5 career tips for the clueless student – Interview with successful BCIT Grad Kemp Edmonds

Kemp Edmonds, Sales Engineer and overall awesome guy who works at Hootsuite (@HootKemp), graced us BCIT students with his presence and delivered an insightful presentation full of tips for clueless students.

It was great to hear from a fellow BCIT graduate who achieved professional success so soon after his graduation. But more importantly, he told us how he did it. His insider tips were so useful that I decided to interview him myself to get some concrete, actionable tips all students can use to get that dream job after graduation (or at least get closer to it).

1. Use the ‘student’ status to network and get to know professionals

Being a student in the eyes of a working professional means that you have the “I’m just here to learn” protection, and are not another job-hungry post-grad. It is paramount to recognize that this is a power that all students possess and need to fully leverage. Email people who work in positions you want to get to someday, and ask them for career advice. Actually apply their advice and mine them for more information. Follow up with them and show how you are actually applying their advice, and they will remember you the next time an opening comes up!

2. Learn about what you want from life, and get work experience in that field

 

 

One of the most common career challenges people face is not knowing what they want from life. Take the time to experiment and get to know your strengths, weaknesses, and what makes you happy. If you can get paid to use your strengths and do something that makes you happy, do it!

3. Teach yourself when school doesn’t cut it

Self-learning should be an ongoing process, and you should expect that school will not teach you everything you need to know. Absolutely great ways I personally teach myself outside of school are through Ted Talks and the Khan Academy for business topics. Forbes.com is another great resource. But a tangible example of self-learning is to just start up a blog and try stuff out with it! You can easily put ‘Familiar with WordPress/Blogger’ on your resume, and hey, that’s an in-demand skill.

4. Say ‘yes’ to opportunities that come up through friends. Eg. “Hey I’m going to this thing … want to come with?”

You will not only have the best adventures if you say yes to this question, but you will get to know a lot of different people and heck, maybe even learn a skill or two. Best of all, saying yes to spontaneous questions like this show that you are an open-minded person who fits into lots of different scenarios, and people might be more willing to ask you to do things/refer you to other people 🙂

5. Create content and get it published.

Start a blog, tweet, write for the local newspaper, and get your name published! Or even better, do some preliminary project work for some companies you really want to work at, and contact them with the work you did – maybe land yourself an internship with your initiative! It’s already tough to stand out from your colleagues with the exact same education as you. Creating content differentiates you from the crowd, and shows that you are an engaged individual who is curious about what’s happening around you.

Some food for thought: There are few who would say formalized post-secondary education is a bad idea, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to think about why we do what we do every once in a while. I encourage you to watch this video and redefine education 🙂

Why I Hate School But Love Education || Spoken Word (Youtube)

Good luck!

Shiv 🙂

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Market YOURSELF on the Internet

Ever tried Googling yourself? Embarrassed with what pops up? If you are, that is a major problem –  chances are a potential employer (or two, or every single one) has done the same thing. Welcome to the modern world. Everyone has some form of a digital imprint, and the savvy student knows exactly how to put your best digital foot forward 🙂

So how else can you promote yourself online? Well, let’s use the basic principle of marketing and apply them here. A quick situational analysis, like a Porter’s 5, should work nicely.

**Quick caveat: These are generalizations, that definitely depend on industry, personal work experience, and the positions that you are applying for.

1. Bargaining Power of Customers: HIGH. If you are selling yourself, then the buyer would be employers. Here are some questions to ask: Are there many employers looking for your qualifications? In the current economic crisis there are generally fewer positions than applicants, meaning bargaining power is high. In this case, it’s necessary to do everything possible in order to make yourself visible and memorable – that means not just creating an account on all the online channels, but regularly tweeting, responding to people, researching and learning about your specific industry.

