Undergraduate Students - May 2010
The full version of the May CAPSScoop can be found by clicking here.
Articles in this edition
by Lisa Trotto, U4 Secondary Education
What to do after you graduate? This question never burdened me before, until of course my four years at McGill abruptly came to an end in what felt like no time. It seems so simple when you’re going through the process: high school, college, university, then BOOM...career; however, coming to terms with the real world never seemed so real before, until now. Having endured excess cram-sessions, countless nights with minimal sleep and customary caffeine binges, I vowed to myself that following graduation, I would indisputably take a year off to hibernate. Effectively, I intended to reclaim what was rightfully mine: a year of lost sleep due to demanding academic requirements. While this appeared to be a good idea at the time, it is now clear that there are far more important things to worry about, such as: building professional networks, making connections, updating and finalizing resumes, researching graduate programs, and gaining letters of recommendation from the professors that we worked so hard to please...inevitably, things that cannot be done in one’s sleep.
For some, the period following graduation might be almost as overwhelming as going through the actual process itself. Thankfully there are resources right at your fingertips which can make a significant difference in your professional development. As many might already be aware, formatting and editing a resume and cover letter might not be the easiest job in the world. Instead of going solo on this project, do yourself a favour and drop by the CaPS office for additional assistance and guidance when completing this task. CaPS workers will be happy to assist and ensure your documents are suitable for the job market.
Logging on to MyFuture would also be an excellent idea; here you may narrow down your search to jobs in your field of study or domain, many of which usually cater to graduating students. Scheduling an appointment with an advisor in your field of study would also be a wise decision in order to broaden your horizons on the possibilities of graduate school or simply obtaining advice for your future. Expanding your network by contacting friends or friends of friends in order to land a job would also be great initiative. Keep in mind that a recommendation is often looked upon quite highly and usually a more promising bet in comparison to one who is not referred directly. Additionally, don’t stray too far from McGill’s libraries, here you will find bookshelves of resources, specifically, internship binders, career-development journals and of course, loads of inspiration.
Although the eventual lead to graduation is an immensely honourable experience, at times, don’t all students feel like the comfort of an educational setting can be somewhat cradling? I know it took that effect on me, and now that I’ve accomplished my goals, surpassed expectations and have graduated with pride…what’s next? The most logical of answers would evidently be the job hunt. However, the freedom of this post-graduation stage is what gets to me, the options are boundless and there for the taking. If you’ve always dreamt of backpacking through Europe, taking a prolonged trip out of town or trying something new that doesn’t quite fit the mould of your life-plan, go for it! Chances are you won’t have this amount of freedom again, especially if you decide to leap directly into the workforce. Take advantage of this time and make the most of it. Conferences, midterms and finals are no longer present to hold you back from your complete freedom, making this the ideal time to assert full control of your destiny.
The future may appear to be fraught with limitations; however, that is only the case if you believe that those limitations are real and allow them to exude power over you. Instead of being held captive in this systematic world that so many of us meticulously adhere to, seize the future and make it your own, this is not the end of your journey...it is only the first step into another of life’s adventures. Throughout university, we’ve studied law, architecture, engineering, biology, languages, education and medicine...but in the process, how many of us have actually studied ourselves? Although we’ve mastered each of our individual subjects, methods and practices through this development, it can become effortless to lose sight of the bigger picture. After receiving our diplomas, a further rewarding accomplishment would be to take some time after graduation to study who we are and what we truly desire for our futures. A goal and a dream, followed by diligent work habits and ambition is what allowed us to successfully complete university, now the time has now come to discover where our next aspiration will lead us. Most importantly, we must not disregard the fact that that where one road ends, another is met and this is precisely where the beginning of our next venture will begin. Congratulations graduates of 2010!
by Igor Milosavljevic, graduated with a Major in Economics, Minor in IDS
The question of whether you should go to grad school or not does not have a simple answer, it really depends on you and your situation. What do you plan to accomplish? What resources do you have at your disposal? What are you most comfortable with? Most counselors in High School promote the notion that a degree will improve one's prospects in life; in this line of logic, the more and the higher, the better. Statistics do support this induction, but statistics are results removed from context; a diploma is not a key, it is not guaranteed to open any door for its beholder.
The appeal of attending Grad school is often related to its implications for career prospects. It is true, for some careers, grad school is a simple must. If you are looking to establish yourself in developmental work, the field's largest and most influential institutions--the World Bank, the IMF or the UN's development agencies--will without exception require a post-graduate degree, as will many NGOs as well. Likewise, for those seeking a future in academia, attending grad school is almost unavoidable. Grad school can also grant you a chance for synergistic professional diversification; for example, pursuing a MBA after an engineering undergrad will empower you to soar to managerial positions in an engineering company. Grad school can also be useful to redirect yourself into something different, such as agriculture from an Arts degree, or concentrate yourself into something specific, such as epidemiology from biology. This can be especially useful for those with a non-technical undergrad, such as Humanistic Studies or Art History, to attain practical tutelage with greater direct applicability, such as a degree in Journalism or Business.
It should be taken into account that academics is a skill in itself, like chess or shooting hoops, and some people have a natural knack for it while others struggle. For those who have stumbled and clawed through academia, other paths might be more appropriate. In regards to job access, experience is often more prized than education. It makes no sense to force yourself through a path of high resistance merely because it’s there. If you have no idea what to do with yourself, jumping into Grad school is also a bad idea. Chances are you will soon find yourself entangled in something that drains you instead of inspiring you. Take some time and interact with the world to find yourself a niche in which you can exist. Continuing to Grad School merely because it is a comfortable option is not wise.
Talk to a recent graduate and, probably unemployed, they will tell you that going back to school is a good idea in the current climate of economic weakness. It can be seen as the next step after undergrad to further your knowledge, sharpen you perspective and build on other indirect skills which can be redirected to other uses. Grad school is overall a good choice for students in terms of knowledge. However, Grad school is specialized and attending it merely to wisen up without any other benefit to the path of your future is a waste of money and, more importantly, time. Use the power of reason that years of academia have instilled in you; research what Grad school can do for you and what else is out there. Grad school is not a murky midnight lake; do not be scared of it, but also do not jump into a commitment so large with closed eyes.