Job market advice for recent graduates


Graphic by Lena Yang
Graphic by Lena Yang

As a graduating student, finding a job right out of school can be a daunting task.

In today’s society, students face extreme pressures among themselves and others already situated in the fields that they are looking to work in.

Luckily, students at Wilfrid Laurier University have access to many resources and knowledgeable faculty that are always ready to help.

Jan Basso, director of the Co-operative Education and Development Centre at WLU, advises students to visit the Career Centre first when beginning their job search.

“The services offered at Laurier are somewhat unique in the country. We offer a full range of services to students for a lifetime. Once they graduate from Laurier they can come back and use our services over and over again for free,” Basso said.

The Career Centre offers around 600 workshops and special events each year for students and alumni to gain the skills that will set them apart in the workplace.

When it comes to applying for a job straight out of university, there are many factors applicants should be aware of.

The importance of a resume is something that is stressed by both the Career Centre and career experts everywhere.

“We look at the resume as a marketing tool. A mistake that a lot of students make is that they think they have to put everything they’ve ever done. If you’re just trying to fill up the page, it’s not really going to sell you,” says Karen MacMillan, assistant professor of business at Laurier.

MacMillan suggested that applicants should focus on what makes them stand out for the specific role they are applying for. This may even include a part-time job from as far back as high school.

“That’s saying that from a young age you have been able to go out there and learn what it’s like to be there on time, do what is expected of you and to consistently do this for months and months,” MacMillan explained.

As time consuming as it is, learning to market a resume to each individual job posting an applicant applies to is important. As competition and the pressures to be successful increase, students are finding it more and more difficult to really hone in on which career direction they want to take.

As a result, many recent graduates find themselves in positions where they pick a career based on the salary or compensation package rather than choosing something they are truly passionate about.

“If you have a choice, always pick a job that seems like the best fit for you over one that offers the most money or prestige. If you go into the wrong job for you, it is likely that you won’t shine,” said MacMillan.

With daunting statistics existing, such as a 13.5 per cent youth unemployment rate, the job search can be a discouraging one.

Nashifa Carter, organizational business and human resource management professor at Laurier said, “Students need to adjust their perspective. They’re not going to walk through the doors into a perfect career. Our economy just doesn’t allow for that right now.”

“The only constant in today’s workplace is change. The ability to be flexible, adaptable to different situations. Organizations that hire you for a particular job today don’t know what the future will bring in terms of your job,” Carter said.

MacMillan added that mindset is really important.

“Let’s say a Laurier grad can expect to get eight rejections,” MacMillan said. “So now if I know I can expect to get eight no’s before I can expect to get to a yes, then every time I get a no that’s a great thing.”

Carter reinforces that requesting feedback is critical after a hiring decision has been made.

This is something that can play a huge role in filling in the gaps for an applicant. One important factor that many students often forget about is their social media accounts.

“Be aware of your social media profile. You need to understand that organizations look behind the scenes. If that’s not the profile that you would want a potential employer to see, then get it off there,” said Carter.

Ultimately, the most important skill an applicant can have when it comes to the job search is the ability to network.

Basso suggests that although organizations in the tech sector may be looking for software engineers, for example, they are also looking to fill roles in other fields such as human resources and communications, among many others.

Lauren Ross, job developer at The Working Centre, advises grads to utilize employment services, especially if an applicant does not have much job-related experience. Most of these programs are funded provincially, so youth should take advantage of these free programs.

“There are employment programs out there that youth are eligible for. The government is supplying them to help youth find jobs in their field that utilize their degree. We see a lot of youth get a part-time job versus actually putting their education into the job market,” said Ross.

There are many opportunities that exist in the K-W region. As stated by the Career Centre annual graduate employment survey, 23.6 per cent of respondents reported to being employed in the Region of Waterloo.

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