Undergraduate Students - December 2007
The full version of the December CAPSScoop can be found by clicking here.
Articles in this edition
by Anie-Claude Lamarche, CAPS Career Advisor
Did you know that fields such as advertising, publishing or broadcasting look for people with an Arts degree to fill their positions? These industries, collectively often referred to as the communications industry, seek driven individuals who have demonstrated research and analytical skills, have the ability to think critically, can synthesize information from various sources, as well as have the capacity to clearly convey ideas in both speaking and writing; all skills that a Bachelor of Arts program attempts to impart to its students. Granted that working in the media is not the only avenue open to Arts students, but if you enjoy a dynamic and varied work environment, are very interested in communication and people, and know a lot about pop/world culture and current affairs, these are industries you may want to explore.
How does one access jobs in the media and communications you may wonder. Well, unlike some companies recruiting engineering or business students, this industry does not recruit on university campuses. Rather, they expect that you will seek them out and so networking skills, assertiveness and perseverance are important. Those who are successful at getting their foot in the door have some vision about where they’d like to work and why they feel they are a good match. “Do you have a job for me?” just doesn’t cut it. These industries require that you know yourself and that you can self-promote yourself, so knowing what you like and what you are good at is of prime importance.
Additionally, employers often prefer candidates who have completed an internship in the field; please come to CAPS if you are unsure how to obtain such an opportunity. However, don’t be disappointed if your internship is unpaid and you end up doing odd jobs or secretarial work most of the time. In fact, administrative and assistant jobs are common points of entry into the communications industry. They enable you to learn about the inner workings of an organization and allow you to meet people who can help you further your career. Once inside, a lateral move is possible into an area that is closer to what you want to do. Most importantly, give it your best, take initiatives, and get involved in projects that interest you; your efforts are likely to be rewarded. Also, keep in mind that the media industry does not offer a “9 to 5” work environment and so demonstrating eagerness and passion for the field by being there, working hard and doing whatever needs to be done during crunch times will get noticed.
The choice of jobs is varied within the broadcasting, advertising, and publishing industries. While job titles may differ from one industry to the other, positions can generally be classified into the following categories: writing/creative, editing, production/technical, and sales/marketing. Since there is such variability in the skills required by these positions, it is important for you to know what types of tasks you excel in, and which ones interest you. For example, if you are extremely creative, if you keep up to date with pop culture and if you are able to take criticism, then being a junior copywriter in an advertising agency may be something you wish to consider. However, if you are very detail oriented, love the written word and are able to research facts, then a position as copywriter within the publishing industry could be a good fit.
If the creative route appeals to you, you will be required to submit samples of your work. Volunteering in the community or at the university can enable you to slowly create this portfolio. For example, if you want to become a writer or journalist, it is important to start doing it today and to contribute to the student newspaper, even if it is in a non-paid position, as opposed to waiting until you find the “perfect” job.
Where these industries do differ is in whom you will target to obtain your entry-level opportunity. In general, most people find positions through networking as opposed to job postings. That being said, for publishing and broadcasting you should seek out smaller companies with local exposure. In advertising, it is generally best to approach larger firms, as they are more likely to hire interns.
In Canada, the bulk of communication jobs are located in metropolitan areas and especially Toronto for Anglophones. Remember, though, to seek out regional papers, TV networks and radio stations if these are areas that interest you as they are more eager to hire new talent at cheaper rates.
The media industry is a very competitive yet dynamic industry recruiting young B.A. graduates with world knowledge and excellent communication skills. To find out more about the specific positions offered in each industry, please visit the CAPS library and/or book an appointment with one of our career advisors.
by Natalie Jewit, U3, BA Psychology
You are in the hot seat. With only a mahogany desk separating you from your potential employer, your mouth is dry, your palms are sweating, and you are pretty sure your cheeks are radiating the brightest shade of red. Job interviews are nerve racking to start with. But to make matters worse, the interviewer just posed the most awkward question you can think of, “What kind of salary would you expect to make if you were hired for this position?”
The interviewer isn’t trying to make you squirm, despite all of your intuitions otherwise. They are simply trying to gage how much you really know about their company, the industry, and the position you’ve applied for. In their mind, the best job candidate is often the person who REALLY wants the job, and your interest is reflected in your knowledge base.
