Looking for job search tips? Post-graduation advice? Wondering what strategies and services other McGill grads have found helpful? See below for a collection of inspiring Career Stories from McGill students and alumni. Check back often as this section is a work in progress and will be updated regularly!
To share your own “Career Story”, contact: Linda Cicuta linda.cicuta [at] mcgill.ca
Greta, Graduating student, Bachelor of Science, Microbiology & Immunology
I believe many will agree that figuring out what to do with your BSc comes close to being as hard as actually completing it. The process can be discouraging and stressful at times, but the key is really to use all the available resources to explore your options – and do it as early as possible. This line of reasoning brought me to CaPS in my very first year at McGill. Of course, the advisor I met on my first appointment did not have the magical answer, but she provided me with the next best thing – my options, as well as how to keep them open, how to find out which one fits my personality and skills, and how to get real life experience in each of them. And when that magical answer came to me, after extensive introspection, honest and stringent self-assessment, shadowing, volunteering, and research experience – both positive and negative, CaPS advisors followed me every step of the way to prepare my application. From choosing schools, preparing a professional CV and assessing my personal statement, to running mock MMIs and setting up mock traditional interviews in English and French – CaPS really made this time-consuming and exhausting process much easier! So as I am about to enter one of my top choice programs, I am happy to share how invaluable CaPS has been in my success.
The decision will and should always remain your own. However, get as many people as possible involved in informing you and helping you. Consider other opinions, get a second look at all your writing, and explore new ways to polish your application. Take advantage of all the opportunities CaPS is offering you at McGill, speak with older students and professors, and get as much relevant experience as you possibly can with leadership roles, volunteering, traveling, research courses (396, honours), internships and jobs. Ruling out what you don’t like is as helpful as finding what you like. Likewise, starting in advance is not a cliché because a) 3-4 years of university will go by MUCH faster than you think, b) the application season for secondary degrees/jobs unfortunately arrives EVEN FASTER, and c) your undergraduate experience (grades, but also extracurriculars) is likely to remain important even after you graduate or obtain a secondary degree. Thus, although I only made my final decision towards the end of my U2 year (i.e. months before the beginning of the application cycles), I was still able to ground my application in experiences I’ve already had an opportunity to assemble during the beginning of my university career (research, volunteering, athletics in my case). And while I personally chose one side of the traditional med school – grad school debate, please remember that science can open you many other doors, including law, teaching, communication, business, and public policy, which are all examples of paths that some of my classmates decided to follow.
Greta, Graduating student, Bachelor of Science, Microbiology & Immunology, 2013
Kevin, Bachelors of Civil Engineering
At the very beginning of my Engineering degree I was what most people have in mind of as a typical engineer. I walked around with a calculator in my pocket and was on the very edge of anti-social. The only thing I was missing were the suspenders and thick glasses. Living that way got me good marks, which I was proud of, but in another sense destined me to mediocrity. I knew that this was not the path that would lead me to my long term goals. I wanted to be an individual with competence and influence. I wanted to be a capable leader and sadly I was not. In the search for a better way I went to a conference where I heard the wise words of a very young successful man. He said "When everyone goes one way, stop and go the opposite way." So at that point I decided to get out of my comfort zone, face my fears and enter the world with no hesitation. That lead me to the CaPS office. That's where my life changed. I had gone to CaPS on several occasions before but with this new mindset I was truly able to reap a magnitude of benefits. Every single person, every single one, shared and taught me so much about myself, being a professional and ultimately about the world around me and how to make an impact in it. What amazed me was their professionalism and kindness. Their doors were always open to me for discussion, review of my work, or even sharing fun videos on Youtube. I am extremely proud to say that with the help of the CaPS staff I was able to get a job as a Junior Project Engineer only a month after graduation. They have helped me embarked on a journey that reaches a lot further than career prospects and career development. Ultimately, their work has helped me become a more complete individual. In hind sight, this experience was more than just a complement to my university experience but a necessary one. I can truly say that their hands have definitely played a role in my success. I thank you with all of my heart CaPS!
