Brianna's Peer Connect Blogs
5 Strategies for Finding Success in the New School Year
Monday September 19th 2016 - Brianna
Success is often defined as achieving a goal you have set for yourself. However, the quote above reminds us that the road to success is always under construction, meaning there are obstacles we must overcome, and thus it is not an easy road to traverse. Furthermore, our goals and what we define as success changes over time, adding to the so-called road construction. The university years are especially a time when we develop ideas of what it means to be successful ourselves. Here are some strategies that may help you find success this semester, whether you are defining success as achieving school or work related goals.
1. Write Down Your Goals
At Dominican University in California, psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews conducted a study on goal-setting and the results suggested that you are 42 percent more likely to achieve goals you have written down. Writing down your goals forces you to clarify what you want and think about how you will go about achieving them. Write your goals on a piece of paper and post it somewhere you will see them often so you can review them and your progress regularly.
2. Develop Positive Study/Work Habits
Strive to develop and strengthen positive study/work habits right from the start. Don’t wait until all your deadlines roll around to get on top of your work. Instead, organize your time and workload so that you are in a good position to get tasks done on time. Time management and organizational skills are just two examples of the multitude of habits that breed success. It is also important to work on reducing habits, such as procrastination, that hold us back from succeeding.
More resources: http://psychcentral.com/lib/top-10-most-effective-study-habits/
3. Gain Relevant Extracurricular/Volunteer Experience
We all have at least one goal that is career-oriented (at minimum, a goal such as “Get a job after graduation”), and extracurricular/volunteer experiences can help you achieve this. These experiences help you gain transferable skills that are desirable to employers, including communication, interpersonal, teamwork, responsibility, and dedication, just to name a few. Furthermore, if you have an idea of a specific occupation you want to pursue, gaining volunteer experience in this field will help you decide if this is the right career path for you.
4. Ask Questions & Seek Help When You Need It
If you have a specific occupation in mind, seek out people in that profession and conduct an informational interview with them to gain a better understanding of what it takes to get there and what the job is like. You can also seek advise from a Career Advisor at Co-operative Education & Career Services if you need career guidance. Finally, there are resources offered at the University of Guelph for all your needs, including academics, health & well-being, and student involvement. To paraphrase Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, “Help will always be given at the University of Guelph to those who ask for it.” See below for a link to the complete list of student resources on campus.
More resources: https://www.livecareer.com/quintessential/information-interview
5. Find Balance
The road to success can be a very busy one, and it is important to make time for ourselves, to pause, enjoy the view, appreciate how far we’ve come, and have some fun along the way. You can find balance in many different ways, such as making time for a hobby or relaxing with friends and family. The key is to do something that brings you joy and helps you unwind.
Hopefully these strategies help you on your road to success,
Key Skills I Have Developed as a CECS Peer Helper
Monday March 28th - Brianna
As part of the Peer Helper Program, in semesters two and four Peer Helpers are required to complete a Self-Assessment and the Learning, Development and Performance Review (LDPR). These documents “are meant to help you reflect on your growth and development over the past two semesters with your Peer Helper Team and articulate your experience for your resume.” Although I will still be on the CECS Peer Helper Team in Fall 2016 (my final semester of undergrad! Where did the time go?), I wanted to share the four main skills I have developed and strengthened in my four semesters a CECS Peer Helper.
1. Managing People and Tasks: Leadership
At CECS there is a Team of 5 Senior Peers that serves to help our supervisor manage the CECS Peer Helper Team, which averages a minimum of 30 Peers. I became a Senior Peer Helper in Fall 2015, a role I will be in until I graduate. In this role I have had countless opportunities to strengthen my leadership skills including running the CECS New Peer Orientation Training with our supervisor, acting as a mentor for a group of 4-5 New Peers and transitioning them into the role, working with the Senior Peer Team to co-ordinate events and lead Team Meetings, and interviewing prospective New Peers. I have used my leadership skills to help build a cohesive and highly engaged CECS Peer Helper Team. In the Fall semester, as the veteran Senior Peer, I will use the leadership skills I have acquired to help transition 4 Peers into the role of Senior Peer, and over 20 New Peers into the CECS Team.
2. Managing Self: Personal and Professional Development
One benefit of being a CECS Peer Helper I was unaware of when I applied for a position on this team is the amount of personal and professional development we engage in. Our weekly Team Meetings have focused on topics such as working with ESL/EAL individuals, facilitation training, how to prepare for different types of interviews, planning for graduate school, how to improve LinkedIn profiles, and more. I have also talked to Career Advisors at CECS, and completed the Strong Interest Inventory, which has helped me develop a better understanding of where my interests lie and what occupations are best suited to those interests. As far as personal and professional development is concerned, I have come a long way since I wrote “12 Points to Consider When You Don’t Know What to Choose as a Career.” This blog was actually based off a meeting with a Career Advisor, and follow-ups after this initial meeting lead me to my recently established direction (thank you Melissa!).
3. Communicating: Written Communication
During my four semesters as a CECS Peer Helper, I have written 17 blog posts (including some while away on co-op work terms). In addition to blogging, I assumed the role of Blog Editor in January 2016. In this new role, I have continued to strengthen my written communication skills by providing constructive feedback and edits to help my fellow Peer Bloggers further develop their writing skills. The previous Blog Editor was an exceptional role model, and I hope I am maintaining the Blog at the high standard she achieved. I have always enjoyed writing, and being actively involved in the CECS Peer Helper Blog has definitely added to my Peer Helper experience. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my knowledge and experiences with a wide audience, and going forward I hope to improve the reach of the Blog so even more individuals access the valuable information documented here.
