listen to while typing a profile, designing a survey, or researching social media strategies.

And I’m helping to hire my replacement for the Fall term. Yes, the Student Advisor position with the UBC Arts Co-op Program is up for grabs on Symplicity for the Fall term — and I’m frankly jealous of whoever gets the job.

Fall is going to be such a fun term — September is when Arts Co-op recruits new students, so there will be lots of activity around Imagine Day and info sessions throughout the month. You’ll get to meet and talk to so many new people, there’s no way your public speaking skills won’t improve. You’ll also get to sit in on the interview and selection process for new students and find out what the hiring process is like. How many students get to do that before graduation?

Then you’ll be presenting at the first pre-employment training conference for new co-op students in November. You’ll give oh-so-excellent advice on resumes and cover letters (and it will be excellent, because you got this job, didn’t you? ;)).

But best of all, you’ll get to work with some of the nicest, most supportive and friendly colleagues it is possible to have. Everyone in the Arts Co-op office has welcomed me and made me feel like a valued member of the team. I’m going to miss the office dreadfully — so much so that I think I need to do a little preemptive grieving now.

[drumroll] It’s… National Co-op Week!

Did you know that there’s a National Co-op Week in Canada? I certainly didn’t until our Marketing Manager got us to dress in purple and carry “I ♥ Co-op” signs. You can now see our staff pictures whenever you walk by our office.

Co-op students, this is your chance to win a $200 Future Shop gift card by participating in daily social media challenges through Facebook, Twitter and/or LinkedIn. Visit for more details.

Arts Co-op students also get an additional chance to win more prizes for participating in the CAFCE challenges! Follow @UBCartscoop to find our winners. Talk about swag galore — those EA games sitting in our office are tempting me to get a new Facebook and/or Twitter account and break my almost year-long hiatus…

(And oh, okay, UBC Engineering and Sauder Co-op are also offering extra prizes if you belong to those.)

National Co-op Week

To kick-start National Co-op Week at UBC, all the UBC Co-op Programs came together in a half-day staff retreat on Monday to share and update one another on their experiences. Because the Arts Co-op staff are awesome, I got to tag along and help deliver our presentation. This was a tad nerve-racking, as it turned out I was the only student present, but I didn’t need to worry — my accent apparently helped to grab people’s attention.

British ninja.

The retreat was a great opportunity to hear and learn more from one another. Co-op programs at UBC range from a whopping 1000+ placements a year for Engineering and Science to medium- and smaller-sized programs like Arts, Commerce, Forestry and Kinesiology. Students have very different knowledge and skills to offer, which means each program has to tailor to them — and each program does do it, very successfully (if we go by sheer placement numbers and student survey responses).

What I gleaned from this session:

  • The staff in every program are incredibly committed to the value of co-operative education.
  • Engineering co-op is BIIIG.
  • The mountain pine beetle is a devastating little creature.

Just look at how red these trees are! (Every red tree is an infected pine.) All because of these beetles.

Picture courtesy of Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations, Government of BC

Oh yes, that is one of the things I learned while listening to the crash course in challenges facing the forestry industry and forestry education. It’s events like these I get most excited about, when I get the chance to connect with people of different backgrounds and specialisations, and we get to find out what one another deals with on a daily basis.

And then I get to go back to our own office and think about how to adapt what other people have come up with to best suit our own students. Connection and specialisation. This work rocks.

Wanted: Interviewer Tips

Here’s a question to which I’d really like responses:

In your experience, what are the qualities of a good interviewer?

The Arts Co-op office offers students mock interview sessions prior to students’ real ones and I had the opportunity to conduct my first full-length one yesterday. This was a little different to the mandatory mock interviews I did with new co-op students back in January and February, and even quite different to the real ones I held for Speakeasy last summer.

The mandatory mock interviews for new co-op students this year were short: 30 minutes max, including time for feedback. This gave time for about three questions — a taster interview, if you will. From my perspective, it’s really about equipping students to handle standard interview questions that come up.

However, the full-length mock interview is longer (60 minutes max with feedback) and targeted specifically towards whatever job a student is interviewing for. This means compiling a list of targeted questions that I think might come up in an interview and trying to mimic the real thing as much as possible.

Although full-length interviews weren’t part of my original job description, I’m surprised at how comfortable I felt and would like to do more in my remaining two months. I want to refine my interviewing skills and go from capable to excellent.

Based on your experience:

  • What qualities do you appreciate in your interviewer(s)?
  • What do you think an interviewer can do to make for a good interview experience?
  • Is it important to keep applicants on their toes, to keep questions fairly straightforward with only a couple of curveballs, or to mix it up a bit?
  • How does an interviewer get someone to give well thought out answers without asking leading questions that hand the answers on a golden platter, or should all questions be transparent anyway?
  • How often should the interviewer smile?

This last point is especially consuming! When interviewing for Speakeasy last summer, I started out being my cheerful self attempting to set people at ease, then heard from a government employee that it’s best to keep your face fairly neutral and tried that. ‘Tried’ is the operative word here, as not smiling felt downright unfriendly to me.

So now, of course, I do what all people end up doing at one point or another by compromising. Half the time I smile and the other half I grimace. It’s very attractive, I assure you.

Arts Career Expo 2012

Arts students! Have you picked up your ticket for the Arts Career Expo yet? Today’s the last day you can buy a ticket for $5; tickets will be $10 at the door tomorrow.

Probably the largest careers event of the year for Arts students, ACE is a great opportunity to hear from alumni in several different fields. The night is loosely structured around two panel sessions of your choice, with a mix-and-mingle networking event afterwards.

The panel I’m most interested in this year is the one on health care and how alumni have got into that field without an MD or even a general Science degree. There are plenty of others, such as marketing/promotions, business, and creative fields, as well as traditionally popular ones like the government, the non-profit sector, and law. ACE is definitely one of those events that is beneficial to attend more than once, to increase your perspective and understanding of different fields you might be interested in.

Or, in my case, I once attended a law panel that confirmed my complete and utter lack of interest in practising law. (With all due respect to the Marshall Eriksens out there.)

Now if they only had a panel for food-lovers, I think I’d be set for the evening!