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Opinion: The university must provide more networking opportunities for non-STEM students

Finding a stable job is becoming more and more difficult, and students need help
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IRIS DENG/THE VARSITY
IRIS DENG/THE VARSITY

I sighed as I submitted my 20th job application. My coffee had run out. It was 2:00 am in the quiet study space, and I was exhausted. When I looked over, I saw three of my friends working on their applications, striking off names as they went through their list of companies.

How did we end up here?

We made it to this grand institution, with allegedly the best graduate employability in Canada, and yet we were completely lost.

In the next few days, I spoke with a bunch of friends, friends of friends, and even acquaintances at work. After all of these conversations, one thing was clear to me: getting a job after graduation in Toronto is becoming harder, and the university is not talking about it.

Universities in Ontario are overflowing with students. Every year, U of T is taking more students than it can handle. Our university doesn’t have enough spaces on campus to maintain a good student-to-teacher ratio in classes, but it sure loves making more money. 

Because of a higher number of students being stuffed into a small downtown core, competition is going up. U of T’s cutthroat atmosphere cultivates this culture. Something as simple as having one more reference than the next person can make or break your chances at getting an interview.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not fighting for those who won’t work as hard, I’m fighting for those who work equally as hard as everyone else and still suffer in the job market because they fall short by one reference.

U of T is not doing enough to help these students, and they are left to navigate the daunting sphere of a job market that does not care about them.

In my experience, the graduate job fairs are not working. Job fairs are so crowded that students wait in line to talk to a potential recruiter, only to be capped at a five-to-10 second conversation. When we do get to the front of these lines, recruiters just let us know to wait for postings to show up on their websites. This has happened to me at every job fair I have gone to.

Furthermore, almost all of the job fairs I’ve been to have been focused on computer science, business, or economics students. Many students with other majors don’t get opportunities to go to these job fairs and are left discouraged. In fact, as a journalist, I have never seen U of T host a single job fair with media or editorial companies. One might argue that jobs in the humanities and other areas of study aren’t as demanded as STEM or business fields, but the internet is flooded with such jobs.

U of T’s Career Learning Network has lots of jobs, I agree, but there are more “dog walker,” “French tutor,” “wilderness guide,” and “swimming instructor” postings than full-time postings for us young graduates with economics, biology, or English degrees. Tell me, do we not deserve to be at least connected properly with the recruiters in our field? Or is that privilege only for Rotman students?

Furthermore, U of T’s utterly damaging grade deflation policies are making it harder for us to apply for job listings that want 4.0 GPAs on our transcripts. Competitive positions at banks, consulting firms, and investment firms require high marks. Anything less than their requirement, and they don’t even bother to read the rest of your résumé.

It’s important to note that U of T is in the midst of a mental health crisis — just like many other postsecondary institutions around Canada. Students and faculty members alike have voiced their concern over a perceived lack of adequate mental health support from the university.

Our students are concerned about their uncertain futures, which may lead to constant feelings of self-doubt. What is making all of this worse is that the administration does not seem to be doing anything to help them.

We need more work opportunities and co-op programs at UTSG that give us the experience we need for competitive jobs. The implementation of more interactive opportunities in our degrees would give us better skills, more experience, and would strengthen our belief in our own futures.

We need not only more opportunities like workshops, symposia, graduate job fairs, and networking opportunities, but more meaningful ones that will actually help us find employment — especially for the programs that are lacking in them. Isn’t it the university’s responsibility to at least give us an opportunity to meet with potential recruiters, instead of leaving us to fend for ourselves?

I believe that U of T needs to provide us with the resources we need to find meaningful employment, and its current efforts are simply not enough.

Abhya Adlakha is a fourth-year Criminology and Psychology student at Woodsworth College.