4. Mobilizing Innovation and Change: Visioning
This Fall 2015 was the first semester the CECS Senior Peers had additional responsibilities added to their role including, but not limited to, directly mentoring a small group of New Peers, and assuming the role of interviewer alongside our supervisor when interviewing prospective New Peers. The Senior Peer Teams this year have worked hard to provide innovative paths for future growth, and apply the skills and knowledge we have gained through professional development to our role as Peer Helpers. Personally, I have developed the ability to use past experiences to conceptualize the future of my role. I am continuously gaining new skills and a better understanding of myself, in addition to strengthening existing skills, and I look forward to applying all I have learned as a CECS Peer Helper in my final semester in Fall 2016.
In the process of reflecting on my Peer Helper experience thus far, I realized this program has positively impacted my life in countless ways. Thank you to all the CECS Peer Helpers, past and present, for contributing to this amazing experience, and I am looking forward to meeting the New Peers in the Fall!
Setting SMART Goals for the New Year
Monday January 18th - Brianna
The start of a new year likely means setting a New Year’s resolution, for this year and beyond. This blog aims to help you set SMART goals for all areas of life, with a focus on career. SMART is an acronym stating criteria for defining clear objectives when setting goals.
Specific goals are more obtainable than general ones. For example, “find a job” is a general goal, and one I’m sure all of us have. A more specific goal would be “apply to three jobs this month” or “update my resume this week.” Specific goals give you something concrete to work towards. It may also help to reflect on why you want to achieve this goal, and the purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
Having a measureable goal allows you to keep track of your progress and will allow you to know when you have completed your goal. For example, “network with people in my field” is not a measurable goal, but “update my LinkedIn profile and make one new connection a week with a person in my field” is measurable. The rationale behind this criterion is that without measurable progress, you may not know if you are on track to successfully achieve your goal.
Attainability is a key factor to remember when setting goals. A goal should be neither unattainable nor below your personal standard of performance. Setting challenging, but achievable goals helps you develop your attitude, skills and abilities. Breaking down a large goal, such as “find a job,” into more specific and achievable short-term sub-goals can help you obtain your overall goal. These sub-goals could include: 1) update my resume this week, 2) get my resume reviewed by a Career Advisor next week and then 3) apply for two jobs every week.
Relevant goals are worthwhile and applicable to you, therefore increasing your motivation to achieve the goal. It is also important to ask yourself if this is the right time to set the goal. Ask yourself how relevant the goal is considering your current stage in life and whether you can dedicate time to the goal.
Outlining a timeline for completing your goal, ideally with a set accomplishment date, will help ensure the goal is accomplished. Committing to deadlines for sub-goals and your final goal will help you stay on track and provide you with a motivational push to get it done. Ask yourself: When do I want this goal accomplished by? What will be the half-way point? What can I do each day to work towards my goal?
Good luck setting and achieving your goals this year!
12 Points to Consider When You Don’t Know What to Choose as a Career
Monday September 21st - Brianna
1. You don’t have to decide on one specific career!
Many people feel as though they have to know with certainly the job they want for life,
but there is flexibility. Yes, some occupations (doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc.) generally
consist of one career path with opportunities to specialize in different areas. However,
countless people experience career paths where one job leads to another that may or
may not be related to the previous job. It is very common (and it is okay) to have
several different jobs throughout your working life.
2. Even if your career path is indirect, you will collect transferable skills along the way.
“Winding” or indirect career paths likely feature an underlining theme such as teaching others,
researching new things, providing support, planning/organizing, etc. With this type of career
path, the jobs a person has over time may be different, but the utilized skills are similar.
3. Try to avoid researching jobs based on title alone.
Look for common skills that jobs require and that you possess. For example, being a teacher is
not the only job that allows you to educate and work with others; this is the focus of countless
other jobs as well!
4. It is important to understand yourself.
Your interests, values, skills, and lifestyle choices all provide insight into who you are as an
individual. Use these aspects as a foundation to help you make choices, and to find jobs that
are in line with what you already know you like and want! No one knows you better than you
5. Discover your passion(s), and try to find a career path that allows you to be true to yourself.
When you are in a work/school/volunteer/extracurricular situation that excites you, ask
yourself: what is it specifically that you are passionate about? Let these passions drive
you as you apply to new positions, and seize opportunities that keep you motivated.
6. If there is a specific job that you think you want to pursue, ask yourself the following questions:
Why are you interested in this job/where does your interest originate from? Do you know
what a person in this job does on a daily basis? It may also be helpful to contact someone
in that position. You may want to ask that person: What do you enjoy about your work?
What do you not enjoy? What is your lifestyle like? What is your educational background?
How did you get to this position?
7. It’s helpful to gain exposure to jobs you are considering before you get there.
You may consider seeking out an opportunity to shadow someone in your desired position,
so you can learn what the job is really like on a daily basis. Alternatively, you could volunteer, find a
summer job, or a co-op work term in your desired field.
8. Explore jobs that interest you (by reaching out to people in the field and doing online research).
Find answers to potentially tough questions, including: What do the early years of the career
involve? Will it take time, additional training or certification to reach your desired job? Will you
have to work on a contract? Will you have to relocate (out of city, province, country)? Does the
job involve lots of travel? What is the reality of the job market/what opportunities will be available
to you when you graduate? Upon discovering the answers to each, ask yourself: Are
you okay with this? Is this what you want?
9. Changing your mind is ok!
By researching jobs, contacting others in your desired position, or volunteering, you may
uncover misconceptions you had about your dream job. This may cause you to change your
mind, and decide you do not want to pursue this career option anymore (and that is okay).
Knowing what you do not want in a career is a crucial part of choosing a career that is right
10. Avoid pursuing graduate studies (Master’s and Doctoral) degrees simply as a way to buy yourself more time.
Additional degrees can be very beneficial, but should be done for a reason, and not because
you feel you have to, or because you don’t know what else to do. If you’re thinking about
grad school, ask yourself: What are you hoping to do when you graduate? What will grad
school add to your undergraduate degree? Do you see yourself in a career that requires
a graduate degree?
