In early July of this year, Troy Media published an article by Roslyn Kunin discussing the difficulties faced by recent graduates seeking jobs in today’s workforce. Kunin theorizes that young people aren’t finding work because they haven’t been gaining work experience. “Parents who tell kids it’s more important to study than to take part-time work during the school term and who say that there’s no need for a summer job are seriously harming their children’s long-term career prospects,” she writes.
Students are often under the impression that the answer to a tough job market is more education. Beefing up a resume with more schooling is widely considered a good idea, but the costs and the lack of practical experience may mean it’s less effective than we would hope.
Anureet Kaur graduated from UTM in June with a bachelor of business administration as a management specialist, and subsequently wrote to the Medium to describe her and friends’ struggles searching for work. “We should have done co-op rather than study a four-year theoretic degree that only looks fancy in a resume or at dinner parties,” she reports them saying.
I sat down with Kaur to speak with her about her life after school, the “pessimistic” workforce, and her advice for students.
Kaur considers herself lucky to have found work in her field through UTM’s Career Centre. She had been rejected by her university of choice for graduate studies, and decided to look for work instead. She applied for a job she discovered through the Career Centre, received an interview, and was hired.
Although she was successful in securing a job and believes her degree contributed to that success, Kaur found that U of T hadn’t prepared her for the workforce. The solution she proposes is that universities push students into the job field more. “Co-op should be mandatory,” she says. “You have internships in some programs and that’s a really good thing. […] It’s hard for students, especially international ones, to find work after they graduate.”
Kunin also draws attention to the situation of international students. “Immigrants to Canada know how important work experience is,” she writes. “Many immigrants take any work they can get in any occupation and at any pay level just to get a foot in the door. Others create their own jobs […] by starting a business.”
As for young Canadian students, both Kunin and Kaur say that students are making a mistake when they return to school after failing to find work, barring the necessary further education in fields like medicine.
“[Students] often make two serious mistakes,” writes Kunin. “First, they do little or no research into what has been happening to recent graduates of the programs they enter. Eventually they find themselves back in the same jobless position they were before—with one big difference. They are now thousands of dollars deeper in debt thanks to the student loans needed to finance the additional education.”
Kaur also shared some general post-graduation advice to students in her letter and her interview. One of her points is that students need to boost their writing skills. “You need to have some level of writing because you will need to write emails and speak to people and give presentations,” she says. “I always tell my friends that they need to start working on their writing or brush up on their skills because it’s something that will come in handy.” One of her personal strategies for improvement is regular blogging.
Additionally, Kaur urges students to mention their diversity in an interview with an employer.
“It’s good to mention on your cover letter or resume the diverse skills you have. You need to tell [employers] that they may be lacking in a certain area and you have the skills to better their company,” she says. “You need to have a diverse set of skills going in to the job and then tell them what you have so they know you’re a valuable asset.”
Lastly, she advises that students keep in contact with the professors that made an impact on them. “I didn’t contact any of my professors, to be honest, but it’s something I always tell my friends to do because they often own their own companies,” she says. “And if they see that you’re a good student, they may offer you an internship with them. They were always telling me to come back and speak to them if I needed a job, so it’s good to keep in contact with them.”
Kaur echoes Kunin’s argument that students need to understand how important any work experience is to them. “As soon as you can, as young as you can, get any kind of work,” Kunin writes. “Make some money, even if it’s not much, and get a reference saying at least that you show up for work and stay until the job is finished.”
“Never say, ‘How is working in a restaurant going to help me be a better doctor or engineer?’ ” she adds. “All work experience is valuable. Get some.”