Relationships are key to finding jobs after postsecondary
Like many of his fellow undergraduates this time of year, East Vancouver resident Leo Aitken-Mundhenk has had to shift to Plan B in a hurry.
The 24-year-old told the Georgia Straight he “convocates” in June after taking five years to complete a major in communications at Simon Fraser University. However, having failed this year to secure a place at UBC’s highly competitive school of occupational therapy, where he wants to earn his master’s degree, Aitken-Mundhenk has had to change gears in terms of employment.
He’s not alone. This spring, tens of thousands of students across the province are looking for a job.
“I probably won’t be working at [the Simon Fraser] Student Society much longer than the end of the summer, just because I won’t be a student at SFU anymore,” he said by phone from SFSS offices in Burnaby, where he is currently a student employee. “So I’ll have to find something else. Hopefully, I can find something that’s related to occupational therapy, but if not, I’ll probably just try and get one or two odd jobs to push me through to the next application date.”
Aitken-Mundhenk admitted that navigating this transitional phase of his life has been “an adventure”.
“It’s a little daunting, but at the same time… On the one hand, I was really looking forward to getting into that [UBC] program and sort of getting started again,” he said. “I am 25 [in July]. It would be nice to get finishing that master program pretty soon, but on the other hand, it’s nice to have a little break. I’ve been doing school for so long. But, yeah, in terms of the jobs, we’ll see. I’ll have to do a lot of online searches this summer. Who knows? I was considering going out of province, actually, too, because Vancouver is not exactly inexpensive.”
Tony Botelho, career-services manager at SFU, is not shy about offering advice to Aitken-Mundhenk and his peers.
“Basically, the main advice we have for students this summer, as we do at all points, is to be open-minded in terms of the types of opportunities you look for,” Botelho told the Straight by phone. “And…we also generally use it as a time to remind students that they could be looking at opportunities throughout the year. Hopefully, it’s not a summer thing, but we get it that most people do [search during the summer]. The earlier for university students, in a four- or five-year program, the earlier you start getting experience and exposure to the types of opportunities that you think you might be interested in…the better it is.”
Addressing graduates specifically, Botelho admitted that “there is no cookie-cutter, do-this-and-it’s-gonna-work approach.”
“What I am understanding is that not a lot of people necessarily get jobs through job postings,” Botelho added. “So relationships, connections are going to be important, which is another reason why it’s better to start well before you graduate. Be ‘intentional’. Some of the language we use is, ‘Be very intentional with your actions.’ If there are things that you’re interested in doing, well, consider doing it as a volunteer. Where are some places that you can get on and start doing things? Are there professional associations you can join?”
Communications is such a “competitive” arena, according to Aitken-Mundhenk, that it’s very hard to shuffle that into his current job search.
“As far as I’ve heard from people that have graduated and stuff, it’s extremely competitive,” Aitken-Mundhenk said. “I mean, SFU has 200-plus communications graduates every semester, right? So it’s hard to find a job, let alone a good-paying job in that field for somebody who has just come out of school.”
Duane Radcliffe, instructor in the school of business at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Surrey and Richmond campuses, said his “number one” piece of advice for students graduating is “Leverage your network.”
“So throughout their four years of educational experience, they’ve met a number of people, whether it’s instructors or [contacts made through various] projects…they need to now leverage those networks they’ve built,” Radcliffe told the Straight by phone.
Radcliffe, a graduate of both UBC and Royal Roads University, also recommended students “treat the job search as a full-time job.”
“You’ve got to approach it full-time,” he said. “If you expect to work eight hours a day, you’ve got to invest eight hours a day [in looking for a job].”
Kevin Rolston, cooperative education instructor at Langara College, told the Straight that students should start searching “right away” for employment, if they haven’t already.
Given the challenges and options opening up this summer, mixed with a dose of uncertainty, Aitken-Mundhenk was grateful for good-luck wishes.
“Thanks, I’m going to need it.”