Kevin, Bachelors of Civil Engineering, 2013
Rebecca, Bachelor of Arts, Social Work
Working with an international non-profit organization has always been an aspiration of mine, so late in the fall semester of 2010, I began searching for opportunities to pursue after graduation. I found many internships of interest with organizations like the Clinton Foundation, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International USA. I attended the CaPS workshops specific to social work students, which helped me tailor my approach to applying for jobs, and I was able to build a professional resume and cover letters to apply to these positions using the CaPS website “how-to guides”. Following my applications, I was offered two interviews with Amnesty International, and with the assistance of a career advisor, I gained some concrete strategies for successful interviewing. At the end of April, I was offered, and accepted, an internship with Amnesty International USA. I have been interning in their National Headquarters based in New York City for the last few months, and have gained a better understanding of how large non-profit organizations operate. I am grateful for the assistance I have received from CaPS and I will continue to benefit from the lessons learned as I move forward with my career in International Social Work.
Rebecca, Bachelor of Arts, Social Work, 2011
Yakun, Bachelor of Science
After completing a Bachelor’s degree in the biological sciences, I decided to combine my background in science and my interests in working in a customer-oriented environment to launch my career. However, this was a lot harder than I had imagined, as most of my experiences were laboratory-related. In fact, I not only felt a little lost in front of an enormous amount of job postings, I also wondered if sending out mass CVs and applications was really the right way to go.
So I went to seek tips and advice from CaPS and eventually enrolled in the Job Finding Club (JFC). This two-week intensive program teaches everything from A to Z in the job search process, including discovering one’s own strengths, overcoming the fear of networking, and tips to say thank-you after an interview. It was such an enriching and amazing experience listening and talking with the advisors, and all of the participants in the JFC were so supportive of each other. The daily meetings and discussion times became an enjoyable and motivating force in the process.
One thing I love about CaPS is their resourcefulness. There are CV and cover letter drop-in sessions, and tons of useful tools in the CaPS library such as videos of past CaPS guest speakers, exam preparation materials, interviewing tips etc. All of these helped me to get through the interviews which led me to my current job. I now work in the health claim division of Canada’s largest insurance company, which I believe is a great starting point for my career development. With the help of the CaPS advisors, resources and the experiences I had at the JFC, I learned to better define my strengths, was reminded of the importance of maintaining relationships, and became more strategic about looking for jobs and career options.
Yakun, Bachelor of Science, 2010
Dan, Bachelor of Music
Graduating and not having an immediate career plan was one of the most nerve-racking but also liberating things I’ve experienced. With a Bachelors of Music, I knew that there wasn’t an obvious path set out for me to obtain a successful a career in the arts. After moving back home and in with my parents, I figured I might as well enjoy myself, by doing a variety of short-term jobs that interested me, even if they weren’t the best-paying, or necessarily “career-oriented”. What I soon discovered is that even if I thought a job was trivial, the skills I developed, and the references I acquired from it were actually the key to me getting something more substantial.
What I also learned from both CaPS and in the real world is that, when trying to get experience doing something, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and do some job-shadow interviews with professionals in your chosen field. I ended up getting a great part-time job that hadn’t even been officially posted, just because I wrote to someone saying I was interested in gaining experience in their line of work.
Finally, when a position opened up at the arts organization I had been interning in and around my other jobs, I was lucky enough to get an interview. Thanks to my variety of short-term experiences, the references I had made both within and outside of the company, and the skills developed from my non-arts jobs, I matched what they were looking for and was selected for the position! In the end it was really a case of one thing leading to the next, that lead to the next. Everything I had done in my past helped me land the job, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time.
