What value can students gain by having a mentor?
A mentor can share their years of experience and network of contacts with their mentee in their field of interest. Because of the amount of choice the mentee has in their chosen field, the mentor can provide guidance in filtering the information and choices in a fewer number of better defined options to the mentee to make their choice. Furthermore, a mentor can provide other information on an industry or career choice that can only come from having actually worked in an industry that could provide additional information to the mentee which may be significant factor in their career choice. And finally, the mentor can save the mentee from the time, cost and effort of potentially making a wrong choice, due to lack of information or quality of information in a chosen career.
Please discuss from your experience — as an alumni and mentor — the importance of developing marketable skills while in school?
A weak job market, that is an employers market, by its nature becomes even more competitive as the result of employers being able to be increasingly selective in their search for the 100 per cent best hire. The usual request from employers of recent grad hires is to have actual job experience, which is becoming more prevalent.
Who sees beyond the job description and is willing to make the extra effort? The increase in co-op programs is part of the response to graduate students that have the actual job experience being requested by employers. It also provides the student with the on the job training and seeing the practical application of their academic training in the real life workplace.
Other marketable skills that students can develop in school include developing the “soft” or relationship skills that help a student adjust or fit into corporate cultures. Mentors can provide this information to their mentees based on their experience in the field. This can give their students an edge in accelerate their growth and development on the job by having a better understanding of the expectations of their industry or specific employer before they start the job.
Students should also learn to leverage their language skills in an increasingly global economy. Oftentimes, I’ve noticed that students hide their language skills in their resume, rather than presenting them more prominently as a factor that could be instrumental in the hiring process.
What is the best practice to coach a student who feels discouraged by the weak job market?
It’s best to teach students not to give up easily because it will diminish their chances of success in being hired. And, if there is a student with an attitude to give up easily, it could just as easily affect their career if they were already in a job. The attitude needs to be never to give up, to keep trying, and learn from disappointments.
Ask the individual you interviewed for a follow up: what did I do well, or not well in the interview? Or what experience or skillset was missing? Should they be considering additional studies to upgrade themselves to be a better candidate for a specific job?
Students should be building on their job search and experience to continuously improve their approach to job hunting and during the actual interview.
Networking is becoming ever more important than ever before. Students need to learn what networks are available to them and how they can leverage the networks to their advantage in the job market.
Do employers emphasize any particular skills that can be developed during post-secondary education, either in the classroom or during extracurricular and community involvement?
Employers are looking for the 100% fit and best hire these days. A weak economy and soft job market have created circumstances that right now favour the employer. They want the best academic background, the student with actual job experience, accomplishments that set them apart and distinguish them from the rest of the pack, and who have the relationship and communication skills that will hopefully make the student fit quickly and well into a company’s culture. It seems that there is also a tendency in hiring to pay more attention or give more weighting to the well-rounded individual—what has the student done besides their studies during their academic years? Have they been involved in clubs and committees in school, have they volunteered or been part of other general community involvement?