When the ‘real world’ hits
The Masters Student
Just a few short months after finishing his undergrad, Brandon Kuepfer was a first-year again.
At the offset, the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto was mainly what he expected, with similar class sizes and structure to that of a fourth-year seminar. But being a Masters student requires a whole different attitude.
“In general, the degree of intelligence is much higher because it’s people who are very academic and want to do well,” said Kuepfer. “So you’re all of a sudden compared next to a smaller and smarter group of peers, a more specialized group of peers.”
However, this does not create an atmosphere of rivalry, according to Kuepfer, but a platform for sharing knowledge. This is especially so with the diversity of students often found in such a program.
“It’s so great to be around people with such interdisciplinary backgrounds,” he said. “You can always learn from your peers.”
Kuepfer has found that the relationship between student and teacher has also more matured.
“Once you do get used to it, you realize that at this point your professors are actually your colleagues in the field … it’s not really like a professor-student relationship,” he said.
Kuepfer can only speak on behalf of his program of course, but all post-graduate education requires planning.
“It’s extremely important to start thinking of what you’re going to do early,” he said. “You could never think of that early enough.”
This is mostly the case due to fast approaching deadlines; Kuepfer had to have his application in for early February. But also, an underdeveloped motive for pursuing this route could lead to a bad outcome.
“I think at the end of the day people just need to be honest with themselves,” concluded Kuepfer.
“I think it’s a really poor decision to think that graduate school is for you if say, you hate going to school in your undergrad,” he continued. “There are other things that you can do, you just have to know what those things are.”
Every few months, life looks much different for Ali Connerty. Every few days, work looks much different as well. Uncertainty can be a large factor in a graduate’s life, but most particularly, for a traveling one.
Connerty began her stay in Amsterdam earlier this year as an international student with Wilfrid Laurier University’s international exchange program and has since visited several countries, continues to switch up apartments and works a variety of catering jobs through an outsourcing bureau.
“I found a job that I thought would only last me this school year and then I found another job that was a little bit better and I started doing some writing again. So as long as I’m not poor, I’m going to stay here until my visa expires,” she told The Cord.
Connerty did the majority of her traveling during the school year and found that working helped cover her expenses. Her visa has been a definite asset in that sense, but the average adventurous graduate should not be discouraged at the thought of continuing to dish out cash for a post-graduate getaway.
“I don’t think you’re technically allowed to work, but if people aren’t giving you any money then I don’t think it’s technically illegal,” said Connerty. “So if you’re working to pay for your board.”
Getting around Europe is pretty inexpensive as well once you’re there. Backpacking and hitchhiking is also a popular option, if you’re willing to take the bad with the good. =
“It takes probably four times as long as if you were to take the train or the bus, but it’s all for the experience,” said Connerty.
These days, experiences such as these are more limited as Connerty begins the search for jobs and internships back home where she plans to find herself come February.
However, she feels that her time in the Netherlands has altered her approach to the task.
“Coming here has really made me realize that what’s not really important is the job that you’re going to have, there’s so much more to who you are then just what you do,” she said.
Whether it be the more liberal environment of the Netherlands or her rose-tinted international perspective, Connerty isn’t certain. But she feels that her time spent in Europe has helped lessen the pressure she may have formerly felt in relation to her future career.
“[In Europe], you work long hours but you also really appreciate your free time. You spend it with friends at a café or you go to markets or something, but nobody really defines themselves by what their job is,” Connerty shared.
Immersing ourselves in different cultures and embracing conventions in contrast with our own can often lead to significant insight, but the first step is always getting there.
For those interested in spending time abroad upon graduation, Connerty advises to “just get on the plane.”
“I think the hardest part for everyone is getting on the plane once you’re at the airport; I know it was the hardest part for me,” she continued.
“There’s so much of the world to see. Why start your career now when your 20, 21, 22. This is the time to travel … it has just really opened my eyes to the fact that there is the rest of the world and it is really easy to get there, you just have to know that you can.”
Often times, in order to start our careers we must first start a conversation. If you do that enough, as was the case for Christie Pawluch, eventually you’ll find the right person listening on the other end.
Pawluch’s series of internships started at the house of a close friend. As so many university students do, she found herself in a conversation about what she might want following university and got to talking about all her experience with Radio Laurier.
