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Undergraduate Students - January 2006

The full version of the January CAPSScoop can be found by clicking here.


Articles in this edition

How to Find a Research Job at McGill

Exploring the World of Government and Public Service Opportunities

Book Review: Graduate School: Winning Strategies For Getting in With or Without Excellent Grades

Monster.ca Overview

Workopolis Campus Overview


How to Find a Research Job at McGill

by Shatha Saqqa

Whether you know the job you want, the professor you want to work with or the subject you want to research, finding a research job at McGill isn’t as difficult as students seem to think. The key to getting that McGill research job is to distinguish yourself from the rest of the students applying to the same position, and this is where taking the time to let the professor get to know you comes into play. Professors will be more willing to hire you knowing that you are genuinely interested in their research and are qualified to conduct it.

The common mistake many students make is presenting a professor, who barely knows them, with their CV. What students don’t contemplate is that they are not the only ones applying for the same position. Put yourself in the professor’s shoes: who would you hire? A student you know personally and whom you know is capable for the job or a student who simply attended your class? One of the most important pieces of advice is to listen to the professor’s tangents during class and to take the time to approach the Prof and show your fascination in the material. Many students don’t know what the professor is particularly interested in. I’ve heard a lot of people ask: “When am I ever going to use that? “ I myself have wondered this several times. Usually when a professor goes on and on about a certain aspect of a subject it indicates his or her great interest in it, which might suggest the type of research he or she conducts. Moreover, this ‘useless’ information can be an icebreaker between a student and the professor, distinguishing the student from fellow classmates.

However, a lot of students want to conduct research with professors they either don’t know or don’t currently have a class with. If you are one of these students don’t worry; you can attend one of the professor’s lectures and obtain a lot of information on his or her interests. Also, most professors have websites with a list of their research interests and work they are currently carrying out.

What if you know the subject you want to research but don’t know where to look? Not a problem! McGill has a webpage dedicated to research at McGill, giving such information as the different McGill research centers in alphabetical order, as well as interuniversity research centers and groups, networks in which McGill participates and links to the different faculty research web pages.

Once you’ve established that necessary ‘connection’ with the professor, ask about possible positions. You’ll be surprised. Even if the professor doesn’t have a vacancy, he or she might just come up with something for you!

Lastly, don’t forget to put together a C.V with your qualifications, including the different courses you’ve attended relating to the particular field, as well as the various labs, lab techniques and computer skills associated with the position. Also, indicate any other past experience or knowledge that correlates to the research and information you think would be valuable to the professor. Basically, indicate what you have to offer that makes you unique and different from the other students that might be applying to the same position.

Good luck!

  • Science Students should check out Office for Undergraduate Research in Science. This office is a new initiative by the Faculty of Science with the goal of expanding research opportunities for qualified and interested students. The CAPS homepage also has a link to Research Opportunites for Science students. They are not specific job postings but leads to help you in your job search.
  • Students looking for research opportunities on campus should also submit an application to the Financial Aid Workstudy Program.

Exploring the World of Government and Public Service Opportunities

by Deborah Rubin

The best way to get a taste for government and public service jobs is to intern during the summer months between academic years. However, there are also many opportunities to explore this wide field after graduating. There are jobs at both the local and international levels, but no matter what you choose to apply for, holding a government or public service job allows for a great learning experience.

If you are Canadian, you may want to consider looking into the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP). This program is designed for students and offers positions for those with all different skill-levels. Students submit applications to the Public Service Commission of Canada and these applications are sent through a database that identifies the skills, level of education and other qualifications necessary for particular government jobs. Then, the system assigns qualified applicants to the appropriate jobs in the database. Students would then be contacted to determine whether they are still interested and available.

Students with specific interests in a particular government department may also apply directly to a department. In this case, the application would go through the regular FSWEP database as well as the departmental program database. Some of the departments open to such a process include the Department of National Defence, Environment Canada, and the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General. A list of the departmental programs as well as information about FSWEP can be found at the Public Service Commission of Canada’s website.

There are other government agencies that hire students outside of FSWEP. Two of these agencies are the Canada Revenue Agency and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. If you are interested in working for any agency that is not included under FSWEP, contact the agency directly, as their respective application processes are different.

Another way to obtain public service experience is to participate in the Post-Secondary Co-operative Education and Internship Program. To be eligible for such a co-op and internship program, full-time Canadian students must be required by their program of study to complete an internship before graduating. Interested McGill students in the faculties of Engineering, Science, Management or Social Work can find out more information from their respective faculties.

For the travel-bound, there are many international opportunities open to students as well as recent graduates. Some positions are volunteer with stipends, while others are fully paid positions. One program that is open to students is S.W.A.P. (Students Work Abroad Program). This program opens up prospects for students to work abroad in areas including tourism, clerical, and hospitality industries. The program does not place students in jobs; rather, the program provides students with work visas, an orientation session in the student’s host country, a host centre with job listings to choose from, and some other necessary documents and information. The objective is to give students a chance to experience living and working independently in another country.