If you walk into an interview armed with your own job research, any anxieties about interview questions can be avoided. If you know your stuff, sweaty palms, and red cheeks will be a thing of the past.
Researching a potential employer not only prepares you for an interview, but it also allows you to discover whether or not a particular company is suited for you.
So, when you begin your job search, take note of a company’s mission statement or the philosophy that governs their operation. If their values are compatible with your own, the company may be a good fit. Explore what kinds of skills and training are required for a particular position to see if your qualifications are appropriate.
Familiarize yourself with the products or services a company offers and any major competitors they face. Check out industry trends, salary ranges, and stock reports. Look into the company’s history, their growth potential and opportunities for movement within the company. All of these things will not only help you make decisions about your immediate career goals, but also assist you in planning your future directions.
All of this investigation may seem synonymous with an overwhelming research project, and as students the last thing we need is another tedious assignment. But when it comes to career planning, the payoff is much greater than the ever sought after ‘A’. Putting a little time into your job search makes finding the job that’s right for you, and getting hired for such a position that much more likely. Fortunately for us students, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips that makes the whole process a lot easier. The CAPS Career Resource Centre has a library of books filled with company details related to our particular degrees, or fields of interest. We also have access to many online resources such as Career Cruising, Scott’s Directories Database and Factiva which provide details on everything from general career paths to specific companies.
So before you get to the interview stage, log on to a computer, grab a binder and do a little research. The next time you find yourself in the hot seat, you’ll have the answer to any tricky question that comes your way.
Useful Sites to Check-Out:
Career Cruising is an excellent tool for learning about job descriptions, working conditions and salaries in a general occupational category. Access requires a username (mcgill) and password (careers).
Scott’s Directories Database is available to McGill students (requires VPN) and indexes specific information on over 154 000 Canadian companies.
Factiva is a database accessible to McGill students (requires VPN) that provides corporate information on publicly traded companies worldwide.
by Vickey Habel, U3, BA Canadian Studies
Following graduation I landed a full time job as a human resources assistant. From 9 to 5 in my little cubicle I see resumés pass under my nose on a regular basis. I discovered something quite unexpected and interesting; the importance of hobbies on a personal and professional level.
I’ve been in the workforce since I was 18; summer jobs to pay for tuition and part time jobs to sustain me during the school year. As you can imagine I’ve sent many a resumé. The last line of those CVs was the “Hobbies” section which received the common “watching movies, hanging out with friends, reading, badminton…” Being a full time student and part time employee, time for extra-curricular activities was limited.
During university our minds are consumed with the constant buzzing of worry, stress, homework, exams, research…and when it all ends, it leaves an emptiness in our mind. At my little desk from 9 to 5 staring at a computer screen I realized that I needed something to fill in that void; to keep me sane. I needed a hobby.
Three months after graduation I started swing dancing at Cat’s Corner and it lifted my spirits, got me in shape, and helped me meet new people. I got so hooked on it that I began taking classes, planning to attend the next workshops in Montreal and finally planning to attend other events outside of Montreal. My hobby became a buoy for me. Work is work but my life is my life.
Through my job in human resources I learned that the “hobbies” section of a resumé is actually quite important. It gives insight on the actual person’s personality which an employer is always curious to know. It also serves to indicate the balance one can achieve in one’s life which can also reflect the balance one can achieve at work. In many work environments I’ve been in, the more experienced employees discussed the superiority-complex, workaholism and brown-nosing of university educated entry-level employees. Work becomes the focal point of these new graduates sometimes to the detriment of the development of healthy work relationships and even the possibilities of advancement. Ever heard of gopher-jobs? Too much enthusiasm can lead to employers taking advantage of the new employee. Moderation and balance are key words for the workforce.
Hobbies also provide references. In my line of work, there was a selection process that asked for three different references in order to be considered for the job. One of the candidates did not have three work-related references so he provided the name of a superior he had while organizing an annual event on a volunteer basis for his hobby. If anything it painted a picture of this person as a well-rounded individual and provided a different perspective of this candidate.
Building the foundations of one’s career is what we work towards throughout our university career but it’s equally important to build the foundations of a life. Getting involved in a hobby, a forgotten passion, is not only a healthy lifestyle choice but it also is beneficial for your employment prospects.