The next thing she knew, Chum FM was on the phone asking if she’d like to come in and observe the show. That following summer she started her first internship.
“It’s about talking about the things you want to do,” she said. “Because it could be as simple as my best friend’s dad knowing someone in the industry.”
Once Pawluch had gotten in the door however, her challenge became proving she belonged there.
“I got someone to take a chance on me. Getting that first chance is the hard part I think. Then getting in there it’s just like feeling it and going as hard as you can,” she said.
At the radio station, Pawluch was put in charge of greeting guests and bringing them in for interviews, updating the schedule and blogging. She was also a bit of a coffee girl, admittedly.
“You say yes to everything, you’re enthusiastic about everything. And you really want to do it,” she recalled. “Like I really wanted to do it. There were some interns there that didn’t though and they don’t get noticed.”
While interning at Chum FM during her summer before third year, Pawluch connected with Marilyn Dennis who has her own lifestyles talk show with a program for interns of its own. By the following summer, she was a member of it.
“Although I wasn’t really interested in the content of it all the time … producers would take me on and bring me on their shoots,” she said. “I got really close to some of the producers and they’re giving me great opportunities and recommendations for other things.”
Christie set this up in the same way she set up her former internship, both intentionally and unintentionally, through talking to people. Specifically, she contacted the executive producer of the show when she started and asked if they could talk about her options and goals as an intern.
“I think it’s good to have a general idea of what you kind of want to start doing, but I just feel like your ideas can always change,” she said.
Pawluch had originally taken interest in editing. But as the summer progressed, her attention shifted to producing. By the end of it, she was helping with production of the show, a far leap from coffee girl.
“The executive producer taught me one thing. She said, for me, if you want to get involved in the television industry or something like that, which is very interconnected with other places, make a good impression right away,” Pawluch shared. “Your name is everything in that industry.”
The best way to do this, she believes, is through honesty. If you are honest with yourself about what you want to be doing, your passion will be noticed. Once you’re noticed, if you’re open and honest with your employers in the same way, they just might help you get there.
“Just be yourself. There’s no reason to try to be fake or suck up. Just literally go in there, be yourself and don’t ever not be because you’ll end up doing something you don’t want to do,” said Pawluch.
Pawluch, however, has too many interests to focus solely on one thing just yet. “What do you want to do is the question I keep getting. What do you want to do, what do you want to be. Well the real question is, what do I want to try,” she said. “What do I want to try next?”
The Money Maker
Everything sort of happened last minute for Saad Kiani. Out of third-year, he was a business student focusing in human resources at Laurier with little extra-curricular or co-op experience under his belt. Out of fourth-year, he was valedictorian of his graduating class with a job lined up in sales.
“I’m a strong believer in networking, everyone gets their jobs through people they know these days anyways. So I was like, you know, I’m in fourth-year, I should really push for something,” Kiani recalled.
Kiani joined the hiring committee of Laurier Investment and Finance Association, which he thought might compliment his focus in human resources. However, it proved more as a means for meeting people than a segue into a desired field.
“Sometimes what you think is best for you is really not good for you it all. It might not work out sometimes,” said Kiani. “I was like, let’s try something different. Maybe it will work out. And I have to say it definitely has worked out for me better than I could have imagined.”
Today, Kiani does corporate sales for Rogers Communications, but being open minded during his job search was only one of the keys to his success. A lot of the time, it’s a numbers game.
“I applied to a ton of jobs. I guess the one thing you could take away is don’t get discouraged,” he said.
Sending out applications to hundreds of companies can cause students to put a large emphasis on a few sheets of paper, and for good reason. But the resume is only a portion of the process, a fact that could either encourage or discourage depending on the person and position.
“The resume is really just a piece of paper that gets you in the door. Once you’re in the door, they just want to see if you can talk to people,” Kiani said in regards to his own experience.
No matter how good you look on paper, an employer will want to hire someone that they like on a basic level. So it’s important to make a good first impression.
“People just have to be chill about it, that’s the thing,” said Kiani. “They have to just take it easy.”
“Because there’s a difference between urgency and desperation and the second you come off as desperate, that’s when things aren’t really going to work out for you.”
Kiani encourages job seekers to relax not just in the interview, but in the process as well.
“Eventually it will work out for you and don’t limit yourself,” he concluded. “Wherever you’re meant to be, you’ll go.”