Category Archives: What 3 Pieces of Advice Should New Post-Secondary Grads Take to Heart?

Advice for New Post-Secondary Grads: Network, Relax, and Showcase Your Abilities (Paid or Unpaid)

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

The biggest reason why I thought it relevant for our Coffee Shop HR writers to offer advice to post-secondary grads is because of the unforeseen challenges you face once you start searching for work in your chosen field. Not only do you leave school with the expectation that the return on your emotional and financial investment into post-secondary school will be rewarded as soon as you leave, you add personal expectations of immediate recognition and achievement.

Having said that, this is my advice to post-secondary grads:

1. Network for long-term rewards

When I first started looking for full-time work in HR, I thought I could outsmart my friends by finding work through networking. I knew everyone was intimidated by the concept, and so I could find work right away since no one else I knew was willing to take that approach. So I read as much as I could about networking strategies, I set up a number of informational interviews, I attended formal networking events, and the list goes on.

Networking was my focus because I understood that the most challenging and interesting jobs – certainly those available for us with limited work experience – wouldn’t be posted online. Although I still appreciate and advise that networking is the best way to find work, I have learned to accept that your networking efforts will be rewarded in the long run, and not necessarily today.

In retrospect, I did find my first full-time position through a contact of mine, but it wasn’t a contact I gained through my intense, post-graduation networking phase. I gained access to that position through a classmate I had recently graduated with.

Make a point to network, and network in the smartest way you can (be strategic and genuine!!) but accept that networking is about building a positive reputation and learning from those you aspire to work alongside. Network to build a career, not just to find your first job.

2. Relax! Recognize that work is only one part of your life

I believe in setting goals for the sake of organizing in your mind what you really want. So when I first started looking for work, I set (what I saw as) realistic goals in terms of what my first job should look like, and when I should be able to acquire it. Although my goals were met to some degree, what was completely out of skew was the time.

I started looking for work in 2009. Through networking, the majority of the HR people I met had been laid off after 5 or 6 years with one company, and were now looking for entry-level work.  This was effectively pushing myself (and my friends) out of job competitions that we were fully qualified for.

A breakthrough happened for me once I accepted the fact that I would find work eventually. It may not have come as quickly as I wanted it to, but it did come. You will find work in your field if you’re determined to find it.

So travel, get married, have kids! You will find work when it’s time to find work. Can it be more difficult to find work in specialized fields, at certain times of the year, in specific locations? Of course! But guess what: it will be equally as difficult to do the things you intend to do in your personal life while you’re working full-time.

3. Show the world what you can do, paid or unpaid

One of the most challenging things you’ll have to decide time and again is ‘what do you really want to do?’ This extends beyond choices directly related to your career.

So the leg up for you, new grad, is that if you know what you really want to do in your career, at least you have a direction. You might be holding a map with nothing but an X on it, but at least you’ve found the X, and your map isn’t completely blank.

The time you spend volunteering is invaluable! If you volunteer for an organization, you get a taste of how that company operates, and where its values lie. You also get to meet people who work there, and see how they work with people.

My greatest interest in human resources as a profession is improving the lives of working people by supporting them through training and development. In my eyes, this is supplemented best through performance management and engagement. One of my aspirations is to be a keynote speaker, and develop training workshops.

But I don’t work in employee engagement. I’m not an HR Manager. My current job doesn’t allow me to do this kind of work on a daily basis. But by connecting with people through my site, and working with volunteers, I know it’s moving me closer towards that goal.

Best of luck!

Related Pages:

1. Coffee Shop HR World Café: What Three Pieces of Advice Should Post-Secondary Grads Take to Heart?

2. Agony and Elation: Searching for Work in a Turbulent Job Market by Nicole Davidson

3. What three pieces of advice should post-secondary grads take to heart? by Bonnie Milne, PhD

What Three Pieces of Advice Should Post-Secondary Grads Take to Heart?

Joanne Kondo, CHRP

Joanne Kondo, CHRP

When I graduated from university I was young, naive, and thought that I could easily find a great career with great pay.  Part of being young and naive is that you think the world is your oyster.  I was obviously dead wrong.  I could write a 15 page essay in one night but didn’t have any real work experience.  If I could do it all over again I would have taken a much different approach!

