Unfortunately, there is no 1-2-3 guide to help students transition from the classroom to the professional workplace, but for 24-year-old James Haga, the key was applying what he was learning in the classroom to activities in the real world.
“Throughout the time I spent in university and college, the most important thing I did was … getting out of the school and into the community,” says the 24-year-old director of advocacy for Engineers Without Borders Canada.
As a student, Haga volunteered in the social sector, which includes non-profits and non-governmental organizations. This enriched his learning experience, something many of his classmates didn’t do.
“They were scared they wouldn’t be able to find work in that area and you’re not going to be able to find it unless you go out and make yourself available,” he says. “The earlier you do, the better off you’re going to be.”
The Vancouver resident studied international studies and graduated from Simon Fraser University in 2008.
It’s also important that students be willing to seek out help, says Chris Nguyen, a 27-year-old from Toronto who graduated from Ryerson in 2005. This could include talking to former grads or individuals one would define as successful.
“Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask for help,” he says.
Nguyen studied information technology and recently launched teamsave.com, and was one of the faces behind jobloft.com when it was introduced.
Even if students take all the right steps, it will take time for those efforts to pay off, says Jessica King, a 31-year-old Halifax resident who graduated from the Nova Scotia’s Community College’s tourism and hospitality management program in 2007.
“The biggest thing is to realize you aren’t necessarily going to walk out of college right into a supervisory position,” she says.
In the three years she’s been with Delta Hotels, King worked her way up from guest services to HR coordinator for the two Halifax locations.
“You’re going to need to start somewhere and gain the experience so you not only gain the knowledge, but the respect of your colleagues in order to take that step,” adds King.