Alumni Spotlight: Rob Gazzola's Secrets to Job Search and Career Success

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Alumni Spotlight: Rob Gazzola's Secrets to Job Search and Career Success

By: Rob Gazzola | SFU Psychology Alumnus
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Rob Gazzola, an SFU Psychology alumnus, realized the reason why he was having so much difficulty securing a job he loves was because he had no relevant work or volunteer experience. He shared with us on how he changed his situation and found career success in today's increasingly competitive job market.

Where are you working now? What is your current position?

I work for a government program that works in the community to prevent gambling problems. I work as an advisor for this program.

What did you study and when did you finish your undergraduate degree?

I studied psychology at SFU because I wanted to work with people, and more importantly, attain a career in which I could help people out in some way.  When I graduated in 2008, the economic crises had begun and I was having difficulty finding a desirable job, so I decided to go overseas to teach English for a year. When I returned, I began applying again. I must have sent close to a hundred resumes out and never received a single interview.

Why did you think you were having such a difficult time finding work after graduation?

I realized that the reason I was having so much difficulty was because I had absolutely no relative work experience. I did not have any volunteer work, nor participated in a Co-op program when I was still in university.  

Discouraged, I decided to take a job in an office, which ultimately had absolutely nothing to do with what I studied (I do not even think my degree was necessary).  I knew right away that this was not my calling in life and that I had to somehow get myself into a job that was related to psychology. After all, this is why I went to school. 

What did you do to change your situation?

I began volunteering with a government program that that raises awareness about the risks involved with gambling.  After a year, I was offered a full time position and am currently very satisfied and happy to be working for the government as an advisor for that same program. 

From this personal experience, what advice do you have for undergraduates about how to succeed in such a competitive job market?

I would like students to fully understand that volunteer or work experience is not only an asset, but pretty much mandatory nowadays for most industries. Many people I graduated with had to take on careers totally unrelated to what they studied, just as I had to, and I think this is a shame because if they only had been more proactive while in school, they would have had some work experience and a better opportunity to get a position in their chosen industry. 

I understand that it is a student's choice whether to volunteer or not while studying, and that this is encouraged by SFU faculty and staff to do so, but I just think that some students do not know exactly how important relevant experience is to landing their dream job or career, and how difficult and discouraging it can be to jump into the workforce without any related experience or connections. 

What advice or tips do have for students on how to build professional connections?

Firstly, you may want to identify or have some ideas in advance as to the kind of job or career path you may want to take after graduation. This is important because you can then start taking the specific steps required to get related experience for that position or career. Find a company or organization that you would actually be interested in working for and then find out if you can do co-op/internship or volunteer with them. This is important on two levels: the position can serve as a foot in the door to that specific company, and if not, it still gets you relevant and useful field experience. 

Are you a member of any professional associations or clubs? Do you hold any professional designations? Alternatively, are you aware of any professional associations/clubs or designations that would be beneficial for students to look into in your field/industry?

I am not currently a member of any professional associations or clubs. I do see the benefit of it though and will consider this in the near future. I am not sure of an association I could suggest to students at this time, but I would recommend that they look into student clubs and organizations on campus or ask professors and TAs for recommendations. I would also encourage people to do their own research on this matter.  

What tips would you give to a student to stand out when applying for a job during an interview?

I think the most important thing is to find something you are either passionate about or are very interested in. Once you have found this, it will become clear in your work experience and attitude, and hopefully at your interview, you will be able to communicate this explicitly and show that you want to grow and succeed in the position you applied for.   

Posted on August 04, 2012