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 🙂

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