How To Boost Your Post-Graduation Job Prospects While Still In School

Seven ways to be intentional about your university side-hustles.


Graduation! It’s the day most of us look forward to, but it’s also a day that may bring a lot of stress and anxiety… at least, that’s how I feel. I’m worried about how long it will take me to find a job, if I will even like the first job I get, if the job will be in an industry/company I am interested in, and if it will resemble my expectations. I’ve found that the best way to confront my worries is to take them head on, so I have been thinking: what can I do while I am still a student to qualify myself for the career of my dreams? After some brainstorming, here’s what I’ve come up with:

Research the types of roles you want to land

In order to land the role of your dreams, you have to know what the role requires. Take a look at the requirements for your desired role. You can do this by subscribing to job notifications on the company’s website and/or follow the company on LinkedIn. This way, you can get a better understanding of what combination of skills, experience, certifications, and training your ideal company is looking for. Then, you can think about what you are missing from your current degree and experience. For example, if the role requires two years in a research-based role, look at becoming a research assistant, conducting your own research through URI or your program, or volunteering at a non-profit organization looking for support in their research efforts. 

Resources like blogs, articles or even YouTubers can give you insight into what to expect in a role, and how to attain it. A lot of people have shared personal experiences and it can give you a better understanding of what a day-in-the-life at a particular job can really look like. I’m interested in working in policy after I graduate, so I watched Dimen Diaries on YouTube for advice on how to land a role as a soon-to-be-graduate. By watching these videos I got a better understanding of what individuals who work in policy really do. Doing research on what you want will help you understand what it takes to get what you want.

Look for a part time job in your desired field

Landing a role in your desired industry, even if it’s not exactly what you are looking for, will give you a foot in the door, and from there it will become easier to map your way in. This will give you access to information, professionals, and opportunities for internal promotions and job postings. Organizations like Technology Alberta partner with startup tech companies to help students find part-time jobs in the tech sector (not limited to tech-specific roles).

Cooperative education and experiential learning

Experiential learning is just that: experience. All forms of experiential learning gives you an opportunity to add depth to your resume and life experiences. This is extremely beneficial because learning how to use your degree while still in your degree contextualizes how to use the skills you developed in your degree to the workplace. I completed the Arts Work Experience Program, which is a cooperative education program and it has changed the trajectory of my life. To learn more about my experience, read "How My AWE Placement is Making My Degree Easier."

Undertake professional development opportunities

Just because we are students doesn’t mean we should leave professional development until our career starts. If a certification or course will increase your odds of landing the career of your dreams, why not do it? If you plan and incorporate these opportunities around your school schedule, it is definitely attainable. I know that getting some sort of background in analytics will significantly increase my odds of landing a job, so over the summer, I decided that, instead of taking five classes in the Fall term, I would take four so I can prioritize getting a Google Certificate in Analytics. Now, when I graduate, this certification may be able to count for the "two years of experience" qualification. Professional development opportunities aren’t always cheap, and that’s why the U of A has created opportunities for you to get your professional pursuits in the Green and Gold Grant or the Shell Enhanced Learning Fund (SELF). Plan on taking advantage of professional development opportunities while in school so you can qualify for funding.

Seek advice and mentorship

Going directly to the source of someone with personal experience and knowledge. Reach out to your professors or, depending on where you work, your supervisor. They may be able to provide you with some advice or general wisdom which can be valuable in your hunt. If you have LikedIn, connect with professionals that are in roles you would like to have and send them a quick message introducing yourself and why you are reaching out. There is no guarantee or even likelihood that all the individuals you reach out to will get back to you, but, if one does, you might strike gold. And remember, the worst thing you’ll hear is a respectful "no" or no response at all.

Utilize resources available to you

The Career Centre has been one of my favourite on campus resources. From resume, cover letter and LinkedIn help, to career advising and speaker panels, it all has helped me tremendously. The Career Mentorship Program (CMP) and Career Exploration Interviews (CEI) have been particular life savers to me. Thanks to the Career Centre, I have had the opportunity to connect with professionals directly and ask the questions that have been stressing me out the most, and have them answered. 

Having discussions with your friends, family and classmates about your professional goals and desires can also be really helpful. You may be pleasantly surprised how helpful and knowledgeable the ones in your circle can really be. 

Get involved on campus

Student groups, part-time jobs on campus and student governance are all great ways to add depth to your resume and can add essential skills that you may require to land your dream role.

Remember that there is no guarantee that you will be able to be successful in the job hunt after graduation but the reason why I wrote this is to share the idea that we can do more than just worry about finding work after graduation. Keep an open mind, take actions (either passive or active), and best of luck on the pursuit of your dream role.

About Nathaniel

Nathaniel is a fifth year BA student double majoring in Economics and Political Science as well as double minoring in Philosophy and International Studies and has completed the Arts Work Experience Program. He is passionate about Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and serves as the student representative on the Arts CEDI committee. Nathaniel enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, binge watching Netflix and playing basketball in his spare time.