Dan, Bachelor of Music, 2010
Alex, Bachelor of Music
After getting involved in many activities outside my academic program in music, I realized that I needed help learning about career opportunities and finding paths to pursue my more focused interests. Over a period of time, my career advisor at CaPS helped me to identify a vision for what I wanted to accomplish in my working life. A CaPS mentor, although not directly in my field, has helped me to meet influential professionals who resonate with my interests, and suggested an internship grant program that helped me to land a terrific job. Finally, I spent time in the CaPS library and in their workshops (importantly, sometimes outside of my field) to help substantiate potential career interests. When I identified the type of work experience I wanted to have, I got the chance to work for the Vancouver Olympics, Orchestras Canada, and the National Ballet School, both during university and right after graduating. The major personal ingredients to job-finding have held true for me so far: being a brave networker, maintaining positive relationships with people in your field of interest, and having a vision for what you want to do – or at least what you want to learn about.
Alex, Bachelor of Music, 2010
Caitlin, Bachelor of Arts, International Development Studies
The dreaded question every soon-to-be graduate hears repeatedly, “What are your plans for after convocation?” I didn’t have an answer. I knew that I wanted work experience before considering a second degree, but I didn’t know what kind of job I wanted or how to find a job once I determined a field that interested me. I turned to CaPS for help in answering these questions. First, I participated in P.A.C.E. to better understand what I excelled at and found fulfilling. Then I began exploring the types of jobs that matched my personality and values. Next, I participated in workshops at CaPS and conducted my own research to prepare for my job search. I found the mock interview service to be especially valuable. Once I felt adequately prepared, I started scouring job posting websites and applied to the jobs that appealed to me. It took a few weeks, but the phone interviews started coming in. The challenge of finding a job after graduation seemed daunting initially, but I took one step at a time to prepare for the task, and eventually accepted a job offer as a Human Resources Coordinator, a position I am still happily working at today.
Caitlin, Bachelor of Arts, International Development Studies, 2009
Laurent, Bachelor of Engineering
When I graduated from McGill in 2008, the unavoidable question of “what the heck do I do now?” came up. Uninspired by any job in particular, but full of aspiration, I lazily browsed through traditional job search engines – monster, workopolis, joboom, posting and sent my resume left and right. Depressed by the lack of any type of feedback, I decided to give CaPS a try. Upon meeting with an advisor, I was extremely pleased to see CaPS’ professional and personal approach to understanding and helping young McGill graduates. They understood that graduates don’t need to be told what job they should do based on their bachelor and their grades. They understood that young graduates don’t need another faceless job database. They understood that graduates actually need to find something that they would like to do, and then they need support along the way. CaPS advisors supported me through both their experience and vast professional network; One counsellor helped me find what field I wanted to work in – renewable energies, and another actually presented me to the company for which I currently work, giving me tips on the company and her personal notes from a presentation that the company once gave at McGill. I now work for Enercon, one of the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturers. When I first started in 2009 we were already four McGill graduates and we have hired four more in the last six months, all through CaPS. It works.
Laurent, Bachelor of Engineering, 2008
Sarah, Bachelor of Arts, Sociology
I currently work as a Recruitment and Admissions Officer at McGill University and I love getting up to go to work!
After I graduated, I was looking for a job in the environment field but after a summer of fruitless job search, I enrolled in CaPS’ Job Finding Club (aka boot camp for job seekers) and it was an emotional yet enriching adventure. Through numerous techniques, it made me realize four golden rules that saved me: 1) be true to yourself 2) get the tools 3) who do you know? 4) be willing to start at the bottom.
1) Being true to me was definitely the toughest one of all. I realized that I didn’t really want to work in the environment field; it was something others wanted for me. I went back to the results from CaPS’ PACE workshop and the test results all pointed to something I knew deep down but was denying; I needed to have an element of teaching to be happy.
2) Getting the tools: my CV was solid after numerous CV drop-in sessions, cover letters improved with every re-write and mock interviews made me feel ready (as much as one can be anyway).
3) I realized how difficult it can be to break in an unknown field and so I went to a McGill office where I had worked as a student and asked for a job (yes, a little bluntly). They remembered me and my good work and were more than happy to hire me.