1. Make realistic expectations
It is unlikely that you will land your dream job upon graduation.  A wealth of knowledge and lots of letters behind your name isn’t as valuable as years of professional experience.  You will be competing with other new graduates for a small number of entry level positions.  You may want to consider applying for unpaid internships which will provide valuable experience and great connections.  You never know, it may even turn into a paid position!

2. Make connections
Networking can be daunting but it will help you gain access to the hidden job market.  Although networking events are awkward, it will help build your confidence and provide a great opportunity to connect with others.  Build relationships with industry professionals who can provide great career advice and may lead to future job opportunities as well.  Take advantage of your university careers services or alumni services.

3. Job hunting is a full-time job in itself
If you are serious about looking for a job, put in the time.  Treat it like a full-time job by setting your alarm clock and putting in an 8 hour day.  While it may seem extreme, consider the time it takes to craft your cover letter and resume for each job posting.  Recruiters will only spend a few seconds looking at your resume – make sure it stands out.  Consider taking the time to update your social media accounts to attract recruiters and possible networking contacts.

While none of the tips listed above are groundbreaking, they are a good reminder of what you need to do to succeed in such a tight job market.  How will you outshine the competition?

Related Pages:

1. Advice for Recent Post-Secondary Grads, by Jessica Lau

2. Agony and Elation: Searching for Work in a Turbulent Job Market, by Nicole Davidson

3. What Three Pieces of Advice Should Post-Secondary Grads Take to Heart? by Carolyn Courage

Advice for Recent Post-Secondary Grads

Jessica Lau

Jessica Lau

I am a recent grad and if I could go back in time, these are the three pieces of advice I would give myself:

1. “Be open-minded and explore.” It doesn’t matter what career path you took during post-secondary; just keep an open-mind of different possibilities. You may have taken a focus on HR but it is worthwhile to have an open mind and speak with non- HR individuals because there may be other career paths you didn’t think or know about so speak and learn from others. If you have the luxury to travel, this is the time to explore. Many seasoned professionals have told me “you have a whole lifetime to work but this is the only time where you can travel freely for a long period of time.” This is very true.  Once you start to work, it is very hard to take a few weeks or months away to travel. You can learn so much about yourself, and the world at large from the people you encounter, while traveling. If you keep an open mind, you will learn so much about things you didn’t know.  As the saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

2. “Continue networking, build your brand, increase your online presence and do your prep work.” Prep work includes spending time on your resume, making business cards, perfecting your 30 second pitch, researching the industries and companies you may be interested in. This sounds simple but it takes a lot of time and effort; the prep work pays off.

3. “Stay positive and don’t get discouraged.” It takes time to find a career. I remember speaking with alumni who graduated a semester or two before me and a number of them told me it took them 6 to 8 months to find a job they were interested in. At the time, I thought maybe the economy was bad, this group of alumni were being choosy or were not using the right job search strategies.  After more than two months of job searching, I realized that there is no such thing as the “right” strategy, and it simply requires a lot of time.  After speaking with many seasoned business professionals, they also indicate that it takes more than 6 months to find a job, especially in the Vancouver region, and so it’s necessary to stay positive during the process. Now I truly know what people meant when they say, “the job search is a job in itself” so stay positive and don’t get discouraged.

Related Pages:

1. Coffee Shop HR World Café: What Three Pieces of Advice Should Post-Secondary Grads Take to Heart?

2. Agony and Elation: Searching for Work in a Turbulent Job Market by Nicole Davidson

3. What Three Pieces of Advice Should Post-Secondary Grads Take to Heart? by Bonnie Milne, PhD

Agony and Elation: Searching for Work in a Turbulent Job Market

Nicole Davidson

Nicole Davidson

When Geraldine announced this topic to the writers a few weeks ago, I was concerned. I had been in the job market since late October and it wasn’t going well. Specifically I was concerned that I would unable to keep a fault-line of bitterness and anxiety from permeating my entire piece; particularly difficult, given the way those feelings were permeating my entire life. Who was I, this unsuccessful job-seeker, to put together pieces of advice for this next crop of competition in the market? I struggled to come up with an article title that wasn’t “Abandon hope all ye who enter here”.

