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Undergraduate Students - October 2012

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

Articles in this edition

Tackling the Personal Statement

Meaningful Moments at AIDS Community Care Montreal

Alumni Interviews with Winnie Hu: Talking Law with Daniel Chonchol and Peter Halprin

Labour Market Information


Tackling the Personal Statement

By Cassandra Ma, U3 Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) & CaPS Mentor Program and Peer Educator Program Coordinator

Nowadays, as it becomes increasingly difficult to find entry-level jobs with only a bachelor’s degree, the competition for admission into graduate and professional schools is fiercer than ever. As much focus is placed on obtaining the highest GPA and entrance-exam scores possible, students may often forget that the personal statement is an equally important component of the application process. Admissions officers are looking for individuals who, on top of being academically successful, are interesting and articulate; thus, the content of your personal statement can fundamentally distinguish your application from a pool of similar candidates.
The critical thing to remember, when writing your personal statement, is to let your unique personality shine through, so as to let the reader (i.e. the admissions committee) gain some insight into your character. Be honest, rather than pretending to be the “ideal” applicant. Steer clear of simply reiterating everything on your CV – you will have the space to provide this information in various other areas of your application. The goal is to provide a deeper picture of the person you are, so pick one to two main events or aspects of yourself that you want to discuss the most, and elaborate on these. If you are stuck for ideas, go through each of your past experiences, and ask yourself:

  • What did you learn from this experience? In what ways did it contribute to your personal growth?
  • Were there any special initiatives or projects that you took on that reflect your skills, interests, and values?
  • What problems did you encounter? How did you overcome these conflicts?
  • How did you utilize your talents and abilities to achieve excellence, or improve your community?
  • How did this experience influence your academic/career goals, and help you get to where you are now?

Link all of these ideas back to your overall motivations and aspirations, to address why you wish to attend that school in particular (remember: you should be writing different essays for each institution to which you are applying). Once you have finished your essay, read it over and ask yourself: “Is this personal statement something that only I could write?” If the answer is yes, then you’re done!

Don’t forget that CaPS is here to help! Career Advisors can provide you with constructive feedback on your personal statement; contact the front desk to book an appointment.

Meaningful Moments at AIDS Community Care Montreal

By Stephanie Gutnik, Bachelor of Arts (2011) and CaPS Scoop Journalist

There's no doubt that joining others to celebrate special landmarks is both fun and fulfilling.  As 2012 marks the 25th anniversary of AIDS Community Care Montreal, the organization will be celebrating all year long – and they want you to join the festivities.  Originally developed to meet the needs of the Anglophone community living with HIV/AIDS, ACCM has grown into a thriving society that both provides support to those living with HIV/AIDS, and promotes awareness and education for HIV/AIDS prevention throughout Montreal.

            The volunteer positions available are abundant: translators, accountants, fundraisers, and multi-media/design positions are some of the roles currently up for grabs.  Moreover, support group facilitators are brought on the team to work in a confidential, non-judgemental environment; upbeat workshop leaders visit high schools and CEGEPs, as well as host kiosks as part of the prevention arm of the organization.  Boasting over 100 active volunteers (15-20 of who help out on a weekly basis), spending time within the open and welcoming environment of ACCM is not only a means to give back, but a great way to build your social network outside of the “McGill bubble”. 

            The typical time commitment for an ACCM volunteer is four hours per week, over a span of at least six months.  If you meet or exceed this minimum, the organization will gladly provide you with a reference letter.  Furthermore, if you are looking to turn your volunteer position into a credited internship, ACCM is accommodating to course requirements, in terms of completing the necessary hours and obtaining an evaluation once the internship has come to a conclusion.  Finally, if you plan on staying in Montreal during the summer, ACCM typically hires two students for an eight week contract.

            There are several traits that one must possess in order to qualify for a volunteer position at ACCM.  Given the dynamics of a community that combines both meaningful work with tight deadlines, as well as serious subject matter with the slight goofiness of sexual health, ACCM accepts people who are open-minded, non-judgemental, and willing to learn.  While HIV-related knowledge is an asset, it can be acquired via the training provided to every assistant.  In fact, a whole weekend in October is dedicated to volunteer training.

            Interested?  The application process is straightforward.  Visit http://accmontreal.org to find the online volunteer application. Successful applicants will be interviewed by the organizers, so that you can be placed in a position that best matches your interests.

