Career Services: Planning Your Future in the Present

kyle-career-servicesMany students don’t know about the free services offered by the Mount’s Career Planning office, which has just announced its Winter schedule of workshops and events. In fact, the first event of the term is scheduled for this Wednesday, January 11 and is specifically designed for B.A. students: a drop-in with an Arts faculty member in the Link to discuss career and academic planning.

Our student media assistant, Kyle Cross, decided to find out more about Career Services, so he booked a resume check-up and discovered some important facts about cover letters, resumes, and the importance of consulting with a career advisor as early as possible in your time at the Mount. Below is his report on the experience.


Career Services: Planning Your Future in the Present
–Kyle Cross

Last term, I went to the Mount’s Career Services for advice on my resume and cover letter. Jacob, the advisor who reviewed my materials, informed me that, unfortunately, I was the only Arts student with whom he had ever met. Needless to say, it looks like we Arts students need to be schooled in the domain of career planning.

If you’re in university, it is probably because, when you graduate, you want to be able to get a fulfilling job that pays relatively well. So imagine you’ve completed your degree; you’re ecstatic because you know you are on your way to becoming a teacher, an editor, a journalist, a lawyer. You’ve learned important skill sets, and you have the qualifications to pursue any number of potential careers. If you wait until after you graduate to plan your career, however, chances are you will have a difficult time finding a rewarding job in your field of expertise. Jacob also told me that most students he meets with are in their third and fourth year of their undergraduate degree. He explained to me that when students come to Career Services in their first and second year, they are 50% more likely to obtain a job in their field of study than are students who wait until their third and fourth year of their degree. The former students have a one- and two-year jump on the latter; they have more knowledge in career planning and looking for a job than do the latter.

kyle-career-2If you’re a Mount student, I strongly encourage you to book an appointment with an advisor at Career Services. Their office is in room 306 of the McCain Centre, but you must go to room 312 (pictured left) in order to book your appointment. In addition to reviewing resumes and cover letters, Career Services offers assistance in choosing a career, looking for a job in your field of interest, and finding out what, exactly, you can do with your degree. An advisor at Career Services will guide you through a successful job search and help you plan your career path.

The Review

I would like to take you through some things I learned during the review of my job application documents. I’ll start with the cover letter, which is what your potential future employer will first see, so it must be presentable. Jacob suggested that I write my cover letter in paragraph form – in particular, tri-paragraph form – similar to what might appear on a resume.

In the first paragraph, you should introduce yourself and your future plans; if you’re writing your Honours thesis in English, for instance, or majoring in Sociology, put that in your cover letter. In the second paragraph, you are selling yourself. Inform your future employer of your qualifications and technical skills, explaining why and how they are relevant to the job for which you are applying. Finally, in paragraph three, reiterate what is in your resume and provide the employer with your contact information.

Now, on to the resume. Jacob told me something that I didn’t know; he told me that, contrary to popular belief, the order of both your education credentials and work experience should not be in chronological order. Rather, they should be ordered in the form of most recent to oldest – reverse chronological order. The purpose of this format is to show your potential employer what you are now doing with your life or what you have done in the near past because this will be of most interest compared with things you did several years ago.

However, you should definitely include past experiences and jobs – whether part-time or full-time, short term or long term – on your resume. What’s more, you should also expand on your experiences to explain how what you learned and did there is pertinent to the skills you can offer in the present. For example, if you worked in the fast food or restaurant industry, you should emphasize that working in food services requires team-work, communication skills, and even sales skills. Even if you think your past work experiences don’t seem relevant for the particular job to which you are currently applying, you can still elaborate on the skills needed to work, for example, at McDonald’s to show that you did more than flip burgers.

In my resume, I had included a section entitled “Hobbies and Interests.” Do not – I repeat, do NOT – make this a heading in your resume. Instead, highlight your “Volunteer Experience” or your “Community Involvement,” which might consist of sports clubs you were involved with or extra-curricular activities in which you participated. There are technical skills associated with such activities, like team-building skills and an ability to work with others. Again, as you would with your job experiences and academic merits, put your most recent volunteer experiences and community involvement items at the top of your list.

One final note on the resume: put the heading for each section in boldface. So the headings “Education,” “Work Experience,” and “Community Involvement” should be typed in bold letters, just like so (but without the quotation marks).

Contact Career Planning Services

kyle-career-3-1Please, go to the Co-operative Education Centre, room 312 of the McCain, to book your one-on-one consultation with an advisor at Career Services. Do a job search, find out what’s available in your discipline of interest, create a realistic career plan that you can follow to pursue your goals! Go before your third year of university if possible. Career Services will help you get in touch with potential future employers, get your name heard, and get your foot in the door. You can e-mail Career Services at careerplanning@msvu.ca, and you can also reach them by phone at (902) 457-6139/6567. You can find out more about resume critiques, job postings, career fairs, and more on the Mount’s Career Planning Services website.  You can download their Winter schedule here.

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