4) I started at the bottom (a job that required a DEC and not permanent) but it was a job. I kept at it for one year and then knew that I now had great references and experience to try something else. In 2 years I’ve gone from a temporary clerk level to a permanent manager position ($10K difference) that I love! You may have to start at the bottom but your degree and work ethic will help you move up quickly!
Sarah, Bachelor of Arts, Sociology, 2008
Current Student, Bachelor of Science, Chemistry
This January, I emailed more than 50 professors, most at other universities in the GTA where I’m from, along with some profs at McGill. I mentioned that I was looking for a full-time summer lab research employment position, but the bulk of my email explained my passion for research, and my experience conducting my own lab research project last summer (a position which was actually volunteer-based). I also expressed my interest in the professor’s work and briefly discussed my personal goals.
A lot of profs didn’t reply, or already had a full lab, insufficient funds, etc, but around 5-10 did ask for my CV. I ended up with 2 interviews, and subsequently, 2 job offers. My decision involved two completely different opportunities and the choice I made was ultimately based on what I knew I would enjoy more, what field I was more interested in, and which had better pay.
The offer I did accept was a quite competitive position that a lot of people were up for. One key thing which likely put me ahead of many others was that I got to know the prof quite well when I was in her class the previous year. I think it is essential to get to know your profs as much as possible! My volunteer experience could have gotten my foot in the door as well. It gave me something unique to share when I originally emailed professors. Lastly, a professional resume is key, and I couldn’t have done it without CaPS services. I composed my CV based on their online templates and guidelines, attended various workshops they held, and made appointments with advisors for editing.
Current student, Bachelor of Science, Chemistry
Maria, Bachelor of Arts, Economics and International Development double-major
My job search started 5 months ago. I had already accumulated diverse internship, volunteer and work experience, but I was still a U1 foreign student who had never worked in Canada, who had no idea of what a cover letter was, with a CV that completely lacked a professional style and wording!
A dedicated job search allowed me to obtain a summer position that fits my personality, my goals and my interests extremely well. What helped me to get here?
To keep in mind that "finding a job IS a full time job", as a CaPS advisor once said. Time management is crucial, especially during midterms...
Making use of CaPS’ friendly personnel and resources: I attended multiple workshops and advising sessions and spent hours reading the guides/books available at the CaPS library
Knowing myself well and learning to think like a potential employer. I dedicated hours and hours to writing (and re-writing!) my master CV following the CaPS guide closely (the list of verbs in the end is especially helpful!). It took me so long because I really did a self-discovery journey through each of my experiences. This helped me to understand what I wanted and later helped me with interviews because I knew exactly what transferable skills I had needed/developed in each experience.
Tailoring my CV and my cover letter to each position I applied to. I spent at least 7 hours on each application because I read about the company/organization, researched its values, etc.
myFuture. The three employers who interviewed me all received my application through myFuture.
Preparing for my interviews. The hours spent researching companies and reading books on behavioral, stress and case interviews gave me a good sense of the types of questions I could be asked and which ones I could ask them. My mock interview at CaPS was also an excellent source of feedback, and this preparation was the main reason I was so confident during the interviews, especially for the job I have now for which I was interviewed by 3 people: the 2 CEOs and the Business Development Manager.
This summer I am working full time for a Canadian consulting company with branches in several countries to perform the job I have been dreaming with for years. And I am loving this challenging work!
During the hours I spent at CaPS, I heard several students come in and say: "This may sound stupid, but can you help me find a job?". With their guidance you will be on your way!
