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Undergraduate Students - May 2009

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


Articles in this edition

Hone your Phone Skills to Increase your Contact Base

Taking a Year (or More!) Off After Graduation – Why Grad School Is Not the Only Option!

What You Need to do NOW in Today's Job Market

WORKING AS A TELEMARKETER? Beware! You may be engaging in criminal deceptive telemarketing

Resources for Finding Volunteer Opportunities


Hone your Phone Skills to Increase your Contact Base

by Janice Tester, CaPS Career Advisor

Are you apprehensive of making a phone call to an employer to enquire about job opportunities? If so, you are not alone - a lot of people are. Here is some information and tips about cold calling and information interviewing.

What is a cold call and why should I do it?

  • Cold calling is making direct contact with potential employers who do not know you.
  • Cold calling can help you conduct company research and learn about job leads.
  • Cold calling is one of the most effective ways of uncovering the hidden job market.
  • It will help you to expand your contact base and increase the chances of finding a job.
  • It is a way of selling yourself or letting employers know of your qualifications and skills.
  • Cold calling will help you set up information interviews and network within your field of interest.

What is an information interview?

An information interview is a meeting between two people: someone who wishes to learn more about a particular career and someone who works in that career field. It is not about getting a job from your interviewee; it is about getting to know people in the career you are researching and targeting.

Who should do information interviews?

  • Students in their first years of studies to seek out information about their major and how it might lead to specific kinds of careers.
  • Students fully immersed in their majors looking for information on internships.
  • Senior students searching for information on particular organizations or careers.
  • Alumni looking to change careers or jobs.

Whom should I conduct an information interview with?

Interview people whose perspectives will help you make decisions about the career path you wish to take. There are two ways to go about finding interviewees:

  • The connections approach: Start by connecting with your primary contacts. These include your family, friends, peers, professors, co-workers, previous employers, alumni, and anyone you can think of. You might find potential interviewees among your primary contracts. But what is more likely is that your network will know of a potential interviewee or know of someone who knows a potential interviewee.
  • The cold calling approach: This techniques involves you choosing a relevant company/organization and contacting a person in a position that interests you. Usually, you can find names easily on the company’s website. However, if that does not work, call the main switchboard of the organization and ask, for example, the name and extension number of the head of marketing.

What do you ask at an information interview?

You can prepare a set of questions from the list below and add more that are relevant to you and the career in question. Here are some samples of questions:

  • What do you do on a typical day in your job?
  • What do you enjoy the most about your job? The least?
  • What has your career progression been like to date?
  • What are the future prospects in this field?
  • How did you get this job?
  • What are the entry jobs like?
  • Is there a demand for people in jobs like yours?
  • If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself and why?
  • What advice would you have like to have heard when you were starting out?
  • What other fields or jobs would you suggest that I research further before making a final decision?
  • Who would you recommend that I should talk to next? When I call them, may I use your name?

What can you say on a cold call?

Your phone call can sound something like this, but you can definitely adapt this script to fit your style:

Switchboard: Good morning.

Yourself: Hello, could you please tell me the name of your junior/senior _________________?

Switchboard: Certainly, his/her name is ____________________.

Yourself: Thank you. (Could you spell that for me.) Would you please connect my call to his/her office?

Secretary: Good morning. _________________’s office.

Yourself: Yes, may I speak with ___________________ please?

Secretary: May I ask what it is regarding?

Yourself: Yes. My name is ________________________ and I am a student graduating from McGill. I am conducting some research in the field of ____________________. I understand Mr/Ms.___________________ might have some of the information I am looking for.

Secretary: Fine. I’ll put you through.

Mr./Ms.______: ________________ speaking.

Yourself: Good morning, Mr./Ms. _________________. My name is _______________ and I am graduating from McGill. I am interested in pursuing a career in _________________. At this point I’m trying to find out as much about the field as I can before making any definite career decisions. Would it be possible to arrange an appointment with you to talk about your career in __________________?

Mr./Ms.______: Yes certainly…

What if the secretary/receptionist blocks me?

Their job is to transfer the calls to the best person to handle the call. Therefore, they might ask what your phone call is regarding. In order to prevent them from blocking you, you can say:

  • I am seeking to obtain their professional advice.
  • I have information to give them.
  • Prepare a technical question that cannot be easily answered on their website.

