Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Legitimate work from home opportunities

This week's post comes from Christine Gertz, Library and Information Specialist with CAPS.

Last week, I completed a series of webinars on how to find work from home opportunities, offered by CERIC and taught by Anne-Marie Rolfe at the Education & Employment Centre. At CAPS, we get either one of two questions about working from home: the first, is this ad I saw for real? and the second, can I work from home? This course answered both of those questions and an additional one that clients ask about rarely.

Is this ad for real?

Yes, there are plenty of work from home opportunities that are legitimate. They involve real paid work, from low-skilled occupations to professional services for which you would need a degree in a specific field to offer. Based on what I learned from the training, I would also say that there are plenty of work from home scams. With some training, you can learn to recognize them.

First, you can call or email us if you see an ad that you are curious about but you want more information. If you haven’t seen a specific ad but you are interested in opportunities in this field, you can read up about scams in The Little Black Book of Scams from the Competition Bureau of Canada and on the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre Scam Types website. The Federal Trade Commission of the United States also offers resources on their Consumer Information site.

A background in recognizing common frauds will answer many of your questions about a job ad you find online. After all, most of the scams are just copied and adjusted cons--they even copy spelling errors--so if you see one you will have enough information to recognize other common attempts to defraud job seekers.

Can I work from home?

Yes, you can work from home doing legitimate professional work. You may even be able to negotiate full and part-time work from home with your current employer, though this will depend on the nature of your employment.

There are companies that offer only work from home opportunities, such companies that either want a highly flexible work force as in they need to offer services 24/7 or that don’t want to pay for office space or have a centralized office. The firm may also be multinational and need employees with a wide variety of cultural and linguistic skills, so having an office in one country may not be the best choice for their business. An organization may also decide to close their local office but retain their local employees through a telework arrangement.

Other work from home opportunities include entrepreneurship, such as becoming a service provider (e.g. tutor); freelancing (computer programming, sales and editing are examples); or becoming a consultant (e.g. consulting engineer, anthropologist). In this case, your office is your home and you need to market your services and find clients that will pay your fee for service.

What Work Will I Do?

If you have ordered a pizza by phone recently or contacted customer service about your rental car or the plane tickets you just booked, you may have spoken to a person working from home. Some call centres have opted for the work from home model, which means their employees may be happier and they don’t need to pay for office space.

Work from home opportunities include, but are not limited to:

· In-bound call centres. This is not sales or telemarketing (though you may have to make sales calls depending on your employer’s needs) but answering calls when customers call the company for service.

· Transcription. Transcription involves taking the spoken word and turning them into written notes or specifically formatted documents. Most people think of medical transcription, but you can also find employment transcribing research and classroom or business discussions.

· Teaching and instruction. You can teach or tutor students in a wide variety of topics, whether as an entrepreneur or by listing with a broker or school. You may also be able to find specialized or niche employment as an instructor, by offering cooking lessons, personal training or guided walkthroughs on video games for example.

· Translation. If you can translate documents or interpret conversations, especially if you have higher level training in a specific language or lack training but speak a “rare” language, you may be able to find work from home employment as a translator. Adding subtitles to movies is a popular work from home activity.

These are just examples of some of the legitimate and more common work from home opportunities that are available.

Are you interested in this topic?

I took this training so CAPS can offer training to students, alumni, postdocs and interested members of the public on this topic. If you are interested, send me a “yes, I’m interested” message. If we decide to offer training in this area, we will email you with dates and times, or send you a link if we develop a class. You can also provide us with any comments or thoughts you have about this topic, such as I want an in-person class, or tell us about an experience you had while working from home. We will use your comments to decide how we will offer training on this topic.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Have you heard about the UAlberta Emerging Leaders Program?

Today's guest blog comes from Steve Beck, U of A student and past participant in the Emerging Leaders Program, a joint initiative of the University of Alberta's Students' Union, Office of the Dean of Students and Residence Services.

Emerging Leaders Program logoHello! My name is Steve Beck and I’m a full-time education student at the University of Alberta. I'm also a private chef. In September 2012, I joined the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) because leadership is important to me and the opportunity to learn more about and discuss the whole concept of leadership with other students seemed like a great environment to be in. What I found most interesting was working with students from many leadership positions, students who frequently used the activities we practiced in the program within their own organizations. This showed me that, as a leader, anything is possible and although some people might seem excellent by nature, it is through practice and taking that fearful step into the unknown that one becomes excellent.

As the owner of a private chef and catering business and a full-time education student, the ELP gave me both the courage and confidence to take my business to the next level. By using the activities we learned in each session, I was able to take a step back to reshape the culture of my organization and maximize effectiveness of my time, which has enabled my business to grow - intelligently structured - in a positive direction. I now cater bi-weekly and hire staff for events.

I enjoyed how the ELP facilitators structured our sessions with successful entrepreneurs, community leaders and other guest speakers. This gave us the chance to develop a network and connect with leaders who are making a difference in our community. Currently, I keep in touch with a few of my fellow ELP participants, and I wouldn't hesitate to ask them or the ELP staff for help on a project as they were very accommodating and easy to talk to.

If I had more time, I would like to be a part of some of my partners’ organizations. They've motivated me to want to get involved by their commitment to their organizations and their strong foundation in leadership principles. For me, the ELP gave me confidence and knowledge in career development, self-reflection and networking, and I'm positive I’ll continue to search for further leadership training opportunities to continue along this path.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Exploring careers in arts and culture

Yesterday was a great day. I spent most of it on a career crawl with 15 U of A students, three alumni and four colleagues from CAPS and the Faculty of Arts. We visited CKUA, the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) and the Frances Winspear Centre for Music & Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. We heard from a number of staff from each of these three non-profit arts organizations about how they got to where they are today. Their stories were truly inspirational.

I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about CAPS’ approach to career development, which emphasizes action and reflection and recognizes the role happenstance plays in most people’s careers. We encourage students to act on their curiosities and the opportunities presented to them even when they are unsure of the outcome. Such action can, and often does, lead to learning about - even creating - new opportunities they wouldn’t have been aware of otherwise. The career stories we heard yesterday once more affirmed my conviction that this is the right approach.

For example, we heard from Mandy who works in sponsorship at CKUA. After working in retail for a number of years, Mandy jumped at the opportunity to take management training courses offered by her employer. She was promoted but found she didn’t really like her new position. One day she was listening to CKUA online at work and heard they were hiring. She applied and got the job even though she had limited related experience. Mandy stressed the importance of showing your personality in the interview because finding people who will fit well within the workplace is a priority for many employers.

We also heard from Laura who is the Exhibitions Manager at the AGA. After completing a degree in Art History, she approached a gallery in her home province offering to do any kind of work just to get her foot in the door. They hired her on a short-term contract during which she learned how to use the gallery’s collections database. When the only other person who knew how to use the database left, she was hired into her position. A piece of advice Laura had for students pursuing a career in arts and culture is to volunteer. Volunteering not only provides valuable experience and connections; it also shows commitment and that you value the arts. Many of the people we met at all three places we visited started off as volunteers in the organizations they now work for or with similar organizations.

At the Winspear, we heard from Phil who is the Communications Manager. He developed an interest in technology in high school and creating websites became somewhat of a hobby. While completing his Bachelor of Music at the U of A, he worked part-time at the Winspear’s box office. He took the initiative to help develop their on-line ticket sales and the rest, as they say, is history. Phil’s career journey demonstrates how a person’s education, work experience, interests and hobbies can influence their career.

We took a break mid-day to have lunch, which was generously provided by the Winspear, and to listen to Edmonton author Wayne Arthurson relate his career journey. He became a fiction writer in Grade 8 when his social studies teacher said he could submit a short story rather than an essay for an assignment. Wayne never looked back and even though getting three novels and a number of short stories published since then has been full of ups and downs, his passion for writing really shone through. He stressed perseverance. While he hasn’t become a ‘man of letters’ he once thought he would become, he has been able to make a career as a writer by combining fiction writing with what he called ‘writing books for hire’ and freelance writing. He likened this to a carpenter ‘banging nails.’ Sometimes a carpenter has the opportunity to create something they are really passionate about and sometimes they just have to bang nails. Or, as one of my favourite artists Billy Bragg says about life – sometime you gotta learn to take the crunchy with the smooth.

