Gloria's Peer Connect Blogs
Work In Academia vs. The Industry
Monday February 22nd - Gloria
As a Food Science major, I’ve had the opportunity to do co-op work terms both in academia and in the food industry. Both were different experiences, and will vary for you as well depending on your discipline. If you’re not sure what kind of co-op jobs you want, or which kind of career you see yourself in later, here are some things I have noticed:
The working hours when I was employed at a lab on campus were much more flexible than when I was in the industry. In the lab, the work hours often depend on the supervisor(s) you are working with and when they prefer to come in. I found that people tended to trickle in slowly throughout the morning and left when they were done their experiments for the day. That being said, every day is different depending on how experiments turn out, and you may find yourself either leaving earlier or later than that typical 4 or 5 pm cut-off that is common in an industry job. In industry, you are typically expected to come in for a certain number of hours at consistent times throughout the week, though taking work home is also not uncommon for some positions.
Typically, the pay is much less when you work in academia, as income is more dependent on the grants the professor has and how much they can allocate to their students. Industry jobs tend to generate more profit, and will likely be able to pay you more.
I found the work environments in academia and industry to be very different, although both were enjoyable experiences. As a research assistant in academia, you usually either work for one person at a time, or help multiple people with their individual projects. The pace of a lab job often varies depending on the project, how much experimentation is involved and how close the project is to publication. Depending on the stage of the project, you may find yourself under less pressure because there are fewer people directly involved in your work. In the industry, typically a lot more people depend on your role and expect results throughout the day; if anyone’s work gets delayed or misses a deadline, this can disrupt the day’s work flow. Industry work also tends to be much faster paced as you are working with other employees and customers who don’t always have the same work schedule as you do.
Although industry jobs are generally more strict with their working hours and come with more responsibility, they do offer more perks than jobs in academia. In order to make their employees feel more valued, companies may hold company barbeques or appreciation dinners, provide things such as complimentary coffee or tea to employees, and benefits that will expand if you move into a permanent position at a company. In academia, depending on how much the professor allocates to social events, fees for any group lunches and the like will often come out of the lab members’ own pockets.
Bottom line, each kind of job has its advantages and disadvantages, but the most important factor to consider when deciding between them is whether you like to do research! If you find yourself enjoying the life of trials and tribulations, and more independent projects, then being in academia may be a better fit for you.
Course Selection for any Career
Monday February 1st - Gloria
Are you on co-op and find you have too much free time after work? Why not consider taking a course on the side! Or maybe you’re in school and are thinking about what courses to take next semester? Whether you take them online or in-class, here are some courses that may be useful for any career path.
Being bilingual (or multilingual!) is a huge asset when it comes to looking for a job in your home country and abroad. In Canada, especially if you want to work for the government, it’s probably to keep up your French language skills if you aren’t fluent already. However, any language course you take will be useful if you take the time to practice the language after the course has finished. In-class language courses are the most beneficial because they provide more opportunity to practise speaking with other people. On-line classes are good for your written communication skills and can either help you to get to know the basics of a language.
Data Analysis or Statistics Courses
This category of courses can help you improve your analytical and mathematical skills. Practicing how to use Excel and/or other statistical programs in these courses skills that may be applied to a number of fields. I used to be daunted by Excel but after getting more practice with it, I even started using it for things not related to school or work!
Introductory Business and/or Personal Financial Planning Courses
You’ve probably noticed by now that we are surrounded by business. Especially if you see yourself working in the industry, it might be useful to know the basics of finance, marketing, and general management. to manage your finances is also extremely important, especially once you land a full-time job. Knowing what to do with your income, and how to save or invest in the way that’s right for you, is something that many students struggle with coming out of university.
Logic and/or Philosophy Courses
Why is Philosophy on here? These kinds of courses teach you how to think critically and hone your reasoning skills. After taking one of these courses, you may find you can identify, evaluate and analyze your own and other people’s arguments better. Most importantly, philosophy can teach you how to think in ways that not everyone else does, which can help you become a better innovator. Whether you’re sending emails or need to come up with new ideas at work, a course like this, or any other communications type course, can help you out.
A lot of colleges offer continuing education courses that anyone can just sign up for—no need to submit any lengthy applications and transcripts for these! Additionally, after taking a certain set of these courses, you can achieve a certificate to add to your resume. There are also a plethora of free online courses that can give you exposure to any subject that interests you. Check out https://www.coursera.org for all the knowledge you could ever want at your fingertips!
4 Month vs. 8 or 12 Month Co-op Work Terms
Monday November 30th - Gloria
Are you in co-op and not sure whether you should change companies every 4 months or stay put in an 8 or 12-month term? My program allowed me the opportunity to work for up to 16 months throughout my degree, so I was able to complete both a 4 month and a 12-month work term.
