Written by Zoya Khan
We all know the job market for new graduates in Toronto is horrible at the moment. A Bachelor’s degree has become like a high school diploma. Students are graduating, looking for jobs, and thinking to themselves–Was my degree even worth it? I was also in that place, not just after my Bachelor’s degree but even after my Master’s! Thankfully, I was able to get past the initial struggle and find a job at MCIS Language Solutions as a Social Impact and Public Relations Coordinator. How did that happen and what tips do I have for others like me? Keep reading to find out.
Like many other Millennials, I chose a career not based on expected salary, but as a way to find my place in society and help others. I completed my Master in Development Practice (International Development) from University of Waterloo, and absolutely loved it. After graduating, though, I learned that there are no “cookie-cutter” jobs for people like us. We have to create our own opportunities and fit our skills into a job that interests us. I have some tips and tricks below.
Tips and Tricks
Develop your hard and soft skills. Degrees like the Master of Development Practice are great. They teach you soft skills, and give you an understanding of various subjects–global health, economics, politics, and sustainable food systems. It really helped me become a well-rounded person and understand things from a holistic perspective. However, it is also really important to develop your hard skills. These are specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured. If you have such a skill, in particular, project management, and combine that with your knowledge in a Master’s degree program such as the MDP, then you are much more likely to find a job in your field. I can’t tell you how many times I looked at a job that looked perfect, but then it required a Project Management Professional Certification. I felt like I wasn’t qualified enough to apply. Moving forward, I’m thinking of taking courses in Project Management to further develop my career and expand my horizons. You really need hard skills in combination with the soft skills, especially to succeed in a field such as International Development.
Network, network, network. I must have applied to at least 15 jobs before landing this job at MCIS Language Solutions. In the end, it was a referral through my friend that helped me put my foot in the door. Canada is all about hiring internally and through references, so network as much as you can, spread the word that you are looking for an opportunity, go to networking events, and put yourself out there. You never know which interaction can lead you to the next job.
Be confident. There’s nothing that impresses interviewers more than confidence. Even if you don’t have a specific skill that the organization seeks, don’t be afraid to apply. Be open to learning, and have a positive, can-do attitude. Show them that there were skills you didn’t have before, but strived to learn and you excelled at them. Have a solid example handy so that your confidence is backed by evidence.
Volunteer. If you’ve been looking for a job for a while and just can’t seem to land the one you want, don’t sit at home and wait. Volunteer your time to an organization that interests you. If there are no volunteer opportunities available, email someone at the organization or find them on LinkedIn and show them interest. Come up with a project that you would like to work on that is relevant to the organization, and really impress them with your enthusiasm and creativity. Once you are already a volunteer, you are more likely to be referred to internal job postings. Even if that doesn’t happen, you would have used that time to gain some skills and expand your knowledge.
Last, but not least, keep your Resume and LinkedIn Profile Up-to-Date. With the rise of social media and online networks, more organizations are finding employees via the internet. Keep your LinkedIn Profile up-to-date so recruiters can find you and suggest jobs that would be a good fit for you. Make sure your resume reflects all your skills, backed up with examples, and how they relate to the job you are applying to. Make sure to tweak your resume for the specific job that interests you. If you think your resume needs some work, attend resume and cover letter workshops, which may be offered by your University or even local Library. Your resume is your first impression, so make sure you make a good one!
Working at MCIS
Working at MCIS Language Solutions has been great. I learned many new skills such as building websites and running social media campaigns, and I improved my leadership, critical thinking, and communication skills. I met amazing people and got the chance to plan various events, such as the unConference and MigrahackTO. I learned data visualization through Tableau and learned to get even more comfortable with processing raw data from excel sheets. I also learned to use various social media platforms, such as Hootsuite, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook for marketing and communications. I was able to carry out Public Relation duties, developing content for the social impact web pages, the MCIS blog, and others outlets. I learned to become a better writer and used my research skills to make events more successful. Overall, it’s been a lot of learning, while still having fun.
I also feel lucky to have an amazing manager, Eliana, who is so easy to work with and provides me with opportunities to grow. She makes sure that the end results of our work are perfect and really motivates me to do my absolute best. She is not a micro-manager, but yet provides direction while still giving me creative freedom, and that has helped me do so much and learn so much.
What I realized I am interested to focus on at this point in my career besides project management is storytelling, especially with photography and videography, because they are many stories that are untold that need to emerge to help us plan for the future in a better way. I hope that my career continues to grow in a way so that I am able to learn more, do more, and make more of a difference in my community.