Monday, 4 November 2013

What is crowdfunding?

This week’s guest post is from Christine Gertz, Library and Information Specialist at CAPS.

For the past few years, Kickstarter has happily taken Canadians’ money to fund projects but not to post projects in need of funding. That changed this summer. Canadian creators can now post projects looking for funds on Kickstarter.

Kickstarter’s announcement overshadows the fact that crowdfunding has been a fundraising tactic creators have used for a long time. For example, last year I took part in a silent auction to raise money for a friend who wanted to participate in a home building project in Mexico. She needed to raise money for airfare, lodgings and project fees. Some of the attendees, like myself, brought baked goods. The organizers also sought donations from professional bakeries in the city. Attendees bidded on the items and the highest bid took the item home. During the bidding, we watched a video about the project and a presentation about what she planned to do with the funds she raised. Most of the bids were small, about $5 to $60, but the amount raised was enough to pay for my friend’s trip and expenses as well as promotions and facility fees for the silent action.

My friend could have used credit to finance her part of the project. However, that would have meant going into debt. Avoiding exorbitant debt is one of the purposes of crowdfunding and microfunding. Microfunding makes crowdfunding possible. When you fundraise you are trying to avoid debt, unlike microfinance which involves a loan with interest.

If you look at traditional funding for entrepreneurs, traditional lenders, such as banks, usually offer loans that are greater than $10,000. But some small projects do not need that much. Instead, they might only need $2,000 – what they need is a microloan.

In the early days of microfinance, lenders such as Grameen Bank offered microloans to people who would not have normally qualified for a loan. The microloans industry has since developed on the Internet. Through crowdfunding platforms lenders can see the person they are providing funds to and can make contributions they can afford. If it all works out, the entrepreneur repays that money and lenders can use it to loan to another person on the platform.

For example, an entrepreneur needs $1,000 but no one in her network has that much money to lend nor is a traditional lender willing to supply such as small amount. Using a crowdfunding service, she can solicit micropayments, usually starting at $25, until she has raised all of or more than the money that she needs or until the term of her campaign ends. She may receive 40 loans of $25 or two loans of $1,000, but at the end of the successful campaign she will have received at least the amount she needs. She can use that money to meet her needs, but she does have to apply anything above the amount to the repayment of the $1,000, with interest. An example of crowdfunded microfinance is Calvin of Crystal Clear Window Washing who used Kiva to pay for a company car.

How it works

This is what the Internet crowdfunding process usually looks like:

· A creator plans a project and writes a proposal.
· The creator prepares a pitch video. Depending on who you talk to, a well done pitch video is more likely to get you money than actually having delivered a successful product in the past. (Note: For the next few days we will be posting pitches from a variety of crowdfunding sites on the CAPS Facebook page. You can post in the comments whether you felt the campaign succeeded based on the video. We will post the answer on the following day.)
· The creator decides what perks they will offer to solicit a larger donation.
· The creator submits the project to the platform.
· The staff at the platform review the project to make sure it meets their guidelines.
· The project is accepted and runs for a specific term, usually between 30 and 120 days depending on the platform.
· The creator promotes the project. Most platforms offer online tools as well as their own reputation to boost the project.
· The campaign either succeeds or fails.
· If the campaign succeeds, the creator receives the funds, less the money the platform and the payment processors have charged for their services.
· The creator uses the funds for their project and to fulfill the promise of the perks the funders selected.
· The funders get their perks.
Why crowdfund?

Why would anyone turn to crowdfunding if they could just get a loan, use their credit card or hold a fundraiser? Most people who use crowdfunding opt to do so for the following reasons:

· Their network is tapped out or they need more money than their network can supply.
· They want to avoid debt.
· Their traditional fund sources may not be interested or available to partake.
· The project does not qualify for a traditional bank loan.

Crowdfunding does not mean free - nor free from effort

Some analysts have said that about two thirds of all crowdfunding projects fail to meet their funding goal and many of those failures make less than $100. There are other issues you need to consider before applying to a crowdfunding platform:

· You may need only a small amount of money. In this case, you might use a crowdfunding event, like Meaet, to raise money for your project.
· Will your project only proceed if you raise all of the money necessary? On Kickstarter, projects receive fixed funding. This means all of the stated goal money must be raised for the project to get funded. On Indiegogo, creators can opt for a flexible funding campaign. This means that if you need $5,000 for the project to be completely funded, but could still go ahead with only $3,500, you opt for flexible funding. Some creators like this option, since they can turn to other sources to cover the shortfall, but some people have criticized this option since it means creators may need to use credit to complete their project.
· Are you eligible? Some crowdfunding may only be available to particular projects or creators, such as Fundweaver, which is for Inuit, Metis and First Nations projects.
· You need to apply. You need to complete the application process, as well as film a pitch video that will attract funders, so you can pass through screening and selection. Your campaign could fail even before posting if you don’t take the application seriously or give yourself enough time to complete it.
· The platform and payment processor will charge fees for their services. Crowdfunding is not free for creators, since most platforms will charge a percentage of the money raised, usually between 3% and 5% depending on the campaign type or platform. The payment processing service will also charge a fee for handling the campaign contributions. How will you pay for these fees, as well as meet the needs of your budget?

You need to consider some of these issues before creating your campaign.
Learn More

Prior to beginning any crowdfunding campaign, you might want to learn about how to crowdfund. Kickstarter offers a Kickstarter school, Indiegogo has a learning centre, and you may be able to find local creators who used a crowdfunding platform to raise money for their projects. Crowdsourcing.org has specific channels for crowdfunding and provides a clearinghouse on crowdfunding news and research. I would also recommend looking for local training and get-togethers offered by Startup Edmonton, Business Link or Edmonton’s Next Gen, since these organizations are on the forefront of entrepreneur education.

As part of StartUp U, CAPS is holding a Crowdfunding Hangout on Tuesday, November 5 at 10:00 a.m. where you can learn more about crowdfunding from experienced creators, as well as from industry experts. A recording of the hangout will be posted on the CAPS website later in the week.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

What does your Halloween costume say about your career aspirations?

I’ve often wondered if there is a connection between the costumes people wear at Halloween and their career aspirations. Does the kid standing at your door in the Spiderman costume hope to one day fight crime, become a newspaper report or do a PhD in entomology?

I did a quick search of the internet to see if I could come up with anything on the relationship between Halloween costumes and career aspirations but found nothing. (Most of the sites I got were for companies selling Halloween costumes.) So I decided to do some research of my own. First, I made a list of classic Halloween costumes. It included witch, ghost, vampire, pirate, princess, zombie, angel, superhero, dog and grim reaper. I then ask a few of my co-workers the first career that came to their mind for each costume on my list. I found some interesting results.

The two costumes that yielded the most common responses were angel and superhero. Four people said ‘nurse’ for angel and four said ‘firefighter’ for superhero. Other responses for angel included guide, paramedic and non-profit worker. Other responses for superhero included athlete, aid worker, police officer, construction worker and librarian. Most of these responses are not surprising given the traits often associated with these two careers. This was true for some of the other costumes too. For example, included among the responses for grim reaper were mortician, funeral home director and medical examiner; these were also responses for ghost, along with magician, paranormal expert and undertaker.

The careers that jumped to mind for some costumes seemed to be related to the work environment or things people work with. For example, for vampire two people responded with ‘dentist’ (I’m assuming a teeth connection) and two with ‘the person who takes your blood when you go to donate.’ A couple of people thought of ‘police officer’ when I said dog (I assumed their first thought was of a police dog), while other obvious responses for dog were dog walker and animal rescue worker.

The career that came up most often for different costumes was librarian. As noted above, it was among the responses for superhero, which I totally get. (As a student, a librarian came to my rescue more than once). Librarian was also one of the responses for ghost and for witch. (Hmmm, perhaps someone’s experience was not as positive as mine?) Other careers that came up for different careers were politician for princess and for grim reaper, and computer technician for pirate and for zombie.