Any other tips on cold calling?

  • Sit up straight when you speak and smile. As a result, your tone will be more positive - something people can sense in a few seconds.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Ask a friend to play the potential employer. Repeat the script until it sounds natural.
  • Say your full name carefully and enunciate clearly so they can remember it.
  • Refer to the person by name and err on the side of formality. Use “Mr” or “Ms” instead of their first name.
  • Be thankful and polite including to the receptionist and secretary.
  • You may ask: “Am I catching you at a good time?” This will demonstrate you respect their time.
  • Let them know you are seeking for advice and information - not a job from them.
  • Take notes of what is being said for future reference using a pen instead of typing on the computer (the noise is distracting).

In conclusion, cold calling is a creative way of expanding your network, making new contacts, and building new relations. Prepare and you will succeed. Trust that you will get an interesting job through the art of networking and let the process unfold!

Taking a Year (or More!) Off After Graduation – Why Grad School Is Not the Only Option!

by Jan Bottomer, CaPS Music and Arts Career Advisor

As the McGill community gears up for the annual Spring Convocation the question of what to do next likely looms large in the minds of new grads. Many of you may be wondering about graduate school, others planning on jumping into your career immediately. Still others may be unsure of what to do next and looking to take at least a year or two off to figure things out.

There are all sorts of positive reasons to pursue graduate or professional school following your undergraduate degree. The training might be compulsory or advantageous in obtaining the kind of job or career you want. You might find your subject area so fascinating that you’re “not done” with it and want to keep studying, researching and learning in your field. You might want to work in a particular lab or department with a particular professor, maybe at a specific school, in a specific country or language. The degree itself and/or the title and status it confers may have particular personal resonance for you. You may find yourself relating to the above reasons or have others of your own, but the key is to have a reason, to know what you’re looking for from the program and where you hope it will lead you, and then to check out those assumptions by doing your research thoroughly.

Graduate and professional training programs are wonderful, door-opening options for some, but they require a substantial commitment of time, money and energy on your part, and represent several years of lost potential earnings. Thus, before you make this commitment you want to be sure both that you’re spending the above resources in the right place, and that you actually want to be there. After all, your time and your energy constitute your life! Unless you have unlimited time and money at your disposal, think again before you head directly to graduate school because “everyone else is going,” you “don’t know what else to do” or you’ll “never be able to get a job with just an undergraduate degree.”

If this sounds familiar, consider taking a year (or more!) “off” after graduation, to work, travel, volunteer, do an internship, job shadow, learn a new language, try new things…the options are many and varied but the goal is to give yourself the time and experiences to help clarify who you are, what you’re good at, what you want out of life and what you have to give. Especially if the academic environment is all you’ve ever known, it can be challenging to decide on your next direction. Time away from school can provide a much needed break from the academic routine and allow you to try out and investigate different career interests and options first-hand, by gaining direct experience in the industry or with the population you’re considering working with. You’ll learn about how the world functions outside of academia, and, if you do return to graduate school, this new knowledge will allow you to do so rejuvenated and replenished with new motivation and perspectives to share. Time “off” can also provide you with the time to follow a long-cherished personal dream…of travelling, living overseas, learning a new skill or a new language…time that’s often much easier to come by when you’re young and relatively free to follow your own individual passions and goals than later when you’re settled into a career, have family responsibilities etc. And last but not least, time away from academia can also help you to focus your goals and interests so that you have a much clearer idea of what you’d like to study if you do eventually decide to enter a graduate program.

But won’t taking time off look bad when I do apply to graduate school? What if I lose my momentum and never go back to school? What will my parents think? And I can’t possibly do anything useful with just a bachelor’s degree can I?

