‘Figure out what you love to do, do that’
Go to school, do well, graduate, get a job.
This is the formula that many young people live by, however as almost any new graduate will attest to, once they’re out in the real world, things aren’t quite that simple. But on Monday night, Hilary Abel and Marc Cameron attempted to make that post-graduation period a little easier at a workshop hosted by Laurier campus club ACCESS U.
The pair began with a bit of simple of advice: “Build a career around what you love to do. Figure out what you love to do, do that,” said Cameron.
Cameron, a graduate of the University of Guelph with a master’s degree in English literature, went on to stress the importance of enjoying a chosen career path because, if nothing else, “you’re going to be doing a lot of it.”
For Cameron, that career path meant working as a freelance journalist and copywriter before becoming a partner at NEAT Creative Media, which provides creative strategy and communications consulting for corporations of all sizes. It was during his time as a freelancer that he met and first worked with Abel.
Abel, a Sheridan College alumna, entered the working world with an advertising background but before long started a magazine called Qatalyst, which covered the stories the mainstream media didn’t in K-W, Cambridge and Guelph. Abel had to shut down Qatalyst in 2008 because, as she put it, “it was 2008 and there was no money,” however Abel, now an employee at Research in Motion still covers similar content online on a site called rqmagazine.com.
According to Abel and Cameron, one of the easiest ways for a new graduate to distinguish themselves is by going beyond their degree while still in school.
“Grades are really important in school, but once you’re out of school they don’t mean a thing,” said Cameron.
“When you’re in university you are a bit insulated. But if you can anticipate the needs you’ll have when you’re in the working world while you’re still in university, it’s a huge advantage.”
One of the keys for a young professional, in Abel’s and Cameron’s eyes, is networking. The pair gave several tips on effective networking, everything from not drinking too much to avoiding being clingy, but overall, they said, networking is about more than handing out a business card.
“It’s about the relationship,” said Abel. “It’s about remembering their face, their name, making a personal connection.”
“You won’t be able to tell the difference between good networking and friendship,” added Cameron.
Abel and Cameron also shared a few horror stories of bad networking which included everything from being offered berries from someone’s pocket to a girl crying.
The pair also said that sometimes, making connections can be easy as sending an e-mail to someone who might seem completely unlikely to even respond. When Cameron was still a student he e-mailed Noam Chomsky, often called ‘the father of modern linguistics” and three days later, he got a response.
“I dare you try it,” said Abel. “Just try it once. It’ll work out. E-mail someone, call someone.”
“Just ask them question and see what happens because for the most part, they’ll be pleasantly surprised,” added Cameron.
Abel and Cameron also said that volunteerism is a great way for young people to break into their desired industry.
“It allows you to experiment a little bit with things that you may not have gone to school for, or that you don’t have experience with,” said Abel. “Let’s say you’ve never planned an event, but that might be what an organization you’re working with needs and that’s a good way to get experience doing that.”
And according to Cameron, Laurier students don’t need to go far for these opportunities.
“What I think is tragic about university students in K-W is how isolated they are from the rest of the community,” he said. “There’s a great organization in Kitchener called the Volunteer Action Centre (VAC) and they usually have something like 500 volunteer opportunities on their website and anyone can call them, go online, or go in and see them and be connected with an opportunity that’s aligned with their interests and it’s a great way to meet people and get your foot in the door.
“It leads to careers, full-on careers. Especially for people interested in the non-profit sector, which there are more and more of, which is encouraging, but even for people that want to make $100,000 out of university, a way to get there is to meet people who know who to talk to and to be connected with the right people.”