11. Have fun learning about, exploring, and trying out a variety of careers!
Yes, some people are born knowing exactly what they want to do, follow it through and
enjoy the job when they get there. And that’s great! However, many people, myself included,
have no definite occupational end goal (and that is okay). Career paths are commonly an
ongoing process, and what you want in a career may change as you enter different stages
in life. Right now, the focus should not be on choosing one career, but on discovering a
career path that is suitable for your interests, and progressing from there.
12. Seek advise from a Career Advisor at Co-operative Education & Career Services if you need guidance.
This post was derived from a meeting I had with a Career Advisor!
On the Job: Entry #3
Tuesday March 31st - Brianna
For my third “on the job” reflection, I’ve chosen to focus on ways to make the most out of any job. Whether you’re wrapping up an academic semester and transitioning into a summer job, coming to the end of a four month co-op work term, or reaching the halfway mark of an eight month work term, it is crucial to understand how to maximize every work experience. Here are a few things you should be doing while on the job:
For both personal and professional reasons, networking is an invaluable aspect of everyday life. On the personal side, getting to know your co-workers allows you to better enjoy the job experience. Whether a job is related to your field of interest or not, it will always present you with the opportunity to meet new people, make friends, and build connections. On the professional side, every person you meet and talk to may potentially have connections to your desired industry or field. These days, it’s all about who you know and who you talk to. If you show interest and ask questions, contacts may be able to provide you with more information, or put you in touch with other contacts. Additionally, adding respectable coworkers, managers or supervisors on LinkedIn will aid in expanding that all-important network.
2. Updating your resume and LinkedIn profile
Often, people don’t make these updates until after they have left jobs and are starting to search for new ones. However, there is no better time to update your employment experience than while you are employed. Reflect on the tasks you undertake on a daily/weekly basis (projects you have been a part of etc.) and translate all these into accomplishment statements while the experiences are fresh in your mind. Not only will this lead to more representative statements, and prevent you from scrambling to update your resume the next time you need it urgently, but you can also ask your employer for input on what you have written. There is no one better than your employer to edit your resume. They can help you properly highlight the job, and may even tell you what they look for in resumes when they are hiring.
3. Taking initiative
Volunteer for extra assignments, especially those that will increase your skills and knowledge in the field. Agreeing to give a presentation, write a paper or attend a conference, among other opportunities, will help you gain additional experience and transferable skills. It also demonstrates to your supervisor your competence and dependability when you tactfully ask to do more, and successfully carry out assignments. These extra assignments will help keep you engaged in and thinking about the job experience, especially if the job tends to be repetitive.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas about how to make the most of your current/next job!
On the Job: Entry 2
Monday February 23rd - Brianna
For my second “On the Job” reflection, I’m going to focus on the importance of writing good learning goals, and communicating these goals to your supervisor. Oftentimes when you are on the job, it’s easy to forget that your work term involves a number of components, including learning goals, a work term site visit, and a work report. However, these are all crucial aspects of the work term, and I was recently reminded just how much of an impact these components can have on your experience as a co-op student.
Let’s begin by expanding on what it means to write good learning goals. The SMART rule states that goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-targeted. Using the SMART rule will help you create clear objectives and a plan of action. If you are unsure of appropriate goals to set for your position, seek guidance from your supervisor. Begin writing your goals by thinking about these questions that pertain to the SMART rule:
- What do you want to achieve and why?
- What steps will you take to achieve this objective?
- How will you measure your progress?
- When are you going to complete this objective?
- Are there time constraints?
While the deadline to submit your learning goals for the W15 semester was February 6th, it is never too late to edit your existing goals or add additional goals (if you haven’t already written 5). Once you have written some solid learning goals, the next step is to make sure you communicate them with your supervisor. I can only speak from my own personal experience when I say that some supervisors will be very involved with you to ensure you achieve your goals.
I have included in this blog one of my learning goals for this work term, regarding improving my written communication skills. When I submitted my goals, I informed the professor I work for that they were available for her to view. Several weeks later, she presented me with the opportunity to help write a paper. Since I had clearly stated I was interested in being published in a scientific journal, she figured this paper would be a good place for me to start. As a result, my current focus is analyzing the data from a previously completed immunohistochemistry project where rat brain sections were stained to compare the cellular distribution of Shc proteins, with an emphasis on ShcD (the neuronal adaptor protein all of my projects focus on). Additionally, it has been suggested that I present this rat brain data as a poster at the University of Guelph’s Annual Neuroscience Research Day in April.
It is a very low-key paper and event, but everyone has to start somewhere, and I’m thankful to have been given this opportunity. Writing good learning goals is an important part of each co-op placement, as well as accepting any new and challenging projects supervisors offer. Work terms are a time to explore opportunities, so accept as many of them as you reasonably can! Having said that, it is also crucial that the goals you set are honest, achievable, and realistic for you personally. There is no sense in setting an unreasonable goal, or suggesting you can do something you don’t actually want to do.
On the Job
Monday January 19th - Brianna
As a third year biochemistry co-op student, today marks the third week of my 8 month co-op work term. I am working as a laboratory assistant in UofG’s Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology, in the laboratory of Dr. Nina Jones. My main projects for the work term will focus on the characterization of a novel neuronal adaptor protein, ShcD. During my time here, I will be reflecting on the co-op process and keeping you up to date via our blog!
For my first reflection, I thought I’d talk about the transition from a school semester to a co-op work term in a research lab. First of all, the research lab is vastly different from any teaching labs I’ve attended in conjunction with courses. In teaching labs, you are given a protocol designed to be completed within the 3-4 hour lab period. More often than not, following the protocol leads you to a successful product. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then one could say working in a research lab drives a person to insanity some days. Each time you repeat the protocol in question, you change it - or the conditions - hoping every time for a positive result. It definitely involves more critical thinking and problem solving skills than I’m accustomed to using in teaching labs. Instead of working towards a known answer, I am trying to find the answer. For this reason, conducting experiments in a research lab is far more rewarding.