Some of the responses I found most curious were science sales rep and snowboard instructor for dog, bed and breakfast owner for ghost, and book store owner for vampire. The funniest? Hot dog vendor for dog. And my favourite? Mom for nurse!

As I think back about what I dressed up as at Halloween when I was a kid, I’m not sure I see any connection with my career aspirations. By far, one of my most memorable Halloweens was the time I dressed up as two people, but that was just a ploy to get double the treats - and it worked!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Getting it from the horse’s mouth…or the lawyer’s mouth…or the policy analyst’s mouth..or the entrepreneur’s mouth…

Are you at a point in your life where you’re considering one or more careers but need more information about what working in those careers would be like? Perhaps you’ve read some stuff on-line or picked up a book or two about the career fields you’re considering. (Note: We have lots of such material available at our centres in SUB, HUB and CCIS. As a matter of fact, you can search our on-line catalogue to see what career resources we have.)

The information you can get on-line or from books about particular careers can be useful (given that it’s not out-of-date, of course) and is something I recommend to students, particularly for a broad overview. Talking to people who are actually working in the careers you’re considering is also something I highly recommend. Whether it’s done formally through career information interviews, job shadows and the like or informally at social gatherings, talking to people about what they do day-to-day on the job, what they like and dislike about their work, what lead them to the current job, etc. can give you a much richer and more vibrant picture of a career than you can get from simply reading about it. And certainly a much more realistic picture that what gets portrayed in television shows and movies!

If you’re interested in self-employment and want to talk to people who have started their own venture (small business, social enterprise, etc.), check out StartUp U, which runs from November 4th to 8th. In addition to hosting a number of panels featuring local entrepreneurs, CAPS is running a Human Library on Wednesday and Thursday. We have several ‘living books’ that you can check out for up to 20 minutes. A small sample of our current titles include Dee’s dirty thoughts: Writing for the real world, From farmlands of Alberta to hills of Uganda: A life’s journey and From the non-profit sector to the world of tech startups: Proof that anyone can be an entrepreneur. Additional titles will be added up to the week of November 4th so check back regularly.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Undergraduate research: myth-busters edition

This week’s guest post is from Crystal Snyder, Coordinator of the Undergraduate Research Initiative (URI).

October…’tis the season for midterms, falling leaves, and turkey leftovers. At URI, it is also the time of year when we’re gearing up for our fall awareness campaign. In just a couple of weeks, the URI will be launching the University of Alberta’s first ever Festival of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (FURCA), a month-long showcase of undergraduate research from across all disciplines. FURCA will feature more than 30 different events throughout the month of November – still just a small sampling of the incredible impact that undergraduate students have on research at our institution.

FURCA is, first and foremost, a celebration of the accomplishments of undergraduate researchers and their mentors, but we also hope that the diverse array of events and projects will highlight the many opportunities that exist for students to get involved, regardless of their discipline or background. There are many myths and misconceptions that persist about what undergraduate research is and who can do it, and we hope that FURCA serves as a catalyst for breaking down some of those barriers.

With that in mind, I thought that it might be a good idea to start us off by challenging some of the most common misconceptions we hear about undergraduate research:

Myth #1 – It’s hard to start a conversation with a professor about research

Okay, so talking to strangers is hard. I get that. But as a former researcher, let me put to rest the idea that we’re scary, intimidating people. We love having the opportunity to talk to students who are interested in the same things we are. We get excited about our work, and it makes our day when we see someone else get just as excited about it. Sometimes, all it takes is one good question to break the ice. Or, as I like to tell students…we’re nerdy about something, you’re nerdy about something…if we’re nerdy about the same things, the conversation will practically start itself.

Myth #2 – You need to have a high GPA to succeed in research

Like many myths, this is one that probably persists because there’s a (tiny) hint of truth to it. That’s because many undergraduate research awards use GPA as a selection criterion, which can make it seem as though all the opportunities go to high-achieving students. This is unfortunate, because GPA is often not the best indicator of success in research. The research environment is very different from a traditional classroom setting, and some students who struggle in the classroom find themselves much better suited to the freedom of a research project. Indeed, many well known researchers were once admonished by their teachers, only to thrive in their research careers (2012 Nobel Prize-winning biologist John Gurdon comes to mind as an example).

The added bonus? Research continually reinforces what you’re learning in the classroom, so it’s like studying without the textbook.

Eligibility for funding doesn’t necessarily need to be a barrier – the URI administers the Undergraduate Researcher Stipend, a $5000 award for students undertaking a mentored research project, regardless of GPA, year of study, or academic program. Our deadline for applications for Winter 2014 is October 28 – visit our website for more information.

Myth #3 – You have to wait until your third or fourth year to do research

One of the most common inquiries we receive at the URI office is how first year students can get involved in research. This can be a challenge – after all, how do you get experience if you don’t have any experience? While it’s true that some professors prefer to take on students after they’ve completed more courses, it’s never too early to begin exploring your options. As a first year student, one of the best things you can do is get to know the people who are doing research in your area of interest – talk to your teaching assistants and professors, attend seminars and other events (like URI’s upcoming Discovery Panel on Sustainability Research), and talk to other students who’ve been involved in research (check out the Undergraduate Research Symposium on November 22 in CCIS). Once you’ve found a mentor, you can also apply for the URI Undergraduate Researcher Stipend – it’s worth noting that of the 78 students who have received Undergraduate Researcher Stipends to date, 27 have been in their first or second year of study. So don’t wait – get involved!

Watch www.uri.ualberta.ca for updates about FURCA events throughout November. You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter @URIUofA (#FURCA2013)!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Entrepreneurship – It’s not just about starting a business

I attended a conference last month in the UK, the theme of which was Beyond the rhetoric: Enterprise, engagement, employability. Each of the three days was dedicated to one of these E’s with the first being on enterprise.

Enterprise and entrepreneurship education is a growing area within the UK post-secondary system. I found the speakers and workshops I attended very timely because CAPS is planning a full week of programming the week of 4 November dedicated to this very topic. We’ve called the week StartUp U: Focus on entrepreneurship and self-employment.

In planning the programming for and talking to people about StartUp U, one of the challenges I’ve faced is ensuring that people – including me! - understand that it isn’t solely about how to start a business, although that’s part of it. A 2012 report by the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education distinguishes between enterprise and entrepreneurship in a way that I find very helpful. It defines enterprise as ‘the application of creative ideas and innovations to practical situations.’ The purpose of enterprise education is to develop ‘the mindset and skills to come up with original ideas in response to identified needs and shortfalls, and the ability to act on them.’ These skills include ‘taking initiative, intuitive decision making, making things happen, networking, identifying opportunities, creative problem solving, innovating, strategic thinking, and personal effectiveness.’

Entrepreneurship is defined as ‘the application of enterprise skills specifically to creating and growing organizations in order to identify and build on opportunities.’ Entrepreneurship education ‘focuses on encouraging students to apply enterprising skills and attributes to a range of different contexts, including new or existing businesses, charities, non-governmental organizations, the public sector and social enterprises.’

As noted above, one of the key enterprising skills is networking. Within career development, networking is about building relationships, particularly among people who can mutually support each other in achieving their career goals. As part of StartUp U, we are planning a networking event, called Entrepreneur Connect, to bring together students and alumni who are, or who are interested in, starting a venture but need the skills and expertise of others. Think aspiring children’s story book writer who needs to connect with an illustrator and editor, or a web developer who needs the creativity and talents of a graphic designer. Entrepreneur Connect is intended to introduce budding entrepreneurs to each other, to facilitate initial connections. If you are interested in participating in this event, register on the CAPS website, where you can also see who else is planning to attend.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Twas the Week of Careers Day

This week's blog post comes from Kristina Drozdiak. Kristina is in the Arts Work Experience Program (AWE) and is doing a one-year internship at CAPS.
Careers Day is almost upon us. This Wednesday, September 25 CAPS: Your U of A Career Centre will be hosting our annual multi-discipline career fair, the largest of its kind in North America. We understand that bigger isn’t always necessarily better; with nearly 200 employers registered, that is an awful lot of booths to stop by, especially if you only have the time to drop in between classes.
In order to refine your search and maximize the time you spend engaging with employers you share an interest with, we have a grid on our website that allows you to see from which areas each employer is interested in hiring. You can find the grid here.

