Backpack to Briefcase Conference: 5 Survival Tips for New Graduates in the Job Market

May 03, 2017

By Maika Nguyen

Like many other students graduating university, my emotions are mixed. There is fear, excitement, and moments of instability that creep up unexpectedly. With the privilege of earning a title, freedom and self-proclaimed autonomy come this uneasy feeling of the unknown. The solution is no quick fix. In fact, it takes a lot of effort to transition from your mindset as a student to a young professional.

Last week, as a fresh graduate with a degree in Communications, I attended the Backpack to Briefcase Conference at SFU’s Vancouver campus. Here are the top five lessons (or, survival tips) I learned from industry professionals that day.

1. Change your mindset, think entrepreneurial: Nelson Mandela once said “I never lose. I either win or learn.” In other words, stop correlating failures as losses. Thinking like an entrepreneur means you never stop learning and with every failure comes perseverance. Entrepreneurialism builds confidence and motivation, forcing individuals to be relentlessly optimistic. Even the risk factor in entrepreneurialism creates emotional stamina.

 Tip: take the frustration from unexpected obstacles and convert this energy into serving a purpose, creating change, or reinvigorate existing ideas for the better.

2. Know the “basics”: Since the come-around of Internet, the “basics” have dramatically changed within the contemporary workforce. Today, many see foundational skills as:  having a degree; being proficient in multiple programs and platforms; and on top of that, maintaining a network of professionals. We need to constantly remind ourselves that we live in two worlds: online and offline that coexist within the workplace.

Tip: think critically, be cautious of your online engagement, and build a network that can testify over time both your character and experience. Being prepared and willing to learn will give you the upper hand when it comes to landing a job or striving for a promotion.

3. Surround yourself with your ambitions: Backed by scientific research, surrounding yourself with go-getters will alter your behaviour and create an environment. Engaging with dramatically different perspectives can over time alter your mindset to help you think unbiasedly and build a tolerance for the unfamiliar. By realizing there are various ways to solve a problem, you will learn to be relentlessly optimistic, a vital attribute to surviving in the job market. Being able to work with different personalities will also earn you the skill of adaptability.

4. Find a problem, and fall in love with how to solve it: The reality is the job market is hyper-competitive. The trick: make your ideas a sustainable asset. This is done by embedding your ideas seamlessly into the foundation of the work system. By matching new ideas and inventions to the demand of society's needs and desires you will only increase the longevity of your skill set while feeling accomplished.

5. Embrace change, be tenacious: We often set ourselves up for failure without even realizing it. It starts with constructing impossible aspirations, then gradually becoming fixated on a goal to a level of obsession. However, taking strategic risks toward change won’t be as stressful. Tenacity is a treasured skill in the workforce that must be earned through experience, so understand that each and every failure can also be a step toward strengthening yourself as an individual and as bright, tenacious and resilient employee.

SFU's Backpack to Briefcase Career Conference celebrated its 17th year in 2017, showcasing inspirational speakers from all different ages and stages within their career. For more information on this annual conference and updates on B2B 2018,  please click here.


Seeking more resources to support your transition, career choice and/or work search? Visit Career and Volunteer Services [] or phone: 778-782-3106 to book a one-on-one consultation for current students and alumni.

For more information on student resources at SFU Vancouver please visit our student home page.