As a hands-on learner, I’m really enjoying being in the lab. Most of the techniques we use on a daily basis are new to me, as I haven’t taken MBG*3350 Laboratory Methods in Molecular Biology yet. However, my supervisor is patiently teaching me everything I need to know, and every day I become more independent. Everyone in the lab is very knowledgeable about their research, and they excel at providing ideas on how to troubleshoot experiments. The transition from a fall school semester (that was largely dominated by the lecture hall) to 7 hour days in a fast-paced research lab has been made easier by utilizing the expertise of everyone around me. When it comes to schoolwork, I tend to try figuring things out myself, but in the lab I have already learned the value of reaching out when I need help. Once someone explains a procedure to me, I usually feel comfortable enough to follow through on my own. That being said, there’s also a level of confidence and independence required when working in the lab. Obviously one can’t be constantly questioning everything or nothing would get done. Some days as you confidently march forward, you end up learning from your own mistakes, and reflecting on what should be done differently next time.
After a few weeks in the lab I’ve started thinking about what to write for my Goals / Learning Outcomes, as per co-op work term requirements. When you have a full-time job instead of school, it can be easy to forget that there is still school-related work to be done. I will need to write a 35-40 page work term report by the end of this 8 month work term, but that is not a primary concern at this moment. Speaking of school, although it is by no means required to take a course while on a co-op work term, it is a fairly common occurrence among co-op students. I didn’t take a course during my first 4 month co-op work term, but this term I decided to take Personality Psychology. I know co-op students often take DE courses while on work terms, which is what I had intended to do, but this Psychology course is actually an 8:30-9:50 a.m. lecture. It really only fits with my schedule because I work on campus, and I don’t start work until 10:00 a.m. most days. Everyone is different, so obviously some co-op students prefer not to take courses while on a work term. It’s really something you have to decide given your personal circumstances.
Overall, the transition into this co-op work term has been a positive experience. I must say that co-op work terms provide a welcome break from a full course load. I hope all the other co-op students out there are enjoying the start of their terms, and that classes are going well for those in school!
10 Questions (With Answers!) About Co-op & Career Services
Monday September 15th - Brianna
Welcome back and/or welcome to The University of Guelph! The school year has started, and you may have already begun setting personal goals and looking for ways to make the most of your year. In my humble opinion, I believe there are many underrated resources available to students at the University of Guelph, Co-operative Education & Career Services (CECS) being just one of them. To clear up some common misconceptions and answer some questions you may have about what Co-op & Career Services has to offer, the following are “Top 10 Co-op & Career Questions & Answers.”
Do you only provide services to Co-op students?
No. Co-operative Education & Career Services works with ALL students, at both undergraduate and graduate levels of study. We also provide services to alumni when they graduate from Guelph.
What are some of the services provided by Co-op & Career Services?
Recruit Guelph - a job search solution that allows you to find jobs in your field anywhere, anytime.
Drop-In Sessions - Drop by Co-op & career and meet with a Career Advisor or Peer Helper for a 30 minute resume or cover letter critique, orcareer advice. A complete schedule of drop-in times is available at the provided link. Appointments can also be booked for mock interviews.
Recruit Guelph Job Fair - Looking for a job? Co-op & Career Services holds a Job Fair every year with tons of full-time, co-op, and summer jobs. We had over 40 employers at our last event and we expect that number to grow. Bring your resume and come network with all the great employers.
Co-op & Career offers many more services/resources. Check out the Co-operative Education & Career Services website or visit us on campus at Building #54, Trent Lane (located just north of Rozanski Hall).
How can I stay up to date with all of the events and workshops that Co-op & Career Services offers?
Receive weekly updates on events, workshops and employer job postings right to your inbox! Join our Listserv by sending an email email@example.com. You can also follow us on Twitter or Facebook for event information, articles, tips, and reminders about important dates!
What can I do with my degree?
This is one of the most popular questions we get asked at Co-op & Career Services. Your degree likely gives you numerous career options. Take a look at your major to find out how to put your degree to work! The degree specific career and employment information available on the Co-op & Career Services website provides some answers to questions such as:
- What can I do with an undergraduate degree in my program?
- What can I do with further education in my program?
- What industries hire graduates in my program?
To make the most of your degree, and find a job best suited to your interests, it is also important to start exploring careers during your undergrad. This includes researching potential jobs, gaining experience in your field of interest, and networking with professionals to gain insight into different professions.
How do I gain experience in my desired field?
Gaining experience can include:
Volunteering: gain valuable experience prior to leaving university, and “test out” a career to determine if your skills and work preferences are a good fit.
Internships: common in professional business, technology and advertising fields; can be paid or un-paid and typically last 6–12 weeks. Internships are another great way to “test out” a career.
Co-operative Education: an opportunity for you to apply your learning to relevant hands-on work experiences throughout your university degree. An excellent way to develop a meaningful view of the working world.
Work Related Experience on Campus at UofG: gain work related experience in many areas including Athletics, Hospitality Services, Student Life, Wellness and more. Getting involved on campus can be a valuable asset to your career.
What are some of the most common mistakes you see on students’ resumes?
Often students overlook the importance of, and thus do not include the following on their resumes:
Education, including University program of study and any related scholarships/awards.
Volunteer experience and other extracurricular involvement.
Transferable skills that were gained from past experiences, and which can be transferred to the job currently being applied for. Students often focus on their past job duties, rather than what they learned/skills they developed.
Tailoring your resume specifically to each job you apply for, making sure to highlight how you acquired the qualifications and experience required in the job description.
How do I apply to co-op?
Applying to co-op in 1st year (in-course admission) is dependent upon academic achievement, space in the program and agreeing to the academic/work term schedule as outlined in the Undergraduate Calendar. If you are not currently in co-op and would like to apply, please follow the application instructions and complete the application forms available on the form section of the Co-op & Career website.