Maria, Bachelor of Arts, Economics and International Development double-major
Kate, M.Sc. Biology
I graduated from McGill with an MSc in Biology in early 2014. In an effort to be preemptive about my job search I created a CV with the help of the CAPS CV writing guide and met with an advisor to review it before I graduated. I also created a LinkedIn profile. Although, at that point, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after graduation, only that I didn’t want to work in straight ‘bench work’ science. So I didn’t begin my job search immediately, I took Spanish and travelled in South America for three months. Upon my return a friend suggested I make a ‘personal inventory’ of my skills and interests. This was a very positive exercise and served as my guide for the types of jobs I should apply to. With this in mind I dove in. I used a LOT of resources to look for positions. My advice in this regard would be to talk to all your friends who work in related fields. Also, don’t be afraid to cold e-mail scientists at hospitals or research institutes, use LinkedIn to find jobs/companies and take advantage of the CAPS job board. All of these paths led me to interviews. The CAPS job board was a particularly good resource; I applied to three positions through it and was offered interviews for all of them. Later in my job search I started speaking to a CAPS advisor on a bi-weekly basis. What I did not foresee, going into the job hunting process, is that I would interview for a number of positions where I would not have felt comfortable eventually working for the interviewer. I also often felt upset and discouraged. Having someone with whom I could discuss these experiences proved to be incredibly positive. My career counselor also helped me with cover letters and keeping my search on track. This process was trying and took a couple months, (the job I accepted had two interviews and a writing test!), but I learned a great deal and spoke with a number of very interesting people. I currently work for a biomedical communications and consulting company.
Kate, M.Sc. Biology, 2014
Xiao, Master of Electical Engineering
I was a Master student of McGill University and majored in Electrical Engineering. I finished my study this summer and then started my job hunting. In the beginning, I had a lot of questions and problems, I didn't know what should I do to get my first job, then I turned to CaPS for help. They were so nice to me, I participated in a lot of their activities and services many times, such as C.V. and Cover Letter drop-in, information sessions of different companies and mock interview. I also borrowed some reference books for career advice from them. They provided me many suggestions on job hunting which are significantly useful and helpful. As a result, I was hired by a technology company OPAL-RT TECHNOLOGIES. Now, I have just started my career, at my company, I can learn so many things which are very important to me and the working environment is very good. I am so glad I can got the job at my company and I thank CaPS so much for giving me great help. The service CaPS provides will definitely help students for their job hunting and career development. Thanks again.
Xiao, Master of Electrical Engineering, 2014
Christina, Ph.D. Art History
The transition from graduate student to academic professional can be an intense and often bewildering experience. After identifying a particularly exciting postdoctoral opportunity in my field – at the Yale Center for British Art – I found that I needed advice on the conventions of professional application materials. I was qualified for the position and was convinced I could make a quality contribution to the institution, but I feared that my lack of expertise in CV formatting would create a distraction from my skills and credentials. I wrote to an advisor at McGill’s Career Planning Service (CaPS) and she very kindly agreed to assess my application with industry standards in mind. The changes she suggested were focused and relevant and helped me achieve my goal of a successful application. I am grateful that McGill supports its graduate students with Career Planning Services.
Christina, Ph.D. Art History, 2011
Maxime, Ph.D. Computer Science
I was about midway through my Ph.D. in Computer Science when I decided I didn’t want to pursue a career in Academia. I worried about making the switch from academia to industry as I saw my achievements as a list of publications and presentations instead of projects that I successfully completed.
I attended several industry presentations organized by CaPS and in one workshop I met a Ph.D. graduate who had successfully switched to industry. I asked about how they found the transition, and the discussion helped me see that the challenges I would face in industry could be interesting, and that I wouldn’t necessarily miss research outside of academia.
The career advisors at CaPS review many resumes and cover letters every week, so having mine reviewed was quite helpful. After discussion and multiple drop-in sessions, my resume went from a list of publications that carried little impact to a recruiter outside of my field, to a clear and concise list of projects detailing my role and the impact I had. The advisors also pointed me to several online resources which allowed me to find which companies recruit Ph.D.s along with additional useful information such as starting salaries.
Last fall, all of my first and second choice companies had job listings on CaPS’ myFuture site. I applied and my shorter, less cluttered resume was successful in getting fast and positive answers from recruiters. I will start working for a major internet tech company in Silicon Valley in July as a Ph.D. Software Engineer.