The Moving Situation
WINNER: 8/12 Month
Having a 4-month work term can make it difficult to sign a full year lease anywhere. You might find that you’ll be subletting quite a bit—moving to a location close to where you work, then back again to Guelph for school. The constant packing and unpacking might become a hassle. Having a 12-month term allows you to sign a full year lease and not have to worry about moving.
Room for Diversity
WINNER: 4 Month
The 4-month work term is a great way to diversify your experiences and find out what you like before it comes down to looking for a job after graduation. You also get to add some variety to your skill set by working for different companies. The 12-month term, depending on where you are working, may not allow you much room to have a feel for a variety of roles. However, by the time your 12 months are up, you will have become really,really good at your job.
If you find the job you’re at is not what you were expecting, you won’t have to hang around for too long if you’re only there for 4 months! However, if you do like your job, 4 months can feel like no time at all! Staying at a company for a year gives you the opportunity to handle lengthier and more complex projects. During my 4-month term, I found it wasn’t quite enough time to learn about the concepts behind the project I was working on. It took me around 2 months to finally start feeling comfortable with the equipment I was trained to use, and by then I was already halfway through my term. This didn’t leave me a lot of time to hone my skills. My term also ended while the project was still in progress, so I wasn’t able to see the final results of the work I put into it. What was nice about the 12-month term was that I had more time to perfect my skills and I was able to see many projects from start to finish. Having said that, a 12-month term can become a little repetitive, so if you get bored easily, 4 months might be better for you.
WINNER: 4 Month
A 4-month co-op term feels like a short break from school. Once you’re done working, you can get right back into your studies, as if you had never left. I found that after 12 straight months of working, it was a bit of an adjustment getting back into “school mode”—it was almost as if I had to re-learn how to study! You get back into the swing of things eventually though.
WINNER: 8/12 Month
With companies that rotate through several co-op students at a time, it can be hard to make a lasting impression if you are only there for 4 months. Of course, it’s not impossible to make connections in 4 months, but a 12-month term enables you more time to get to know your colleagues and supervisors. Because of this, your supervisor will be able to provide a much more detailed reference or recommendation for you in the future.
So…who’s the overall winner?
Looks like it’s a tie! Both have their pros and cons and you will gain great experience regardless!
Thanks for checking in this week!
Another Standardized Test You Might Need to Write: The GRE!
Monday November 23rd - Gloria
Thinking about grad school to further your career? Some programs require you to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) in order for your application to be considered. If you are thinking of applying to graduate schools in Canada, you may be in luck as most (but not all) master degree programs here do not require GRE scores for admission. However, if you are considering going to the states for your masters or even getting your MBA, most schools will ask for these scores (in the case of the MBA, GMAT scores are also acceptable).
Here are a few things you need to know:
1. How the GRE is structured.
Regardless of your degree, the test is doable, as it is an exam based on concepts covered in high school. The entire test is about 3 hours and 45 minutes, plus a 10 minute break somewhere in between. The GRE is divided into 3 sections: Analytical Writing (one Issue and one Argument essay), Quantitative Reasoning (math questions) and Verbal Reasoning (reading comprehension and vocabulary questions) and these each have two parts to them. Questions are also adapted on a section-by-section basis—how well you do on the first task of a particular section will determine the difficulty of the questions for the next section.
2. How you’re scored.
For the new GRE Revised General Test, the Analytical Writing section is reported on a scale of 0-6 in half-point increments. Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning scores are reported on a 130-170 scale in 1-point increments. Scores will also report a percentile, i.e. how well you did on each section in comparison to everyone else who has taken the test.
3. How you should study.
If you really want to get in some good practice for the test, you will probably have to spend some money to purchase a study resource. Here are some thoughts on what worked for me:
The ETS people are your best bet for questions that will be like the test questions since they’re the ones who make them! With that being said, it’s always good to consider other sources to round out your studying. I purchased the Official Guide to the GRE Revised General Test as a good starting point.
There are several companies such as Kaplan, McGraw Hill and Manhattan that offer GRE guides and practice questions; however, I find it difficult to learn from textbooks, so I chose to opt for an online study tool called Magoosh. I specifically went with this for their video lessons, where a tutor guides you through everything you need to know. Apart from the lessons, each one of their several hundred practice questions came with video feedback to explain how the answer was arrived at. They also have flashcards that are great for studying vocabulary! You can even study on the go by downloading their app if you have an Android or iPhone.
Magoosh provides a really good discipline specific infographic here:
4. How important your scores are to grad school.
GRE scores matter to a varying degree, depending on your discipline and target school. Generally, scores above the 75th percentile are good, but if you really want to stand out and improve your chance of getting in, especially if you are applying to a more competitive institution, try to aim for a better than the average score.
5. Lastly …
Do as many ETS practice exams as you can before writing, as this is the best measure of how the test will actually feel!
Want to know more? The ETS people can tell you quite a bit more than I can!
Good luck and happy studying!