Setting: my downloads folder, filled with grad school application brochures
Protagonist: me, contemplating changing my major, yet again
Motive: the realization that I am unemployable
Outcome: reformatted my resume for the millionth time
“There comes a day in every Arts major’s life,” my soon-to-graduate friend says, dejectedly, “when they realize how unemployable they are.
I throw a cushion at his face.
“No, I am right!” he yelps, adamant. “The faster you realize it, the better.”
He was wrong of course, but I agreed with the spirit of his sentiment. The faster you realize you are unemployable, the quicker you can make yourself employable. And it is not limited to Arts majors. Having seen my comp-sci, physics, and engineering major friends cry before Co-op interviews, I believe that everyone experiences the fearful shadow of potential unemployability.
Break down to be build yourself back up
I have kept a copy of all the resumes and cover letters I have ever made, just so I can go back and cringe at them. Though of course being employable means much more than having a good resume. Still, it is nice to have a tangible reflection of your progress. Even the resumes that I thought were stupid and cringey got me responses. Not the positive responses I was expecting, for sure, but responses nonetheless. Someone saw them, laughed at them, and then wrote me back. I also gained interview experience, which was quite valuable. It was never just about getting the role itself. It’s about practicing job-hunting and learning to develop the confidence needed to do so.
There is so much more to the job hunt process than making resumes. There are skill tests, interviews, finding good references, and so much more! Each step of the way you learn something about yourself. Ultimately, it is that self-confidence that helps you get hired.
On-campus baby steps
Getting to work on-campus is undoubtedly one of the best parts of being a student. Employers on campus tend to be more flexible too. It is easy to navigate work around your classes and exams, and there are a ton of learning opportunities. On-campus jobs are also a good practice ground for improving your job-hunting skills. Check out the UBCO Job Board to find a position that works for you.
Most on-campus jobs like with Food Services or the Student Experience Office (SEO), do not require a lot of previous experience. They are also much more focussed on your soft skills and personality than your deep, technical knowledge. So, do not be shy to apply to these! You might get rejected, but the best part is that you can always get feedback on your application.
The big-pants transition
There are a lot of career development opportunities on campus, including the Co-op Education program Work Study, and faculty–specific programs such as the Arts Career Apprenticeship Program. Plus, there are career fairs and career development workshops happening all the time through Career Development, so keep an eye out.
Working on campus can also be a launchpad opportunity. It can be a good transition into working on campus as a staff member later. Considering the fact that UBC is one of the best employers in Canada, it is no surprise that a lot of students continue to work for UBC after they graduate. For example, in offices such as the Student Experience Office, there are a lot of opportunities that can transition into full-time roles later. While the experience is important, these roles also provide great opportunities to network and build connections. In fact, many staff members who work on the Orientations team or for the Get Involved program were former student staff with the same office.
Apart from gaining experience and confidence, one of the most useful skills to becoming employable is having a “professional presence.” Investing time in a good LinkedIn profile can help build your professional persona as a student. Also, keep checking the UBCO Student Job Board regularly, you can continue using it as an alum after you graduate!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sanaa Shaikh is a second-year international student from India. She is studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics with a minor in Spanish. Sanaa loves spontaneous trips, petting small animals, and starting new projects that she’ll never finish. Her favourite thing to do in Kelowna is getting ice cream downtown and chilling by the marina.