How is co-op different from a regular degree program?
As a co-op student you gain relevant, paid work experience in your field of study, in addition to your academic studies. You will gain a huge advantage over non-co-op graduates and make some money along the way. Co-op students have 3 or 4 work terms, for a total of 12-16 months of job experience, spaced through their academic degree. More information on the co-op experience
What programs offer a co-op option?
A co-op option is offered for numerous specializations in Bachelors of Applied Science, Arts, Commerce, Computing, Engineering, Science, and Environmental Sciences. A complete list of Co-op Programs, as well as program descriptions and course scheduling, will help you determine if the co-op option is right for you.
Who are the Co-op & Career Peer Helpers and what do they do?
The CECS Peer Helpers are University of Guelph students in various academic programs and years of study. They are fully trained to assist you with resume critiques, cover letter critiques, and mock interviews. They also host workshops throughout the year, and contribute to Peer Connect - The Peer Helper Blog, which covers a variety of topics including the importance of volunteering, tips for interviews and cover letters, and on-the-job work term experiences. If you are interested in becoming a Co-op & Career Services Peer Helper, visit Become A CECS Peer Helper to learn more.
Why Isn’t My Resume Getting Me Interviews?
Monday November 17th - Brianna
If you aren’t hearing back from an employer after submitting a resume, it is probably due to a problem in one of the following areas:
1. Spelling & Grammar
Be sure that your resume is free of spelling and grammar mistakes. The creation of Spellcheck has left employers with no tolerance for these mistakes. Additionally, they make a resume seem unprofessional. The best thing to do is get someone to look over your resume before you submit it. Oftentimes another person will catch mistakes that you as the writer overlook.
2. Content & Specificity
It is important to tailor your resume to the job posting. If you repeatedly use the same resume for every job you apply to, you may be getting passed over due to the generic appearance of your resume. It is helpful to start your resume with a section such as “Highlights of Qualifications.” This highlights the essential skills you possess that are required for each specific job you apply to.
3. How You Submit Your Resume
Submitting resumes online to apply for jobs has become common practice. However, due to the high volume of applications that employers receive, it is crucial that your resume has an edge to move it through the system. If you are submitting your resume online, it is important to know that many employers use an Applicant Tracking System that funnels out resumes that lack relevant “buzzwords.” These are likely the required skills outlined in the job posting, so it is essential to include these in your resume in the same language as the job posting. Furthermore, the website you apply from might actually matter. It is better to apply to a job directly from the company’s main webpage, than through a job search engine (i.e. Workopolis). Whenever possible, hand in a hard copy of your resume to a company representative to avoid being filtered through a computer system.
If the experience listed on your resume is not relevant to the job you applied for, it is likely you were not contacted for an interview because there were more qualified candidates. As previously mentioned, this may be because your resume was too general, or lacked the skill/ability “buzzwords” that either the Applicant Tracking System or employer needed you to have. Alternatively, you may be applying to jobs that you are under-qualified for. Ensure you have the required education, any specific qualifications (i.e. certificates or training), and highlight the transferable skills you have that are specified in the job posting. When you read over your resume, make sure it is easy to see your relevant experience in a quick scan.
Hopefully this list helps you focus on problem areas while reworking your resume. If you need more assistance, remember the CESC Peer Helpers and Career Advisors are available for resume critiques!
4 Types of Interview Questions & How to Answer Them
Monday October 6th - Brianna
Interviews, the very idea of them is simultaneously exciting and dreadful. This is a job you’re interested in, and you want to impress the interviewer, but how do you prepare when you don’t know what they will ask? Don't panic - while every interview is different, generally speaking there are four main types of interview questions.
These types of questions address who you are: your personality, interests, values and general skills. These questions also address your knowledge of the company, the industry, and your choice of university and academic program.
The key to these questions is to answer them honestly and directly. Focus on providing a direct answer, but also try to gauge why the interviewer chose to ask you that question (i.e. what they will gain from your answer). It is a good idea to provide an answer that showcases how you are a good fit for the job. This might require you to relate your academic program, interests, and personality to the company or position.
- “Tell me about yourself.” - Keep your answer brief; focus on your education, relevant experience and skills. You do not need to include everything! Your answer should be approximately 1 minute long.
- “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” - Provide at least one strength and one weakness. Your strength should be a desirable skill (related to the position). Be honest about your weakness (but try to pick a skill they haven’t specified as required in the job description) and discuss how you are working towards improving it.
These types of questions are based on the idea that your past behavior will likely indicate how you will behave in the future. The interviewer will ask about a time when you used a certain skill and/or how you dealt with a specific situation.
The key to these questions is to answer using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) approach. Start by describing the situation and the task you were assigned. Next, talk about the action you took that illustrates the skill you've been asked about. Finally, be sure to explain how it turned out and how it relates to the job.
- “How do you prioritize your work when you are undertaking multiple projects?” - Using the STAR approach, demonstrate an ability to meet deadlines and manage time accordingly. Be sure to explain and justify the difference between high priority and low priority tasks.
- “Provide me with an example of your ability to work independently.” - Using the STAR approach, describe your ability to seek out assistance when necessary, make decisions independently, and the strategies you use to stay motivated.
These types of questions pertain to knowledge or techniques specific to the job. Usually these will be things you have learned in your academic program, past experiences that have qualified you for this job, or details that would have been revealed by researching the company.
The key to answering these questions is to reflect on your academic knowledge and past experiences, and use information you have gained through these to support your answer. Sometimes technical questions are more about showing your thought process, and not necessarily proving that you already have the required knowledge or skill; these will come with the job.
- “How comfortable are you with Microsoft Office programs? Can you list any common functions you use in Excel?” - Discuss the programs using appropriate terminology. Provide at least 2 or 3 functions used in Excel and discuss why they are needed. If you are not overly familiar with the programs, discuss your willingness to learn new things.