Maxime, Ph.D. Computer Science, 2011
Edsel, M.Sc. Bioresource Engineering
I completed my bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering in the winter of 2005, and after what was a challenging four years at McGill I was anxious to find a job - any job - to put my acquired skills to use. After attending a McGill Technology Career Fair, I secured interviews with two Montreal software companies, one of which offered me a job several weeks after the last round of interviews. I started my first full-time job after a two and a half month search.
I returned to McGill full-time in September of 2008 to complete a Master’s degree in Bioresource Engineering, and I had hoped that when I completed this degree my second job search would go as smoothly as it had the first time around. I thought that given my two and a half years of work experience and an advanced degree the job offers would be coming my way in bunches, but this was not the case.
In February of 2010 I had approximately 7 months left in my M.Sc. program, and I wanted to get a head start on my job search. My first step, in what turned out to be a 10 month journey, was the CaPS office on the Macdonald Campus. With the help of the staff there I updated my CV, wrote targeted cover letters for each job application, and attended two career fairs, which resulted in about 10 interviews for different technology consulting and software companies in Montreal and Toronto. Before each interview I visited with my career counsellor at CaPS to review the job description, prepare for likely questions, and practice my interviewing skills. Looking back on my experience, I would say that it was these interview preparation sessions that proved to be most invaluable during my search.
In October of 2010, I received job offers in the Montreal offices of two consulting firms, one of which fit perfectly with my short- and long-term career goals.
The main piece of advice I would give to any new graduate in their job search is to be patient. It can be a long journey, but you learn a lot about what you want to do, and, more importantly, what you don’t want to do, along the way.
Edsel, M.Sc. Bioresource Engineering, 2010
Akiko, Master of Music
I earned a Master of Music degree at McGill and currently work at a music management company in Tokyo. I can’t remember when exactly I started to plan my career after graduate school, but at least I can say for sure that it’s never too early to start planning your career! Thanks to the workshops organized by CaPS at McGill during my school years, I was able to get the gist of what it is like to be out of school with a music degree before my graduation. It was very helpful and inspiring to meet people who have experience working in the music-related industry at those workshops, and it also encouraged me to talk to my school friends about our future career ideas. Meanwhile, I often visited my career advisor at CaPS for tips to improve my resume and cover letters, and I am very grateful that she was always patient and supportive. The transition between finishing school and getting your first job can be quite rough, and I also experienced some difficult times, but as long as you stay positive and keep yourself open to many different options, I believe that there are always more chances which lead to a successful job search!
Akiko, Master of Music, 2010
Stephanie, Master of Science Experimental Medicine
I returned to school to obtain my BSc and MSc at the age of 36, and thus faced rather unique challenges in re-entering the work force upon completion of my Master’s degree. I had worked primarily for one employer until my return to school, so I had little interview, CV or cover letter writing experience.
An initial visit with a CaPS graduate school advisor lasted a full hour where we defined ‘me’. This initial step may seem superfluous, but without a good clear picture of what makes you tick and how your experience reflects your interests and strengths, it is impossible to represent yourself on paper-which is an employer’s first glimpse of you. My advisor zeroed in on my personality (an extrovert!) and made a few pointed examples of jobs that would suit me. To get to the application stage, I used the plethora of resources CaPS offers: the CV writing booklet and samples, documentation on how to network and how to prepare for an interview as well as examples of outstanding cover letters from the library of reference books.
My CV was then reviewed line by line by my advisor, who recommended I write a bang-up cover letter that reflected my personality, since my CV was fairly standard. I did just that, using the examples I had taken with me. I had to keep from smiling at my first interview when the gentleman interviewing me said ‘your cover letter intrigued me…’ From ten on-line applications I had two interview requests and two subsequent job offers. (Interestingly, these both came from the CaPS job listings). It felt reassuring to see that if you move through the process with a bit of reflection and attention to detail it pays off. If I look back, that initial step of defining oneself is perhaps the strongest and clearest way of ensuring you will be chosen for, and happy in, a new job.
I presently work as a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Jewish General Hospital.
Stephanie, Master of Science Experimental Medicine, 2010; Bachelor of Science, Biology, 2008