CMNSU's Alumni Interview Mashup: Collective Lessons Across the Board II

CMNSU's Alumni Interview Mashup: Collective Lessons Across the Board II

By: Aninditha Kamaruddin
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This article was originally published on the SFU CMNSU Website on April 13, 2015. View the original article here: Alumni Interview Mashup: Collective Lessons Across the Board II.

It’s that time of the semester when the imminent final exams and deadlines of the three 4,000 word papers forcibly jolts you out of the calm-before-the-finals-season motivational slump.

At this point, it’s not a bad idea to take a break from manic paper writing and take a break while still continuing your productivity streak. Take a second to contemplate your next moves after this semester ends, because if there was one thing all the Communication alumni have advised us students to do is to seek real-world experiences while we’re still at school. For those of you who already know and realize that, there’s actually more to job searching thank you think. The alumni have imparted valuable insight and strategies into what it takes to get the kind of job that’s right for you. Read this edition of Collective Lessons from Across the Board for some practical advice to help you gather the components to set you up for success.


Seek relevant experiences

As aspiring communications professionals, we have a vast array of options of industries to go into. Ensuring you’ll land the right one as your career may take little bit of exploration, and what better to time than now.

Doing Co-op is the perfect opportunity for you to try different jobs without it being a daunting long-term commitment. “I would say do Co-op, but be very strategic about your placements,” Larissa Hildebrandt, Teach Away’s Marketing Coordinator stated.  “Even if you take a Co-op job and find out you don’t really want to do it, it’s just as valuable because you know you won’t take the wrong path.”

Dana Beaton, the Assistant Director of SFU Residence and Housing wholeheartedly agrees. She says, “That’s what’s so great about Co-op — it allows you to try some of those jobs without it being a career making decision. It’s four months of your life. You can do anything for four months. If it’s not for you, you’ll know that.”

Carolyn Baldridge, the Senior Advisor, Strategic Communications & Stakeholder Relations for Metro Vancouver Transit Police added to that by saying, “I gained a lot of just real world, practical experiences that I never would’ve gotten if I had gone and gotten a restaurant job or a job at Starbucks. I might have made more money, but when it came to applying for jobs after university, having those 5 co-op terms with jobs that actually had some meat behind it, was actually a benefit.”

Hone your interests

As a second generation Canadian, Manjot Bains, a Communications Consultant for Digital Handloom, was always interested in mass media and exploring identity. Together with a friend, Manjot started Jugni Style, an online magazine that covers South Asian fashion, culture and entertainment arts for a Canadian audience. “My business partner and I don’t see ourselves reflected in the mainstream media, and we’re not going to be. So we created own platform for women like us,” Manjot stated. This decision came after she realized grad school wasn’t for her anymore, but Manjot still found other avenues to explore her topic interest.

Candace Le Roy, SFU’s Sustainability Coordinator, loved the Communications program for letting her engage with social issues and along with that the flexibility to direct all her coursework towards sustainability topics. She advises students to, “Find your niche; find something you want to communicate about and go in that direction.” Candace also founded Sustainable SFU and did a Certificate on Sustainable Community Development to immerse herself in her topic of interest and get the necessary qualifications to make a career out of it.

Think about the kind of company you want to work for

The idea that Communication students can only go into marketing, advertising or journalism is a huge misconception. “Start by finding out what general topics in life interest you,” Carolyn begins. “Whether it’s fashion, mechanics, health care, or basket weaving. From there, decide: public or private.”

Candace encourages us students to not overlook small organizations, non-profits and offices like hers that need communications support. She says, “Try to gain experience with them if you can because they’ll give you more room to breathe and more responsibility.

A lot of jobs will allow you to dive in with both feet and immerse yourself in the job. From Dana’s experience all her employers just said, “Here’s what you need to do. Let me know if you have any questions. They were willing to let you sink or swim, and I think that’s the best way to learn.

Think hard about the kind of job you want

As we go through a very crucial time in our lives, we have to engage with some important self-reflections to make sure who we are aligns with who we want to be. “Think about what kind of person you are,” Carolyn remarks. “You know whether or not you are detail oriented, a people person, a visual person or a thinker. All those big picture things count. I’ve always known I wanted to be wearing something clean and work in an office. It can literally be as granular as that.” Although you don’t have to know exactly what you want, thinking about things like this can propel you to a job that suits you and your personality, instead of applying for whatever job is available. Your future self might thank your present self for that.

Be inquisitive and do your research

Once you have an idea, no matter how vague, of what it is you want to do, actually learn more about it. According to Larissa, “You also have to be on top of what’s going on in the industry. Communications is not what it was 10 years ago, and keeping on top of industry trends is a big asset for me in my career.” Although Google will always be there for you and keep you in the know, there are myriads of ways you can inquire about the job you want. Manjot recommends conducting information interviews and going directly to an organization to volunteer your skills. “Approach an organization and write for them, work on their website content and do their social media– it’s a good way to get skills,” Manjot declares.

After you approach an organization and granted an interview, Kelsey Borland, a Senior Analyst for Communica Public Affairs, gives some tips on how to make the best out of that interview. “When you go for an interview, remember that you are also interviewing the company. Does the corporate culture align with you and your career goals? What is the growth potential? Be open, think of all the factors–­ the size of the company, the people that you want to work for and the people that you want to work with,” Kelsey said. Asking these kinds of questions would enable you to get a better sense of the company’s culture, and determine if that’s the kind of environment you want to be in.

Build relationships

Networking has become such a ubiquitous buzzword that some see as a begrudging necessity for career advancement. But if that’s your only motive, people can see right through you and detect the superficiality. Approach it as a way to build relationships. Kelsey reminds us to, “maintain that relationship and follow up with a thank you. You really need to put yourself out there but also ensure you are doing it in the right venue.” This is why Kelsey and many other alumni recommends joining organizations that are relevant to your field of interest.

Megan Battersby, a Communications Specialist at G&F Financial joined the Student Marketing Association (SMA) as their Public Relations co-director to further her interest of the world of Communication and Business. “I think [SMA] really helped with my self-confidence, meeting new people and trying new things. It helped me be involved with project planning and gave me a bigger picture of the marketing communications landscape,” Megan states, before adding, “the biggest benefit to being in a club like that is the connections you make with other people.”

Megan outlines the benefits to joining organizations. Not only is it about meeting new people, it’s about gaining the confidence to put yourself out there and trust that it’ll bring you forward.


So there you have it! SFU Communication alumni’s useful tips to help you to make the job search process as effective as possible. This goes to show that putting a little thought into what you do can go a long way. Take it from Grace Chan, the former Miss Hong Kong, who said, “in order for talent to be recognized, a great deal of hard work and discipline are required.” Grace mentions that being at school gives you time to contemplate things like “What kind of person are you? Are you someone who is hard working? Are you someone who is tardy or on time?” Engaging with these questions during your years at university will give you a chance to better understand your habits and make changes accordingly, before you enter the workplace. Following some of these tips can help prepare you, adjust your expectations and hopefully steer you in the right direction to the kind of work that will give you the most job satisfaction.

Summer is fast approaching. How will you make it count?

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Posted on April 24, 2015