- “Have you utilized Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) in the past? Why are they important?” - Demonstrate knowledge of what MSDS includes (safety information, including how to properly handle chemicals, routes of exposure, toxic effects, and what to do if exposed), and in what context you have used them in the past (academic or work).
These types of questions are often very unrelated to the company or position. They are designed to help potential employers learn about your personality, how you deal with surprise situations, how you cope under pressure, and your ability to think creatively.
The key to these questions in to stay focused on answering the question asked, however random and unrelated it many seem to the rest of the interview. Keep in mind there generally is no “right” answer to these types of questions. The interviewer likely just wants to see how you think and react.
- “What colour is your brain?” - Pick a colour (any colour) but be sure to have a reason to support your answer. i.e. My brain is pale blue. It is a light colour because I have plenty of knowledge, but I am still able to take on the colours of new ideas.
- “If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?” - Pick any animal that you can provide a solid reason for. Try to relate the qualities of the animal to the skills needed on the job.
Hopefully this helps you prepare for your next interview. Good luck!
Summer Semester: A Reflection
Monday July 28th - Brianna
“We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.”
― John Dewey
As the summer semester draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on my school experience this summer. The three main questions I try to address in personal reflections are:
- What did I do?
- What did I learn?
- How will I apply these experiences moving forward?
What Did I Do?
This summer I have been living in Guelph, and taking a full course load. This is because I was on a co-op work term in the winter semester. I must say, after working full-time for four months and not having to worry about schoolwork, studying, midterms or exams, it took me several weeks to readjust to academic life. However, one great aspect of the summer semester is smaller class sizes, which lead to me getting to know some of the people in my program a lot better.
Outside of the lecture hall I had the pleasure of being a Peer Helper at Co-operative Education & Career Services (CECS). My main focus this summer were writing for the Peer Connect Blog, developing Entrepreneurship Pages for the CECS website, helping plan CECS Orientation Week events and workshops, and giving a presentation on the University of Guelph to a group of prospective students.
I also made the time to check several items off “The Summer In Guelph Bucket List” I detailed in a previous blog.
What Did I Learn?
Having a full course load is in no way easier or more relaxed in the summer. If anything, it’s more difficult because it takes even more motivation to study when you’d rather be on vacation.
However, school is easier when you develop a good group of friends in your program to work with. I find, especially with certain programs, that competition for grades is fostered more than the ability to work collaboratively. Teamwork and cooperation are valuable life skills that can be strengthened through group projects and studying in groups.
Sometimes, when you focus all your energy on school, you actually don’t see better results because you end up tiring yourself out. It is important to spend time with friends and family, and join extra-curricular activities, such as clubs or sports, to give yourself something to do besides school.
Despite what I’ve heard some people say, “entrepreneur” is not another word for “unemployed.” Entrepreneurship is a career choice allowing individuals with innovative ideas to develop new products and services that benefit our society by filling a need and creating more jobs. There are so many resources available to entrepreneurs that deciding where to start if you have an idea can be overwhelming. I suggest you check out the Entrepreneurship Pages on the CECS website if you’re currently thinking about entrepreneurship as a career choice, or simply if you want to learn more about what being an entrepreneur means.
Sharing your experiences, as a university student or otherwise, with younger people is often rather insightful. Not only do you get to engage with eager minds, but they often (accidently) force you into some personal reflection. Following my presentation, I was asked questions such as, “what do you want to do with your biochemistry degree?” and “what kind of research have you done already, like while on co-op?” These questions forced me to formulate solid responses quickly, especially because I don’t yet have a definitive answer for the former question. Evidently, I need to do more detailed research on possible career paths for myself.
How Will I Apply These Experiences Moving Forward?
My experiences this summer have helped strengthen many skills, such as dedication, teamwork, open-mindedness, critical thinking, writing, and presenting. I intend on applying these skills, and continuing to develop them, in my roles as a Peer Helper in CECS and as Co-President of the Biochemistry Student Association.
Whether you’ve spent this semester at school, working or on summer vacation, I hope you take some time to reflect on and learn from the experiences you had.
Enjoy the rest of summer, and see you in the fall!
Developing Realistic Career Expectations
Monday July 7th - Brianna
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
From a young age we are asked this seemingly innocent question. As children, it was probably more of an annoyance than anything because it wasn’t a decision that needed to be made yet. But this question we could once easily dismiss becomes all too real when applying to university, choosing a major, beginning a serious job search, and deciding what to do after graduation.
Studies by Sean Lyons, a University of Guelph professor in the department of management, have found that “millennials [those born during the '80s and into the '90s] are balancing impossibly high career expectations with an unstable economy that favours downsizing and temporary work.”
So how does one begin developing realistic career expectations?
In the words of Lyons, “Today, jobs are increasingly scarce, education is a necessity, and job security is a thing of the past… People need to know success in the current economy must be framed within present reality. A degree is no longer a ticket to great opportunities: it’s the price of admission into the labour market.” Those words may be hard to swallow, but the sooner you accept that a university degree alone will not grant you employment, the sooner you will start seeking out additional opportunities to increase your employability.
Start Career Planning Early
Don’t wait until third or fourth year to start thinking about career possibilities. I know, the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question can be intimidating, but don’t put off at least brainstorming some possibilities. Here are some resources to get you started:
Browse degree specific career and employment information for all the programs offered at UoG. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is definitely a good starting point to research jobs you can get with your undergraduate degree, ones that require further education, industries that hire people with your degree, and links to additional career related websites.
An excellent resource to research prospective careers, this website has information related to essential skills, wage rates, labour market trends, future outlook and related careers.
Co-op & Career Services offers students drop-in appointments with professional Career Advisors. They meet with individuals for a wide variety of career-related concerns such as career indecision, self-assessment and further education planning.
