Peer Into Career


By: Kelvin Claveria | OLC Writer
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Last week, SFU Peer Programs and Career Services hosted PEER into your CAREER, an event that was meant to show current undergraduate students how to increase their employability in the job market. During the event, a panel of five alumni shared their experiences since graduating from SFU and provided insights on what current students should do now in order to become successful after graduation.

Meet the panelists:

The five panelists during the event all shared a unique experience during their time at SFU. Although they all come from different academic background, these alumni were all former peer educators.

Chris Lo
HR Advisor - Recruitment, City of Burnaby
Academic history: Graduated from SFU in 2009 with a BBA with a concentration in HR Management
Former Peer Educator position: Career Peer Educator

Shawna Lum
Program Coordinator, Burnaby MoreSports; VP - Operations, Twinbro
Academic history: Shawna graduated from SFU in June 2009 with a B.Sc. in Kinesiology.
Former Peer Educator position: Peer Health Educator

Jennifer Liu
Regional Communications Consultant - Service Canada, BAT Region (British Columbia/Alberta/Northwest Territories)
Academic history: Jennifer graduated from SFU in June 2009 with a BA in Communication.
Former Peer Educator position: Learning and Writing Peer & Career Peer Educator

Cameron Cunningham
Medical Student, UBC
Academic history: Cameron completed an honours degree in Kinesiology at SFU in 2006. He has obtained an MSc in Neuroscience and is currently in medical school at UBC.
Former Peer Educator Position: Peer Health Educator

Kirtida Lad
Dale Matheson Carr-Hilton Labonte LLP Chartered Accountants; Staff Associate 1, CASB Student
Academic history: Kirtida graduated from SFU in 2008 with a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in both accounting and finance.
Former Peer Educator Position: Career Peer Educator

Key Tips from the Panel:

The great thing about PEER into your CAREER was its format. Because the event was in a Q&A format, the panelists were able to share their experience in a clear, meaningful and accessible way. Initially, Dal Sohal, the event host, asked the panel about their thoughts on a wide variety of topic including volunteer work, academic life, and work transition. The attendees were able to ask any additional questions they had at the second half of the event.

Hearing from former SFU students provided the current students real-world insights. The main tips that the panelists shared include the following:

  • Get involved through volunteer work. In addition to their involvement with the Peer Educator program, all the panelists had additional involvement around campus during their time at SFU. For example, Kirtida got involved with the Accounting Student Association and with various events and competitions during her time at SFU. Similarly, Jennifer participated in the Vancouver Board of Trades' Leaders of Tomorrow program.

    The panel stressed the importance of volunteer work. While you might find that you already have a busy schedule, the panelists stressed that with proper planning, you can squeeze in some time to get involved. Cameron encouraged students to "work smarter, not necessarily harder." He advised attendees to look at their semester from the beginning and to plan ahead so that their volunteer work is less stressful during those weeks when school work is heavy.

    Jen offered a similar advice: She encouraged everyone to "take things one day at a time" to avoid getting overwhelmed. She also offered that students look at tasks "in terms of priorities and values." Activities that are in synch with our values are easier to get done.

    Shawna explained how volunteer work can help in increasing your employability. According to her, volunteering "allows you to choose the projects that you'd like to get involved with" which then allows you to develop the work-related skills that you'd like to develop now. This is slightly different from getting a job where the employer generally already has a set of specific tasks and projects for you. In terms of skills, Kirtida revealed that through her various extra-curricular activities, she developed interpersonal communication and teamwork skills.

    Chris added that in his current role as a recruitment manager, he knows that employers value the ability to take initiative and to be a team player. Students can demonstrate these skills through volunteer work.

    The key with volunteer work is to find something that you enjoy. Shawna, for instance, was very interested with wellness, so there was a good fit with her position as a Peer Health Educator and her interests. Cameron was also always interested with wellness, so he got involved as a Nightline volunteer in addition to his duties as a Peer Health Educator. Today, both Shawna and Cameron still do things that are related to wellness and volunteerism. Cameron is involved with the Big Brother program, while Shawna is currently the Operations VP for Twinbro, a non-profit organization that provides inspiration and information for youth to access post-secondary education.

  • Build lasting relationships. The panelists offered a different view of what we usually refer to as networking. Kirtida emphasized that the job market is usually "more about who you know" but she cautioned everyone to "don't think of it as networking - think of it as relationship building."

    Jennifer echoed Kirtida's thoughts and encouraged students to regularly keep in touch with their networks. A quick email to let everyone know what you're up to may be sufficient. They emphasized building lasting relationships with people you've met instead of getting in contact only when you need something. Social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn are great tools to keep in touch.

  • Prepare for situational or behavioural questions for interviews. A lot of the attendees were very interested with the interview process. As the HR expert in the panel, Chris emphasized the importance of being able to answer behavioural questions. He said recruiters want to know "what your thought process was, what you did when things didn't go right or when problems came up."

    Shawna stressed the importance of showing the employer what you did instead of telling them. "Don't tell a potential employer 'I'm a leader'; instead them about a time that you demonstrated leadership skills."

    The panelists all agree that volunteer work helped them in getting the experiences they need to be able to answer behavioural questions. They credit the SFU Career Services in helping them prepare for interviews.

  • Become a Peer Educator! Given that all members of the panelists have been part of the Peer Educator program, it's not surprising that they heavily endorsed the program during the event. Shawna liked that the program offers the flexibility which may not necessarily be available through other volunteer programs at SFU. "You can tailor your experience for your needs," according to her. Shawna liked that the coordinators collaborate with the volunteers to ensure that the program helps students develops the skills they wish to work on.

    Chris also found being a Career Peer Educator to be a great compliment to his HR education. Through the many hours of training he attended in mock interviews and résumé-writing, Chris was able to compliment what he learned in the classroom. Kirtiga, who was involved heavily in the Business faculty, thought the program was a great way to meet students outsde of her faculty.

    All the panelists agreed that the best part about the program is meeting like-minded individuals who share the same level of passion and same goals. Volunteers develop a common bond throughout the program and eventually become good friends.

The PEER into your CAREER event was the first time that peer educator alumni are invited back to share their post-graduate experience. It was great to hear from them first-hand how their involvement on campus professionally and personally transformed them.

Beyond the Article:

Posted on October 17, 2010