            Going by the spirited conversation I shared with the Coordinator of Volunteers, it is clear that the people who belong to the ACCM community are caring toward, and accepting of, those with whom they interact; they are passionate for the cause and determined to make a difference.  It sounds like they have found a way to have their cake and eat it too—a very happy birthday indeed. 

Alumni Interviews with Winnie Hu: Talking Law with Daniel Chonchol and Peter Halprin

By Winnie Hu, U3 Bachelor of Arts (Political Science and English Literature) & CaPS Scoop Journalist

Walking under the florescent lights in the tiled tunnel of Peel Metro last February, I thought to myself: do I really want to go to law school? Back in May of my first year at McGill, I had quickly concluded that Law was the only way I could justify my Arts degree. Like many other BA students, I came to a fast realization that career opportunities tended to be more ambiguous for those of us who were not having an intimate affair with business and science. Law was the way to go and if I may speak candidly for a moment, that six-figure cheque had a lot to do with it.
But what if we have other vested interests? Or if we don’t know whether we’ll do well in the field of Law? If we are not familiar with the industry, then should we commit ourselves to it for promises of gold and the occasional fight for justice? The answer is “apply anyways”. At least, that was the response I got from Daniel Chonchol, Manager of Electronic Communications at McGill’s Department of Alumni Relations. He manages a team of three who work in writing, web design, and email specialization. Together, they build and strengthen McGill’s global alumni network, both as a service to the students of the university, and to the school’s coffers. But don’t let his long career at McGill fool you.

Daniel hails from McGill Law and Columbia Journalism accompanied by diverse work experience both as a litigation lawyer and a CBC journalist. He’s in his early fifties, and the reason his career took a few turns was because he wanted to be happy where he worked; the pace of life as a lawyer and journalist was too fast for him, and he likes exploring his creative potential. When asked whether he thinks he is overqualified for his job, Daniels says: “Not at all. Journalism is a no brainer and I use what I learned in law school every day. That’s the beauty of it. You can work anywhere with a law degree. You can always apply it somehow.”
On the other hand, Peter Halprin advises students to make informed decisions before studying law. Having graduated from McGill with a degree in Political Science and IDS in 2006, Peter went on to Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. Since then, he’s been practicing primarily in commercial litigation at Anderson Kill & Olick, P.C. As a relatively recent graduate, Peter cautions that law school can be very expensive. Plus, with our current economy, new grads are facing increasing challenges in the job market. The fabled fat cheques that every law student fantasizes about are overstated. “People focus too much on the high end of the market,” Peter says. “In reality that niche is accessible only to a small percentage of law graduates”. In short, students need to know what they’re doing before they take a plunge.

As for whether or not to take the leap? Peter believes passion is the key. With a background in debate and an appetite for public speaking, Peter had always been interested in being a lawyer. Nothing else matters if you like what you’re doing; and to discover these aspirations, Peter suggests doing an internship with a law firm or working a position where law is applied to see if you enjoy the practice. If you don’t know what kind of law you’re interested in, don’t worry. Everyone begins as a generalist – that’s what the classes are for. And of course, get to know some alumni; they will be most helpful in getting a job.
So, to go into Law, or not to go into Law? Maybe that is not the question. Maybe it is better to ask: why Law? Think about what it really means to be a lawyer. Harvey Specter might look suave and powerful winning all his cases, but he also really enjoys arguing, working under pressure, and thinking outside the box. Going to law school is not necessarily a guarantee of happiness or a six-figure cheque, but a contracted promise for meticulous work. So whatever the case may be, your interests deserve serious consideration. It may be the only compass you can trust.

“I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be.” – Douglas Adams

Labour Market Information

By Lisa Lin, CaPS Career Resource Consultant

This monthly bulletin aims to inform you of major news and trends in the Québec, Canada and U.S. labour markets. Your feedback is welcome caps [dot] library [at] mcgill [dot] ca.

In this issue

  • Employer demand for graduates remains high
  • Canadians are more optimistic about job security this year
  • U.S. private sector added 201,000 jobs
  • Occupational highlight: Agricultural Representatives, Consultants and Specialists
  • And more!