2. Bargaining Power of Suppliers: MEDIUM.

In this case, you are selling the skills you got from whoever taught them to you. One way I interpret this is : how much clout does your school have? Or your teachers? If it’s not too much, than you would hope to get jobs that give you excellent experience to make up for it. On the other hand, whoever supplied your education will most likely have resources to help you find a job: Look for alumni networks, ask your peers how they got where they are, and connect with your favourite professors. The internet is a beautiful tool to accomplish all these connections 🙂

3. Threat of New Entrants: HIGH.

How many people are going to learn what you know in the future? This is a worry for people in growing industries, like Sustainability for example. Best way to address this is to constantly improve on your professional skills and take advantage of the extra time you’ve been playing the game before them.

4. Threat of Existing Competition and 5. Threat of Substitutes: HIGH.

How many people do what you do? Probably quite a few. But don’t be discouraged by the number of competitors! Every person IS different from another, and no one else will have the same combination of natural ability, life and work skills as you! It is imperative to broadcast how you differ from your competition if you want to be remembered by potential employers. This goes for the interview, as well as your online profiles.

Takeaways: So how do you use the internet to work to your advantage?

There are two major advantages I see to having an online presence:

1. Exposure. By having an online presence, people who are in different parts of Vancouver, Canada and elsewhere have a way to connect to you. You never know who is surfing the internet looking for candidates just like you.

2. Ability to communicate with all types of players. This is a dismally overlooked part of job searching and establishing an online presence in general. Being online doesn’t just mean that potential employers can find you online; it means you have a way to connect with your fellow job-seeking peers, you can research and keep track of companies that interest you, and even discover positions you never even knew about. Speaking of which…

3. Shows you possibilities you never even knew about. About a year ago, I started up my Twitter account and dutifully started following companies in my favourite industries: Food and Tourism. Little did I know, but there is such thing as ‘Food Tourism’ and it’s a big industry in Vancouver. You can only imagine how blown my mind was. The point of this anecdote is to demonstrate that the more you research, the more knowledge you obtain and the closer you come to finding those perfect-fit jobs.

Happy hunting!

Shiv 🙂

One hot summer and two internships in India

Being an Indo-Canadian, I have visited India a number of times since I was born to see family but I’ve never stayed as long as 3 months, much less worked, in India. So spending a full 3 months away from Canada to work in India was definitely something I have never experienced before.

The hills of Shimla...ok so I didn't exactly 'work' here, but ISN'T IT GORGEOUS?!

How did I land my internships? The short answer is family connections. In third-world countries where fair hiring practices aren’t a priority quite yet, connections are the main method of securing yourself an internship in India. I had two one-month long internships in New Delhi: one at Reliance ADA Mutual Funds as an Economic Market Researcher, and one at an Indian tourism company as a Sales Staff Assistant.

I was really lucky to have been assigned my first internship. As an Economic Market Researcher, it was my job to research all of India’s 33 provinces and summarize various economic and political data – such as major industries, and population demographics. Even though I have visited India before, I never researched it as thoroughly as I did that month – and what I found out was really fascinating! Each province is almost like its own country, and they are as different from each other as the countries in the EU. Each province has different customs, cuisines, different clothes, and completely different languages. By the end of all my hours of research I understood the topics on the news and the motives behind political conflicts, but I still felt like I barely knew India at all!

From the international business culture perspective… I worked on this internship at home by myself because there just wasn’t any room for me in the office downtown. I answered to my project manager, a quiet lady from Eastern India who had studied in New York, so she understood Western cultural norms better than I understood Indian business etiquette. As a result, she and I would go for meetings over coffee and chat about our personal lives as I would with any Canadian co-worker.

Did you know coconuts are filled with water? It's not milky at all!

My second internship taught me about Indian people. After studying India from a macroeconomic perspective, it was refreshing to be given this project. It was my responsibility to understand the typical Indian traveller that make up a tourism company’s clientele, and come up with ‘all-you-need-to-know’ reports on the major tourist destinations. The Indian traveller is almost the exact opposite of the western traveller. The Indian traveller needs to eat Indian food wherever they go (which led me to an anguished search of Indian restaurants in Italy…why would you go to Italy and not eat Italian food?!), need a tour guide, and prefer to travel in luxury. International travel isn’t as popular in India as it is in Canada because Indians are still used to travelling to different parts of India, so a lot of the clients would call in asking questions like “What’s in Switzerland?” and the Sales staff would answer “Ma’am, Switzerland is known for cheese, chocolate and mountains.” A lot of what I encountered with this internship would start me giggling, to the surprise of my serious coworkers.