Hopefully it is already quite clear that when I talk about “taking time off” I’m not referring to quality time spent watching TV on your parents’ couch. Work, to gain experience, to become financially independent and/or pay off loans, to save up money to travel or all of the above! Travel. Do an internship at an organization or in a field that you’re considering entering. Volunteer for your local literacy organization or on an environmental project. Teach English in Eastern Europe. Backpack around South East Asia. Start your own business. Join the Peace Corps. Take a language course in another country. Do a combination of these things…work full-time and volunteer for a few hours a week. Do a part-time internship and take a language course. Learn a new skill. Work as much as you can for the next year, then take off to travel for a few months. Yes, of course “time off” looks bad if you haven’t done anything with the time. The challenge is to figure out what you’d like to try and explore, then to articulate your plan and your motivation to yourself and others, including your parents! Plus, while strictly research grad programs may be harder to get back into if you’ve spent many years away from the field and subject, many professional programs practically require you to take a year or more off in order to fulfill work experience requirements. And, remember that while you are immersed in academe it feels like grad school is the only viable route to a good job and everyone is going, the picture in the outside world is quite different. Education definitely counts but real world experience goes a long way too!

The period immediately following graduation is both an exciting and tumultuous time for new grads. Take some time to savour your achievement and the accompanying celebrations, but also to consider what you’ve learned about yourself in the past three or four years – experiences you’ve had, skills you’ve developed, and interests you’ve pursued. It’s not necessary (and awfully stressful!) to “figure out your entire life” at this point, but you do need to be asking yourself some of the big questions around who you are, the kind of person you’d like to become and the areas/industries/careers/tasks you’d like to try out and explore in the near future. If you have questions about any of the points raised in this article, if you need practical information and resources about work, careers, volunteering etc., and if you if you feel you would benefit from sitting down and discussing some of your ideas, dreams and plans with a career advisor, remember that CaPS is here to help you with these questions and more. We are open all summer long and as a new grad you have access to all of our services for up to a year for free, so come pay us a visit!

Resources to start with:

The Turbulent Twenties Survival Guide: Figuring Out Who You Are, What You Want, and Where You’re Going after College, by Marcos R. Salazar

Career Cruising
Username: mcgill
Password: careers

Transitions Abroad

Roadtrip Nation

SWAP Working Holidays

What You Need to do NOW in Today's Job Market

by Catherine Stace, CaPS Career Advisor

You are about to graduate and the job market has taken a nose dive. What can you do to make your application stand out when so many people will be applying for the same jobs? Employers who are hiring are looking for someone who has the competencies they need and can also produce an error free and targeted application.

Let’s break the myth about jobs in today’s market. There are available jobs out there. The competition might be more intense so you have to work a little harder to get that job! In April myFuture has upwards of 400 positions posted in less then one month. 25% of those positions the employers did not ask for a specific degree, they asked for a certain level of education and skills that are relevant to the position (Fig. 1).

Start at the beginning with a self-assessment. Can you answer these questions? Who are you? What can you do? What do you like to do? What are you good at? What are your hard and soft skills? This will help you highlight what you can do for an employer on your CV.

The next step is to start researching employers. You are looking for employers that hire someone with your skill set, whose products or services interest you. What competencies does this organization need from an employee? This is going to help you target your CV, cover letter and prepare you for the interview.

Walk away from your computer. You need to network. Professional networking sites (such as LinkedIn) can be a great tool but you still need to speak to people in person. You want to talk to people who work in an area that interest you subsequently you can ask them questions about the work environment, sector outlook, and what competencies are required. Now more than ever you need to create a network that will help you break into the hidden job market.

Create a great application! With the information you have gathered target your CV and cover letter. Have your CV and cover letter checked by another set of eyes – employers will dismiss an application with typos and poor grammar! CaPS offer CV Drop-in daily or you can make an appointment with a Career Advisor to go over your application.

Take some time to practice your interview skills. Now that you have conducted a self-assessment and researched the employer you need to be able to communicate to the employer, during your interview, what skills you have and show that you are the right fit for that position. In order to prepare take some time attend an interview workshop or book a mock interview with a CaPS Career Advisor.

Be flexible. Employers might be offering only part-time positions to begin with. Do you have financial constraints that make working only part-time hard? Consider taking more than one part-time position. You will develop a wider range of experience and expand your network for future work.