Yet, as I am writing this, I have (finally, incredibly) received a job offer. I have suddenly become worried about forgetting how difficult it was to get here, and how much I went through, since receiving what now feels like a long-awaited gift. I do not want to be blinded by my own elation; certainly it has not yet sunk in.

With that said, I do have some current, relevant advice for all the job seekers now entering this turbulent market.

Prepare yourself. In my second year at BCIT, I entered into a class where our teacher spent the entire first class giving us information on the job market we were about to enter. It was significantly doom-and-gloomy, and I remember thinking that surely this teacher was exaggerating to try to encourage us to get started on our job-searching and networking early. I specifically remember zoning out to stare out the window, feeling unassailably confident. I had excellent grades and I had relevant experience (though not specifically under an HR title, an issue that would plague my job search considerably). That memory has been a torturous one over the last six months.

The job market you are about to enter is extremely competitive. Particularly in entry-level HR, several jobs that I interviewed for informed me that they had received over a hundred submitted resumes that they whittled down to 5 for interviews. A recruiting agency I worked with told me that HR and marketing are currently the most difficult fields for grads to break into. The competition is huge, the jobs are few, and employers value experience far more highly than education. This was very consistent with my experience.

When I say that my advice is to prepare yourself, I don’t mean in the sense of resume-editing or networking (though those are important in their own right). I mean mentally. The most difficult part of this process has been dealing with the steady stream of implicit and explicit rejection. I wrote down every job I applied for- the company, the closing date, and the position- and watched the days tick by with often no contact at all. I never counted how many I had done, but I’ve counted for you: I applied to 86 jobs. That was in five months- during the month of December, I stopped applying because I couldn’t find any new postings. Out of 86 applications, I received 7 email rejections, 3 phone-screen interviews, and 5 in-person interviews. I made it to the second round of interviews twice. Basically, around 80% of the jobs I applied to I never heard back from in any way. Of the mix of interviews I did, about half got back to me about whether or not I had moved on at all; with one job,  I went through separate two hour-long interviews and an hour-long test, and in the end they emailed me a three-sentence letter that began “Dear Applicant” to tell me of my rejection.

Basically, you need to be ready for this to potentially happen to you. Build up your support systems, whether it is a group of friends you can commiserate with, or a partner or close family member that you can tell your frustrations to. Don’t internalize it; this is a reflection of the market, not of your worth.

Get professional help with your resume. I had always believed that as a strong writer I would easily be able to write a good resume. This turned out to be incorrect. As it happens, a good resume is specific only to the person reading it. With that said, I highly recommend getting in touch with a recruitment or temp firm and asking them to help you with your resume. If you know someone who is a recruiter or hiring manager, you’re set.

After I re-did my resume, the responses I got tripled. I had gone two months with nothing, and in one week I suddenly had three interviews. The changes I had made seemed minor to me, but made a big difference to the people who were reading my resume.  While my first resume had been technically (and grammatically) sound, there are tips that you can only get from someone who spends hours a day looking at resumes in your field- and those tips are specific to the field.

Watch this video. I was surfing the internet one day reading news articles and blog posts about the difficulty finding a job (including this poignant one– I repeated the idea of the “strange alchemy of being in the right place at the right time” to myself for weeks) when I stumbled upon this video. At 20 minutes, it’s a little long, but you need to watch it all the way to the end to get the impact.

I am not the kind of person who quickly or easily buys into things- I am most likely to be the sceptic, heavily grounded in logic and realism. I bought into this. I followed her suggestion for the three interviews I went to in the one week. I went into them feeling just as nervous as usual, but when I left, I felt more confident than I had in the past. I won’t spoil it for you, but I highly recommend it.

The last piece of advice I can offer is to do your best to stay positive and be patient. The right job is out there, but it may take awhile for you to find it. In the meantime, lean on your friends and family for support. Take time out to do things you enjoy. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Best of luck to all of you.

Related Pages:

1. Coffee Shop HR World Café: What Three Pieces of Advice Should Post-Secondary Grads Take to Heart?

2. It’s a Big World Out There, New Grad! by Christine Ramage, CHRP

3. What Three Pieces of Advice Should Post-Secondary Grads Take to Heart? by Bonnie Milne, PhD

What three pieces of advice should post-secondary grads take to heart?

