Hello everyone, I’m so happy and excited to be going into the role of Editor-in-Chief of this fine institution at our university that is the Iron Warrior. And I’m especially happy to be doing it in the fall term , my favourite season for so many reasons. This space is going to be a place where I will rant and rave and say strange things, maybe ask questions and maybe offer some good (or bad) advice. Take it with a grain of salt and please enjoy the paper!
This fall marks my fourth term as a University of Waterloo student. With it comes my fourth “first round” of Jobmine applications. – Yes, I call it Jobmine not only because I think WaterlooWorks is too much of a mouthful, I’m also just much more used to saying “Jobmine” and in the spirit of doggedness that has made me continue to call the Skydome the Skydome, I will continue saying Jobmine till the day I die. But I digress, the nub of my editorial is not what you call it but what it is, and that is applying to jobs.
You might think, given my previous three terms’ experience in this area, that when applications come around I whip out my résumé, dust it off and confidently apply to only a select handful of jobs, for which I write smoothly tailored cover letters. Of course, this is a lie. I tell myself every term to be more selective, for fear of ending up with yet another government job when I would dearly love to try consulting. But as soon as I open the page and start reading requirements I get the niggling doubts at the back of my mind “Gabrielle, what makes you think you’re qualified for any of these jobs? You’d never get that interview if you paid someone. Everyone else’s applications are so much superior to yours; I don’t know why you bother.” I dither and I hum and then I apply to just about every single job I can get my hands on in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, someone will want to interview my sorry self.
If you’re going into this application process for the first time or the sixth time, you’re likely feeling the same things. Yes, at my stage I am pretty sure my résumé looks more put-together than it did in 1A, and I certainly have more job experience than I did then, but the process of applying is an incredibly draining one that can make you feel disheartened and discouraged. It’s even more discouraging when you go through the jobs, see nothing that you want, and out of desperation apply to all the jobs you thought you didn’t want 2 hours previously.
Programs like mine, which are fairly specialized and whose future career paths are experiencing a low point in the job market, will also find Jobmine to be almost devoid of opportunities. A large portion of my class last term organized their own co-ops without the help of CECA. I applied to a multitude of jobs, many of which I did write tailored cover letters for, and still had to organize my own summer co-op outside of Jobmine, during final exams. It’s at times like these that you start to wonder what the school is really doing for you. Is co-op a hindrance?
Last term, I managed to get an interview with a prestigious geological engineering consulting company out in BC last term. We were getting along well and then he said something about a course that I take this term, in 2B. I mentioned that I was in 2A so technically I’d still be in second year during the summer. This statement essentially ended the interview. “So you haven’t finished second year? Well I’m sorry we only hire those who have finished second year”. Goodbye. Sure, he said apply next summer but next summer I’ll be in my 3A school term, the next feasible time I could apply to that company is in my sixth co-op before fourth year. You can bet your buns I’m applying then, with the full force of three years education behind me, but in that moment it felt like Waterloo had sabotaged my career in geotechnical consulting by “forcing” me to be in four-stream.
It might seem like I’m harking on about my experience, perhaps to garner sympathy, and you may think “Was she even really trying her hardest to get a job?”, and I’d have to say you’re right; I wasn’t devoting as much time as I could have to the job search. I mean, I edit the newspaper, so clearly I was not spending 100% of my time getting myself my dream job. But I’m not telling you this for sympathy or to express my feelings in some form of open-air journal, I’m telling you this because typically CECA doesn’t. They like their awesome stats about international tech co-ops and new start-ups hiring first years, which is fantastic and should be celebrated. But oftentimes there’s a side of the story that doesn’t get told and it can make people feel more isolated when things don’t seem to work out for them the way they do “for everyone else”.
Many of us in engineering won’t work for those tech start-ups because we aren’t in that field of study; engineering is a multiplicity of things but it can be appealing to focus only on the most high-profile ones. This doesn’t mean you can’t get amazing jobs in other fields though! This summer I may have found the job myself but it was probably my most rewarding co-op thus far. I don’t want to sound like a downer, because co-op is fantastic, it’s the reason I came to this school, but it’s very easy to have a love-hate relationship with it when you’re struggling to get a job.
So take heart, engineers! We pay CECA a silly amount of money every term because they have resources that we should use, in the same way we should all be getting our one free massage a term courtesy of the UW Health plan. I did not use CECA the way I should have because I was feeling bitter about WaterlooWorks and I’m incredibly childish – don’t make my mistakes. Use your résumé and cover letter critiques, go to an interview workshop – I found out recently that a professional package to have your résumé critiqued, your cover letter written for you, your LinkedIn profile analysed, and four hours of interview prep can cost you upwards of $500. I know we pay all of the tuition, but maybe utilize these things before we have to pay extra.
On the note of not losing heart and being a successful job applicant, here is my advice for you to take or ignore at your pleasure.
1. Create a master résumé of every single thing you might ever want to include in your résumé. Then, when like me you have too many things to include neatly in 1 or 2 pages, it’s super easy to pick and choose things to suit one application or another. I haven’t done this, but I want to and it’s very possible that this will be the term I actually do it. Studies have shown that a tailored résumé gets more view time than a generic one, so it’s something to consider.
2. Do not put your school term on your résumé. This is not false advertising, this is just giving yourself equal opportunity with those who are not in the same year as you. You might have all of the experience required for a job, but one look at your school year and they toss away your file before even looking at it! If anyone asks, you can tell them. Yeah, sure, that didn’t work out great for me but that’s a risk you have to take.
3. You may have heard this 40,000,000 times before but I’m going to say it again: a generic cover letter is worse than no cover letter. If you don’t trust yourself to write 250 words about why you would be a good fit for a specific position at a specific company, do not include a letter expounding on how fabulous you are as a person and saying nothing about the job. That’s what your résumé is for, they’re different beasts.
4. DO NOT THINK THAT FIRST ROUND IS IT; yes second round has fewer jobs, yes continuous is long and annoying and can go into exams, but if you don’t get a job right away just keep applying. Go to CECA and say “You didn’t contact enough employers in my field and I want you to help me get a job outside your poorly designed website”, and they will help you do it.
We go to a fantastic school with fantastic people and fantastic programs. We also graduate with two years’ worth of work experience! That’s crazy! If you’re struggling, talk to someone, anyone, and likely they will be able to help you. And if not, at least they’ll be able to sympathize about the pain of the application process. Now go out there and send your résumé to the stars!