Careers Day is a great opportunity to network with employers, to see what opportunities are available and to practice marketing yourself to employers. If you’re nervous about making a good impression, try starting out at booths that you are not as interested in. Because the stakes will be lower making mistakes will be less intimidating and you can begin to smooth out your personal ‘elevator pitch.’
To prepare for the connections you’re hoping to make, stop by the CAPS booth and pick up a Careers Day business card. On the back you can fill out your personal information (name, degree, year of graduation, e-mail, work interests). Feel free to take as many as you like! When you pass them along to employers, they will not only have your contact information, but these distinctive cards will remind them of where they met you.
This year will be my first helping to put Careers Day together, rather than attending as a student. I’m looking forward to seeing you there, and I hope that your experience this Wednesday is a good one! The best piece of advice that I can give is that you can only get as much as you’re willing to put in. Just keep in mind that the employers at Careers Day want to engage with you, so don’t be afraid to start the conversation.

We’ve been asking employers what the coolest thing about working for their organization is. If you’re still looking for a reason to visit Careers Day on Wednesday, here are some answers I found inspiring:
Weyerhaeuser Company Ltd – Grand Prairie Operations

Top Ten - #1. We love ice cream!
Because it tastes good. Also because it contains cellulose (wood) fiber. Countless products do: toothpaste, photographic film and insulation, to name a few.

Farm Credit Canada
As one of Canada’s top employers, we’ve created a culture by design that ensures respect, accountability and collaboration by valuing all our employees.

ATB Financial
So what can ATB Financial offer you? Career advancement opportunities without ever having to leave the province, direct access to senior leaders, and a voice in our future. Our organization craves change and with that, opportunities abound for the right people. As an award-winning employer-of-choice – we have the best of the best working for Albertans. Sound like a team you want to be a part of?

Otis Canada Inc.
After working for Otis Canada for one year the Company will pay for costs to take a graduate degree program on a part time basis.

The Balancing Act

This post is written by Sarah Coffin, Communications Coordinator at CAPS.
It’s no secret that students have lots on their plates these days. From school to work to everything in between, not to mention planning for the future, there is quite a bit to manage. Achieving balance can be tricky, but keeping balance in your life is so important. Many of CAPS staff members were (or some still are) students at one time and remember the balancing act. I asked them their top tips to maintaining balance while juggling everything that life threw their way:
- Find time for yourself. I am putting this suggestion first on my list as especially during stressful times, it is important to take care of you first. Take a yoga class, go for a walk, cook yourself a delicious dinner, meet up with friends, drop into an intramural sports game. Do whatever you need to do to unwind your mind. Taking breaks will make you more efficient when you are tackling your other tasks in the day because you can approach them with a clearer mind.
- Time management. Be realistic with your time. Break out your tasks that you have to do for the week - from school time, to studying time, to work time, to time for yourself.
-  Make use of your agenda or an online calendar and schedule in reminders for yourself as to when stuff needs to get done. Technology can be a great thing, especially when it comes to making life easier for you.
- That being said, don’t get sucked in by online time wasters. It’s very easy when you are checking your e-mail to also check your text messages, Facebook, Instagram etc. and then realize an hour has passed.
- This might seem like a simple idea, but make sure you have enough time in the day to do everything. If your schedule seems too packed, or like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything…
- … remember you are not superman/woman. It might be time to prioritize what you need to do or ask for help.
- When you are taking on tasks, remember that you can always say no. Being realistic as to what you can do and what fits into your goals is very important.
What do you do to keep balance in your life?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Building career resiliency

The Fall 2013 edition of Career Connections landed on my desk late last week. Career Connections is a magazine published by CAPS twice a year (fall and winter). The feature article in the most recent edition is about the role of career resiliency in coping with work-related stress.

Included among the definitions of resiliency I read in the compact edition of my handy dandy Oxford English Dictionary – you know, the one I need a magnifying glass to read – are: the tendency to rebound, buoyancy, and power of recovery. In relation to one’s career, I see resiliency as the ability to anticipate and respond to change in ways that move you forward – not only being able to bounce back when the worst happens but also being able to learn and grow from experience (good and bad).

I also see career resiliency as something that can be developed. One of the key ways to develop career resiliency is by building and nurturing a strong network of professional and personal contacts. According to the article in Career Connections, one of the four common causes of career stress that can lead to ambivalence and inaction is isolation. Friends, colleagues, mentors, etc. are people you can turn to for advice and support when you find yourself in career transition or dealing with challenges.

Another way to build career resiliency is to keep learning. I’m not suggesting further education, such as a second degree or other certification to supplement what you already have, although that may be something you want to consider. But you can also learn a lot by being involved in your profession and community; for example, by participating in professional association activities, such as conferences, or through volunteer work.

Maintaining a positive attitude and staying optimistic are often included among advice for building career resiliency. While I agree that always focusing on the negative, blaming others for your problems and other behaviours often associated with pessimism can inhibit your ability to deal effectively with challenges and move forward, being a Pollyanna (blindly optimistic) is not very helpful either. Let’s face it, bad things happen in life. And some of those things are beyond an individual person’s control. Allowing for ‘negative’ feelings (e.g. anger, despair) about those things can be helpful in terms of naming them so that you can move forward by, for example, accepting the situation or joining with others to try and change it.

Finally, staying fit – physically, emotionally and socially – is also key to building career resiliency. In addition to the strategies noted above, regular physical activity (you don’t need to work out like you’re training for a marathon), eating right (allowing for the occasional unhealthy treat, whatever that means for you) and taking the time to do things you really enjoy can help you maintain your physical and mental health.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Welcome...and welcome back

On behalf of all the staff at CAPS: Your U of A Career Centre, I would like to welcome all new students to the University of Alberta, and welcome back those of you who are returning to continue your studies.

As you start the academic year, your career may be one of the furthest things from your mind. You might be surprised to learn that September is one of the busiest times of year here at CAPS. One of the reasons for this is that a number of employers looking to hire both new graduates for jobs starting next spring, and students for summer positions, start recruiting this month. Many of them will be attending Careers Day, our multi-discipline career fair, on Wednesday, 25 September. This is a great event not only for students who are in their final year to connect with potential employers, but for all students to learn about career opportunities.

The CAPS staff have been busy over the last four months planning our programming for the fall. A couple of new programs we have coming up are StartUp U: Focus on Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment and the Arts and Culture Career Crawl.

StartUp U will run from November 4th to 8th. We will kick off the week with Brad Ferguson, CEO and President of Edmonton Economic Development Corporation and U of A alumnus. The week will also include panel discussions on research commercialization, tech startups, social enterprises and freelance work, a workshop covering the nut and bolts of running your own venture, and a resource fair featuring campus and off campus organizations that provide education and support for people interested in self-employment. One of the best ways to learn about the benefits and challenges of being your own boss is by talking to people who’ve done it, so on Wednesday and Thursday you can ‘check out’ an entrepreneur from our Human Library. The week will end with Entrepreneur Connect, a networking event that brings together students and alumni with expertise in a particular area but who need the expertise of others. Think web developer who needs a graphic designer or personal trainer who needs the services of a marketing consultant.

The Arts and Culture Career Crawl is happening on 12 November in downtown Edmonton. Places we might visit include the Winspear Centre, Art Gallery of Alberta, the CBC and CKUA. If you are interested in a career in arts and culture, this is a great opportunity to hear from those currently working in the field.

So as you begin a new academic year, I encourage you to visit our website to learn more about what we have to offer. Better yet, visit us at one of our three locations in SUB, HUB and CCIS.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Winging it for your friends

This week's guest post comes from Christine Gertz, Library and Information Specialist at CAPS.

In each paper edition of Bloomberg Businessweek, the final section, Etc., is devoted to curiosities of business - ideas that appeal to a niche or a fad that might bloom into a trend. In the June 10, 2013 edition, Christine Hauer's Job: Networking for You, by Your Side focuses on a young woman in New York who runs a PR firm and also hires herself out as a ‘wingman’ for networking events.