Bonnie Milne, PhD

Bonnie Milne, PhD

My youngest son is graduating from university this year so I have some, albeit limited, experience with this topic.  I say limited, because my son lives in Vancouver and his Dad and I live half a world away, in the United Arab Emirates.

When we spoke to our son earlier this week, he said that he has been going for interviews and contacting people to set up meetings, coffee, really, and he feels that he is on the verge of getting a job.  This job will be his entry to the world of urban planning and he is approaching his search from a number of different directions.  He’s cashing in his social capital, meeting with friends of friends.  He is searching in unlikely places for opportunities and he is applying to jobs he finds online.

When I was an instructor at BCIT, the arrival of spring signaled the big job search for the upcoming graduates.  I taught the Radio students and it seemed that they would all be applying for the same jobs – a scary thought, but it always worked out.  They seemed to know who would get which job because they knew one another’s strengths and didn’t see it as a competition.  I always admired the way they handled this.

The Human Resource Management students, on the other hand, would be trying to decide when to write their credential exam so they could get a jump start on their journey to the CHRP (Certified Human Resource Professional).  This exam usually came toward the end of a jam-packed program and their stamina astounded me, they must have been running on empty!  All the same, they would be looking for work, too.  A few would put it off so they could take a break, but most of them suited up and set off for interviews, maybe informational interviews, but interviews none the less.

Now on to the advice – it’s so wonderful to be asked for advice, but it’s also a huge responsibility.

Believe in Yourself

I think this is one of the few times in life when you can be really directed, hopeful, focused and enthusiastic.  Really, you’re at your best.  You’ve just achieved a life goal, that of getting an educational credential.  With your diploma or degree in hand, you are a new person and you have every right to look for the kind of work that you have been trained and educated for and that you want.  Your skill set is unique, because even though you have been learning with a group of colleagues, you are not the same as them, your experiences are different, what you are taking away from your learning is different and surprisingly enough, the work you want might also be different.  So believe in yourself and let people know what you know.

Use Every Possible Connection

Use your social capital.  Social capital helps us get things done, by making the resources of others available to us. While monetary capital is based on money, social capital is based on relationships and social networks.  There are three types of social capital: bonding – tightly knit groups that share similar beliefs and values – these enable us to get by on a day to day basis.  Bridging capital consists of loosely knit groups of more diverse individuals – these are the connections that are more likely expose us to new ideas or new experiences.  And linking capital, which is the connections we have to those who are in power – this would be known as ‘wasta’ in the UAE, and is the most tenuous.  These are the relationships we call on when our other resources are depleted.

Studies have shown that higher education leads to an increase in social capital, especially bridging capital, so use these connections.  Research also shows that these are the relationships that are most likely to get you work in a field that is outside the normal work your family and friends do so use your connections and everyone else’s.

Put Scaffolds in Place

Put some scaffolds in place, and then, be choosey.  Make sure that you have an income if you need one.  Work at a part time job so you can support yourself until the job you really want comes along.  Once your security net is in place, only apply for jobs you are qualified for and you really want.  There is no sense submitting your resume to everything that comes along and you know how difficult those cover letters are to write.  This doesn’t mean to only apply for the job of your dreams, but make sure that the job you are applying for is something you want to do for a while and can be used as a springboard to keep your career moving.

Bon Voyage!

Related Pages:

1. What Three Pieces of Advice Should Post-Secondary Grads Take to Heart? by Carolyn Courage, CHRP

2. It’s a Big World Out There! by Christine Ramage, CHRP

3. Coffee Shop HR World Café: What Three Pieces of Advice Should Post-Secondary Grads Take to Heart?

What three pieces of advice should post-secondary grads should take to heart?

Carolyn Courage, CHRP

Carolyn Courage, CHRP

“Education is not filling a pail but the lighting of a fire.  ~William Butler Yeats”

I loved school! I found it very inspiring. I recall the excitement of what was to come, meeting great people, networking and learning from inspiring teachers. Did you have similar memories and impressions?

But what happens next? You made it through the exams, you graduated and you are now excited to get into the job market and make your mark as an HR person.  Where do you start? Where will you apply all this great information that you gained in school?

My advice is as follows:

  1. Gain work experience any way you can
  2. Sit back, observe and build relationships
  3. Continue to learn and always apply at least one idea to your workplace from every workshop you attend. Why just one thing? Read on.

