By Lindsay Brookes, BCom ’15

On Friday January 15, 2021, I had the pleasure of leading a workshop at the 17th Annual Workplace Skills Conference to the third-year BCom students. There were 70 students in attendance with a great level of engagement.

The theme of the workshop was ‘Non-Traditional Careers: Expanding the Possibilities’. I couldn’t have thought of a better theme to be asked to address. I have worked in a variety of areas, starting as a cupcakes girl at a family-owned cupcakes store before becoming a student recruiter, fundraiser and more recently, project manager of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Outlined below is a summary of the six key takeaways I shared during my presentation at Workplace Skills Conference. My hope is that these key takeaways will help provide some tips as students prepare for  careers post-pandemic. But many of these tips are relevant to everyone!

  • Key Takeaway #1: Mentorship
    • Tip: Industry associations and networking events are good ways to find mentors. If you are a student or alumni, check out the Gustavson Mentorship website here to complete a profile to start the process of getting a mentor.
    • Be sure to always follows up with your mentor and say thank you!
    • Mentors have certainly helped my career thus far and am grateful for their guidance as I have navigated difficult situations and explored next steps for my career.
  • Key Takeaway #2: Networking
    • For those interested in working in the health sector, check out the Canadian College of Health Leaders and become a member of the Vancouver Island Chapter. One of my mentors recommended that I join and I am now the Chair of the Vancouver Island Chapter. This group consists of members from Island Health, Ministry of Health and local health organizations from across the Island.
      • A student membership is only $70/year as compared to $475/year. More info here.
    • Use LinkedIn as a networking tool – develop your profile, connect with your fellow classmates, friends, family, co-workers, profs and people you meet.
      • Tip: Be sure to personalize a message when adding a person, as a blind add isn’t always as effective.
      • Looking back at the initial message you sent when adding them is also a great tool to remind you how you met this person.
      • Tip: Be sure to have an appropriate, professional photo – I wouldn’t recommend using a graduation photo with a grad hat as it will scream that you only recently finished your studies!
  • Key Takeaway #3: Education
    • If you are a BCom student, you are already a step in the right direction, especially having to complete three co-op work terms!
    • Suggestion: Consider furthering your education (you don’t have to right away but keep it in the back of your mind in case a master’s degree or professional designation may help further your career. Some advancement positions require a higher level of education than a bachelor’s).
  • Key Takeaway #4: Volunteering
    • Giving back to your community while balancing studies and work demonstrates the ability to manage your time effectively.
    • Suggestion: If you don’t already volunteer somewhere, think of a cause that aligns with your goals and seek out volunteer opportunities. Be sure to demonstrate consistency and don’t just volunteer for one weekend!
  • Key Takeaway #5: Being Your Best Self (4 tips listed below)
    • Make sure you make time for yourself – sleep, exercise and hangout with your friends and family (in ways that honour COVID-19 protocols).
    • Set goals for yourself and outline the steps on how to achieve them (your mentor can help you with this!)
    • Give back to the community – find a cause that aligns with your goals.
    • Have a networking mindset – use LinkedIn as a tool and always be sure to put your best foot forward. Who knows if the person standing next to you at the grocery store could be your future supervisor!
  • Key Takeaway #6: Your Job Application (6 tips listed below)
    • When applying for jobs, research as much as you can about the organization you are applying to. Look on LinkedIn to see who works there and their background. Read about the organization’s core values and mission and see if they align with your values. Highlight key areas that relate to the organization in your resume and cover letter.
    • Reach out to people in your network who may know more information about the job.
    • Take the time to customize your resume and cover letter for each job. Spend a minimum of five hours per application to allow you to stand out. The time upfront will be worthwhile as it will demonstrate to the employer that you took the time to apply.
    • Be aware of what you have on your social media – check your settings to see how you are viewed publicly.
    • After you apply, make sure you follow up with the hiring manager and give them a heads-up that you applied. If you don’t know who the hiring manager is, do the research to find out.
    • Be sure to say thank you when applying – always send follow-up thank-you emails after your interview and if you didn’t get the job, be sure to thank the interview panel for their time. (A simple thank you goes a long way!)

Hope these tips are helpful! If you have any questions, reach out to me on LinkedIn here (please be sure to include a note so I know who you are).