As for the international business etiquette… Indians are more traditional than Canadians in general, so don’t be surprised if the coworkers seem judgmental. Some advice I was given was to be vague about your personal life so you can avoid being gossiped about. Another big difference between the Canadian and Indian workplace is the obvious hierarchy. Older coworkers, whether they have as much experience as you or not, are treated with more respect. The higher-level employees do not mingle with the lower-level employees, but are on respectful and formal terms.

But what if you don’t have family connections?

For people who don’t have strong family connections, I can suggest two ways to enter the Indian work force. First, you could start working for international companies with branches in India, and ask to be relocated. Giant multinationals that started in India include Tata Motors, Infosys and Ranbaxy, and being the upcoming economic powerhouse that India is, a lot of other companies are expanding into the country all the time.

Another way in is to get in touch with volunteer organizations in India, or just go to India and make contacts while you’re already there!

Quick Takeaways!

  • Make sure you have good contacts in India to set you up with an internship, since job postings will get a flood of applicants most employers can’t bother to comb through
  • Knowing Hindi is a very good idea, but most people in business can speak English
  • Be clear on the organization’s hierarchy, and respect it. Work relationships in India are more formal than in Canada!

And most importantly…

  • Get ready to learn a lot. Travellers have always said India is like sensory overload, so be prepared!

Culturally yours,

Shiv 🙂

Where a lack of ambition has got me

If you’re in high school/university, you’ll know just how often you’re asked what you plan to do when you graduate.

For those who forget, we are asked this a LOT.

What if you don’t have any idea what you want to do for the rest of your life? If you say exactly that, just watch the disapproving faces appear. Or sit back and listen to a 10 minute lecture on what you should do with your life.

I’ve never had a clear idea of what I want to do for the rest of my life. Sure, I have some guidelines, but I prefer to apply for everything that sounds interesting and see where that gets me.

So here’s a question for you: Does being flexible mean the same thing as lacking ambition?

I don’t think so.

Besides, who holds the same job for the rest of their lives these days?  According to the reputable source of Wiki Answers, people hold 5-15 jobs during their lifetime!

Since I’ve only ever had a vague idea of what I’d like to do, my answer to the question “What are you going to do with your life?” is the equally vague “I’d like to do something that pays me to travel, but I’m flexible.” And that always seems to be the wrong answer. I don’t know any adults who are doing exactly what they wanted to after they graduated, and people misinterpret my flexibility as a lack of ambition.

To those people, I would ask if my resume (http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/shivani-mukerji/2b/a27/467) is that of an unmotivated individual. As I said, I don’t have a clear idea of what I’d like to do. However, holding lots of different positions and participating in extra curriculars does give me more options and helps me narrow down what I like to do.

Ambitiously yours,

Shiv 🙂

Studying abroad helps your career, so why can’t the reverse be true too?

After 5 jobs, an internship and a couple temporary positions, there are a lot of things I’ve learned at work that I’m excited to take with me when I go on exchange to Paris in September! So without further ado, I present to you…

5 lessons to take with you when you travel abroad!

1. Do things that scare you

As a pretty risk averse person, the only way to get me to do something I really don’t want to is to pay me. In all the jobs I’ve ever held there have been oh, 100+ tasks I don’t been comfortable doing but have to anyway, like drive a fully loaded golf cart down a steep, bumpy hill (and I can’t even drive a car) for example. And after doing the scary things a couple times, it’s not that scary and actually kind of fun. The big lesson from this is to GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE because when you’re abroad, you’ll have to do this on a daily basis to make sure you don’t miss out on any opportunities.

2. Get used to approaching strangers

One of the jobs I had this summer was being paid to ask low income people to fill in a survey for a research study at UBC. So basically, hours and hours of approaching people and asking them to do me a favour. And you know what? People can be really nice, and I ended up having some great chats with people I would normally never talk to. It’s difficult to take people’s rejection after you approach them, but it’s so rewarding when you meet such cool people and especially useful if you’re travelling alone. I’m very happy that I’m not afraid to approach strangers anymore, because when you travel you will be relying on the kindness of strangers to get you by when things don’t go as planned (which will, by the way, be more often than not). And in general, people are good and you shouldn’t let suspicion stop you from giving them a chance.