If you don’t have a HR position lined up and are finding it difficult to find your dream job, you are not alone. I used to work in recruiting and can’t tell you how many times new grads called asking to be placed in Management positions. After they let me know they had no real life work experience, I would suggest they gain experience any way they can. You’re saying, all this time at school for entry level? No worries there. The experience you gain at this point in your career is instrumental in creating the HR professional you will become. Gain work experience any way you can. Volunteer for an organization and do HR related tasks, work at a company for free and assist the HR department with anything they need, ask to do a job shadow for the HR person at your workplace. Soak up all the experience you can get.

So you’ve volunteered, put in your time and now you have a shiny brand new HR role. You see a million things you want to change and policies that need to be written. There is no on-boarding process and no job description. What is the first thing you should do?  Simple! Sit back and observe. Get to know the company and its history. At Purdy’s we call this ‘HP,’ historical perspective. Why? There is so much to learn about an organization and what happened before you arrived on the scene. Take time to explore what HR practices do exist, and build relationships with your co-workers at the same time. This works two fold. You will be prepared with information when you present a new idea to your boss, and your fellow employees will buy into you as an HR person. Respect and trust goes a long way in our profession.

Now that you’ve graduated, get back to school! The learning continues, and for good reason. You will attend many workshops, courses, conferences and webinars. What do you do with all this information? Always apply at least one learning tool from every educational event to your workplace environment. It is a good rule of thumb. Why only one thing you may ask? It is said that you only take away three things from every learning activity. Somewhere in all that information packed into one day or a few hours or a week, we grasp and remember a few points. From that, after everything is said and done, we should aim to implement one thing and make it a screaming success. Quality over quantity. I can count on one hand the initiatives I have implemented after learning them from workshops, and most were a great success and are still in place today. The best thing about continued education: Inspiration.

All advice aside, the most important thing of all is to have fun in your new role. And if you don’t find your dream job right off the bat, it will be out there for you one day and you will be armed with a goodie bag of work experience Good luck!

Related Pages:

1. It’s a Big World Out There, New Grad!

2. Coffee Shop HR World Café

3. What Three Pieces of Advice Should Post-Secondary Grads Take to Heart?

It’s a Big World Out There, New Grad!

Christine Ramage, CHRP

Christine Ramage, CHRP

As a new grad, I had difficulty finding work right out of school. As much as I had the education, I didn’t have the work experience and this is what I found to be a tricky loop: not having any experience is what kept me from obtain any experience. And we all know that as a new grad, your first focus is always finding work (unless you go travel, and that is also very cool).

My first piece of advice to new grads is to be creative with how to put experience on their resume- no, I don’t mean take creative license with embellishment, I mean creative with obtaining it. Find a volunteer role, or an unpaid (or better yet, low-paying) internship. This is a great way to apply your learned skills and even help make industry connections in the mean time. Another way to put experience on your resume is to change from a chronologically organized resume to a skills based resume. This will allow you to highlight what you can do, and can give examples from extra-curricular activities, volunteer activities or transferable skills from your life before graduating from school.

My second piece of advice falls under networking, but it also related to building a support network of peers and experienced resources. These are going to be you ‘go-to’ people once you are out in the workforce. These people will be those who will share industry knowledge with you, be able to share historical patterns with you and may even help you land your first job through being a reference or a referral for you. Build your network and keep it- leverage things like LinkedIn, professional associations, your school’s Alumni associations and friends and family.

My third piece of advice for new grads would be to keep up your education. I know once you graduate the last thing on your mind is more school, but make the effort to keep current with your profession’s industry standards. A part of career growth is knowledge based, but part of it is personal and a way to combine both is through professional development, leadership development and mentorship. I think everyone should play a part in a mentoring relationship- whether it be being a mentor to a new student, or even a new grad just a year behind you in addition having a person senior to you mentor you. Mentorship combines both personal and professional development in such a satisfying way.

I welcome your comments and suggestions on other development activities you may suggest. Best of luck class of 2013!

Related Pages:

1. Coffee Shop HR World Café

2. Coffee Shop HR World Café: What Three Pieces of Advice Should Post- Secondary Grads Take to Heart?

3. To Award or Reward?