According to Wikipedia a wingman “is a role that a person may take when a friend needs support with approaching potential partners.” Hauer’s job is not to be confused with unsavoury pickups or CSI: Miami criminality. For $250, Hauer will prep her clients for an event with tips on how to handle conversations, smile winningly and escape from conversations when the topic has expired. She will then accompany them to an event, assist with introductions, help them meet the people they want to cultivate as connections, bolster their courage and free them from uncomfortable interactions politely. After the event, she will help clients follow up with the people they met so they can build meaningful business connections. Hauer encourages her clients to attend at least two business events a month. Both a previous client and the article’s author who used Hauer’s services attest that Hauer taught them how to network effectively.

I’m not suggesting that gregarious and extroverted people found their own business as networking wingmen, but that people who are generally outgoing may want to pay it forward to their less outgoing friends. In other words, I want to encourage the savvy networkers to help their more reserved friends, for free, by accompanying them to networking events as a wingman.

I could suggest that there is a personal gain to be had by attending networking events with your friends, even if they are not in the same industry. For example, a phys ed student attends a networking event with his reserved cousin who is in forestry. During the course of the event, the phys ed student breaks the ice with several potential employers for his quieter cousin, while expanding his own personal training business. That could happen--it is a dramatization of the weak ties theory, which appears to explain the success of networking outside of your immediate family and friends. (If you are interested in this theory and how it relates to work, you can read Mark Granovetter’s essay on the Strength of Weak Ties, or the popular examination provided in Six Degree of Lois Weisberg by Malcolm Gladwell.) It is also a dramatization of ‘planned happenstance’ (see Luck is no accident: Making the most of happenstance in your life and career by J.D. Krumboltz and A.S. Levin).

However, I’m suggesting you do it because you are generous and love your friends. If you are a gregarious extrovert, you would never turn down a party. The best networking events have a convivial atmosphere--after all, the majority of the attendees are people just like your friend who want their professional knowledge validated by others and to share a meal while doing it. You can attend so your friend will meet these regular, interesting people, while making business connections and feeling secure that you have their back.

Since you are doing it out of generosity, the pressure is off of you to sell yourself, while making the best effort on the part of your friend. Keep in mind that everything you do will reflect on your friend’s judgment, since they thought it was a good idea to bring you along, trusting you not to wreck the night for everyone else and ruin their business reputation.

As a networking wingman, you should follow these rules:

· Find out what the event is about. If the event is outside of your industry, you might want to spend some time chatting with your friend, looking at the organizer’s website and maybe doing some light Wikipedia research. This should take about an hour and can be managed over lunch when you ask your friend who they want to meet. This is part of your basic preparation. You will be able to get away with, This isn’t my area… but you don’t want to seem like you could care less, thus rudely insulting their enthusiasm for their industry. If you don’t prepare at all, your ignorance may reflect badly on your friend.

· Make a good impression. This seems obvious, but what it means is that you will dress as if you were trying make connections for yourself. No excessive alcohol consumption or overeating--and pulling your friend back if they appear to be drinking or eating too much. Be gracious, courteous and friendly. Just because these people are outside of your industry doesn’t mean they don’t know someone in your industry, so you want to make a good impression. Your behaviour will also reflect on your friend’s judgment.

· Come up with a valid reason to attend. The reasons, my friend is socially awkward or I had nothing better to do are dismissive of your friend and the event. Other reasons, such as I appreciate the chance to improve my knowledge of X or we use a similar method of research in my field and I am interested in its applications are better. You can spend a brief time talking about how this event may relate to your areas of interest, but try to keep the focus on the ‘lead plane’ - your friend - since you are there as support not the star.

· Break the ice, but know when to stop talking. You have attended the event to help your friend, but your friend has to be prepared to carry the conversation. If they can’t explain what they do or are interested in, they can practice explaining this to you. You can also practice conversational hand offs, such as I’ll let her explain since this is her area or This sounds like something my friend was talking about on the ride over, so I think he should tell you about it. Let your friend get a word in edgewise after you have warmed up the contact.

· You can talk to your friend anytime, but now is not that time. Your friend may cling to you as the only familiar face in the room. You can chat about player trades or that movie you just saw some other time. You are here for another purpose, so keep your friend on task. Don’t let them weasel out of meeting people just because they’re nervous.

· Offer an escape route. You are going to have to leave your friend alone to talk to people, as many people as possible. If it looks like they are stuck, you may have to motivate the conversation. Or you may have to rescue your friend and use Hauer’s strategy of suggesting that you need to get something to drink or some air and politely remove your friend from the conversation by asking them to accompany you.

You want your behaviour to enhance your friend’s reputation and to gather as many business contacts as possible. Helping them find people to talk to, enter conversations, gather contact information and manage conversations to a polite close makes you the perfect networking wingman…or woman!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Embracing Chance Encounters at the University of Alberta

This week’s guest post comes from Emerson Csorba. Emerson is a fourth-year University of Alberta student in Sciences Politiques. He served as Students' Union VP Academic in 2011-2012. At the moment, he is the Editor-in-Chief of The Wanderer Online, one of Edmonton's highest-read daily online magazines. He also contributes to The Globe and Mail, Maclean's On Campus and University Affairs.

In my four years at the University of Alberta, the most memorable and meaningful moments of my university experience took place when I least expected them. Looking back, the vast majority of these moments were not related to my program of study; instead, they were the result of stepping into uncomfortable territory, where I meet new people and learned about topics far outside of my field of study (Sciences Politiques).

As a staff member of CAPS, I've particularly enjoyed the emphasis placed on the impact of happenstance in one’s career. Often times, some of the most important determinants of life paths arise through the most trivial of circumstances. This idea is seen throughout Stanford psychologist Alberta Bandura's seminal paper "The Psychology of Chance Encounters and Life Paths," where he shares a personal story about accidentally meeting his future wife during a relaxing round of golf.

Too much of the time, I think university students are told they should "focus on their studies" and generally refrain from doing things that put themselves out of their comfort zones. Perhaps this is why few undergraduate students go to conferences or spend their evenings at patio parties and networking events. These places, however, are where chance encounters take place, and where people's life paths can literally change in a split-second.

With this in mind, I have three recommendations for students looking to branch out into new social networks and acquire experiences that they never previously imagined.

1. Embrace the influence of chance encounters: Every so often, take the time to reflect on your own life path and think about how your life path has been altered by a plethora of small events. In many cases, I find that dragging myself to an early-morning conference or an evening networking event led to relationships that have since influenced the course of my life. I find that chance encounters are part of what makes a university a university. As a university student, you spend a considerable amount of time in the heart of an ideas network, where people consistently encounter new ideas and colleagues. So why not take advantage of this?

2. When you feel butterflies, step back and take in the moment: One of my role-models, a University of Alberta graduate named Randy Boissonnault, writes about butterflies (stomach knots) on his personal blog. Boissonnault, a former Students' Union President and Rhodes Scholar, believes that the butterfly moments - where we feel a deep sense of nervousness - are the ones that should absolutely be taken in. This anticipation creeps up whenever I meet new people in unfamiliar situations, but it is one that usually becomes a sense of satisfaction.

3. Take a plunge into the unknown: Once you feel the butterflies, jump straight into the unfamiliar environment. Do so with full commitment, and try to maintain a smile on your face while doing so. My guess is that you will surprise yourself with the people that you meet and the connections that guide you to interesting and valuable opportunities.
So I urge you to put yourself out there. Attend a conference that scares you. Stand up and speak in a crowd of unknown people. Approach that business CEO that may eventually become one of your closest friends. You can never predict chance encounters, but you can certainly increase their likelihood by putting yourself out there.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Unpaid internships: Are they worth it?

I read an article recently on the CBC website about two former interns with Bell Mobility who have filed complaints with the federal government against the telecom giant. Why? They allege the company broke labour laws by not paying them for the work they did. Both signed up for Bell’s voluntary training program but said their experience did not match their expectations which were based on how the program was advertised. Rather than being part of a training program, one of the interns said she felt like “an employee, doing regular work” and therefore should have been paid.

When someone asks me what the difference is between a regular job and an internship (or other work experience, such as a practicum or co-op), I respond that you learn in almost any job but with an internship the learning is intentional. That is, there is a commitment on the part of both the intern and the employer that the intern will develop certain skills, gain certain understandings about the profession and industry they are working in, etc. The question is should this learning opportunity be paid or unpaid?