Your opening line... in English speaking countries

TANGENT: Businesses like Couchsurfing (http://www.couchsurfing.org/) and Tripping (tripping.com) base their entire businesses on this, and look how successful they are! I’m looking forward to using them when I’m travelling too.

3. Fill up your schedule as much as possible

Studying abroad means juggling studying, travelling, and having a blast with your new friends, so get used to being 100% busy all the time before you study abroad so you know how to balance it all! My 3 current jobs and an internship have taught me this much. And on that note…

4. Be self disciplined

There are going to be some things you won’t want to do but have to anyway when you go abroad. If you’re going on exchange like me, then it will mean actually cracking open a textbook once in a while and studying. Or abstaining on buying the kitschy tourist shirts. Or ordering a second dessert. Once I set the goal to earn as much money as possible, I said goodbye to my social life for the summer and gave my entire availability to my jobs. I only ever see my friends before and/or after I work, and it sucks because there are so many cool events happening in Vancouver during the summer. But c’est la vie! I live my hermit life, work as much as possible and can travel that much more comfortably later.

And finally!

5. Make lots of mistakes, but take them in stride

I don’t mean ‘make lots of mistakes and don’t apologize’ like so many tourists do just because they’re in a foreign country, but take them lightly and learn how to do it properly for next time. This has been especially hard for me since I’m so used to getting the hang of things so quickly, but let me tell you – learning how to waitress has been a very painful process. But making mistakes is bound to happen when you’re in a new environment, be it a new job or a new country and the best thing you can do is learn quickly and don’t get too discouraged.

I can’t guarantee that these lessons will make sure your time abroad is awesome, but I’m pretty sure it will be 😀

BY THE WAY — ONLY 15 DAYS UNTIL DEPARTURE!

Excitedly yours,

Shiv 🙂

Why I don’t want the 9-5 salary life

If you’re the odd one out who wants something different from life than the 9-5 job, suburban home and a slow-paced life – OH HAI! We have that in common 🙂

Well this is awkward.

From the standpoint of this naive early 20s kid, that sounds pretty awful, and I get a lot of judgment from my friends and family for wanting something different. I want 2.5 things that most people do NOT want –>

1. A job that pays me to travel

2. A small apartment in a central location

2.5. A kitty cat (Most people want dogs. I do not understand why.)

As a business student at the highly competitive Sauder School of Business, my peers are eager to finish school, get hired to the 9-5 job, take their money and move up in big corporations. They wear their suits proudly, network with confidence and will be very efficient workers. But it has been nearly 4 years in this environment and it’s never caught onto me.

I want enough money to get by, but I want my own life. I don’t want to give my entire week to giant corporations who give so many people great jobs but don’t offer the world anything of real value. I want to be able to blend my professional and personal life because I love doing what I do. What I want is a career that I actually like, and how many people can say they like what they do, honestly? Not that they are good at their job, that they are comfortable doing what they do or like the amount of money they are getting but actually enjoy working and would do it without pay? I haven’t met many.

And travellers get a whole other kind of stigma. Some of it’s good, but it’s not a lifestyle that works with the norm. After all, if you travel…

  • What will happen if you have kids? Kids can’t travel
  • You can’t keep a relationship with that kind of lifestyle
  • What if you have to travel to dangerous places?
  • Your cat will get lonely

Is it very hard to find a job you like, with hours that let you live a life and afford the basics? I understand the concern behind people’s questions because the life I’m looking for isn’t very secure, but I see no need for judgment.

If you want something different from the norm and are driven enough to work towards it, I say good on you and wish you good luck!

Thoughtfully yours,

Shiv 🙂

BONUS TANGENT!

