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May 22, 2003, Gazette

What will the future hold?

Katie Norman
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.