It is a timely question because it appears that an increasing number of employers in the public, private and non-profit sectors are offering unpaid internships and an increasing number of students, new graduates and people in career transition are doing unpaid internships as a way to overcome the ‘no experience, no job’ dilemma. According to another CBC article, between 100,000 and 300,000 Canadians work for no pay.

One of the criticisms of unpaid internships is that they put lower income people at a disadvantage. Some people simply cannot afford to work for free unless they work multiple jobs or use credit in order to subsidize their internship, which can put them at an even further disadvantage. Another criticism is that unpaid internships displace paid workers, which negatively affects the workers being displaced and the economy as a whole. Proponents of unpaid internships posit that unpaid interns are getting something in return for their work; namely, experience that will give them a leg up on the competition for paid jobs. Further, they argue that if employers who offer unpaid internships are required to pay interns for their work, those valuable learning opportunities would disappear. Hmmm, I’m not convinced of that.

In my opinion, the majority of internships and like work experiences should be paid. There are some circumstances where I would support unpaid internships; for example, student internships with a not-for-profit organization for which the student receives course credit. I also strongly believe that there must be a firm commitment to learning on the part of the employer and the intern (this can be facilitated through a learning contract) and that the work an intern does is meaningful in terms of providing her or him with career-related experience.

What are your views on this issue?

Friday, 28 June 2013

In the halls of Elysium: Career insights from Bioware

This week's blog post comes from Kristina Drozdiak. Kristina is in the Arts Work Experience Program (AWE) and is doing a one-year internship at CAPS.

The folks at CAPS recently visited BioWare. For those of you who don’t know, BioWare has nothing to do with medical equipment, but is an Edmonton-based video game company known worldwide for creating carefully crafted story-driven games. Some of their more recent titles include Mass Effect and Dragon Age—whose third installment recently released a teaser trailer at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (the much-awaited E3).

I have played and loved BioWare games for a number of years; in fact, it has been my ardent aspiration for most of those years to be involved in making their games. In spite of years of dreaming and building up my expectations of what the company might be like, BioWare not only met those expectations but exceeded them. My wildest imaginings did not take into account the rigorous and careful recruitment process, the inspirational environment or the friendly atmosphere.

A few of these privileged employees took time out of their busy schedules to speak with us—including Shanda Wood, Recruiter and University Relations Specialist; Alex Lucas, Quality Assurance Engineering Lead; and Fernando Melo, Director of Online Development—and I will share with you some of the insights I gleaned from my visit.
Education. As a University student, I find it gratifying that this is a consideration. Why do degrees matter? According to Alex Lucas, they demonstrate a commitment spanning years, along with the ability to (for the most part) meet deadlines. 

Non-linear career paths. You haven’t spent the last seven years in computer programming? That’s fine. Since video games haven’t been on educational radars for very long, many of the people currently in the industry have found creative ways into those sacrosanct halls. 

Passion. Although no two interviews are the same at BioWare, there is one standard question: Do you like video games? They aren’t looking for name dropping, just a sense that you enjoy games (of any kind), to know if you’ll fit in the company culture and to see if you understand their demographics.
Diversity. Although “video games” is the name of the game (more specifically, Dragon Age III: Inquisition at the moment), not all staff are programmers. In fact, to create games of such high caliber, their Quality Assurance (QA) department is split into two main branches: Tech and Design. It’s even possible to get into QA—and from there, potentially bridge into other jobs—with a B.A.
Teamwork and cooperation. In the final stages of their interviewing process, you can spend a day in interviews and with the team you hope to join. It’s reassuring to know that they take the team into account in the hiring process. 

LinkedIn. The recruiter also made a point of recommending students to get on it.

To top it all off, we saw these stained-glass panes brought to life in their building, depicting key moments from The Chant of Light, from the Andrastian faith written for their Dragon Age universe. Rooms and hallways alike were filled with models, artwork and stills from games-in-the-making, and I find it hard to imagine a more inspiring way to remind everyone of where they’ve come from and where they hope to go while still maintaining the integrity of the BioWare brand.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Careers abound for geography enthusiasts

Today's guest blog comes from Sharon Sherman, one of CAPS' Career Advisors who specializes in working with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and who has a keen interest in geography and urban planning.

“Wear comfortable shoes!” As a newcomer attending the 2013 Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting, this was the first tip I received from a friendly AAG staff member.

Following the advice we offer students – taking action to create opportunities (a tenet of career management and engagement) – I ventured off to Los Angeles to experience this massive geo-centric event.

The high level of organization required for 7,000 to 8,000 attendees and 5,000 plus presentations and papers was impressive indeed. This comprehensive geography conference, quite possibly the largest in the world, attracts international attention and participation. It’s not surprising then that the AAG offers an actual Newcomers’ Guide to the Annual Meeting. What was surprising was the friendly and welcoming ambiance – almost a ‘down home’ feel – that made me want to proclaim “I want to be a geographer!”

Coming from a career development perspective, I was fortunate to participate as a Career Mentor at the Jobs & Careers Center. Throughout the week, the Center offered career and work search advice, networking opportunities, job postings plus a plethora of well-developed resources. I thoroughly enjoyed my interactions with students and professionals from around the world and was truly inspired by their enthusiasm and commitment. I was amazed at how fresh and energetic several participants seemed even after arriving from distant places on marathon flights.

AAG’s top-notch job and career support emphasizes the transformation of geography degrees into practice, strongly reflecting the approach we take right here at CAPS by adopting the career management model of life-long learning and discovery based on the works of John Krumboltz and Al Levin (Luck is no Accident) and Herminia Ibarra (Working Identity).

Out of numerous tempting field trip options, I selected cutting-edge geographic information systems (GIS) developer ESRI, altered landscapes of Palos Verdes Peninsula, scenic Mulholland Highway and recently $100M renovated Dodger Stadium. The field trips provided wonderful opportunities for learning about local initiatives and making fruitful connections. For example, on the Mulholland trip we were introduced to various conservation groups and I had the pleasure of meeting Harvard Librarian George E. Clark who organized the excellent thought-provoking session “Geographers in the Library: The New Landscape” with U of A’s own Elizabeth Wallace contributing as a panelist. During the trip, the urge to locate homes of the stars proved irresistible even for this crew of dedicated geographers.

Other standout points for me included learning about the multi-faceted interdisciplinary nature of geography, the immeasurable potential of GIS applications and the postdoctoral program offered by NASA. Since my return, I have already incorporated much of the information I gained into my career advising sessions.

Encapsulating the sheer magnitude of the AAG’s Annual Meeting might seem like a challenging task. What would I say if asked for a nutshell version? Easy - it’s a place to meet friends. Next year, Tampa!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Creative recruiting

This week's guest post comes from Christine Gertz, CAPS' Library and Information Specialist.

At the end of May of this year Flickr, owned by Yahoo!, embedded a job posting in its source code as a way to attract programmers. Since Flickr had just gone through a massive redesign, they gambled that programmers would be looking at the source code and find the hidden job posting. You can still find jobs posted on Flickr’s own job posting website, but this technique meant that Flickr could find candidates who were looking at the source code out of curiosity, and that the media would pick up their clever ploy and spread word of their search much farther than they could expect to.

This got me thinking about other creative job posting efforts that have come to the attention of CAPS’ staff in the past year. BBR Saatchi & Saatchi of Israel was having difficulty recruiting a programmer when a junior staff member suggested they select candidates based on their resume as well as their team skills when partnered with the CEO in a delve into Diablo 3. According to an article in Bloomberg Businessweek, the Hell of a Job campaign managed to find six suitable candidates who were willing to accompany the CEO’s level 60 barbarian for a 30 minute interview conducted in Sanctuary. BBR Saatchi and Saatchi were able to find a programmer, while also garnering international press for their campaign and company making Diablo 3 Number 5 on the Top Ten Google Searches for 2012, ahead of the 2012 Olympics but beat out by Gangam Style on the list.

