- When should I begin my job search?
Your first year of school, or as soon as you begin to settle on a particular field of study. You can seek out employment while you're in your studies through the Cooperative Education program, or by completing work-study, an internship, practicum, or Co-Curricular Record-eligible position. Start early in order to understand the trends and demands of different careers. And take advantage of networking opportunities as soon as you feel that you can confidentally talk about your skills and attributes to potential employers.
- Is there such a thing as an 'entry-level' position for university graduates?
Today, 'entry-level' jobs will require some relevant experience. Note, this may be something gained through your studies or volunteer work, not only through paid employment. A small minority of jobs will require "between 0-2 years experience", meaning that someone with no experience could be considered, but these jobs are more likely to receive many applications from graduates with at least some experience.
The best way to overcome the 'experience gap' is to network in the industry. Networking is essential to building relationships and demonstrating your passion and enthusiasm for potential careers. People who have connected with you in person or on-line are more likely to remember you when they receive your application for an open position.
- Do I need to get certification?
Yes and no. An increasing number of specialized jobs, particularly in planning and natural resources, are asking that applicants have some type of certification. The most common ones asked for include Professional Agronomist (P.Ag), Registered Professional Biologist (R.P. Bio), or MCIP for urban planning. However, many job postings will list certification as an asset, but not a requirement.
Some of these certifications can be obtained after completing undergraduate studies and gaining some experience (either through Co-op or other paid employment). Others are more difficult to obtain without graduate level training. Check out these resources:
Even when credentials require additional experience and/or training, student designations may be available. Because applying for credentials does cost money, students should spend time reviewing and applying for jobs for a while first if they're not sure if they want to work in a field that requires the certification.
- Will I need a graduate degree to get into the field?
Sometimes, yes. Even if you are able to enter into the career path with a your BA, BSc, or BGS, you may reach ceilings to career advancement without additional training. This is increasingly true in some planning professions (e.g transportation, urban), as well as environmental consulting and natural resource management. Be realistic. If many of the jobs require a master's degree, then build that into your career and educational plans. Talk with your instructors about what you need to do to prepare for graduate school.
The good news is that for jobs in many fields--e.g. sustainabilty planning, environmental education and outreach, GIS technician work, and field work--your undergraduate degree will be more than sufficient provided you have and continue to gain experience. If graduate-level study is not something of interest to you, pay close attention to job postings in your area of interest to see if experience is more highly valued than graduate education.
Jobs situated in rural areas or in areas that have high growth and a shortage of workers are in general less likely to require graduate education.
- What about additional training at UFV, BCIT, or other institutions?
Possibly, depending on the career path.
Combining your bachelor's degree with a second, technical credential or specialized skills training can be a powerful combination for the job market. If you're interested in working in "green" construction or in municipal departments overseeing building codes and permits, for instance, some background or training in drafting, construction management, or another relevant field would complement your degree. Likewise, many Geography students could benefit from training in design programs (AutoCAD, Adobe) and technologies. Some of these training pathways involve a course or two, while others are entire programs. For instance, Selkirk College offers a Renewable Energy certificate program that complements a Bachelor of Science degree. Non-profit and government organizations also offer training modules, usually on-line, in high demand skill areas, such as environmental law, project management, or logistics. See, for instance, the courses offered through ECO Canada.
- How long will it take to find a job?
The most frustrating part of the job search is the time it takes to land a position. On average, it takes a university graduate 4-6 months to find a skilled position, and that's assuming that the graduate is looking for work full-time. If you focus your job search in the lower mainland, and Vancouver in particular, or if you're committing 10 hours or less a week to your search, then the process will almost certainly take longer--in some fields, up to a year. If you're willing to travel to other parts of BC or Canada, you may land a job in significantly less time.
- How narrowly should I focus my job search?
The short answer is: Not very. Be flexible with your career search and what kind of job you would be willing to start out in.
Over the course of your career, you're likely to specialize as you build experience. But you may do so in areas you haven't considered yet, or in areas that are new career pathways (in line with changing technology and new workforce arrangements). If you have a passion to do a particular career, e.g. urban planner, environmental technician, or secondary school educator, then by all means, work towards these fields as end goals. However, given the interest in these areas, as well as the sheer number of university students graduating from lower mainland institutions, it pays to be as well informed as possible as to what variability there is within your career choice.
For instance, not all education needs to take place in a classroom. Consider public and/or environmental educators, who often work for non-profit and provincial agencies (e.g. in parks and with public health organizations). Planners may find that concentrating on urban planning positions alone may limit opportunities in recreation and/ or rural planning. GIS specialists are needed in natural resource fields--and by the RCMP! In short, think creatively about where your skillsets are needed.
Check out some of the strategies and keywords for finding jobs postings here.