Preparing for Your Career
If there's one consistent message in this GATE Careers e-Guide, it is this: start early, and take advantage of the opportunities available to you as a student. And that process starts as soon as you begin developing some ideas about what kind of career options you may want to pursue.
By "early", we don't mean two months before you graduate. We mean two to three years (or more) before you graduate. Look for summer positions, sign up for Co-Op, ask your instructors about research and work-study opportunities, and volunteer with organizations where you can practice the type of work you hope to do someday.
Cooperative Education is one of the best strategies you can pursue, as it combines career preparation training with opportunities for practical experience in placements that are often much better paying than other jobs in the service sector. In the Co-op program, students commit to trying to complete at least three, full-time, paid work terms within the Sciences, Arts, or Professional Studies. Geography students are well suited for many postings in both the Sciences and Arts.
Co-op students alternate work terms with their regular semesters of classes. It's a great opportunity to not just develop relevant work experience, and to try out different types of jobs, but it allows students to take a break from their regular studies to earn needed funds for education.
If you're working a part-time job, it may be hard to give this up to look for Co-Op placements or work study positions. Consider the long-term benefits of your current employment relative to these alternative opportunities. Will your current position help you get the job you want in the future? Is it a 'replaceable' job? In other words, can you leave your current job for a temporary one elsewhere, and find something relatively equivalent again if need be?
Can't Do Co-op? Consider an Internship or Practicum
Internships and practicums require shorter-term commitments (up to one semester) on the part of the student. Many placements are unpaid, but nonetheless provide valuable experience and professional connections.
Explore the differences between Co-op, Internships, and Practicums to see if one of these options is 'right' for you.
Review job postings
Don't wait until you're finishing your degree to identify what you need to get into certain fields. Begin searching earlier, so that you can pick up skills and knowledge well in advance.
Consider your electives
It may seem like those 'fun' classes that you're interested in, but which aren't related to your career, might not be a good idea. Think again. Oftentimes, courses outside your field introduce you to new ways of approaching problems and developing solutions, and encourage you to explore fields of inquiry that you might not have thought of as important in future employment.
A BSc student taking a creative writing course, for instance, learns more about different forms of expression--including those used and enjoyed by a public that, in general, has a hard time understanding 'science-speak'. A BA student might want to pick up a Kinesiology course, and in doing so, they might think about new ways in which to integrate health concerns into a career in urban planning.
Discuss assignment options with your instructors
If you have specific interests that you would like to pursue after you graduate, see if there are ways to build on these while still in school. One of the best ways to do this is to tailor assignments, when possible and practical, to incorporate service or specialized research questions.
Speak with an instructor well in advance of the class starting. Respect that they may not be able to deviate much from the assignments as planned. But your instructors may identify other options that will allow you to further your interests as part of your studies.
Consider practical opportunities and/or certificate options
In addition to co-op, internships, and practicums, you can gain practical experience and skills development through work-study placements, volunteer positions on campus or off, and certificates in specific skills.
If you're considering employment in fields with specific training needs, look to see if there are UFV certificates available in these areas. GIS training, for instance, is valuable for those going into planning, policing, and natural resources management. Agriculture certificates (e.g. in Horticulture) would be of value for those interested in urban gardening policy and planning. Continuing Education offers a number of practical skills courses and programs every term. If UFV doesn't offer the certificate, look at options at BCIT, Selkirk, or other institutions, and consider ways that you can ladder from your degree into these certificates.
Keep your résumé current
Get in the habit of keeping your resume up-to-date. Your first resume should not be drafted right when you're looking for your post-bachelor's employment! Book an appointment with the UFV Career Centre to learn effective strategies.