For years Facebook has run programming challenges as part of their recruitment efforts which has uncovered applicants far from their immediate region, as well as applicants who might be considered “non-traditional.” As described in George Anders’ book A Rare Find, the purpose of these challenges, amongst others described in the book, is to find capable applicants who might not be revealed by the work experience provided in their resume. The difficulty is for employers to devise a challenge that attracts applicants they might not have found through traditional means, and challenge them with a problem the organization needs to solve, so that the potential hire can demonstrate their ability to solve real problems facing the organization.

Lest you think that only computer programmers have their creativity challenged, there are several Canadian recruitment efforts that called for unusual application methods. The Greenest Workforce, an initiative of the Forest Products Council of Canada, was launched by advertising internships that candidates applied for by submitting a YouTube video. Young and Free Alberta, a social media hub operated by Servus Canada, has successfully recruited several “spokesters” by asking candidates to submit a YouTube video, though this year the YouTube video was optional and they asked for the traditional resume and cover letter. On our campus, DiscoverE asked candidates to submit a “creative cover letter” from a poem to a YouTube video, which revealed a pool of highly creative candidates with strong presentation and teaching skills, uncovering abilities that might not have been apparent from the resume.

Employers use unusual job postings for a few reasons, but most likely because if an unusual recruitment campaign is picked up by the media it can widen the applicant pool while also increasing name recognition of the organization. BBR Saatchi and Saatchi, for example, will probably remain in search results for years, and appear in results with the search terms and phrases Diablo, Blizzard Entertainment (the makers of Diablo) and hell of a job, offering huge international exposure to the firm. For programmers who love Diablo 3, they may think of BBR Saatchi and Saatchi fondly, possibly aiding in their recruitment for additional programmers.

For a job seeker, these campaigns have both benefits and drawbacks. A huge benefit: you can find out about an opportunity or a campaign that may not come to your attention without the press coverage. If you are a successful candidate on one of these campaigns, it may show as the first result when an employer searches your name in Google. As a drawback, if your application is public but not a quality application, your poor submission will also appear in search results with the marketing efforts of the organization. Based on the amount of links and notoriety a successful campaign can accrue, your Google search results could list this as number one in your search results for years.

When you encounter a job posting that has unusual application requirements, you can contact CAPS for advice and assistance. We might even be able to put you in touch with players who could help you level up in Diablo 3 before your interview.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Meetup - A high tech, high touch networking tool

This week’s post comes from Christine Gertz, CAPS’ Library and Information Specialist. 

When students are about to try something new career-wise, such as starting a business or moving to a different city for an internship, we often urge them to talk with people they know to get advice or ideas. I’m not skeptical when people tell me they don’t know anyone they can reach out to. There are plenty of people on this campus who have left their families and friends behind to study here or who don’t want to go into the family business but pursue something else. There are also many new things a person might want to learn more about but of which people in their current network have no knowledge.

If meeting people in person matters to you when trying to learn about something new or to build your network, one tool you can use is Meetup.

Meetup is an online service you can use to find groups in you region and then get together in person. Meetup’s tagline is “neighbors getting together to learn something, do something, share something.” To form a Meetup, the organizer commits to getting people together face-to-face. (If you don’t want to meet in person, then try Google Hangouts.)

Joining a Meetup group is usually free. Some organizers ask that you pay a fee, which is not unreasonable because Meetup charges the organizers to create and maintain a group, and other organizations use Meetup to advertise ticketed events.

Without signing up for Meetup, you can see events in your area or search for events in a location you want to visit. For example, if you are going to Los Angeles for a conference, search Los Angeles for groups that interest you and message the group’s organizer to see if you can attend their Meetup. Any open group will allow you to see the information about the group, its organizers and its members. Closed groups will appear in a search, but you have to apply to join and it is up to the organizers to decide if they will let you join their group or not.

You can sign into Meetup using your Facebook account or you can create a separate account on the Meetup service. If you connect your Facebook profile to your Meetup account, you can see the groups your friends are members of and you can join a group where you already know someone. Meetup will also ask for permission to push out notifications on your Facebook feed of the groups you plan to attend, but the decision to turn that feature on is up to you. You can also sync your Meetup calendar - either all events in your groups or only the events that you have RSVPed to attend - with your Google, Outlook or iCal calendar so you don’t have to manage a separate calendar of Meetup events.

Two Meetups that are career-related, which you can use to see some of the upcoming events and how events and memberships are managed on Meetup are:

· Business Link Alberta

· Startup Edmonton

You can also select groups based on your hobbies, such as playing games, or based on your educational interests, such as studying Spanish.

Meetup is a simple tool that you can use to build your local network and improve your social and business connections.

Monday, 15 April 2013

When degrees 'work'

This week's guest post comes from Jonathan Faerber, CAPS' Communications Intern extraordinaire!

About two years ago, CAPS and the Faculty of Arts created a joint initiative called the Arts Work Experience (AWE) program. I applied for the program on March 23, 2011. A year later, on March 23, 2012, I was interviewed for a communications position with CAPS, and am now wrapping up my one year internship to become the first ever University of Alberta student to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts Co-op Degree.

How did that all happen, and why did it happen? More importantly, what did I learn?

The truth is, I did not plan this: I certainly would never have guessed that I’d be writing this six years ago. I began my university degree in 2007 with limited work experience and with little idea, as with most students at an early age, of what I wanted to do with my life. Looking back, I can see I was not thinking about long-term career goals too much or, rather, I was thinking about my “career” in all the wrong ways: in terms of what class and what degree might hypothetically get me to careers I didn’t really know enough about to choose between. I was just like the next stereotyped “newbie”: the science first-year calling their degree pre-med, the arts undergrad going for law, or the engineering student studying, well, engineering and engineering only, just because.

But career success is never that easy to engineer. It’s not about taking A, B, and C courses, this or that degree, to get such and such a job. Not that there’s anything wrong with such goals; it’s just that goals, in and of themselves, don’t always tell us much about ourselves. But despite this, we still insist on worrying incessantly about our choice of classes and degree programs, even when we already have to worry about simply getting to class on time, feeding ourselves, finding a place to live, and so on. In my case, it was these other immediate worries of affording university life now, rather than obsessing over my future, that made me work things out.

And work I did. It took over two years of minimum-wage labour before I found a couple of jobs on campus. Around that time, I decided to major in English, and stumbled across the now-defunct English co-op program, which at the time I tried getting in on it, was already on its last legs.

So, in a way, I was watching for the AWE program when the e-mail from the Faculty of Arts arrived in my inbox about a year later. I would like to say at this point that the rest is history, but it really isn’t that simple. I had to learn how to write a resume/cover letter, and applied for five jobs and interviewed for four over a year before I landed this job (and a good thing too, since this was the best fit of the bunch).

Of course, working at CAPS taught me a lot about communications, about careers, and about myself. I gained a lot of technical know-how in print and web content, layout and design, social media, strategic marketing, and more. Along the way, I learned what kinds of things I like to do and began to think more about what I might do after this internship and what I would need to do to get there.

Career experts use the phrase “luck is no accident” to characterize this job search/career development type of story. I think this is true: I’m lucky to be here, but a lot of getting to where I am now had to do with taking chances and making an effort. Many students, I’m sure, can relate to this. We try out a lot of different things throughout our degree and make the most of what works when things do “work”.

But a whole lot of times, things don’t work out. And I think one of the great things about being a student, and about work experience programs especially, is that there’s a whole lot more room to try things that don’t work than there will be outside of school.

In the “real world”, for the most part, you aren’t allowed to make mistakes. Except you do, all the time. It’s called experience. So working in a setting that’s more forgiving of my mistakes allowed me to get that experience at a lower risk than I would have when stressing out, or worse, losing a job I might have gotten outside of the program, just because I wouldn’t yet know exactly what I’m doing.

In that way too, being able to try out a job before committing to long-term post-graduate plans helped a great deal. I found out that while I love working in communications and will use the skills I’ve learned over the past year throughout my career, I also really, really missed going to school and the many diverse challenges I’ve already overcome to complete a degree. And so, somewhat ironically, I’ve decided to return to more school this fall and do it all over again for my MA in philosophy.