Some people who live a life I want include…

1. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, Ian Wright from Pilot Guides is my hero. Being paid to travel, mingle with locals and express the beauty of the world is THE BEST JOB ON EARTH. And he’s hilarious. http://www.pilotguides.com/tv_shows/globe_trekker/travelers/ian_wright.php

2. The Travelling Canucks http://travelingcanucks.com/ – The couple that travels together stays together

Keeping the long term goal in sight: 7 ways to stay focused!

I’m blogging to you with my stiff fingers around a pen. Somewhere that used to be very familiar, especially in high school when I couldn’t even write essays directly on the computer without at least jotting my draft in pen – for some reason, the screen would make my mind blank. And since university and the demands for things to be done faster, I’ve been so steeped in technology that I now feel stifled at the slowness of my hand and the pen.

But this impatience (that is seemingly inherent in my personality) finds many creative ways to manifest itself. For example:

  • Getting impatient with myself when I don’t remember how to do absolutely everything at my new jobs (and this summer, I’ve had many – refer to the Chronicles of a Jobless Student)
  • Getting impatient with the job market’s unwillingness to hire me

and most of all…

  • IMPATIENT to leave Canada and FINALLY go on exchange!

I am here to share with whoever is reading this my own coping mechanisms for staying focused and kicking impatience in the butt. Here’s what I am doing to keep myself sane and prepared for my loooooooong (like, lifelong) awaited trip.

1. Brush up on the photography skills. The walk to work at the golf course I work at is very pretty (aside from the slowly decaying roadkill, rusty bridge and the gravelly shoulder of the highway I walk past to get there) so I’m thinking of coming a couple hours early so I can see if I can capture it. I can practice the basic composition and lighting rules I learned from high school photography classes, edit the shots when I’m home and be all prepped to take killer shots of my amazing time in Europe.

2. Get a job. Easier said that done, I know. I have all new troubles with 2 jobs now, but the fact of the matter is that the quality of my trip abroad depends on how many hours I can cram in right now. So when I get home pissed, sad or discouraged, I convert my days’ earnings into something I would buy in France. For instance, I’m earning myself ($8.5 x 3 hours) $25.5, or a french lunch of a panini, coffee and pastry at a nice bistro in Paris. Yum.

3. Keep doing what you love. Now that I’m back in my hometown, I took up karate classes again and couldn’t have made a better decision. Through the swirl of the new jobs and stress of mastering new skills, it’s a HUGE relief to do something I’m already good at, and get some form of exercise in to score more points in the hopes of reaching Project Get Hot (I’ll blog about this project too).

4. Do something for the LONG long term goal. I eventually want to work in tourism, so I keep on top of the tourism job posts in Canada (http://www.go2hr.ca) and the blog posts of my idols on Twitter. My marketing internship stimulates my rather underused cognitive abilities and keeps me engaged in my long long term goal too, and I learn so much from constantly looking up ways that Canadian students can study abroad. Another plus is that it gives me something to chat about when I meet people, and you never know who might find the information interesting.

5. Blog about it! I really need to take my own advice here and write more often, but I’m usually too exhausted after doing what I can on my to-do list and working. So my new plan is to blog while I’m at work, whether I have a computer or not! And so far, so good 🙂

6. Spend your time creatively. I’m lucky to have really cool friends who like trying new things with me, like a new cafe or that weird dish on a menu we can’t pronounce. But since we’re all students, we think of other ways to amuse ourselves that require the least amount of spending. Cheap activities I’ve partaken of/will do are:

  • Trying new recipes
  • Going out for photo shoots
  • Walking around downtown
  • Window shopping
  • Sniffing as many teas in a tea shop as possible
  • Nerf gun fights

My friend Britt (http://vancouvervogue.blog​spot.com/) comes up with material for her fashion blog this way, and I get to be a bit of a tourist in my own city 🙂

7. Keep learning! Is there such a thing as researching too much? I would start looking up internships in France, and somehow end up watching Youtube videos like this  and vowing to eat a Chinese crepe before I die. The internet is as useful or mindless as you want it to be.

I hope some of this is useful! And if it isn’t, I’d love to hear your suggestions on how to keep occupied while you wait for the day of the thing you’ve been looking forward to the most 🙂

Ciao!

Shiv 🙂