During the summer of 2016, I worked with the non-profit organization Global Vision as a research intern. My job was to help the organization’s president compile research for a book he was writing about Canadian millennials in the current job market. One of my principal tasks was to interview business leaders, reporters and academics across Canada, and across industries, on their opinions of what millennials need to do to be successful post-graduation.
One of the most consistent responses I received — across all industries — was that work experience was a hugely sought-after asset.
Initially, I had only thought of co-op programs as something for business or engineering students, and did not even know that the University of Alberta had a work experience program within the Faculty of Arts. Upon returning to classes in September 2016, I heard about Faculty of Arts Work Experience (AWE) and registered.
One of the most consistent responses I received was that work experience was a hugely sought-after asset.
Personally, I wanted to become an AWE student for three reasons. Firstly, I wanted to get the most well-rounded education I could and, as reaffirmed by the business leaders I interviewed over the summer, I was sure that AWE was the correct next step. Secondly, I was unsure of which field I wanted to work in after my degree and my experience with AWE would hopefully allow me to experience work in different industries. Lastly, I wanted to be sure of what my professional and academic interests are when thinking about pursuing graduate education.
Having work experience on my CV when I graduate with my Arts degree will hopefully give me a leg up to work in a position that is more than just an entry-level position and more stimulating in nature.
The one-on-one advice the AWE program gives its students for crafting resumes and cover letters is huge. Like many Arts students, I pride myself on my written communication, and with the help of my career adviser, I believe that my cover letters are where I can separate myself from other candidates. Another area where AWE helps students is with mock interviews and interview advice. I had never participated in a formal interview before, so this was a big help.
I learned that not allowing yourself to become discouraged, and that having a back-up plan will increase your chances of success.
I learned the hard way that joining the AWE program does not automatically guarantee you a position – far from it. I began looking for summer term positions in January 2017, and although I applied for multiple positions, I was not hired for any. I learned that not allowing yourself to become discouraged, and that having a back-up plan and being willing to work in terms other than summer will increase your chances of success.
Although I did not secure a position for the summer term, I spent the summer (besides working and doing some travelling) applying for fall term positions. Once again it seemed like I was going to strike out. However, during the first week of August I received an offer from Economic and Social Development Canada in Toronto. And this is where I will pick up with my next post: work experience “abroad.”
*Banner photo: Joseph Shepard Building in Toronto, location of Economic and Social Development Canada.
Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.