In July, 6.8% of Canada’s labour force could not find work. And in August, Canada eliminated 40,000 jobs. It is scary news for students about to graduate and join the labour force. Knowing how to reposition oneself to increase the chances of being hired may be the only way to gain an edge in today’s labour market.
“You can’t just… say, this is who I am as a person, and I have this degree, and I’ve had this work experience… therefore, I’d like to have an interview. Maybe you could have gotten away with that 10 years ago and got some interviews…” says Gillian Kemp, the director of MacEwan’s Career and Experience department.
“It’s very difficult to get into the industry without actual professional experience. So it’s kinda rough,” says Chelsea Favre, a recent graduate from MacEwan University.
Some things to consider when applying to jobs as a student or new graduate include:
1. Best place to find jobs as a student
Indeed and LinkedIn are a few popular job sites in Canada. For students and new graduates, school job boards may be particularly advantageous because employers who post on school job boards are looking to hire current students and alumni. For instance, MacEwan University’s job board has employers specifically looking to hire MacEwan students.
“ [The employers] know the kinds of programs our students are in. So, when they’re looking for new grads, it’s very often tied to programs. When they’re looking for part time work, they are keeping [it in the back of their minds] that these are students who are taking course loads,” says Kemp.
2. How student experiences are framed on resumes and cover letters
Framing work experience on resumes and cover letters can be challenging for students and new graduates when applying to jobs. With most skills gained through courses and no professional experience, proving you have the required skills for a job post is daunting.
According to Kemp, “One of the things about looking through a job posting is that it is [a] wish list that it’s unlikely as a student, current student, or a new grad that you’re [going to] be 100% match,so students need to cut themselves some slack and not expect to be perfectly aligned with every part of that job description. But go through the job description and see where the alignment is.”
When the applicant has created a list of important things the employer requires and recognized how they fit the role, they should take advantage of the education section to highlight all the relevant skills gained through educational institutions. “You only have about 7 seconds to make an impression on the person who’s reviewing your application, so you want to be sure that what you’re speaking about in your cover letter and at the top of your resume is the most important things to them,” says Kemp.
3. How to prepare for interviews
It is a great feeling to be invited by an employer for an interview, but only a few candidates are successful beyond this step. Many factors play into the success of an interview. However, there are ways to improve those odds.
“The whole theory behind interviewing is that past behaviour predicts future behaviour. So, most of the questions that students will encounter are behavioural interview questions.” says Kemp.
MacEwan’s Career and Experience department offers free mock interview services to MacEwan students and alumni, which is a way to improve chances of success in interviews. Practising interviews will familiarize candidates with the interview process and help reduce or eliminate weaknesses.
“A student can come with the job description and send it to us ahead of time, and we will treat the whole thing like a proper interview,” Kemp adds.“Some students want feedback as they go, [and] some will want to have it all in the end. But we can train students how to do interviews.”
Candidates should consider what they wear to interviews. Avoiding bright colours and sticking to black, grey, and blue suites, as well as white shirts, are some safe options.
“I don’t have a problem wearing coloured blouse because… I have a power level… I can be a little bit more who I am. But when you are [a] new grad, safer is better,” says Kemp.
4. Career Resources at MacEwan
As a student or new graduate, taking advantage of all the resources available through school is an intelligent approach. For instance, MacEwan’s Career and Experience department offers many resources to students and alumni, such as mock interviews. Students can also book time slots with advisors to review resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles, and discuss other things like career planning.
MacEwan students and alumni also have access to Ten Thousand Coffees, a system through which candidates can network and have conversations with matched employers once a month. Networking is critical because some jobs do not make it to job boards. “The statistic is that 80% of jobs get filled by a network. Somebody recommends somebody to somebody else. Somebody gives somebody an alert that there’s somebody hiring. It’s called the hidden job market.” says Kemp.
Manpreet Singh Sidana, a recent graduate from MacEwan University secured a job three months before he graduated in April 2021. “Start applying and making connections with your profs,” he says. That’s how I got mine.”
Furthermore, most institutions offer programs with work-integrated learning. These are programs that allow students to gain work experience while in school. According to Kemp, about 5,000 MacEwan students currently go through work placement per year. These placements are built into some programs, such as nursing, health and humanities, and communications.
“I took co-op and I already have a contract signed to start my position in September 2023,” says Matt Scott, a final year student at MacEwan University.
Kemp advises that October is the perfect time to book appointments with advisors since it is less busy at the department and well before exams. To learn more about MacEwan’s Career and Experience department, visit their site here.