The best method to take when approaching the job market is to be prepared. CaPS offer a variety of Career Development Workshops including, Researching Employers, Networking, CV and cover letter writing and Interview skills that will help prepare you.

myFuture Stats

Please note – Many positions posted will overlap in degrees requested, such as Arts and Management, Science and Arts, etc. For example:

  • The Office Coordinator for the UU-United Nations Office (deadline May 8th!) is suitable for All Majors –Arts departments (Political Science, Economics, Religious Studies, Humanistic Studies, International Development Studies, Cultural Studies and others), Management (Accounting, Finance, International Management, International Business), Science (Computer Science) to name but a few.
  • A Regulatory Financial Analyst encompasses these programs: Accounting (Management, Continuing Education), Economics (Arts) and Finance (Management, Cont. Ed. and Arts)
  • The position of Coordinator Impact Program is looking for candidates with the following majors – Arts (Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology), Management/Science (Psychology), Social Work
  • Communication Specialist: Web and Digital Media – Although the majors requested are: Computer, Marketing, Public Relations and the title may not speak to most Arts students directly, there is overlap with some Arts programmes
  • Project Leader - Anthropology, International Development Studies, Environment & Natural Resource is another example of cross disciplines from different departments.

WORKING AS A TELEMARKETER? Beware! You may be engaging in criminal deceptive telemarketing

submitted by the Competition Bureau

Each year, students are hired as telemarketers. Telemarketing is a legitimate and important industry in Canada. However, some companies engage in fraudulent or deceptive telemarketing. Those engaged in this sort of telemarketing, including recently hired students, could be liable to criminal charges under both the Competition Act and the Criminal Code. Those convicted can face significant fines and jail terms of up to 14 years.

Top 10 Clues of Deceptive Telemarketing Operations:

  1. You have problems getting paid or receiving commissions, or you are getting paid in cash.
  2. There seems to be a high number of customers who are upset with their dealings with the company.
  3. The customers are referred to as “Mooches” or “Suckers.”
  4. The sales pitches do not state very early on in the call, the purpose of the call and what is being sold.
  5. The pitches give the impression that customers have already agreed to make a purchase, or lead customers to believe their regular supplier is contacting them.
  6. There is no company name at the door.
  7. The company changes name often.
  8. There is a short second call whose only purpose is to record the customer’s agreement to make a purchase.
  9. There is a specialized group of higher paid telemarketers that work separately from the rest and whose pitches to consumers are even more deceptive and aggressive.
  10. The customer service department, if it exists, does not receive in-bound calls.

Why Avoid Working for Deceptive Telemarketing Operations?

  • Could lead to a criminal record;
  • Could result in jail time and fine; or
  • May have difficulty finding rewarding employment in the future.

Contact one of the following if you suspect any wrongdoing or for more information:

Resources for Finding Volunteer Opportunities

by Vanessa Franco, CaPS Career Resource Consultant


Volunteering your time and energy is an excellent way to develop useful, marketable skills while exploring interests and possible career paths. Furthermore, you will be creating relationships, the basis of networking, while giving back to the community. Volunteer experience is positively viewed by employers and graduate schools alike. Below are some suggestions as to where to look for volunteer opportunities.


myFuture is CaPS’ jobs, internship and volunteer database. Sign in using your McGill e-mail address and password. To search for volunteer opportunities, select 'Volunteer' under the 'Position Type' drop-down menu.

Career Resource Centre

On reserve at the front desk is a binder of volunteer opportunities in Montreal. This A-Z listing of organisations is available for on-site consultation only.

Section 5.8 is where to find books about volunteering. Notable titles include:

  • Green Volunteers: The World Guide to Voluntary Work in Nature Conservation
  • How To Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas
  • International Voluntary Work (9th ed.)
  • Volunteer: A Traveller's Guide to Making a Difference Around the World
  • Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others

In this section you will also find a box containing pamphlets and flyers for volunteer opportunities. Finally, be sure to check out the free stuff cabinets as you walk into the CaPS office for even more informational material.


The CaPS website has a web page about volunteering, which provides numerous links to volunteering organisations within and near McGill, in the Greater Montreal Area, and in the non-profit sector, including national and international opportunities.

For more information, pay me a visit in the CaPS office, e-mail %20caps [dot] library [at] mcgill [dot] ca (caps.library at mcgill.ca) or call 514-398-3304 x00950, Monday to Friday, 9h – 17h.


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