The good news

Employer demand for graduates remains high
The Globe and Mail, 11 September 2012
Employer demand for university graduates has remained high across most of the developed world, with the wage premium rising by an average of 10 per cent over the past decade, OECD research has found.

Canadian economy adds 34,300 jobs, but unemployment rate remains at 7.3%
Montreal Gazette, 07 September 2012
Canada's economy hammered out 34,300 new jobs last month, a figure that topped expectations but one that was coolly received by economists surveying the cross-currents beneath the headline number.

Tech, hospitality bright spots as Ottawa jobless rate steady at 6.3 per cent
Ottawa Citizen, 07 September 2012
The capital region’s jobless rate held steady at 6.3 per cent in August as small declines in government payrolls were offset by surprising strength in the tech sector.

U.S. private sector hiring jumps, jobless claims drop
The Globe and Mail, 06 September 2012
U.S. private employers added 201,000 jobs in August, easily beating economists’ expectations.

Canadians more optimistic about job security this Labour Day
The Globe and Mail, 29 August 2012
A new Labour Day survey suggests Canadians are more optimistic this year about their job security as well as hiring and growth prospects at their companies – and many expect a raise.

Le salaire des employés non syndiqués augmenterait de 3,2% en 2013
La presse, 27 August 2012
Non-unionized Canadian workers can expect an increase of 3.2 per cent in wage next year.


Other news

QuickList: Unemployment rates in selected Canadian cities in August
Selected Canadian cities unemployment rates at a glance.

Statistics Canada - Study: How the older unemployed look for work, 2006 to 2010
August 2012
Older unemployed workers spent as much time on average looking for work as their younger counterparts did during the four-year period from 2006 to 2010.

Statistics Canada – Labour Force Survey
August 2012
After a decline in July, employment rose by 34,000 in August, the result of an increase in part-time work. The unemployment rate held steady at 7.3%.

Statistics Canada - Payroll employment, earnings and hours
June 2012
Average weekly earnings of non-farm payroll employees were $898.00 in June, up 0.6% from the previous month. On a year-over-year basis, earnings increased 3.0%.


Occupational highlight

Agricultural Representatives, Consultants and Specialists (NOC 2123)

Agricultural representatives, consultants and specialists provide assistance and advice to farmers on all aspects of farm management, cultivation, fertilization, harvesting, soil erosion and composition, disease prevention, nutrition, crop rotation and marketing. They are employed by businesses, institutions and governments that assist the farming community or they may be self-employed.

Job prospects in this occupation are fair. After a decrease in the early and mid 90s, the number of agricultural representatives, consultants and specialists increased slightly. This growth can be mainly explained by trends that influence the agriculture industry, government spending, laws that govern agriculture, scientific discovery and the introduction of new technologies. Despite the mixed outlook in the agricultural industry, increased needs for specialized agricultural consultants should lead to a slight increase in the number of agricultural representatives, consultants and specialists over the next few years.

For a complete profile of this and other occupations, visit Career Cruising http://public.careercruising.com/ca/en
Contact us at caps [dot] library [at] mcgill [dot] ca for the username and password or login to myFuture https://csm-caps.mcgill.ca/students/index.php and search for Career Cruising under the tab "Resources" -> "Career Resources" -> "Career Resources”.

Lisa’s Corner

Are you a graduate student in Humanities and Social Sciences?
The Versatile PhD (http://versatilephd.com/premium/) is a valuable resource for graduates to identify, prepare for, and excel in non-academic careers in the field of Humanities and Social Sciences.  The premium content includes:

  • Hiring success stories – Authentic, successful CVs that resulted in PhDs getting hired straight out of the academy
  • Career autobiographies – Advanced graduates describing how their careers evolved over time
  • Panel discussions – Panels of graduates working in PhD-friendly fields answering questions from people like you
  • Advancement success stories – Cover letters and resumes showing a graduate advancing to a more desirable position

To access the premium content, log into myFuture (https://csm-caps.mcgill.ca/students/) with your McGill email address and follow this instruction:

  • Click the link Resources
  • Choose the tab Career Resources
  • In the Keywords field, enter the word SUBSCRIPTION
  • Click the button Apply Search to see a list of resources
  • Scroll down to find the Versatile PhD link
  • Click the Versatile PhD Premium Login link
  • Register with your McGill email to obtain access for 1 year


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