When I tell people this, they look startled and say something like, “Well, that’s okay, I guess.” I don’t blame them. Before this internship, I had similar doubts about whether an Arts degree was a “smart” choice. If it weren’t for the AWE program, the encouragement of its staff, and the confidence it inspires in students, I might have spent a year or two after graduation—perhaps more—entertaining those doubts as well. But now I don’t have second thoughts: my internship taught me that studying Arts—that any university degree, for that matter—is by no means a dead-end, no more than it is a means to an end. Instead, this next experience will challenge me to step outside of my intellectual comfort zone and improve myself as a thinker, as a communicator, and as a person. Ultimately, I know I’ll use the skills I develop during the degree wherever I go, and that employers in our society will continue to rely on these, too, to build our future.

So now, when I notice students worrying about work and about what others think and if they will be lucky enough at all to land a great job I want to shake them up and say, “Hey, it’s not about them, it’s about you and improving yourself and making yourself so awesome that they’ll also be lucky to land you as a great employee.”

I’m lucky enough to have learned that lesson early.

And if you keep trying, you’ll make your “luck” happen too.

Monday, 8 April 2013

If you could have any job in the world...

…what would it be and why? If you had the opportunity to have dinner with four people – living or dead, real or fictitious – who would they be and why? If you could be any animal, what animal would you be and why?

Getting ready for a job interview, most people expect to be asked questions related to their understanding of the job and employer, the skills and experiences they have to offer, and why they are interested in the job. But questions about your dream job or dinner party? Or what animal you’d be if you could be an animal? What’s the point? How does the person sitting across from you expect you to respond?

Generally, when interviewers ask such questions they are most interested in your explanation – the why part of the question. Why would you want to be head of the United Nations or a famous stage actor? Why would you choose your four favourite authors to dine with? Why would you choose to be an eagle or a panda bear or a dog? What they are trying to do is to assess what’s termed in the biz as your ‘cultural fit.’

There are more obvious questions interviewers may ask to determine applicants’ cultural fit, such as what did you like best (or least) about your previous (or current) job (or work environment)? What qualities do you admire in the people with whom you work? How do you like to be supervised? What is the most important factor you need in your work for you to be happy?

These questions go beyond assessing the skills and qualifications you have that are also necessary to perform the job, to assessing things like your values, your behaviours and what motivates you. Your responses to such questions are meant to help the interviewers decide if and how you will fit in with other employees in the organization and within the organization’s culture.

Why is this important? Well, most employers believe when there is a good cultural fit between employees’ values and motivations and the culture of an organization, employees will be happy in their work. And happy workers, in theory, are more productive than workers who dread going to work each day, are less likely to look for another job, are less likely to experience conflict with co-workers and are absent from work less.

I read an article recently (I think it was from Maclean’s magazine) against hiring for cultural fit. The author argued that when employers only hire people with similar values, beliefs, etc., they miss opportunities for creativity and innovation. I get the point. But I also think that if, for example, your organization emphasizes teamwork and collaboration among employees and you hire someone who is highly competitive and doesn’t like working with other people…well, don’t be surprised if you end up spending a lot of your time managing workplace conflict.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Kids and careers

I just read an article about a new program in Ontario aimed at helping high school students decide what they want to do after they graduate. The writer references a census done by the Toronto District School Board that shows 73 percent of its grades 9 to 12 students say they are worried about their future. Some of the causes of students’ worries noted in the article are Canada’s high youth unemployment rate (nearly double the national average), the cost of post-secondary education and level of debt college and university students graduate with, and lack of labour market information and supports. It is the latter that the new program aims to address.

What really caught my attention, though, was a poll embedded in the article. The question was ‘Is kindergarten too early to start discussing a child’s career choice?’ I had to rub my eyes and reread the question but yes, that’s what it said. I then clicked on the ‘view results’ button and, not surprisingly, 82% of readers who responded to the pool chose ‘yes, kindergarten is too early to start discussing a child’s career choice’ while 18% responded it was not too early. I count myself among the 82% for a number of reasons not the least of which is that four and five-year olds simply do not have the experience or vocabulary to engage in conversations about careers. That being said, exposing children to a variety of careers can be helpful when it comes to those conversations and making decisions later in life. When I was in elementary school, I remember going on field trips to the police station, the symphony, the firefighters’ hall, among other places. The people who worked at those places talked to us about their background and day-to-day work and sometimes we were even given some hands-on activities, like sliding down the fire pole. Yipee!

I would support exposing children to careers in this and other ways not just so they can learn there is more out there besides teacher and what mom and dad do, but also to breakdown stereotypes about work that are based on gender, class and other factors (e.g. making sure they hear from both female and male firefighters when they visit the fire hall). However, I can’t see how asking very young children to think and talk seriously about their own career can be all that helpful. What probably prompted the writer to include the poll in the article was a comment made by someone who works for the organization that facilitates the new program. Commenting on the cost of the program, which will be about $1,000 per student, she said, “It’s better to pay a little up front and know your child is making the right decisions than pay for four years of university and have your child say I’m in the wrong program.” What this fails to recognize is: (1) when you ask workers if they are doing what they thought they would be doing when they were 18 the vast majority will say ‘no’ and (2), as people grow (e.g. experience new things, develop new knowledge and skills) their career aspirations shift. So it is not surprising that many – not all – university students change programs or otherwise alter their career plans during a time of their life when they are doing a lot of discovery learning. As John Krumboltz and Al Levin, authors Luck is no accident (one of my favourite career planning books) write, asking a young person to make a commitment to an occupation they haven’t even tried out - and expecting them to stick with their decision - is like asking them to choose their future spouse before the first date!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Summer job search tips

You probably heard that one of the casualties of the 7 March provincial budget was the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP). STEP was a wage subsidy program not-for-profit organizations (e.g. charities, community leagues, government departments, universities and colleges) could apply to for funding to hire a student for the summer. All of the summer jobs I held while I was going to university were STEP-funded save one. As a matter of fact, I credit the last summer job I held as playing a significant role in how I ended up working at CAPS. That job was to organize a resource library for staff in the employee relations branch of the social services department. Near the end of the summer I heard that CAPS was looking for a career resources coordinator so I applied. While I was successful in getting an interview - in large part because of the experience I gained throughout the summer - I didn’t get the job. But a couple of weeks later, the director of CAPS called to offer me a different position. That was almost 25 years ago and, of course, I have never left. I often wonder where I would be today if I hadn’t gotten that interview.

So I was disappointed to hear about the cancellation of the STEP program this summer not only because I personally benefited from it but also because of my role as the director of CAPS. I really value programs like STEP that help to create employment for students, and all the staff at CAPS get concerned when we hear news that negatively impacts students’ job prospects. So I thought the least I can do is provide you with some advice on looking for summer work.

First, did you know CAPS works with many employers who post jobs with us, including summer jobs? And if you haven’t heard, we recently launched a new online job bank. You no longer have to be at a computer to access our job postings. You can now search for and view jobs anytime, anywhere from your mobile device. And that’s just one of the new features. I just checked our online job bank and we currently have 50 summer job postings. Something you should be aware of is that a single job posting does not necessarily equal a single job as many postings include multiple vacancies. For example, the job title of one of our current summer job postings is 'Environmental Educator/Natural Interpreter.' It is with the U of A’s Devonian Botanic Garden. They have nine openings.

Second, be proactive in your work search. Don’t rely on job postings or other job advertisements. If there is an organization you are interested in working with for the summer, contact them directly. Let them know the type of work you are interested in and what you have to offer. Also make sure friends, family – everyone you know – are aware you are looking for a summer job. In other words, network, network, network! The more eyes and ears you have open for you, the more likely you’ll hear about opportunities, whether they are advertised or not.

And my last bit of advice is to make sure you are prepared to apply and interview for opportunities that present themselves. While I don’t want to make this blog post one big advertisement for CAPS, I do want you to be aware that we have a number of services and resources on resume writing and job interviews. For example, you can book an appointment with one of our career advisors to have your resume critiqued and to practice your interview skills. We also offer a free lunchtime seminar on looking for summer work coming up on Monday, 25 March from 12:05 to 12:55 p.m. in the CCIS Career Centre. Dont' miss it!