May 22, 2003, Gazette
Convocation is upon us once again. More fresh-faced
graduates are making their way into a new world, a world of 9-5 jobs and
graduate school. In a “Hallmark Card” sort of way, one chapter
of their lives is closing and they are embarking on a new page of life.
No matter what degree a student obtains they are faced with inevitable
decisions about their future. Naturally (one would hope) these decisions
have been lurking in the back of their minds since the first few terms
of university when they were still figuring out their way around campus.
I am currently sitting in the middle of this anticipation stage. I look
forward to my future but also find my current place to be one of a comfort
I very much enjoy. It is not as simple as breaking all students into two
groups; those who wish to remain a student number forever and those who
can’t wait to make that first buck. Everyone carries with them a
host of emotions concerning their future and the steps that they have
taken to prepare for it.
For students who won’t be donning a cap and gown this month graduation
is still likely to be on their minds. “Will I ever graduate?”
“What will I do once I graduate?” “Will I find a job?”
Should I go on to do my master’s?” – these could be
applied in speech balloons to many of the heads of Memorial students.
As I stroll past the gown room watching students pick up their gowns and
capes I wonder what my future too holds for me. After all, doesn’t
everyone check out the chart posted on the door of the gown room to see
what colour cap they’ll be wearing?
It reminds me somewhat of what I felt as I graduated from high school.
There were AP and public exams to study for, plans to be made for the
months that came after graduation and people placing expectations on you.
Now that I think of it, all that is missing are the puffy prom gowns,
limousines and valedictory speeches of the high school prom.
While I may not be picking out graduation photo backdrops in the next
little while, I am preparing for what lies ahead of me, not simply by
completing degree requirements but also by considering my employability
skills. A high school teacher told me that there are key things that every
employer looks for when selecting a candidate. It isn’t necessarily
the best marks or the most impressive work term placements, in fact every
student should strive to embody a combination of these characteristics
to be successful in the “real world.” It is often said that
half of success in university is about learning to play by the rules,
and what may come as a shock to many students is the fact that the rules
are very different on the outside. Of course hard work is still rewarded
and encouraged but a major part of getting a job is winning the interview.
A good resume only gets you an interview, the interview is what wins the
job and naturally what wins you the interview is your personality. Employers
look for effective communicators who can work independently and with others,
showing that you can do this is half the battle. If you browse the want
ads, 90 per cent of the listings there will cite the ability to effectively
communicate as a qualification for the job.
I value my classroom experiences and realize the benefit they will provide
me once I toss my cap, yet I don’t ignore the importance of work
experience in my field. In fact with so many students studying open-ended
degrees in the arts it is important to decide on a focus to take your
degree and then work to get experience in that area. Whether that be working
at a museum to complement your folklore degree, a historical site to complement
your major in history or for a political party to gain experience if your
focus area is political science, these are important steps to take. A
major component of success is knowing the people, the trade and the major
trends and advances in your area. One should not only study his or her
textbooks but industry magazines. It is your well-versed tongue that will
impress employers in the interview.
This isn’t necessarily my major concern every day but it never fully
leaves the back of my mind. After all, and this seems very strange, the
world of business suits, coffee breaks and casual Fridays is likely to
last longer than my few years in post-secondary and I don’t want
to wish away my current experience. Ultimately I feel mixed emotions about
any change, unsure of what is next, fearful to leave what is known but
excited about new opportunities. No matter what one feels toward convocation,
it is most likely an inevitable day to mark on your calendar.