For the tech-savvy, another abroad program open to post-secondary Canadian graduates between the ages of 19 and 30 is NetCorp. Participants in the program travel to different areas of the developing world including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and South America. The objective of the program is to help develop information and communication technology in these parts of the world by setting up computers, teaching others how to use the Internet, networking businesses, setting up billing databases, and connecting schools to the Internet. Participants would be expected to commit 4 to 8 months. In addition to these two programs, there are many other programs funded by the government that allow students to experience living abroad and helping others. The links that follow this article should be helpful if you are interested in any of these opportunities.

If upon graduation you want to take a stab at a full-time government job, you can set up a profile, view jobs, apply for jobs, and match jobs to your qualifications on the Public Service Commission of Canada’s website. The opportunities through the government are truly limitless. There is something for everyone so be sure to do your research and keep an open mind.

Helpful Links

Book Review: Graduate School: Winning Strategies For Getting in With or Without Excellent Grades

by Mary Savvidou

Dave G. Mumby’s Graduate School: Winning Strategies For Getting in With or Without Excellent Grades is a must read for undergraduates or recent graduates who wish to pursue further education before entering the job market. This is a very concise and well organized book with a threefold purpose: firstly, to encourage more students to apply to graduate school, secondly, to help students successfully handle the application process, and finally, to reveal the strategies that make certain applicants outstanding.

In the first part of the book, Mumby educates his readers about issues such as the differences between graduate and undergraduate school, the many ways to finance graduate studies, as well as the workings of the selection process. For instance, as pertains to the latter, hesitant students may be pleasantly surprised to find out that an attractive personality could compensate for a less than excellent GPA. Moreover, the author outlines steps to take before applying in order to make the right choice of program.

The second part is where prospective applicants to graduate school will find answers to their frequently asked questions, including how many programs to apply to, how to prepare for standardized tests, and how to establish connections with professionals in their field. There are also separate sections dedicated to successfully handling the application form, letters of recommendation, personal statement and preselection interviews.

Mumby has saved the most insightful advice for the last part. Here is where the readers will learn all the “secrets” about going beyond the requirements in order to increase their chances of being accepted into the graduate program of their choice. The author even suggests a detailed step-by-step plan for students to follow as they go through their undergraduate years. The book ends with a listing of resources intended to help students explore their various options.

Overall this is a fabulous piece of work with sensible advice. If you are curious about grad school then this is the book for you!

Monster.ca Overview

by Natalia Kudryashova

Monster.ca deserves attention from any job seeker not only for its size but it also claims to be the most visited career website in Canada. At any given moment, there are over 25,000 Canadian job postings.

For first-time visitors, Monster has a special page with tips on how to use the website. You will also find a three steps plan for building a career as follows:

  1. Resume
    One should post his or her resume on the website to become visible for the employers looking for personnel. A resume builder is available, and there is also an option of storing several cover letters for further use. Users can also receive regular newsletters on latest career trends.
  2. Job Search
    Monster offers a variety of means to dig for jobs: search by location, industry, occupation, or by keywords. Job search agents alert users about new jobs matching their criteria. One can apply to any job online, right from the Monster website. There are also industry-specific job-search pages on several large career communities, including students looking for entry-level positions.
  3. Monster Career Center
    Virtual interviews, quizzes, career tips and more are designed to instruct on the right behavior in the job jungle. Attention students: don’t miss the advice on choosing a career or deciding which direction to take with your university major.

Monster.ca is a user friendly website and, surprisingly enough, fun website full of useful information. What more could you wish for?

Workopolis Campus Overview

by Natalia Kudryashova

Campus.workopolis.com IT’S WHERE THE JOBS ARE.

Workopolis Campus is a large Canadian web portal that offers plenty of useful information on choosing and pursuing careers, as well as some job market analysis. The website is bilingual, user-friendly, and easy to navigate.

The website is designed to serve as a link between students or recent graduates and potential employers: it helps to overcome difficulties related to the integration of young professionals into the job market. Students who lack professional experience are offered suggestions on how to obtain it, through internships or otherwise, and put in contact with companies willing to hire them for entry-level positions.

The website has several sections. One is the resource center, which contains a selection of articles on job search techniques and detailed information about various career paths. For example, there is advice on writing a resume and preparing for an interview.

Another is the personalized career center, where registered users can post and edit their resumes, save their previous job search results, create a personal job list or subscribe for career alerts. Up to 10 different resumes can be posted simultaneously.

The third section houses the numerous job listings that are regularly updated. Workopolis is Canada’s biggest job site for students and recent grads! Job search can be performed by keywords, by date, or by company name; there is also a separate subsection for on-campus jobs. Many of the positions are entry-level managerial jobs, as well as marketing and sales career opportunities.

Overall, campus.workopolis.com is a well-organized project that offers a unique multifaceted support for students and recent graduates entering the job market.

*Drop by the CAPS Office to pick up McGill’s Workopolis Access Code


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