Ally Buchanan
Ally Buchanan
Ally is in her second year at Renaissance College, pursuing minors in Political Science and English. She is originally from Hampton, New Brunswick
November 27, 2018

Want to be competitive in the job market? Here’s how.

Students chat with employers at a UNB career fair. | Courtesy photo

So, what are you going to do after you graduate?

It’s a question all students, no matter what year or faculty, are asked far too often. A question that many find terrifying, especially when entering a competitive job market. Natalie Perry and Cathy Clowater at the University of New Brunswick’s Career Development and Employment Centre say it doesn’t have to be so scary.

Perry said the first step is to be prepared, and that can start from day one of university through building a resume and developing connections.

As soon as you get involved in a campus initiative or group, you are adding to your resume. Not all knowledge is gained through class work! Whether by joining a student club or association, gaining volunteer experience, or attending career fairs and events on campus, university is the time to build skills relevant to a particular career field. All of these things are essential in fostering connections that can lead to opportunities later in life, and make you stand out against others who didn't take the same initiative.

Clowater said she recommends UNB’s co-curricular program for those seeking to gain a broad foundation of experience or to diversify their resume. The program helps students participate in several different areas of academia and employment. Clowater said even if a student doesn’t complete the full program, the mailing list of on-campus events is of enough benefit to consider getting involved.

The University of New Brunswick's Career Development and Employment Office in Fredericton. | Courtesy photo

There are also a number of employment opportunities while at university. Perry and Clowater said that the Work-Study program is great for students looking for on-campus employment with course-conscious hours. This program allows students to experience a job related to their degree, therefore gaining valuable experience while earning a part-time income.

The Work-Study program is offered through a variety of organizations, including Sodexo, UNB’s food service provider, and URec, UNB’s athletic and recreational facilities division.

Kate Metcalfe, a first year Renaissance College student, is currently working as a tour guide with UNB’s recruitment team.

“Working with student recruitment has taught me how to interact with many different kinds of people, in different settings, as well as how to communicate ideas with someone who is unfamiliar with an idea or topic,” Metcalfe said.

Clowater and Perry recommend also talking to professors and administration staff in your faculty, as opportunities in your field might not be funded through the Work-Study program or are only advertised to a select audience.

Madison Rideout, a second year computer science student, will be working with IBM in cybersecurity next semester. She found this opportunity through her faculty’s co-op program.

"They have a huge amount of jobs at their disposal, and so everyone who applies can typically get a position,” Rideout said. “You can finish the program with up to two years of experience, giving you a leg up when applying for jobs after school.”

A University of New Brunswick career fair at the Richard J. Currie Center in 2016. | Courtesy photo

Reading through job descriptions, even without the intention of applying, can help you become familiar with what employers are looking for. This allows you to build desirable skills and qualifications, thereby giving you a headstart in competitive fields.

Perry and Clowater said experience is often the deciding factor when entering competitive industries. Using the Youth Employment Fund organized by the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, as well as the province’s various wage incentive programs and Opportunities New Brunswick’s Connector Program, are good ways to access entry level positions and begin working in your desired field.

To find a job that’s right for you, it can be helpful to remain optimistic, take some risks, and pursue your interests: a mindset Clowater calls “planned happenstance.”

Clowater took a casual, two-week position with counselling services at UNB, and through that gained exposure to the field of career advising, which led to her current position.

“I never planned to be where I am today,” she said. “If I had made one different decision years ago, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Succeeding in the job market requires experience, skills, networking and a sizable amount of luck. Ultimately however, everyone’s career path is unique and may develop in a number of unexpected ways.

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