Research Trends in the Labour Market
A large part of developing personally realistic career expectations is being aware of what you can reasonably expect. Labour market trends are an unavoidable reality, with some jobs notably more scarce than others. Therefore, it is important to not only research job availability while you are a student, but also the predicted availability upon graduation or after graduate school. You want to make sure the job you want now will be available to you by the time you are qualified for it. Resources are available to help you understand the economic and career trends in your industry, so check out Research Trends
Throughout university, it is crucial that you gain experiences outside of the lecture hall to increase your future employability. Use volunteering, internships, co-op work terms, and part-time jobs as ways to “test-drive” potential careers. These opportunities provide you with the chance to gain insight into the world of employment, network with people who are in positions you find desirable, and ask questions about what you need to do to get there. Check out details on how to gain skills and Get Experience
According to Lyons, “Self-development, self-awareness and clarity with career goals is critical.” Developing realistic career expectations is largely dependent on knowing yourself: what you like and don’t like, what brings you joy, what industries your talents and skills are most suited for, etc. Additionally, I think having “impossibly high career expectations” is a result of putting too much pressure on yourself. We are all capable of achieving great things. But there is a difference between career goals that require a healthy challenge to be achieved, and those that are “impossibly high” given our personal capabilities and the current labour market.
References & further reading:
The Entrepreneur Within Us All
Tuesday June 24 - Brianna
“Entrepreneurs, in the purest sense, are those who identify a need–any need–and fill it”
– Brett Nelson, Forbes Contributor
As a Peer Helper at CECS this summer, my main project is to research entrepreneurship and begin developing entrepreneurship resource pages to be made available through the CECS website. I started this task thinking I knew nothing about entrepreneurship.
As a Biochemistry major, I often feel as though I live within the College of Biological Science bubble. What I mean to say is, there is so much going on at the University of Guelph, but if it happens outside of my college, I usually don’t know about it. For instance, did you know that the Entrepreneurship Society at the University of Guelph (ESatUoG) is a student run group aiming to improve the entrepreneurial community at UoG? ESatUoG hosts events and provides services that bring students together to learn from and inspire each other. These are current UoG students, already filled with innovative ideas that may change the way we think and live. Or did you know that UoG offers Applied Community Projects Courses? These courses get you out of the classroom, and exercising creativity and critical thinking by working with real organizations in a business environment. This is a current UoG course, where the textbook is put away and your time and effort is focused on gaining practical experience. These are just some of the amazing on-campus resources I have uncovered that got me thinking more about entrepreneurship.
Now maybe you’re like me, and you don’t know much about entrepreneurship. Well think about this: As a child, did you ever run a lemonade stand? As a teenager, did you ever babysit or do yard work and shovel snow for neighbours? As a student, do you sell your textbooks, or work as a freelance tutor, consultant, musician, photographer, writer or artist? If you answered yes to any of this, you probably know more about entrepreneurship than you think you do. As one Globe and Mail article states, “many students are already entrepreneurs, often without realizing it.”
Many innate entrepreneurial qualities, such as identifying common needs and thinking of innovative ways to fill them, cannot be taught inside the lecture hall. However, universities have started to foster entrepreneurship by partnering with catalyst centres, offering entrepreneur courses, providing opportunity for entrepreneurial co-op work terms and internships, and hosting information sessions and events.
But if you have an idea now, there are plenty of resources available to help you begin making your idea a reality. For a start, check out the LinkedIn article Crush it as a Business Owner at Age 23 by Ana Levley for her advice on what it takes to be a young and ambitious entrepreneur. Here are some points she highlights:
Realize that you have a good idea, but not everyone will think the same as you, and that’s okay.
Save enough so you are financially secure for at least a year while you get your business started.
3. Organizing and planning:
Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of work, and it’s crucial to plan and hire accordingly.
4. Hiring the right people:
Seek out people who are well suited for the job at hand, and who you will want to work with.
5. Networking, giving referrals, and involvement in your community:
Businesses are a two-way-street; the more support and clients you give to other companies, the more you will receive in return.
Hopefully this got you thinking more about entrepreneurship, a few things you may want to look into on campus in the fall, and just a bit of what it takes if you want to unleash your inner entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur is definitely a risky business, but as the saying goes, with great risk comes great reward.
References & further reading:
The Summer In Guelph Bucket List
Monday, June 9th – Brianna
Guelph in the summer is a beautiful place. Maybe you’re here this summer because you stayed in town to keep your job and/or take a few courses. Maybe you call Guelph home. Maybe, like me, you were on a co-op work term in the winter and are currently in the midst of a full course load summer semester. Regardless of the reason, here are some activities everyone can plan to make the most of summer in Guelph.
Spend Time Outside
For those of us in school, it is definitely an exercise in willpower to study and do schoolwork instead of soaking up the summer rays. The compromise is to study more outside. Whether it be on your deck at home, a picnic table on campus or at a park, or a patio at a downtown café, studying outside makes studying (somewhat) more enjoyable. We experienced a brutal winter. Whether you’re currently in school or not, enjoy the summer weather by going for walks, playing a sport, reading outside for pleasure, anything that gets you outside on a regular basis.
Paint the Cannon
As a widely acclaimed UofG tradition, I think this is on most Gryphons’ bucket lists. Get a group of friends together and enjoy a leisurely time painting Old Jeremiah. Even though I just painted the cannon in March, one simply cannot pass up the following perks of painting the cannon in the summer:
- Not having to guard the cannon all day since there is little competition
- Not being freezing cold while painting
- Your beloved masterpiece will likely remain untouched for days
Check Out the Guelph Farmers’ Market
Located at the corner of Gordon Street and Waterloo Avenue, the market is open year round on Saturday mornings, and Wednesday evenings for the summer only. Besides having an entire building dedicated to the market, in summer months the market spills out into the outside courtyard. Stroll through the market and discover the many food and craft vendors.
Explore Downtown Guelph During the Day
This summer, take some time to explore downtown Guelph when the sun is up. Forget the places you usually go at night, and discover the wide variety of restaurants, cafés and stores. Some of my personal favourites include:
- http://atmospherecafe.squarespace.com (especially Sunday brunch)
Visit the Church of Our Lady Immaculate
While you’re exploring downtown, check out this iconic Guelph landmark. I’m sure you’ve noticed this huge church on the hill, but did you know it is actually law that no building in Guelph can be built higher than this church? It’s true. Currently undergoing extensive restoration, it’s not in its full glory, but is nevertheless a building of magnificent architectural detail and rich history.
Walk Across the Covered Bridge
Constructed using building designs from the 1800s, this lattice covered bridge was built in 1992 over the Speed River. Serving as a pedestrian and cyclist crossing for the Speed River, it is almost completely unique, being one of only two lattice covered bridges in Ontario. Walk or bike across this unique landmark located on the Eramosa River Trail between York Road and Gordon Street.
Go to the Boathouse Tea Room
Constructed in the early 1900s, this building has served many purposes including a boat shelter, dance hall, concession stand and Navy Cadet Headquarters. Located on Gordon Street on the riverside of the Speed River, this historical spot still has much to offer. Enjoy lunch, tea or ice cream by the river. Rent a kayak or canoe and explore the Guelph waterways by paddling down the Speed River and Eramosa River.
Visit Guelph Lake Conservation Area
A mere 15 minutes outside the downtown core, the Guelph Lake Conservation Area offers camping, canoeing, boating, windsurfing/sailing, fishing, hiking, cycling, swimming and picnicking. These summer activities could each be bucket list activities in their own right. If you’re not an outdoorsy person, make a daytrip out of it and try something new, but if you love to go camping, a weekend excursion is probably in order. More information: http://www.grandriver.ca/index/document.cfm?Sec=27&Sub1=126&Sub2=0
Attend Local Outdoor Concerts
The 31st annual Hillside Festival will be held from July 25-27 on Guelph Lake Island inside the Guelph Lake Conservation Area grounds. The music lineup for this outdoor weekend-long concert festival includes Tegan and Sara, Hollerado, Hey Rosetta! and more. For complete details on this festival check out http://www.hillsidefestival.ca/events/hillside-festival-2014
The 6th annual Riverfest will be held from August 22-23 on the banks of the Grand River in Bissell Park, Elora (located 30 minutes southwest of Guelph). The music lineup includes Blue Rodeo, Serena Ryder, the Arkells, and more. For complete details check out http://riverfestelora.com
If you have some extra time this summer, consider volunteering or joining a club with the city. Not only are these great opportunities in and of themselves, they will also allow you to develop new skills and add more experiences to your resume. Summer is definitely a time to enjoy well-earned relaxation after a long school year, but devoting some of your time to a worthy cause will make this downtime rewarding as well.
Making the Most of a Job Unrelated To Your Major
Monday, May 26th - Brianna
Summer. The season of vacations, job searching and, hopefully, some type of employment to earn a little cash. Whether you’re spending the summer working a part- time or full-time job, on a co-op work term, or splitting time between school courses and a job, it can sometimes be discouraging when your job isn’t exactly related to your field of study. Oftentimes, when we find ourselves in these jobs, we question: How is this going to help me in the future? You know, to land that dream job you have in mind. The truth is, there are countless positives to every job experience. Here are just a few aspects to keep in mind.
Gaining Transferable Skills
Job descriptions generally highlight key skills required for the job in question, such as: verbal and written communication, initiative, ability to work in a team and/or independently, organization, time management, ability to work in a fast-paced environment, etc. These are all versatile skills that you can apply and utilize in many different jobs, regardless of how you originally developed them. The job you currently have may not be what you want to do for the rest of your life. However, it could very well be strengthening the skills you will need when you get there. When you update your resume to apply for a job in your desired field, be sure to highlight these transferable skills in your descriptions of past jobs. This way you focus on how your past experiences make you qualified for this new opportunity, rather than focusing only on the specific duties of past jobs, which may not be as applicable.
Expanding Your Network
On both a personal and professional level, networking is an invaluable aspect of everyday life. First and foremost, getting to know your co-workers allows you to better enjoy the job experience. The job may not be exactly what you want, but it may present you with the opportunity to meet new people, make friends, and build connections. On the professional side of things, you may meet someone who has connections, through friends or family, to your desired industry or field. If you show interest and ask questions, they may be able to provide you with more information, or even get you in touch with the person they know. Additionally, adding co-workers, managers or supervisors on LinkedIn will also aid in expanding that all-important network.
Learning About Yourself
In life, every situation and every job, be it related or unrelated to your major, provides you with an opportunity for self-discovery. You learn what type of work environment is best suited for you, or what type you may want to avoid in future job searches. You learn how to work alongside people of various personality types, and what type would be most desirable in a future boss or co-workers. Inevitably, you gain conflict resolution skills, and how you personally respond to conflicts or challenges of varying degrees. Not only do experiences like these teach you more about yourself, they are also common themes of behaviour based interview questions, such as:
- How would you describe your work style?
- What do you typically do if you disagree with your boss?
- Tell me about a time when you dealt effectively with conflict
Evidently, not only do these experiences potentially lead to personal growth and development, they also provide you with a situation to draw from next time you are in an interview and asked a question like this.
At the end of the day, if you’re currently in a job unrelated to your major, the best thing to do is keep a positive attitude. Try to recognize the many aspects that will help you in the future, be it transferable skills, self-discovery or something else. Most importantly, don’t give up searching for the job you really want. Keep networking and talking to people in your desired field. Explore opportunities for volunteering that may get your foot in the door and better your chances at getting the job you want. Realize that absolutely no job is pointless; there is something to be gained from every experience.